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Let me then ask your attention while I endeavour briefly to indicate the objects which the Sunday school is intended to accomplish, and the position which you as a teacher will occupy.
At its first establishment there is no doubt that the benevolent founder had in view the reclamation of children from the streets, and their instruction in reading, &c. And not till long after did the Christian church recognize the importance of this institution as a means of accomplishing incalculable good among the rising generation. Indeed, even now its value is but imperfectly apprehended by those who ought to appreciate it most.
Looked at in its true light however; it is as an agency for the conversion of the young that it must be contemplated. This is its lofty mission ; this its true glory. It accomplishes other collateral objects, but those are all subservient to its grand and noble purpose. If it fail in this, in whatever else it may succeed, it must be regarded as unsuccessful. It is not to be considered as an institution for the education of the young in secular or even in religious knowledge. It aims at the heart, not at the intellect. Valuable indeed it is as a training school for the mental powers, but far higher than this is its design. And it is only as this design is clearly and steadily kept in view, that we are likely to realize the full results of such an institution.
If this then be its purpose, consider as you take your place in the class, how solemn, how infinitely responsible is the position you occupy. A number of young minds are brought into contact with yours, and the influence you exert upon them is an influence for eternity. Every time you meet them an impression is made upon them either for good or evil. By your listless indifferent manner you may confirm them in indifference to their eternal interests, or, by your evident earnestness and anxiety, may awaken in them a like anxiety about the salvation of their souls.
It will not, however, do to assume earnestness where it is not felt. Children are good judges of character. They will very soon sce through a veil. It is no use seeming to love them, if at the bottom of your heart you do not love them. A teacher must be real. He must not simply seem to be, he must be. Go then into your class, tremblingly alive to your responsibility, glowing with love to your young charge, burning with a desire for their salvation, and making the conversion of every child the great and absorbing object to which all your teaching and all your efforts tend. Let nothing short of this satisfy you. constant in prayer, that such a result may follow. Ask not only that the children may be converted, but converted now, and by your agency. Expect to see the fruit of your labor, and to receive the answer to your prayers. Be not satisfied with vague hopes that in “after years the result of your instructions will be seen. It is of course true in some cases, that " though seed lie buried long in dust, it shan't deceive the hope,” but is there not reason to fear that we sometimes quote the words as a sort of excuse for our own indolence and neglect ? Is it not probable that if we sought more than we do the immediate conversion of our scholars, and looked and labored more earnestly for such a result, that it would more frequently follow ? Early piety in our schools is sometimes looked upon as an exotic; not as it ought to be, a beautiful indigenous plant. Let it be your effort, however, in humble dependence on the Holy Spirit, that all your class may be “plants of picty and grace."
Such then is the exalted object which the Sunday school seeks to accomplish ; such the glorious and spirit-stirring work to which you have devoted yourself. And who can estimate its importance? Who even faintly, conceive of its results ? If it be a grand work to produce an exquisite painting, that as “a thing of beauty," shall be a joy for ever,”-the short " for ever of man, what must it be to mould a human soul for the long “ for ever” of God. And such a work is yours. Can you conceive a nobler one ? Look at the children around you. Ignorant they may be; guilty they are, immortal they are. Immortal ! and you have to train them ! O think of it! and say
when you have realized the thought, as far as such a thought can be realized, whether you can ever sufficiently estimate the importance of your position. Barnsbury.
C. E. O.
SPECIMEN OF A SUNDAY SCHOOL ADDRESS.
THE HEAVENLY VISITOR.
" Behold I stand at the door and knock : if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”. Rev. ii. 20.
Near the fountains in Trafalgar Square, there is a place called the
Royal Academy." During the season, if you should enter there, you would find several large rooms, with the walls decorated with splendid paintings. There you would see portraits, landscapes, historical pictures, and some that Sunday School children would know were suggested by the Bible. That is the book for pictures ; and of all that have ever been painted by the best artists, none are more beautiful than those which have been taught by the Bible. Many of them preach a sermon to us, and on some the text is printed underncath." Some time ago you might have seen a small picture there with these words on the frame--" Behold I stand at the door and
* Hunt's celebrated “ Pre-Raphaelite."
knock." It would be well if we always had that picture before our minds, and that voice in our ears, but better still that we door.” In looking at this picture, one thing seemed very impressive. The door at which Jesus was knocking could hardly be approached because of the briars and thorns growing at its entrance, shewing that no visitor ever went there, and even Jesus must wound his feet before he can gain admission. Sometimes we see such a door-way as this. The house is almost in ruins—the windows are covered with dirt—all looks wretched and lonely. The lank long weeds grow along the pathway—the steps are overgrown with moss---yet perhaps we are surprised to hear that a solitary person lives in that desolate house, though rarely seen to go in or out! We should be sorry to go and knock at the door, or if we did, should rather that no body came to open it ! Yet it is to such a door that Jesus comes and knocks !
The sinful heart is that door.
It is cheerless enough. The weeds and poisonous plants growing at the entrance, would turn away all but Him. Others would say no ore lives there,” or “ the person who is so indifferent does not deserve a visitor.” But it is to such a place that Jesus comes, notwithstanding the nettles and sharp thorns. He knows the corruption and sin within. He sees our fearful passions overgrowing our hearts like prickly thistles, yet His holy feet have trod the pathway. “ He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities ; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with His stripes we are healed.” A sad world of sin was this—but he came! He knocked! but many, many, would not open the door! So is it now—when they hear the first sounds of his gentle voice, they will listen no more—as when on earth many " walked no more with him.” The knocks at the door vary according to the message to be given, or the person who wishes to be admitted.
There is the knock of the friend. We are ready to receive him. A gentle tap! the door is opened instantly, and the visitor is welcomed. So it was with old Simeon and Anna, in the temple. They were looking out for this visitor. The gentlest knock with an infant hand! the arms and the heart were opened to receive him.
“Lord, cow lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word.” “ And Anna coming in at that instant, gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spoke of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem."
Conscience soon tells us that we are sinners. We hear in early life the gentle tapping of the Saviour's hand. Oh! that while our hearts are young and tender we would throw wide open the door! It is a voice of sweetest tones--- Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Jesus knocks at the door of the child's heart as a visitor and friend! For he was once a child—so poor that he was laid in a manger for a bed. He felt a mother's love and knew a child's sorrows! Did he not love children -does he not still? He raised the daughter of Jairus! He gave back from the dead the only son to his widowed mother! He healed the lunatic boy who fell ofttimes into the fire and oft into the water, and restored his reason! Ile unstopped the cars of the deaf, that they might listen to the voice of love. He unloosed the tongues of the dumb, that they might sing more sweetly than the birds ! He opened the blind eyes that they might behold the beautiful things of the earth and sky, and look upon the faces of their friends. Shall we not let him in ? He has beautiful presents for us“A pearl of great price," for ornament. A “ robe of righteousness," for dress. “The bread and water of life " for dainties. Do not keep such a friend waiting! Open the door!
“Hosannah ! blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
There is the loud knock of warning.
When there is danger in a house, and we wish to give an alarm, we do not tap gently--we knock loudly. If fire has broken out, or thieves have entered, we do not call softly, but we try by all means to arouse those who live there. Jesus stands at the door of “ the heart whose wickedness burneth as fire.” He tells us that we have passions and sius which burn as a flame, and will destroy us if we do not let him in to extinguish them. He knocks loudly, and tells us that thieves have stolen into our natures and will rob us of eternal life-will murder our spirits ;-unless we open the door.
Suppose that you saw some robbers secretly enter a house, intending to take away all that was valuable, and perhaps murder the man who dwelt there. Would you not knock very loudly? But if he looked lazily from the window, saying, “Why do you trouble me?" you would call out at the top of your voice-Thieves ! Thieves ! Yet, if he was still so indifferent or fond of sleep, as to say, “I dont see them, and shall not come down,” you would say, that he cared neither for his property nor his life--he loves sleep more than either. But is it not sometimes so with us : We come to the Sunday school, and read God's holy commandments, and they seem to waken up conscience a little. We hear of the love of Jesus, and then there is a knock at the door of our hearts. The soul looks out from the
upper chamber of the heart and sees the heavenly visitor standing there. He says, “ sin has entered into your heart, and will destroy you!" “ The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." But what do we often say in return for his love You have waked me too soon, I must slumber again.” Slame! shame
upon us! Let us open the door. He will drive out the sins that rob us of our peace. llis feet are bleeding with the painful journey which he has taken for our good! Let us arise, and welcome our protector and friend.
There is the knock of news.
We all know this knock, and run to open the door. Yet there are times when it brings tidings of sickness or sorrow, or tells us that those we love are dead. But it is not so with the knock at the heart by the Saviour's hand, he brings "good tidings of great joy." If a prince came to our door, surely we should make haste to open it. We should at once suppose there must be some grand news for us! We should never think of barring the door; and shall we, when this Heavenly Prince comes from the King, his Father, to tell us of salvation, fasten the door of our hearts with the bolts of pride or passion, deceit or falsehood ? Nay! we must let in this Prince of Peace! He comes to sup with us, and at that quiet evening meal will tell us of the good news from heaven. And what more can he say than this ? "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Let no child think that because he is poor, or ignorant, or wicked, that Jesus will pass by the door. Ile knocks, with a good word for all. There are some who would only visit us if we lived in a splendid house--but this visitor comes to the lowliest hovel. It is not whether we are rich or learned ! He stands before the most wretched door and asks for entrance. We need not say, that we cannot have him as a guest, because we have nothing to set before him-he brings the feast himself, and it satisfies us for ever. “ And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life : hc that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me, shall never thirst.”
Do not let us say our room is gloomy and without furniture, we cannot entertain him. He will come with his Holy Spirit and light up the chambers of our heart-he will embellish them with virtue and pure thoughts, only let us hear his " voice and open the door." Then shall we sing our evening song with hope and gladness
Abide with us, from morn till eve,
For without Thee we cannot live ;
For without Thee, we dare not die.