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time at Clifton, and Mr. Unwin writes me word that he has been thinking of nothing else, day and night, for a fortnight. It is a wholesome measure that seems to bid fair to be pretty generally adopted, and, for the good effects that it promises, deserves well to be so. I know not, indeed, while the spread of the gospel continues so limited as it is, how a reformation of manners in the lower class of mankind can be brought to pass; or by what other means the utter abolition of all principle among them, moral as well as religious, can possibly be prevented. Heathenish parents can only bring up heathenish children; an assertion nowhere oftener or more clearly illustrated than at Olney ; where children, seven years
infest the streets every evening with curses and with songs, to which it would be unseemly to give their proper epithet. Such urchins as these could not be so diabolically accomplished, unless by the connivance of their parents. It is well indeed if, in some instances, their parents be not themselves their instructors. Judging by their proficiency, one can hardly suppose any other. It is therefore doubtless an act of the greatest charity to snatch them out of such hands, before the inveteracy of the evil shall have made it desperate. Mr. Teedon, I should imagine, will be employed as a teacher, should this expedient be carried into effect. I know not at least that we have any other person among us so well qualified for the service. He is indisputably a Christian man, and miserably poor, whose revenues need improvement, as much as any children in the world can possibly need instruction,
Believe me, my dear friend,
The first establishment of Sunday schools in England, which commenced about this time, is too important an era to be passed over in silence. The founder of this system, so beneficial in its consequences to the rising generation, was Robert Raikes, Esq., of Gloucester, and from whose lips the writer once received the history of their first institution. He had observed, in going to divine worship on the Sabbath, that the streets were generally filled with groups of idle and ragged children, playing and blaspheming in a manner that showed their utter unconsciousness of the sacred obligations of that day. The thought suggested itself, that, if these children could be collected together, and the time so misapplied be devoted to instruction and attendance at the house of God, a happy change might be effected in their life and conduct. He consulted the clergyman of the parish, who encouraged the attempt. A respectable and pious female was immediately selected, and twelve children, who were shortly afterwards decently clothed, were placed under her care. Rules and regulations were formed, and the school opened and closed with prayer. The ignorant were taught to read, the word of God was introduced, and the children walked in orderly procession to church.
The visible improvement in their moral habits, and their proficiency in learning, led to an extension of the plan. The principal inhabitants of the town became interested in its success, and in a short time the former noisy inmates of the streets were found uniting in the accents of prayer and praise in the temple of Jehovah. The example manifested by the city of Gloucester soon attracted public attention. The queen of George the Third requested to be furnished with the history and particulars of the undertaking, and was so impressed with its importance as to distinguish it by her sanction. The result is well known. Sunday schools are now universally established, and have been adopted in Europe, in America, and wherever the traces of civilisation are to be discerned. Their sound has gone forth into all lands, and, so long as knowledge is necessary to piety, and both constitute the
and ornament of the young and the safeguard of society, the venerable name of Raikes will be enrolled with gratitude among the friends and benefactors of mankind.*
* The editor, once conversing with the late Rev. Andrew Fuller, the well-known secretary of the Serampore Missionary Society, on the subject of Sunday schools in connexion with that noble institution, the British and Foreign Bible Society, the latter observed, “ Yes: if the Bible Society had commenced its operations earlier, its usefulness would have been comparatively limited, because the faculty of reading would not have been so generally acquired. Each institution is in the order of Providence:—God first raised up Sunday schools, and children were thereby taught to read; afterwards, when this faculty was obtained, in order that it might not be pere
TO JOSEPH HILL, ESQ.*
Olney, Oct, 11, 1785. My dear Sir—You began your letter with an apology for long silence, and it is now incumbent upon me to do the same; and the rather, as your kind invitation to Wargrave entitled you to a speedier
The truth is that I am become, if not a man of business, yet a busy man, and have been engaged almost this twelvemonth in a work that will allow of no long interruption. On this account it was impossible for me to accept your obliging summons; and, having only to tell you that I could not, it appeared to me as a matter of no great moment whether you received that intelligence soon or late. my two volumes, distinguished by name the majority of those few for whom I entertain a friendship, it seemed to me that it would be unjustifiable negligence to omit yourself ; and, if I took that step without communicating to you my intention, it was only to gratify myself the more with the hope of surprising you agreeably. Poets are dangerous persons to be acquainted with, especially if a man have that in his character that promises to shine in verse. To that very
You do me justice when you ascribe my printed epistle to you to my friendship for you ; though, in fact, it was equally owing to the opinion that I have of yours for me.t Having, in one part or other of verted to wrong ends, God raised up the Bible Society, that the best of all possible books might be put into their hands. Yes, Sir,” he added in his emphatic manner,“the wisdom of God is visible in both; they fit each other like hand and glove."
* Private Correspondence.
+ The epistle in which he commemorates his friendship for Mr. Hill begins as follows :
“ Dear Joseph-Five-and-twenty years ago
Alas, how time escapes ! 'tis even so—” &c. &c. We add the two concluding lines, as descriptive of his person and character.
“ An honest man, close button'd to the chin,
circumstance it is owing that you are now figuring away in mine. For, notwithstanding what you say on the subject of honesty and friendship, that they are not splendid enough for public celebration, I must still think of them as I did before,that there are no qualities of the mind and heart that can deserve it better. I can, at least for my own part, look round about upon the generality, and, while I see them deficient in those grand requisites of a respectable character, am not able to discover that they possess any other of value enough to atone for the want of them.
I beg that you will present my respects to Mrs. Hill, and believe me Ever affectionately yours,
The period at which we are now arrived, was marked by the renewal of an intimacy, long suspended indeed, but which neither time nor circumstances could efface from the affectionate heart of Cowper. The person to whom we allude is Lady Hesketh, a near relative of the poet, and whose name