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2 Kings iv. 1.
THY SERVANT, MY HUSBAND, IS DEAD, AND
THOU KNOWEST THAT THY SERVANT DID
THE unhappy sufferer, who makes this
most moving complaint, was the widow of one of the sons of the prophets, whose distress Elisha immediately relieved by the miraculous increase of her pot of oil. It will not be easy to find in any writer, sacred or profane, a more piteous story, or a case more applicable to the occasion of the present meeting. I cannot therefore do better than leave it upon your minds in that concise and affecting simplicity in which it is here related, whilst I proceed to recommend the distressed Widows and Children of the English Clergy to your benevolent protection.
* Preached at the anniversary meeting of the Sons of the Clergy, May 9, 1776.
The nature and design of the several charitable institutions which have now brought us together, are, I presume, so well understood in this place, that there can be no need to take up any of your time in explaining them.* The generous sup
which rof the Clergy that na
* But it may not perhaps be generally known that there are three distinct societies formed for the Benefit of the indigent widows and children of the Clergy, and all closely connected with each other.
The first and principal is The Corporation for the Relief of the poor Widows and Children of Clergymen, established by Charter in the reign of King Charles the Second. The funds of this charity are employed chiefly in giving pensions to the widows of the clergy.
The second, which rose not long after, is The Society of the Feast of the Sons of the Clergy, consisting of the company annually assembled under that name at St. Paul's Church, and Merchant-Taylors' Hall. The money collected at those two places is wholly expended in apprenticing out the children of necessitous clergymen. The expences of the music and the feast are generously defrayed by the stewards of that society.
The third is The Society of Stewards and Subscribers for maintaining and educating the poor Orphans of the Clergy till of age to be put Apprentices.
This society was formed in the year 1749. It is composed of those who have been stewards of the former so.
port they have hitherto met with demands our most grateful acknowledgments; and in order to keep this friendly disposition towards us alive and warm in your breasts, I shall attempt to show that the clergy of the church of England have, both on account of their public services, and (with respect to too large a part) their private necessities, a peculiar claim to your kind attention and assistance.
If we go back to the early ages of Christianity, our own Ecclesiastics had their share, with others of the sacred order, in first introducing the light of the Gospel into this country, and in sacrificing to its advancement, their ease, their health, their fortunes, their lives. When in aftertimes, by a variety of concurrent causes, this kingdom was, in common with all its neighbours, overwhelmed with the most deplorable darkness and ignorance ; and when that stupendous fabric of popish tyranny and superstition was, like another Babel, raised up with incredible art and diligence, to the very skies: yet still the Christian Clergy in general, and ours among the rest, were of no small benefit to the community. It is acknowledged by an historian, who has never betrayed any partiality to our order, that in the period we are speaking of, “ the profession and (let me 6. add) the disposition of the churchmen, “ averse to arms and violence, tempered the “ general turn to military enterprises, and 66 maintained even amidst the shock of 6 arms, those secret links without which it “ is impossible for human society to sub“ sist.” * Nay, even many privileges of the order that were justly looked upon with a jealous eye, yet proved, in those turbulent ages, a check to the despotism of our monarchs, and at the same time kept the community from falling to pieces by the factions and quarrels of the nobles. And it ought never to be forgotten, that for what we call our MAGNA CHARTA, that main foundation (as it is generally held to be) of our free constitution, we are principally indebted to the eloquence, the spirit, and the activity of an English primate *, assisted and supported by almost the whole body of his clergy. It is true, indeed, in other respects the conduct of our Ecclesiastics was not always so irreproachable as might have been wished; for they must needs partake in some degree of the corruption and barbarity which then generally prevailed. Yet great numbers of them did, notwithstanding, preserve themselves pure and undefiled from the vices of the age, and were exemplary in their manners, temperate, charitable, meek
ciety, and any others who chuse to become members of it. It is supported by annual subscriptions of one guinea each, and maintains two schools, one for boys and the other for girls, in which the orphans of the clergy are educated till they are of sufficient age to go out to apprenticeships.
It might be of use if a short and clear account of these societies was printed in a small tract, describing their nature and design, together with the proper time and method of applying to them for relief, and the persons to whom such applications should be made.
* Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury ; " a man “ whose memory," says the historian above mentioned, “ ought always to be respected by the English.” Vol. I. p. 382.
In the following reign, the abbots and prelates were very instrumental in obtaining the same security from Hen. III., and they endeavoured to guard against all future violations of it by a most tremendous ceremony. They stood round. the GREAT CHARTER, whilst it was read in parliament, with burning tapers in their hands, and denounced the sentence of excommunication against every one that should thenceforth dare to infringe that fundamental Law. Ib. Vol. II, p. 25, 26.