Wednesday, March 07, 2007

John Pugh IX: At the Prison Gate

Once a church or a person is baptised by the Holy Spirit, it is impossible for them to go on as before, the desire to spread the good news that Christ died for sinners becomes overwhelming. And John Pugh had always had an eye for the most wretched of sinners, just as his Lord saw Zaccheus in the sycamore tree. One day in 1890, Pugh was passing the gate of Cardiff Prison, which stands between the town centre and Clifton Street. There, he saw something that concerned him: a crowd of suspicious characters hanging around the prison gate. Pausing to watch them, John Pugh quickly realised that these were representatives of the underworld, waiting to greet released prisoners, to lead them back into a life of crime. This shocked Pugh, as it would have shocked most people.

But Pugh never stopped with being shocked. Moved by a Christ-like compassion, he resolved that it should no longer be the representatives of the devil only who met these poor men. Pugh wrote letters to the press drawing the attention of the people of Cardiff to this great evil. He contacted the Cory brothers, Cardiff shipping magnates and philanthropists, s eeking their aid.

The result of this was the formation of a mission to newly-released convicts. Its objects, laid out in the minutes of the first meeting, were:

1. To give prisoners on their discharge a free breakfast.

2. To induce them to sign the pledge.

3. To persuade them to take Jesus Christ as their Saviour from sin.

4. To seek employment for such as had no work.

5. To induce unfortunate fallen women to abandon their evil course and enter a Rescue Home.

The mission workers gathered by the prison gate from eight o'clock. Most prisoners were only too glad to be treated to a free breakfast, given at the Heathfield Coffee Tavern, South Luton Place. After the meal, hymns were sung and a Gospel message was given. By the middle of 1891, some 2,000 prisoners had breakfasted, and some had been wonderfully converted. Thus began the 'Society for the aid of Released Prisoners.'

The Cardiff Prison gate mission was typical of Pugh in its concern for the physical and spiritual needs of the prisoners. Approaching them as whole people, it avoided both pietism and the determinism of the social gospel, which states that all that is needed to make a man better is to feed and clothe him.

And there was more land left to conquer. In 1891 Moody and Sankey visited Cardiff.



Blogger reglerjoe said...

I admire Pugh's initiative. Most Christian's are content with being shocked instead of being proactive.

8:00 pm  
Blogger Hiraeth said...

Pugh is to me the greatest sign that Calvinists are not mere pietists. This was a man who would go wherever sinners were and seek to bring them to Christ through strong preaching of the word. If Pugh saw something that shocked him (and there was a great deal to shock in Cardiff then, as now), he would seek to bring Christ into the situation.

11:40 am  
Blogger Hiraeth said...

This is a standing reproach to the church today, and to so many of us.

11:40 am  

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