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greatest truth be affirmed, that you will no where find, either in ancient or modern times, a body of more than ten thousand persons, situated in the midst of a populous, rich, commercial, luxurious kingdom, surrounded with every temptation, and every danger to which virtue can be exposed, whose morals are so blameless, and so little injured by the general contagion, as those of the English clergy. With respect to that part of them, more especially, whose families (when they themselves shall be no more) will probably want the protection of this charity, it is but justice to them to say, that their conduct renders them worthy of every act of kindness which their poverty may require. Contented, humble, modest, patient, and laborious, their lives are divided between fulfilling the duties of their profession, and struggling with the difficulties of their situation. Nay, it is to their virtue chiefly that these very distresses are owing. They are formed with the same passions and propensities as other men ; and were they as little scrupulous about the means of gratifying them as others too commonly are; had they adopted that very commodious system
of modern ethics, which ranks hypocrisy and adultery among the requisites of a good education, there would certainly be no need for us ever to become your petitioners for their widows and children. But as they have been trained up in a religion which requires unblemished purity of manners and of heart, they think themselves bound to keep within the limits prescribed by their heavenly Master, and to allow themselves no gratifications but those which he has pronounced lawful and honourable. Hence they are often induced to contract early marriages, and find themselves surrounded by a numerous family before they are provided with the means of supporting them. At the same time they are expected to live creditably, and to maintain a decent hospitality amongst their neighbours. To them the poor, the sick, the distressed part of their flock, naturally look up as their chief refuge and support ; and in some small villages (if you except parochial relief) the minister of the parish is almost the only resource they have. These demands he is commonly inclined to answer to the utmost of his power. Perhaps, too, he may have the misfortune of a little taste for books, which is not indulged without expence; and from his acquaintance with the best and purest writers of antiquity, as well as from the habits and connections of his early years, he may have , acquired sentiments and feelings far beyond
the straitness of his circumstances, and the humility of his condition. Hence, besides the large sums which he is often obliged to expend on the necessary repairs of his parsonage, he may possibly be induced to add a few conveniencies to it: he may even be tempted, by the natural beauties of its situation, to expend more in improving and adorning his little territories, and in rendering them comfortable and delightful to himself, and those that follow him, than in strict prudence he ought. In a few years his sons must be sent to schools and universities, or to trades and professions: and if, perchance, he should be ambitious of giving his daughters also a few useful accomplishments, let us pardon him this wrong; it is the only fortune he can give them. These expences necessarily oblige him to anticipate his narrow income, and to contract,
perhaps, a considerable debt; a load which often lies so heavy upon his mind, that it brings him prematurely down with sorrow to the grave. Then it is that his wife and children find themselves plunged not only in the severest affliction, but in embarrassments out of which they are utterly unable to extricate themselves. It is then the widow may, with but too much propriety, address herself to every one of us in the words of the text, “ Thy servant, my hus“ band, is dead, and thou knowest that thy “ servant did fear the Lord, and the cre“ ditor is come to take unto him my two “sons to be bond-men.” Her children cannot, indeed, in this land of freedom, be literally carried into bondage; but it is necessary, both for their subsistence and her's, that they should all, in one way or other, be taken away from her, and subjected probably to much harsher usage than they had hitherto experienced. The head is gone, and the little society is dissolved; they must quit the beloved mansion where they have spent their lives, and which they have made so neat and cheerful at their own cost, perhaps with the labour of their own hands. The small remnant of books and furniture, that constituted all their wealth, they see disposed of for the benefit of their creditors ; and then — they have nothing to do but to disperse themselves where there can to seek support.
In this critical moment it is that these charitable establishments open their friendly arms to receive them, and each bears its respective part in ministering to their necessities. * The Incorporate Society takes the widow under its immediate protection, and allows her a decent pension so long as her condition and her circumstances continue unchanged. The Society of Stewards and Subscribers, instituted in the year 1749, undertakes the maintenance and education of her children, till they are of age to be apprenticed ; and when they are of sufficient age, The Society of the Feast of the Sons of the Clergy provides them with proper masters, and puts them into a way of obtaining a comfortable subsistence, and becoming useful members of society. ..
Thus, you see, each of these excellent institutions has its proper use and peculiar
* See the note abovc, pp. 152, 153.