Page images
PDF
EPUB

Frequently when her sister was engaged with her companions, would she desire her mother to take her away from them, for she said, that she knew she was in bad company; and on the day she died, while her sister and a little girl were amusing themselves in the room in which she lay, she, with peculiar earnestness, cried out, ' I am dying. 0 live so as you may learn to die !"

In addition to the pleasure which these narratives are calcalated to produce, it must be agreeable to learn, that in various instances, young people have since become serious, of whom little hope was entertained at the time when they leftschuot; and that several of the young persons formerly reported as serious, and who have now grown up, continue stedfast in the faith, and though some of them have been placed io circumstances much calculated to try their principles, yet have continued to adorn the gospel by their conversation ; and fill their stations in society with credit to themselves, and benefit to others.

We have only to notice fartier, that the young woman mentioned in the last Report, still continues to superintend the Sabbath school which she established in a village in the north of England. Her school now contains 43 children, who repeat their tasks with accuracy, and have made considerable progress in Christian knowledge; four or five seem, at tiines, to be under serious impressions. A general amendment of conduct, especially co the Sabbath, has taken place among the young people in the village. The minister of the parish patronizes the school, and attends it very often ; and the people of the village feel much interest in it. She is now assisted by her brother and another young man, in conducting the school; so that there is a prospect that the school will be continued, though she should, as it is her present intention, reinove from the place.

On the NATURE of Prayer in SUNDAY SCHOOLS. IN the work of Sunday School tuition, prayer is of essential consequence; the work in which we are engaged is arduous, and our strength is weakness ;, how proper and requisite is it then for us continually to look up and cry to Almighty God for ability to perform the duties of our station, both individually and unitedly, to surround the footstool of our Heavenly Father, who hath said, “ Ask, and ye shall receive.'Hitherto we have not received, because we have not asked, or have asked amiss.

VOL. II.

х

It is not my intention now to enter on a view of the nature of christian prayer in general, either public or private, but to confine myself io the consideration of ibat sort of prayer which ought to be offered among the children in our Sunday Schools: two or three observations on this subject of confessed importance, I think may be of utility to Sunday School Teachers engaging in this service, and the cause in general,

It is obvious that this service partakes of the nature of public devotion, in a great measure, and should be performed with seriousness, decency, and order. It is necessary that those who are selected to perform the office of a “ mouth for us” at the Throne of Grace, should be able, in a degree, to express the united desires of our souls, and to offer proper petitions for those who are present; at any rate, every one who undertakes the duty should aim at this object, since the attention and united devotion of the hearers depend so much upon it.

Every one who is actuated by evangelical principles, beholds the necessity of founding our prayers on the truths of the Gospel, and will severely deprecate any other; but there are many who, in a measure, lose sight of those things which are of the greatest importance in public prayer, though of little consequence in private devotion, and by this means are much less acceptable in their social worship than otherwise they would become. Others, acceptable and useful in leading the social prayer of Christians, make no difference when praying with the children in our Schools; to these persons I am desirous of addressing a few observations; and I think it will appear, that if those things are disregarded which I wish to enforce, the most scriptural and pious prayer will be lost on most, if not all who are present.

Ist. In attending to the duty of prayer in a Sunday School, we should carefully avoid every appearance of irreverence. If we consider for a moment we shall see the propriety of this conduct; in our private retirements many actions of the body may be permitted, as the soul alone is concerned, which would appear improper in the social worship of Christians, and in the social meetings of Christians, many trivial things may be passed over by charity, which cannot be tolerated in Sunday Schools. Here we pray with different persons; other eyes are upon us; we speak in the presence of children, who notice the outward part of our devotion mmutely, it becomes iis, therefore, to be circumspect, lest we indulge in any word or action which may appear irreverent to them, or our prayers will not be held in higher estimation than the chattering of swallows. If they are led by any means to think lightly of the duty of prayer, its performance will defeat its own ends, not by any want of sincerity in the speaker, but through a neglect of attention to reverential appearance, Actions may be unconsciously contracted into habits, and when bad habits are formed it will be difficult to overcome them, it is therefore the duty of brethren to endeavour to nip them in the bud, by informing one another in private of those uocomely habits which may give the air of irreverence to each other's prayers; this would be found to be to their mutual advantage, as it would not only tend to remove ibose unbecoming appearances, but prove also the means of cementing the bonds of union still closer, in proportion as this freedom is exercised. I do not mean that every trivial fault is to be noticed, but when any actions seem to becoine habitual, which appear irreverent, I think it is the duty of bre:hren to pursue the line of conduct I recommend,

2dly, We should endeavour to offer petitions which are suitable to all the individuals with whom we pray.

In social prayer, the person speaking should remember, that he is not praving individually for himself, but as the representative of others; to render his prayers acceptable, it is requisite that they should be composed of petitions which are likely to meet the cases of those present, according to the best of his knowledge. With children especially, we should be careful to avoid those expressions in which they cannot sincerely join; by this I mean those petitions which relate to the growth of the existing principle of grace, and those ascriptions of praise to God, which injer that the life of religion actually exists. If these petitions are suitable to some, or all of tlie teachers, and a few of the childfen, unless we have some evidence of the conversion of most present, they ought to be avoided, since the omission would not be likely to be detrimental to those to whom personally they might apply, while their use excludes the prayer from the lips of most. This remark will apply, in my opinion, with equal propriety to the nature of the hymus we lead the children to sing ; experimental hymns and prayers may be omitted on these occasions, without any injury to the most experienced Christjaus, while, if they are sung or offered in the presence, and as the prayer or praise of unconverted persons, they tend certainly " to produce hypocrites,” and indeed do produce hypocrisy, if those unconverted persons join in the worship. As this subject, however, has been already discussed in your magazine, in a temperate and friendly manner, I shall only make one observation, which includes all that can be said on the subject, and is conclusive in my estimation, viz. -The prayer or praise of a sinner is always suitable for the lips of a saint,

in

while the holy prayers and praise emanating from and descriptive of the felt attainments of a real Christian, can never be suitable for the lips of one who has not experienced the renovating work of the Holy Spirit; were we always to remember this, and consider for whom we speak in our prayers, we should be likely to leave out those petitions, which, ihough personally applicable to a few, are, collectively, inapplicable to those present. It has been considerably painful to me, to hear some of my brethren

pray our schools in a manner suited to lively and experienced Christians, while we had no certain evidence of the conversion of any one child, and the speaker himself being the only person present of any considerable standing in the ways of God; and this injudicious conduct proceeded not from a want of sincerity, but of reflexion. I think every one must see the impropriety of such conduct, and the desirableness of confining our own feelings for the sake of others,

We should likewise endeavor to render our prayers suitable to the interest of the children. Perhaps a description of the fault into which some of our friends run, will give the best idea of what I mean. It is, many of our brethren (perhaps to occupy time) are accustomed to range through a wide field of benevolent objects of prayer, so as almost to exclude the cases of the children, occupying the prayers with petitions relative to subjects in a measure foreign to their primary and personal concerns. I do not wish these to be entirely excluded, but they ought not to be the main subject of our united petitions with the children. The concerns of their own souls should be the leading object of our prayers. The success of the Gospel in foreign lands, blessing on ministers, &c. &c. though proper subjects of prayer, should not (as is sometimes the case) compose three-fourths of our petitions, unless we considered the blessing of others three times as important to us as our own salvation.

Another thing I wish to mention is, the propriety of suiting our prayers to present or recent occurrences. A Sunday School Teacher ought to turn every thing into gold; we should seize every opportunity which is put in our way, of leading our little charge to the most important of all objects. the salvation of their souls; not an incident in a Sunday School should be suffered to pass without some attempt at improvement. Were our prayers grounded more upon recent occurrences, which must be fresh in the minds of the children, it is likely that their attention would be obtained with greater facility, and the utility of this act of worship be extended while it would prevent immoderate recourse to objects in a measure foreign, to occupy the time,

Srd, Let us aim at simplicity of speech in our prayersThis simplicity should include ideas, sentences, and words— if we disregard either we cannot be said to pray in a manner suited to Sunday School Children. It must, however, be confessed, that it is no easy task to divest ourselves of our own methods and expressions, and descend to the capacities of children; but it must be remembered, that application makes hard things easy; the object is certainly attainable, and if we are desirous of being useful Teachers, we shall strive to attain unto it. We may as well pray in Latin, if we are not understood by the children with whom we pray, for in this case they cannot join our prayers, however applicable to their situation they might be if understood by them.

In order to pray with simplicity, we should first of all pay attention to the simplicity of our ideas; a confused idea can never be expressed in a clear manner. We should be careful to know for what we are praying, or we are very unlikely to convey that knowledge to others; we should likewise seek to acquaint ourselves with the method in which children think, if we desire to communicate our thoughts and desires to them, since it will be impossible to inspire them with kindred thoughts, if our sentiments are above their comprehension; and it is certain, unless we cultivate a clearness of idea, our prayers and instructions will be little comprehended by them. The sentences of which our prayers are composed, should be simple; long sentences should be carefully avoided, as intricacy often proceeds from this cause, especially when children are the principal auditors. An aim at novelty will be likely to becloud the sentence and obscure the idea; an attempt at the conjunction of two or three scriptural expressions, containing as many different ideas, tends likewise to obscurity, while their separation into several short petitions, would render them perfectly intelligible to all. If we intend to be understood, we must not be afraid of sinking in our methods of expression, nor should we fail to repeat a sentence again and again, if an unguarded expression should appear to have escaped us, not making our object grammatical accuracy, but so to speak as to be understood. Our words likewise must be plain, or we may as well or better be silent; nothing of itself is more disgusting, than to hear a person in prayer aim at what is denominated flowery expression; but if this were permitted in adult auditories, among children it is altogether inexcusable, and ought to be deprecated with the utmost severity, where we should rather appear childish than fiue. These considerations will apply to all our duties, for if we wish to benefit them we must speak their language.

« PreviousContinue »