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There is a cant in poetry as well as in criticism and religion. There are catchwords and set phrases, and a stereotyped language, which poetasters use, and with which they lure their readers into a high idea of their merit. The pages of Bryant are clear of such trash. We find in them no moping melancholy, no tinsel glitter, no empty conceits, no fulsome exaggerations. His poetry is of that sort which is of use. Let not the lovers of verse start at such praise. We are no Utilitarians in the ultra sense of the word. We would not degrade the noble art of poesy to the level of a piece of machinery, and calculate its value in the same way as we estimate the worth of a mechanical invention. Neither do we profess to be so transcendental as to put out of view the influence which poetry can and ought to exert upon the character, by operating through the most delicate part of that complex and mysterious nature God has given us There is a poetry which maddens and sensualizes, and befools, which fills the imagination with all that is vulgar and vicious, which brings confusion into the thoughts, weakens the judgment, enervates the whole character, and unfits one for the duties and trials of life. We consider it the office of the true poet to elevate the mind sufficiently above common life to remind us of our destiny, and not so far but it may return from its soarings with a fresh relish for the realities of the present, and find itself braced up and invigorated for its work. That we hold to be the true poetry which sheds a rosy light upon the path of duty, which marries the imagination to the judgment, which performs a part, and aims so to do, in building up and adorning a true humanity, a humanity in which shall be blended in graceful union the "beauty of holiness" and the severity of truth.
W. P. L.
ART. VI. The Sunday School. A Discourse pronounced before the Sunday School Society. By WILLIAM E. CHAN
MATTHEW xix. 13, 14. Then were there brought unto him little children that he should put his hands on them and pray and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
THE subject of this discourse is indicated by the name of the Society, at whose request I appear in this place. The Sunday
School, this is now to engage our attention. I believe, I can best aid it by expounding the principles on which it should rest and by which it should be guided. I am not anxious to pronounce an eulogy on this and similar institutions. They do much good, but they are destined to do greater. They are in their infancy, and are only giving promise of the benefits they are to confer. They already enjoy patronage, and this will increase certainly, necessarily, in proportion as they shall grow in efficiency and usefulness. I wish to say something of the great principles which should preside over them, and of the modes of operation by which they can best accomplish their end. This discourse, though especially designed for Sunday schools, is in truth equally applicable to domestic instruction. Parents who are anxious to train up their children in the paths of Christian virtue, will find in every principle and rule, now to be laid down, a guide for their own steps. How to reach, influence, enlighten, elevate the youthful mind, this is the grand topic; and who ought not to be interested in it? for who has not an interest in the young?
I propose to set before you my views under the following heads. I shall consider, first, the Principle on which such schools should be founded; next their End or great object; in the third place, What they should teach; and, lastly, How they should teach. These divisions, if there were time to fill them up, would exhaust the subject.' I shall satisfy myself with offering you what seem to me the most important views under each.
I. I am, first, to consider the principle on which the Sunday school should be founded. It must be founded and carried on in Faith. You must not establish it from imitation, nor set it in motion because other sects have adopted a like machinery. The Sunday school must be founded on and sustained by a strong faith in its usefulness, its worth, its importance. Faith is the spring of all energetic action. Men throw their souls. into objects, only because they believe them to be attainable and worth pursuit. You must have faith in your school; and for this end you must have faith in God; in the child whom you teach; and in the Scriptures which are to be taught.
You must have faith in God; and by this I do not mean a general belief of his existence and perfection, but a faith in him as the father and friend of the children whom you instruct, as desiring their progress more than all human friends, and as most ready to aid you in your efforts for their good. You must not
feel yourselves alone. You must not think when you enter the place of teaching, that only you and your pupils are present, and that you have nothing but your own power and wisdom to rely on for success. You must feel a high presence. You must feel that the Father of these children is near you, and that he loves them with a boundless love. Do not think of God as interested only in higher orders of beings, or only in great and distinguished men. The little child is as dear to him as the hero, as the philosopher, as the angel; for in that child are the germs of an angel's powers, and God has called him. into being that he may become an angel. On this faith every Sunday school should be built, and on such a foundation it will stand firm and gather strength.
Again, you must have faith in the child whom you instruct. Believe in the greatness of its nature and in its capacity of improvement. Do not measure its mind by its frail, slender form. In a very few years, in ten years perhaps, that child is to come forward into life, to take on him the duties of an arduous vocation, to assume serious responsibilities, and soon after he may be the head of a family and have a voice in the government of his country. All the powers which he is to put forth in life, all the powers which are to be unfolded in his endless being, are now wrapt up within him. That mind, not you, nor I, nor an angel, can comprehend. Feel that your scholar, young as he is, is worthy of your intensest interest. Have faith in his nature, especially as fitted for religion. Do not, as some do, look on the child as born under the curse of God, as naturally hostile to all goodness and truth. What! the child totally depraved! Can it be that such a thought ever entered the mind of a human being? especially of a parent! What! in that beauty of childhood and youth, in that open brow, that cheerful smile, do you see the brand of total corruption? Is it a little fiend who sleeps so sweetly on his mother's breast? Was it an infant demon, which Jesus took in his arms and said, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven?" Is the child, who, as you relate to him a story of suffering or generosity, listens with a tearful or kindling eye and a throbbing heart, is he a child of hell? As soon could I look on the sun, and think it the source of darkness, as on the countenance of childhood or of youth, and see total depravity written there. My friends, we should believe any doctrine sooner than this, for it tempts us to curse the day of our birth; to loathe our existence; and, by
making our Creator our worst foe and our fellow-creatures hateful, it tends to rupture all the ties which bind us to God and our race. My friends, have faith in the child; not that it is virtuous and holy at birth; for virtue or holiness is not, cannot be born with us, but is a free, voluntary effort of a being who knows the distinction of right and wrong, and who, if tempted, adheres to the right; but have faith in the child as capable of knowing and loving the good and the true, as having a conscience to take the side of duty, as open to ingenuous motives for well-doing, as created for knowledge, wisdom, piety, and disinterested love.
Once more, you must have faith in Christianity as adapted to the mind of the child, as the very truth fitted to enlighten, interest, and improve the human being in the first years of life. It is the property of our religion, that whilst it stretches beyond the grasp of the mightiest intellect, it contracts itself, so to speak, within the limits of the narrowest; that whilst it furnishes matter of inexhaustible speculation to such men as Locke and Newton, it condescends to the ignorant and becomes the teacher of babes. Christianity at once speaks with authority in the schools of the learned, and enters the nursery to instil with gentle voice celestial wisdom into the ears of infancy. And this wonderful property of our religion is to be explained by its being founded on, and answering to, the primitive and most universal principles of human nature. It reveals God as a parent,
and the first sentiment which dawns on the child is love to its parents. It enjoins not arbitrary commands, but teaches the everlasting principles of duty; and the sense of duty begins to unfold itself in the earliest stages of our being. It speaks of a future world and its inhabitants, and childhood welcomes the idea of angels, of spirits, of the vast, the wonderful, the unseen. Above all, Christianity is set forth in the life, the history, the character of Jesus; and his character, though so sublime, is still so real, so genuine, so remarkable for simplicity, and so naturally unfolded amidst the common scenes of life, that it is seized in its principal features by the child as no other greatness can be. One of the excellences of Christianity is, that it is not an abstruse theory; not wrapt up in abstract phrases, but taught us in facts, in narratives. It lives, moves, speaks, and acts before our eyes. Christian love is not taught us in cold precepts. It speaks from the cross. So immortality is not a vague promise. It breaks forth like the morning from
the tomb near Calvary. It becomes a glorious reality in the person of the rising Saviour; and his ascension opens to our view the heaven into which he enters. It is this historical form of our religion which peculiarly adapts it to childhood, to the imagination and heart, which open first in childhood. In this sense the kingdom of heaven, the religion of Christ, belongs to children. This you must feel. Believe in the fitness of our religion for those you teach. Feel that you have the very instrument for acting on the young mind, that you have the life-giving word.
II. Having considered the faith in which the Sunday school should be founded, I proceed now to consider the end, the great object, which should be proposed and kept steadily in view by its friends. To work efficiently and usefully, we must understand what we are to work for. In proportion as an end is seen dimly and unsteadily, our action will be vague, uncertain, and our energy wasted. What, then, is the end of the Sunday school? The great end is, to awaken the soul of the pupil, to bring his understanding, conscience, and heart into earnest, vigorous action on religious and moral truth, to excite and cherish in him Spiritual Life. Inward life, force, activity, this it must be our aim to call forth and build up in all our teachings of the young, especially in religious teaching. You must never forget, my friends, whether parents or Sundayschool instructers, what kind of a being you are acting upon. Never forget that the child is a rational, moral, free being, and that the great end of education is to awaken rational and moral energy within him, and to lead him to the free choice of the right, to the free determination of himself to truth and duty. The child is not a piece of wax to be moulded at another's pleasure, not a stone to be hewn passively into any shape which the caprice and interest of others may dictate; but a living, thinking being, made to act from principles in his own heart, to distinguish for himself between good and evil, between truth and falsehood, to form himself, to be in an important sense the author of his own character, the determiner of his own future being. This most important view of the child should never forsake the teacher. He is a free moral agent, and our end should be to develope such a being. He must not be treated as if he were unthinking matter. You can make a house, a ship, a statue, without its own consent. You determine the