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But thirdly. Your labours are not confined merely to teach them to read this book, they are intended to inform them of its great design. You want them to understand its meaning; on this account the doctrines of Christianity are taught them with great care; their tender minds are frequently called on to reflect upon “ repentance towards God, and faith in Christ,” they are catechised and examined upon the law and the Gospel, so that, (at a future period,) it may be said of many of them “ they knew the Scriptures from their youth.”
Fourthly. These truths are applied to their consciences in the most affectionate manner. It is not only a formal repetition of these subjects in catechising they are used to, but a frequent exercise of their judgment, and affectionate addresses to their consciences.
Is it not a great privilege that you enjoy, in having such opportunities with so many children? Many holy men have thought it one of the most important duties (when they had charge of a parish) to catechise the children, they employed much time and study on this work, and in many instances had only a small number under their care; but God hath put it in your power to instruct hundreds, I may perhaps say, thousands of the rising generation.
Fifihly. Shall we say that these children will derive no higher benefit than instruction? May we not hope for the conversion and salvation of their souls? Is not this word designed to " turn sinners from the power of Satan 10 God." This Gospel not only informs the mind of those awful and glorious subjects which the heathens were ignorant of, but it is the power of God to salvation. The powerful means he uses to save the children of men. Is îhen probable that a multitude of pious Christians, watching over thousands of children, praying with them, catechising and exhorting them, and this from principles of faith and love shall have no fruit in the conversion of souls? You, my friends, have much ground to expect “ that God will give you souls for your hire,” and in a sense in which a pious parent may use the language, you, (in the great day) may have to say “ here am I and the children thou hast given me.”
This leads me to notice secondly, some of the advantages which the families, connected with the children, may derive from your labours. Let us allow that three or four hundred of their parents are ignorant and wicked, yet there are few so ignorant that they do not wish their children to be instructed,
nor so wicked that they are unwilling their children should be good. We will suppose that their parents never pray, never read their Bibles, nor attend a place of worship, that their children learn little from their parents but blasphemy, drunkenness, strife, and almost every sort of iniquity, I say, we will suppose that two, three, or four hundred families are in this wretched state.-My friends, what are you doing? do I say too much, when I say you are sending missionaries amongst these Christian savages? Missionaries of the most suitable character, from whom they cannot withhold their attention, whose language will be understood, whilst it must, (if any thing can,) reach every feeling of their hearts. Í will explain what I mean,—these children return from the schools to their families, there their tasks, their lessons, their hymn books, their catechisms, are often before their ungodly parents : they hear their children read, or talk about God and Christ, heaven and hell, sin and holiness, repentance and faith, perhaps the most wicked are the soonest affected, and secretly exclaim “ What a wretch am I! these children are mine, and alas, they can teach me things I am ignorant of; shall I teach these children to lie, swear, and be wicked, when people who do not belong to them are teaching them to be good?" Can you, my brethren, conceive the conviction, which must frequently strike the hearts of such parents, whilst their children are repeating the instructions you give them? Is it not probable that one thousand children thus instructed, and mixing with three or four hundred families, will promote a conviction of the excellency of religion?
How many of their parents or relations, who never read their Bibles, will begin to read them? How many who never prayed, will begin to pray? How many who never heard the word, will begin to hear? But this leads me to notice thirdly, the good you are doing to the town you live in. These schools have existed more than thirty years, and I cannot help concluding that their effects have been great. Is it not doing good in the place you reside, if first, you can help to stem the torrent of open profaneness? It second, you can draw the inhabitants to hear the word faithfully preached? If third, you can instruct the ignorant ? or fourth, you can be instrumental in the conversion of sinners? Have we not reason to believe all these effecis have arisen from these schools? I know there is much wickedness around us; perhaps many who have been taught by us, have turned out wicked; but this does not prove the schools altogether unsuccessful; since they were first established, many hundreds of the children, who attended them, must have grown up to men and women :-they have families of their own.
Is it not likely that amongst the hundreds who were instructed amongst us, many would be disposed to hear the word preached, and attend public worship? We see a great increase of serious hearers, we see a great increase of professors of religion, we see our places of worship too small for those who desire to attend, we see multitudes now paying some regard to the word, the day, the ministers of God, we see religion respected :-and can there be a doubt, my brethren, that under God one great cause of this is, those who once were children in those schools, now form a certain class of the inhabitants, they are disposed to hear, they and their families attend, the word is powerful, they hear and live.
But fourthly. Whilst you are thus benefiting the place you are residing in, you are serving the church of Christ, that church be purchased with his own blood. If the prosperity of the church consists in the increase of knowledge, holiness and usefulness of its members; your present hours, (from the considerations already advanced,) are directly calculated to promote that end; I will not, therefore, dwell upon this further than 10 remind you that probably when you sleep in the dust of the earth, some of those children, who have received their first principles of religious instruction from you, may rise to be ministers of Christ, be called by him to preach the everlasting Gospel, and from this humble labour luminaries may arise “ to chace the gloom of hellish night," and spread amongst their fellow creatures the light of the glorious Gospel.
Fifthly. Whilst you are thus disinterestedly serving others, you are profiting yourselves. The benefits you derive yourselves from this labour of love, are greater than may appear at first sight,—whatever increases your habits of diligence and order, your freedom from the stares which are common to persons in similar situations in life ; whatever capacitates you to discharge your duty to your nearest relations must promote your own interest. Your labour in the Sunday Schools, is calculated to answer all these and greater purposes. First, it obliges you to redeem time, you cannot preserve your stations in them without diligence. Secondly, the system of the school leads you to habits of order. Thirdly, it preserves you from the temptations those are under, who find the Lord's day a day of greater misery and corruption to them than any other part of the week: but with you “ No moment lingers unemployed away.” Fourthly, it produces in your breasts a love to children, a disposition of the greatest importance to yourselves and your connections; as the improvement of children in useful knowledge and true piety connects with it not only the interests of society in general, but of your own posterity in particular. Fifthly, hence whilst every pious and benevolent disposition is promoted in your own breasts, whilst you are redeeming your time, and cultivating habits of diligence and order, you are preparing for the discharge of the parental duties to your own families ; what you have felt and done for strangers, will surely be the case in a much higher degree for your own children. Sixthly, you have your reward in that peace which arises in your own minds. Do you not often feel whilst engaged in this labour, a degree of that peace which passeth understanding, that peace which the world cannot give, nor take away.
" The souls calm sunshine and heartfelt joy.” You have the testimony of a good conscience.
Lastly, you are doing good to future generations. Should you get safe to glory, and could you be permitted, at the expiration of fifty or an hundred years to visit this earth, could you see the families sprung from the children you now watch over, how many would have to say “My parents early taught me to read, to understand the Bible, to love the worship of God, to fear sin, and to seek after the salpation of my soul; I am doing this for my family, now God has given me one, I am leaching, catechising, and praying with my children, as my parents did with me, and I have often heard them say, they never would have been able to do this, (for their parents were ignorant and wicked, had not some pious people devoted some part of the Sunday to instruct poor children in the principles of religion, and they were among them; and now the third generation is blessed with religious instruction by means of these good people, who were not paid any thing for their labour, though they instructed many hundreds as well as us.”. Can you tell, my dear hearers, what you would feel could you from heaven witness such scenes as these? If then you regard the welfare of the children, or of the families they belong to, or of the town at large, or of the church of Christ, if you regard your own peace and usefulness, the happiness of your posterity, or succeeding generations, do not faint in this labour of love, but “ be stedfast and immovable, always abounding in it, as the work of the Lord, so shall you prove in all these respects, that your labour was not in vain in the Lord.”
Sketch of a Plan, by which a SUNDAY School may
Support itself Sir, THE encouraging statements given in your last nurber of the establishing of Sunday Schools in private houses, will no doubt lead some in small villages and in poor neighbourhoods to wish to imitate the example set them. Where Sunday Schools have hitherto been unknown, it usually happens that they meet with opposition rather than support from the opulent around, consequently the expence of the school devolves upon a few zealous individuals, and these being often in the bumbler walks of life, find the sum which they are called upon to subscribe, though small, a burden which makes the work go on heavily, and not unfrequently, it is to be feared, induces the ultimate giving up of the school.
Reflecting upon these things, I have been led to sketch out a simple plan, by means of which a Sunday School may support itself. This plan is now actually adopted in two schools, and I shall be happy at a future period to lay before you its result.
You will perhaps allow me to enter into the detail of the method adopted, for, as conductors of Sunday Schools well know, it is the detail with which those who are unused to such institutions need especially to be made acquainted.
After preaching at a populous village I invited those persons to stay, who were inclined to assist in teaching a Sunday School. A considerable number of persons came forward, one of whom was appointed to receive the names of such children as might be proposed. Three hundred spelling books were then ordered from London.
Instead of Testaments, by means of a subscriber to the British and Foreign Bible Society, one dozen of the cheapest Testaments in sheers had been previously procured, and one sheet of these, when folded up and covered with stiff paper, supplied the place of the whole book, and cost only three halfpence.
When the books were thus provided, a price was set upon each, sufficient to cover the first cost, and to leave a few shillings in hand for incidental expences. The children being assembled, they were informed that such as behared well would be allowed to bring one halfpenny per week, in exchange for which, a ticket with the words « havior” stamped upon it, would be given at the close of the school, but that on no account would a child that behaved