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(Rlamorjan, in o it lit o…

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BILL FOR REGULATING PRISONS. To the Editor of the Record. SIR,—I am anxious to call public attention to the following clause in the Bill for the better ordering of prisons which I understand is to be read a second time in the House of Commons next Friday the 15th instant. And be it enacted, That in every prison in which the average number of prisoners professing any one and the same religion differing from that of the Established Church, confined at one time during the three preceding years shall not have been le-s than fifty, it shall be lawful for the justices or other per- sons having- the appointment of the chaplain of such prison, if they shall see fit, to appoint and remove at pleasure a teacher or clergyman, acting as such at the time of such appointment in some chapel duly registered as a piice of religious worship, of the reHgion of such prisoners, for the instruction and spiritual assistance of such prisoners solely, and for the persons having the control of the funds applica- ble to the expences ot such prison, to fix the salary to be paid to such teacher or clergyman, and to make order for the payment thereof out of the funds appli- cable to those expenses." This or a similar provision passed the Commons last session, but the Bill was thrown out in the Lords, though only by a majority of one. Should it become law, which it assuredly will unless strenu- ously resisted, it will involve the most serious con- sequences. In the first place, to say nothing of its injurious effect upon the discipline of our prisons, it is entirely detrimental to the principles of an Established Church, inasmuch as it not only admits, but endows religious teachers of all denominations, provided there be fifty prisoners of any such denomination at one time within any gaol in the kingdom, and pro- vided such a measure seem good to the justices or others in authority. When we consider the compre- hensive nature of such an enactment, introducing, as it will, not only Dissenting ministers who may be sound in their views as to the great fundamentals of Christianity, but also Roman Catholic priests and Socinian teachersf and indeed, for anything that ap. pears to the contrary, Jewish rabbies, or even the missionaries of infidelity itseif, under the specious tille of Socialism it is impossible to exaggerate the mischief certain to ensue from such dangerous and anti-scriptural legislation. It is one thing to tolerate error by admitting, at the discretion of those in authority, the attendance of a priest or other teacher of religion, but it is another thing to give a national sanction to error by endowing itg and affording its propagators the same opportunities of instruction as belong to the clergy of the National Church. Not to take the worse case that might be supposed, imagine for a moment a very probable one, the introduction of a priest and a Socinian teacher, toge- ther with the authorized chaplain, Into one of our gaols. Observe them in different cells, or sometimes in the same cell or day room, visiting the prisoners of their own creed. Then follow them at tbeir res- pective hours of public instruction to the chapel, and hear Popery, Protestantism, and Semi-infidelity suc- cessively inculcated upon their respective auditories. And who are the parties for whom so vitaj a conces- sion is to be made? The inmates of a gaol, whose prejudices are rarely consulted on any subject who are often the worst of characters, and who, to say the least of it, had much better be taught the great fun- damental truths and duties of Christianity, than be initiated into the nicities of theological con- troversy,- persons who of all others need the A B C of religion, and the simple preaching of that Gospel which is common to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, rather than the repudiated sub tleties either of Rome on the one hand, or of a philosophy, falsely so called, on the other. Neither, as far as I am aware,do persons in such circumstances __e. -1. -I' -I-- _JI_ of attending the prayers and instruction ordinarily provided. II) the Bridewell sit uated iu my oWn parish, I have had not only Presbyterians and Dis- senters of all descriptions, but Roman Ciitholic. Jew. and I dare say Sociniati,4 also, under my mid,try, alld alllonst, my most attentive hearers, and have hoped that by just preaching the Gospel in it$great leading peculiarities, the knowledge, and perhaps the reception of the truth, simply and is-.)- controversially proclaimed, has been promoted- All this, however, Lj seemsJ is to cease and determine by the Bill under and teachers of every description, whether for good or evil, whether for Christianity or against it, are to be appointed to certain prisoners in our gao's, and to be allowed to propagate errors which have been resisted to the death, or even to undermine Christianity itself by an open advocacy of the most heretical opinions. The consequeuces of such a measure, however, would not and could not be confined to our prisons, for once admit the principle, that a given number of persons of any r. ligion are to be entitled to a teacher at the. public expense, aud apply it to a gaol, and you immediately furnish an a fortiori argument for its universal adoption. If you tyrant Ihe illcluleoce to the criminal, how cau you refuse it to the inno- cent f Once allow it in a prison, and upon what imaginable plea can you disallow it in a parish? I do not therefore ollly oppose this proposition because there happens to be a prison in my own parish, but because I believe it to-be-one-detrimental to the Church and also to the Chri-siiatiity of the empire. I trust, therefore, the clause will- be resisted by petition, and that instantly, by the country at large, before it goes into Committee in the 'House of Commons, and should our prayer be refused, that we shall apply by the same mode to the House of Lords to shield us from so daugerous a proceeding. Sure I am that if it was necessary to oppose, as was recently done, the schemes of-iation-al education which were barely suspected to e.iist, it is far more necessary to use every constitutional method of withstanding in limine an enactment, which in its principles and in its consequences goes to endotv error as well as truth out of the"national, purse. It would be better far to endow nothing than to endow everything; better far to dismiss the present chaplains, and leave the inmates of such institutions to the operation of the voluntary principle, than to introduce such a chaos of instruction and to uphold the sceptical sentiment, that "Truth lies somewhere, if we knew but where." Better far to test the celebrated adajre, "Mana est Veritas et prEevaiebit," than to force as in a hot-bed every noxious weed that may disfigure and destroy the vineyard of the Lord. I am no party man, but a friend to all real improvements in ecclesiastical matters. I therefore rejoice that this is no party question, and trust it will be decided upon its real merits, I regret, however, to observe that in the last session, some of whom we might have hoped better things, not only voted, but spoke in favour of this destructive scheme. How is it that an appropriation clause can be denounced and re- sisted, and that most properly, session after session though it relates ollly to Ihe temporalities of the Church, whereas a question of this sort encounters but little opposition comparatively, though it inter- feres most seriously with those truths which alone invest our temporalities with importance? The question is, Have we a revelation from heaven, anti if we have, does it speak to "s intelligibly or not? If it does not (I say it with reverence) it is worse than a mockery, and if it docs, we are I)oti tid to carry the intelligence it conveys, and THAT ALONE, to every individual in the British empire. In compliance with your request I have endea- voured to compress my observations, but in so doing-, have, I fear, done injustice to a subject which the more it is investigated the worse will be the aspect which it presents to the Christian mind. I am, Sir, faithfully yours, ROBERT MONRO, Chaplain of Bridewell Hospital, and Minister of Bridewell Precinct. 14, Bridge street, March 13, 1839.


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