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RAGGED SCHOOL UNION
OUR FUTURE WORK-INFIDELITY AND POPERY. THE Commencement of another year, and the exciting and momentous questions which are agitating the public mind, lead us, almost involuntarily, to take a prospective view of our future work, and of the helps and hinderances we may expect to meet with. When meditating on the dark and gloomy scene presented by the field of labour which God in mercy has allotted us, we have often longed for the aid of some barometer, capable of gauging the proportionate amount of the aggressive influences for good and evil, acting upon the masses of humanity that lie at the base of our "social pyramid." Profitable, too, would be the discoveries of our instrument, if it exhibited the amount of exemplary zeal and sacrificing self-devotedness of the propagators of truth and of error, and the measure of success realised by each party. Were this effected, we believe it would be seen, that so far as human instrumentality goes, tenfold greater are those who are against us than all we can summon to our aid-in other words, that the efforts of evangelical Christians on behalf of the masses of our population, are but a tithe in comparison with those of the enemies of Gospel truth. We feel confident, that were a full statement of the real facts of the case made out, if it did not terrify the Christian community into a state of greater activity, it would be sufficient at least to make many among us blush for our supineness and selfish security. Unless we are made to see, hear, or feel the aggressive footsteps of the enemy, he may assume any shape or form he please, and labour unmolested in the extension of his widening domain. The noisy and exciting measures that must be used to arouse Christians to a sense of duty, seem to have led many to suppose that every antagonistic effort must be powerless, unless attended with similar demonstrations. They forget that one of the Scriptural characteristics of Popery is its secresy; that it is "the mystery of iniquity;" and that infidelity, decked in the garb of a twin sister, is silently leavening the masses of the population with
NO. XXV.-VOL. III.
its destructive doctrines. Very few of the working people in London give attention even to the outward ordinances of religion. There is scarcely a church or chapel in the metropolis that contains more than a mere sprinkling of them at Sabbath worship; and although the lowest and degraded classes are sunk into a carnal and stupid indifference, yet this cannot be said of the class above them.
What, then, are the opinions of these people respecting the doctrines of Christianity? Are they opposed to them, or favourable? or are they in sentiment as in practice, resting in a cold, vague neutrality? We know that the latter conclusion is a common, but sadly mistaken one. Can it for a moment be reasonably supposed that, in these days of social and intellectual upheavings and universal excitement, the land flooded with literary publications of the most arousing character, and of every form and tendency, with social arrangements so eminently productive of mental activity, inquiry, and decision-can it be supposed that, under such a state of things, the immense working population of this country— shrewd, intelligent, and conclusive upon every other question-have no definite opinions whatever upon the subject of religious truth? We may safely answer this question by referring to the nature of the most powerful influences that are at work in forming their opinions. They are not religious. For them the influences of the pulpit are powerless, for they scarcely ever reach them; and the Christian church has supplied no substitutionary means at all adequate to the work. She has trained and educated missionaries, and thus qualified them for foreign labour, but to the missionaries and labourers among our heathen population at home she gives no such training. She provides no Home Missionary Colleges, where evangelists may be specially trained by men experimentally acquainted with their wants and circumstances. And not only so, but there is scarcely any literature provided of a suitable character. The mental appetite is quickened-it must be fed; but the Christian church is not feeding it. We are ashamed to state it-but the rarest publication we can find is a religious tract or periodical suited to the mental characteristics of the irreligious poor! To the truth of this every intelligent City Missionary or tract distributor will testify. Our monthly magazines would be less welcome, did they contain one long, dry, religious essay, partly expressed in a language and style we could scarcely understand. But such is generally the character of the monthly tracts written for the religious edification of the poor. Can we wonder, therefore, if they are seldom read? or that an instrumentality so feeble and inefficient in all its departments, should prove inoperative on our adult working population?
But they have more powerful educators. If Christians will not do the work Socialists, Infidels, and Papists will; nay, they are doing it. The two former go hand in hand. The latter can accommodate themselves to both. We believe, and we speak from experience, that the infidel Sunday newspapers and kindred periodicals are exerting a more powerful influence upon the adult working population in London, than is being exerted upon the same class of people by all denominations of evangelical Christians put together. They find a welcome entrance, from cellar to garret, in every lane and alley in the metropolis. pages form the chief Sabbath reading of the poor, and are greedily perused, while the insipid tract is lying unopened upon the shelf, ready
for the polite "call" of the district visitor. Even with the elder children one of these newspapers is a favourite, and the only one that some of our ragged emigrants have written to their parents to send them!
Unlike the majority of modern Christians, each convert to infidelity becomes a missionary. In the workshop or manufactory, their opinions are industriously promulgated, and the sacred truths of the Gospel derided and denied. The effects of this we have seen even in the Ragged Schools; workshop boys coming with the determination of converting the whole class to their opinions-putting questions and uttering sophistical statements, which the teacher found some difficulty in refuting. Among the conflicts which truth has yet to wage with the kingdom of darkness, and which every convulsive movement is hastening onward, we believe that the contest with infidelity will neither be the slightest nor the shortest.
Now, if we but consider, in connection with these facts, the recent movements of the Papal hierarchy in this country, the necessity for greater exertions in the work to which we have put our hands must be apparent. Had we reason to hope that the propagation of Popery would remove these evils-that in accepting it the degraded masses of our country would be rescued from the social and moral degradation in which they are now placed, we might consider its aggressive movements as an indication of the good which Dr. Wiseman talks of accomplishing in Westminster. But the nature, as well as the history of Popery, bear us out in the assertion, that we have no reason to anticipate any such result. The very parties to whom the Doctor refers in his late manifesto as being the objects of his sympathy and anxiety, have long since been the sons and daughters of that church in which he is now a cardinal. The poor wretches he has taken such pains to describe are, in most cases, his own devoted children. The ignorance and vice, depravity and crime, the wretchedness and disease, which he says he will be glad to claim and visit as a blessed pasture, in which sheep of holy church are to be tended-in which a bishop's godly work is to be done-exist most fully wherever Popery has developed its true nature. Wherever she has had time to expand, there you may trace her footsteps by the wretchedness and misery which she leaves behind. Witness Italy, the States of the Church, the very seat of his holiness the Pope; take Spain, Portugal, and Austria, where Popery exists in all its strength-where there are no heretics to control its power-and it will be at once apparent that the tendency of Popery is to degrade rather than elevate the man. In fact, it can do very well without any change either in the state or character of those who submit to its discipline. It is so adaptive in its character, so congenial to human nature, that instead of opposing its waywardness, exposing its errors, and restoring it to its primitive dignity and purity, it palliates its failings and fosters its pride.
Independent of all this, the simple fact of her shutting men out from interpreting the Bible for themselves, shows, that she is unable to exercise a proper influence on the masses of our land, for in all ages implicit authority has proved most injurious to the mind and knowledge of a nation. It is not Popery, but Christianity-it is not ceremonial, but spiritual religion, that is likely to counteract the social and moral evils of society; it is to the power of religion in individuals, to their
influence and example, their active and strenuous exertions, their charity and labours of love; it is to their improved zeal and extended care on behalf of our destitute population that we would appeal, never forgetting or undervaluing the help given us of God. It is because in his righteousness we are strong, that we would rejoice in the measure of progress we have already made, and anticipate success in the work which we have yet to do. Difficulties may increase and multiply themselves around us; they may become strong as mountains, and for a time appear successful in thwarting all our efforts, yet even these will be moved out of the way-the rough places shall be made smooth. No doubt great things are yet to be done; much is to be accomplished; but the work is the Lord's; and if serving him with a pure fervently, we may rest assured that he will distribute and arrange it wisely. Nothing can more defeat our object or neutralise our past attainments, than that we should grow weary before the victory is won. Let us beware of trusting more to legal and ecclesiastical enactments than to the wide dissemination of the pure principles of our Protestant faith. The outbursts of national pride will prove a poor countercheck to the aggressions of Popery. Carnal weapons have neither edge nor temper capable of wounding it. The only weapons that it fears-and they only are fatal are to be found in the armoury of the living God.
Jesuits have said, "Give us but the education of the people, and then we can do anything." So say we. Give us but an educated people, and an open Bible, and we erect a barrier against every encroachment, a shield against every aggressor, whether in the form of Popery or infidelity. If these agencies are actively at work, how needful that we be more active still. How immensely important that the antidote should have precedence of the bane-that the Bible should have the advantage of pre-occupancy. This it will have if we are faithful, using with a liberal hand the ample means God has given us, sowing beside all waters, earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints!
THE CHARITIES OF ENGLAND IN 1850.
FROM THE FRENCH OF M. A. DE LAMARTINE.
[Ir having appeared that a few selections from M. de Lamartine's recent splendid Essay upon the Charities of London, might form a not inappropriate article for the pages of the Ragged School Union Magazine, an attempt has been made to convey to the English reader a tolerably accurate idea of some of the more striking passages, and those which seemed most in harmony with the spirit and objects of our journal. An able translation of the earlier portions of the Essay appeared in the Times; but the interest of these was of a kind rather political than social. The present selections, which have been executed from the latest edition in M. de Lamartine's own journal, Le Conseiller du Peuple, take up the subject where the Times translation left off; omitting only one short paragraph, section v., of the original. Those parties, therefore, who are in possession of the newspaper, can, by referring to it, refresh their memories as to the connection.]
"The originating of institutions preservative against social conflict, depends less upon forms of governments and their procedures, than upon the spirit and the acts of the society in question. The word speaks for itself: a social evil can be cured but by a social remedy. This social remedy it belongs to society
alone to discover and to apply. All that governments can do, in this instance, is to aid by encouragement the societies confided to their charge.
"This conceded, it became, then, the duty of English society, cheered on in that direction by the voice of her almost republican government, to seek and to find for herself befitting palliatives for the mysterious, and occasionally violent disorder, by which she had been attacked in 1822 and 1830.*
"So it occurred. This society, intelligent, free, and so immediately concerned, struck by the feeling that she was in danger either of perishing or of decay, said within herself: Let me be saved!' and she is saved. She has investigated the causes of her weakness and her crisis; she has discerned that the principal cause has been the condition of neglect, moral abasement, ignorance, misery, and irritation of her foundation classes; that the selfishness and hard-heartedness of her upper classes, in isolating themselves from the fate of the masses, was accumulating upon her a mountain load of resentments, accusations, and sufferings, which rising day by day in the tears and plaints of the people, finally condensed themselves into black political clouds, charged with menace and revolution. She smote upon her breast, moved by a twofold emotion-an emotion of self-interest, and an emotion of religion, instinct with the duties of man to man; and touching, as by the wand of Moses, her long petrified heart, from it there hath gushed a shower of healthful thoughts, of good deeds, and of evangelical benevolence towards her portionless classes. She has not waited for the movement—always slow and difficult in a country where tradition is law-of the executive government. She has worked by means of private associations, or by the agency of individual acts; she has said, 'Let us supply through free and spontaneous action, individual or collective, the short-comings of the constitution, and the hesitations of government.' She has thought-she has acted-she has entered upon her course, without troubling herself as to whether the government would follow her with a step more or less rapid, but knowing full well that she would be sure ultimately to draw it, by the power of example and of opinion, into this, the only path of safety. She has, in effect, thus led her government itself; her real statesmen have applauded from the heights of the senate these associated efforts for bettering the condition of the people; they have come to her aid with large measures of reparation, of religion, of justice, of a better and more equable distribution of wealth, of a more extended assistance to the spiritual, mental, and bodily needs of her degraded populations. There has only remained on the outside of this general movement of affluent and governing society on behalf of the people, certain antiquated coteries, and a few public journalists, without feeling and capacity for the service-men, like some amongst ourselves, who mistake the paradox of resistance for the genius of government.
Now, during these twenty years of reflexion, ideas, endeavours, and conciliatory action between the classes in England, what have association and the government been able to effect on behalf of this conservative Socialism-of this treaty of peace between the extremes of wealth and the extremes of want-and
*M. de Lamartine refers to the political disturbances and excitement of those periods in England; mention having been made of them in a previous section of the Essay.
The original word, "Prolétaires," appears to have been considered by the writer in the Times untranslatable in our language; and so perhaps it is; and, therefore, wherever he has encountered it, it is, in his version, left untranslated. Advantage has been taken of the license thus afforded, to employ, as its equivalent, a term which the present translator has long ventured to think might beneficially be substituted for that ordinary misnomer, as applied, 'par excellence,' to any one section of our community-"The Working Classes." In Britain, thanks be to God, we are all " Working Classes;" and the title here suggested seems not only far more dignified, but also far more expressive of the true value and importance which the classes so pointed out bear in relation to all the rest.