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them in those habits of idleness, which afterwards contributed to lay the foundation of a system for their support, the policy and utility of which, is to this hour a subject of doubt and debate. But however this may be determined, looking at it only in a religious point of view; we may safely say, that the provision for the poor established in the reign of Elizabeth and her predecessors, was worthy of the era of the reformation. It was worthy of the enlightened and rational principles which then prevailed, to take care that numbers, whose means of subsistence were cut off or diminished by the changes which then took place, should be fully secured from want and misery. From that time to the present, as religious knowledge has been gaining ground amongst us, so have its genuine fruits been multiplied and distributed. To sustenance for the bodies of the poor, has been added instruction for their minds which from small beginnings has at length attained a magnitude, whose force it would be impossible to check, whatever may be its consequences. Its progress therefore will require unceasing vigilance and attention. To convert it into a real blessing to themselves and the community, they must be taught
above all things to believe in him, and to obey his precepts, to whom they are indebted for all these advantages. For the Founder of Christianity, has been unquestionably the source of all the amelioration, which the condition of the poor has received since its introduction. For "with the Edicts of the first Christian Emperor (as the learned commentator upon our laws has noticed) commenced those legal provisions for their welfare, which have subsequently been so much extended and improved." So that the temporal benefits which have accrued to the poor, from the Gospel's having been preached not only to but for them, are really incalculable, and may be almost considered to be proof1 of its Divine origin, and should therefore attach them to the faith and precepts of its Author, by the strongest sentiments of gratitude and devotion.
But it was not only in this primary sense of the word that the Gospel was preached to the poor. It was also peculiarly addressed to
"That the poor had the Gospel preached to them; Christ makes a mark as well as business of his Mission." Locke's Reasonableness of Christianity. Works, vol. ii. 541.
another class of persons under that denomination, who may or may not be in indigent circumstances. Our Lord thus commences his admirable Sermon upon the MountBlessed are the poor in spirit-for their's is the kingdom of heaven. Surely there was something in this declaration very characteristic of him, who (we are told) spake as never man spake. It argued a deeper insight into the principles of the human heart, than any philosophy before or since has attained. It discovered in it an union of qualities the most opposite, and seemingly incompatible. the most heroic courage and fortitude, with the utmost meekness, patience, and forbearance. Of the loftiest ambition, that of reaching heaven itself, with the deepest self-abasement, and humility. That it might be excited to the voluntary surrender of all that this life has to bestow, by the prospect of another to be enjoyed after death. That our Lord's Divine wisdom should have enabled him to see this, and to erect upon its foundation a system of religion correspondent to it, is not wonderful. But that such a conception should have entered into the mind of a mere man, was certainly not to have been expected, from
any previous experience of human principles and conduct. Yet upon this was Christianity undoubtedly established. These were the elements, out of which the first Christians were formed. Those who having themselves cheerfully embraced the Gospel, went forth armed with the most indomitable courage on the one hand and the most unresisting meekness on the other, to impart its blessings to the world both by precept and example.— These were they who asserted its truth at the hazard of their lives, and sealed it with their blood. Who could receive the bitterest insults without resentment, and endure the cruellest torments without complaint. It is happily long since, in this country at least, the courage of Christians has been put to so severe a test as this. But that disposition of mind which called forth our Saviour's blessing upon the poor in spirit, is still most essential to the formation of the real Christian character. It shews itself in that docility which is both willing and anxious to receive instruction in religious knowledge, from the only source whence it can be derived, the volume of inspiration. It is marked by that humility which is directly opposed to that pride of in
tellect, which more than any other cause engenders infidelity. It keeps in subjection, or we should rather say, it is inconsistent with the indulgence of those violent and irregular passions, which it is one great object of our religion to check and subdue. It is perhaps above all displayed in that patient resignation under the trying calamities of life, of which our Saviour himself has left to all his followers the most perfect and signal example.— Wherever these qualities are found, we recognize those whom our Saviour described as the poor in spirit. In proportion as they are united and abound, we discover the true primitive Christian temper; and probably it is upon this account, that it is so frequently displayed in an eminent degree in that sex, to whom the virtues we have been enumerating are so peculiarly congenial. For this character is formed by the combination of those virtues, which respectively distinguish the two sexes. And it should seem that one great end of that union in which God has ordained them to live, is the cultivation of that mixed disposition of heart and mind, which results from mutually imitating whatsoever is most commendable in each, and correcting that which