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religious education stands forth in its native importance, as the original cause, under the blessing of the Almighty, of almost all the good done in the world; as the necessary fire, through the instrumentality of which, the powerful engine is made to work, upon which the whole machinery of Christian benevolence depends for its action.
It was from a conviction of such truths as those which have just been stated, that the Edinburgh Gratis Sabbath School Society commenced their labours in the religious instruction of youth. These labours, during almost every succeeding year, have been blessed with increasing success; and the annual period having, in the good providence of God, again revolved, when the Society demands from those, to whom they have entrusted the management of the establishment, an account of their proceedings, and when the public perhaps expects some information respecting the history and progress of the institution since the last Report was published, the committee hasten to the pleasing duty of complying with the demand, and of fulfilling the expectation.
The last, they may say, has been truly a prosperous year; whether they consider the increase of Scholars, the growing desire of improvement which has manifested itself among them, the instances of piety which have occurred, or the interest which the public continues to take in the object of the
There are at present fifty-five Schools upon the society's establishment; and the number of young persons attending them is three thousand one hundred and seventy. Of these Schools, thirty-seven are in Edinburgh, and eighteen in the country immediately adjacent. During the last twelve months, there has been an increase of five Schools, and of nearly five hundred children; and since the year 1810, the number of Schools has received an addition of seventeen, and the scholars have been more than doubled. As the ratio of increase, however, is considerably greater in the case of the latter than of the former, and as many of the new Schools have been opened at no great distance from some of those which have been long established, it has been demonstrated, that the erection of new Schools, when regulated with reference to the extent of population, is not, upon the whole, the means of thinning those previously organised, but, on the contrary, augments the num ber of the children attending them. Nor is this all. The opening of additional Schools tends much to improve those already in existence; it operates beneficially on those who teach, and on those who are taught; stimulating the fidelity
and ardour of the one, and rendering the other more regular, attentive, and docile. In contemplating the increase of last year, the Committee cannot but indulge the delightful thought, that the attention of the community is becoming more alive to the infinite importance of religious knowledge to the young, When it is recollected, that parochial schools have lately been established in this city, for the instruction of children on the evenings of the Lord's day, and that several schools more, founded by different institutions, or conducted and patronized by enlightened and benevolent individuals, also open their doors upon the same occasions for the benefit of youth; when it is considered, that many hundred young people, besides the growing number of those under the care of the society, are thus blessed with the external means of knowing the things which belong to their peace, no feeling surely is so becoming as that which the contemplation of these circumstances must kindle in every Christian breast; humble, sincere, glowing gratitude to the Father of Mercies.
Gratifying as it is to know, that the Schools in general are so well attended, how much more gratifying are the facts, that the conduct of the children that frequent them is, in general, improving; that very many of them are growing in the knowledge of the Scriptures; that, in general, the first buds of serious thought and godliness begin to discover and unfold themselves; that some who have died, have departed in the faith and hope of the gospel; and that others who survive, have "asked the way to Zion with their faces thitherward," and "have joined themselves to the Lord," it is hoped, " in a perpetual covenant, that shall not be forgotten!"
The subsequent instances of peaceful and happy deaths among the children, are taken from the reports of the Schools to which they respectively belonged.
"There was one boy," says the teacher of one of these Schools, "who, I have every reason to believe, died in the Lord. He was twelve years old, and had lately been bound apprentice to a shoemaker. He had not been long at the School, but he had shewn himself to be a sedate, serious, thinking boy. One evening, after the usual exercises were over, his sister came to me and told me that he was unwell, but that he had desired her to request a hymn-book, as he said, that although he was ill, Ire could sit up in bed and learn hymns, Unfortunately I had not at the time a hymn-book to send to this dear youth, and when his sister returned without it, he wept bitterly. Not apprehending that his disease was of a dangerous nature, I did not make any enquiry after him during
the week; but, alas! next Sabbath evening his place was empty, and I was told that he had died the day before. I took the first opportunity of calling on his master, who seemed to be a man of great good sense, and was making some enquiries about him, when he interrupted me, saying, with a degree of feeling that proved his words to be the language of the heart, Ah! Sir, he was a superior youth! I seldom knew a boy like him, so attentive to his business, so exemplary in his whole conduct. I might go through a thousand boys before I could find such an apprentice.' He likewise told me that he had been an excellent reader, and that every leisure moment which he had was devoted to his book. In the evenings, and on the Sabbath, he used to read to his master and the whole family, who all said that it was a pleasure to hear him. To his mother he was most kind and affectionate. Upon one occasion, when she was under the pressure of severe affliction, observing her in tears, he enquired why she wept,-she told him-he replied, that he might yet have it in his power to make her as happy and comfortable as ever she had been, and that she should not weep, as it grieved him to the heart to see her do so; and he added, 'You should not doubt the promises of God; He will bestow on you those things which are necessary.' When first taken ill, his mother asked him where he would wish to go if he died; his reply was, to heaven.' She asked him again how he could get there; he answered, Only through Jesus Christ,' The distemper of which he died was violent from its commencement, so that he was sometimes insensible. Not only, however, did he suffer with patience, but he also employed himself much in speaking earnestly to his sister, and in giving her much good advice. Some passages of the New Testament were, at his own request, occasionally read to him. Indeed his Bible and his Catechism had become his only comfort; his mind seemed calm and happy; and his whole conduct might be viewed as in some measure a suitable preparation for the heavenly state. At last, after an illness of eight days, he left for ever the regions of mortality, and, I doubt not, joined the chosen family of little children before the throne of God."
The teacher of another School says: "About four months ago, one of the boys died. He was naturally deformed, and consequently was prevented from associating much with others of the same age. His mother being a poor woman, with a large family to support, I felt interested in her welfare, and had occasion now and then to visit her. When I went, 1 geI nerally found her son reading his Bible. He was about a fortnight ill of a disease not uncommon in the case of
of his make; and during that time, I saw him for the most part twice a day. When I visited him first after his confinement, I expressed my regret at seeing him so unwell. He said that he was certainly very ill, and that he had some doubts in his own mind, whether he would ever get better; but that he was in good hands, and desired to be resigned to whatever might be the will of God. I asked him what was the state of his mind in the view of death? and he immediately told me, with tears in his eyes, that he knew himself to be indeed a great sinner, deserving nothing from God but his anger for ever; but Jesus Christ,' continued he, died for such sinners as I am, and in him I hope.' I enquired what he hoped for: he answered, for the pardon of sin, and for my eternal salvation.' Keeping close hold of that promise, Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out,' he added, 'Surely he will not cast me out, when I am willing to come to him.' I mentioned to him the long-suffering of God, and his unwillingness that even the greatest of sinners should perish. That,' he rejoined, is a precious declaration, and my soul has confort in such truths.' I asked him if he would like to get better: he replied, No, unless that God thought fit that he should yet live; that he had not much enjoyment in the world; and that he was anxious. to go to a place where he would be happy. Upon my enquiring what that place was, he said, 'O, it is heaven, Sir; it is there only where we can be happy; and I can be happy only where Christ is, when I think what he has done for such a sinner as I have been.' He requested me, on the last Sabbath of his life, the day before he died, to mention some chapters for his mother to read to him. This I did, by pointing out the fourteenth, and the three following chapters of St. John's Gospel, which his mother afterwards told me pleased him much. When I saw him on that Sabbath, his mind was in a tranquil state, and he seemed to be quietly waiting till his change should come."
In the Report received from one of the Schools in the country, the following circumstance is narrated. "A girl, who is one of the stated scholars, has of late been apparently awakened to the importance of true piety. She had long been a stranger to serious thought, and quite indifferent about salvation. But now it is otherwise with her when she retires to the fields to watch a cow committed to her care, her Bible is her companion in her solitude; and she has sometimes been surprised upon her knees, in the presence of Him who seeth in secret, and rewardeth openly."
The teacher of a School in this city gives the interesting ac
count which follows of a young woman who lately left it, on her return to her native village in the north of England, a place not enjoying many of the means of "When she came to Edinburgh, although nearly twelve years of age, she could not read, and was very ignorant. Having, however, been sent to an evening School during the week, she soon was enabled to read tolerably well. She joined the Sabbath evening School under my care, and became a very diligent Scholar. During an attendance of nearly five years, she was only three nights absent, and then from unavoidable causes. Her progress in religious knowledge was rapid, and the instructions which she received were blessed for her spiritual improvement. She became a decidedly religious character, and has for some time been considered as such. The family in which she resided, during the whole time of her being in Edinburgh, gives the most honourable testimony to her good conduct, and felt much regret at her departure. She was affected with a corresponding regret, and deeply lamented her leaving the spiritual advantages, and Christian society, which she here enjoyed. Nothing, indeed, but a sense of duty, in complying with the wishes of her parents, would have induced her to do what was otherwise so repugnant to her feelings. She consoled herself with the thought, that it seemed to be the will of God that she should change her situation; and hoped that he would enable her to be useful, by reading the Scriptures and pious books to her parents and friends. She accordingly received several religious publications for that purpose, and departed, after taking an affectionate leave of her Christian acquaintances, among whom were several of the young persons attending the School. I have since had the satisfaction of being informed, that she has commenced teaching a Sabbath Evening School in her native village; and I have been gratified by receiving a letter, of which the following is a copy, from a person much interested in her prosperity. It gives me great pleasure in having it in my power to communicate to you the progress that ing in the formation of a Sabbath Evening School in the village of -. By a letter received from her a few days ago, I understand that, on the first evening her School was open, there were present only three Scholars, on the following evening five, and at present twelve; and that she expects, in a little time, to have a numerous school. She earnestly begs that her teacher, and her good friends in Edinburgh, will be mindful of her at the throne of grace, that God, in his adorable providence, may bless her feeble endeavours in the extremely barren land where she is at present placed. One of her scholars can re