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Meantime I had appointed an hour every week for the poor students whom I helped, to meet me and receive their allowance. This gave me a good occasion to inquire into their lives and their faithfulness in study, and to form a judgment whether they made a good use of the funds which I committed to them: for with men so young it was difficult to prevent a part of this fund being squandered on useless objects. i resolved, therefore, in God’s name, to give out money no longer to the poor students, but to provide them with a free table, relying on that providence to which I trusted implicity, to make my way clear of pecuniary straits in so doing. I thought that there would be a threefold gain in this course, the money spent in this way would go further than it could in any other way— the provisions being purchased in large quantities at a tie. I could have a better opportunity of being with these young men and studying their characters than could be gained in any other way; and those who were not very needy, and spent their weekly allowance in trifles, were freed from that temptation. On the 13th of September, 1696, I ventured on this new experiment in trusting the Lord’s goodness. Twenty-four persons sat down to the newly-established free table, including the teachers of the Poor-school, and in this way one thing helped another, for I could provide board for the latter, at less cost in this way than in any other. To accommodate these new demands for space, I first hired and then purchased the house next adjoining the one which I had bought before, and connected them by opening a door between them. They had a common garden, which made this an excellent arragement.
And all this I may call the founding of the whole institution; the reader has been informed about its feeble beginnings, and its establishment, now I have to portray its growth and enlarged prosperity. I was able now to give alms to the poor, not merely on the Thursdays but every day in the week, and even poor strangers coming from out of town were hospitably entertained, and received our gifts and religious instruction besides.
The Poor-school meanwhile was not neglected. It continued to grow and to demand more accommodation. At the first I had divided it into two classes— one of boys, the other of girls. When these two classes had grown unmanageably large, I divided each of them into two classes according to the age of the scholars. I put over them suitable teachers, and provided them with suitable books; and the movement was so successful that all the poor children in the city who were not able to pay for their schooling were provided by me with all the means for gaining a good education.
The school for the children of townspeople well to do in the world was also continued. In 1697, I made further enlargements, in order to accommodate those who wished to pursue a wider course of studies. I appointed skilful [sic] teachers, and formed classes in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, in history, geography, geometry, music, and botany.
I received fees from such parents as were able to pay for the tuition of their children; but this I may say, because it illustrates my entire trust in Providence, that no one paid me so much as it cost to provide instruction for his child; there was a loss in every case, even where the fees were paid. The very taking of these children of parents of some means increased our own burden, and compelled me to look for even greater blessings from God upon the undertaking.
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