ePub 版

different from that in which they had which was preached by the most emiformerly viewed them. Such was nent divines. their distress and perplexity, that they Having preserved their zeal and were constrained to make application purity so long, and their number and to these able ministers for personal usefulness increasing, they were drawn advice, who encouraged them to meet of course into public notice. Soon once a week at some private house, after the Revolution, in the reign of for prayer and spiritual discourse. William the Third, several profligate They presently found the benefit of persons, with others who were misinthese friendly associations; and, in a formed, represented these meetings to short time, their number began to in- Dr. Compton, the Bishop of London, crease; and as they saw the divine as calculated to produce fatal conseblessing in their temporal and spiritual quences both to church and state. prosperity, they thought it their duty Accordingly they were examined by to devote a part of their substance to the bishop, who dismissed them with the relief of their necessitous fellow- these words—" God forbid that I creatures. For several years, each should be against such excellent deone relieved those objects of charity signs.” They now received the apwhich came under his own immediate probation of Government, and in the notice, without any particular plan; course of a few years there were forty but when, by the blessing of God, the distinct societies in London and Westnumber of members and the stock of minster. By the money which they money increased, they found it neces- had voluntarily contributed, many sary to adopt some more regular plan. poor families were relieved; some set Accordingly, in the year 1678, they up in business ; several poor debtors chose two stewards to manage their liberated ; a number of poor scholars funds, and to keep a regular account supported at the University ; many of their proceedings : thus they con- orphans maintained

with other works tinued, with great regularity and suc- of benevolence. These pious men cess, till the reign of James II. when beheld with grief and indignation the private meetings began to be suspected profligacy and misery into which and suppressed. At this time they thousands of their fellow-creatures suffered persecution and reproach from were plunging, and the national ruin various quarters, in consequence of which was likely to result from an which, many left the society. Still, unrestrained toleration of vice. This however, their meetings were not en- led them to devise some means for tirely abandoned ; for the apostacy of enforcing the laws against those who some was the means of exciting others would not regard wholesome advice. to greater zeal and watchfulness. At this time, four or five gentlemen, They were now forced to change the lamenting the abounding iniquity of name of society for that of club, and the times, resolved that they would their place of meeting, from a private do all in their power for the suppresto a public house ; where they carried sion of public vice by the laws of their on their noble design to the end of country. Some of these were of the that unhappy reign.

legal profession, and drew up an abThese young men, seeing Popery stract of the laws against vice and so much favoured, and mass celebrated profanity, with directions for the conat the Royal Chapel, and other public viction of offenders. About the places, established a monthly lecture same time, in 1691, Queen Mary against it at St. Clement's Danes, wrote a very urgent letter to the jus

tices of the peace in the county of seasons, clergymen of the Church of Middlesex, exhorting and command- England preached at St. Mary-leing them to suppress profaneness and Bow church, Cheapside, and dissentdebauchery. In consequence of this ing ministers at Salter's Hall Meetingletter, the justices drew up an order, house, where, for more than forty inviting all good Christians and good years, ministers of the three denomisubjects to give information to the nations of dissenters took their turns magistrates against profane and vicious to plead the cause of virtue and persons: a similar order was issued national reformation. by the Lord Mayor. Copies of the We are informed, that in the course Queen's letter to the justices, toge- of a few years, these societies were in. ther with the orders issued by the strumental in putting down several Lord Mayor and the magistrates, were open markets that were held on the printed and dispersed throughout the Lord's days ; five hundred houses of kingdom at private expense. Blank ill-fame were suppressed; and two warrants were lodged in the hands of thousand persons were convicted and many persons, for the use of informers; punished for keeping such houses. and other expedients were adopted, to Many music-houses were shut up, promote a general reformation. This which had degenerated into notorious was perfectly congenial with the de- nurseries of lewdness, so that scenes sires and plan of the pious persons of the grossest depravity were openly who were joined in these societies, exhibited in the presence of persons of who now began to lay informations both sexes; in these places disorderly against offenders, and met with con- conduct had abounded to such a desiderable success, being encouraged by gree, that more than twenty murders royal approbation, and by several di- had been committed in a very short vines of the first eminence. Their time. In their annual reports for enemies, however, endeavoured to 1715, and the two following years, cast contempt on their exertions, be- being the twenty-second, twentycause they were young and inexpe- third, and twenty-fourth reports of rienced. This objection was presently the society, it is stated, that in removed; for several respectable these three years they had convicted housekeepers in the Tower Hamlet for lewd and disorderly practices, four had associated to punish offenders, thousand two hundred and forty-six ; who had now become exceedingly for houses of ill-fame, seventy-three ; bold and numerous. An union was gaming-houses, sixteen ; Sabbathnow proposed between the two so- breaking, one thousand six hundred cieties, which completely removed all and thirty-seven ; profane swearing, objections arising from their youth seven hundred and seven ; drunkenand inexperience. They assumed ness, fifty-six. In a sermon preached the title of a Society for the Refor- by Bishop Maddox, in 1736, we are mation of Manners. The persons informed, that the number of persons who composed these societies were of convicted of debauchery and profanevarious religious denominations, but ness, was one hundred thousand six they were all harmonious in the sup- hundred and fifty, in the course of pression of those things which were forty-two years, in the vicinity of evidently contrary to all religion, mo- London. When we consider that rality, and decency. The ministers many hundred societies were . then of religion were engaged to advocate established on a siinilar plan, in this, and encourage this work, and at stated and in other countries, the number of persons brought to outward reforma- calculated to promote reformation and tion must have been very great. piety. It is recorded, that many

Several societies were formed in were reclaimed from profligate courses, Ireland, where persons of the first and joined the society, to assist in rerank, both of the clergy and laity, claiming others. They, however, met joined them.

In Scotland they re- with great discouragements : many ceived the sanction of the General respectable gentlemen frequently traAssembly. In France, they met velled more than half a day, from one with great encouragement from the justice of the peace to another, before commissioners of several French they could get a warrant signed: they churches. In 1698, or 1699, there were frequently reviled and diswere several accounts of these so- couraged by the magistrates. Their cieties printed; one, it is supposed, expenses were likewise enormous; by the Bishop of London ; another, nearly one thousand pounds were ex -by some anonymous author; which pended in one year. Besides, they received the formal sanction of thirty- were frequently exposed to imminent two temporal, and nine spiritual danger. peers ; and also seven judges. This “ Mr. Dent, a private gentleman, book has been frequently mistaken was murdered by three soldiers, in for another of nearly the same title, his attempts to suppress profaneness and written some time before it, by and immorality. He was about Josiah Woodward, D.D. That writ- thirty years of age, and a strict and ten by the anonymous author, is en- consistent professor of religion ; he titled, "An account of Societies for had a great zeal for the honour of the Reformation of Manners," and God, and for the salvation of souls, has generally a portrait of King Wil- and a great hatred to sin, which first liam the Third at the beginning. led him to join this society. He had That by Woodward is entitled, “ An been engaged in this work seventeen Account of the Rise and Progress of or eighteen years. None could ever Societies for the Reformation of Man- fix any stain on his character; even ners,” with the name of the author. the worst of men, whom he endeaThe contents of the two books, how-voured to reform, would frequently ever, differ considerably: Dr. W's speak well of him. He assisted in account was translated into Latin, apprehending several thousands of French, and High Dutch; great num- lewd women, and many other offendbers were printed in America.

He was very courageous, and Several societies were formed in feared no encounter; he had great Flanders, Switzerland, Germany, calmness and presence of mind in Prussia, and other parts. These so- danger; he was frequently much cieties did not confine their exertions abused, and beaten. When Mr. Cooto the execution of the civil law for per was murdered, he endeavoured to the reformation of manners; they were rescue him from the mob, though frequently entreating and exhorting there were several soldiers with drawn offenders; it was their fundamental swords. Thus he went on with un. maxim to punish none but such as daunted courage till the unrestrained were perseveringly obstinate. We fury of vicious men deprived him of are informed by Dr. Samuel Chand- life."* Mr. Dent's funeral was perler, that the society before whom he was then preaching, in the year 1736, * See his Funeral Sermon, preached by had distributed gratis, 444,750 books Dr. T. Bray, March 24, 1708.



The pro


formed with such distinguished tokens swearing, cruelty to animals; and of respect, that it may be called a such other gross offences as come public one. About thirty clergymen within the scope of His Majesty's most preceded the corpse, twelve justices admirable proclamation. This society of the peace held the pall, gentlemen is now greatly reduced, if not entirely of quality, aldermen, and above a extinct. It is not expedient in these thousand citizens, formed the train of pages to enter upon the discussion of

Mr. Cooper was a con- the perplexing question, whether stable of a most excellent character; Christians should enforce the penalhe was murdered in the discharge of ties of civil laws against profligate his duty.* The third was a Mr. offenders; but it is evident from the Hobbs, a private gentleman, who died annals of these Societies, that men of of the wounds he received in the ser- various denominations, and of the vice of this society. +

highest order for station, learning, and This influential society fell into de- piety, have cordially approved, and cay about a century ago, the occasion strenuously defended, such efforts. of which however is unknown to the writer. Of late years siinilar societies have been established. clamation Society, formed for the purpose of enforcing the King's pro

(From Belcher's Pastoral Recollections.) clamation against vice and immorality, DANGEROUS, indeed, friendly reader, about the year 1788, led the way. A is the situation of the young man Society for the Suppression of Vice who cherishes the views and feelings was formed in Dublin about the year of John Wilson. An entire change 1797. A society which has excited of disposition, and a complete dedithe attention of the public, was cation of the heart to God, constitute founded in London in 1802, for the the secret of true happiness, and alone purpose of giving effect to the laws effectually guard us from the dangers for the protection of religion and mo- to which we are constantly exposed rality, when friendly admonition has from earth and hell. Pride, on the failed of

Its members one hand, prevented John from entire amounted in 1809 to about fifteen submission to Jehovah, and the conhundred, comprising a great number sequent hatred of all that is opposed of our first nobility, magistrates, to infinite purity; and conscience, on clergy, &c. The particular objects the other, would not permit him to of their attention were, to prevent the enjoy the happiness which is exprofanation of the Lord's day; the perienced by the true Christian. frauds and abuses practised in selling Having never felt the power of real by false weights and measures ; the religion, it was impossible that he publication of blasphemous, licentious, could taste its joys. and obscene books and prints ; illegal Up to this period, however, his insurances in lotteries; the keeping general conduct had been marked with of riotous and disorderly houses, bro-correctness. Awfully deficient as his thels, and gaming-houses ; the se- heart was in the sight of an omniductive practice of procurers ; profane scient Being, but few of his fellow

creatures could charge him with im* See his Funeral Sermon, by Dr. Woodward, May 21, 1702.

proprieties. From Sabbath to Sab+ See his Funeral Sermon, by Mr. Ros- bath, as he visited the sanctuary of well, June, 1719.

God, his parents had fon:lly hoped


that his heart might become impressed wise, indeed, was the petition hè with the infinitely important truths of offered in the hour of temptationthe gospel ; but their wishes were not “Hold thou me up, and I shall be gratified, and the good old man was safe. summoned to heaven, to enter on in- My heart sickened with grief when finite purity and bliss, almost in the I met this young man after he had act of praying for his beloved children, resided in London about a year and a and especially for his favourite John. half. His confiding disposition had Truly kind was it in his heavenly led him into the company of those Father thus to remove the venerable who are ever seeking the ruin of inexsaint from the sorrow which would perienced youth. His supposed good otherwise have soon overtaken him. principles had gradually forsaken him; The truths he had long believed sup- society, pleasure, and gambling, had ported him in his last hours ; his become the objects of his pursuit ; griefs gave place to exalted triumphs his pious mother had died with grief, in his Saviour ; his prayers were con- though she knew comparatively little verted into eternal praises ; and as of his conduct; his surviving relatives earth retired from his view, the glories had become ashamed to own him ; of the throne of God attracted him to and he was now in prison under a the feet of his Redeemer.

charge of dishonesty, committed to Shortly after this period, John de- carry on other sinful practices. clared his determination to remove to It was under these circumstances London, to pursue the business in that I was informed Wilson wished to which for some years he had been see me. I will not attempt to deoccupied. Many a kind hint of advice scribe the confusion with which his was tendered to him, and many peti- face met mine; nor will I dwell on tions offered to God on his behalf, the really unhumbled state of his both by his affectionate relatives and heart—for it was but too evident that his holy minister. They were well his shame rather arose from the result aware of the dangerous temptations of his crimes than from his hatred to to which young men are exposed in a sin itself. His promises of future revast and sinful metropolis, and knew formation were still distinguished by that the powerful grace of Jehovah confidence in his own ability to fulfil alone could preserve one from ruin them, without a single reference to who was naturally opposed to prayer that divine grace, without which, the for divine aid, and who was so readily Scriptures assure us, we cannot prodrawn into the society of the ungodly. perly discharge our duties. Their fears were increased by every Alas ! how shall I describe the end avowal he made of the strength of his of this unhappy young man ? Let it virtuous principles; for they were be enough to say that, unexpectedly, assured that those only are safe who, the punishment inflicted on him for aware of their liability to fall into sin, his crime was far less than justice rely on the strength of God to pre- might have demanded, and, after a serve them in the hour of temptation. short imprisonment, he was again at The psalmist David, when he thought liberty. But did he pursue the virof the dangers of youth, might well tuous course on which he had resolved? address the Supreme Being, and say, Ah! no; every good thought de“Wherewithal shall a young man serted him as he left the prison : he cleanse his way, but by taking heed soon rejoined his wicked companions ; thereto, according to thy word ;” and he fell into greater and more awful

« 上一頁繼續 »