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The conversion of men is the joy of 'the Lord; "God so lovec "the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoseevei "believeth on him, might not perish, hut have everlasting life.'
We have, however, no reason to believe, from the methods adopted by God, for the conversion of the world in past ages from the principles of analogy, or from any intimatiou upon tlu subject in Scripture, that God will carry on his work without the intervention of means, or by any other means than those which were employed in the early times of the Church, or than those which he is now employing for that purpose. When our blessed Lord was about to establish his kingdom, John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way; and his own ministry, while an inhabitant of this earth, was spent in preaching the doctrines of faith and repentance. It was agreeably to this plan, that he sent forth his disciples to gather in the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and that after his resurrection from the dead, he commanded them to go into all the world, preaching the Gospel 'to every creature.'
The truth of Christianity is a question which must rest upon the broad basis of its own merits, having no necessary connexion with the faults or the excellencies of its professors; but it has in all ages been found an incontrovertible fact, that the success of the Gospel has almost invariably borne some proportion to the qualifications of its teachers: and we are very much indebted to the Author of this discourse for a very able and useful illustration of this truth.
The subject of Mr. Durant's sermon is—The character :ind success of Barnabas. The Author, after critically illustrating .his text, accounts for the connexion betwixt eminent piety an? distinguished usefulness, in the ministry of the Gospel, first, 01 the general principle of the relation between means and ends The fact that where there are equal powers and equal advan tages, the greatest success will ordinarily or invariably attend the labours of the most exemplary ministers—he illustrates, by shewing that superior piety gives a warmer glow and richer unction to his preaching, enables him more clearly to perceive, and disposes him more steadily to present, those truths which are of most essential importance; induces him to labour more abundantly in his holy calling; presents a practical illustration and confirmation of his doctrine; emboldens him to state the truth with all confidence; and disposes him to study adaptation to the circumstances of his hearers.
He accounts for it, further, on the principle, that God will honour such a character with a more than ordinary effusion of the spirit. He concludes with an animated and most solemn appeal to the hearers of the Gospel. As a specimen of Mr Durant's style, we give the following extract.
'2 The subject teaches us, that hearert have personal reasont, of highest importance, far praying and studying that their minitlers be eminently^ holy. "Brethren," for your own sake, "pray for us." And, while you pray for your ministers, study also, by alt meant, to promote their holiness. Do nothing that can secularize and dissipate their minds. Do not strive to lower them down to the rank of wits, and jovial companions; remembering the apostle's injunction, which speaks equally to the tempters and the tempted—" But speak thou the things that become sound doctrine; in all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works."
'On the same principle, be tender of your ministers' reputation: for their usefulness materially depends, not only upon the reality of their excellence, but also upon toe perception which mankind have of that excellence. If your ministers be vicious—if, while pretending sanctity, and urging on others the principles of truth and the duties of holiness, they be living in sin, and adding the guilt of a base hypocrisy to all their other crimes—we give you leave to pour upon them the whole tide of a virtuous indignation: communicate not with such men; desert them; avail yourselves of every fair opportunity of shewing that you "cannot bear them that are evil." But if with unquestionable, and upon the whole, consistent piety, they should, notwithstanding, exhibit the weaknesses of our common humanity,— which they may not themselves perceive; or perceiving, 'may bitterly lament, and endeavour to correct—beware of seizing on these portions of their character, and making them the subjects of your merriment, or of grave and indignant reproach; beware of indulging cruel suspicions which may mar your own comfort; beware of generating such suspicions in the minds of your families; lest, emanating from you, they should flow into the congregation or the world,- and blast the reputation of men, whose only inheritance, and whose chief instrument of usefulness, is an unblemished character. A man must be either a total stranger to the religious world, or a careless observer of mankind, who has not learned that the ineffectiveness of the gospel ministry on the families of many a religious professor, has arisen from the suspicions of ministers gendered in the minds of children, by their unthinking, ungenerous, or sanctimonious and hypocritical parents. Character. In Ministers is Moral Fower; and he that lowers Chic, does, in an equal proportion lessen the other! Without, intending an application of this remark to you of this congregation, the importance of the general principle will, we are confident^ be admitted as a sufficient reason for its introduction. "Let a man so account of us as the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Obey them that have the rule over you, .and submit yourselves, for tbey watch for your souls as they that must give account,' that they may do it with joy, and not with grief} for t'lvrt is unprofitable for you. Hold such in reputation." .
'Yet remember, your great concern, as hearers, is with the truth your minister preaches. Your business is not to sit'in judgement on the man, gauging, measuring, and weighing the quantity of his personal religion, in order to determine the degree of influence which his ninistry shall have on the formation of your character. You arc Vol. X.N.8. H
to ascertain the truth of his doctrines and admonitions, taking care that what he delivers shall have its proper,effect on your understanding, and heart, and conduct. Were Satan himself to depict the pleasures of that state which he has lost, and exhibit in his own person the miseries to which he is doomed, must these descriptions, however true, have no effect upon you, because they issue from such polluted lips? or would you not attempt to escape from an approaching eruption of Vesuvius, because an assassin had apprized you of your danger?
'Irreligion and profaneness frequently attempt to shelter themselves behind the shield of a preacher's weakness or vices. But will not Di•vine justice pierce that shield, and find out, and smite you in that « day when God shall judge the world in righteousness," and will admit none of (hose pleas which now dance before your fancies, and delude your judgements?—Yet, are you really deluded? Is the judgement really blinded? And does your conscience, seriously consulted, justify a species of reasoning, which, iM all the common departurients of life, would be pronounced fatuity?
'While God might have chosen heavenly, he has employed "earthen vessels," with all their characteristic frailty and imperfection, to convey and communicate the treasures of the gospel. And will you not admit the truth of God, and obey it, till you perceive some angel of light and purity descending from above, and flying through the globe with the " everlasting gospel?" But what do we ask? Why wait for an angelic preacher I—He, whom all the angels are commanded to worship—He, by whom angels subsist—He, who governs the universe, and, by a volition, determines the movements of all their hosts—He, at whose bar you must stand, while angels, as his humble attendants, shall grace his appearance—He hath spoken! (Heb. ii. S.)—It is He who speaks through us! And who among you will longer dare refuse attention to God's truth, and assign, as a justification of that neglect, the meanness, the imperfection, and the sinfulness of the organ through whom it is communicated? The gospel, by whatever unhallowed lips it is proclaimed, is still the inspiration of Heaven!' pp. 42—47.
We do not hesitate strongly to recommend this sermon to general perusal, and to the special attention of those who are to make full proof of their ministry. Before we close, we feel inclined to intimate to the pious Author, that we think there is a somewhat unnecessary display of critical and Greek learning. We think also that the long digression from p. 17 to 23, would . have much better formed a note than a part of the discourse itself.
Art. XV. 1. Report of the Committee of the Society for the Improvement of Prison Discipline, and for the Reformation of Juvenile Offenders. 8vo. pp. 82. London, 1818.
2. Amep4if, .to the .First Edition of, An Enquiry, whether Crime and Misery, are produced or prevented, by our present system of Prison Discipline. By Thomas Fowell Buxton. Containing an account of the Prisons at Bchester and at Bristol, pp. 28. Price 6d. 1818.
Tl/'E noticed, in our Number for October 1816, the First "Report of the Committee of the above Society, then assuming a somewhat different designation. That Report has since obtained a very extensive circulation, in consequence of its being inserted entire in the Report of the Poh'ce Committee of the House of Commons, together with the very full and. important evidence given in corroboration of its statements by one of the Secretaries, and some other members of the Society. The originating causes of the alarming increase of Juvenile Delinquency, are in this document shewn to be, the neglect of moral and religious Education, the want of suitable Employment for children iu early life, and the strong temptation to dishonesty, which the extremity of indigence has of late years too frequently presented. But other causes powerfully contributing to increase and perpetuate the evil, by the seduction of the innocent, and by the still more deeply demoralizing of the guilty, are also proved to have had a fatally efficient operation. These are, in the present Report, again adverted to, under the following heads. 1. The Houses of public resort, technically termed Flash-houses, which, together with the Fairs* in the neighbourhood of the metropolis, arc daily adding to the catalogue of criminals, by the promotion of every species of debauchery and profligacy. 2. The severity of our Penal Laws. And 3. The present state of our Prison Discipline. This last cause, the Committee affirm to be 'more 'fruitful of crime, more baneful in its effects, and more disgrace'ful to a moral and religious nation,' than any or all of the causes they have enumerated. They give it as their deliberate opinion that' amongst children of a very early age, absolute impunity 'would have produced less vice than confinement in almost 'any of the gaols in the metropolis.' A declaration of this nature would some time since have appeared, perhaps, to many persons extravagant, but the details which Mr. Buxton's " Inquiry" has made familiar, leave no room for the charge of exaggeration, how strong soever the language employed to describe and deprecate this prolific source of depravity.
It was under the firm conviction to which their investigation into the causes of Juvenile Delinquency conducted them, that the neglect of Prison Discipline is one great cause of crime and misery, and that great and essential reforms are as practicable as they are necessary, that the Society determined to enlarge their sphere of action, and to make the consideration of Prison Discipline a primary object of their association.
The indefatigable manner in which they have prosecuted this object, has been evidenced by the publication of Mr. Buxton, one
* In the immediate vicinity of London, there are no '. •ighty-two fair-days in the space of seven months.' Report.
less than >n months.' Report.
of the members of the Committee, to which 'whatever may be 'the value of their labours collectively,' the Committee claim to refer ' with pride and satisfaction.1 A second edition of the Inquiry has appeared, since our last Number, containing further details obtained by the Author's personal inspection of other jails, which form the contents of the present Appendix. The jails of llchester and Bristol, which Mr. Buxton visited very nearly at the same period, are selected for the purpose of shewing the remarkable contrast afforded by the practical effects of the opposite system of discipline pursued in these prisons, as the strongest possible confirmation of the principles his work is intended to develop.
'llchester jail stands in an airy situation: a considerable part of it was built by prisoners, without the assistance of any other mechanic, artizan, or labourer; and that part is allowed to be, both in point of stability and neatness, the best workmanship in the jail. This happy suggestion has produced a very important saving to the county , it has certainly produced a very important change in the manners of the prisoners.'
'But besides the buildings which have given employment to a number of masons, bricklayers, carpenters, painters,—manufactures to a considerable extent are carried on. All the prisoners are clothed in a dress, every article of which they make. In the store-room I saw a collection of suits of clothing for the men, worsted caps, dowlas shirts, jackets, waistcoats, breeches, stockings, and shoes: for the general use of the prison, beds, mattresses, sheets, linen, &c. Each of these numerous branches of labour furnishes occupation to a proportion of the prisoner*; and the knowledge of each trade is perpetuated, by apprenticing all who come in to some experienced workman.
'It was a sight of much interest, to see the whole process of converting wool into cloth, carried on in one yard, and that yard withia the walls of a prison. In the first workshop several were engaged in washing the wool; in the second in dying it; in the third, in handcarding it; in the fourth, in spinning it; in the fifth, the looms were in activity in weaving it; and lastly, the tailors were busy in making it into clothing. In the laundry, which, I am persuaded, equals that of any institution in the kingdom, all the female prisoners arc emploved in washing the weekly changes of linen and bedding, and in making all the dresses worn by themselves and the females in the Bridewell.'
'I have said that it was a sight of much interest, to observe the whole process of converting wool into cloth, carried on within the walls of a prison; but he must be blind indeed, who does not perceive, that intimately connected with this, there is carried on also, another process of a higher order- -a moral change—an operation upon the heart of man—a conversion of those rude principles, and those vicious habits, which make up the character of the man who is a terrorto all around him, into those habits and principles which