We have outrun the course of our narrative; for the incidents to be related in this chapter occurred during the latter part of the period which forms the subject of the two last chapters. It seemed important to bring together in one continuous history the rise and progress of the Church Penitentiary movement.
Mr. Armstrong's work on behalf of fallen women specially connects his life with that of the Church of England. It may justly be regarded as one of the greatest and most hopeful efforts of the present century, and one calculated far more than can now be estimated to influence the penitential discipline and practical condition of the Church. In some respects, Mr. Armstrong would have seemed an unlikely person to take a leading place in such a movement. His extreme sensitiveness and habitual shrinking from publicity in spiritual matters of a delicate kind, were hindrances in the way [194/195] of his coming so prominently forward as the origination of such a scheme required. And it is probable that it often cost him strong efforts to overcome the timidity and reserve of his nature during its progress. But there were other elements of character, springs of remarkable energy, which counteracted and overbore the reluctance caused by such tendencies. As already has been said, the secret source of his untiring ardour in this cause was the exceeding warmth and depth of his love for any object that excited his compassion. He was impressed with the deep misery of this class of sufferers, and the injustice their case met with. This strong feeling, combined with his ardent sanguine hopefulness, urged him on, and carried along with him those whose hearts God had prepared for this good work. It has already been pointed out how his thoughts had been occupied, as under a peculiar guidance, with questions affecting the weal or woe of different classes of society, and this habitual bent of mind now concentrated itself on one engrossing object, all the more keenly because of the prevailing neglect with which it had generally been treated.
Mr. Armstrong is unquestionably to be regarded as the originator of the Church [195/196] Penitentiary movement, although in this, as is the case in all great changes whether in the natural or the spiritual world, the thoughts of other minds were simultaneously drawn in the same direction. The then Archdeacon Manning had published a sermon, "Saints and Penitents," preached at the Magdalen, which had a very considerable effect. But this and other like expressions of the feelings and convictions then stirred were but insulated cases. There had been little communing together, no attempt at combination, and no awakening of the public mind; no sign of action. The cause needed a special instrument to gather together the scattered elements of sympathy, and impress on a wider circle the idea of a new effort adequate to the greatness of the cause. To effect this was Mr. Armstrong's distinguishing grace, given to him of God, and his praise now throughout the Church.
It is not intended in anything here said to disparage the work done by the old-established Penitentiaries. They alone had for many years stood in the gap to provide a remedy against the dreadful progress of perhaps the greatest spiritual curse prevailing in the midst of us. They had no doubt effected considerable good, and many admirable persons had been devoting [196/197] themselves to their support and management. But it was a general and increasing conviction, that some vital change was needed in the plans that had been pursued; that the root of the evil had not been reached; and that both greater powers of influence upon the inner life, and a fuller working out of the Church's system, were needed to promote any adequate and satisfactory results. Hence the whole work languished, and obtained little confidence. In the public mind there was for the most part either a complete torpor or a chilling hopelessness as to the possibility of any good being done.
Of the commencement of Mr. Armstrong's interest in this cause we have no record. The following letter from Mr. William Ford, of Gray's Inn, gives the first intimation we possess of his thoughts having been drawn to the subject, and from this letter we learn that it had attracted his attention for some years, and that he had already worked out in his mind the general principles of the new system which he was destined to introduce. His subsequent more defined views were but a development of what he hastily sketched in his conversation with Mr. Ford, on the evening which proved so eventful as the starting-point of this momentous undertaking.
 The following extract, therefore, from Mr. Ford's letter, addressed to Mrs. Armstrong, in answer to an enquiry on the subject, has no ordinary interest:--
"Oct. 28, 1856.
"My dear Mrs. Armstrong,
"It was in the spring of 1848 that my dear friend was staying at my house in Milfield-lane. We sat up talking after the rest of the family had retired. The conversation fell upon the melancholy position of females who had committed sins of unchastity.
"I shall never forget how his voice quivered with emotion as he descanted (with a pathos and earnestness which those who have heard him preach can understand) on their pitiable, almost hopeless, condition; how the same sin, when committed by men, is deemed venial,--when committed by women, unpardonable, whereas in the eyes of God the guilt of all is equal; how all egress from the practice of this particular sin seemed barred against the weaker sex; how feeble and unsuccessful were the efforts of existing Penitentiaries, and how the Church had neglected its duties towards her erring daughters.
"This led to the discussion of the remedy for these glaring evils. He mentioned that his mind had been at work for some years on the subject; that it specially enlisted his sympathies; that he was convinced no real good could be effected except through the [198/199] instrumentality of self-devoted and unpaid ladies, working upon sound Church principles; and that less attention should be paid to work, and more to gaining a religious influence over the mind of the Penitent, than prevailed in existing institutions. He felt that this experiment of Sisterhoods was of the greatest importance, as well as difficulty and delicacy; that many who were friendly to Sisterhoods generally, might shrink from entering, or encouraging relatives to enter, a Sisterhood of this particular character; that failure would be a very serious evil, because it would discourage the formation of Sisterhoods for any purpose; that it would be difficult to find ladies willing and able to devote themselves to this work, and not easy to procure funds, because the conventional usages of society almost forbade the open discussion of the subject; and without discussion and ventilation, how was interest in the cause to be excited, or called into action where it already existed?
"It was clear that the subject must be brought under the consideration of the public; but how? A book we voted too heavy,--newspapers unsuitable. The 'Quarterly' or 'Edinburgh' Reviews seemed to us the most fitting channels. It occurred to me that my neighbour, the late Mr. Thomas Clarke, then solicitor to the Ordnance Office, had been the solicitor, and still was the friend, of Murray the publisher; that I might obtain through him and Murray an introduction for your husband to Lockhart, the editor [199/200] of the 'Quarterly,' who might possibly be interested in the subject, and prevailed upon to insert in his 'Review' an article to be written by your husband, and revised by himself.
"I remain, my dear Mrs. Armstrong,
"Always yours most truly,
From this time the cause continued to advance with a rapid progress. Mr. Clarke, at Mr. Ford's request, kindly communicated with Mr. Murray, and the article was quickly written and despatched, as the following letter records:--
"May 23, 1848.
"My dear Ford,
"I am really very much obliged to you for your exertions in the Penitentiary cause. I packed off my article yesterday, as I had spun it to sufficient length, and got as great an amount of English statistics as I thought it advisable to give. Should the 'Quarterly' accept my MS., which is at best doubtful, I look upon it only as a pioneer, and fresh materials might be worked up for other channels. Should the 'Quarterly' reject my MS., I propose putting it into the form of a pamphlet, in which case I should be glad to improve it by additional information. [200/201] The more I enter into the subject, the more I get interested in it. I confess to a certain furor in the cause.
"Believe me, in haste,
"Yours most truly,
The news of the article having been accepted, together with increasing grounds of hope, and fresh plans for a further advance, were communicated to his friend in August.
"August 17, 1848.
"My dear Ford,
"I know you will be glad to hear that my article has met with Lockhart's approval, and I have just been correcting the proof-sheets. This is a tremendous lift to the cause, as it will get it placed before a large number of excellent men, lay as well as clerical. Palmer, the editor of the 'English Review,' will also admit an article from my hand in the Christmas number of the 'English Review,' in which I shall go more into detail, and give a sort of sketch of my proposed Penitentiary. In the 'Quarterly' I have merely shewn the want of more Penitentiaries, and the duty of supporting them. I have greatly to thank you for getting the door of the 'Quarterly' opened. Now since I saw you, I have been able to interest many persons in the [201/202] cause, and as far as I can judge, there seems a strong latent feeling in the Church that something more ought to he done than has been done. My little private agitation has been in the highest degree encouraging. I am now busy in getting the names of such clergy and laity as would approve of the general idea of a good Church Penitentiary, for I feel that one must not content oneself with making general remarks, but must try to put forward some definite plan and proposal, and to band men together for the execution of such a plan.
"As I propose giving all the proceeds of the article to the cause, I thought it might be well to plunge boldly into a positive proposal for a new Penitentiary about a couple of months after the appearance of the 'Quarterly,' by advertising in the papers in some such way as this:--'Proposed Church Penitentiary.--All such clergy and laity as desire to aid in the formation of a new Hospital for female Penitents, are requested to communicate with the Honorary Secretaries, A. B., C. D.'
"In the meantime a considerable number of names will have been privately got. I am ready to undertake the office of Secretary in conjunction with any good layman thoroughly hearty in the cause, and resident in London, if such can be found.
"Immediately after Christmas, when the effect of the aforesaid advertisement has begun to be seen, and the article in the 'English Review' has made a certain way among its readers, I thought of printing [202/203] a good plain, strong address in the name of the Secretaries, with the outline of our plan, and (with permission) the names of all our supporters. Then in February (D. V.) I thought of coming to London and agitating as far as possible, and, if possible, getting a Committee afloat. Such is my Quixotic project. I have told you all this because I thought you might give me good counsel on any portion of my plan, and privately agitate yourself in such a way, and on such portions of the plan, as you approve.
"Of course the attempt would be really Quixotic, unless I believed there was a strong consciousness of neglected duty upon this point among a large class of Churchmen; but as I think I see a sense of this neglect, a child's hand may set such a cause afloat, which under other circumstances an army of giants could not move. This is my ground for moving so decidedly in it myself. Somebody must begin, and it little matters who that somebody is, though he be only a remote country parson. 'Is there not a cause?' The cause, I think, will tell in the present temper of the Church. At any rate, it is worth the trial. At your leisure, let me have your opinion: I shall esteem it a great favour. "Believe me,
"Very sincerely yours,
Mr. Ford meanwhile had boon active in discussing the subject with his friends in London, [203/204] and one fruit of his exertions was the following valuable letter from the Rev. John Lake Crompton, expressing his opinions as to the form into which the proposed Church Penitentiaries should be cast, thus drawing out in detail one portion of the idea which Mr. Armstrong had put forth in general terms.
"August 26, 1848.
"My dear Ford,
"I am not aware of the existence of any such, institutions as that proposed in Mr. Armstrong's letter; and if there be none, it is certainly a desideratum. I believe the Romanists have such an institution at Bermondsey. If the attempt be made, I hope the founders will take the highest ground possible. It must be borne in mind every instant, that the idea to be realized is one of the spiritual works of mercy, and not one of the corporal ones; that in whatever degree the latter may enter into the design, it is only accidentally;--that the object is of a missionary character; that its Church character is not 'by the way,' but that the one end is to bring the Church and those for whom the Hospital is intended into contact. I dwell upon this, because in these days the public are not quick at appreciating it, and their actions will have a tendency to drag the founders into a line of almost unconscious compromise. The popular sense of the word [204/205] 'hospital' alone (much as I approve of it in the present instance) will confuse many; whilst many more will derive from it solely the idea of temporal benefit. How should it he otherwise, in days when large masses are wholly ignorant of the Church as a divine institution? And I think this distinctness of idea is of the greatest practical importance. For whence is the authority of the institution to proceed? Is it to be a body of well-meaning individuals, members of the Church, who club together to hire agents to recall sinning women from their course of life, some of these agents possibly being clergy without mission, chosen rather from an idea that they have served their apprenticeship in that kind of labour, than from any sense of their being thereto called? And is the Bishop of the diocese to be made PRESIDENT for the sake of his name, whilst the whole power resides in the majority of a self-chosen committee, or, what is worse, an annually elected committee? These things do very well where the object is merely of a temporal nature, but will not, I apprehend, suit the present case. A committee would, I suppose, be necessary to bring the Hospital into existence, and perchance to raise funds afterwards for its support. But I do not believe in its being able to carry such an institution to its highest degree of usefulness, to say nothing of the likelihood of its bringing it to nothing.
"I have read somewhere, lately, (I think in some extracts from Sewell's Journal at St. Columba, or [205/206] Radley Hall,) a strong expression of opinion that institutions of sundry kinds cannot succeed under the management of committees and trustees. Such an institution as that concerning which I write requires a founder, who need not have a penny, but who will forecast with wisdom and Christian piety in its fullest sense, the mould in which the matter is to be shaped: one earnest mind dwelling continually on an idea, and asking advice of friends, will do more and better than a dozen who meet for an hour once a-fortnight. And the same stamp of man who would frame such an institution would raise its funds, because he would have a deep sense of the value of his object, which would enable him to beg with zeal and importunity. I believe that many worthy women would gladly undertake such part of the conduct as was fitting for them, if one were found who had the faith to appeal boldly to the Church; and such would be worth an army of stipendiary officers, to say nothing of the economy. I believe funds would be obtained as easily for such an institution carried on in this spirit, as if you created a large 'ladies' committee;' and the same boldness would meet with such a response as would induce our bishops to venture to give their cautious sanction to it. Times, indeed, at present, are bad, and many have no money to spare; but in an ordinary period, I should not fear for the result of this course. Only there must be simple-minded earnestness, which speaks with no faltering tone. The [206/207] Bishop of Oxford's Bill, though rejected, will have in some measure facilitated the proposed scheme. *****
"I am, my dear Ford,
"Very sincerely yours,
"J. L. CROMPTON."
Mr. Armstrong's next letter shews how rapidly the cause was spreading:--
"August 29, 1848.
"My dear Ford,
"I was on the point of answering your first letter this morning, when your second arrived. For both of them I thank you heartily, as they are both most cheerful and inspiriting. Your suggestions are very valuable. I quite agree it would be best to wait till three months have elapsed after the nest' Quarterly,' before we commence a little vigorous advertising. I think it also decidedly best to get names privately from the present time, but not to form any Committee till the spring, at which time (D.V.) I will run up to London. We shall then see our instruments and material in the way of likely men for a good committee, and perhaps we might follow the example of the Nurses' Institution, and privately select a Provisional Committee, taking good care to pick our men: this provisional body might easily be [207/208] proposed at any general meeting, to he continued with a few additions. The first Committee is a most important matter, as the whole affair will derive its tone from them. The lay Secretary is indeed a great matter; a host of rare qualifications, coupled with leisure, is required. I only propose myself as Hon. Clerical Secretary pro tem.; i. e., till the spring, when the Committee is formed; then it strikes me as best to have two permanent Secretaries, resident in London,--one clerical, the other a layman. As the institution would be one for all England, and take Penitents from all parts, so we might have local secretaries also, by way of keeping up interest in good localities. I would gladly act for this part of the world; I have an active friend who would act in Exeter, another in Oxford, and your friend Mr. Williams in Cambridge.
"The thing is already getting on in the way of promises of support, and Mr. Chester's cheering letter is a fresh corroboration of the truth I feel more and more, that there is a chord in good men's hearts which has only to be touched. The more recruiting sergeants we can get like him, of his mind and spirit, the better. I use a very homely phrase, but it expresses what we want, i. e., a few warm minds, in different circles, to rouse minds to the subject. The 'Morning Chronicle' will do us good service, even by an allusion of the right sort, when the time comes. A friend of the editor of the 'Times' has promised his utmost influence with him. As to the [208/209] 'Christian Remembrancer,' it is of great importance to get that on our side to take up the subject. Most willingly would I write for it; and in this ease, as the 'Quarterly' is a very general article, I would make my article in the 'English' somewhat ecclesiastical and doctrinal, and then in the 'Christian Remembrancer' go into details of the project, and suggest in detail the sort of institution required. I deeply thank Mr. Williams for his exertions, and should be glad to know whether my services would be definitely accepted. I have written for that Review before, and thus by letter know the editor..........
"Very sincerely yours,
The plan of an actual institution grew by degrees, and different portions of the scheme quickly assumed a definite shape. Mr. Armstrong communicates in September some further thoughts which he had been working out:--
"Sept. 8, 1848.
"My dear Ford,
"I must now be somewhat merciful to you in the way of letters, as you are again under the harness of business. I am glad your mind has been at work upon the practical details and difficulties of the [209/210] Penitentiary, because before the time comes for positive legislation in the matter, we shall be able thoroughly to meet many points that would then arise......
"I think it should be possible for, at any rate, a certain portion to continue permanent inmates: many, conscious of their weakness, would prefer staying where they felt their very position offered security. We might have a permanent ward; many offices of trust might be conferred on them; they might be placed as a sort of monitors. Again, I am strongly in favour of an auxiliary Hospice in some colony under clerical control, where we might draft off the promising Penitents, and secure them a fresh start in good places and families, instead of exposing them to the worse places at home, where bad pay and hard work might again break down their virtue. Again, there should be a probationary ward, and a very careful classification throughout the house. It should be in the country, not less than six, nor more than twenty, miles from London, in order to secure fresh air and capacious grounds for exercise, (a most important point, both spiritually and bodily).......
"As regards 'the constitution' of the Penitentiary, I do not see how we are to do without a council, though without an annual election. The Warden clearly must not only have statutes, but some overseers to see that the statutes are observed. I suppose it would be best to get the modes of management of various bodies where councils exist, and to see their powers. Some of the public schools seem to [210/211] have the sort of council we want. They do not usually interfere in any way, but they elect the master, and leave him pretty much to himself as long as he well manages the school. Yet while he is independent he is not irresponsible, but can be called to order in case he should break the traces. By examination and comparison of statutes and governing bodies, we might be able to get an idea of a proper constitution; and I quite agree with you in thinking that no set of statutes should be sealed, say, till two years of trial were over. At the end of the first year we might have a thorough examination of the working of the first draft of statutes, and a thorough revision; at the end of the second year, a second revision and formal confirmation. So, again, as regards the internal management: we might get the apportionment of hours, of work, mode? of discipline and punishment from existing Penitentiaries both here and abroad, and then insert a wanner ami more thorough religious system. I doubt not the existing bodies, with their experience, could furnish us with good plans of secular management, if I may so speak; and we might ourselves well weigh the additions that should be made, in order to render it a more decidedly religious house than those that exist; and in this case, too, we might have a two years' trial. I think it would be no bad plan to open it gradually, so as to feel one's way the better, and get discipline well fixed before the whole house was full..........Mind, I like to hear all your [211/212] thoughts; it is well thoroughly to think over the whole subject, from its very deep and solemn importance. I feel great pleasure in all your communications.
"Most sincerely yours,
One most interesting point in these details is the fact that so many ardent minds were conspiring together, each bringing out of its treasures some important feature of the general idea, and adding its contribution to the sum total of intense thought and affection which was now being more and more concentrated from so many different quarters on this one subject. One of those with whom Mr. Ford had corresponded was Mr. Brett, of Stoke Newington, and it elicited from him a response which shews what deep and stirring thoughts were at that time awakened in men's bosoms, waiting only some slight touch to kindle into energetic life.
"Sept. 13, 1848.
"My dear Mr. Ford,
"I hope you will excuse all faults, as I sit down late after a fatiguing day to make a few remarks on the very interesting letters which you have sent me. The subject of them has long so touched my inmost [212/213] heart, that if I had possessed time, money, and influence, I should have made some effort to rescue those unhappy beings from their sin and degradation. ...... Archdeacon Manning has already expressed his feelings on this subject. He says, in his sermon preached at the Magdalen Hospital,--'It is urgently necessary, 1st, that these institutions be greatly enlarged, for the reception of Penitents in London alone; 2ndly, that institutions of the same kind be formed in the country: for instance, in all our large and more populous towns. A Magdalen Hospital would be of the greatest benefit in every diocese; the parochial clergy would feel thankful for such an efficient auxiliary to their pastoral ministry,' &c. How remarkably the same thoughts have occurred to Mr. Armstrong. Is it not a voice from God? ....... . I would therefore exhort your worthy friend to go forward in the love and might of Him who has enkindled the desire in his heart; go forward in the resistless power of calm, unwavering faith, and the work will prosper in his hand. Let him use the instrumentality already enlisted, and then, instead of advertisements, let him put forth an address full of burning thoughts and burning words, offering himself and asking for support, and the means will assuredly come. I would put away all thoughts of a fine building and a large number of inmates, and begin in a small way, so as to let the institution gradually expand. To commence with a house full of such women would break [213/214] the heart and spirit of any man. There would be no difficulty in procuring a commodious and suitable house near London, or, at least, one which a few hundred pounds would fit up for the purpose. Having thus far organized the institution, it would be well worthy of serious consideration how far a well-selected council might be necessary to give stability and permanency to it. But on this matter we will talk on Tuesday.
"Thursday morning.--How would it do to have a Warden, Sub-Warden, and Sisters, governed by a body of fixed statutes, and subject to the visitorial power of the diocesan? I think it would be very unsafe in most cases to give recommendations after so short a period as two years, unless in such cases as mentioned in page 6 of Magdalen Report. In other cases, you have not only to break the strength of the most powerful and soul-enslaving sins, but you have to impart new life and power to a palsied soul, which will be repeatedly borne down by the fierce assaults of a strong temptation..........I must apologise, my dear Sir, for this rambling and prosy letter, which I trust you will excuse. I hope I need not say how ready I shall be to throw the energies of a loving heart and resolute will into the cause, which has so long dwelt upon my conscience; I will spare no pains to enlist the sympathies and obtain the support of all good people.
"With the highest admiration of Mr. Armstrong's [214/215] zeal, energy, and self-devotion, and with earnest prayers for his success,
"My dear Mr. Ford,
Among other questions that came under consideration at this time was that of endowments. Some persons entertained doubts of their expediency. It was feared lest they tended to generate inactivity, by removing one great stimulus to exertion. These doubts drew forth some judicious remarks from Mr. Armstrong, in a letter which also contains the fuller expression of an idea already slightly mentioned, viz., that of providing in the proposed houses the means of permanent shelter for such Penitents as seemed to be too weak ever again to bear the difficulties or temptations of the world. In a letter of later date, Mr. Armstrong speaks again of such a provision, as "a point in my mind of the highest importance."
"Sept. 16, 1848.
"My dear Ford,
"Your zeal in our cause is perfectly refreshing, and truly your friends seem to have good hearts [215/216] too for this great work. It is of infinite use to have the subject thus working in many minds, and thus looked at in all possible lights. The very difficulties of the undertaking claim earnest deliberation; its awfulness as a religious work rises before me in increased and increasing size. When, indeed, one considers the immense mass of wanderers who are yearning for such a house, I do feel anxious that some great work should be set on foot: as so many souls are perishing every year, time is indeed important; if one hundred women press for admission, it is sad to be compelled to drive them back. Again, are we not to consider the duty of male penitents? I can imagine great penitential offerings coming from individuals by way of restitution, when the subject is put before them in a plain, strong way. I feel that, for the sake of such male penitents, we should ask help for a great institution. It is this consideration that prompted me to speak of 'advertisements:' surely we should give publicity to our work, that male penitents might know whore to give alms. Prom most unexpected quarters such alms might often come. There is a difference between 'puffing' and really giving the members of the Church knowledge of our proposed institution and opportunity of aiding it. Size, too, is required in the House of Mercy, if we are to have permanent inmates, who may there be sheltered from the 'slippery places' of the world. And my feeling deepens of the importance of not only allowing, but [216/217] encouraging the Penitents to stay, instead of hurrying them out to make way for fresh, applicants, as, I fear, is the case in the confined and imperfect institutions now at work. Of course, if we have a large institution, we must increase the staff. Thus, supposing it is to hold one hundred, there should be a Warden and two Sub-Wardens, and a sisterhood of ten widows; that is, allotting ten of the women to each of the Sisters, and about thirty to each clergyman. I am supposing two branches, one of permanent, the other of temporary inmates. I cannot myself see the objection to endowment for such an institution, nor quite go along with the idea that faith, is weak when endowment is desired. We must remember that the divine system of tithes is a system of endowment: and though, of course, the Wardenship might be looked upon as a 'piece of preferment,' we should not get rid of that idea by refusing endowment. Take, for instance, the existing Magdalen Hospital: a post of some £300 or £400 per annum, made by subscriptions, might be sought for by men not sufficiently devoted to the work. We shall not escape this possibility either way. On the other hand, moreover, in a post of such intense anxiety as that of the Warden, I think it a great matter to remove by a reasonable and moderate endowment, all monetary anxiety from the mind of the Warden. With the weight of such an institution on his soul, he should have little to think of as to worldly means, and have a fixed unfluctuating [217/218] income. My idea is, there should be sufficient endowment to support the officers of the house, and that the rest should be supported by subscriptions. I happen to know that the head of an existing unendowed institution cannot always meet demands on his private purse, and has his monetary trials: you little suspect who it is. Give a fixed and not ambitious stipend, and then monetary trials are the faults of ill-managing Wardens, and are not chargeable to the character of the institution. I also regard again the male penitents. I can fancy many bent on offering endowment, and wishing by this means to secure permanency to such a house. Under any circumstances, there will be fluctuations in the zeal, devotedness, and fitness of the presiding powers. Neither endowment nor non-endowment will secure us from these spiritual fluctuations. Mind, I am not speaking in an interested way on the subject, for I assure you I do feel, as the whole awful-ness of the question comes nearer to me and in a stronger light, my own unfitness for the Warden's post. I say this in no mock humility,--and God forbid that I should shrink from any call; but while I would labour with all my heart and strength for the establishment of such a House of Mercy, and am feeling an increasing intensity of interest in the cause; while I am prepared to ask the Church to trust me, and to devote myself, with such friends as seem rising round us, with all the powers God has given me, to the formation of this House of [218/219] Penitents; yet I do tremble at the thought of undertaking myself so very great a spiritual work as that of being the guide of the Penitents. I think a devoted man might be found, of mature piety, combining tenderness and strictness, who might be appointed to the post when we had got all things ready. I think you will recollect that in one of my former letters I felt myself in a ' strait between two,' feeling that the duty of remaining here, in the peculiar position of this parish, was to be considered, and yet not knowing whether there were a call to this different work. This is to me personally a most anxious question. At present I can, however, at least devote myself, with my friends, to the present formation of the institution. I think it might be of use to come up to Town, and have a good thorough talk of the whole matter with yourself and your friends. It certainly appears to mo that God is opening the way to us to do something on behalf of our erring members. You could tell mo what is the most convenient time for a consultation. Your own letters and those of your friends quite excited me this morning, and my pulse has not yet quite returned to the even tenor of its way. With, all kind remembrances,
"Very sincerely yours,
"On consideration, I am inclined to qualify my [219/220] remarks as to size. Perhaps it would be best to begin with thirty inmates and a well-proportioned staff, so that individual character might be thoroughly cared for and understood, and not to let it ever admit of more than one hundred. That is enough for any single Penitentiary, and sister Penitentiaries might spring up in various parts.
"I wrote all this on Saturday night. I seem to have spoken almost too much about endowment. Let me not be misunderstood; I do most earnestly want it to be a work of faith."
Mention occurs in some of the letters written at this time, of emigration, as affording one important means of future provision for reclaimed Penitents. It is to be observed, that, at least on the scale then contemplated, experience has hitherto failed to verify such expectations. The unsettlement and difficulty of supervision during the voyage; the uncertainty of proper care on landing; the fact of a lower standard of morality prevailing, at least in many parts of the colonies, in comparison with that of the mother country, and the risk of finding due spiritual care, together with the certain cost of the passage and outfit,--combine to render the experiment hazardous, and have hitherto prevented its being made, except in a few rare cases.
 On the other hand, experience has altogether disproved the fears which existed, and were expressed in these letters, of unmarried women entering a Sisterhood for the care of Penitents. That the sisters must needs be widows was perhaps a not unnatural feeling, before the experiment had been made. But the clergy who have been subsequently engaged in this work, unanimously agree in feeling that such fears were groundless. Mr. Armstrong's views changed, as he gained more experience.
Shortly after the above letter was written, he speaks on the subject in an altered tone. In a letter dated Oct. 3, 1848, he says,--"As regards the Sisterhood, I somewhat prefer widows to single women, though, perhaps, it would not be desirable positively to exclude them." He was still speaking theoretically, and the writer of this Memoir had the opportunity of knowing that subsequently, when these communities began to be formed, he perceived that there was neither any risk to single women themselves, nor any deficiency of power in their dealing with Penitents. As a necessary safeguard, a very stringent rule is always observed, that the Penitents should not speak to the Sisters of their past sins,--a rule which is the more easy to enforce, because the Penitents [221/222] instinctively shrink from such disclosures before the Sisters. The only knowledge which the Sisters have, is that they are dealing with sinners whose faults, as they appear in their conduct within the house, they have to correct, and to whose minds and hearts they have to impart the knowledge of a pure religious life.
The proposed meeting in London was now urged to take place without delay, as appears from a letter of Mr. Ford's, in which he says,--"I should say the earliest day would be the best for your visit to London, as nothing is to be gained by delay. Please give as long a notice as you can of your plans, that I may secure Chester, Crompton, Butterfield, and Dalton, to meet you. Do not hurry your visit, I pray you, for nothing is well done that is hastily done, and surely the most momentous consequences may be expected from the course you may eventually decide upon." Mr. Ford's observation, that at the proposed meeting the selection of a Warden for the House of Mercy, and the question of his (Mr. Armstrong's) offering himself for such an office, would be taken into consideration, led to the following letter in reply. The strong sense of duty, and close watchfulness over his own [222/223] impulses and inclinations, in this perhaps the most exciting question that ever pressed upon his mind, as well as the lowly sense of his own powers, and love of his parish, which habitually influenced him, come out very strikingly in this letter, and invest it with peculiar interest:--
"Friday, Sept. 22, 1848.
"My dear Ford,
"No letter can convey what I want to say, yet I will just ease my mind of a few thoughts, till I can talk out the several points that rise before me. And first of all, I will call to your recollection what I said in one of my former letters, as that is a sort of text of all my present remarks. I told you, if you remember, that when my heart was warming witli this cause, I had an impulse to offer myself to the work as a sort of founder, and as something more--as the conductor of the work when fairly launched; but that after this impulse, I had my doubts how far I was justified in quitting my present post, or in going beyond a sort of originatorship of a good Penitentiary, i.e. how far I ought to offer myself as conductor of the institution when formed.
"Now these doubts still meet me. I do not see my way plain before me, and yet I desire most strongly to put aside all worldly considerations [223/224] whatever, and simply to search out my line of duty. There is much on each side that seems to draw me; I am in a strait between two. Now as this is the case, it seems a matter of duty not at once, or suddenly, to offer myself to the post of Warden, for that would be cutting the knot which deliberation, prayer, and the strict counsel of my most religious and free-speaking friends, are the most providential means of untying. I think it would be best to keep the Wardenship a reserved question, a matter to be settled by-and-by; and I am more inclined to take this course, because I think ' the cause' should stand on its own merits. If the thing is good, if the neglect of the Church has been great, if the system of a most religious Penitentiary, with all the proposed apparatus of Warden, Sub-Warden, a Sisterhood, &c, in which the doctrines and practices of the Church shall be thoroughly and warmly carried out, is worthy of the support of good men, surely all of us should put this cause before the Church in faith; we should not be a whit less ardent in carrying out so great an enterprise on behalf of souls, because the point of Wardenship is not at once settled. If we bide our time, and work this cause with all our hearts, and cast it upon the Church in perfect trustfulness, should it not be enough to say both to ourselves and others, We will do our very best to get as Warden one who will thoroughly devote himself to the work, and thoroughly carry out all its intentions.' And I am still more impressed with [224/225] the belief that the cause itself, without reference to persons, is worthy of trust, and would have trust, from the fact of the ardour already shewn in the few minds which it is now leavening. Take, for instance, yourself: what interest had you in this question a year ago? May not many clerical minds be touched with like ardour, and may not many warm friends, now unthought of, rise up admirably fitted for the Wardenship? The chief qualification that stands out to the eye in my own case is simply ardour and heartiness in the cause; but I see the likelihood of other far more mature and pious minds catching this very warmth. For this reason, I do not see the necessity of my committing myself at once.
"If, indeed, I thought the immediate and voluntary offer of one mind warm in the cause as mine is, were necessary to its success, then certainly I would come to as quick a decision as possible. Mind, I am not shrinking from a post of anxious duty. If I felt it my duty, I would at once stand forth. But as regards pressing the cause upon the Church, with the pledge that the best Warden shall be got whom we can get, I see a plain decided duty; in short, something I really believe to be a call. Though I have already spoken so much of myself, I must continue so to speak. Soberly judging myself, I do not see any peculiar fitness which I have for conducting such an institution. I am speaking now not so much of spiritual fitness as of what I may call constitutional fitness, or an aptness in managing, and calmly [225/226] guiding, a corporate body or fellowship. The power of originating is a very different gift from that of conducting. I would not venture to speak of spiritual fitness, though persons might trust me because I originated the institution. I know those infinitely better qualified for the conduct of it. But now I come to those Providential circumstances which have all along raised doubts in my mind whether I am justified in offering myself as first Warden: I allude to the peculiar position of this parish. As you know, this parish has not only been singularly subject to change of pastors--residents of ten years' standing seeing in me the fourth vicar--but it has gone through a considerable religious change, I might almost say shock. From a single service on a Sunday they have got to one daily service, to weekly communions, communions on festivals, weekly offertory throughout the congregation, and other such things; and not only this, but a new school is now just about to be opened, and I am already engaged in negotiations for a chapel-of-ease at Tutshill, near the new school, in which an afternoon daily service will be observed. Burr was with me last week, for the purpose of granting a piece of land, and getting Beachley lopped off, and made a separate ecclesiastical district. [The late Rev. Henry Scudamore Burr, his predecessor at Tidenham.] Besides these coming events, the minds of the people after a great shock are settling down, cordially, on the whole, acquiescing in all that is done, and [226/227] getting habituated to the altered system. Now if I was at once to offer myself as Warden, all would be doubt and unsettledness in the people's minds. The chapel-of-ease would not improbably fall to the ground, and when the time of my departure came, I much doubt whether the movement would not be backwards. Now, I confess these thoughts oppress me; I can hardly bear to think of these 1,200 souls either losing privileges, or not having that increase of privileges which it is my heart's desire, by God's blessing, to offer them. Add to which, the place has so agreed with me, that I have been capable of far greater exertions than in any portion of my life. Now when I set these things before me, I do feel a hesitation in at once giving up the rule of this flock. I assure you, by God's help, I only want to see my way. Could I be subsequently convinced that many of my thoughts about a backward movement hero were imaginary, or that I ought to undertake the Penitentiary, I will, by God's help, take the post. I feel I am too much speaking of myself, for I think in six months' time our little body of friends will see many instruments rise to their hands, who will at once strike them as best fitted for the presidency of the House of Mercy. I have not talked of my private circumstances; of these I will speak more at length when we meet. I will only say, my own private means are next to nothing. As regards wife and children, a point on which I will also speak more at length when we meet, and am most [227/228] anxious on, yet I may now say that, whatever is a father's Providential course, I believe is the Providential course of wife and children. I am ready to trust them into God's hands, and I can even see amid some trials, and disadvantages and points of difficulty, there might be something in their father's post in such an institution, which would help more entirely to separate them from the world. Abstractedly, perhaps, I should say a childless married clergyman would make the best Warden, but of course it is not always easy to find one in such circumstances. Having done my best to express by letter what it is difficult thoroughly to go through on paper, I will only observe, in conclusion, that I have not dwelt at any length on the reasons which seem to draw me to the Wardenship, as they would more easily be seen by yourself.
"Believe me, dear Ford,
"Most sincerely yours,
"I, of course, write this with the view of having your candid comments on my position."
Among other subjects which were necessarily pressed on Mr. Armstrong's mind in connexion with this great movement, was that of confession; for it was impossible to contemplate any earnest dealing with Penitents, without laying down some principles of private [228/229] spiritual intercourse between them and the Chaplain. The subject was not new to Mr. Armstrong. In the "Sermons on the Festivals," preached at Exeter, he had expressed himself with his wonted earnestness on the loss incurred through lack of spiritual discipline and confession of sin, in the case of those whom the Spirit of God has stirred to repentance after grievous sin.
In Sermon XXIII., on "Christ's Ministers Sons of Consolation," he thus speaks:--
"Does not our impatience for the consolations of the Gospel strongly mark the religion of the day? We are all in haste to escape the sight of sin, and there is little to check us in our hasty steps towards peace with God, when we have felt the deceitfulness and hollowness of the peace of the world. Our Church confesses to this impatience; for while she long since expressed her desire to restore some penitential discipline, to put grievous sinners to some open shame, she contented herself with such an expression of her desire, feeling that she spoke what she could not effect. And now the case is even worse; men are less disposed to submit to any such abasement for their sins. We are almost without discipline. Men join the Church, or leave it, or return to it again, without reproof, without trial, without any act of reconciliation, without any confession of sorrow. Notorious sinners are suffered to remain; the sores of [229/230] the body are not cut out and excommunicated, but visibly bring it into disrepute; our borders are loosely kept; there is laxness, and want of rule, and a readiness to admit or retain without enquiry, without care. When notorious sinners seem to be desiring to repent, they are allowed to yield to their natural desire to escape pain; they are not schooled to their great work, nor set tasks of penitence, nor restrained from the fullest privileges of the Church, but are suffered to step on ever so boldly, according to their own will, without any course of humiliation. And though individuals, by rules and tasks of their own, by keeping themselves under the yoke of godly sorrow, and by striving against impatience, may by God's grace perfect their repentance, in others the inward work is rendered imperfect from very haste. The whole work of repentance is unwatched and undirected, without system, or deliberateness, or a sufficient space for its full performance; every man repents according to his own fashion.
"And yet the formal confession of sin, when it has been dark and grievous, is a wholesome task for the soul from its very painfulness; it is humbling, it is a breaking of the heart, it is the active subjection of natural pride; we are all conscious how hard it is to confess faults even when we feel them; it is something beyond feeling them, it bespeaks a more thorough repentance, it is the act of a deeper sorrow to make confession, and to overthrow that pride which would refrain our lips."
About the time of which, we are now speaking, lie also expressed, in a popular way, his sense of the need and the benefit of reviving the Church's rule of confession for burdened consciences. The passage alluded to occurs in the fourth number of the "Tracts for the Christian Seasons," one written by himself:--
"Suppose you have committed sin, and the sin sits so heavily upon your soul that you cannot rest; that though you make confession to the Lord, yet you feel it would be a relief to confess it also to some man of God; your Bible sanctions such method of relief, for St. James expressly says, 'Confess your faults one to another.' But to whom could you the better lay open your sores, to whom could you better unbosom and unburden yourself of this load, than to him who is set over you in the Lord, who is appointed to keep watch over your soul? Not only, too, would he give you ease, by tenderly hearing the confession of your sins, and by keeping all you confess within the depths of his own heart, but he is gifted with still greater powers of consolation; he is empowered to pronounce, in the Name of God, the absolution and remission of sins to ' all them that truly repent and unfeignedly believe His holy Gospel.' You might tell your sins to other friends, but other friends would have no such power of removing your burden. In the exhortation to the Holy Communion, after being pressed to confess your sins unto [231/232] God, you are told in your Prayer-book, that 'if there be any of you who by this means cannot quiet his own conscience herein, but requireth further comfort or counsel, let him come to me, or to some other discreet and learned minister of God's Word, and open his grief; that by the ministry of God's holy Word he may receive the benefit of absolution, together with ghostly counsel and advice, to the quieting of his conscience, and avoiding of all scruple and doubtfulness.'"
It became necessary, in forming plans for the spiritual guidance of the proposed House of Mercy, to decide on a definite course to be pursued in this important particular; and in the course of the correspondence which was now going on, Mr. Armstrong thus expressed his views to his friend:--
"As regards confession, I quite think with you that the Penitents, who ought all to have been excommunicated, should make a formal confession, and receive absolution, before they should be allowed to receive the Holy Communion; and that with the Sisters it should be an open question."
The writer had the opportunity of knowing, from private intercourse with Mr. Armstrong, that he felt the need of great caution and soberness, to prevent the possible abuse of this means of grace, and that experience alone [232/233] could decide to what extent it should be encouraged.
The difficulties of a real and effectual work in dealing with the Penitents evidently grew on the minds of these friends the more they contemplated it. It is a remarkable proof of the keen practical sense with which they were preparing to carry out their plans, that they had perceived the fallacy of the common idea, that those who apply to become inmates of Penitentiaries are already Penitents, as their name would betoken. Mr. Ford, in one of his letters, thus expresses what experience shews to be the real, though often little suspected, truth:--"I cannot conceive that the persons who would apply for admission to the House of Mercy would be Penitents in any real and saving sense, but merely weary of the town, disgusted with the hopeless misery of their plight, and anxious not to be outcasts from friends, relatives, and the respectable part of the community. Real repentance and sorrow would have to be produced after their admission."
But to return to the progress of the cause. Mr. Armstrong's articles appeared in quick succession: one in the "Quarterly," in September, 1848; the second in the "Christian Remembrancer," in January, 1849; and the third in [233/234] the "English Review," in March, 1849. They were followed by an "Appeal for a Church Penitentiary," early in the year 1849. [The Articles and Appeal here alluded to will be published together uniformly with the Memoir, in a separate volume, the Proprietors of the several Reviews having kindly given their consent.] At the close of a letter to Mr. Ford, in which he speaks of the "Appeal," he alludes again to an object continually present to his mind, that the efforts they were making should be directed not merely to the case of fallen women, but also of those who had sinned with them:--
"I will only add," he says, "that, as you know, I want to do good to male penitents at large, and to give them an opportunity of testifying repentance. A published appeal would reach many who might be glad to see a way open to satisfactory assistance to a satisfactory Penitentiary,--such gifts rebounding to their own good."
Mr. Armstrong had been exceedingly anxious for the sanction and support of his bishop, and not long after the publication of his "Appeal" the following encouraging letter was received:--
"My dear Sir,
"I have read your tract with great interest, and while I thoroughly sympathize with your feelings towards the miserable portion of our fellow-creatures [234/235] whom you wish to benefit, I cordially admire the forcible and eloquent terms in which you urge their cause upon Christian readers.
"I shall be happy to advance your project according to my power, and am ready to contribute in both the ways which you mention,--by donation towards the foundation, and by annual subscription to its support. But I must know more of the details of your project, and its probable cost, before I can name any amount.
"Believe me to be,
"With very sincere respect, my dear Sir,
"Very faithfully yours,
"J. H. GLOUCESTER and BRISTOL."
The good news was rapidly communicated to his friend in the following hearty expression of thankfulness:--
"My dear Ford,
"The inclosed glorious letter from the Bishop will doubtless fill your heart with gladness, as it has mine. It is indeed a Bishop's 'God-speed;' no cold assent, but warm and substantial sympathy. Is it not cheering? God seems putting it into the hearts of our bishops really to meet and foster the endeavours of the Church in those institutions, which are new in our own land, and yet so greatly required. Pray make the fact known where you can, as it will strengthen our hands. The same post brought £5 per annum from the Dean of Exeter.
"Yours, in haste, J. ARMSTRONG."
To the articles above mentioned, and the [235/236] appeal which so quickly followed them, may be distinctly traced the growth of the widespread sympathy with which the cause of Church Penitentiaries has been supported. They deserve to be studied by any one interested in the cause, not merely for their historical value in connection with this great movement, but for their important practical details and enlarged views of the subject. They met with a response far beyond what was anticipated by the writer. It was the realization of what he himself said, in a letter quoted above:--
"I believed there was a strong consciousness of neglected duty upon this point among a large class of Churchmen; and as I think I see a sense of this neglect, a child's hand may set such a cause afloat, which, under other circumstances, an army of giants could not move."
He was himself destined to be "the child's hand" to whom power was to be given to call out into earnest and combined action these latent energies of the spiritual life of the Church of England.
There is perhaps scarcely an instance on record in which the successful realization of a theory so rapidly followed upon its enunciation, as in the present case. The "Appeal" appeared in March, 1849. In June the House of Mercy at Clewer, near Windsor, was [236/237] commenced, and in the autumn of the same year a similar House was opened at Wantage also in Berkshire, and a move was made in Gloucestershire, within Mr. Armstrong's own Diocese, which eventually led to the establishment of the House at Bussage.
The works at Clewer and Wantage arose independently of the plans and consultations which have been above recorded, though under the influence of the same idea,--remarkable instances of that concurrent quickening of many hearts, without mutual communication, which is one special mark of Divine influence. Mr. Armstrong at once threw all his energies into these works, as each needed his assistance, and, although having offered in his appeal to carry out the proposed scheme in his own neighbourhood, he hailed these commencements as an answer to his prayers, and gave himself with the most disinterested zeal to aid in the establishment of institutions in which he could take no personal share. [One of the first Penitents received at Clewer was rescued by Mr. Armstrong himself from the streets of London, the first-fruits of his earnest efforts. In a letter written about a year afterwards on one of his visits there, he says,--"Had a most satisfactory visit at Clewer; all going on well. I am to go down on Friday-week to receive Holy Communion, when ------ will receive it for the first time......It will be an affecting day."]
 In August of the year following, (A.D. 1850,) Mr. Armstrong became acquainted with Robert Suckling, of Bussage. Their earthly intercourse was scarcely of more than a year's duration, but it was one of those deep intense friendships which have only their beginnings in this world, to be ripened in the world to come. On many points of character, they were singularly unlike. Mr. Armstrong was reserved in the expression of his religious feelings; from Mr. Suckling they gushed forth at the slightest touch. The one looked at every thing with a sanguine buoyant hopefulness; the other took a much sadder, and even a desponding view of things. The sympathies of the one were of a wider, more expansive kind; those of the other, as deep, but more concentrated. The one found his vocation in directing the mind of the Church at large, and establishing the system of Church Penitentiaries; the other in moulding and guiding one special House of Mercy. Both were gifted with an entire self-devotion and great energies. When they met, there was an instant response of heart to heart in the one common subject which had brought them together, and the differences of character seemed to bind them the closer, from the mutual aid which each in his separate characteristics was [238/239] able to give to the other. They first met at the house of one of the curates of Tidenham; but it was during a short visit to the late Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol that they had a "midnight talk," when the idea of the House at Bussage was fully discussed, and Mr. Suckling offered to undertake its spiritual superintendence. Mr. Suckling about this time alludes to his friend in a letter to a clergyman who had condemned the proposed institution:--"As you mention Mr. Armstrong, I will add that he is a personal friend, with whom I have often held sweet counsel, from whose eyes I have often seen tears flow, as we have spoken together of this blessed work for reclaiming sinners. Alas! must I throw in my lot with him, and take the opprobrious term by which you call him to myself?"
A letter of Mr. Suckling's to Mr. Armstrong, dated March 10, 1851, has been already published in Mr. Isaac Williams' Memoir. The next letter of Mr. Suckling's which has been preserved is dated March 15, and in it he says,
"I trust that whether the House of Mercy be placed here or not, yet the love of the work will unite us with no common tie, for I assure you I have never found any one with whom I felt my opinions so to harmonize as yourself."
 It was at last decided that Bussage should be the site of the proposed House, and the work was commenced in a small cottage belonging to Mr. Suckling, in April, 1851. On the sixth of October of that same year, Mr. Armstrong was present at the anniversary festival of the consecration of the church at Bussage, when Mr. Suckling was far from well, and depressed in spirits. It was their last meeting. Not long afterwards came the sad and unexpected intelligence of his brief illness, and death. His sudden loss involved the House of Mercy, of which he had the charge, in great difficulties, and Mr. Armstrong occasionally visited it, supplying Mr. Suckling's place as far as he was able, till a successor was appointed.
In the spring of 1852 a still further advance in the Penitentiary cause was made in London, the Bishop and many of the clergy combining to form a central Society to carry out the new principles on a very extended scale. A comprehensive plan was sketched, embracing two kinds of Houses: (1) Refuges, or Houses of Penitence "of the first instance," into which sinners from the very streets of the city might at once be gathered; and (2) Penitentiaries, or Houses of Penitence "of the [240/241] second instance," to be situated in the country, to which the more promising cases might be transferred from the Refuges after due testing, for the purpose of a more complete training. The Society formed to carry out this plan took the title of the "Church Penitentiary Association," its object being, not to found or superintend Penitentiaries, but by grants of money to assist local efforts in the formation and maintenance of such institutions. The Association is ancillary to all who are engaged in such works, and forms a centre of communication and bond of union between the various Houses and friends of the cause scattered throughout England. Two points of detail marking this Association are worthy of being noticed. One is the rule, that the members meet once every year to partake together of the Holy Eucharist, as the one true bond of union in Christ. The other is the principle of personal service which, either with or without contributions of money, constitutes the ground of membership; many of the associates being actively engaged in seeking out the lost, finding situations for Penitents when reclaimed, providing for the sale of the work of inmates of the Penitentiaries, or in other similar means of assistance.
 Mr. Armstrong's joy at the establishment of this central association in London, is expressed in the hasty notes which conveyed to his home the report of his proceedings:--"Only time to say we had a glorious interview with the Bishop (of London). He has given the plan his formal consent, and gives it heartily; promises to bring it before the archbishops and bishops. The matter is clenched, thank God. My joy is tremendous." Again, noticing the first public meeting of the Association;--"It is a grand feature that we should receive the Holy Communion together. I think it is an era in Church Societies," (alas! that this should have to be acknowledged!) "as well as in this great cause of the Penitent." And afterwards follows his report of the first meeting:--"It was a striking day yesterday; all went off admirably. There were 167 communicants; a large crowded meeting afterwards, and a good hearty spirit throughout: above £70 collected, and several fresh subscribers besides. The Bishop of Oxford's was a grand sermon, and, at the Bishop of London's request, is to be printed with our Report. I dine with the Bishop of London tomorrow. All the houses are full: much more must be done." Bishop Blomfield's steady support and hearty co-operation, combined with [242/243] the Bishop of Oxford's earnest and powerful advocacy, were among the chief means of giving to this cause the position it now occupies among Church works. [In March, 1854, the Association numbered 399 associates, including fifteen bishops.]
In the course of the afternoon of the day on which the meeting was held, Mr. Armstrong had the opportunity of rescuing an outcast from the streets of London,--the second whom he himself gathered in as the first-fruits of his labours. The following extract from a letter to Mrs. Armstrong is characteristic:--
"I feel very confident about her case. It really made my heart ache to hear her talk. The only difficulty is where to place her. Every House is crowded and crammed. Now, though you may think me rash and Quixotic, I am really disposed to make a venture, and rather than let her sink bark, to take her home with me on Saturday for a fortnight, and then try to get her at the first opening into one of these Houses. This day, being our great day, struck me as though it were Providentially-designed for her rescue; and as I had been speechifying, I desired to act up to my speech. There is nothing in her appearance to suggest suspicion,--indeed, quite the reverse,--and we might really make trial of such a case once."
 Some difficulties occurred on the poor girl's part about going as was proposed, and she was placed under the care of a friend in London. Afterwards, when in Africa, he heard of her still going on well.
Between the London meeting and his setting sail for Africa, little more than a year elapsed. But before leaving England, he saw in addition to the works already mentioned, two Refuges established in London. He also attended a meeting at Norwich for the purpose of forming a Penitentiary at Shipmeadow, near Beccles; and gave his aid in the establishment of the London Diocesan Penitentiary, subsequently fixed at Highgate. He also assisted Bishop Denison in his efforts to infuse a higher principle of management into the Salisbury Penitentiary. During the same time the Houses originally formed were extending their borders. New buildings on a large scale were being raised at Clewer. At Wantage the foundations of a new and enlarged House had been laid, and the new buildings at Bussage, planned in part by himself, and erected on the site of the old cottage, were completed just before he left England.
It might well have been thought a serious risk to so great and difficult a cause, that its [244/245] master-spirit should be withdrawn, when it was still in its infancy. But it was part of the Providence of God to combine together at the very commencement of the movement so large a number of earnest-minded men pledged to extend and develope what had been so successfully begun, and, under God, Mr. Armstrong's large and loving heart in giving the first impulse to combined action, tended to impress upon all who were associated with him a generous co-operativeness which has survived his own immediate personal influence.
Much, no doubt, remained to be done after Mr. Armstrong's removal, to extend the Church Penitentiary system throughout England; but though at work only in a comparatively narrow circle, it had already become an integral portion of the organization of our Church, and its practical effects, wherever it has been tried, have been so satisfactory as to encourage the hope that ultimately it will win the sympathies and confidence of the Church at large.
Time also is yet needed to complete the system, for a work depending so much on practical experience necessarily requires opportunity to test and methodise many of its details. One important principle in particular has [245/246] yet to be fully developed. It has been already stated, that the main distinction of the new, in comparison with the old, Penitentiaries, is the employment of self-devoted women serving for Christ's sake, instead of paid matrons. The difference in the treatment of the Penitents in the two cases, and the introduction of a higher Church element, depend on this primary idea. But at first it was expressed only in general terms. The idea had to be formalised, so to speak, in the actual progress of the work, and Sisterhoods, or the system of religious communities, was a legitimate and necessary, but yet a developed advance upon the first simple theory. It is manifestly impossible for ladies to bear the burden of such works single-handed: they need the sympathy and support of others like-minded. Moreover, where even a few are constantly working together, some order is requisite to give unity and power to the work. There must be constituted authority and fixed rule, and this according to some Church form. Hence Sisterhoods arose out of the Church Penitentiary movement from the very necessities of the case.
It may be hoped that, in time, general confidence will be given to a mode of service which, though until lately unknown amongst [246/247] us, has been long valued, not only in the Church of Rome, but by all the Protestant communities on the Continent, and has already given to those who have had the opportunity of observing its effects amongst ourselves in this special cause of Church Penitentiaries, a very deep conviction of the blessings it is calculated to effect.
[In an account published some years ago of the "Institution at Kaiserswerth, on the Rhine, for the practical training of Deaconesses," it was stated that there were then 100 Sisters in that Institution, and Branch Societies in fifteen places. There were also at the same time thirty Sisters in the Mutterhaus, in Berlin; at Charenton in the Fauxbourg St. Antoine, Paris, a society of twenty-four Sisters; a similar society in Strasbourg of twenty-four Sisters, and another at Echallens, in the Canton de Vaud, Switzerland, consisting of fifteen members.]