Page images

come in, that my

house may be filled." Do not the supporters of this Penitentiary endeavour, in a special manner, to execute this gracious mandate?

Doubt ye not, therefore, but carnestly believe, that our gracious God and Saviour alloweth and approveth, and will prosper this charitable work of yours, in attempting to call sinners to repentance; to restore even harlots to society, to credit, and to their friends, as comforts and blessings to them; and to bring them unto Jesus Christ, that they be eternally saved.

It is well known by many present, that a small Institution of a similar nature was formed, at my instance, in connexion with the Lock Hospital : and it will probably be expected, that I should say something respecting it; especially as I lately attempted to preach in behalf of it: and there may possibly be some, who consider my preaching for the London Female Penitentiary as not quite consistent with my partial attachment to the Lock Asylum ; or as some indication that my cordiality towards it has abated; which certainly is not the case. The single circumstance, that the Lock Asylum receives none except patients discharged cured from the Lock Hospital, must of course render it by far too circumscribed in its operations, to answer, in any measure, the enlarged design of the London Female Penitentiary. On the other hand, local circumstances will render the Lock Asylum necessary, whatever other Penitentiaries are formed; and entitle it to adequate support. In the Lock Hospital the patients, while under cure, and suffering very severely the consequences of their vices, receive in the wards the plainest and most appropriate religious instruction, with suitable warnings

and exhortations. When the male patients are discharged, (of whom more are received than of females ;) if any conviction has been excited in their consciences, the way of repentance and conversion is open to them, nearly in the same manner as to other sinners who have contracted evil habits. But the female patients are far otherwise circumstanced. There are indeed several exceptions, both of such as suffer through the vices of others, and not by their own; and of those who have only just deviated from the paths of virtue : but a large majority of them are prostitutes, and very many of the extremely destitute. Should one of these, by the instructions given in the wards, or by the preaching in the chapel, be brought in some measure to “consider her ways;" her case, , as without money, character, and decent apparel ; and as always greatly debilitated, and often emaciated by complicated disease ; is truly deplorable : and the prospect before her is suited to induce her to stop her ears against instruction, and to struggle against conviction. For want of some immediate refuge opened for patients of this description, when I first entered on the service of instructing them, I could scarcely do otherwise than consider my labours as hopeless. But the case was soon altered : a refuge was provided, in which the same religious instruction was continued, and where every real want was fully supplied ; with every help for reinstating in health and strength, if that were practicable, such as had recourse to it. Here they may learn habits of industry, remote from hardships and discouraging asperity : here they may retrieve their character, and from hence be

recommended to creditable and comfortable services, or be restored to their friends: or here they learn those kinds of work, by which, even with an enfeebled constitution, incapable of hard labour, they may procure an honest and comfortable maintenance.

Indeed it has long appeared to me exceedingly desirable, that something like a Penitentiary could be annexed also to each of our gaols, for the reception of those who have lost their characters, when they are discharged either as acquitted or pardoned ; and who should be willing to avail themselves of such a refuge. These, if supported by a national fund, (which alone could meet the expenditure of so vast a design,) and furnished with manual employment of almost every kind, for those who were willing to work at a trade which they knew, or to learn one which they did not know; and especially if supplied with genuine religious instruction : where the persons admitted might continue, till they retrieved their character, and procured employment in another way: might, in my judgment, prove of immense benefit, towards reforming the lower orders, and preventing depredations, executions, and transportation. For the wretched persons, of whom I speak, have often no refuge from extreme indigence, through want of character and employment, except by returning to their former companions and course of life : and generally they are turned loose on society, like wild beasts which have escaped from confinement, to destroy others, and then to be themselves “taken “and destroyed.” But let this hint suffice. Oh that some statesman of enlarged mind and genuine Christian philanthropy, who fully perceives and feels the importance of the maxim, that the preévention of crimes is the grand object of legisla* tion,' would revolve the thought! perhaps some practical good, of no ordinary magnitude, might result from it.

I shall only say further, concerning the Lock Asylum, that the measure of success which during above sixteen years, attended my endeavours ; and on which I look back with much satisfaction, though mingled with regret that it was not greater; encourages my confidence, that the London Penitentiary will be productive of great benefit; and that, indeed, in very many instances, there will “be “joy in the presence of the angels of God,” over the effects produced by means of its exertions.

The public however, ought not to expect too much. 'In such attempts there will always be numerous disappointments; but every instance of success is clear gain, so to speak, to the cause of truth and holiness, of such immense importance, as to counterbalance the expense and labour of numerous failures. Many of those, of whom nothing decisive is known at present, will no doubt be found at last to have derived permanent good : and even our lamented disappointments may eventually terminate in the conversion and salvation of the persons concerned: at least we“ do what

we can;" and in so doing shall meet with a gracious acceptance.

Though this Institution, for which I am pleading, is but of recent date, yet there have been already some very interesting accounts published, in the annual reports, of cases, in which there is


[ocr errors]

firm ground of hope that“ repentance unto life “ has been granted” to sinners by means of it; as well as general encouraging accounts of its progress and success. These, I trust, you either have procured, and read attentively, or will do it, as soon as you can. One

passage, as it peculiarly affected me, I will here mention, 'One of these, on being presented with her reward,' (of a guinea, for living a year in the place procured for her,) ' expressed her grateful thanks, and with tears in her eyes, begged the committee to allow her to return it. Her own expressions on this occasion were: I request you will accept of it, as a free-will and thank-offering from a happy penitent, whose soul and body have been snatched from destruction, through the means afforded by this asylum of mercy; and I hope every year to send my subscription. There are also some other still more interesting cases, which will be published in the next report. These form a comment on my text, and an illustration of its doctrine: and I have no doubt that succeeding years will furnish more and more such examples of success, in answer to your

your fervent prayers, and those of all the friends of the design; and of every penitent for her fellow-sinners, that they “may “ become fellow-heirs of the grace of life.” Thus the blessing being granted, in answer to the prayers of many persons,“ will abound in many “ thanksgivings unto God,” and in prayers of many for their benefactors, and thanksgivings unto God, on their behalf likewise.

It is not requisite that I should be particular on the plans formed for the enlargement and im

« PreviousContinue »