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In the desire to advance these ends, the design of attempting such a publication as this originated. If they shall in any good degree be attained by it, the best feelings of the heart will bę gratified, and fresh motives afforded for continuing the work. The subscriptions to the paper having filled up
with a rapidity far exceeding the expectation of the editor, he has been induced to commence the publication at a much earlier period than was anticipated.
This circumstance, while it exhibits an auspicious indication of the opinion of the religious public in favour of works of this kind, will be an additional incentive to make the paper deserving of their encouragement and support.
A more ample explanation of its plan than is given in the prospectus, is considered unnecessary at present.
The communication of general reports of the proceedings of religious and charitable institutions and authentic statements of facts tending to further the objects of this paper, are respectfully solicited, will be thankfully received, and meet suitable attention.
AMONG the several institutions which are the offspring of Christian philanthropy, and which do honour to the Christian name, that of Sunday Schools certainly holds no ordinary rank. In Great Britain, where the system appears to have originated, its value has been amply tested, by an experience of more than thirty years of its benign effects upon the lower orders of society
The attention and interest which this subject has excited in the United States, and especially the exertions in its favour which it has recently called forth in this city, have induced us to give it a prominent place
in this paper.
The benefit which the cause of religion derives from teaching the illiterate poor to read the Bible, is of itself one of the greatest that can be promoted by human agency upon that large, and formerly much neglected, portion of the community.
It has other highly important advantages also, which will be fully developed in the history and progress of. that institution ; a summary of which it is intended occasionally to exhibit in the course of this publication.
We shall commence that history, by furnishing an account given of its origin by its venerable founder, Robert Raikes, in a letter addressed to Col. Townley, of Lancashire, premised by some remarks respecting the reflections which prompted that philanthropist to plan this laudable undertaking; as extracted from The Sunday School Repository, published in England.
At a period of life when success rarely inspires moderation in the pursuits of fortune, Mr. Raikes remembered the great law of his Christian profession, that no man liveth to himself. He looked around for occasions of disinterested, yet not unproductive, exertion, and found them near at hand. Prevention of crimes, by instruction or reproof, and compassion for even justly suffering criminals, were united in his idea of Christian benevolence, which
To every want, and every wo,
And all relief that bounty can bestow.
" The first object which demanded his notice was the miserable state of the county Bridewell, within the city of Gloucester, which being part of the county gaol, the persons committed by the magistrate out of the Sessions for petty offences, associated, through necessity, with felons of the worst description, with little or no means of assistance from labour; with little, if any, allowance from the county ; without either meat, drink, or clothing ; depending chiefly on the precarious charity of such as visited the prison, whether brought thither by business, curiosity, or compassion.
“ To relieve these miserable and forlorn wretches, and to render their situation supportable at least, Mr. Raikes employed both his pen, his influence, and his property, to procure them the necessaries of life: and finding that ignorance was generally the procuring cause of those enormities which brought them to become objects of his notice, he determined, if possible to procure them
some moral and religious instruction. In this he succeeded, by means of bounties and encouragement given to such of the prisoners as were able to read; and these, by being directed to proper books, improved both themselves and their fellow-prisoners, and afforded great encouragement to persevere in the benevolent design. He then procured for them a supply of work, to preclude every excuse and temptation to idleness."
Mr. Raikes could not parsue his generous purpose towards these forlorn outcasts from civilized life, without many serious reflections. His mind must have been peculiarly affected with the sad consequences arising from the neglect, or rather the total absence, of opportunities for early instruction among the poor. He was thus prepared to indulge a second project, the success of which he lived to see extending, probably, beyond his most sanguine expectations.
Mr. Raikes in the year 1783, inserted a paragraph in his weekly Journal, giving a short account of the good effects resulting from the first little trial of a Sunday School. This paragraph chanced to fall under the inspection of colone!
Townly, a gentleman of Lancashire, who in consequence, (the paragraph being anonymous) wrote to the Mayor of Gloucester, desiring further information, which produced the following letter. Colonel Townly having desired leave to publish this letter in the Gentleman's Magazine, (see Gentleman's Magazine for 1784, vol. 54. p. 410.) that publication diffused the subject throughout the kingdom.
« Gloucester, Nov. 25, (1783). " SIR, “ My friend, the Mayor, has just communicated to me the letter which you have honoured him with, inquiring into the nature of the Sunday Schools. The beginning of this scheme was entirely owing to accident. Some business leading me one morning into the suburbs of the city, where the lowest of the people who are principally employed in the pin-manufactory) chiefly reside, I was struck with concern at seeing a group of children, wretchedly ragged, at play in the street. I asked an inhabitant whether those children belonged to that part of the town, and lamented their misery and idleness. Ah! Sir, said the woman to whom I was speaking, could you take a view of this part of the town on a Sunday, you would be shocked indeed; for then the street is filled with multitudes of these wretches, who, released on that day from employment, spend their time in noise and riot, playing at chuck, and cursing and swearing in a manner so horrid, as to convey to any serious mind an idea of hell rather than any other place. We have a worthy Clergyman, said she, Minister of our parish, who has put some of them to school; but upon the Sabbath, they are all given up to follow their inclinations without restraint, as their parents, totally abandoned themselves, have no idea of instilling into the minds of their children principles to which they themselves are entire strangers.
This conversation suggested to me, that it would at least be a harmless attempt, if it were productive of no good, should some little plan be formed to check this deplorable profanation of the Sabbath. I then inquired of the woman, if there were any decent well-disposed women in the neighbourhood, who kept schools for teaching to read. I presently was directed to four. To these I applied, and made an agreement with them, to receive as many children as I should send upon the Sunday, whom they were to instruct in reading, and in the church catechism. For this I engaged to pay them each a shilling for their day's employment. The women seemed
pleased with the proposal. I then waited on the Clergymań before mentioned, and imparted to him my plan. He was so much satisfied with the idea, that he engaged to lend his assistance, by going round to the schools on a Sunday afternoon, to examine the progress that was made, and to enforce order and decorum among such a set of little heathens.
“ This, Sir, was the commencement of the plan. It is now about three years since we began, and I could wish you were here to make inquiry into the effect. A woman who lives in a lane where I had fixed a school, told me some time
that the place was quite a heaven upon Sundays, compared to what it used to be. The numbers who have learned to read and
say their catechism are so great, that I am astonished at it. Upon the Sunday afternoon, the mistresses take their scholars to church, a place into which neither they nor their ancestors ever entered, with a view to the glory of God. But what is yet more extraordinary, within this month, these little ragamuffins have in great numbers taken it into their heads to frequent the early morning prayers, which are held every morning at the cathedral at seven o'clock. I believe there were near fifty this morning. They assemble at the house of one of the mistresses, and walk before her to church, two and two, in as much order as a company of soldiers. I am generally at church, and after service they all come round me to make their bow; and if any animosities have arisen, to make their complaint. The great principle I inculcate, is, to be kind and good-natured to each other; not to provoké one another; to be dutiful to their parents ; not to offend God by cursing and swearing; and such little plain precepts as all may understand. As my profession is that of a printer, I have printed a little book, which I give amongst them : and some friends of mine, subscribers to the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, sometimes make me a present of a parcel of Bibles, Testaments, &c. which I distribute as rewards to the deserving. The success that has attended this scheme has induced one or two of my friends to adopt the plan, and set up Sunday Schools in other parts of the city, and now a whole parish has taken up the object ; so that I flatter myself in time the good effects will appear sa conspicuous as to become generally adopted. The number of children at present thus engaged on the Sabbath are between two and three hundred, and they are increasing every week, as the benefit is universally seen. I have endeavoured to engage the clergy of my acquaintance that reside in their parishes. One has entered into the scheme with great