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REVIEW OF ABBOTT'S YOUNG CHRISTIAN.
1. The young Christian, or a familiar Illustration of the Principles of the
Christian Religion. By JACOB ABBOTT, Principal of the Mount Vernon School, Boston (United States); abridged. Reprinted by the Reli
gious Tract Society. London. 1833. 2. The same Work, with a Preface and Corrections. By the Rev. J. W.
CUNNINGHAM, M.A. London. 1833.
It is proof sufficient that there is somewhat remarkable in this American publication, that it has been promptly seized upon in the London bookmarket, and that two editions have come forth within a few days of each other; the one in a very neat and cheap, but slightly abridged shape, by the Paternoster-Row Religious Tract Society; the other, in a larger and more library-looking form, with a “preface and corrections" from the popular pen of the Vicar of Harrow. A book thus ushered in among us will undoubtedly command a large circulation; and we shall not therefore think it needful to devote many of our pages to review it, since not a few of our readers will be able to review it for themselves. We, however, quite concur in Mr. Cunningham's statement, relative to the very natural, original, simple, yet striking character of the work, and its great utility, especially for young persons. We do not however, concur in his view of the dryness and unattractiveness of Doddridge's “ Rise and Progress.” Few books have more powerfully interested innumerable readers, including not a few who were induced to commence the perusal of it, with no particular taste for such a kind of reading. It does not indeed abound, like Mr. Abbott's work, in entertaining, and generally very felicitous narratives and illustrations ; and to the feelings of the author of De Rancé, Sancho, the Velvet Cushion, and a World without Souls, it may therefore very naturally appear defective; but to readers of less exuberant imagination, this perhaps is no great loss; and much as we esteem Mr. Abbott's work, we have not the slightest notion that it will ever rival Dr. Doddridge's. Mr. Cunningham however, does not under-rate the intrinsic value and usefulness of the Rise and Progress, for he says:
“ The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, by Dr. Doddridge, is one of the very few books in the language which enter upon the subject systematically ; and perhaps no uninspired work in our language has been so largely blessed, to the conversion of sinners, and the establishment of unsettled minds. And yet it appears to me to be, though highly valuable, by no means a complete work. It is singularly barren of imagery, and sheds the light of illustration on scarcely a single page. Its statements are rarely calculated to touch the deeper springs of feelings in the human mind. The exhibition of religion has sometimes a character of severity; so that persons of a tender spirit often rise up, from the perusal of it, rather wounded than improved : a work was wanting, and though Mr. Abbott's is designed to fill up a little corner of the chasm in this species of writing, a work is still wanting, wbich would not merely reach the heart of the noviciate (novice ; apprentice, apprenticeship ; prebendary, prebend; novice, noviciate,] in religion, but heal it; would mitigate by solemn touch, the troubled mind;' and tenderly draw those into the arms of the Redeemer, whom force is more likely to repel from his embrace." Cunningham's edition, Preface, p. iv.
In proof of the interesting character of Mr. Abbott's work, we shall quote a few pages as a specimen. The first chapter will furnish us with a long consecutive extract excellently suited to our purpose, and we need add nothing to it, to bear out our recommendation. Our only difficulty is to know which copy to quote from ; for though we have two editions, neither gives the exact text of the author; the one professing to be "abridged," and the other “corrected ;" so that we are frequently at a Cuden Onarny No 275
loss to know what are Mr. Abbott's own words, and to ascertain whether the abridgments are judicious, and the “corrections” are entitled to that name. To get as near the truth as we can, we shall quote word for word from the Tract Society's edition, inserting in crotchets' and italios the readings of Mr. Cunningham's edition, when they differ from the other; which will enable the reader to judge for himself of the comparative editorial merits of the two. Where a word or passage appears in the tract edition which is omitted in Mr. Cunningham's, it will be marked in small capitals.
“I wish, in this first chapter, to point out to my reader, something in the nature and effects of confession, which every one has perhaps, at some time, experienced, but which few sufficiently consider-I mean its power to bring peace and happiness to the heart. But to make myself clearly understood, I must suppose a case.
“ Two youths (boys), on a pleasant winter afternoon (evening), ask their father to permit them to go out upon the river to skate. The father hesitates, because though, within certain limits, he knows there is no danger, yet he is aware that above a certain turn of the stream, the current is rapid and the ice consequently thin. At last, bowever, he says, “You may go, but you must on no account go above the bend.'
“ The youths (boys) accept the condition, and are soon among their twenty companions shooting swiftly over the smooth black ice, sometimes gliding in graceful carves before the bright fire which they have built in the middle of the stream, and sometimes sailing away into the dim distance in search of new and unexplored regions.
“ Presently a plan is formed by the other youths (boys) for going in a cheerful company, far up the stream, to explore its shores, and then return again in half an hour to their fire. Our two youths (boys) sigh to think of their father's prohibition to them. They faintly and hesitatingly hint that the ice may not be strong enough, but their caution has no effect upon their comrades, and the whole set forth, and soon are flying with full speed towards the limit prescribed. Our youths (boys) think they may safely accompany them till they reach the boundary which they are forbidden to pass; but while they do so, they become animated and intoxicated with the motion and the scene. They feel a little foreboding as they approach the line, but as it is not definitely marked, they do not abruptly stop. They fall a little in the rear, and see whirling through the bend of the river the crowd of their companions; and, after a moment's hesitation, they follow on. The spot once past, their indecision vanishes; they press forward to the foremost rank-forget their father, their promise, their danger. God protects them, however. They spend the half hour in delight, return down the river to their fire, and, at the close of the evening, they take off their skates, and step upon the firm ground, and walk towards their home.
“The enjoyment is now over, and the punishment is to come. What punishment? I do not mean that their father will punish them. He knows nothing of it. He trusts his boys, and, confiding in their promise, he will not ask them whether they have kept it. They have returned safely, and the forbidden ice over which they have passed never can speak to tell of their disobedience. Nor do I mean the punishment which God will inflict in another world upon undutiful children. I mean another quicker punishment, and which almost always comes after transgression. And I wish my young readers would think of this more than they do. I mean the loss of peace of mind.
"As the boys approach their father's dwelling, unless their consciences have become seared by oft-repeated transgression, their hearts are filled with uneasiness and foreboding care. They will walk silently. As they enter the house, they shrink from their father's eye. He looks pleased and happy at their safe return. But they turn away from him as soon as they can, and prefer going to another room, or in some other way avoiding his presence. Their sister, perhaps, in the gaiety and happiness of her heart, tries to talk with them about their evening's enjoyment, but they wish to turn the conversation. In a word, their peace of mind is gone, and they shrink from every eye, and wish to go as soon as possible to bed, that they may be unseen and forgotten.
« If they have been taught to fear God, they are not happy here. They dare not (strange infatuation !) repeat their evening prayer; as if they supposed they could escape God's notice, by neglecting to call upon him. At last, however, they sink to sleep. .."The next morning they awake with tbe customary cheerfulness of youth (childhood), until, as they look forth from their window, they see the clear ice-bound stream which tempted them to sin, winding its way among the trees. They say nothing, but each feels guilty and sad. They meet their father and mother with clouded hearts, and every object at all connected with their transgression, awakens the remorse which destroys their happiness. They carry thus about with them a wearisome (weary) and heavy burden.
“I suppose that in such cases, most boys OR YOUTHS would continue to bear this burden, until at last they became insensible to it, that is until conscience becomes seared. But though by habit in sin the stings of remorse might (may) be blunted, YET (real) peace never would be felt (return). By repeating transgression a great many times, we all come at last to feel a general and settled uneasiness of heart, which is a constant burden. Ask such an individual if he is unhappy. He (perhaps) tells you—No. He means, however, that he is not particularly unhappy just at that time. His burden is so uniform and constant, that he comes to consider it at last as a necessary part of his existence. He bas no knowledge of (has lost all recollection of) what pure peace and happiness are. A man who has lived long by a waterfall, at last becomes so habituated to the noise, that silence seems a strange luxury to him. So multitudes, who have had an unquiet conscience for their familiar companion for many years, without a single interval of repose, when they at last come and confess their sins, and (through the mercy of God) find peace and happiness, are surprised and delighted with the new and strange sensation."
“ This peace cannot come by habit in sin. A seared hardened conscience is not a relieved one. But what is the way by which peace of mind is to be restored in such a case as the above? It is a very simple way. I wish it was more generally understood and practised (upon).
“ Suppose one of these youths should say to himself, some day as he is walking alone, * I am not happy, and I have not been happy since I disobeyed my father on the ice. I was very foolish to do that, for I have suffered more since that time, than ten times as much pleasure would be worth. I am resolved to go and confess the whole to my father, and ask him to forgive me, and then I shall be happy again.'
“ Having resolved upon this, he seeks the very first opportunity to relieve his mind. He is walking, we will imagine, by the side of his father, and for several minutes he hesitates, knowing not how to begin. He makes however at last the effort, and says in a sorrowful tone— Father, I have done something very wrong. What is it, my son ?' He hesitates and trembles, and after a moment's pause, says, 'I am very sorry that I did it.'
« • My son,' says the father, “I have observed, for a day or two, that you have not been happy, and you are evidently unhappy now. I know that you must have done something wrong. But you may do just as you please about telling me what it is. If you freely confess it, and submit to the punishment, whatever it may be, you will be happy again ; if not, you will continue to suffer. Now you may do just as you please.' * "* Well, father, I will tell you all. Do you remember that you gave us leave to go upon the river and skate the other evening?' “Yes. “Well, I disobeyed you, and went upon THAT PART OF the ice where you told us not to go. I have been unhappy ever since, and I resolved to-day, that I would come and tell you, and ask you to forgive me.'
“I need not detail the conversation that would follow. But there is not a child among the hundreds, and perhaps thousands, who will read this chapter, who does not fully understand, that by such a confession the lad (boy) will relieve himself of his burden, restore peace to his mind, and go away from his father with a light and happy heart. He will no more dread to meet him, and to hear the sound of his voice. He can now be bappy with his sister again, and look upon the beautiful stream winding in the valley, without feeling his heart sink within him under a sense of guilt, while all the time, perhaps, his brother, who would not come and acknowledge his sin, has his heart still darkened, and his countenance made sad by the gloomy recollection of unforgiven sin. Yes, confession of sin has an almost magic power in restoring peace of mind.
“God (Providence) seems to bave implanted this principle in the human heart, for the express purpose of having us act upon it. He has so formed us, that when we have done wrong, we cannot feel at peace again, until we have acknowledged our wrong to the person against whom it was done. And this acknowledgment of it removes the uneasiness as effectually (as fire removes cold, or) as water extinguishes fire, IT OPERATES IN ALL CASES, SMALL AS WELL AS GREAT, AND IS INFALLIBLE IN ITS POWER. And yet how slowly do young persons, and even old persons learn to use it! The remedies for almost every outward (external) evil are soon discovered, and are at once applied; but the remedy for that uneasiness of mind which results from having neglected some duty, or committed some sin, and which consists in the first instance in simple confession of it to the person injured, how slowly is it learned, and how reluctantly practised!
" I once knew a boy who was intrusted with a letter to be carried to a distant place. On his way, or just after his arrival, in attempting to take the letter out of his pocket suddenly, he tore it completely in two. He was in consternation Wknt to do he did not know. He did not dare to carry the letter in its mangled condition, and he did not dare to destroy it. He did accordingly the most foolish thing he cruld dn; he kept it for many days, doubting and waiting, and feeling anxious and unhappy, wbenever it came in his sight. At last he thought that this was folly, and he took his letter, carried it to the person to whom it was addressed, saying—Here is a letter which I was entrusted with for you, and in taking it out of my pocket, I very carelessly tóre it in two. I am sorry for it, but I have no excuse to OFFER. The receiver of the letter said it was no matter, and the boy went home suddenly and entirely relieved. My reader will say, Why, this was a very simple way of getting over the difficulty. Why did not be think of it before? I know it was a simple way. The whole story is (80) simple, (that it is hardly dignified enough to introduce here) but it is true, and it exactly illustrates the idea I am endeavouring to enforce here, namely, that in little things, as well as in great things the confession of sin restores (has the strongest tendency to restore) peace of mind.
“I will now mention one other case which illustrates the same general truth, but which is in one respect VERY strikingly different from all the preceding.
“ A merchant was one morning sitting in his counting room, preparing for the busi. ness of the day, when his clerk (boy) entered with several letters from the post-office. Among them was one in a strange hand-writing, and with the words, “money enclosed,” written upon the outside. (As the merchant was not at that time expecting any money, his attention was first attracted to this letter.) He opened it, and read somewhat as follows:
“- , Jan. 4, 1831. « Sir-Some time ago I defrauded you of some money. You did not know it then, and I suppose you never would have known it, unless I had informed you. But I have had no peace of mind since it was done, and send you back the money in this letter. Hoping that God will forgive this and all my other sins,
“I am, yours." “ I remarked that this case was to be totally different from all the others in one respect. Reader, do you notice the difference? It consists in this, namely, that here not only was the sin confessed, but reparation was made. The man not only acknowledged the fraud, but he paid back the money. (Here comes in a paragraph to prove that it was the confession, not the reparation, that restored peace of mind.)
“ It is not probable that this confession was sufficient to make him perfectly happy again, because (among other things) it was incomplete (in its kind). The reparation was perfect, but the acknowledgment was not. The reader will observe that the letter has no name signed to it, and the merchant could not by any means discover who was the writer of it. Now if the man had honestly told the whole, if he had written his name and place of residence, and described fully all the circumstances of the original fraud, he would have been much more relieved. All confession which is intended to bring back peace of mind when it is gone, should be open and thorough. There are, indeed, many cases where, from peculiar circumstances in such a case as this, it is not the duty of the individual, PERHAPS NOT EVEN DESIRABLE FOR HIM to give his name. This, however, does not affect the general principle, that the more full and free the confession is, the more perfect will be the restoration of peace.
“So strongly is this principle fixed by the Creator in the human heart, that men • who have committed crimes to which the laws of the land annex the most severe public punishments, after enduring for some time in secrecy the remorse which crime almost always brings, have at last (in some cases) openly come forward and surrendered themselves to the magistrate and acknowledged their guilt, and have felt their hearts relieved and lightened ( felt themselves gainers) by receiving an ignominious public punishment, in exchange for the inward tortures of remorse. Even murderers (murderer) have been known to come forward to relieve the horrors of their souls by confession, though they know (aware) that this confession will chain them in a dark stone cell, and after a short but gloomy interval, bring them to the gallows (extend him in a coffin).
“My reader, you can try the power of confession, and enjoy the relief and happiness it will (has a tendency to bring, without paying such a fearful price as this, but these cases lead me to remark upon one other subject connected with confession--I mean punishment. Sometimes, as I before remarked, when a person confesses some wrong, he brings himself under the necessity of repairing the injury done, and at other times of submitting to punishment. Parents, sometimes, forgive their children when they have done wrong, if they will only confess it; and though this ought sometimes to be done, there is yet great danger that children, in such cases, will soon acquire a babit of doing wrong, and then coming to confess it with a careless air, as if it was not of much consequence, or rather as if confessing the sin destroyed it, and left them perfectly innocent.
“I should think, on this account, that the father whose sons (boys) had disobeyed him on the ice, would be much at a loss to know what to do, after one of his boys had so frankly acknowledged it. I can suppose him saying to his son, · Well, my son, I am glad you have freely told me all about this. You did very wrong, and I am very much at a loss to know what I ought to do. I will consider it, and speak to you by and by about it. In the mean time you may be assured that I forgive you from my heart, and if I should conclude to do any thing farther, it will not be because I am now displeased, but because I wish to save you effectually from the penalty of) doing wrong in future.
“ When the father is left alone to muse by himself upon the subject, we may imagine him to be thinking as follows:-'Well, I should not have thought that my boys would have broken their promise, and disobeyed me. I wonder if my eldest boy disobeyed also. The youngest only spoke of himself, shall I ask him?_No. Each shall stand on independent ground. If the other sinned too, he too may come voluntarily and obtain (seek) peace by confession, or he must continue to bear the tortures of self-reproach. And now if I take no farther notice of the transgression, which is already acknowledged, I am afraid that my son will the next time yield more easily to temptation, thinking that he has only to acknowledge it to be forgiven. Shall I forbid their skaiting any more this winter? or for a month? or shall I require them, every time they return to give me an exact account of where they have been ? I wish I could forgive and forget it entirely, but I am afraid I ought not.
“ Thus he would be perplexed; and if he was a wise parent, and under the influence of Christian (moral) principal, and not of mere parental feeling, he would probably do something more than merely to pass it by. The boy would find that confession to such a father is not merely nominal, that it brings with it inconvenience, or depri. vation of enjoyment, or perhaps positive punishment. Still he would rejoice in the opportunity to acknowledge bis sins; for the (temporary) loss of a little pleasure, or the suffering of punishment, he would feel to be a very small price to pay for returning peace of mind, and he would fly to confession, as a refuge from self-approach, whenever he had done wrong.
“Let the parents or the teachers who may read this take this view of the nature of confession, and practise upon it in their intercourse with their children and their pupils. Let them meet them kindly, when they come forward to acknowledge their faults. Sympathize with them in the struggle, which you know they must make at such a time, and consider how strong the temptation was which led them to sin. And in every thing of the nature of punishment which you inflict, be sure the prevention of future guilt is your sole motive, and not the gratification of your own present feeling of displeasure. If this is done, those under your care will soon value confession as a privilege, and will often seek in it a refuge from inward suffering.
" Yes, an opportunity to acknowledge wrong of any kind, is a great privilege, and if any of my readers are satisfied that what I have been advancing on this subject is true, I hope they will prove by experiment the correctness of these principles. Almost every person has at all times some little sources (causes) of uneasiness upon bis mind. They are not very well defined in their nature and cause, but still they exist, and they very much disturb his (the) bappiness. Now if you look within long enough to seize hold of, and examine these feelings of secret uneasiness, you will find that, in almost every (many) case, they are connected with something wrong which you have done. That anxious brow of yours then is clouded with remorse; we call it by soft names, as cares, solicitude, perplexity; but it is generally (often) a slight remorse, so weak as not to force its true character upon your notice, but yet strong enough to destroy peace of mind. A great deal of what is called depression of spirits, arises from this source. There are duties, which you do not faithfully discharge, or inclinations, which you habitually indulge, which, you know, ought to be denied. Con. science keeps up, therefore, a continual murmur, but she murmurs so gently, that you do not (perhaps) recognize her voice, and yet it destroys your rest. You feel restless and unhappy, and wonder what can be the cause.
“Let no one now say, or even suppose, that I think (conceive) that all the depres. sion of spirits which exists in human hearts is (to be) nothing but a secret sense of conscious guilt. I know that there is real solicitude about the future, unconnected with remorse for the past, and there is often a sinking of the spirits in disease, which moral remedies will not touch. These cases are, however, comparatively few. A far greater proportion of the restlessness and of the corroding cares of human hearts are produced, or at least very much aggravated, by being connected with guilt.
“I suppose some of my readers are going over these pages only for amusement. They will be interested, perhaps, in the illustrations, and if of -mature or cultivated minds, in the point to which I am endeavouring to make them tend. I am afraid, however, that there are few who are reading really and honestly for the sake of moral improvement. To those few, however, I would now say: Do you never feel unquiet in spirit, restless or sad? Do you never experience a secret uneasiness of heart, of which you do not know the exact cause, but which destroys, or at least disturbs your peace? If you do, take this course. Instead of flying from those feelings when they come into your heart, advance boldly to meet them. Grasp and examine them. Find (discover) their cause. You will find, in nine instances out of ten, that their cause is something wrong in your own conduct or (and) character. Young persons will generally find something wrong towards their parents. Now go and confess these faults. Do not endeavour to palliate or excuse them, but endeavour on the other hand to see their worst side, and if you confess them (to God and man) freely and fully, and resolve, in reliance on (uniler) Divine grace, to sin no more, peace will return, at least so far as these causes have banished it from our heart.” pp. 1–13.