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earth, then will the demand for sabbath-school books increase yearly, and teachers, and missionaries, whom the sabbath schools are to as. sist in training, will be called to go out by hundreds into these widespread fields.
As a numerous and rapidly increasing denomination in the United States, and as one that acts with at least as much unity as any other, we are called upon to arouse and come up with energy to perform our part in this great work.
Again: look at a fact of still greater magnitude. Sunday schools are called to act an important part in securing the eternal salvation of these thousands of immortal souls. Consider the value of a single soul -of the deathless spirit of that child before you. “ Yesterday that child was nothing, but when will it cease to be? Never! Immortality is written upon it; and the inscription is indelible, for it was traced by the finger of God. The mind has begun its play; its instincts and its faculties now move, but with incipient life. Even dull, worthless matter is of older date. Ages of history passed before it was said of him, ' A child is born into the world.' History will con. tinue its annals, matter its combinations, the heavens their course ; but he shall survive them all. The revolutions of ages shall be for. gotten ; the high events of life chase each other from the stage; the fashion of this world pass away.' Yes; a period may arrive when it shall require an effort of even a perfected memory to recall the events accounted the most important on earth. • The heavens shall pass away with a great noise,' and leave the spaces they have occupied to silence and to nothing; but the child set in the midst of us ó shall then be.' The basis of its existence cannot be shaken ; but in those innumerable ages which that existence must fill, never let it be forgotten that it will be a happy spirit before the throne of God, or a hopeless outcast from heaven,' What, then, if it depend upon sabbath schools in the smallest degree to stamp the seal of bliss upon that immortality ; yea, upon myriads of immortal beings, is an institution employed in such a work to awaken but a feeble portion of interest, or to be left to drag out an inefficient, irregular, and sickly existence? Or is it to awaken the energies of the church, to have its foundations laid broad and deep-to be based on plans matured by the wisest and most efficient counsels and to be watched over by a vigilant and untiring supervision ?
We bespeak attention to another fact. Sabbath schools are privi. leged to bestow their labor and son their seed in the most promising portion of the great moral vineyard.
Formerly the chief energies of the church were directed toward those advanced in life. It seemed to be a conceded and settled point with the majority, that those below twenty years of age were too young to be pious. The field was left to be sown and overspread with a luxuriant growth of the tares of iniquity before any one thought of sowing the seed of the kingdom. The twig was scarcely touched till it rose to the dimensions of a sturdy oak, and then we began with great zeal our efforts to change its untoward direction, and cure its unsightly deformities. Is it a matter of surprise that our success bore little proportion to our desires ? Is it not time to profit by our past failures, and begin with the young ere their sinful habits are formed ?
VOL. XI.-Jan., 1840.
Let us " seize then this sweet hour of prime,' the most hopeful and important of human life. A child is yet the creature of imitation ; let us hold up then the example of whatsoever things are pure, and honest, and lovely, and of good report.' If there be any virtue, any praise, let it be presented to the understanding ; let it meet the eye ; let it be urged upon the heart. The matter is yet plastic ; let a mold be prepared to receive it which bears the character we would wish it permanently to present when it becomes fixed and unyielding."
We have said a field of labor among the young was every way the most promising. Take an illustration from two names of extensive celebrity. In the last century lived the celebrated John Wilmot, earl of Rochester. “ He was well bred, modest, and obliging. He had a strange vivacity of thought and vigor of expression. His wit had a subtlety and sublimity that were scarcely imitable. His style was clear and strong. When he used figures they were very lively and original. He loved to write and talk of speculative matters, and did it with so fine a thread that even those who hated the subjects that his fancy run upon, could not but be charmed with his way of treating them. Few men had a bolder flight of fancy, more steadily governed by judgment, than he had.” He moved in the highest circles, and, possessed of so many rare endowments, wielded an extensive influence. After these uncommon powers had been employed for years in running a high career of sin, in unsettling the faith of scores of young persons, and inventing subtle and dangerous sophisms and artful witticisms against Christianity, and after alluring many an unsuspecting victim from the paths of innocence, we find this man an humble suppliant for mercy, and finally giving evidence that he has indeed found it. With great effort the good Bishop Burnett succeeded in rendering himself instrumental in plucking this brand from the burning. He would now do something for that religion he has so much abused for that Sa. viour he has so long blasphemed; but he cannot. Worn down with disease, and tottering on the brink of the grave, he can only breathe out his fruitless sorrows over the past, and lament his inability to undo even a hundredth part of the evil he has accomplished.
In striking and instructive contrast with such a case is that of the late Dr. Morrison. This eminent individual was found a poor and neglected boy in the streets, and taken up by the sabbath school. Here he was nurtured; here his mental energies were quickened into life, and his morals molded after the Christian model. And now came forth “ the gem of an immortal spirit, flashing with the light of intellect, and glowing with the hue of Christian graces.” The tide of life was not, as in the former case, ebbing out, but just beginning to flow. There were not barely a few breaths left to be spent in vain regrets, but a life to be devoted to the highest usefulness. The mitred bishop converts a dying infidel; the humble laborer in the Sunday school transforms a poor boy into a translator of the Bible into the language of hundreds of millions of heathen.
Having thus endeavored to present some of the claims of the sab. bath-school institution on the support and patronage of the community in general, and on the church in particular, we wish briefly to invite attention to
SOME OF ITS WANTS.
II. First of all, interest general and deep-interest to pervade every section of the church, is wanted.
This should begin with the ministry, with many of whom there is still a most sad deficiency in this matter. What an incalculable amount of good might be accomplished if every minister would exert himself in the sabbath-school cause; if every one would consider it, as it is, a most important part of his pastoral duty. In the schools of his church or churches, a pastor ought to know the qualifications of the superintendents and teachers, to understand the organization and conduct of the school, and the character and condition of the library. He should exercise a patriarchal supervision over these schools; be ready to preach or deliver addresses for their advancement; and make it a part of his business to promote their interests in his pastoral visits among his people. If he manifests little or no interest in this cause, it will be almost sure to decline. The teachers will feel his indiffer. ence like an iceberg in their vicinity, chilling their energies, and freezing up the little of countenance and support which they before received from others. Those who are zealous in the cause of sabbath schools dread the coming of such a minister among them, and are glad when the time of his departure arrives. On the other hand, a pastor who is really interested in this important department of his work is almost sure to gain the respect and affection of the younger portion of his congregation; and is this, we would ask, a matter of small moment? Let the ministry be united to a man, as they should be in this cause, and sabbath schools will present a new aspect. Instead of so many drooping schools, undisciplined, with small room, without libraries, a meager irregular attendance of teachers and scholars, we shall have those which are vigorous, interesting, and in the full career of suc. cessful operation.
More competent and faithful superintendents, teachers, and visitors are wanting.
Though there is, probably, on the whole, a progressive improvement in the competency of those who conduct sabbath schools, and there are many very excellent and well-qualified persons engaged in them, still no person at all acquainted with the true state of affairs can doubt that an improvement in the competency of teachers is much to be desired. Far be it from us to speak, or even think, disrespectfully of these self-denying and useful laborers. They merit not barely our praise, but our gratitude. Yet truth compels the acknowledgment that many of them need higher qualifications. They are young and inexperienced. Their knowledge of the Scriptures is extremely limited and imperfect; and they are deficient in most of the qualifications necessary for stating clearly, explaining readily, and illustrating aptly the subjects of the weekly lessons. Besides, many of those whose age, experience, and general information render them most competent for the work stand entirely aloof from it. How they answer for this to their consciences, or how they will answer for it when the Judge shall say, “Give an account of thy stewardship,” we leave them to determine.
To obtain a more competent board of instruction, must be, to some extent, a work of time. As the schools improve, they will them. selves furnish better teachers. In the mean time improvement may be
going forward quite rapidly with a little well-directed effort. Let the pastor first of all, as some now do, meet his teachers once a week, and go through the lesson with them. Secondly, let there be associations formed in every town and village of sufficient size, meeting once a month to listen to some lecture or essay prepared expressly for the occasion ; and let such speakers and writers be engaged as shall not fail to interest and edify them. Thirdly, let every school furnish it. self with such books and periodicals as are designed to improve the teachers, and prepare them for their work.
But, again : a more extersive Sunday-school library is wanted. I speak now with special reference to our own church. True, much has been already accomplished. It is but a short period since our library was commenced, and since that time our Book Establishment has been totally consumed by fire. We have notwithstanding about two hundred bound volumes, besides some scores of smaller books for the smallest class of readers. Most of these are very excellent indeed. They are written in a plain, intelligible style. They are Scriptural, deeply imbued with the wisdom from above, and withal they are full of interest. Among them are many biographies; a class of books of which it has been justly observed, that no species of literary composi. tion is equally interesting. Of nearly the whole class we may say, that the characters portrayed were “ so conspicuous as to excite admiration--so useful as to demand a tribute of gratitude and so excellent as to be worthy of imitation.” There is another class which leads the young reader back into ages gone by; and “ holding the mirror up to nature,” shows him the virtues and vices of mankind, and leads him especially to trace the hand of an overruling Providence, blessing, chastising, and governing the nations.
A third class takes him abroad, with the traveler and antiquary, to inspect the world as it is. By making him acquainted with the laws, religion, manners, customs, and social and domestic condition of other nations, he learns to prize his own happy country, and also feels his sympathies awakened for those who " sit in darkness.”
A fourth series introduces him into the field of nature, pointing out the wisdom and benevolence of the divine Being in the creation, ani. mate and inanimate. These volumes range through the domestic and other animals, the most curious and useful insects such as the be and silk worm ; the birds, giving an account of their habits and faculties, and the adaptation of these to their forms and modes of life : then come the riches of the vegetable kingdom, with an enumeration of forest trees, fruit trees, grain, materials for paper, cloth, and cordage; tropical fruits such as oranges, figs, lemons, spices, ginger, cloves, nutmegs, cinnamon, and many others.
A sixth series, the most important of all, explains and illustrates the Bible. Here are question books; an excellent dictionary ; Conversations on the Scriptures, by Watson; a summary of the Evidences of Christianity, by Bishop Porteus; Notes on the Gospels ; with a number of lives of patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, in which the history of the individual is made more intelligible and interesting by being arranged in chronological order, and by descriptions of the geography, history, civil jurisprudence, manners, and customs of the times in which he lived.
These various classes of books have been constantly improving in their dress and pictorial illustrations, their maps, &c., and will doubt. less be improved still farther.
Other works, it will be admitted, are yet needed. But provision will no doubt be made to supply them in due time, and to meet the demands as they occur.
Let no one suppose that more attention and effort are here claimed for the Sunday-school department than that to which it is fairly entitled. The sales of our books are already extensive, and the demands must regularly increase as others are furnished.
If any thing therefore is to be neglected, or receive a less share of attention, let it not be the department on which hundreds of thousands of the youth of our land are to depend for many of their first, most durable, and most salutary impressions.
In conclusion, we say, let all come up to this work. Let our ten or twelve religious journals take more interest in our sabbath schools. Let them proclaim our wants-point out any real defects-notice our Sunday-school publications and publish occasional essays, &c. Let our writers come forward and contribute to the Sunday-school depart. ment, and let the church in general wake up to new interest and diligence in this most pleasing, promising, and important work.
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
Delivered at the Commencement of a Methodist Church, in Smithsville, Calvert
County, Maryland, July 18, 1839.
BY REV. T. 0. SUMMERS.
My BRETHREN-It is not an idle ceremony that has convened us this morning. Not to witness a pompous and puerile display have you been summoned to this place. Nothing of this belongs to that pure form of Christianity whose prosperous perpetuation in the world we so earnestly desire to have secured. The beauty and majesty of our holy religion should not be enshrouded in the gaudy drapery of ritual observances: the most simple covering becomes her best ; she appears the loveliest and the most enchanting when adorned the least. Her own perfections are her nonpareil adornments; and in the exhibition of her intrinsic excellences lies the promotion of her interests. It is not so with imposture. Having no moral beauties to offer to the gaze of reason, she makes her appeal to the senses and the imagina. tion, in order to attract the former, and to captivate the latter; and this end she secures by an array of pompous ceremonies and imposing rites. A single glance at the history and present condition of our world will be sufficient to discover to us her great success in this work ; and succeed she ever will while men permit their senses to minister solely to their imaginations, instead of binding both the one and the other to the throne of reason, and making them ber vassals. My brethren, the duty required of us by the Almighty Father is a