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I am myself of that class of dissenters termed Independents, and have not the most distant wish of excluding from an union with ourselves, any whose principles are also of an evangelical nature, (whatever minor differences may exist) whether they be Churchmen, Wesleyans, Baptists, or others; but every seed of dis-union seems to be sown, when those are admitted to impart religious instruction to the rising generation, who themselves scoff at the Deity of Christ, despise the influences of the Holy Spirit, doubt the authenticity of Revelation, and who seek justification in the sight of an infinitely pure and holy God, through their own imperfect and sinful actions.
Among the various accounts given in your publication, I have never yet met with one, where persons avowing these principles, have been invited to take an active part with any other class of dissenters in Sunday School instruction; yet such a circumstance has fallen under my observation, and has been the cause of preventing an union between two classes of evangelical dissenters, in a populous town and neighbourhood; this is a subject of regret to many, who, acting from conscien tious motives, thought it right to decline entering into an union about to be formed of such heterogeneous materials, and who also judged it glaringly inconsistent, either to compromise the truths of the gospel, by teaching a catechism where the most essential parts of it were omitted; or to be at all instrumental
opening a door to the propagation of error, which would undoubtedly be communicated through the medium of the instructions given by the persons already alluded to.
I have been induced to offer the above remarks from a hope that some of your correspondents will take up the subject in a clearer and more extensive point of view than I have done, and surely it is a matter of no small moment, and it deserves the attention of every friend to Sunday School Unions, whether those noble institutions are to be thrown open to every sect and party in a town indiscriminately, and thus frustrate their very design; or whether a certain consistency in religion should not lead us to decline, the personal assistance, at least, of those who do not coincide with us in those truths which we not only think, but also feel to be of eternal importance, and which we therefore conceive cannot be too strongly impressed on the memories and consciences of those whom we instruct.
• We believe none of the Sunday School Unions already formed unite with those Schools, the managers of which are hostile to evangelical sentiments.Editor.
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE
STOCKPORT SUNDAY SCHOOL,
From June 1813, to June 1814.
IT is undoubtedly a source of genuine gratification to the benevolent christian, when he contemplates the various and extensive plans which are at present in operation, for the general diffusion of religious knowledge. Not only are the energies of our countrymen employed in evangelizing their native land, but with an ardent and unwearied zeal for the perishing heathen, they have borne the glad tidings of the gospel to regions the most remote, and made "in the desert, an highway for our God."
If a celebrated philosopher could pronounce that man a benefactor to his country, who was instrumental in producing a blade of grass where none grew before, with how much greater propriety may the appellation be given to him who is engaged in sowing the seeds of divine truth, and in improving the moral condition of his fellow-creatures? We duly appreciate the useful labors of the agriculturist, and applaud the man of business and enterprize, by whose spirit and ingenuity our commerce is increased; but while these relate but to the temporal interests of man, which are fleeting and transitory, the labors of the true philanthropist are "spiritual and eternal," and he is not only regarded as a benefactor to his country, but also to the commonwealth of Zion.
In presenting another Report of their proceedings, the committee of the Stockport Sunday School cannot but congratulate its liberal supporters on the increasing attention which is manifested by all ranks, to the universal instruction of the ignorant, without distinction of age or sex. They rejoice in having no longer to encounter the groundless surmises of those who once considered the scheme as one of doubtful utility, and as fraught with mischief to the community at large; experience having so far justified the expectation of its first promoters, that it is matter of astonishment how it became a question at all. "That which is always to be practised, must at some time be learnt ;" therefore if we are desirous of imparting to the lower classes those habits of sobriety and industry which shall make them useful members of society, and candidates for a nobler inheritance hereafter; it is obvious, that this must be effected by instructing them in the principles of religion and morality. Who is not anxious that the aggravated burden of parish rates, which is justly considered as a national
reproach, should be in some measure alleviated, or entirely removed?-it is certain that the early instruction of our youth, is the most likely method to forward this desirable event. "The education and religious principle of Scotland," says a late writer, "have not annihilated pauperism, but they have restrained it to a degree that is almost incredible to our neighbours of the south." By these means alone can England expect to extricate herself. Let us then endeavor to impress on the youthful mind, right sentiments of honest independence, and pour into their hearts those healthful precepts of truth which inculcate that "those who will not work, neither shall they eat."
Are the proprietors of manufactories desirous of obtaining honest and industrious servants? Let them require a sound character, as indispensably requisite for their engagement, and the youth of both sexes will, by availing themselves of a Sunday School education, and by every other means within their power, seek to possess this necessary qualification. In vain does a master complain of the immorality and idleness of his work-people, so long as he indiscriminately takes into his service whoever offers: for of this we are well assured, that such conduct is not only detrimental to his own interest, but is also greatly calculated to hurt the cause of virtue, and to encourage a degeneracy in public morals.
Many satisfactory accounts of the success attendant on our endeavours in behalf of the rising generation might here be related, but we shall at present confine ourselves to one instance. The following extract of a letter received by one of the Committee from a young man who was educated in the School, and who is now a seaman on board the Ville de Paris, will best explain itself. "I have had a desire to write to you some time back, because I was once a scholar in your Sabbath Day School; but through keeping bad company, and having a bad heart, I became a prey to both. Through grace, the Lord has condescended to call me out of worse than Egyptian darkness, into his marvelous light. The purport of my writing to you, worthy Sir, is to shew my gratitude for past, but I am sorry to say, unmerited favors and privileges which I enjoyed while in your School. I do repeat the word gratitude, because I feel grateful to God who has put it into my heart to send you the inclosed trifle and free-will offering, (a one-pound note, which he intends as an annual subscription) of which I beg your acceptance, towards the support of so praise-worthy an institution. I do pray the Lord Jesus whom I love, besause he first loved me, to enable you, with the other worthy
gentlemen, to "cast your bread upon the waters," for the promise is, "it shall be seen after many days."
What higher incentives can be required by our visitors and teachers to urge their stedfast continuance in "well doing," than such an example as this. Let them not be discouraged if the fruit of their labor does not immediately appear. Though the seed of instruction may not attain a sudden perfection, yet shall the germ remain in existence, and eventually expand into blossom, and bring forth fruit abundantly.
Your Committee are about to establish two classes in the School for the instruction of adults, as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made for the purpose. The experiment has been tried in various parts of the kingdom with very pleasing effects, but more especially in Bristol, where there is a regular establishment of the kind, which by the divine blessing, has proved exceedingly beneficial, in enabling persons very far advanced in life, to read for themselves the sacred Oracles of eternal truth. When we consider how long, and with what eminent success Sunday Schools have been supported in Stockport, such a plan might at first appear unnecessary; but from the continual influx of strangers to supply our manufactories, and the neglect of those who in their youth slighted the inestimable privilege, we are afraid that many will be found arrived at mature years, who are ignorant of the first rudiments of learning.
It may not perhaps be generally known, that there is au extensive library attached to the School, for the use of the teachers, and those children whose good behaviour entitles them to partake of its benefits. This was first established about twenty-four years ago, by gifts from different members of the committee and others, and has since been supported by occasional grants from the general funds. But as these are of necessity very limited, many of the books are not only become mutilated in condition, but have, in a great measure, lost their interest by being repeatedly read; consequently, a fresh supply of books would be a desirable acquisition. In order to this, your committee will thankfully receive donations of books from their friends, on divine subjects, or of good moral tendency, such as they may deem proper for the perusal of Sunday Scholars.
Although 980 new scholars have this year been entered on the books, yet it will be observed that our total number has not been augmented. Solicitous as we are at all times to gain an accession of numbers while any remain untaught, yet this is not our principal aim; but chiefly in what manner we can
best direct the youthful steps of those already under our care, to that God who has graciously sud, "I love them that love me, and they that seek me early shall find me,"
Many have been honorably discharged on account of family engagents, who are now filling the stations assigned them by providence with cred.t to themselves and to their instructors, Some there are that have wandered for the sake of novelty to other Schools, and others have been dismissed for careless and irregular conduct. By a law existing in the institution, every scholar who is absent three Sundays without parental leave, or on some other sufficient pretext, shall be expelled the School. Yet this is not enforced until proper means have been used to reclaim the transgressor to the paths of duty; and if the desired effect is not then produced, it is evident that such cannot be retained, consistent with proper order and discipline.
Your committee have for some time been engaged in preparing for publication their Plan of Management, together with an extract from the trust deed, and other matters relative to the institution, which is now ready for the press; but the heavy deman is upon the annual fund for other purposes have contributed to retard its progress. They hope, however, soon to accomplish this desirable object, as the work is not only wanted for our own government, but has often been enquired for by others who are engaged in the formation of similar institutions.
A part of the chief rent has in the course of this year been exposed to public sale, which your committee have thought it advisable to purchase, as it was offered on advantageous terms.
It will be remembered that when the building was erected, the teachers engaged for themselves and scholars, to raise by subscription the sum of £509. Owing to a depression in trade at that time, this was left incomplete till the present year, when it was resumed, and they have now exceeded their original stipulation upwards of £82. This sum, with the balance in the hands of the treasurer of the building fund, amounting together to £322. 18s. 8 d. is intended to be appropriated towards finishing a suite of rooms, for the convenience of instructing the writing classes. The estimate, however, which has been taken for this purpose, from the high price of timber, so far exceeds our present means for its completion, (amountting to nearly £700.) that it is unavoidably postponed till the value of that article is reduced. As the whole of the finished rooms are already occupied, two others will require fitting up immediately, for the reception of the adult classes. And when