« AnteriorContinua »
the inquiry be further pursued into France, in order to ascertain whether unadulterated Christianity has a similar hold of the people's hearts and lives now, to what it had in the year 1572, when, upon the night of St. Bartholomew, 70,000 Presbyterian Hugonots suffered death for their allegiance to the Redeemer of our guilty world! Nor ought this process of legitimate research to terminate until it be known whether the Gospel of Christ prevails more in this unpresbyterial day of England's history, than when the Westminster Assembly of divines composed the Confession of Faith and Catechism of the Presbyterian Church in this land. We dispute not the statement of Drs. Bogue and Bennet, when they affirm that much hypocrisy unquestionably took shelter under the splendid exhibitions of piety in that age; much chaff will at all times readily intermingle with the wheat. But we have yet to learn in what genuine godliness consists, if a deeper-toned Christianity did not then exist, and a more heavenly devotion prevail, than what characterises the professing church of Christ in England at the present time. Do you think that the ponderous divinity which fed, strengthened, and comforted the men of a former generation, could be digested, or even borne, by the people of an average character in this flippant age? Do you find, either among the higher or humbler walks of society in our day, any thing like the Sabbath sanctification for which the Puritans were distinguished; if such a test of church membership as then prevailed, in regard to family religion and attendance upon public ordinances, were now required, would it not diminish, at least, by one-half, the successful claimants of Christian privileges? How would the peers of the realm, and the representatives of the people, or even the subjects of the kingdom in general, endure the monthly fasts in which their ancestors seemed to engage with delight; far less how could they submit to the exercises of prayer, singing of psalms, and hearing the preached word, for seven hours together, upon such occasions? Exceptions there may be to the statements which we now make, and we hope there are many; but if a relish for the weighty truths of God's word, a delight in continued exercises of devotion, and a cheerful submission to the self-denying doctrines of the Bible, be marks of high Christian attainment, then the conclusion at which we arrive just amounts to this, that our progenitors in England, who lived at the time to which reference is made, excelled the religious professors of the present age, as far as the strength of the fullgrown man surpasses the feebleness of childhood, or the light
of the meridian sun excels the glimmering of the taper.
These remarks tell in favour of Presbytery, inasmuch as they prove, beyond dispute, that the Presbyterian Church has been remarkably blessed by the Almighty. Nor have we touched upon the privations and extreme sufferings which the Presbyterians in this kingdom endured, in support of their sincere attachment to the truth, and the sterling nature of their principles. Enough, however, has been advanced at present to excite attention to the history of our church in this country; to attach Presbyterians to their scriptural form of ecclesiastical polity; to stir up the ministers and people who occupy the ground of those holy men, to imitate their piety, zeal, and combined exertions for the glory of God; and also to lead the friends of Christ to hope, that with the revival of Presbytery in England, a revival of true Christianity and practical godliness may take place. R. E.
I am, &c.,
CUMBERLAND, 28th Oct. 1833.
In our last Number we alluded to this subject, by a review of the proposed bill for Scotland. And we now beg the attention of our readers to it again, that they may be induced to pour in their petitions at the next session of Parliament. If the Christian public do their duty, much good may be effected. That they may see how much occasion there is for exertion, we submit the following melancholy details, taken from the Rev. D. Macfarlane's excellent Work on the Sabbath, of which we intend shortly taking farther notice.
Abases of the Sabbath in and about London, extracted from an Address by the Christian Instruction Society.
"The earliest dawn of God's holy day is met by scenes of dissipation and riot, occasioned by abandoned characters of both sexes, returning to their homes after a night of debauchery, in those haunts of vice which are now to be found in every part of the metropolis, under the specious names of coffee, oyster, and liquor-shops. And it has occurred, that peaceable inhabitants have been roused from their slumbers by the noise and violence of those who thus prowl the streets. As the sacred day advances, it is melancholy to know that the bustle of business commences in the various markets of this city; where, in defiance of the laws of the country and of God, an open traffic commences, which continues with unabated activity till the hour of prayer arrives, when in some instances, a veil is partially drawn, till, as the phrase is, the church hours' are over, i
"Thus Covent Garden market has for years exhibited, not only the fearless exposure of goods for sale on several hundred stalls, but also the assemblage of multitudes of the most abandoned characters, who indulge in language so filthy and blasphemous, as to make them the terror of every sober inhabitant or decent passenger.
"The other markets in the west of London, exhibit congenial scenes. In the Hungerford, Newport, Fleet, and Carnaby markets there are to be seen persons in almost every shop, ready to sell their various commodities, though in some cases, by the appearance of a few shutters, deceitful homage is offered to the hallowed day. But in Clare market, near Drury Lane, no attempt is made to hide their iniquity; every shop is completely open, and every avenue is crowded by people, who are invited to purchase, by the most public display of articles of every kind, and by the shameless importunity of those who sell them.
"It is the deliberate opinion of the gentlemen who visited these markets for the Committee, that in each of them might be openly purchased, whatever the lower classes should wish to eat, drink, or wear. There is every reason to believe that Billingsgate, and the markets in the eastern and southern parts of the metropolis, are in no better state. Hap py would it be, if this unholy traffic were limited to the market places; but it extends to the streets, and the number of open shops is truly appalling.
"Let any serious person walk through Rosemary Lane, Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Bethnal Green, Shoreditch, and St. Luke's, on the one side, or by Drury Lane, Soho, St. Giles, Tottenham Court Road, Paddington, and the Edgeware Road, on the other side; or by Clerkenwell, Saffron Hill, and Leather Lane, in the centre of this city, and he will behold scenes which must deeply affect his mind.
"The following description of one of these neighbourhoods, is supplied by a gentleman connected with the Society: In walking from Pentonville to the Minories, I had observed numerous persons lounging about the public-houses and wine-vaults, and many others offering various articles for sale at the corners of the streets. This I was in some measure prepared for, having witnessed such things on my former visits to London. When going down the Minories, however, toward the lower end, I was astonished to perceive many of the clothes' shops partially open, the door-ways within and without hung round with various articles of wearing apparel, having the prices marked on tickets in glaring characters, and the pavement occupied with salesmen inviting the attention of the populace to the quality and cheapness of their merchandize. I went on from hence, through Rosemary Lane, to St. George's Road, and here (in the lane) the guilty scene obtruded itself upon my notice, without any attempt to cover its deformity, or conceal its shame. The shops of grocers, butchers, bakers, coal and corn-dealers, salesmen, and others, were wide open; while stalls and benches were arranged throughout the street, and covered with articles for food and clothing of all descriptions; and what I took to be, when looking on them in the distance, a mob collected to witness a quarrel or a fight, I found a dense mass of persons engaged in all the interest and bustle, and confusion of worldly traffic. I had heard of Sunday markets in the West Indies, and of the benevolent attempts of government to abolish them; but who ever heard of a Sunday market in London? I blushed for my country-I sickened at the scene, and would fain have turned away my eyes and supposed myself deceived,, but I could not-the facts were too appalling and apparent. Here were garments of all sorts, and attire of
all descriptions, for young and old, male and female, hung up in the open street, row upon row; there were carcasses, and sides, and joints, and cuttings, exposed to the view, and thrust upon the notice of every passer-by, in the most tempting manner; while scores were crossing and re-crossing the street, laying hold of any who seemed disposed to look and listen, and inviting all to examine and cheapen, to fit on and buy. In one part of the street, a number of poor creatures were arranged before and around as many boards covered with boots, and shoes, and slippers, busily employed in blacking and polishing their several wares; to avoid whose elbows and filthy sprinklings, I turned into the cart-road, and then I narrowly escaped being required to interfere by a busy butcher, who, finding the quality of his meat arraigned by some of his customers, turned to the crowd, and darting his eye towards a tall Irish labourer on my right, appealed to him with horrid oaths, whether the meat was not equal to any in London, and was answered by blasphemies equally revolting and offensive. I had scarcely passed by the swearing butcher when my ears were assailed by the cries of those, who, in announcing the qualities and prices of their fruit and vegetables, evinced their anxiety to secure customers, and empty their baskets. To their noisy din was added the quarrelings of drunken men and women of the lowest description; the choppings, and bargainings, and reckonings, and cursings, of buyers and sellers; while the loud vociferations, and disgusting gestures, of the ragged crowds surrounding the gin-shops, occasioned the most horrid discordances, and completed the frightful picture. And this is London!-London in the nineteenth century! -London on the Sabbath-day!-London between the hours of ten and eleven on the morning of that hallowed day; while the bells of the several steeples were calling to worship, and announcing the hour of prayer!'
"Another gentleman, who is an active and liberal friend of this Society, has supplied the Secretaries with the results of his personal inspection of various streets, and other public avenues in the north-western out-parishes of this metropolis; and it is affecting to know, that in twenty streets, &c. he numbered no less than 473 shops, of different trades, open for business on the Lord's day, besides multitudes of fruit and other stalls; crowds of squalid and profligate persons around the liquor-shops; and many places exhibiting rather the bustle of a fair, than the quietude of the Sabbath.
Happy would it be, could we believe that this is the extent of the evil; but the half is not yet told. For whilst the streets and markets present these scenes, the fields and banks of various canals in the environs of the city, exhibit the same wanton neglect of God's holy day, though in other forms. The fields of Mile End, Stepney, Bethnal Green, Hoxton, Islington, Somers' Town, Chelsea, and Southwark, are the resorts of young and abandoned persons, who are engaged in the fights of dogs and pugilists, the shooting of pigeons, the hunting of ducks, and in various knavish games; while multitudes of others are employed in the Surrey, the Regent's, and the Grand Junction canals, and the New and Lee rivers, in fishing and bathing.
"It has been given in evidence by several magistrates, before the last Police Committee of the House of Commons, that in the parks and outskirts of the town, numerous gangs and parties of young persons assemble on the Sabbath-day, for the express purpose of indulging in the vice of gambling.'
"If we turn from these scenes to the banks of our noble river, we shall find that they also are crowded by those who are seeking their own
pleasure on God's holy day.' The passage of steam-boats to Margate, the Nore, Gravesend, and Richmond, on every Sunday during the summer months, affords an opportunity of Sabbath-breaking which multitudes always embrace, but which the unusual cheapness of their fares, during the last season, greatly increased. Thus the walls of our city were covered with placards, announcing Sunday excursions to sea;' and it has been boastfully declared, by a notorious Sunday newspaper, that 6000 persons were thus engaged on the several Sabbaths in the month of August. The town of Gravesend alone, has witnessed more than 2000 Sabbath-breakers land on her new pier, and spreading, through her streets and fields, the folly and crime of a London population. Nor do the upper parts of the river present a more satisfactory scene; for, besides the steamers which run to Richmond, many hundred wherries are known to pass through Putney Bridge, filled by thoughtless multitudes, who, regardless alike of the sin and the danger, madly pursue their imaginary pleasures.
"The parks have always presented attractions to Sabbath-breakers of every rank, from noble senators, who display their brilliant equipages in open defiance of the laws they are bound by every obligation to uphold, down to the humblest pedestrians, who can reach those agreeable places of resort. The recent alterations in St. James' Park have given the public access to a beautiful range of pleasure-grounds, which possess many attractions; and it is, therefore, greatly to be deplored, that his Majesty's Commissioners of Woods and Forests have not thought fit to close these gardens on the Sabbath-day, even during the hours of divine service, though application has been made to them on that subject, from a quarter they were bound to respect. Thus, even at this unfavourable season of the year, it is computed, that from eight to ten thousand persons may be found strolling there in the afternoon of the Lord's day. But these are scenes of innocence, when compared with the disgusting exhibitions of Sabbath-breaking, which result from the unrestrained use of spirituous liquors on the Lord's day.
"The multitude of liquor-shops that are to be found in all the populous thoroughfares of this city, become the resort of myriads, who, without restraint or concealment, obtain those noxious drams, which excite them to riot and outrage, or cause them to sink in a state of disgusting insensibility in the public streets, even before the bells have announced the hour of morning prayer. The necessary consequence of this is, that before night arrives, the watch-houses are crowded with the miserable victims of Sabbath-breaking and drunkenness, who are kept in durance till the following day, when large and squalid herds are dragged before the magistrates, whose time is principally occupied on the Monday mornings, in correcting the crimes which neglected and desecrated Sabbaths have produced.
"Let us now call the attention of the meeting to another feature of this deplorable case. There are published at the present time, twelve Sunday newspapers, which circulate at least forty thousand copies, through the agency of about three hundred shops, placarded with all the affairs and follies of the week. It is unnecessary to describe the licentious details and infidel opinions which are to be found in most of these journals. It is probable they have, on each returning Sabbath, two hundred thousand readers!readers of the records of sensuality and crime, gathered into those columns with a baneful industry. These must be, as a magistrate