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GLEANINGS FROM THE VINEYARD.
OUR readers, we are sure, will require no apology from us for giving a narrative, so full of touching interest as the following, a place among our 'gleanings;" it is seldom we are able to present so rich a specimen of well-grown fruit, even from the most fertile corners of our harvestfield. The subjoined letter explains the chief object for which the paper is inserted :
To the Editor of the Ragged School Union Magazine.
SIR,-Will you allow me to place the accompanying sketch in your hands, and at the same time beg its insertion in the Ragged School Union Magazine? The account is furnished by a friend and visitor of your schools, and I think cannot fail to prove at once interesting and encouraging to all engaged in the work. I know the lad whose history is briefly recorded, and firmly believe, that if favoured with educational advantages, he would prove a great blessing to society. It is proposed by a few friends to raise a fund for this purpose, feeling persuaded the lad has superior abilities for the work of, at least, a Home Missionary. Are there friends among any the readers of your Magazine who would kindly contribute towards this object, and if so, would your Society receive donations for this special purpose? I shall be glad to receive any suggestions which may tend to this youth's benefit, or any pecuniary assistance towards carrying out the proposal at which I have hinted. I am, Sir, yours respectfully, ELIZABETH PEEK.
8, Finsbury Square, Feb. 15th, 1851.
BRIEF ACCOUNT OF A RAGGED SCHOOL CONVERT.
THOSE who personally inquire into the condition of our metropolitan poor, are forcibly impressed with the unvarying scenes of immorality and wretchedness everywhere presented. Passing from alley to lane, and from lane to court, through endless and almost inexplorable labyrinths, the moral and physical aspects seem so completely to harmonize, as to force the natural conclusion, that surely vice and misery are reigning triumphant, holding universal sway. But a closer investigation discovers a few cheering exceptions, like green spots in a sandy desert. In some dreary garret, or rat-haunted cellar, may occasionally be found a Lot, mourning over the abounding wickedness, and maintaining a life of pious consistency. His moral condition illustrates an important fact. It proves that religious principle is a vital element, which neither poverty nor surrounding depravity can ever kill. It lives—it must live, for it is indestructible and shows itself to be the very "salt" with which the surrounding masses require to be "salted."
The transforming power of the Gospel is the only agency by which man can be reformed for life. Circumstances will destroy the work of every other, undo the effects of early training, and all the superficial benefits derivable from early privileges. The conservative blessings of real religion are alone permanent, and its noblest manifestations are to be found in those "living epistles," who are dwelling among men who can neither "know" nor "read" them, and where almost every circumstance is antagonistic to a life of purity. The church of Christ has afforded examples of this in every age, and the present is not without its proportionate share. Some of them we have in our courts and alleys, the fruits of evangelistic_labour, reared by the Christian visitor, in the cottage meeting, or the Ragged School. A few are known, others "hidden," except to those who have been made instrumental in effecting their deliverance. For a considerable time I have been acquainted with a case of this nature a poor lad belonging to a Ragged School, and in whom I have felt a special interest. In committing to paper a few statements connected with his history, I shall strictly confine myself to facts, which have either come under my own observation, or of those who have been personally connected with the circumstances related :-His father's career nearly ever since the poor boy was born has been one unvaried course of drunkenness, pollution, and profligacy. As is usual in such cases, he readily learned his father's lessons, and soon began to practise them. He became an adept in every species of wickedness. At an early age he joined a band of young ruffians, who spent their evenings in a course of villany and mischief, such as usually terminates in imprisonment and transportation. They did not steal so much from necessity, as for the purpose of "enjoying themselves." The expenses of attending low theatres and similar places of blackguardism were defrayed by such means. Of this lawless company our youth became one of the chief ringleaders, and continued so until he was about fifteen years of age.
One evening, while the teacher of a Ragged School in the neighbourhood was collecting a few boys and girls from the streets, she met with him, and requested that he should accompany them to school. He reluctantly did so, and shortly afterwards became a constant attendant; it was the first school he had ever attended with any degree of regularity in his life. He seemed in a measure to have become wearied of iniquity, and ultimately gave attention to the instructions of his new friends. Through the blessing of God upon the prayerful and painstaking efforts of his devoted teacher, he was led to see the wickedness of his life, brought under convictions of sin, and afterwards to a saving interest in Christ.
Those who have enjoyed the blessings of a religious home and pious associates, will not easily be able to understand the nature of those trials and hardships that now awaited this poor youth. Many who, by age and education, were better qualified for enduring, have often said, that among all other trials, the scorn and abuse of the ungodly has been most difficult to bear. How much more difficult to him, when still living in the midst of his former companions in crime, dwelling under the miserable roof of a worthless drunken father, and without a friend to counsel or encourage him except the teacher who took him from the streets? But he soon became as decided for God as he had previously
been in a course of wickedness. With manly resolution he at once withdrew from his associates, and remained firm, despite of all the scoffing and abuse to which they subjected him. At a subsequent period he commenced family worship at home; a measure to which his wretched father was so violently opposed, that at times he has struck and abused him when found on his knees, threatening to throw him out at the window. Eventually, the lad's altered conduct seriously impressed his careless miserable mother. She began to think that there must be something in religion she had never known, and anxiously to inquire whether its absence from their home had not been the cause of all her misery. He induced her to attend a place of worship, and-chiefly through the earnest prayers and instructions of her own boy-she was led to a saving interest in the Redeemer. Now, the once careless mother and profligate son are rejoicing in the same hope, and for at least the last eighteen months, have both been consistent members of the church of Christ.
There are, perhaps, few converts, in youth or age, whose course has been more steady, consistent, and advancing than his. He exhibits more of the unwavering constancy of a matured Christian than the fitful impulsiveness of "first love." His religion has been severely tested; so much so, that had it been merely a thing of nature it must have died. Scarcely a day has passed since his conversion, but his faith has been "tried what sort it is," and its genuineness proved by a steady growth. Having few friends and fewer counsellors, he has been led the more to depend upon God, and seek his aid by believing and persevering prayer. On one occasion we inquired what opportunities he had for reading and prayer at home. He replied, "Very few; but I keep the key of the little evening school-room next door, and I always manage at dinnertime to get in there for half an hour, and having locked the door, I spend the time in reading and prayer to God." Do you do so every day?" "Yes," he replied, “every day when at home; I am very grateful for the opportunity." We have since found this to be strictly true. Not only has he withdrawn from the ranks of the rebellious, but he is ever striving, humbly and patiently, to "overcome evil with good;" and, so far as opportunities allow, has become a sort of volunteer missionary among his old comrades and others in the neighbourhood. A few instances will best illustrate this, and prove the clearest index to his real character.
About six months since, a poor homeless lad was found in the streets by one of the teachers, who provided a temporary bed for him in the upper room of the little school. On the first evening, our young convert conducted the lad to his new abode; before leaving, he read a portion of Scripture, induced the wanderer to kneel with him on the floor, and commended him to God in prayer. The unfortunate lad informed us of this about six weeks afterwards, and added, that his youthful friend had visited him every evening since and conducted a similar exercise, always accompanying his readings with explanations and counsel.
Prior to his conversion, he was in the habit of visiting an old man, and reading novels and newspapers to him on the Sabbath-day. As this, among kindred habits, was discontinued, he had not seen his old friend for many months, until one day, hearing that he was dangerously ill, he hastened to his house to visit him. The sick man was pleased to