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THE PRAISE OF GOD PERFECTED OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES AND SUCKLINGS.
PSALM, XXXIV. 11.
Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
It is one mark of that wisdom by which the world is governed, that the assistance afforded is proportioned to the necessities of the times wherein such assistance is called for. When the darkness which covers a land becomes so thick as to make men despair of its removal, light shall suddenly arise from an unexpected quarter; small indeed, and scarce discernible, at first; but gently and gradually increasing, till the darkness vanishes, and the perfect day is formed. When corruption of one kind or other has in such a manner overspread the face of religion, that its features are scarcely any longer to be distinguished, a reforming hand shall appear, to do away the soil contracted in a course of ages, and restore the picture to its original beauty.
If a preacher mentions the iniquity of the age, it is regarded by many as a sort of cant; as a neces
sary ingredient in the composition of a sermon; and we are asked, if we think nations have not been as bad formerly? Undoubtedly many have; for which reason, God destroyed them, and raised up others to supply their places. In the days of Noah, and in those of Lot, men were as wicked as they are now they were more so; for a flood came upon them in one case, a storm of fire and brimstone.in the other. And whenever we shall be altogether like them (which God forbid we ever should be), judgement, in some shape, will seize upon us. "The "kingdom of God shall be taken from us, and given "to a nation that will bring forth the fruits thereof." Such is the rule of Heaven's proceedings, and it altereth not. We are not yet overthrown, because our measure is not yet filled up; but if we continue daily employed in filling it, that measure must in time be full.
The matter is however, of late, "come home to "our business and our bosoms." A lawless tribe of profligate, desperate, unfeeling villains have broken loose upon the public, to rob, to maim, and to murder; so that we can no longer travel with comfort upon the road, or sleep with security in our beds. Numbers of these wretches are from time to time apprehended, and crowded together in prisons; from whence some come forth again to make fresh ravages in society, tenfold more the children of hell (if possible) than they went in; while others furnish out mournful and horrible executions of twenty or thirty at a time, to the astonishment of the kingdoms around us, and our own shame and confusion of face. How
happens it, say foreigners to our countrymen, when upon their travels abroad-how happens it, that under a constitution, of which you boast as the glory of the world, monthly scenes are exhibited which would shock the minds of Turks and Tartars? This is a question more easily asked than answered. The fact, alas! is certain; and even the public prints begin to exclaim, that there is no police amongst us, no remedy for these disorders, and, in short, that all is over.
But let us not by any means despair. This would only make bad worse. If we once bring ourselves to fancy that no remedy can be found, no remedy ever will be found, for none will ever be sought.
Dark as the prospect was, a ray of light has broken in upon it, and that from an unexpected quarter. An institution has been set on foot by a private individual, to the excellency of which every man who loves his country must rejoice to bear his testimony. From small beginnings it has increased, and diffused itself in a wonderful manner; and if it be generally taken up through the kingdom, especially in the metropolis, with the same zeal and judgement which have been shown in the management of it among you, the sagacity of the wisest cannot foresee how much good may in the end be done by it, and how far it may go towards saving a great people from impending ruin. At the moment in which I am speaking, not less than one hundred thousand pupils are said to be in training under its care. There may soon be ten times
a Mr. Raikes, of Gloucester.
that number; and if it finally succeed with half these, five hundred thousand honest men and virtuous women, duly mingled in the mass of the community, will make a great alteration. In the case of good as well as bad," a little leaven (and this can hardly be "called a little) leaveneth the whole lump.”
The institution intended, as you all well know, is that of SUNDAY SCHOOLS, which seems to address itself to the parties concerned in the words of the text, "Come, ye children, hearken unto me; I will "teach you the fear of the Lord."
The persons to be taught under this institution are children.
It is a great happiness that men, in their present state, are not immortal. An evil generation passes away; and therefore, if proper care be taken, it may be succeeded by a good one. Else were the case of the world lamentable indeed. With old offenders little can be done. Hard labour, spare diet, and, above all, solitude, might do something; and the experiment, it is greatly hoped, will be made. But, in general, if the husbandman has in vain dug about the trees in his garden, and taken every other step necessary for their improvement; his method must be, to train up younger and better plants, which may answer the end of their plantation, and bear fruit, when the others shall no longer be suffered to cumber the ground.
The children proposed to be instructed are those of the poor.
Of every community, as it has pleased God to ordain in the present constitution of things, the poor
must always form a very considerable majority. The necessities of mankind could never else be supplied; for the rich will not labour; but they are constrained to pay those who, for their own and the common good, can and will labour. In return for these services, the rich, if they were wise, should do every thing in their power to make and to keep the poor honest, virtuous, and religious; to instruct, or procure them to be instructed, in the knowledge and practice of their duty to God and man; more especially, to set them a proper example. This, I say, would be to act the part of wise men, as well as good men. For when the religious principle is once perished and gone in the poor, human laws will lose their effect, and be set at naught.
I will mention a remarkable instance of this, well attested. A servant, who had made the improvement that might be expected from hearing the irreligious and blasphemous conversation continually passing at the table where it was his place to wait, took an opportunity to rob his master. Being apprehended, and urged to give a reason for this infamous behaviour, Sir," said he, "I had heard you so " often talk of the impossibility of a future state, and "that after death there was no reward for virtue nor
punishment for vice, that I was tempted to com- · "mit the robbery." "Well but," replied the ma ster," had you no fear of that death which the laws "of your country inflict upon the crime?"
The table was that of the late Mr. Mallet. The fact is related by Davies in his Life of Garrick, vol. ii. p. 59.