« AnteriorContinuar »
and even when we have done all, we shall still find it to be but little in comparison with our means, and all that we do short of what we might have done, is an omission of duty for which we shall have to account at the great day of the Lord; for he that loveth not his brother," and therefore fails in his duty towards him, "abideth in death."
Whilst I am upon the subject of the religious obligations of the rich towards the poor, let us only consider for a moment how frequently the old age of the latter is a period of deplorable bereavement, whilst on the contrary that of the former is altogether the reverse. The wealthy have every thing that can avail to render the decline of life smooth and easy. If they ail, all within the compass of riches is administered to alleviate and console. They have affectionate relatives, attentive friends, and active dependants. For them the couch of down is prepared; the luxuries of other climes are procured at their bidding; all that can tend to promote enjoyment, to secure them quiet and consolation, is provided. On the contrary, the poor are often in their extremity abandoned by their relatives, who are too much absorbed in their own miseries to pay any regard to those of others, or at so great a distance from them as to render their presence next to impossible. In the midst of suffering, of anguish, of bereavement, who is there to console them, to
administer, I will not say to their comforts, but to their necessities? Alas! how frequently is the decline of life to the poor man a period of wretchedness, of pain, of destitution. Shrinking from that last receptacle of the pauper, the parish workhouse, he creeps to his cellar to languish and to die; without a bed on which to repose his aching limbs; the cold stone his couch, the hard flint his pillow, upon which he breathes out his agonized spirit, without perhaps a human being near to receive his expiring sigh, or a morsel to relieve the last lingering agonies of a destitute and afflicted life.
Why should such a deplorable distinction in the human condition be permitted to exist? This is no ordination of Providence, but too commonly arises from human dereliction. Is it reasonable that man should ever die in such frightful abandonment whilst there are so many of his fellow creatures capable of ameliorating his wretched lot? What says the apostle? "Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need and shutteth up his compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" Impossible! no love can dwell in such a bosom. If the wretched condition of the poor can be improved, does it not behove the rich, who alone are able, to apply the remedy?
It is all idle talking of the sacrifices made by
some wealthy persons who, out of vast incomes, appropriate to charitable purposes an inconsiderable portion which, though it may be large in amount compared with what others bestow who have but slender resources, is often miserably small in proportion to the means of those who give it. I think it will not be denied, that a person who gives in charity one pound yearly out of fifty pounds, gives more by comparison than he who should bestow eighteen thousand a year out of twenty thousand; because in the one instance, the giver must submit to actual privation to the amount given, if he has not sufficient to procure the comforts of life which, if he have a family, must be the case, whilst in the other, after the appropriation of so great a sum to the purposes of charity, there would still remain to the giver a considerable income-an income much more than adequate to the wants and necessities of life. Charity therefore is not to be measured by the actual amount given, but by the proportion which that amount bears to the means of giving.
I have been led into these observations by the circumstance of my having been deputed to recommend to your notice an intention of the vestry of this parish to appropriate a bequest made to the poor-house by Count Woronzow, late ambassador from the Emperor of Russia, to the erection of a certain number of almshouses, "as
receptacles for suffering misfortune, virtuous poverty, and helpless age," but which laudable design cannot be accomplished without the charitable aid of the opulent and benevolent inhabitants, and to whom it is the intention of the parish authorities to appeal by personal applications at the residence of every householder.
"It is not intended," says the address put forth in recommendation of this object, "that these Alms-Houses should be made a job for any sinister purpose, or converted into an asylum for the favourites of any influential individuals. It is the determination of the Vestry, and of the Directors and Guardians of the Poor, that they shall be strictly confined either to those parishioners who, having seen better days, have, without any imputation upon their integrity, fallen into adversity in the decline of life; or to those who have brought up a family without any parochial assistance, and for a series of years have been exemplary for their industry, sobriety, and general good conduct. In a time when so many are eager to quarter themselves upon the Poorrate, and feel neither repugnance nor shame to be a tax upon the capital, and a burthen upon the industry of their fellow creatures, too much praise cannot be bestowed upon those among the labouring poor who keep themselves above the class of mendicants, and preserve their independence amidst so many difficulties and dis
couragements. Such persons, although neither elevated by rank nor enriched by fortune, are high in the moral scale. Indeed, who among us are more meritorious? and who can be more worthy of honour, or more an object of preference when the parish has any charity to dis
pense, or any favour to bestow?"
I have already occupied so much of your time that I shall conclude by recommending, as I am instructed to do, the object of the directors and guardians of the poor, to which I have called your attention, hoping the recommendation will be followed by your effectual co-operation; at the same time reminding you that he who hath pity on the poor, lendeth unto the Lord, and look what he layeth out, it shall be paid him again."