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by any other mode of beneficence. This is rendered sensible to every heart by that beautiful expression of the Divine compassion in the text; Leave thy fatherless children ; I will preserve them alive ; and let thy widows trust in me.
By the train of sentiment we have pursued, your thoughts, my brethren, will now be naturally led to the consideration of that institution which has given occasion to the meeting of this day; The Society formed for the benefit of the Sons of the Clergy of the Established Church of Scotland.
In entering on this part of the subject, I trust that I may be permitted to say a few words concerning that order of men, in behalf of whose descendants the favour of the public is now requested. Though belonging myself to that order, yet as my advanced age and long experience may reasonably be supposed to have corrected the prejudices and cooled the ardour of partiality, some weight, I hope, will be allowed to my testimony; when now, in the fiftyfourth
my ministry, after having seen succes. sions of ministers, in various parts of the country, rise and fall, and after long acquaintance with many of divided sentiments, among my brethren, I can with confidence declare it as my opinion, that there exists not any where a more respectable and useful class of men than the Clergy of the Church of Scotland. Among such a numerous body, I readily admit that some exceptions will be found to the character which I now give of them. Considering human frailty, this is no more than was naturally to be expected. But, taking the ministers of this church in general, I can venture to assert that they are a
well-informed and enlightened set of men ; decent and irreproachable in their behaviour, conscientious in the discharge of their pastoral duties, and very generally esteemed by the people under their care. There was a time, when the Presbyterian clergy lay under the imputation of being sour in their tempers, narrow in their opinions, severe and intolerant in their principles. But as, together with the diffusion of knowledge, a more liberal spirit has pervaded the clerical order in this part of Britain, it will be found that their manners now are conciliating; that they study to promote harmony and good order in their parishes; that they have shown themselves addicted to useful literature, and in several branches of it have eminently distinguished themselves; and that while they are edifying and consolatory to the lowest, they have acquired just respect from the higher classes
As long, therefore, as this country shall be preserved from the contagion of that false philosophy, which, by overthrowing all religious establishments, has engendered so much impiety, and wrought so much mischief, in a neighbouring land; as long as the existence of Christian faith, and of religious principles, shall be considered as essential to the welfare of a nation, it may reasonably, I think, be expected, that such a body of men as I have mentioned shall be held entitled to the regard and good will of their fellow-citizens and countrymen.
Circumstances there are, which give particular occasion for this regard and good will to be called forth. You all know the nature of that provision which is made by the public for the established clergy of this country. It is such as is suited to that sober
and frugal manner of living which is expected from ministers of the Gospel. Though in consideration of the growing prosperity of the country, and of its natural consequence, the increased rate of every expense, it has been found reasonable that, of late years, some addition should be made to the provision of many of the ministers, yet still their condition approaches not to what can be termed opulence in any degree. It is such as to raise them above contempt; such as to afford a decent subsistence for themselves and their families ; but such as seldom or never can enable them, without some other sources of revenue, to make provision for their children when going forth into the world, especially if their family be numerous.
It was the consideration of this circumstance that lately gave rise to the Society in favour of the Sons of the Clergy.
Many a minister, who, for a tract of years, has faithfully laboured in the discharge of every duty to his flock, has felt, towards the close of his days, what a blessing it would have proved to him, if such a society had existed in his time, to which he could have looked for aid. - Represent to yourselves, my friends, one of this character, -- and the representation which I am now to give is not the work of fancy, but founded upon what often in fact takes place.
Figure, I say, a worthy Clergyman, now in the decline of life, foreseeing the end of his labours drawing near, surrounded with a family of children, to whom his chief care had been devoted, and in whom his heart had long been bound up. Their education, from their earliest years, he had conducted, or at least superintended himself, with paternal fondness. Whatever his scanty stores could afford,
he had cheerfully expended, in giving all the advantage to their education which his own village or which the nearest county.town could yield. He had made every preparation that was in his power to make, for their acting a proper part in future life. But the time of preparation is finished. The gay season of childhood is over. The period is arrived when they must go forth ; must leave that paternal mansion where, in the midst of their youthful companions, they had spent many happy days ; must go to provide for themselves, the best they can, in a world, which to them is unknown. And whither are they to go ?
Of the few friends their father ever 'had, some are now gone down to the dust. Others, with whom he once lived in familiar intimacy, lifted up now with the pride of opulence, have forgotten him and his family. One of his sons, at least, he fondly wished to have educated for that profession to which he himself had been so long attached. But, living at a distance from any of the seats of learning, and having no protector to whose assistance he could look, he feels with regret that he is unable for the attempt. Some of his children he must send away to seek their fortune in a distant land. Others must be consigned to the dangers of the ocean, or be reduced to gain their bread by following some of the mean and laborious occupations of life. Viewing the dark and discouraging prospect that is before them, the father's heart is sore, when he bids adieu to his children. With tears in his eyes, he gives them his blessing as they depart. Little more it is in his power to give them ? but he commits them to the protection of their father's God. - How happy, if in these mournful moments, a voice of such a nature as this could
reach his ears; Leave thy fatherless children ; I will preserve them alive ; and let thy widows trust in me.
ANIMATED by the desire of imitating that spirit of Divine compassion which breathes in these words, a few respectable gentlemen in this city formed, six years ago, the plan of a Society for assisting the Sons of the Clergy. The institution, as soon as it was known, met with public approbation and favour. It was early distinguished, and amply assisted by Royal munificence. It was incorporated by Royal charter ; and, through the generosity of the public, has prospered so far, that the Society has already been enabled to give aid to a considerable number of the Sons of Clergymen of this Church. The aid which the Society, in an infant state, could as yet give, has been small; as it is confined to what the interest of their capital allows them to bestow. They earnestly wish to become more effectually useful, by enlarging their provision for the education of Sons; and hope to be enabled, in due time, to give assistance to the Daughters, as well as to the Sons, of ministers; so as to afford comfort to a widowed mother, and to the whole of a disconsolate family. For it is to be observed, that it is not merely to a literary education, or to preparations for the church, that the intentions of the Society are directed. They mean so to apply their beneficence, that the families of ministers may be assisted to acquire the necessary qualifications for pursuing any useful employment in the world, for which they appear to be most fitted.
Among other inducements which may encourage the public to promote this beneficent plan, there is one which I cannot, on this occasion, omit to mention;