Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

powerful influence m preventing crime. Their effects are seen not only in this way, but in reforming criminals, wherever they have been brought under the influence of such institutions. Sabbath schools have been organized in several of the State prisons. In the Houses of Refuge in Boston and New-York, the number of scholars in all is nearly nine hundred, under the care of about sixty teachers; and the effect is visible in the order and sobriety of conduct, the more sacred observance of the sabbath, the more diligent and systematic study of the bible, and in the docility, gratitude and affection for their teachers, among the convicts. A deep interest is also felt by the teachers in their scholars, and the expressions of affection are strong and mutual; “the teachers wondering why they have never felt for this class of men before, and the convicts feeling that they have, at last, found friends." These facts exhibit an efficacy and a value in these institutions, which should give a new impulse to the exertions, and increase the confidence of all who are laboring to promote their interests.

10. “This Society, without thwarting the purposes of justice, , calls into action the sympathetic and compassionate feelings of man towards his fellow." This is an article in which are embodied facts, which it would seem impossible for a benevolent heart to contemplate without deep emotion, and we cannot forbear quoting the language of the Report in full.

1

Were it not for some such operation as this, it might not only be unfelt but unknown, that there are in the United States about 300 lunatics, 500 youth and children, 1000 females, 10,000 of all classes, in prison at the same time; and in the lapse of a single year, about 125,000 criminals, and 75,000 debtors, committed to prison. Much more would it be unfelt and unknown, how friendless are these lunatics in prison; how miserable their condition; how incurable they become, if they do not soon die, in consequence of their dreadful malady, when aggravated by imprisonment. Even with the operations of this Society, we know not how much time must elapse, before this wretched class of prisoners will excite so much commiseration as to cause other provision to be made for them. Five hundred youth and children, too, might have remained for ages, in the old penitentiaries, subject to the brutal passions of old offenders, and no houses of refuge for juvenile delinquents have been provided for them, except for the publicity which has been given to the facts in regard to the unutterable abominations to which they have been exposed. One thousand females, also, among whom are daughters once promising, wives with husbands and children living, and mothers with infant children in their arms, might have remained in prison, and may still remain there a long time, before it shall be felt generally that female commiseration, prayer and corresponding effort, can find scope for its ever active spirit within the walls of prisons. This would not be because the same heart which was first at the sepulchre of Him, who was anointed to preach liberty to the captive, does not remain on earth; but because it has been so exiensively unknown that there were so many females in prison. And 10,000 persons of all classes might have remained in prison, and every year 125,000 crimi. nals and 75,000 debtors might be committed to prison, and still this might

[graphic]

1830.]
of the Prison Discipline Society.

233 remain a subject so unimportant, and uninteresting, as not to excite the commiseration of the public, were no publicity to be given to the facts concerning it. pp. 68, 69.

Having thus endeavored to give as brief and impartial a view as possible, of the condition of prisons, of what they ought to be, and of the improvements that have been made; of the indirect influence, and immediate consequences of this Society's labors, we close our remarks upon the report before us—a Report containing much valuable information ; in the perusal of which we have been deeply interested, and which we sincerely wish might be read by every patriot, philanthropist, and christian, throughout this nation. For we believe, that, were the facts in regard to prisons known, there are hearts that would feel, and hands that would labor in behalf of an object so benevolent and noble, as that which this Society is laboring to accomplish. Indeed who, with the facts and circumstances of the case before him, can remain indifferent in relation to a cause like this? Who, that possesses the common sensibilities of our nature, does not feel his heart moved with compassion for the miseries of the thousands of prisoners in our land? And who, that knows any thing of their wretchedness, can sit unconcerned, without incurring great guilt in the sight of heaven?

This Society comes among us on its message of mercy, to instruct and reform our kindred, to make them happy and restore them again to the bosom of their families and friends—it comes like an almoner of heaven, to cheer the wretched, and guide the wanderer back to the paths of wisdom and virtue. Our readers will remember, that the evils arising from mismanagement, and the benefits resulting from a wise course of discipline, are not limited in their influence to the walls of prisons, but are connected with the good order and happiness of the whole community. Every member of society, therefore, should feel, that so far as he has a personal interest in the public peace and safety, he has also an equal interest in the regulation of prisons; and should promptly act in aid of every proper measure, to make them places of salutary punishment and reformation.

But it is our magistrates and legislators, on whom the most solemn responsibilities rest, in relation to this subject. Supported by the opinion and voice of the public, and vested with the requisite authority, to them we look for the exertion of a power, that shall carry light and order into those dwellings of darkness and confusion. “PARUM EST COERCERE IMPROBOS PENA, NISI PROBOS EFFICIAS DISCIPLINA,

,* is a sentiment, which should be inscribed upon the walls of every prison, and engraven upon the hearts of all who have any concern in their management or control.

* To restrain the bad by punishment, without reforming them by discipline, is of but little moment. VOL. II.

30

ART. II.-Review OF LETTERS ON RevivALS OF RELIGION.

Letters of an English Traveller, to his friend in England, on the Revivals of Religion in America. Boston. Bowles & Dearborn. 1828.

It is a common remark, that a wise nian will listen to what his enemies say of him. Their report, though false, may be supposed often to have so far the semblance of truth, as to indicate the points at which he is most vulnerable. For the same reason it may be useful for the friends of religion, to know what representations of it are made by its enemies; and especially what is said concerning it in those favored seasons, when it appears in its most powerful influence. If errors or indiscretions occur in revivals of religion, the enemies of these revivals will not fail to expose them; and if there are means on which their progress especially depends, these also will be discovered, and the very uneasiness with which they are regarded, may encourage their friends to press them with the more decision. It is with the hope of deriving this practical use from the work before us, that we have placed its title at the head of this article.

That these letters are the production of an enemy of revivals, the author himself would not deny. That they were written by an English traveler, however, no attentive reader will believe. They have nothing more than the patch work of an English costume; and would certainly do but little credit to a scholar, trained, as the writer would be understood to have been, at an English university. We greatly mistake if they are not the effusions of an unhappy mind, which has once felt a deeper interest in the scenes pretended to be described, than a passing traveler can be supposed to possess. They are at least sufficiently marked with bitterness to indicate such an origin; and if we are right in our conjecture, they may be regarded as a fearfully monitory specimen of the rancorous hatred against the gospel, which that person may be expected to indulge, who, “after he has received the knowledge of the truth,” wilfully resists and overcomes bis convictions of it. After these remarks, our readers will not be surprised to be told that these letters are, in no respect, what they profess to be. The title page bespeaks an account of revivals of religion in America ; but in fact, with only the exception of a few sentences, alluding to revivals in the State of New-York, they are confined to those which have occurred in New-England. Nor are the revivals in New-England which they are intended to expose, such as are claimed to occur at camp-meetings, and midnight assemblies for prayer (which are comparatively tolerable in the writer's view) but only to those, as he hastens to inform us, which are found “in the Calvinistic churches of New-England.” Nor do they contain a single description of any particular revival in these churches; but only a group of such things concerning the revivals in them generally, as would best suit the purpose of holding them up to reproach; and even such things as are selected, are not brought into comparison with the scriptures as the standard of true religion, but with a philosophical scheme, as well adapted to the faith of a heathen moralist, as to that of a christian divine. We do not wish to be understood as saying, that none of the facts which are here referred to have occurred in revivals of religion. This we have no occasion to assert. They may all have occurred, and yet the description be false. A caricature must of course have traces of resemblance. Nor is it, on account of these, the less untrue. Indeed these, whether it be a picture or a description, are essential to the false impression which it is intended to make; since it is by means of these, that it veils the real excellence which the subject of it is supposed to possess, under the more prominent and monstrous features with which they are associated. Such is the most favorable view which we are able to take of the description given of revivals in these letters; and we have only to lament that the world is full of persons who are disposed to take the unsightly caricature, as a transcript of the divine original.

We shall not try the temper of our readers by any induction of passages from these letters, in illustration of our remarks. This would only be a repetition of the same kind of invective, as the greater part of them must have often heard, and as al} who are acquainted with the real character of revivals in our churches, know how to appreciate. We shall be more gratefully, and we hope more usefully employed, in directly vindicating some of the more important things pertaining to revivals, which these letters are intended to impugn; gladly availing ourselves, as we proceed, of any hints which they afford, as to indiscretions or errors which may exist, during these sacred seasons of joy to our churches.

A REVIVAL OF RELIGION can be no other than the increase of holiness among a people. In its more appropriate meaning, it denotes, not that gradual and imperceptible increase which may ordinarily be expected under the faithful ministration of the gospel; but a peculiar influence, generally and in most instances, suddenly pervading a congregation or neighborhood. Christians manifest a tenderness of conscience, a contrition for their negligences and sins, and a zeal, unity and consistency in the discharge of their appropriate duties, altogether beyond their ordinary standard of attainment. Many around them also who had slumbered in worldliness, discover an awakened attention to things eternal. Under these impressions, their giddy pleasures and worldly competitions, give place to solemn religious assemblies. From such assemblies they retire to commune with their own hearts, to search the scriptures and to make

their salvation the subject of their present and practical regard ; and the consequence, in many instances, is a deepening conviction of their utter sinfulness and ruin. Under this conviction their pride is subdued, they submit themselves to God, and gladly receive the grace of the gospel. They believe with the heart and are saved. Not only is the change great and sudden, but it is enduring and manifests itself in a new character through life. The gospel is written by the Spirit of the living God upon the tables of their hearts, and may be known and read of all men, in the goodness, righteousness, and truth exhibited by their lives.

Now of all matters attested by experience, none is more evident than the fact that, in every age of the world, there have been such revivals. They hold a conspicuous place in sacred history, as well as in later ecclesiastical records. Under the administration of Joshua, the labors of Samuel, the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah, and the conduct of Ezra and Nehemiah, we may recognize a state of things, essentially such as we have described. In Isaiah's vision of converts flying to Zion “as a cloud and as doves to their windows;" in Zechariah's prophecy of “the pouring out of the Spirit of grace and supplications upon the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem ;" in the ancient prophecies generally respecting the reign of the Messiah; and more expressly in the promises of Christ himself concerning the gift and offices of the Spirit, we have a revelation of the same thing. And in the inspired record of the incipient accomplishment of these predictions and promises under the preaching of the apostles, we have a continued narrative of revivals answering precisely, in their distinctive moral character, to those which in our day are experienced. The gospel is the ministration of the Spirit; and as if with the design of making this fact more indubitable, the christian church, from its establishment to this time, has been preserved and extended, not by a regular and uniform advancement, but chiefly by REVIVALS OF RELIGION—by revivals often súcceeding periods of long and almost desperate lukewarmness and corruption. That such revivals are still to be expected, the nature of the dispensation shows; and that they are now to be expected with increased frequency, extensiveness and power, may be inferred from the period of this dispensation which we have reached. How the consummation desired and expected can be accomplished without them, it is difficult for us, as we look at the moral state of the world, to imagine. If the gospel is to be preached unto all nations; if many are to "run to and fro and knowledge is to be increased;" if the spirit of prayer, of self-denial, of enlarged benevolence, and devotedness to God must for these purposes eminently prevail in countries now evangelized; and if by such means the on of God is to have the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »