« PreviousContinue »
lived in London, I learned to be much on my guard as to recommendations. I found people often wanted to impose on me some one who was a burden to themselves. Once, I remember, when I undertook to get a matron for an hospital, half my acquaintance had some one to offer me. · Mrs. Gibson sent me an old cook, whom she herself had discharged for wasting her own provisions ; yet she had the conscience to recommend this woman to take care of the provisions of a large community. Mrs. Grey sent me a discarded housekeeper, whose constitution had been ruined by sitting up with Mrs. Grey's gouty husband; but who she yet thought might do well enough to undergo the fatigue of taking care of a hundred poor sick people. A third friend sent me a woman who had no merit but that of being very poor, and it would be charity to provide for her. The truth is, the lady was obliged to allow her a small pension till she could get her off her own hands, by turning her on those of others.”
“It is very true, madam," said Mr. Simpson; “the right way is always to prefer the good of the many to the good of one; if, indeed, it can be called doing good to any one, to place them in a station in which they must feel unhappy, by not knowing how to discharge the duties of it. I will tell you how I manage. If the persons recommended are objects of charity, I privately subscribe to their wants; I pity and help them; but I never promote them to a station for which they are unfit, as I should, by so doing, hurt a whole community, to help a distressed individual.”
Thus Mrs. Jones resolved, that the first step towards setting up her school should be to provide a suitable mistress. The vestry were so earnest in recommending one woman, that she thought it worth looking into. On inquiry, she found it was a scheme to take a large family off the parish; they never considered that a very ignorant woman, with a family of young children, was, of all others, the most unfit for a school; all they considered was, that the profits of the school might enable her to live without parish pay. Mrs. Jones refused another, though she could read well, and was decent in her conduct, because she used to send her children to the shop on Sundays. And she objected to a third, a very sensible woman, because she was suspected of making an outward profession of religion a cloak for immoral conduct. Mrs. Jones knew she must not be too nice, neither; she knew she must put up with many faults at last. “I know," said she to Mr. Simpson, “the imperfection of every thing that is human. As the mistress will have much to bear with from the children, so I expect to have something to
bear with in the mistress; and she and I must submit to our respective trials, by thinking how much God has to bear with in us all. But there are certain qualities which are indispensable in certain situations. There are, in particular, three things which a schoolmistress .must not be withoutgood sense, activity, and piety. Without the first, she will mislead others; without the second, she will neglect them; and without the third, though she may civilize, yet she will never Christianize them.”
Mr. Simpson said," he really knew but of one person in the parish who was fully likely to answer her purpose : this," continued he, “is no other than my housekeeper, Mrs. Betty Crew. It will, indeed, be a great loss to me to part from her; and to her, it will be a far more fatiguing life than that which she at present leads. But ought I to put my own personal comfort, or ought Betty to put her own ease and quiet, in competition with the good of above a hundred children? This will appear still more important, if we consider the good done by these institutions, not as fruit, but seed; if we take into the account how many yet unborn may become Christians, in consequence of our making these children Christians; for how can we calculate the number which may be hereafter trained for heaven, by those very children we are going to teach, when they themselves shall become parents, and you and I are dead and forgotten? To be sure, by parting from Betty, my pea-soup will not be quite so well filavored, nor my linen so, neatly got up; but the day is fast approaching when all this will signify but little ; but it will not signify little whether one hundred immortal souls were the better from my making this petty sacrifice. Mrs. Crew is a real Christian, has excellent sense, and had a good education from my mother. She has also had a little sort of preparatory training for the business; for when the poor children come to the parsonage for broth on a Saturday evening, she is used to appoint them all to come at the same time; and after she has filled their pitchers, she ranges them round her in the garden, and examines them in their catechism. She is just and fair in dealing out the broth and beef, not making my favor to the parents depend on the skill of their children; but her own old caps, and ribands, and cast-off clothes, are bestowed as little rewards on the best scholars; so that, taking the time she spends in working for them, and the things she gives them, there is many a lady who does not exceed Mrs. Crew in acts of charity. This I mention to confirm your notion, that it is not necessary to be rich in order to do good ; a religious upper servant has great
opportunities of this sort, if the master is disposed to encourage her.”
My readers, I trust, need not be informed, that this is that very Mrs. Betty Crew who assisted Mrs. Jones in teaching poor women to cut out linen, and dress cheap dishes, as related in the “ Cure for Melancholy.” Mrs. Jones, in the following week, got together as many of the mothers as she could, and spoke to them as follows:
Mrs. Jones's Exhortation. “My good women :-on Sunday next I propose to open a school for the instruction of your children. Those among you, who know what it is to be able to read your Bible, will, I doubt not, rejoice that the same blessing is held out to your children. You who are not able yourselves to read what your Savior has done and suffered for you, ought to be doubly anxious that your children should reap a blessing which you have lost. Would not that mother be thought an unnatural monster, who should stand by and snatch out of her child's mouth the bread which a kind friend had just put into it? But such a mother would be merciful, compared with her who should rob her children of the opportunity of learning to read the word of God when it is held out to them. Remember, that if you slight the present offer, or if, after having sent your children a few times, you should afterwards keep them at home under vain pretences, you will have to answer for it at the day of judgment. Let not your poor children, then, have cause to say, “My fond mother was my worst enemy. I might have been bred up in the fear of the Lord, and she opposed it, for the sake of giving me a little paltry pleasure. For an idle holiday, I am now brought to the gates of hell!' My dear women, which of you could bear to see your darling child condemned to everlasting destruction? Which of you could bear to hear him accuse you as the cause of it? Is there any mother here present, who will venture to say, 'I will doom the child I bore to sin and hell, rather than put them or myself to a little present pain, by curtailing their evil inclinations! I will let them spend the Sabbath in ignorance and idleness, instead of rescuing them from vanity and sin, by sending them to school!' If there are any such here present, let that mother who values her child's pleasure more than his soul, now walk away, while I set down in my list the names of all those who wish to bring their young ones up in the way that leads to eternal life, in
stead of indulging them in the pleasures of sin, which are but for a moment."
When Mrs. Jones had done speaking, most of the women thanked her for her good advice, and hoped that God would give them grace to follow it; promising to send their children constantly. Others, who were not so well disposed, were yet afraid to refuse, after the sin of so doing had been so plainly set before them. The worst of the women had kept away from this meeting, resolving to set their faces against the school. Most of those, also, who were present, as soon as they got home, set about providing their children with what little decent apparel they could raise. Many a willing mother lent her tall daughter her hat, best cap, and white handkerchief; and many a grateful father spared his linen waistcoat and bettermost hat, to induce his grown-up son to attend; for it was a rule with which Mrs. Jones began, that she would not receive the younger children out of any family who did not send their elder ones. Too many made excuses that their shoes were old, or their hat worn out. But Mrs. Jones told them not to bring any excuses to her, which they could not bring to the day of judgment; and among those excuses, she would hardly admit any except accidents, sickness, or attendance on sick parents or young children.
Subscriptions. Mrs. Jones, who had secured large subscriptions from the gentry, was desirous of getting the help and countenance of the farmers and trades-people, whose duty and interest she thought it was, to support a plan calculated to improve the virtue and happiness of the parish. Most of them subscribed, and promised to see that their workmen sent their children. She met with little opposition till she called on farmer Hoskins. She told him, as he was the richest farmer in the parish, she came to him for a handsome subscription. “Subscription!” said he, “it is nothing but subscriptions, I think; a man had need be made of money.” “Farmer," said Mrs. Jones, “God has blessed you with abundant prosperity, and he expects you should be liberal in proportion to your great ability.” “I do not know what you mean by blessing," said he: “I have been up early and late, lived hard while I had little, and now, when I thought I had got forward in the world, what with tithes, taxes, and subscriptions, it all goes, I think.” “Mr. Hoskins," said Mrs. Jones, “as to tithes and taxes, you well know, that the richer you
are, the more you pay; so that your murmurs are a proof of your wealth. This is but an ungrateful return for all your blessings.” “You are again at your blessings," said the farmer; “ but let every man work as hard as I have done, and I dare say he will do as well. It is to my own industry I owe what I have. My crops have been good, because I minded my ploughing and sowing.” “O farmer !” cried Mrs. Jones, “you forget whose suns and showers make, your crops to grow, and who it is that giveth strength to get riches. But I do not come to preach, but to beg.”
“Well, madam, what is the subscription now ? Flannel or French ? or weavers, or Swiss ? or a new church, or large bread, or cheap rice? or what other new whimwham, for getting the money out of one's pocket?” “I am going to establish a Sunday school, farmer; and I come to you, as one of the principal inhabitants of the parish ; hoping your example will spur on the rest to give.” “Why, then," said the farmer, “as one of the principal inhabitants of the parish, I will give nothing; hoping it will spur on the rest to refuse. Of all the foolish inventions, and new-fangled devices to ruin the country, that of teaching the poor to read is the very worst." “ And I, farmer, think that to teach good principles to the lower classes, is the most likely way to save the country. Now, in order to this, we must teach them to read.” “ Not with my consent, nor my money,” said the farmer; “ for I know it always does more harm than good.” “ So it may," said Mrs. Jones, “ if you only teach them to read, and then turn them adrift, to find out books for themselves.* There is a proneness in the heart to evil, which it is our duty to oppose, and which I see you are promoting. Only look round your own kitchen ; I am ashamed to see it hung round with loose songs and ballads. I grant, indeed, it would be better for your men and maids, and even your daughters, not to be able to read at all, than to read such stuff as this. But if, when they ask for bread, you will give them a stone, nay, worse, a serpent, yours is the blame.” Then, taking up a penny book which had a very loose title, she went on: “I do not wonder, if you, who read such books as these, think it safer that people should not read at all.” The farmer grinned, and said, “It is hard, if a man of my substance may
* It was this consideration, chiefly, which stimulated the conductors of the Cheap Repository to send forth that variety of little books so peculiarly suited to the young. They considered that, by means of Sunday schools, multitudes were now taught to read, who would be exposed to be corrupted by all the ribaldry and profaneness of loose songs, vicious stories, and, especially, by the new influx of corruption arising from jacobinical and atheistical pamphlets; and that it was a bounden duty to counteract such temptations.