« ForrigeFortsett »
the lowest and degraded classes are sunk in a carnal and stupid indif ference, 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 favorable ?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 Christianchurch has supplied no substitutionary means at all adequate to the work. She has trained and educated missionaries, and thus qualified them for foreign labor, but to the missionaries and laborers 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 quickenedit 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?
"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 of 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.Their 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 favorite, and the on
ly 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 be neither the slightest nor the shortest."
APPENDIX No. IV.
SCHOOL AND OTHER LIBRARIES.
The following table exhibits the number of volumes in the School Libraries, as nearly as can be ascertained :
The following is believed to be the number of volumes in
the College and other Libraries.
In addition to the above, there are many parish libraries, of which we can obtain no account. And the number of volumes in the various Sunday School libraries, principally of juvenile books, is very large.
There are still many places in the State, where village or school libraries should be established, as will be seen from an inspection of the foregoing table.
These libraries have generally been formed upon the plan of loaning out the books for a small weekly charge to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. This is believed to be the wisest arrangement.
The friends of education should not be disappointed if the
books should not be as much read a few years hence as now, while newly established. Still they should be maintained.The youth who are growing up in our public schools, who feel a desire for improvement, should have the opportunities within their reach. And if even but one solitary scholar should have ambition or curiosity enough to lead him to use the library, slill it should be preserved.*
*Those who wish to see a full historical account of our large libraries should consult the account by Prof, Jewett in the Fourth Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution. Also see Journal of R. I. Institute, by Mr. Barnard, vol. 3, page 428.We have endeavored to correct some inaccuracies in their statements as to numbers.