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but much he sees and hears which forcibly dragg him to vice and misery. He is brought up in ignorance--grovels in the lowest haunts of idlenessassociates with the vilest of human beings-learns nothing but mischievousness and lawlessness-and, at the end of a few years, has such confirmed habits of evil, that it becomes almost impossible to guide him into the paths of virtue.
“ It is as easy,” says one of the inspired writers, “ for the Ethiopian to
change his skin, as for those to do good, who have “ been accustomed to do evil.”
That this picture is not exaggerated, is too clear, from the result of the late inquiries into the state of the infant poor in this metropolis. In the house of commons it has been asserted, by one of its most respectable members, that London contains not fewer than 9,000 poor children, under the age of fifteen years, who have no lawful occupation who have no means whatever of subsistence but thieving and pilfering, and assisting thieves and pilferers—and who are in regular training, under old and hardened offenders, for crimes still more atrocious. Whose soul is not appalled at this afflicting and formidable representation! Surely every motive of religion-every feeling of self-preservation, suggests to us the necessity of making the greatest exertions to subdue this alarming evil, and prevent its future growth. The only effectual means of doing it is establishing schools like the present.
I have presented to your consideration the disa tressing state of the destitute and neglected children in the metropolis-permit me now to contrast with it, the condition of the children educated by the Associated Charities, which you are this day solicited to patronise. They are instructed in the religion of their parents; they are taught their duty to God and their neighbour ; they receive as much learning as is likely to be useful to them, and acquire habits of obedience and regularity. Thus, they are made sensible of the value of virtue in this life, and of its rewards in the next: they are enabled to gain a livelihood in comfort and decency; are fitted for creditable employments ; and, if Providence should please to place greater advantages within their reach, are qualified to avail themselves of them. Perhaps, among these poor little ones, there is some heart, pregnant with celestial fire, and who only wants early cultivation to be himself elevated into eminence, and to become, in his turn, an instructor of others. How greatly will the subscribers to this society deserve of virtue and religion, if, by their means, a single child of this description should be saved from loss, and his talents brought into activity:- This circumstance, however, (though by no means altogether improbable, for Stone, for Ferguson, for Ludwig, were once, day labourers), ought not, perhaps, to be taken into general calculation ; but the good domestic, the obedient apprentice, the laborious journeyman, the attentive clerk, the active agent, and the trusty steward of his master's property, may be reasonably expected from this institution. We may reasonably expect from it, a virtuous and honest generation, comfortable in themselves, useful to their employers, creditable in this life, and happy in the next.
Of their benefactors, such persons are never forgetful. Often will the voice of some or other of them be heard at the throne of Heaven, in prayer for those, to whose subscriptions to this society he owes his early instruction, his decent and religious habits, his comfortable subsistence, the smile and encouragement of his employer, the favour of Heaven.
And, what a moment will it be for us, if, in the tremendous day of general retribution, we shall behold some of those little ones, then themselves in possession of the bliss of Heaven, in consequence of the good education afforded them by this society, advancing to him who comes to judge us,—Alinging before him the crowns of their own glory, in acknowledgment of their owing them to us,--and claiming from him the performance of the promises which he has made to those, who have been kind to little children in his name! Then, we shall know the importance of these little ones-the incalculable value of charity to them—and whom we fed, and whom we clothed, and whom we instructed, when we fed, or clothed, or instructed these little ones !
But I must return their cause into their own hands : I must again present their little orator to you.--You have seen him humbly stand before you ! You have heard his little blameless voice, telling you the distresses of himself and his companions ; thanking you for your past kindness, and beseeching its continuance. You have seen his little harmless hands raised to Heaven, to implore its blessings upon you. You see all their silent and unpretending looks. They leave it to the ministers of God (and to whom can they trust their interests better than to the exemplary catholic clergy, who this day, with their most respectable and most respected pastor at their head, honour us with their companywhose merits, particularly in their admirable attention to the poor child and the poor parent, no tongue can adequately celebrate) - They leave it, I say, to these ministers of God, to discourse on the precepts of charity, and to denounce the woes, which, both in this life and the next, await the hard-hearted and uncharitable. Such serious words as these, never pass the lips of my
little clients. All they venture to say is, we are poor, we are very poor! It is not our fault that we are so. the holy will of God that we should be born poor. It is his holy will, that you should have the means of relieving us. He has placed you between himself and us.
He hath put into your hands the food, the raiment, the words of eternal life, which he intends for us. You must not, cannot, will not withhold them from us. In return for
kindness to us, we can only offer you our prayers. These you shall ever have.
And permit me, Gentlemen, to suggest, (and with the suggestion I shall close my address to you) that the
prayers of poor children are of some value. When John Gerson, the chancellor of the church and university of Paris, was on his death-bed, his soul appeared to be agonized at the thoughts of his impending dissolution, and the judgments of God. Astonished and affrighted by his terrors, his friends strove to comfort him. They brought to his recollection the great and virtuous actions of his public life the services which he had rendered to the church, of which, during many years, he had been one of the brightest ornamentsthe learned and pious works he had written-his long-protracted old age, spent
penance. But all was vain :- His terrors continued, and he appeared to sink under them. At length,---one of his friends quitted the room. In about half an hour, he returned, followed by three hundred children, who were supported and educated by the charity of the dying man. The little creatures spread themselves from the threshold of his house to his bed-chamber, and there falling on their knees, raised their hands to Heaven and cried, “ O God! bless poor John “ Gerson -O Lord! be merciful to poor John « Gerson !!!”
Hope, peace, and confidence returned to John Gerson. Now, O God!” he exclaimed, in a transport of holy jubiliation, “ Thou dost let thy
servant depart in peace! The soul that is accom