Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

CRITICAL NOTICES.

The History of Sunday Schools and of Religious Education, from the Earliest

Times. By Lewis G. Pray. 12mo. Pp. 262. Boston. 1847. RELIGIOUS education, and its modern instrument the Sunday-school, well deserve an historian. They have found one in Mr. Pray, of Boston, who has been for twenty years engaged in Sunday-school tuition in that town in the parish of the Rev. Samuel Barrett. The plan of his work is broad and extensive. After gathering the traces of education in the Patriarchal times, he proceeds to describe the religious education in use amongst the Jews, devoting very properly a separate chapter to the interesting subject of the schools of the Prophets

. Of Heathen education a brief survey is taken, and then the author enters on the subject of " Christian Education," which is discussed in the last seventeen chapters of his work. A few short extracts will best display the merits of this really valuable but unpretending historical work. Mr. Pray offers the homage of his admiration to the genius and benevolence of Dr. Watts, whose beautiful hymns "have gone so deep into the hearts and memories of so many millions of the old and the young." In our author's view, he was the child's greatest benefactor.

“Up to this period, the child had been overlooked, neglected, or considered beneath the care or instruction of the master spirits of the world. Who can tell us, for example, with all his learning or researches, of a single piece of juvenile poetry? Where, in all the remains of the Homers, the Virgils, the Davids of ancient literature and song, can we find a hymn to childhood or a song designed for the infant mind? Where a ballad or å lay for their especial amusement or instruction: We ask, probably, in vain. The earliest lines which have come down to us written expressly for a child, are those of Robert Smith's, a martyr in Queen Mary's time, and addressed to his own children. They were written by him while confined in prison. As the celebrated John Rogers was the succeeding occupant of the same cell, in which immediately after his death these lines were found, they have usually been attributed to Rogers. But in fact they were written by Smith. The opening lines of this piece are familiar to most :

• That you may follow me,
Your father and your friend,
And enter into that same life
Which never shall have end,
I leave you here a little book
For you to look upon,
That you may see your father's face

When he is dead and gone.' “These are the first lines, we have reason to believe, ever written expressly for a child; at any rate, none of an earlier date have been preserved to this day; and the next are those little poems of devotion' alluded to by Johnsonthose Divine Songs for Children'---which were composed by Dr. Watts, which have been read in all succeeding time, inwrought into the world's thoughts and feelings, and which have sanctified more infant hearts, probably, than any other work, whether large or small, except the Holy Scriptures, that was ever written.”—Pp. 124–126.

The predecessors of Robert Raikes, whom Mr. Pray records as religious instructors of the young, are Joseph Alleine, Frampton the Nonjuring Bishop, Theophilus Lindsey, Miss Harrison (afterwards Mrs. Cappe), Miss Hannah Ball at High Wycombe, James Heys, of Little Lever, and Rev. David Simpson, of Macclesfield (not Mansfield, as printed at p. 132). The account of James Heys we quote as less known than that of Robert Raikes :

“ In the village of Little Lever, near Bolton, in Lancashire, lived a humble individual named James Heys, more generally known by the familiar appellation of Old Jemmy of the Hey,' who obtained a hard but honest livelihood by winding bobbins for the weavers in the neighbourhood. So early as the year 1775, he began to instruct the 'poor bobbin-boys,' or 'draw-boys,' in the elements of learning, viz. spelling and reading. The old man's pupils increased, and, no place of worship being in the immediate locality, he yielded to the general entreaty that he would meet them on a Sunday, when they could pursue their simple studies more uninterruptedly. The cottage of a poor neighbour afforded a front room large enough for the purpose, which was cheerfully granted, Here . Old Jemmy' met his scholars, children and young folks,' morning and afternoon, every Sunday, the time of assembling being announced by the ringing, not of a bell, but of an excellent proxy, an old brass mortar and pestle." P. 132.

Mr. Pray adduces the evidence upon the strength of which an attempt has been made to wrest from Mr. Raikes the honour of having established the first Sunday-school at Gloucester, and confer it on the Rev. Thomas Stock, who was curate in 1781 of St. John's. He shews that the evidence is conclusive in favour of Mr. Raikes. In the sketch of the progress of Sunday-schools in England, mention might properly have been made of the venerable

William Turner, who is probably the oldest living friend of Sunday-school education. His first printed sermon, preached at Morpeth in 1786 (sixty-one years ago) before a meeting of ministers, was designed to recommend Sunday-schools.

In Newcastle, Mr. Turner had called the attention of his townsmen to the importance of Sunday-schools, by means of an address bearing date Dec. 3, 1784. This, together with other interesting practical details (which before his work comes to a second edition Mr. Pray had better consult), Mr. Turner printed in an appendix to his sermon.

Our next extract is Mr. Pray's account of William Fox: "The name of William Fox is the one most intimately associated with that of Robert Raikes as among the earliest and most efficient friends of Sundayschools in England. He was the founder of the Sunday-School Society in London. He was born at the village of Clapton, in Gloucestershire, in the year 1736. At the age of 14, he went to York, where he was placed with a draper and mercer, with whom he served a faithful apprenticeship and succeeded his master in the business. Soon after his marriage he removed to London. At first he was discouraged, but subsequently having entered into the wholesale business, prosperity rewarded and crowned all his efforts. He clothed the chil. dren of the poor, and established a daily school. 'Long,' he says, 'before the establishment of Sunday-schools, I had formed the design of universal schools, though by a different method.' He met with no encouragement, on account of the magnitude of the undertaking. He called, however, a public meeting for the purpose about the time when a paragraph from the Gloucester Journal had appeared, describing the object and character of Sunday-schools by Raikes. He addressed a letter to him, and received a reply before the time appointed for his meeting. This was in 1785. His benevolent plan was presented to the meeting. It was favourably received, advocated by the benevolent Jonas Hanway, and resulted in the formation of a Society for the Establishment and Support of Sunday-schools throughout Great Britain.' The remarks made by Mr. Pox on the occasion were afterwards embodied in a printed address and sent out to many gentlemen of influence and benevolence, who were desired to co-operate. The object of these schools, as stated in the circular, was, to prevent vice; to encourage industry and virtue; to dispel darkness and ignorance; to diffuse the light of knowledge ; to bring men cheerfully to submit to their stations ; to obey the laws of God and their country ; to make that useful part of the community, the country poor, happy; to lead them in the pleasant paths of religion here, and to endeavour to prepare them for a glorious eternity.' At the next meeting the plan was adopted and the Sunday-School Society of London established. We may add with regard to Mr. Fox, that, subsequently, he removed to Cirencester, where, the infirmities of age coming upon him, he was accustomed to say -Never wish to be old. I am now in the xiith chapter of Ecclesiastes, and the grasshopper is a burthen to me.' He died in 1826, aged 91. The names of Raikes and Fox should go down to posterity indissolubly linked together."Pp. 155-157.

[blocks in formation]

For Mr. Pray's interesting account of the diffusion of the Sunday-school system over the continent of Europe and the greater continent of America, we must refer our readers to the volume itself. Our author estimates, on what he considers "sufficient and accurate data,” the present number of Sunday-scholars receiving instruction at four millions and a half. What a noble comment is this fact on the most memorable incident in Mr. Raikes's life!

“One day (in 1781) he had gone into the suburbs of his native city to hire a gardener. The man was from home, and while Mr. Raikes awaited his return, he was much disturbed by a group of noisy boys who infested the street. He lamented to the gardener's wife the neglected and depraved condition of these children. Her emphatic reply was---- O Sir, if you were here on a Sunday, you would pity them indeed; we cannot read our Bible in peace.' This answer operated with the force of electricity, and called into life the undying spark of the Sunday school for the moral and religious education of the young. Can nothing be done,” he asked, "for these poor children? Is there anybody near who will take them to a school on a Sunday! At this moment the word "Try' arose in his mind, and was so powerfully impressed there as to decide him at once for action.”—Pp. 134, 135.

Had Robert Raikes put aside the benevolent suggestion by one of the thousand pleas which too often fall in with man's indolence or cowardice, it is possible that the four millions and a half of children might at this day have been unblessed by religious instruction. May the spirit of Robert Raikes whisper "TRY” to innumerable benevolent minds! Dialogues on Universal Salvation and Topics connected therewith. By David

Thom, Author of the “ Assurance of Faith ; or Calvinism identified with Universalism,” &c. &c.

" In the name of wonder, what do you mean, Thom ?" Such is the exclamation which the author himself puts into the mouth of one of the speakers in these Dialogues (p. 102), and we are apt to think it will be echoed by no small proportion of his readers. The attempt to identify Calvinism and Universalism may, perhaps, seem to them a hopeful undertaking, on the principle that extremes sometimes meet; but in following the process by which he proposes to bring about this result, they will often find themselves in a complete maze. The doctrine that only two individuals of the human race, namely the first Adam and the second Adam, have ever been subjected to a divine law, will probably be somewhat new to them; and they will be at a loss to imagine in what way it can possibly be derived from the same Scriptures which have been wont to speak to them in so very different a language. The first law of simple prohibition was imposed on Adam, we are assured, with the purpose and intention of demonstrating that his human nature (which all his descendants have inherited from him) was such, that he neither would nor could obey it. The law of Moses, not merely the ritual, but the moral law, including the Ten Commandments, was imposed on the Jews only in a typical and figurative sense; it was really intended for the Messiah, by whom alone it was in all its extent obeyed, and by whose fulfilment of its requisitions it was in fact brought to an end and is in force no longer.

This is strange enough; but the author's account of the manner in which these Commandments were obeyed by Christ is, if possible, still more so. The following is the account of his observance of the Fifth Commandment:

" Jesus abstained from dishonouring equally God, his father, and earth, or human nature, his mother; on the contrary, he honoured his father by yielding such an obedience to the law of God as magnified and made it honourable, and by affording to God an opportunity of glorifying his justice and mercy, as well as all his other perfections, in the salvation of man through his own obedience, death and resurrection from the dead; and he honoured his mother (not Mary] by elevating beings possessed originally of a nature of Aesh, to the possession, through himself, of the nature of God. He hath therefore the fulness of blessing, even life, at God's right hand for evermore.”

This is the account of the Third Commandment: "As having assumed the name of Jehovah, or, in other words, as having claimed to be the Messiah, God manifest in flesh, he shewed by every action of his life, and especially by his obedience unto death, that he had not taken the name of God in vain." "The others are in a similar strain ; but these, we think, are enough.

Mr. Thom is a decided Universalist, inasmuch as he believes that a time will come when Christ shall literally draw all men unto him, not excepting those who have spent their whole lives in this world in manifesting, in one form or another, their enmity to God. Still he professes to believe in eternal punishment; meaning, however, by this term, simply the destruction (of course the eternal destruction) of that human nature in which the enmity was displayed; after which, all those who had borne it are to be clothed by Christ with his own divine nature. The process by which this change is to be effected is not distinctly stated. It is evidently not a gradual process of moral discipline and improvement; for our author utterly repudiates and denounces the common Universalist doctrine, founded on the alleged remedial character of punishment, either here or hereafter. If we rightly understand it, the members of the church are to be raised at the first resurrection to reign with Christ in his millennial kingdom; during which long period the unregenerate remain in their graves, subject to the second death ; and are only revived at the second resurrection and final restitution of all things.

If this is a fair statement of his views, there is in Mr. Thom's system, according to our notions, no such thing as future punishment at all

. Practically speaking, all are on a level; and we are at a loss to understand on what principles he would argue the point with those who say, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” At least, he must be confined to ground which is equally open to the mere worldly moralist. We are thankful that our “Universalism" affords scope for an appeal to other and higher and more effectual motives.

T'he Necessity of Toleration to the Exercise of Private Judgment: a Sermon,

By Edmund Roberts Larken, M.A. Pp. 16. London--Chapman. We have read with equal surprise and gratification this able plea for the true Protestant spirit. This Sermon was preached“ before the University of Oxford,” and the author, besides being a graduate of Trinity College, Oxford, is Rector of Burton-by-Lincoln. As a sample of the courage and ability with which Mr. Larken wages war with principalities and powers, and spiritual wickedness in high places, we extract his description and rebuke of the HighChurch party.

“Laying an undue stress on the historical value of the ancient records of the Church (a proper estimate whereof I should be one of the last to withhold), they have formed from them a body of dogmatic theology, which is advanced with all the pomp of authority and all the decisiveness of infallibility; which differs indeed from that of Rome in the subjects of its teaching, but is identical with it in the principles whereon it is founded; principles which, when followed out to their consequences, have too often led those who had fondly hoped to find in them a shelter from the storms of doubt and uncertainty, to an inner and more secluded haven, where reigns a calm indeed, but such a calm as stills the waters of the Dead Sea; a calm of uninquiring silence and unreplying assent to all that an imperious and inflexible spiritual despotism may teach, for doctrines, of the commandments of men. Such is the case with some among us, who are disposed to deny that our Church is Protestant, or founded upon the right and exercise of private judgment; but bearing in mind what has been said before, let no one who glories in the name of Protestant dare to question their proceed. ings, unless he is prepared to surrender all claim to infallibility for himself and his opinions, and that not merely in words, but in all the fulness of heartfelt sincerity and truth.”—P. 10.

The Son of Man cometh: a Discourse preached before the Society of the Cambridgeport Parish, Sunday, May 30, 1847. By

William H. Furness, Pastor of the Unitarian Society, Philadelphia. 8vo. Pp. 22. Boston.

MR. FURNESS rejects the common interpretation, which explains the "coming of the Son of Man” by reference to the judgment-day or the day of man's death, and does not notice the interpretation which refers it to the destruction of Jerusalem. To the Jews the Son of Man, he thinks, came, when the lowly Nazarene disclosed the beauty and power of God's truth. The Son of Man is come to us of this day, inasmuch as the eternal truth of God is speaking as distinctly as it spoke to the Jews through the voice of Jesus” (p. 18). Whatever opinion may be formed of Mr. Furness's interpretation, all will admire the lion-hearted and eloquent application of it to the great topics of American politics, the Annexation of Texas, Slavery and the Mexican War,-all will admire the intrepidity with which he rebukes his nation's crimes. Let the following passage serve as a specimen :

“We acquiesced in the unrighteousness of Annexation for peace sake, and we have now got, not peace, but war. We have placed ourselves in a situation in which we are, not suffering, but, what is far worse, doing evil. We are put to a base and inglorious work. This is our punishment. We are doing all that in us lies to turn back the tide of civilization, and to make our Christianity a mockery. We are blighting the dearest hopes, shaking the best faith of the world. And the oppressed and starving millions of foreign lands, who fondly thought that a star of promise had appeared here in the West, find themselves bitterly deceived, and are despoiled of that argument for popular liberty which this country once presented. The stain of innocent blood is on our hands, and with the madness of men given over to a strong delusion to believe a lie, we are pouring out our treasures like water to facilitate and extend the work of death, to crush a sister nation to the dust. What man among us foresees the end of all this? Truly the judgments of God are upon us, and much is it to be feared that we have, without knowing it, passed through a great crisis, changing the destinies of this people. The Son of Man has come to us, and we knew him not. He has gone, and we are left to our own devices, and are busily preparing ourselves, not for the kingdom of God, the reign of peace and of right, but for the sway of a legion of evil passions. What could we do that we have not done to shew ourselves all unworthy to possess the priceless gift of civil and religious liberty?”—Pp. 21, 22.

We rejoice to see not a few proofs just now that Patriotism and Christianity make their voice heard distinctly and powerfully in the American pulpit.

The Crown of Thorns : a Token for the Surviving. By Edwin H. Chapin.

Pp. 147. Boston. 1847. This elegant little volume is a new "offering of sympathy” from one who, having been afflicted, has learnt commiseration for the unhappy: Of the six chapters into which the work is divided, we most like “Our Relations to the Departed.” Beautiful as this little book is, we should prefer in a future edition a larger type. To eyes dimmed either by age or sorrow, the small and light print here used will scarcely be distinct. The author of “ The Crown of Thorns" is one of our Boston ministers.

The Evangel of Love. Interpreted by Henry Sutton. Pp. 231. London.

1847. IF Mr. Henry Sutton is the interpreter of any thing, who is to interpret Mr. Henry Sutton ? That the question needs to be asked, our readers will see, if they consult the profoundly mystical "synonyms” with which the “Evangel of Love" concludes. For ourselves, professing no skill in the unknown tongues, we cannot undertake to interpret "Supernature," " Soulic,” “ Bodysoulic,” “ Psychesomeic,” “ Bodilic,” and other peculiarities of this Tran

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »