Candles in the Night

Candles in the Night -- No. 6

God has always reserved for Himself men and women who would minister to every need of His children. The history of the Christian church abounds in lov­ing humanitarian service. No need has been overlooked and no area excluded. This was true when Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845), a Quaker minister, became burdened for the inmates of Newgate Prison in London.

I WAS in prison, and ye came unto me" (Matt. 25:36). God has always reserved for Himself men and women who would minister to every need of His children. The history of the Christian church abounds in lov­ing humanitarian service. No need has been overlooked and no area excluded. This was true when Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845), a Quaker minister, became burdened for the inmates of Newgate Prison in London.

Having been granted permission, she entered the institution to pray with the women. She felt she had entered a den of wild beasts. Three hundred women with their children were crowded into four small rooms. They had no beds, bedding, or extra clothing. They had no real employment and were unclassified. In these crowded quarters, lacking ventilation, they lived, cooked, slept, and washed. Odors were foul and the language was obscene. At the window gratings of the prison the women begged of passers-by the shillings they would soon spend to buy liquor in the taproom. This was their only recreation. In those days prisons lacked supervision and standards.

It was no fleeting fancy that envisioned these motley, judgment-bound creatures trans-formed into better specimens of society. The grace of God stirred Elizabeth Fry and eleven Quaker women to organize "The Association for the Improvement of the Female Prisoner in Newgate." They saw in those degraded out­casts an occasional spark that might be fanned into a flame for a clean and profitable life. It meant more than teaching the Bible to these women inmates; clothing must also be pro­vided, and training in a new way of life. To establish habits of law and order, sobriety and industry, required courage and patience on the part of Christian workers. This small band must be expanded by many of the privileged rich, who would share the same interest in the needs of their neglected fellow citizens. First of all, those behind locked doors and barred win­dows must be visited by those who had influ­ence and power to change their soul-destroying prison conditions.

The success of this humble prison reform was dramatic. It soon attracted the attention of England's civil servants. Here was a band of a dozen women with a real sense of practical godliness. They undertook drastic reform meas­ures that became the basic formula for better penal institutions around the world.

Elizabeth Fry was a Bible instructor at heart. Removing her Quaker bonnet, she faced these now-curious women, who soon crowded around her. Anything for a change! might describe their attitude toward this "female reformer." Introducing her Bible study with Isaiah 53: 6, 7, "All we like sheep have gone astray," she revealed the One who would bear our iniqui­ties.

Here was no harsh condemnation but rather common ground for prisoners. Other scrip­tures included Psalm 24:3, 4; Psalms 27 and 69; and thoughts from Matthew 7 and the Sermon on the Mount. Christ's parable of the Vineyard, Matthew 20:1-16, provided an effec­tive climax, setting forth to all God's gifts of courage, justice, and holiness. This was a change for these women prisoners, and their children quieted down as they too sensed something different was happening that day.

Next, classrooms for the children were opened, and regular instruction periods were begun for their mothers. Then orderly matrons were trained to guide and supervise these out­casts. The love of God in the hearts of these Quaker leaders inspired Christian volunteer sendees, until prison areas underwent not merely reforms but drastic revolutions. A new day dawned for penal colonies everywhere.

After Elizabeth married Joseph Fry, a prom­inent, wealthy Quaker merchant in the East India Company, their large home became a meeting place for Quakers. It sheltered large groups when Christian hospitality was called for. By nature Elizabeth was a gracious hostess. Eleven children came to their home, seven re­ceiving interesting Bible names, but not one prevented Elizabeth from doing her work for prisoners. The Frys were indeed a powerful team for prison reform. Later, when Joseph's business began to fail, they accepted their re­verses as God's providential leading to free them to do the work He had planned for them. More and more they spent their love, strength, and remaining means for the downtrodden.

Elizabeth believed in catching up with wick­edness and vice by finding ways to prevent it right at the base. Various projects followed the initial prison reforms, such as shelters for London's homeless, nurseries for the children, soup kitchens, warm-bedding stations, and employ­ment bureaus. The services of government of­ficials were sought and obtained. Soon the Sis­ters of Devonshire Square came into being, a pioneer school for training nurses to care for the sick. Elizabeth Frv succeeded in glorifying such humanitarian service in the. eyes of the snobbish. In the spirit of the Master she taught that the greatest was he who served the lowest. The Frys often regretted that talented and privileged women would want to waste their time in entertainment and entertaining. Serv­ice for the less privileged and a selfless philan­thropy was now popularized.

When Elizabeth's lifework was drawing to a close she gathered her six daughters, her five daughters-in-law, five sons, and twenty-five grandchildren to her bedside. Warning them against the love of riches, too many indul­gences, extravagances, and "vanity and immod­esty in dress," she pointed out to them that these were dangers that would quench God's Spirit. She reminded them that ever since God had touched her heart when she was seventeen years of age, with her first waking thought each day she had renewed her dedication to that task the Master had in mind for her. What a testimony of a useful life!

Seventh-day Adventist women are likewise committed to a great reform program. Has this prison work been overlooked by us? More and more our denominational journals are stimu­lating interest in such distinctive missions throughout the world. Hundreds more workers in this field should be inlisted, because the need today is greatly multiplied. Elizabeth Fry's work for prisoners in her day should be an in­spiration to the church today. There is dire need now for many more candles to be lighted in prisons where gloom and wickedness still exist. Also juvenile delinquency has progressed until it is out of bounds. In this connection the church needs more young couples to plan useful play and recreation for the children. Let us stand by our communities in the devel­opment of future citizens. Vice and wickedness must be prevented—and in the language of Elizabeth Fry—handled at the base. Are our shepherdesses ready for such important tasks?

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Deen, Edith. Great Women of the Christian Faith. New York: Harper and Brothers.

Froom, L. E. Harry Orchard. Nashville: Southern Publish-in? Association.

Holland, Norcen. "Inasmuch." Washington, D.C.: The Youth's Instructor, June 27. 1961.

Smith, Cecil Woodham. Florence Nightingale. New York: McGraw-Hill Company, Inc.

Tucker, Park. Prison Is My Parish. Westwood, N.J.: Flem­ing H. Revell Company.

 

Advertisement - RevivalandReformation 300x250

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus

April 1962

Download PDF
Ministry Cover

More Articles In This Issue

Pointers for Preachers

Machinery or Mission, Shepherding the Flock, "The Old Ring"

Freedom from Fear

A Bible study.

How to Work for Jehovah's Witnesses

It is just six years since I had the joy of seeing my first Jehovah's Witnesses family step out and accept the Advent mes­sage. Although this family had been connected to the Witnesses for more than eighteen years, and have relatives still in that organization, they are loyal Seventh-day Adventists today, actively working to spread the message for these days.

Ten Times to Call the Minister or an Elder

At our recent elders' coun­cil, we spent much time discussing ways in which we as ministers and local elders can be of greater help to our people.

Evangelism, 1962!

A new day is dawning for public evangelism! The idea that the day of the public meeting is past is being for­gotten and the vision of true evangelism is dawning again. Thank God for it!

The Message of the Empty Tomb

Christianity is founded upon an empty tomb." So said Thomas Payne in derision. But that scornful remark is a tremendous truth. Were there no empty tomb there would be no Christian church.

An Indispensable Element in Worship

Music has proved to be an indispensable element in religious services, as an adjunct to worship as well as evangelism. It has proved to be a great source of contro­versy, probably because it is a property that belongs to everyone, not just a few. Music has been called the "handmaiden of religion," and is used as a vehicle for the expression of man's religious spirit.

The Breaking of Bread in Acts 20:7-11

In meeting the argument that Acts 20:7-11 proves that Christians observed Sunday as a sacred day in apostolic times, a few of our ministers have denied, sometimes even in print, that Paul and the believers at Troas partook of the Communion, or Lord's Supper, on that occasion. However sincere they may have been in using this counter argument, it is a mistaken one in so far as Seventh-day Adventist teaching is concerned. Hence we deem it fitting to caution our workers that such a position is not only untenable, but it may also result in embarrassment both to him who uses it and to the cause that he represents.

"Unto the High Place"

What are the conditions in our day that will cause our wayward and confused young people to come to us for help? There must be a way to span the barrier that too often exists between the pastor and the youthful members of his flock.

Some Books I Can Recommend

Book recommendations from Lyndon K. McDowell.

Great Words of the Bible—No. 9: Atonement (c)-"Kopher" and "Lutron"

The thought of covering, which the previous article showed to be a valid meaning of the word so often translated "to make an atonement," is continued in the words related to kaphar.

We Don't Make the Rules

The modern disposition to soften the judgments of God by trying to change the rules may prove to be an extremely costly experiment in morals. And in view of the desperate struggle in which we are en­gaged, it ill behooves us to make mistakes.

Conservative or Contemporary Church Style?

There are various views on church architecture. Some­times we present viewpoints that are regarded as modern­istic, sometimes the conservative angle is presented. The author of this article gives his views as a contribution to the important subject of church architecture, so vital to many of our readers.

Are You Satisfied With Your Life?

A sermon given in the Temple City church, Glendale, California.

Righteousness by Faith: Concluded

The Master's pronouncements are all master statements, infinitely profound, yet marvelously simple. His meaning is clear: I am your spiritual life. Attached to Me, your life is clean and your witness faithful. Apart from Me, you can do nothing.

The New Being

To have a complete idea of Pauline doc­trine, the new creation and its implications must be understood.

The Man Who Lived Again

The resurrection, mentioned 104 times in the New Testament, became the central doctrine of the early church—a cornerstone of Christianity. May the same great power be upon Christ's ministers today as they bear wit­ness of the resurrection.

View All Issue Contents

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up
Advertisement - Southern Adv Univ 180x150 - Animated

Trending

Recent issues

See All
Advertisement - Healthy and Happy Family - Skyscraper 160x600