Page images

peat thirteen hymns, several psalms and passages of Scripture. I congratulate you upon having taught one, who, to all appearance, bids fair to do more than reward you for all your labours in instructing her. To encourage her, I wish you would take the trouble of writing to her upon the propriety of her undertaking; as your doing so might tend to make her still more zealous. She begs that you will have the goodness to send her some of the catechisms that are used in your School, as she wishes to imitate your plan as nearly as circumstances will permit; and should any interesting tracts, or useful little books, be published, calculated to attract the attention of the young, she hopes that you will be mindful of her needy scholars."

Nor is the individual just mentioned the only instance of scholars having become teachers. Some of the Schools are now entirely under the direction of young men, who, not many years ago, were themselves receiving instruction at other Schools of the society, but whom the committee have found well qualified for the office to which they have been appointed. Indeed the want of teachers, which two years ago was complained of, although not entirely supplied, is now less felt; and it would be a most pleasing circumstance, if the society could support itself, by cherishing in its own bosom those little ones, who, at a future period, would arrive at such intellectual vigour and spiritual strength, as would fit them for maintaining its usefulness, and spreading its influence, when its present supporters, having spent their little hour, shall have resigned their office, and retired into the obscurity of the tomb.

Besides the examples which have been given of early religion, other cases have been laid before the committee; but these it is unnecessary to quote. It ought, however, to be added, that some of the teachers having been instrumental in procuring situations as apprentices for several of the boys under their care, these individuals have, upon the whole, given their employers much satisfaction; and in different cases, indeed, a preference has been shewn by those requiring apprentices, to the youths attending the Sabbath Evening Schools.-How extensive, then, are the blessings which may result from the society's labours! If there be but one religious youth in every School, and if his example may be sanctified for the advantage of his future family, and thus become the means of conveying the benefit of the society's exertions to a generation unborn; how great must be the sum of good, arising from the influence not of one, but of many in each School, reaching not merely to their descendants, but to their children's children, accumulating in an incalculable ratio through successive generations to

[ocr errors]

the end of time! But their influence is not confined to the families with which they may be connected; it extends more or less to all with whom they associate. They go into the world, carrying in their conduct an irresistible argument in favour of early piety; they exhibit the practical effects of the gospel; they represent Christianity embodied; they become an epistle known and read of all men; they constitute, so to speak, the society's edition of the Bible, illustrated by the universally approved comments of living faith and active holiness.

The funds have never been abundant; but, if they have sometimes failed, they have been speedily replenished by the generosity of the public. This is all that the committee can desire; and they entertain no apprehension as to the want of pecuniary means, trusting always for a seasonable supply to the goodness of Providence, to the exertions of the ministers of the gospel in publicly pleading the society's cause, and to the liberality of their fellow Christians, who can so well appreciate the claim which is made to their support. They will only state, that, in all their expenditure, the greatest economy continues to be observed. The case indeed speaks for itself; for that religious instruction should be cominunicated, although only on the Sabbath evenings, to upwards of three thousand children,that they should be supplied with catechisms, and receive premiums,-that fuel and lights should be provided for fifty-five School-rooms, and rent paid for almost the whole of them,at the annual expence of no more than one hundred and ninety pounds, or at the rate of about fifteen pence for each individual, are facts which constitute almost a novelty in the history of education.

In the conclusion of their Report, and in the review of the good which, under the blessing of God, has been done by the Society's Teachers, even in cases where perhaps it was least expected, the Committee solicit permission affectionately to address each of them in the language of the sacred philosopher: "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand; for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good." "O Lord, we beseech thee send now prosperity. Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their chil



ABERDEEN SABBATH EVENING SCHOOLS. THE Aberdeen Gratis Sabbath Evening School Society, was instituted in 1797, for the sole purpose of instructing children in the principles of the Christian religion.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

The members consist of various denominations of Christians, holding, it is hoped, the truth as it is in Jesus, though differing among themselves in non-essentials.

The Society at present contains twenty Schools, employing about forty teachers, and attended by upwards of nine hundred and fifty Scholars, whose religious education cost the society last year, about one shilling and a half-penny each. Of these Schools, thirteen are wholly supported by the society, five are rent free, and the remaining two are rent and light-free, being attached to extensive neighbouring manufactories, and supported by their proprietors. The sphere of the society's usefulness extends to about three miles round the city.

The Schools open and close with prayer and praise; or, at least, with prayer. The Scholars recite a question from the Westminster Assembly's Shorter Catechism, along with the common Scripture proofs, and also, what additional proofs they themselves can furnish; the teacher illustrating and improving the whole, both as they proceed and afterwards. The very young children are sometimes taught Brown's Catechism for Young Children, or Willison's Mothers Catechism; as being more level with their tender capacities, and merely initiatory of the Assembly's Catechism. Besides this, the children, both voluntarily and by desire of the teacher, commit to memory, large portions of scripture and spiritual poetry. In many of the schools, there is (instead of the Catechism for that day) a monthly task, illustrative of some leading scripture doctrine; and, in some, the children repeat, each sabbath, the texts they have heard in church that day. The teacher cross-examines the children, and endeavours to make them fully understand both the question from the Catechism, and the Scriptures that have been quoted.-The Schools meet at six o'clock in the evening, and are dismissed about eight o'clock.

The Society has occasionally a Sermon preached for their funds, having all along been patronized by many respectable clergymen, particularly those in the city establishment.-Their chief difficulty lies in procuring teachers at once able and willing to undertake a task so arduous; and their chief defect seems to be in the want of a proper system for regularly visiting the Schools. Yet, blessed be God, the Schools are still in a flourishing condition, though less numerously attended than occasionally heretofore. Through the means of these Schools, it is believed, that many have been called from a state of darkness into a state of gospel light; some that once were scholars are now become teachers; and many have blessed the institu

tion with their latest breath. Indeed, when the continuance and usefulness of the institution are contrasted with disproportion of the means, it strongly encourages the Lord's people every where to embark in his cause; seeing how often he delights to perfect his strength in weakness, and to make his grace sufficient for them. These Schools form an excellent auxiliary to a gospel ministry,

The following is an Extract from a Letter received with the above Report.

Our society highly approve of the union of the teachers of Sunday Schools. We are aware that we can do little more to aid this benevolent undertaking, than say we acquiesce in it, and pray for its success; so far as this, I hope we have done, and shall still do.

1. You will observe that the nature of our Schools differ considerably from yours: the ground work is in general done: the elementary branches of education are not necessary to be introduced: the principal operation to be performed, is to explain and to enforce the doctrines of the gospel; and the mode adopted, after the trial of several years, seems best adapted for that purpose.

2. With respect to the teachers, personal piety is considered an indispensible requisite, and it is perhaps owing to this cause, that comparatively so few teachers have appeared; notwithstanding we have abundant reason for thanksgiving to God, that in no one instance has an opening for a School appeared, but some one fitted for the office has been seasonably brought into view.

3. It is not unworthy of remark, that long before any attempt at union among the friends of Schools in England was heard of in this quarter, the Sabbath Evening School Society here, in 1797, commenced upon this plan. The happiness arising from the union of teachers belonging to the establishment, and to the dissenters of various kinds, has been very great; laying aside their private sentiments about external order, and agreeing to advance the Redeemer's interest, they have unitedly taught the ignorant the way of salvation. We may venture to affirm, that several individuals, in consequence of adopting and acting on this plan, have had their minds more panded, and their ideas formed as to the basis of true union, which is the love of God, and love to his image, and interest in his cause, which were but little understood, or but little comparatively acted upon in former ages. If the most scrupulous Christian would but reflect how much he might do, and


how far he might go in the work of God along with his fellow Christians, without trespassing on his peculiarities; how much reason would he have to be ashamed? Would he not appear to be reproved by these affecting words of the old Patriarch's son to his brethren, "See that you fall not out by the way."

4. As to the good effects which have followed the teaching of little children in this corner, we are indeed to blame in not having noted these as they have from time to time appeared, perhaps a portion of false delicacy has contributed to prevent the publicity of several cases which have occurred: certain it is, that blessed effects have followed; that teachers, listening to the declarations of some of their children, and hearing them acknowledge that their first religious impressions were received at the School, have had their hearts very much warmed at the death beds of their Scholars. It is most probable that the teachers are but imperfectly acquainted with the good effects attending their ministrations, and they must with the husbandman, both plow in hope, and sow in hope, not doubting, but "he that goeth forth and reapeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." The good man, and particularly the good teacher, as an auxiliary to a good minister, is more excellent than his neighbour, not so much for the good that he positively does in his own life time, as for the influence which his sentiments and conduct are likely to produce on his neighbour; but especially on his young pupils, who perhaps, after he is gone to his father's house, may rise up to flourish like a palm-tree in the house of God.




THE principal object of the Sabbath Evening Schools is to initiate into the knowledge and into the devotional exercises of religion, such young persons as would otherwise be destitute of the means of religious education. Accordingly, a great proportion of the pupils is of this description. Yet, as the discipline of the Schools unites many advantages, and is much calculated to attract the minds of the young, considerable numbers become pupils, not because they want other means of instruction, but because both parents and children feel that no other means are equally engaging and profitable.

In the Sabbath Evening Schools, various sacred exercises obtain, and are, as much as possible, adapted to the capacities


« PreviousContinue »