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potatoes, rice, or coals, or such other articles as the committee may think right to distribute. It may also be found desirable to have a depôt, to which left-off clothes, or other articles for the use of the poor, may be sent.
And the local committees should exert themselves to procure the means of admission for proper objects to dispensaries, hospitals, lying-in and other charities, in the neighbourhood. It may often happen that medical gentlemen in the district will be not unwilling to see the sick poor on certain fixed days, and if an arrangement be entered into with some neighbouring druggist, to make up the prescriptions, a district dispensary will thus be formed, to which the visitors may send the sick on the appointed days.
Monthly reports, &c.—The visitors are to make a monthly report to their respective committees, containing an account of the number of families visited during the past month, and other particulars relative to their sections, according to the printed form ; it will appear obvious, that if the visitors faithfully and efficiently perform the duty entrusted to them, every circumstance connected with the welfare of the
will be reported. From the reports so received from the visitors the several local committees in London abstract and frame a monthly report to the central committee, for which a printed form is given at the erpense of the general society. These reports form a bond of union to which much importance is attached ; in fact, unless the visitors make regular reports to their committees, and these to the central committee, the whole system will be defective.
Instructions for Visitors.
“You will visit the families comprised in your section, as often as time and other circumstances may render expedient, with the view of promoting their temporal and spiritual improvement.
“ You will make it your first object to gain their attention and secure their confidence, by convincing them that you are actuated solely by motives of Christian charity and kindness, and have no other end in view than their welfare.
“Many topics of friendly conversation and enquiry will readily suggest themselves to you ; and in the selection of these much will depend on your own good sense and discretion.
“The committee, however, would suggest the following hints :
“Your first enquiries should relate to those subjects which afford the greatest interest to the poor; such as the number of which the family consists—the
of the children—whether they attend any school, or can read—whether the family possesses a bible or any other religious books ; and where you find a disposition to answer your enquiries, you can endeavour to ascertain whether the persons you visit attend public worship, and where—their occupation—means of subsistence—whether by parochial relief, by labour, charity, or otherwise—the period of their residence in the district-amount of rent paid—and manner of spending Sundays and leisure hours.
“You will gently and prudently lead their attention to religious subjects, endeavouring to impress their minds with a sense of the importance of their immortal souls, and of the value of the holy Scriptures, as a mes
of mercy from God to sinful man. You will urge on them the duty and privilege of observing the Sabbath, of prayer, and of attending public worship. You will point out to them as occasion may require, their relative duties, and avail yourself of suitable opportunities of reproving open vice. You will pay particular attention to the young, the sick, and the aged. You will encourage parents to send their children to day and Sunday schools, and recommend grown-up persons, who cannot read, to attend adult evening schools. You will inform those who are without a bible, how they may obtain one, and suggest weekly subscriptions for this purpose ; and you will transmit their name and residence to the nearest bible association, or to the Society for Promoting Christian knowledge. “ It will be necessary
you should be provided with information as to the places of worship, adult, day, Sunday, and infant schools in the neighbourhood; and where there is any obstacle to the attendance of the persons you visit, from want of accommodation or distance, you will make this circumstance known to the local committee of the district.
“ You will not fail to inculcate habits of industry, and cleanliness both of rooms and persons. Where practicable, employment should be suggested to persons out of work, and in many cases it will be desirable to point out the advantages of saving banks, provident societies, and encourage weekly deposits for rent.
“ The local committee with whom you act, will issue to you specific instructions, as to the nature and extent of the temporal relief which they can grant in cases of sickness or want, as well as on other points coming more immediately under their superintendence. The duty of attention to these instructions it is unnecessary to point out. The co-operation and assistance, however, which you may receive from your committee will not operate to preclude your own exertions, to obtain as well subscribers to their funds, as tickets of admission to hospitals, dispensaries, and other charitable institutions.
“It may possibly in some cases be advisable to release the tools and clothes of mechanics from pawn ; but, except in instances of pressing and immediate want, it is strongly recommended that no pecuniary aid be afforded from the funds of the society, before the case has been submitted to the local committee.
“ It will be necessary to bear in mind the prevalence of fraud and imposture; and it is hoped
that the frequency of your visits will greatly facilitate their detection. While
you will avoid all appearance of harshness, or want of feeling for the misery which meets your notice, you will use every precaution to guard against the misapplication of charitable aid upon objects of merely pretended distress, or upon those who are receiving adequate relief from other sources.
“ You will avoid as far as possible encroaching on the necessary occupations of families and individuals ; and with this view it will be very important that you should ascertain the time when visits are most acceptable, and put persons the least out of their way.
“ You will not attempt to force yourselves on those who shew a determined aversion to your visits, but you will express to them in a friendly manner, your readiness to call upon them again, should they become more disposed to receive you.
“It will often be desirable that the visitors should go two and two, although they may frequently be engaged at the same time with different families under the same roof.
“ You will be provided with a journal, an abstract of which is to be submitted to the local committee of your district, at each meeting, accompanied with a notice of any particular occurrences tending to illustrate character, show improvement, call for particular advice, &c.; and with such general observations on the state of your section as may
“The committee would only further entreat you to remember the master whom you serve; and in cases of opposition or insult, to govern your temper—to return good for evil—blessing for cursing—to be patient towards all men, in meekness instructing those who oppose
themselves.” (Fourth Annual Report, p. 42—45.)
Monthly meetings of the committee, or quarterly, where the parish is not very extensive, should be held, when the various accounts should be presented, the cases considered, and all accounts for relief passed. At these meetings the minister should preside, and open and close them with prayer. A small portion of Scripture suitable to the occasion should be selected, read, and expounded at the commencement, or close of the business.
The following address, rules, &c., have been found very useful in carrying out the details of district visiting.
Address on the Establishment of a District Visiting Society in
Notwithstanding those various means of good which already exist for the relief, and moral and religious improvement of the poorer classes, in this large and populous parish, it cannot be denied that there remains much ignorance, vice, and misery, still almost untouched. If a distinct plan, therefore, be brought forward with a view of ameliorating this state of things,-a plan, too, which has already been tried in other populous towns, and proved to be efficient,-it certainly deserves at least to be taken into serious consideration.
Such a plan is now proposed to the inhabitants of this place, in the “district visiting society;" the principle of which is the visiting of the poor systematically and periodically, according to specified districts, with the benevolent intention of promoting their temporal and spiritual improvement, by all the practicable means which Christian zeal, directed by Christian prudence and knowledge, can employ.
The great recommendations of this society lie in union of effort-in order and system—and in comprehensiveness of operation. Much more may be anticipated, with God's blessing, from united than from solitary and isolated labours. Much, too, may be done by system, where, without system, an attempt would appear almost hopeless. The division of labour is one great principle of practical economy. A Christian anxious to do good,” as Dr. Chalmers well observes, “feels himself much more in the way of overtaking his purpose, when he has a manageable and distinct field of labour, as near as possible to his dwelling,
marked out to him, than when his eye is distracted at once over the whole desolate wilderness.” One of the objects of this society is to divide the parish into small and manageable districts of twenty, thirty, or more families, according to the time and capacity of the visitor, who may, as often as circumstances will permit, visit the families in that district, in order to promote their temporal, moral, and spiritual welfare. At present the town is divided into twenty districts, comprising on the average about one hundred families, and a visitor has been appointed to each. These districts are much too large, and it is hoped that many who have not hitherto taken part in this “work of faith and labour of love,” will
come over and help us ;" especially when it is remembered that there is nothing sectarian in its plans or operations. To see that the poor have the “ bread which came down from heaven,” and is revealed in the Word of God; to lend them books and tracts, which may do them spiritual good; to give them affectionate admonitions from time to time, tending to excite their attention to the means of grace, and to the salvation which is in CHRIST JESUS ; to aid their profitable reception of the dispensations of God, in circumstances of trouble, affliction, or death :-in these and other offices of Christian sympathy, to be advancing the truest happiness of the poor, and of their children, is doubtless that employment among them, which is of all the most important, and the most remunerating. The call for such employment who can question ? To suppose that all has been done in this respect for the multitude of immortal souls around us, which ought to be done, is impossible. We, therefore, earnestly entreat the prayers, the contributions, and personal services of all our Christian friends, and desire to go forward in our work, actuated by gratitude to that Lord and Saviour Jesus CHRIST, “who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich." 2 Cor. viii. 9.
Rules of the District Visiting Society.
1. To divide the parish into districts, the number of families in each district to be determined by the number of those who may afford their personal services as visitors.
2. That each visitor be a member of the church of England, and appointed by the clergy, and shall visit once a fortnight, leaving a tract.
3. That the aim of the visitors shall be to advance the extension of vital religion in every possible way, within their different districts, particularly attendance at church.
4. That they shall make inquiries of the heads of every family they may visit concerning the number and ages of their children, and the Sunday school they may be attending. If they be not already attending any school, they shall
press their being sent to the nearest school of the established church.
5. To ascertain, at the schools, the attendance and behaviour of the children, and to report the result, from time to time, to the heads of each family.
6. To encourage and assist each family they may visit, in procuring
useful books, and to be ready to receive periodical payments for BIBLES, PRAYER BOOKS, HYMN BOOKS, and FAMILY PRAYERS.
7. To point out the advantages of savings' banks, and charitable institutions, as church missionary, bible, Jew, and tract societies.
8. To keep an eye over the families in sickness ; to see that they have necessary relief; and to be especially watchful at such seasons to foster any signs which may appear of religious feeling.
9. That for the purpose of such relief a general fund shall be raised, and maintained by donations and annual subscriptions.
10. To have stated meetings of the whole body of visitors once a quarter, to consult upon any points that may be needful. The prayers at the beginning and close of every such meeting to be always taken by one of the clergy present.