صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

influence does not depend on a certain amount of talent, her example is not a solitary one in the last or the present century. The daughter of Col. Allen is an example in keeping with the principle advocated, and in itself of too much interest to be omitted. Mr. A. lived in the era of the revolution, and unfortunately imbibed the principles of infidelity ; but from the history of his life, his wife, Mrs. A., seems not only to have been a decided Christian herself, but to have instilled the same principles into the mind of her daughter. The author of his Life says, that on his daughter's falling dangerously sick, the physician, who was of the same principles with her father, having been in attendance, and having retired to an adjoining room with him, was by her overheard representing her case to Mr. A. as being very dubious. She immediately called her father to her bedside, and desired him to inform her if her recovery were thus doubtful. On his answering in the affirmative, she said to him, “ Father, tell me, must I believe your principles, or what mother has taught me ?" We may judge what must have been her father's feelings as he replied to his dying child, “My daughter, believe your mother!Here was the double triumph of Christianity over infidelity, and of the maternal influence over the paternal. As then we generally receive our first moral impressions from our mothers, is it unreasonable to suppose that these impressions are also generally the deepest and most controlling over the whole tenor of our lives of any ever received ? And may we not safely indulge the abiding conviction, that more depends on them than on any other class in community, if not more than on all others combined, for the right moral culture of the rising generation ? But it may be answered, This lays upon them too great a weight of responsibility. We can only answer, Were this responsibility duly felt by all, the results would be most benign and salutary on community. Let mothers and sisters, with all others of their sex, exert the power which their peculiar relations and advantages put into their hands, and they can mold and fashion the moral character of the youth of this country, fully sustain the elevated and commanding attitude which the view that we have taken of this subject awards to them, and honorably acquit themselves of the responsibility under which they are placed, if the position assumed in this discourse is found tenable : and not only so, but when instrumentality and results are made clearly manifest, cause thousands to “ rise up and call them blessed.” Is not this a sufficient motive to make every effort in our power in this great work? But we hasten to remark, II. That Sabbath Schools are peculiarly adapted to promote the moral

education of the rising generation. This will more clearly appear when we take a brief review of the circumstances under which they were originally instituted.

1. The present system was first devised by Robert Raikes, Esq., in 1781, and by him first introduced among the children of the pin-manufacturers in Gloucester, England. Mr. R. is said to have been a printer by trade, and in his general character distinguished for kindness and benevolence. In accordance with his habitually benevolent character, his philanthropic disposition led him to inquire into the condition of the prisoners and convicts in bridewell, in that county, where he found that the common prisoners were

associated in the same prison with convicts of the worst character, and without any other means of support than the uncertain and inadequate subsistence derived from the voluntary donations given by persons attracted there by business or curiosity. And what was nearly, if not altogether as much to be commiserated in their condition was, they were destitute of any means of mental or moral improvement. Here was a state of things of too deep and solemn interest not to call into action every benevolent sympathy of his heart, and to throw him upon his best resources for the discovery or invention of some means of present relief of these evils, and which might prove adequate to their prevention in future. In regard to their present relief he supplied such as could read with suitable books, and for the supply of their temporal wants he procured them employment, that by the labor of their own hands they might gain a subsistence. And to prevent the same evils in future, having seen that a majority of these unfortunate men were almost totally destitute of education, and knowing that this also must inevitably be the case with their children, since they were excluded from all opportunity of attending school during the week by their constant employment in the factories, he saw no alternative but to gather them into schools on the Sabbath; having observed that on that day they usually collected in groups of hundreds or more in the streets, while their language and manners were often exceedingly reprehensible.

With his soul glowing with the purest benevolence, and with all its energies roused to effort by a state of things so imperiously demanding the interposition of some kindly succoring hand, he could not hesitate long as to the means of carrying into execution the plan which had been adopted. He first resorted to that powerful engine, the “press,” in exposing the morally destitute condition of this wretched class or portion of community, calling on the pious and benevolent to interest themselves in their behalf, and apply the only certain moral remedy to the crying evil. He next engaged the services of two ladies, who at that time were employed in teaching a day school in the neighborhood, for a shilling a day, equal to about twenty cents of federal money, as their wages; and he soon succeeded in collecting a number of children, from Sabbath to Sabbath, placing them under their tuition. This was the commencement of that noble institution, which has since spread not only over England and America, but the isles of the sea, and throughout every clime, and among every tribe and nation where the missionary of the Cross has found his way ; embracing thousands of children and youth, in both Christian and heathen countries, in the compass of its benevolent action. These nurseries of piety, these moral seminaries, have been the means of instilling and of fostering moral principles in the heart of many a youth, and of preparing him for a place in the church militant, and also for membership in the church triumphant. The amount of their moral influence is truly incalculable. They have not only proved powerful auxiliaries to parents and guardians in the important work of moral education, but in many instances have they been the means even of supplying their lack of service and the defects in their duty on this subject. And in farther evidence of their beneficial tendency in promoting this grand object, it may be added that the founder of this noble

Vol. IX.-April, 1838. 20

institution lived to see the successful operation of the system for thirty years, during which time he superintended the education of more than three thousand children; and during the whole period he never knew one who had been educated in Sabbath schools committed to prison for any offence! And it is also worthy of remark, giving “honor to whom honor is due,” that the Methodists were the first who taught the children in these schools without pecuniary compensation; though we know of no exception to the custom at the present time.

2. But for the system to work in the best manner possible, and result in the greatest promotion of this object, the qualifications of Sabbath school teachers is a consideration of vast importance. It may be consistently asked, whether it is indispensable for a teacher to be a member of the church, and to have experienced religion, in order to be qualified to teach in these schools. For ourselves we answer unhesitatingly, that, as to the former, though in this work it would be well, yet it is comparatively a matter of less consequence; but a decided preference is to be given to those who have a personal experience in religion, other qualifications being equal. But where such persons cannot be obtained, there is no impropriety in employing persons of good moral character who have never been converted, provided, in other respects, they are well qualified for the work. In the original commencement of these schools, it was indispensable to instruct the children in spelling and reading, before they could read and commit portions of Scripture and attend to the catechism; but in most places at the present time this is rendered unnecessary. But on this account Sabbath school instruction must now be of a more elevated, intellectual, and evangelical character, rendering certain corresponding qualifications in the teachers absolutely prerequisite. They should not only be well versed in general history, but also in the history of the Bible; they should be well acquainted with its geography and chronology ; with the subject of miracles and prophecy, so as to be able to distinguish in both between those which are genuine and real and such as are only pretended and spurious; with its theology and morality, being able to conceive their inseparable relation, and their unity in their distinctive features through all the three great dispensations; and with the manners and customs both of the select people of God and of those nations which were contemporary with them, together with their arts and sciences. Without adequate knowledge on all these subjects, in a thousand instances the teacher will be totally unprepared to give a satisfactory answer to questions which may be expected to arise in alnıost every lesson. Hence the advantage of having a Bible class attached to every school and congregation, of which the pastor should have the special oversight. This, in most cases, is all he can do consistently with his numerous other duties and labors connected with the public services of every Sabbath. But though it may be impracticable for him ordinarily to attend the school in person, yet it may be practicable both for him and the teachers, with some of the most advanced scholars, to devote one evening in each week for the special improvement of the two last, and in preparing the teachers for the duties of the ensuing Sabbath. Some difficulty might attend such an arrangement on some of the circuits, but this course might be pursued on almost every station.

Ånd were this plan universally adopted, the advantages not only to the classes but also to the teachers themselves, would doubtless far exceed what they otherwise can be. The Bible class would be a sort of preparatory department, or apprenticeship to the performance of the duty of a teacher of the classes.

3. But, moreover, all such institutions and benevolent associations, like our corporeal systems, are under a constant tendency to languishment; the energy which at first set them in motion soon becoming enervated or completely exhausted, which renders it much easier to raise sufficient impetus to start them, in most cases, than to keep them long in efficient operation. This has long been painfully felt by the church, not only with regard to this institution, but others also of a kindred character. It cannot be expect. ed that those for whose especial benefit Sabbath schools were originated, will feel a greater degree of interest in them than they see manifested by others. On this account, as it always has, so it always will devolve upon age and experience to instruct the young and ignorant. The question, therefore, is one of primary importance, How this system can be kept in “ perpetual motion;" where the nervous stimulus is secreted, and how it may be brought to act upon the muscles and springs of motion, so as to put the whole body into constant and vigorous action? But the answer is not so difficult as at first might be supposed; the moving principle is not so occult as many conceive. It is self-exciting, and thereby selfexistent. In other words, it is simply this—when interest produces effort, effort will inspire and sustain interest. They generallymay we not say always?-rise and decline together; therefore, as we understand the principle, we have only first to feel the interest, in order to make the necessary efforts in the cause, and putting forth continued efforts will keep alive perpetual interest. Having thought much and prayed earnestly over this subject, let parents, friends, and patrons encourage the superintendents and teachers of Sabbath schools, by evincing the deep interest which they feel in the success of their efforts by frequently visiting the school, and, when deserved, commending the improvement made by the scholars; and how would such a practice, judiciously followed, excite the interest of the latter, and encourage the former in their efforts to advance their great moral interests! But this is not all that those may and ought to do who are not personally employed in these institutions. To keep up a joint interest and effort on this subject, unceasing prayer should be made in their behalf; for we are never indifferent with respect to any object for which we earnestly pray; and it would be the greatest enthusiasm not to make use of every effort and every means to gain or promote such object. And there can be no doubt of the benign influence of concerts of prayer at stated times, especially in behalf of Sabbath schools; and were they universally adopted by all denominations of Christians, and attended with due faith and unity of desire, how soon would a new era dawn upon the world!

The next and last thing which we shall mention in the practical view we have taken of this subject is, the constant pecuniary support which this institution is entitled to receive. That it may accomplish the greatest possible amount of good, every school must be duly supplied with books adapted to the capacities of children, and these libraries must be annually replenished. And

the influence which an ample and well-selected library is destined to exert on the juvenile mind in forming its future moral character, is like " leaven” pervading the “ whole lump,” or like “bread cast upon the waters, to be seen and gathered after many days. Indeed, every thing having a bearing on the great moral interests of the child, increases in importance in proportion as we trace the endless line of his future being, and parallel pain or bliss; when he is either lost in the pierceless shades of an eternal night, or disappears amid the dazzling splendors of eternal day.

For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.


THROUGH the aid of the spirit of prophecy the Apostle Peter discovered that the then infant church of Christ would be subject to trial and persecution ; that even their principles and the foundation on which they rested, would be questioned and ridiculed. And the apostle did not keep this important matter within his own breast to save the disciples of the Redeemer from the thrilling pang to which this intelligence might subject them, but lifted up his warning voice, not to render them fearful, but to prepare them for the contest; and that all the friends of God and the Bible might prepare themselves fully to sustain the doctrines of their Master against their antagonists, and perpetuate all the principles and interests of his kingdom. The apostle says, “ There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,” and immediately adds, “ They are ignorant,” nay, “willingly ignorant.” This is true in respect to those principles at which they scoff. And this renders them the more formidable, because of the fact that “they are igno. rant.” The end of revelation and gospel instruction can never be realized in those who are willingly ignorant of them—those who love darkness rather than light. But it does not follow from the above remarks that the infidels lack mind or a polished literary education. Men may have all they can acquire from earthly science, and still be grossly ignorant of the superstructure of Christianity. There could be no just ground for fear if they would not " darken counsel with words without knowledge," and seek to instruct others into science and subjects they have never studied. But here is the danger, skeptical men standing on the top of that sweeping influence justly merited by personal and arduous application, take advantage of less instructed mind, and push their influence beyond their knowledge, and thereby the credulous and simple are turned out of the way. They profess to understand a science they have never explored; and in view of that profession, and other various knowledge, men heighten the pinnacle of their elevation, and exultingly repair to bleeding Calvary, unaware that that blood alone can quench the fire that never shall be quenched” build a bonfire of the cross and its history-limit hope to time—and commit to the flames the records of their own immortality. But what shall unweave this tissue of ignorance and sophistry, and exhibit, in the light of reason and revelation, the crude materials of the web ? Can

« السابقةمتابعة »