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May 31 1902


The Montreal Herald, Saturday, May 31, 1902

Playground Vs. Penitentiary

The Playgrounds' Association and a committee from the City Council are at present engaged in the task of improving the recreation facilities of the juvenile portion of the population of Montreal, and it is to be sincerely hoped that something substantial will be accomplished in the matter. There is no reason why most of the vacant lots in the city should not be utilized in this manner at a very small cost in proportion of the advantage gained.

The reason why the agitation of the matter should be left to a committee of ladies, however, is not equally clear, except that experience shows that the majority of citizens are not wont to become very much involved over anything which does not appear to directly concern their pockets or their personal comfort. I say directly, because, while playgrounds are less expensive to maintain than penitentiaries, and it is less disturbing to have a baseball thrown through one's window by day than a burglar by night, there are probably many people who have not taken the trouble to study the connection between these things. The necessity of wholesome exercise to physical well-being does not require to be demonstrated. Its importance in all-round mental development is also becoming pretty generally recognized by thinking people. It is seen that outdoor games, besides freshening and clearing the cobwebs from a boy's or man's brains, make him more alert, more resourceful, and more capable of acting with promptness and good judgment in an emergency, and that they strengthen in him the qualities of physical courage and self-control.

Baseball and Morals

These results are direct and apparent. What may be termed the moral results, while their connection is no less real, are less apparent because they involve the consideration of the way in which boys are inclined to spend their leisure hours, if not engaged in some legitimate and healthy form of recreation. Boys minds must be active, and ever group of boy friends which is without natural facilities for a good game of baseball, or its equivalent, is likely to spend a good part of the time loafing about and talking. The occupation looks harmless enough, but if a few hundred refined mothers of this city could hear about ten minutes of the conversation usually indulged in at those times by the "perfect little gentlemen" whom they are proud to call their sons, and from whose lips they may never have heard a profane or a coarse word, there would be an epidemic of nervous prostration in Montreal. I do not think that the boys with whom I was brought up in contact as a child were any worse than the average, and I have no reason for supposing that my own tastes were more than ordinarily vicious. But I sometimes feel as if I would give five years of my life if I could cleanse my memories of the moral filth, which I imbibed in this way before I was ten years old.

This is probably as far as the evil goes in cases where there are counteracting influences for good at home. But where the latter are absent, and even in some cases where they are not, words lead to deeds, and to the vice of impurity is added law-breaking and crime, and in the end the penitentiary is reached. The conclusion to be arrived at from all of which is that the playground may often preclude the penitentiary as a corrective of public morals.

Presbyterian Creed Revision

The revision of creed so unanimously adopted last week by the General Assembly of the American Presbyterian Church, while not directly affecting the Presbyterian Church in Canada, is yet of considerable interest in as much as it undoubtedly expresses in a general way the present views of Presbyterians as that so few alternatives are found today. The modifications made in the Westminster Confession of Faith are of four varieties: (1) Declaratory statements, safeguarding a correct understanding of the chapter on the divine decrees of election and reprobation, and of the section concerning the salvation of infants, which, it says, "is not to be regarded as teaching that any who die in infancy are lost." "We believe," it adds, "that all dying in infancy are included in the election of grace." (2) Recasting the section on the sinfulness of good works done by "unregenerate men," and substituting for the section which denounces the Pope as "Antichrist." (3) Omitting from the chapter on lawful oaths and vows the statement that "It is a sin to refuse any oath touching anything that is good and just when tendered by lawful authority." (4) Adding a new chapter, "Of the Holy Spirit," and another "Of the love of God and missions."

A Religious Polemic

The changes made, though important, are not numerous. In fact, when the spirit of the times in which it was written is considered, the wonder must be that so few alterations are found necessary today. Drawn up at a time when such a thing as toleration was scarcely dreamed of, and when it was merely a question of whether Roman Catholics or Protestants should have the upper hand, one is surprised at the tolerance of its views. When the council of divines was appointed by Cromwell's Parliament to draw up this statement of the Reformed Faith, the struggle between Romanism and Protestantism was the most vital issue of the day, and feeling ran high on both sides. The Confession of Faith was not framed merely as a guide for the belief and conduct of the faithful. It was a polemic to be hurled at the head of the Church of Rome, and as such it is to be expected that it would emphasize the points of difference rather than of agreement between the two faiths. And yet for all that it was singularly free from anything that savored of vituperation or of anathema upon those who differed from it.

Presbyterian Faith of To-Day

The most interesting part of the committee's work, however, was the preparation of "A Brief Statement of the Reformed Faith", which also receives the sanction of the Assembly. In so far as is possible in so brief a document, it is, I believe, a fair presentation of the principal views held and taught by Presbyterians to-day. While adhering faithfully to the fundamental principles of evangelical and Pauline Christianity, it breathes a spirit of liberality and indicates a breadth of view such as are keeping with these days of peace and illumination.

"Of the Church and the Sacraments," it says, "we believe in the Holy Catholic Church of which Christ is the only Head. We believe that the Church invisible consists of all the redeemed, and that the Church visible embraces all who profess the true religion together with their children. We receive to our communion all who confess and obey Christ as their divine Lord and Savior, and we hold fellowship with all believers in Him'. Surely nothing could be broader and remain Christianity at all." It was a curious fact that in the Shorter Catechism love was not distinctly mentioned as an attribute of God. This omission has been rectified by the Assembly's committee in its brief statement.

The committee, in presenting the supplementary statement, explained that they had not aimed to give "a merely condensed compendium of doctrine, but to bring out more plainly the evangelical aspects of our faith. Yet not with a view of becoming a test of orthodoxy for ministers, elders and deacons." They "have tried to make the statement not intellectual only, but also devotional in its conception and form."

Who Should Make Revision

While there is little doubt that the Confession of Faith was in need of revision, and while it is also likely that the revisions made by the General Assembly in New York will meet the views of almost all, I am not altogether sure that it is a matter for congratulation that the work should have been taken up by one unit of Presbyterians independently. It would seem to me to have been much better if the matter could have been first considered in the Pan-Presbyterian Council, in which all the Presbyterians in Christendom are represented. The result of their deliberations could then have been submitted to the various general assemblies throughout the world for adoption, and in this way the uniformity of creed, which has up to this time existed through the adherence of all Presbyterians to the Westminster Confession of Faith, might have been perpetuated.


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The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
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