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Art. Xf. Scripture Portraits ; or Biographical Memoirs of the most
??illustrious Characters recorded in the Evangelists : adapted to Juve: 'nile Readers. By the Rev. Robert Stevenson, of Castle Hedingham.
In Continuation of two former Volumes, 2 vols. 12mo. Price 10s.
London. 1820. SCRIPTURE History is so frequently read by young per
sons as a task, rather than as a pleasure, that any attempt to place it in an engaging point of view, is worthy of commendation. We do not mean to intimate that there is any thing re. pulsive in the original phraseology: on the contrary, its simplicity, its venerable antiquity, and its unaffectedness are peculiarly attractive. At the same time, the habit of reading the Scriptures in early youth, before the mind is sufficiently matured to appreciate their peculiar beauties, and, more especially, the praca tice of making them a book of eleinentary instruction in reading, must bave a tendency to produce a degree of inattention, and to render the mind insensible to the fresbness and originality of the style. A ripened understanding may, in part, correct this evil; yet, it is, we apprebend, with the youthful reader, a difficuli task to sit down to the study of the Scriptures with a mind as keenly alive to their beauties, and as free from previously formed habits of inattention, as when engaged in the perusal of the literary productions of the day. Hence, the very same facts when presented in a different form, may probably arouse that attention, and excite ibat curiosity which would otherwise have lain dormant, and thus counteract the prepossessions of an ill-conducted education, by leading to the study of the sacred volume with ardour and perseverance.
The work before us, of which we noticed some time ago the first two volumes, is professedly' adapted to juvenile readers,' and as such, it is entitled to indulgence. We could wish, however, that the subjects noticed had been treated in a way inore calculated to call forth the intellectual energies of its youthful readers. A wide field was opened before the Author, and it would have been easy to make the discussions bear more directly on some of the grand questions of theology, as well as to employ more copiously the aids of Biblical criticism, or to illustrate the narratives by references to oriental history, customs, and manners. For instance, in noticing the Temptation, the
marriage at Cana,' the cure of demoniacs,' 'it would have been advisable to make a more explicit reference to the various opinions entertained with regard to those parts of the Scripture narrative, and to mention the grounds of the more probable interpretation. The sketch given of the Resurrection, comes. nearest to our idea ; yet, even in this instance, the enumeration of the evidences, though comprehensive, is neither so clear por so forcible as, with a very sligbt research, it might have been rendered.
Had this course been adopted, we tbink that a double advantage would bave been secured. - The book would not bave been confined to "juvenile readers,' but would have interested and instructed the middling classes of society generally, by presenting some of the most important and most pleasing topics of theological truth in a popular form ; and it would have called into exercise the mental powers of the young, for whom it is principally adapted. The grand requisite is, to destroy habits of inattention in young persons, and to make them think ; and we believe that if young people were treated more as men, and less as children, this desirable effect would be in great measure produced. No method is more fitted for accomplishing this objeci than, in books written for them, touching just so far upon points of inquiry and of speculation, as will render some degree of application necessary, and produce a desire for further information.
Probably, the venerable Author intended by this little work, to afford the benefit and pleasure of instruction to that oume rous description of young people, whose limited information would leave them incapable of following him into a more literary path. Much instruction may be derived from it, and there is an unaffectedness in the style which it is but justice to commend. Above all, a spirit of ardent piety and of tender solicitude for the best interests of the rising generation, breathes in every page. It is peculiarly pleasing to observe an aged minister, who has passed through the long stages of a protracted life, and whose “ houry bead is a crown of glory," who has warred 8" good warfare, and is fast verging to the confines of immortality, where his toils will be rewarded with unfading honours, dedicating the last of bis mental energies to those who are entering upon
the career of active life, and who are soon to fill up the stations which the “ fathers in Israel" bave vacated. Such a spectacle does the estimable Writer of these volumes present. We give, one quotation, selected rather for its brevity thad as being superior to other portions of the work. " THE GENERAL CHARACTER OF CHRIST AS A TEACHER.
• No trumpet-found at his approach,
Shall wound the wond'ring ears;
In which the God appears.
• The venerable Author expired suddenly on New Year's day.
! By his kind hand the shaken reed:
Shall raise its falling frame;
LOGAN. When we rise from the perusal of the most celebrated writers, either of ancient or of modern times, and turn to the pages of the evangelic narrative, we find ourselves in a new world. A new creation rises up around us; and we listen to a mode of instruction very different , from any thing to which we have ever attended before. From the whole of the sacred history we feel convinced, there must have been something in the manner as well as in the matter of our Lord's teaching, which produced such a peculiar charm upon the minds of his hearers. It was not so much he that spoke as all nature uttering her voice. Every sight they saw, every sound they heard, the birds of the air, and the beasts of the field, and the lilies of the valley, the Heavens and the Earth, the joys of the blessed and the torments of the simuer--all from his lips became vocal. It was a living picture of the most interesting and ever-varying images, which were continually passing before the mind. Besides this, from his very forcible appeals to the heart and conscience, he made his audience instructors of themselves. We do not then wonder that they marvelled at him, for “ his word was with power."
• An attentive reader of the Gospel history must have noticed, that our blessed Lord generally draws his instructions from the conversation that is passing, or the objects that surround him, or from the various occurrences of life.
.“ When he exhorted his disciples to trust in God, he directed them to the fowls of the air, wbich were then flying about, and were fed by Divine Providence, though they did not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns: and he bade them take notice of the lilies of the field, which were then blown, and were so beautifully clothed by the same power, and yet toiled not like the husbandmen, who were then at work. Being in a place where they had a wide prospect of a cultivated field, he bade them observe how God caused the sun to shine and the rain to desceud upon the fields and gardens, even of the wicked and ungrateful. And he continued to convey his doctrine to them under rural images ; speaking of good trees and corrupt trees; of wolves in sheep's clothing ; of grapes not growing upon thorns, nor fiys on thistles; of the folly of casting precious things to dogs and swine; of good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over. When he was speaking to fishermen, whose families lived much upon fisb, he says,
What man or you will give his son a serpent, if he ask a fish? And when, in the same discourse to his disciples, be compared every person, who observed his precepts, to a man who built his house upon a rock, which stood firm; and every one, who slighted his word, to a man who built his house upon the sand, which was thrown down by the winds and floodswhen he used this comparison, it is not improbable, that he had before his eyes houses standing upon high ground, and house's standing in the
Vol. XVII. N. S.
valley, in a ruinous condition, which had been destroyed by inundations."
Most highly beneficial will these observations be, if young people, after their perusal, read the Gospels with a new interest, which they never felt before, and think it their highest honour, like Mary, to sit at Jesus' feet, and hear his words.' pp. 13—17.
Art. XII. Third Report of the Committee of the Society for the In
provement of Prison Discipline and for the Reformation of Juvenil
Offenders. With an Appendix. 8vo. pp. 228. Price 3s. 1821. WE have repeatedly called the attention of our readers to the
important subject of Prison Discipline, as one which loudly demanded the attention of the public. It is with the bigbest satisfaction that we now refer them to this very interesting Report, as a body of evidence fully establishing the principles ou which the necessity and the practicability of a reform in the existing system were contended for. No subject connected with our domestic policy is of more intrinsic and permanent interest. But the labours of this Society have not stopped short at the melioration of prison discipline in our own country. They have availed themselves of every opportuvity of circulating informa tion on the subject in foreign countries. In the Russian capital, , an institution denominated the Society for the Care of Prisons, was formed in 1819, under the immediate patronage and by a decree of the Emperor, which owes its establishment to the in: defatigable exertions of an invaluable member of their Com, mittee, now no more, Mr. Walter Venning, whose name pos. terity will associate with those of Howard and Wilberforce among the illustrious benefactors of mankind.
An auxiliary Prison Society bas since been formed at Cronstadt under the Imperial patronage. In Sweden and Norway, the cause of prison discipline has also made some way, and is likely to prosper. In France, a “ Royal Society for the Melioration of Prisons," was established in 1819, of wbich the King is the Prosector, and the present Report comprises some interesting particulars relative to its proceedings. In Switzerland, considerable exertions have been made for the improvement of prisons, and a great desire is manifested by all classes of society to further the de, sign. In the Canton of Bernie and in the Pays de Vaud, new prisons are to be erected, and at Geneva, a house of correction is to be built, for which ile Committee have furnished planş. A pampblet in French, entitled “ Observations on the Prisons of « Switzerland,” with a translation of Mr. Buxton's work oli prison discipline, and the Report of the Ladies' Committee of Newgate, has been extensively circulated throughout. France, Switzerfand, and Italy; and the Committee espress their sau
guine hope, that both in the dominions of the King of Sardinia and in the kingdom of Wurtemberg, the state of the prisons will speedily andergo most important improvements. A commission to investigate the state of the gaols in the forinei of these states, has been given to Comte D'Agelio, a nobleman who has very warmly at heart the improvement of the criminal.
In the prison at Turin, where the prisoners were crowded, exposed to the excesses of heat and cold, without allowance of clothes or the means of employment, and where one third of the number were on the sick list, a Lady of rank, urged by the example of a distinguished female in this country, was found labouring alone, giving work and providing clothes for the prisoners, allowing them a portion of their earnings till they left the prison, ministering to their bodily wants, and extending to them the consolations of religion."
This is an imperfect outline of the attention which has been excited by the Society, and the success of their labours in foreign countries, where the sum of bunan misery which they have been instrumental in preventing or alleviating, is immense. Some of the instances of heroic philanthropy which are recorded in these pages, may serve to teach us, that Protestant Eugland is not, however, the monopolist of generous deeds and Christ-like charities. The Report of the Paris Society holds up as an example to chaplains of prisons, the excellent Perè Jonssony, wbo, • being sent by the Consul at Algiers, to minister to the slaves, fixed his residence in their prison, and during a period of thirty years, never quitted his post. Being compelled to repair to France for a short period, he returned again to the prison, and at length resigned his breath in the midst of those for whose interests he had laboured, and who were dearer to him than life.'
Let our guinea and ten guinea philanthropists learn from such an instance as this, to estimate the true value and merit of their contrjbutions to the cause of benevolence.
At hoine, improvements in the construction and management of gaols have been effected to a great extent, and the magistrates generally, much to their honour, have warmly seconded the views of the Committee. The Report states that the spirit
with wbich exertions have been made to introduce labour into prisons, has been highly gratifying.' The following particulars are given in order to furnish the reader with a general idea of the trades and occupations at whịch the prisoners have been employed.
At the new house of correction at Bedford, very considerable altera. tions and additions are making, and a stepping-mill' is building, in which the prisoners are to be employed, in separate classes. In the county gaol also, employment is provided by the establishment of a mill,