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" AN ESSAY TOWARDS THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF CHARITY SCHOOLS, PARTICULARLY AMONG PROTESTANT DISSENTERS."
To the generous Supporters of the Schools of Charity among the Protestant Dissenters, and particularly to the Managers of those Schools.
My heart is with you in your pious and compassionate designs: Go on and
prosper in your charitable cares and labours for the education of poorfand unhappy children: Poor and unhappy children indeed, who have either lost their parents by death, or whose parents are not able to give them, or provide for them any tolerable instruction in the things of God or man. It is from occasional converse with some of you, that I have been better enabled to compose several parts of this defence of the schools of charity. It is also by some of your number that I have been informed what mistakes may be committed in the conduct of these affairs, and what methods may be most successful to attain your most desirable ends, that is, to keep the poor from being a nuisance, to render them some way useful to the world, and to put their feet into the paths that lead to their own happiness here and hereafter. Give me leave therefore to set before you in one view, several of those things which seem necessary to support this cause of liberality, and which I have learned in some measure from yourselves.
I. Let your great aims and designs in all your zeal and diligence in this matter, be very sincere for the public good. Set your intentions right for the glory of God, for the increase of true religion in the world, for the benefit of poor destitute children in soul and body, for the training them up to become blessings to the nation, for the support and honour of the present government, and for the security and defence of the protestant succession,
II. See to it that in every step you take, you keep as many of these things as possible constantly in your eye, whether you seek masters or mistresses for the instruction of children, whether you prescribe orders and rules for their behaviour, whether you appoint seasons for their examination, or whether you enquire after families in which they may be placed, when they go out of your schools; and let no private ends or designs bias your thoughts and conduct in any of these affairs: Let it appear with bright evidence to the world, that the honour of God, and the good of the public, are your only motives in this work.
III. Take good care of the character of the masters and mistresses, whom you chuse for the instruction of the children. See that they be sufficiently skilled in the things which they pretend to teach: Admit none but those who are sober and religious in their personal behaviour, diligent and careful in all the parts of their proper duty, tender and compassionate to the children of the poor, prudent to deal with them according to their temper,
age and capacity, solicitous for the welfare and improvement of their scholars, and faithful to the trust which you repose in them. Let them not be persons of a hasty spirit, nor of an angry and rash temper: There have been some masters, I will not say in your schools, so brutal and uncompassionate, that because the children are poor, they are used with excess of rigour and severity in the treatment of them: Nor should the teachers be so familiar and easy, as to let their scholars trifle with them, or neglect their duty, or be guilty of criminal practices without due reproof or correction. They should not be persons of sloth or indolence, that have no concern whether the children improve or no, so they do but receive their salary. Nor should they be persons that are guilty of any degrees of intemperance, or violence, nor ill language, nor unbecoming speech or carriage, but such as may give an example of piety and virtue, charity and goodness, at the same time as they teach the rules of it.
As I would presume that no persons of any of these culpable characters, are entrusted with the education of children among you, so I am persuaded I need give no caution against the admission of persons into this trust, who are disaffected to the present government: For the very name and profession of a protestant dissenter, is utterly inconsistent with all the principles of those who have their eye to a popish pretender. These things are not only to be considered at first, when you 'admit masters or mistresses into your schools, but you must carefully enquire whether they continue this prudent and pious behaviour, and act agreeably to their station and business, and are conformable to your appointment and direction. Remember that if teachers and go vernors behave ill, there is huge injury done to children thereby. It is a waste of their time of life which is proper for learning, it is a deceiving of their parents, and a great disappointment to them, it is a cheat upon yourselves, and a loss both of your money and your care.
IV. Be not contented merely to have them read the bible, and be taught the catechism at proper seasons, but let the truths and duties of it be explained to them in a familiar and easy way, by taking the answers to pieces, and instructing the children till they understand the sense of them. It would also be a very useful thing for the children to have a particular collection of scriptures which might impress upon their tender minds, not only the duties of piety towards God, but also the duties of sobriety and temperance, of justice and truth, of humility and submission to superiors, of diligence and industry in their business, of kindness and love to all men, and especially to persons of piety and virtue, whatsoever sects or parties of christians they belong to. I am informed such a manual is partly composed, and will be published in a little time:
They should be put in mind frequently, of the excellency of the christian religion in distinction from that of Turks and Jews, and heathens; and of the excellency of the protestant religion, in opposition to the papists, with all their idolatry and superstition, their cruel and wicked principles, their mischievous and bloody practices. They should be informed also, on every occasion, of the great and invaluable privileges of being born in Great-Britain, and of living under so excellent a government as ours is, wherein there is liberty of conscience to serve God according to our own understandings, and wherein people are not punished and persecuted merely for their principles of religion. And on this account they should be taught to honour our most excellent King George, our most gracious Queen Caroline, and all the royal family, and be
ready to defend the protestant succession in this illustrious house, with their tongues, and their hands, and with all their powers. It may be useful also to put other little books into their hands, to assist the devotion of their younger years, and to encourage and confirm them in the principles and practices of all moral and divine virtues. Some of these may be written in verse as well as in prose, which will allure children to read them and assist their memories in getting them by heart: They should all have lessons appointed in their books, and they should be required to repeat them to their teachers, at stated hours or seasons, once or twice in a week and care,
V. As the children are not constantly under their master's eye but spend much of their time with their parents, so there should be some care taken to charge their parents to make them read at home, at least once or twice a day, and to keep them by due discipline to a regular behaviour, that they may not be guilty of profaneness or immorality, obstinacy, disobedience to superiors ot any wickedness at home or abroad.
VI. Let not the Lord's-day be spent by them at random, nor let them wander after their own wills where they please: But let them be obliged to attend at some place of public worship, either with their masters or mistres ses, that they may be under the eye and observation; or with their parents, who should be charged and engaged to take particular care of their religious observation of the Lord's-day. And wheresoever children go to worship on the Lord's-day, whether it be with their parents or with their teachers, let it be a constant part of the business on the Monday mornings, for their teachers to enquire what they remember of the sermons they have heard, at least, so far as to make them repeat the text by heart, on which the minister preached.
VII. Let there be certain seasons of examination appointed, two or three times a year, not only to enquire into the state of the school in general, or fill up vacancies as the children are dismissed, but to make a particular enquiry how the children improve in their learning; and if there be any defect, to find out whether it be the fault of the scholars, or of the teachers: If the child's incapacity or low natural parts be the occasion of it, let him be excited and encouraged to double diligence: If the child has been negligent, reproofs and threatenings should be added: But if it be found that the non-improvement of children be owing to the neglect, or the mismanagement of the teachers, let there be due cognizance taken of it in a proper way, and new teachers be chosen, if two or three admonitions obtain no success.
VIII. It would be a great and unspeakable advantage to these schools of charity, if you could contrive some methods whereby all the children of the poor, might be employed in some useful labours one part of the day; that those who are to earn their bread by the labour of their hands, might be engaged in work for this purpose even from the younger years of life. This would fix them betimes in such a manner of life, as the providence of God has suited to their circumstances in the world. This would have a manifest tendency to secure them from pride and sloth, and would be the most effectual answer to a very common and powerful objection, in the lips of many persons against charity schools.
IX. For this reason I would propose, that if the parents can and will employ their children one part of the day in useful labours toward their subsistence, this should rather be encouraged then forbidden; always provided that there be such due care taken daily by the parents, that it may be no
excuse for idle children to absent themselves from the school and play truant, to the disappointment both of their parents, their teachers, and their benefactors.
X. When children have continued a proper time under the instructions of the school, and you find they have so much knowledge, as may lay some foundation for religion and virtue, and as may render them useful in some of the lower stations of life, endeavour then that they may be placed out, and fixed either in country-labours, in domestic services, in some inferior post in a shop, or in mechanic trades, that so they may not run loose and wild in the world, and forget all that you have taught them, and lie exposed to temptation and misery. If this cannot be done immediately, take some care that their parents or friends employ them in proper business at home, and keep them to reading, and writing, to knitting, sewing, or domestic work, that all your labours, and expences may not be lost.
XI. Whensoever these children are to be placed out in families, see to it that these families have a due 'character for sobriety and diligence: Engage their masters or mistresses to take some care that these servants read their bible daily, and that they make use of any other part of their learning, as their post of service or employment will admit, that if possible, the benefits which you have bestowed on them may be lasting.
XII. For this purpose, enquire now and then into their behaviour in those places where you have fixed them: And if it appear they have bebaved well, give them some token of your favour; ten or twenty or thirty shillings the first year or two, after they are gone from the school. This will greatly encourage them to pursue the practise of piety and virtue. I know some of you do more than this. I wish it were the universal custom of all the schools.
In the last place, as I hope you pray for divine success in every good work in which you are engaged, so let your prayers accompany this your labour of love, for the temporal and eternal welfare of the poor children, who taste of your bounty. May the God of light and grace succeed all your de signs to train up those young destitute creatures to be a blessing to the world, and that your schools may be nurseries for the church of Christ: And may your liberality and your pious cares meet with a rich reward from heaven, in the abundant blessings of this life, and that which is to come. AMEN,