Page images

birds, and the more thrilling music of children at play around their hillside cottages-all melted into one current of soul-like melody by the breath of the soft spring gales, laden with the odours they had stolen from the gardens, the orchards, the meadows, and forests over which they had swept while we have thus stood, with our soul open to the vernal scene, has it not sometimes been as if a spirit, emerging from it, had rushed into our bosom? Have not the fountains of the great deep-the deep of our emotional nature-been broken up? and, upborne as upon an ocean of feeling, has not our mind been swept forward into the presence of nature's God? It has been; but the moment we turned our logical faculty upon that tide-swell of emotion which bore us Godward, to analyse it and to trace it to its origin, it ebbed away. The Divine influences which touch and move our hearts cannot be scanned by reason. Of the Divinest influence of all-that which makes us new creatures in Christ-is it not said, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit ?"-Sermon on the Spring, by the Rev. W. T. Rosevear.


"Teach my words." Never forget that God's words make worlds; God's words fill heaven with bliss; God's words shake the earth; God's words, uttered by His Spirit, renew men's souls. Oh! my hearers, what prattle of men and women, what scandal and song-singing, and play-writing, and speech-making, and endless chatter we have, all listened to by multitudes, with their ears open for it; applauded, retailed, moving men's souls backward and forward like the waves of the sea; but God's words, that the angels listen to with bliss, that the devils hear and tremble at; creating, renewing, preserving, exalting words; Omnipotent words of love and grace, that might raise us to hold converse with heaven, and deliver us into the spirit of its company whilst still on earth; these words are neglected and uncared for by thousands. They are drawled out, or forced out by some, they are joked with by others, they are heedlessly hearkened to, and never remembered by how many more. Oh my fellow-workers about to receive them and deliver them to your children. May they be words of life to you, eliciting the warmest affections of your hearts, ennobling the passions of your souls, enlightening your understandings, and raising the whole powers of your being. May you hear them as the voice of the seven thunders of His power; the rushing of the many waters of his influence; the still small voice of His love! Then when under the influence of these words, you come to your classes with your countenances lit up, with your souls possessed, and they make your tones tremulous with their own unutterable importance, then will you stand as the messengers of God indeed, as very angels, commissioned with the words of the Most High, and the sweet messages of a Saviour's love." Teach the Children;" a Sermon by Rev. P, Colborne, of Norwich.



THE Committee of the Parent Society, with the representatives of the London Auxiliaries and the Country Unions, met as usual for prayer at seven o'clock this morning, in the library of the Jubilee Memorial Building. After the prayer meeting, breakfast was provided in the Lecture Hall, to which about a hundred gentlemen sat down.

The Conference that followed was presided over by Mr. Watson, who gave out the following hymn, composed by Mr. W. H. Groser for the occasion :

On Egypt's waters, waste and wide,
The sower casts the early grain;
It sinks beneath the waveless tide,
And all his toil seems spent in vain.

But soon the swollen streams recoil;
The slumbering sced awakes and lives;
Till waving harvests crown the soil,
And reapers bind their golden sheaves.

So we, by sin's dark waters, Lord,
In faith and hope go forth to sow ;
And wait the hour, when, at Thy word
The heavenly seed shall spring and grow.

Ye rolling seasons, speed your flight,
Till earth's glad harvest-time be come;
Till we, who now in toil unite,

Shall bear our sheaves in triumph home!

After singing, Mr. Groser read the names of the representatives who were present, in addition to the members of the Committee of the Parent and Metropolitan Auxiliary Unions.

Representatives-Abingdon, Mr. Coxeter ; Cambridge, Rev. J. Keed, Mr. Wittenhall, and Mr. Cooper; Dewsbury, Mr. Ramsden; Staplehurst, Mr. Jull; Windsor, Mr. Moyes and Mr. Elliott; Leicester, Mr. Leigh ; Woolwich, Mr. White and Mr. Dinmore; Gravesend, Mr. Blanchard and Mr. Harris; Kettering, Mr. Clarke and Mr. Falkner; Thrapston, Rev. J. Lord; Buckingham, Mr. Morgan; Birmingham, Mr. Cooper and Mr. Wright; Brighton, Mr. Cornish and Mr. Hooper; Bristol, Mr. Gould; Gloucester, Rev. W. Collings; Bury, Mr. Butcher; Edinburgh, Mr. Inglis; Manchester, Mr. McCallam; Portsea, Mr. Dorey; Halifax, Mr. Oates; Harlow, Mr. Deards and Mr. Matthews.

Visitors: Jamaica, Rev. W. Clarke; London, Rev. J. F. Serjeant and Rev. S. Green; Manchester, Mr. Swallow.

The CHAIRMAN then said he could only repeat this morning what he had frequently said on former occasions,-that it afforded the Committee of the Parent Society the greatest satisfaction and pleasure to see so many friends from the country unions present. When the Committee visited the country unions, they always received the kindest attentions, and they were therefore very happy if they could, in any little way, show their appreciation of that kindness. As on former occasions, it had been thought desirable to select a topic for conversation to-day, and the Committee had fixed upon one, respecting the importance of which he thought there could be no doubt in the minds of the friends present ;-it was— "The Means by which the Religious Influence of the Sunday School may be made more Practical, Extensive, and Continuous. To his mind, there had always been one difficulty in respect to the vexed question of Government education, which had made him look with considerable anxiety to the progress which was being made to bring our daily schools under Government control. The influence of money was so great, that where it was used with any degree of energy on the part of those who had the administration of it, it was almost certain to secure their object. They could not fail to have observed how steadily men who, doubtless, were influenced by right motives, were seeking to bring the general education of the country under a system of public management, in some form or other: and the difficulty which struck him in relation to this matter was, that whenever our schools came to be generally supported by funds raised from all classes of the community, it would be almost impos

sible to maintain the religious character of these schools. In this country, where the religious sentiments of the people were almost infinitely diversified, the moment that the schools came to be supported from the public treasury, every individual felt himself entitled to say, "You must not interfere with my conscience;" and he (the Chairman) did not know how the argument was to be resisted. Hence, as was the case in America, where they had the greatest difficulty in maintaining the Bible in the common schools, and as was also the case in Ireland, so he believed the same struggle would take place in this country. Or even if they should succeed in maintaining it in the schools, there would, in the course of a few years, be the difficulty of securing anything like dogmatic, doctrinal teaching. He was not about to treat this question argumentatively, and merely referred to it for the purpose of founding on it this conclusion, that if a danger of such a kind were impending, it was of the utmost importance that the religious interests of our Sunday schools should be maintained, and that their influence should become "more practical, extensive, and continuous;" so that whatever might become of our daily schools, the religious instruction of our youth should not be wholly disregarded. They had, to a large extent, the youthful population of the country under their care for one day in the week, and it was for the Sunday school teachers to say whether they should not be thoroughly well instructed in the word of God on that day. The subject, then, which had been selected by the Committee, was one of very considerable importance, and he trusted the result of the Conference would be to send all present away with a deep sense of their solemn responsibility, and an earnest determination to make, as far as their means extended, the religious influence of the Sunday school more "practical, extensive, and continuous."

Mr. MEEN, according to arrangement, opened the conference. He said: The Sunday school system has been gradually acquiring increased power; we have seen with delight the progressive development of its resources, and the beautiful unfoldings of its true character and excellence. The infantile state of Sunday schools was largely dependent on those who were only prepared to give so much time for so much money; but ere long there were indications of piety and vigour; the religious element was recognised, and voluntary effort, sanctified by religion, was brought to bear upon the church and the world, in a way and to an extent till then unknown. The necessity for Sunday school literature arose ; libraries were originated; and the Bible itself, though amid strife and contention, was produced at such a price as to render it emphatically the "child's own book." In our ignorance, the little ones had been thought too young to come within the compass of our efforts, and the older ones, because of their increasing years, were sent astray, being too old longer to enjoy the benefits of a Sunday school; but better days were dawning, and, almost simultaneously, classes for infants and senior scholars were commenced. In order, however, that the whole might be better taught, and that teachers might have greater facility in their work, preparation classes were established, and many have sprung up both in town and country, in imitation of the model conducted here by Mr. Cuthbertson.

The regenerating influence of the Sunday school agency has not stopped here: it was felt that, in many of the homes of our scholars, there was a fœtid atmosphere, an intellectual miasma, working most surely (though silently) on the mind. To check the influence of a corrupt and vicious press amongst parents and children, selections from the best cheap literature are put into circulation by our teachers from week to week.

In order to render the teachings of divine truth more suited to the youthful mind, separate services, and also Sunday evening services, have been successfully conducted : the former intended to supply the place of public worship-or rather to be the

children's public service-but of such a character as that they should feel a special interest in its exercises; and the latter intended to preserve our children from the streets, and afford still further opportunity for usefulness. While it has been felt to be of importance that the teachers should be well informed, it has even been felt of more importance that they should know how to communicate that which they possess: hence the introduction of training classes. Having discussed this matter at our last Conference, it is only necessary to say that we must all rejoice in what is now doing at home in regard to these classes; while we are encouraged to hope that the same scheme of usefulness will ere long prevail in the distant States of America. Notwithstanding all that Sunday schools have effected for men and nations, either socially or in their more direct religious influence, we have ever and anon to revert to the fact that our labours are successful but to a small extent, as compared with the means employed. Hence I am invited to point out some of "the means by which the religious influence of the Sunday school may be made more practical, extensive, and continuous." It is not too much to say, that the predo. minating influence in the school will depend mainly on the moral character and influence of its conductors. Is a school disorderly in appearance or management ? that disorder is referable to its head. Is a school feeble and wanting in discipline ? the indications of weakness among those who manage it are unmistakeable. Is a school to a large extent inoperative or unsuccessful? then you will find, by the most superficial glance, that there is a want of power and earnestness. Is there wanting, in our schools generally, the display of God's saving power? I believe, brethren, it is because we are not sufficiently prayerful and earnest in our work. The majestic vessel moves on proudly, defying the waves that roll around her; but amid the billowy surge, she answers with unwavering fidelity to the mind of him who directs her course. So will our schools be affected by the prayer of faith: there is a wheel like that which Ezekiel saw, which the living power of prayer will move. In our schools there may be the most perfect order and organisation-everything may be symmetrical, the mechanism complete, and the teaching in its way effective; and yet, without the Spirit of the living God be present, we may read and talk about the evil of sin and the grace of Christ, but there will be no living apprehension of Him as a Saviour either by teacher or scholar. The most brilliant instrument may excite our gaze, but it will fail to charm us without the aid of a master. The slumbering stores of our largest arsenals lie harmless at our feet till war begins its desolation. The locomotive may command our admiration as we examine its parts in detail, but without the moving power it would be but a magnificent toy; only let that power be applied, however, what wonders will it accomplish! what emergencies is it equal to how continuous its labour! how triumphant its success! Brethren, we have done well while perfecting our machinery and improving our plans; but never shall we have an enlarged measure of prosperity, till the Spirit be poured out from on high. May we fain hope that, in the coming year, we shall look more than ever for the conversion of our children.

The fact indicated in our question is this, that our schools in a greater or less degree exert a religious influence. Whatever changes may come over us or operate on our spirits; whatever modifications may be adopted by us in our modes of action, children will remain pretty much the same, and we shall have to deal with them as such. But it may be asked, Is there anything that would tend to render them more susceptible of impression, or that would in any degree prevent the loss of those impressions, when once they are kindled in the mind?

All who are engaged in this work must have felt there are hindrances in the way; it may be that many of them are of our own creation, but there are others over which we have little control, One of these arises from the dissolute habits of the

parents; another, the want of sympathy among parents with their children upon the subjects that are taught. There is no following up of the subject-no con. versation upon it. Thus the homes and outdoor companionship create among our scholars a bias in favour of evil; and added to these is the practice of Sunday purchases, and excursions on the Lord's day. Now, it is certain that, whatever hindrances arise, our duty is clear. To seek to create religious impressions is mainly our work. Childhood, in all its stages, is susceptible of impression. We are encouraged to expect success in our efforts to produce it, and we are bound to seek it. Little reliance is to be placed on teaching power, organisation, or social position. There may be all the appliances for a good school, and yet little success may be achieved. Our labours should have immediate relation to each one. We seem

rather to think it just possible that some good may arise, instead of labouring with that one aim.

In speaking of "the means whereby the influence of the Sunday school may be made more practical, extensive, and continuous," Mr. Meen touched upon several points. He said :—Mr. Ferguson, writing on the claims of London, says (Standard, October 15, 1858), "We may build sanctuaries and open schools, and a thousand other good things; but the great desideratum is an adequate agency to carry our living and loving Christianity to the homes and hearths of our teeming and crowded masses. It is not enough to invite them to come and take the water of life freely: we must carry it to them, put the cup to their very lip, and ask them to drink that they may live." In order that this may be done among the parents of our scholars, it should be regarded as of far more consequence to win souls than to have several of our best teachers engaged in mere routine duties. Our teaching should be less discursive-there should be more point, more direct aim. We should exercise more care in the classification of the children, who are often disgusted by being placed in association with those with whom they have littlo sympathy. No teacher should enter upon the work without some amount of preparation and training; while superintendents generally should better understand their duties. No less than teachers they require to be instructed, in order that they may understand the art of good government. The moral power of the school will be influenced, more or less, by the status of the superintendent himself, and the influence he may be able to exert. Not long since, after speaking on this very subject, a superintendent came to me and said, "I have hitherto been doing the very opposite of what you have been recommending." I think it would be well that thero should be meetings of superintendents from time to time, that they may take counsel with each other on this matter. Then, too, I think that special regard should be paid to our elder scholars. They have peculiar claims upon us, because they are exposed to peculiar difficulties and temptations; and they are more inclined to speak freely to their teachers upon them than to others. I remember hearing a young friend once say, "I can never talk to my mother upon religious matters." It seems strange it should be so, but I believe it is often the case; therefore we should honour their confidence, for they demand our special regard in this particular. I would encourage amongst them prayer meetings and epistolary correspondence, from which the most blessed results have been known to follow. Be yourselves also possessed of a deep religious feeling; have faith in your work: we want earnestness, intelligence, and sympathy, and deep-toned piety, that we should drink deep into Christ's spirit, and get our spirits refreshed by waiting upon God. Seek, too, in prayer, both when alone and with your classes, enlarged measures of blessing. It is sometimes a grievous matter that the prayers put up in our Sunday schools are anything else than what they should be, embracing every subject, and having no special reference to the object in which the teachers are engaged.-The speaker concluded by referring to the recent revivals of religion in this country and in America, and by

« PreviousContinue »