Another consideration relates to the indiscriminate bestowal of charity. Persons who have taken pains to inform themselves, and who devote their whole time to dispensing charities, unite in declaring that this is one of the most fruitful sources of indolence, vice, and poverty. From several of these the writer has learned that, by their own personal investigations, they have ascertained that there are large establishments of idle and wicked persons in most of our cities, who associate together to support themselves by every species of imposition. They hire large houses, and live in constant rioting on the means thus obtained. Among them are women who have or who hire the use of infant children; others, who are blind, or maimed, or deformed, or who can adroitly feign such infirmities; and by these means of exciting pity, and by artful tales of woe, they collect alms, both in city and country, to spend in all manner of gross and guilty indulgences. Meantime many persons, finding themselves often duped by impostors, refuse to give at all; and thus many benefactions are withdrawn, which a wise economy in charity would have secured. For this and other reasons, it is wise and merciful to adopt the general rule, never to give alms till we have had some opportunity of knowing how they will be spent. There are exceptions to. this, as to every general rule, which a person of discretion can determine. But the practice so common among benevolent persons of giving at least a trifle to all who ask, lest perchance they may turn away some who are really sufferers, is one which causes more sin and misery than it cures.
The writer has never known any system for dispensing charity more successful than the one by which a town or city is divided into districts, and each district is committed to the care of two ladies, whose duty it is to call on each family and leave a book for a child, or do some other deed of neighborly kindness, and make that the occasion for entering into conversation and learning: the situation of all resi-dents in the district. By this method the ignorant, the vicious, and the poor are discovered, and their physical, intellectual, and moral wants are investigated. In some places where the writer has known this mode pursued, each person retained the same district year after year; so that every poor family in the place was under the watch and care of some intelligent and benevolent lady, who used all her influence to secure a proper education for the children, to furnish them with suitable reading, to encourage habits of industry and economy, and to secure regular attendance on public religious instruction. Thus the rich and the poor were brought in contact in a way advantageous to both parties; and if such a system could be universally adopted, more would be done for the prevention of poverty and vice than all the wealth of the nation could avail for their relief. But this plan can not be successfully carried out in this manner, unless there is a large proportion of intelligent, benevolent, and self-denying persons who unite in a systematic plan.
But there is one species of "charity" which needs especial consideration. It is that spirit of kindly love which induces us to refrain from judging of the means and the relative charities of other persons. There have been such indistinct notions, and so many different standards of duty on this subject, that it is rare for two persons to think exactly alike in regard to the rule of duty. Each person is bound to inquire and judge for himself as to his own duty or deficiencies; but as both the resources and the amount of the actual charities of others are beyond our ken, it is as indecorous as it is uncharitable to sit in judgment on their decisions.