Page images

once delivered to the saints, that its purity and energy are degenerating by an admixture of much that is human, that the simplicity of the gospel is in danger of being lost; and believing that our fashionable literature has produced these and many other evils, I rejoice in any thing which will otherwise occupy our young people, and call them off from pursuits as bewitching as they are fatal.

This is not the place to shew how and why the study of our elegant writers has a tendency to corrupt the gospel, or to make it unacceptable; but it were easy to do this, and if any of your correspondents require, I will engage to attempt it.

2. Employment tends to preserve young persons from the frivolity into which those who are unemployed are frequently betrayed. Some young people in our congregations are a disgrace to their profession, by their frivolity and vanity, and one would hardly suppose them in possession of reason. To see an immortal spirit occupied upon tritles more contemptible than the pastimes of infants, is painful, even if we only considered the dignity of a rational mind; but when we remember that they are accountable creatures, and must soon appear before the judge of quick and dead, we are filled with deep compassion and concern. From this evil, active engagements will secure the rising generation. Those who are concerned in pursuits which not only occupy the attention, but call out the ta.tats, have always matter for agreeable and useful conversation, and will hardly be reduced to such emptiness and insipidity as we often hear passing under that name.

3. Employment likewise fits for future usefulness. We see many grown up into life, who are desirous to exert themselves in the cause of God, but are so unacquainted with public business, that they are unwilling to join, in societies; or if they do, are unable to further the great object as they could wish. Our young people are now soon initiated into the forms of business, and obtain an early habit of activity. In future years, when perhaps circumstances may prevent their attendance at Sunday Schools, this habit and this knowledge will prove a blessing to thousands. They may then take the places which our fathers are now filling, and may carry forward the great designs of the Missionary, Bible, 'Tract, or other Societies, with increased energy and success.

Or if their lot should be cast in different places, or other circumstances should prevent their acting this conspicuous part, they will be a blessing wherever they go, and never forget the employments and feelings of their early years. I was engaged in Sunday Schools when I was very young, and I think I there acquired my first wishes for usefulness, and a regard to the great cause of God. Owing so much as I do to these institutions, I cannot but recommend them to others, and whatever dangers may occur in this path, I am persuaded it is honourable and important. I rejoice to see so many volunteers in the cause of Christ, training up for future service in a comparatively obscure seminary, and look upon the teachers of Sunday Schools as the best hope of the church.

4. Employments of a safe and useful nature, preserve from others of a doubtful or dangerous tendency. Youth must have objects, the vigour and the feelings of that period will come into action, and if we do not engage onr young friends in the service of the Redeemer, we may expect that they will be seduced into another employment under a very different master. Many have engaged in politics with the best motives, who have been drawii into a vortex from which they have never escaped, and where they have lost their spirituality, and the vital energy of religion has become extinct. Or if their activity is merely engaged in their several callings, and they become eminent in them, though this is not so liable to dangers, yet we cannot but fear that they may become worldly minded, and lament over the waste of energies which might have been so beneficially employed,

A second benefit resulting from Sunday School engagements is, that they have a tendency to produce a love to the souls of others, and a concern to be useful to them. No teacher ever engaged in a Sunday School without feeling his affections drawn out to the children under his care. Their youth, their artless innocence, and the strong attachments they manifest to their teachers, naturally call out an affectionate feeling, and make them tenderly beloved in return. And as our occupation is of a religious kind, this gives our love a spiritual nature, and makes us earnestly concerned to do good in the best way to those whom we so dearly love. I am writing for Sunday School teachers, and I am persuaded they know what it is to yearn over souls, and to travail in birth till Christ is formed in them. And I may safely appeal to all of them, whether these better feelings have not come upon them since they have been thus employed, and whether they have not felt more of the value of the gospel themselves, while they have seen that nothing else could benefit the dear children of their charge. A concern for them has often drawn them to the throne of grace, and he who goes there upon one errand upon which he feels strongly, generally finds several things to plead for there.

"This has often given life and feeling to their prayers *, when nothing else has done it, and they have felt more earnestness in pleading for others, than they had in seeking blessings for themselves. And as such prayers are always returned sevenfold into the boson of the petitioren, abundant blessings always descend in answer to them.

Many teachers have likewise experienced another benefit from their engagements, and that has been a desire to learn, that they may be able to teach. Their children have asked them questions which they felt themselves unable to answer, and they have searched the Scriptures, that they might be enabled to solve them. Several who have entered a School with very little knowledge, have been struck with a sense of their ignorance, by the remarks or the questions of the children, and while they were attempting to teach them, have been gradually led forward themselves, till they have acquired in the School a very considerable acquaintance with the Scriptures and the gospel plan of salvation. And in addition to this it has frequently happened, that in the School they found some who were qualified to be their guides, who by their age, their experience, and their knowledge of the human heart, were fitted to direct them onward in the ways of God, and to whose company and conversation they have been very much indebted.

The last benefit I shall mention is, a conviction of our insufficiency to do any real good. When first we entered the school, we expected to convert every child to whom we could explain the depravity of its nature, and the glorious provision made to restore the ruins of the fall. · And it has not been till after repeated and heart-rending disappointments, that we have been convinced that old Adam is too hard for young Melanc thon. We have set before them their ruined state by sin, the loveliness and excellency and completeness of the Saviour, the certainty and nearness of death and judgment, and have been amazed to see that we have been talking to the air, and that these all-important truths have not even sufficed to obtain their attention for a moment. We expected a universal and abiding impression, and have failed to produce even a momentary conviction. And we have sometiines met with even more painful circumstances than this. We have remarked some who seemed

• Dr. Doddridge in his Diary, after exceedingly lamenting his “ distracted and wandering thoughts,” bis « barrenness and deadness of heart,” in one of bis days of secret devotion, says, " at length the duties of this retirement concluded with a bright hour, when committing my family academy and church to God, and interceding for my friends and the public, my prayers were warın and lively."



[ocr errors]

to be promising children, who were deeply affected under the word, we have watched their prayers, we have seen their tears, and have at last been grieved to see the whole vanish like the morning cloud or the early dew, and leave them worse than before. But though these exercises have been painful, they have been salutary. They hare weaned us in some degree from ourselves, taught us more of the depravity of the heart, and given us to see that nothing but the influence of the Holy Spirit can make the word in any degree effectual. They have led us to pray more earnestly for a Divine blessing, and to trust less to any merely human attempts to do good. And any thing which tends to weaken our dependance upon what is human, and call out our desires for the agency of God, is a signal blessing to the soul.

I shall now leave the subject with your readers, with my earnest prayer that every Sunday School teacher throughout the world may be a partaker of these and all other spiritual blessings.


Additional Letter on the Review of the Sunday School

Hymn-Book. IT appears from a letter in your last Repository, that the worthy compilers of the Bristol Sunday School Hymn Book plead not guilty" to one of the charges you have brought against them, and question the propriety of the rule you have laid down, viz. that no language proper only in the mouths of Christians should be introduced into a child's hymn-book. I confess that my sentiments on the subject entirely accord with yours, and having often heard with pain and grief hymns of this sort sung in Sunday Schools, I shall accept the invitation you have given to your correspondents, and make a few remarks upon the subject.

I take it for granted, that the two following sentiments will be agreed to on all sides of the question; 1, That hypocrisy is perhaps the greatest of all dangers to which our children are exposed, and therefore above all things to be guarded against by us; and 2, That self deception is more common than any other species of hypocrisy, or in other words, that more are deceived as to their state, and go into eternity with a lie in their right hand, than wilfully and deliberately undertake to deceive others.

The principal source of self-deception is our fancying we possess the tempers and dispositions of Christians. Our hearts are very deceitful, and consequently prone to cheat us into a good opinion of ourselves; and our enemy is very watchful, and earnestly desirous to promote this fatal delusion. Under such influences, we easily mistake the language of repentance, of faith, of hope, of assurance, for those graces themselves; and this should render us cautious how we make children familiar with such hynins, and teach them to use words which express sentiments that they never have felt. I am fearful of putting words into their mouths, by which they may deceive themselves and others, and of which the great enemy of souls will make use, to lead them to believe that they are partakers of graces of which they only know the expressions.

We must likewise remember, that many professors of religion are extremely enthusiastic in their views upon this head; they enquire much more eagerly after feeling than practice; and, forgetting the scriptural definition of pure and undefiled religion, make it consist in tumultuous emotions, in ecstatic joys, in violent and unwarranted impressions. By such persons, whose zeal considerably exceeds their judgment, all are noticed who appear attentive to the word, are persuaded into feelings, and immediately are brought forward in Christian society, with no better evidences of their saving conversion than warm imaginations and lively affections. The language of religion is easily acquired, and if they meet with no very great and pressing allurements to return into the world, they continue with us during the whole of their course; and at last, it is to be feared, leave our world to hear the awful sentence, Depart from me, I never knew you.

As I consider this the greatest danger to which in the present day of outward prosperity we are exposed, I labour the more earnestly to guard the children under my care against it.. I never notice or encourage their tears; and while I inwardly rejoice to wituess their attention, and see that they are in a degree influenced by what they hear, I take effectual care that neither they or their schoolfellows should ever know my sentiments. I was not always thus upon my guard; but repeated humbling and grievous disappointments have taught me that children are easily affected, and that impressions made upon them are too frequently like the morning cloud, and the early dew. With these views, I never allow them to sing what is not true, fearing lest I should be accessary to self-deceit, and teach them to lie unto God. Here, however,

Here, however, I may remark, that while I never would allow children to use language which is untrue in itself, I do not scruple that which is true, thougla

3 P 2

« PreviousContinue »