|Chapter 11||Contents||Chapter 2|
It was formerly the custom in the city of Halle and its environs, for the people to appoint a certain day on which the poor were allowed to assemble at their doors, and beg once a week for alms. In Glaucha, the little village where I lived, just on the outskirts of Halle, Thursday was the day on which they came to my door to receive their weekly allowance. I used for a long time to distribute bread to them in front of the house; but I thought afterwards that it would afford an excellent opportunity for me to reach their souls with some religious instruction, for the most of them were grossly ignorant, and many were even vicious.
So one day, as they stood in front of the house, I asked them all to come in; I arranged the older people on one side, and the younger on another, and began in a friendly way to ask the children some questions out of Luther’s catechism, to see how much they knew about religion. Only the men and women listened; I did not spend more than a quarter of an hour or so in the catechizing, and closed with a prayer, then giving them their usual gifts, and telling them that in future I should try to provide something for both body and soul, and asking them to come to my house every Thursday in the same way, which they did. This was in the beginning of 1694.
When I discovered the excessive ignorance of these poor people, and found it hard to get an entering wedge to their minds, for the first principles of Christianity, I was for a long time very troubled to know how I could make any impression upon them. It seemed a great shame to the Christian name that so many people should grow up like cattle, without any knowledge of divine things, and especially that so many children, in consequence of the poverty of their parents, should neither be sent to school, nor enjoy good training at home, but grow up in the most scandalous ignorance and vice, and when they arrived at mature years be fit for nothing, and know nothing but how to rob and steal, and commit every vice.
The attempt to send children to school, giving them money to pay their weekly tuition, did not succeed; for it was found they asked for the money indeed, but they either did not go to school at all, or if they did go, they did not dispay the slightest traces of it afterwards.
I felt deeply the needs of these poor creatures who came every week to my house to get their customary alms. After a time a I bought a contribution box, and Christian students of the University of Halle, and other pious people, used to carry it around for me, and sometimes I collected eighteenpence a week for the benefit of the poor. Still this did not last long; the box used to come in very light, and it seemed as though it hardly paid the trouble of carrying it around. Everybody assured me of their heartiest good wishes, but the poor did not contribute because they could not, and the rich did not contribute because they would not; and it was painful to see the shifts which some were put to who pretended to be great lovers of the kingdom of God, but who refused to help me and my cause.
But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? αAnd under that quotation this,—
Every man as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.βThus every one who came into my house had to remember the poor at least, and to open or close the heart against them.
It was in the beginning of 1695 that I put up this box, then I waited a considerable time to see how God would deal with me, and before long I found that I had Divine blessing.
Sometimes before I put up the poor-box in the parsonage, as I was reading the Bible, I came upon these verses.—
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work. γThese words burned within me. I thought, Ho can God do it? I would gladly do good to many a poor soul had I the means. But now I must let them go empty handed away, and without any help from me. Some hours after that I received a letter from a Christian friend, who was in the depths of trouble; he was so poor that he and his whole family were threatened with starvation; he would borrow nothing more from any one, and if for the love of God, I would give him something, he would never cease to thank me.
I remembered what I had read just before, and was more troubled than ever to know what to do; I wept and I prayed; and at last I determined, without holding counsel with man, to deal in a Christian way with my friend in his hour of extremity. I carried my purpose into immediate act; and during that year I gave to him twenty pounds,δ and rescued his family from the depths of poverty.
This was an excellent proof how God could make me “abound to every good work;” and I cannot omit giving this little instance to show the method in which God has blessed me from the beginning, and heartened me and led me in times of darkness.
About a quarter of a year after I had put up the box in my house, a person dropped in the sum of fourteen shillings.ε When I came to take it out, and counter it over in my hand (there were seven two-shilling pieces), I exclaimed with the joy and assurance of faith,
Here is a goodly capital to work with; I must do a great work with this; I will found a school for the poor with it.I took no counsel with flesh and blood, but went on in faith and bought six shillings worth of books. I then engaged a poor student to instruct the children two hours daily; I promised to give him ninepenceζ a week for his trouble, with full hope that when the crownη or two which I had left should be spent, God would open a way to provide me with more.
The beggar children took the books joyfully enough; but out of the twenty-seven books which were distributed among them, only four ever made their second appearance; the children sold the others and then remained away out of shame.
Still I did not allow this to discourage me; but with the two shillingsθ which were left I bought more books, which the children always had to leave behind when school was done. After some weeks I made a desk whence the books were always taken in the morning, and where they were laid away at night, as, I believe, is now the custom in all Poor-schools.
At Easter, 1695, this school of mine began with thus slender outfit. For those fourteen shillings are the real basis and the first capital on which not only the school for the poor was founded, but from which rose the great Orphan Asylum itself.
α I John iii.17.
β II Corinthians ix.7.
γ II Corinthians ix.8.
δ Per Intro., note β, £38 thousands/$48 thousands/€46 thousands.
ε Per note δ, £1300/$1700/€1600.
ζ Per note δ, £72/$90/€86.
η Per note δ, £480/$600/€550.
θ Per note δ, £19/$24/€23.
|Chapter 11||Contents||Chapter 2|