Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

SELECTIONS FROM THE ADDRESSES

Delivered at the Annual Meeting of the Sunday School Union.

THE want of space in our last number compelled us to limit the record of the proceedings at Exeter Hall to the information given by Mr. Rogers, relative to the relief afforded through the Union to the distress existing in the cotton districts. But the four addresses delivered on that occasion, contained passages well calculated to encourage and stimulate teachers in their work, and probably the influence of the thoughts thus uttered, will be all the greater from being presented in a somewhat narrative form.

The first speaker was the Rev. R. PARNELL, Incumbent of Bow, whom we do not recollect to have seen before on that platform, but who evidently sympathized fully with the object of the meeting. The portion of his address which most struck us, was a reference to some objections to Sunday schools, which have been recently published, and which he disposed of with much tact and humour.

“ It appears that there is a controversy-a very sharp controversy-being carried on in a little serial called . The National Society's Monthly Paper,' which has a large circulation among the teachers of the Church of England schools. The controversy is as to whether Sunday schools have not proved complete failures. The editor of the paper places the controversialists according to this order : he says, There are some who say Sunday schools are altogether failures, and so they discourage them; there are others who say they are evils, but necessary evils, and so they give them a cold support; and there are others who say they have been triumphant successes, and who support them with all their hearts, and are anxious to do all they can to spread them far and wide. I must say I should expect success only from the latter. I could hardly expect that success would rest upon a work undertaken by any one in a cold and doubting spirit. But let us see, just for curiosity's sake, the nature of the objections brought against Sunday schools, for I dare say in your own hearts you can hardly conceive of a single one. It will be worth while to see how very futile they are. I shall speak of three, and I shall look for an answer from those persons to whom these objections specially relate. The first class of objections relate principally to ministers of the gospel. We are told that Sunday school teachers are inefficient and unauthorized. Now suppose, for a moment, that this were true-suppose, for a moment, that they are inefficient and unauthorized. I appeal to the ministers of the gospel here whether you, my brethren, are ready to undertake the work of instructing all the Sunday school children of our land? Are you able to do it? Can you by possibility devote the time to it? Should we not then be grateful that there are those to whom you can break the bread of life, and who are able to break it into smaller portions, and distribute it among the little ones ? I am very far from acknowledging that Sunday school teachers are an inefficient class. On the contrary, I believe we have among them a large number of highly educated persons, and that of those who have not

received the advantage of such an education there are many who have so strong a feeling with respect to the momentous importance of the work, that they will not offer to the Lord of that which costs them nothing,' and who endeavour, by careful study and preparation, to fit themselves for the instruction of their classes in the knowledge of the one thing needful. Nor can I acknowledge that you are unauthorized, when I have before me the words of God's blessed Book, The Spirit and the Bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. I believe that every one who has felt that the Lord is gracious,' is bound to say to others, • Come thou with us, and we will do thee good.' The next objection springs from those who pretend to have a very anxious care and solicitude with respect to the little children themselves. Ah, poor little things,' they say, “to be dragged twice a day to chapel or to church. What a weariness you make the Sabbath day to them; how hateful religion must become in their eyes!' Now I appeal to the little children themselves for the answer, and I ask these boys and girls, 'Are you tired of your schools? Would you rather stay at home in idleness, or go and meet your dear teachers, and accompany them to the house of God to hear the minister ?' I never yet heard a little child say he was tired of his school. For my own children, I can only say that they would look upon it as the greatest possible privation if they were prevented from attending the Sunday school or the house of God. It was my lot, a few days ago, to call upon the bereaved mother of one of my little children, and I was delighted to hear that all through her illness she spoke of scarcely anything except her Sunday school and her dear teacher, and that on the Sabbath morning her greatest grief was that she was confined to her bed, and unable to join her class. I do not pretend to know more of what little children like or dislike than they do themselves, and as long as they tell me that they love the Sunday school, I will not believe all the old men and women in the kingdom who tell me that they do not. And there is a last objection, which applies to Sunday school teachers themselves. We are told that Sunday school teachers are too fond of each other, and that they are too apt to take each other for better or for worse.' Well, now, what of that? Sunday school teachers, I appeal to you,-Do you consider that an objection? For my own part, I do not, and I am never more delighted than when those who are united are like-minded, and especially when that oneness of mind is the mind that was in Christ Jesus.'"

Mr. Parnell was followed by an old friend of the Sunday School Union, who has not however for some years taken part in its public proceedings-the Rev. CHARLES STOVEL. He was heartily welcomed, seemed much to enjoy the opportunity of renewing his intercourse with the teachers, and delivered a most interesting address. He said “since I last addressed you in your anniversary meetings, years have rolled round, and you have grown so great that I know not how to adjust my thoughts to reach the vast extent of your exertions," He dwelt on the references made in the report to Sunday Schools in France, Switzerland, and Italy, and to the recent visit of Mr. Charles Reed to the Anniversary of the Paris Sunday School Society.

"I was struck, as was my precedent friend, with the fact that 33,000_1 think it was—of Sabbath scholars were to be found in France. I envy my brother Reed, whom I respect for his father's sake, as well as for his own-I say, I envy him the pleasure-I would not make his less, but I should like for myself to have enjoyed a similar treat, in witnessing what he witnessed there. I do rejoice and congratulate him on the pleasure of having met with others from our own country in the assembly that was holden in Paris. I retort upon his Majesty the Emperor. It was said, when certain visitors and delegates from France attended our recent exhibition, that the invasion of England had after all come off, and that his Majesty was obliged to the persons who had conducted it with so friendly a feeling, and with such good results. I say, we have in this case, invaded France. Your Sunday schools are coborts, destined every day to increase, not diminish; and I see in them for the throne of that empire a far better protection than was provided for Paris when Louis Philippe surrounded it with batteries and walls, and pointed bis guns, measuring their range so that none should touch the Tuileries, but should sweep the city within a short reach of its gardens. Oh, yes; he, with all his warlike preparations, was obliged to flee. Let Louis Napoleon nourish his Sunday schools, for they will make him strong against the world. Equally pleased was I to notice in that report the advance of your labours in Switzerland. I have always loved the thought of those regions,-yes, they are dear to me, and I do not like a superficial reference to them or to France. I cannot forget that from the time of Ireneus, an associate of the apostle John, down to this very age, in the south of France and in Switzerland the great struggle for scriptural truth has advanced, first against original heathen hostilities, and then against popery. I cannot forget that through the bloody siege of Toulouse, the massacre of St. Bartholomew's day, the mighty persecutions arising out of the crusades against the Albigenses, the struggle for scriptural truth has been steadily maintained, and Christian principle has stood firm as those hoary Alps, defying all tempests and stemming all adversity. I seem to see the great prophetic soul of Milton looking for the fulfilment of his prediction, when he gazed upon the suffering people of those regions, and exclaimed in reference to the massacre of Piedmont,

“Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold,
E'en them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshipped stocks and stones.
Forget not; in thy book record their groans,
Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold,
Slain by the bloody Piedmontese, that rolled
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they
To heaven. Their martyred blood and ashes sow
O'er all the Italian fields, where still doth sway
The triple tyrant, that from these may grow
A hundred-fold, who having learned thy way,

Early may fly the Babylonian woe." Shall I ask you thus to reverence the great principle I have so briefly defined, whilst these mighty struggles are advancing over these scenes of ancient heroism ? But if you hesitate, we will walk right over the Alps, and step down into the basin of the Po, and watch where at Turin and Milan the ancient heroes of our principles struggled against the early growth of popery. I rejoice to see that there the long-depressed spirit of a peasantry who have ever loved and laboured for the truth, is beginning to reassert itself; that Sunday schools are being established there, giving hope that the old time of struggle for

Protestantism may be restored, and the comfort and hope of the gospel be reenjoyed. Go on, my brethren, go on; I long to see you occupy those Alps, east and west, and north and south, from the Friulian range round to the Graian of France, making them the great bulwarks of your position, and then in columns rush right in across the Po and advance upon Florence, and still onward to Rome. Surround them with a bold assault, and with one heart, one soul, one spirit, one faith, persevere in the attack, until the red and rugged monster, popery, shall sink beneath the ocean of advancing light, and truth and glory."

The Rev. BENJAMIN Field was the third speaker. This highly esteemed Wesleyan Minister, will be remembered as having moved the vote of congratulation to the Foreign brethren at the closing Public Meeting of the Convention, in September last, and we were glad again to hear his voice. His address mainly consisted of affectionate and heart-stirring appeals addressed to the teachers. The following is a specimen

It seems to me, that the one thing that is needed in connection with our Sunday school enterprise at the present time, is intense earnestness. We have numbers-witness this hall; we have influence—witness this platform; we have organization-witness the operations of that establishment just opposite the Old Bailey. I say, we seem to have everything of that kind; but yet, do we not want some of that spirit of mighty zeal which is awakened at the cross of Christ, and is maintained by fervent and continued prayer ? Oh, sir, if I see a Sunday school teacher crawling into the room some twenty minutes after the service has begun; if I see him sit down, half asleep, in his class, yawning in the presence of his dozen children—not even knowing where the lesson for the time is to be found-my feeling is, and I do not think myself unmerciful in indulging in it, that I wish the superintendent and secretary and teachers of that school would rise as one man and scout him out of the room. Why, with a work like yours, and responsibilities like yours, and prospects of success like yours, every heart should be kindled, and there should be found in every one of us a burning zeal for souls. Do you want an example ? Let me point you to a poor deluded Jesuit, a man who consecrated the vigour of his understanding, and the fire of his affections, and the riches of his intellect, to what he thought would be the conversion of India to Christ. Said Zavier, when they were telling him of the difficulties of the task, and beseeching him with the eloquence of tears to care for his safety and his life, 'I dare to tell you that, whatever torments and whatever death they can prepare for me, I am ready to endure that, and a thousand times more, for the salvation of a single soul.' But you have another example: it is that of a man who, just twelve months ago to-day, was lying on the pillow of his last couch, in Southern Africa, surrounded by his weeping friends. Looking up with his sunken eye, and referring to the work in which the energies of a long life had been engaged, he said, 'Oh, glorious work; if I had ten thousand lives, and ten thousand years

for each, I would devote them all to the cause of God!' Sunday school teachers, there is an example for you; and I do implore you, by everything that is precious in the souls of your dear children-by all that is tender in the Redeemer's love-by all that is glorious in that heaven which you hope to share, never go to your class in the Sunday school without bowing at the mercy-seat, and asking the blessed Jesus for some of His own love. Oh, that is what we want-the baptism of the Holy Ghost, inflaming a fire which shall burn within us with a quenchless ardour, till the whole of our children shall be converted to Jesus and safely folded within the Christian church. Mr. Chairman and Christian friends, the time is short, and eternity is near, and, for myself, I have formed this resolution. I met, some time ago, in one of our popular periodicals, with a motto, which it was said that a Christian female servant had adopted as the motto of her life, and I have adopted it as the motto of mine, “I must be useful.' In every sermon which I preach, in every address which I deliver, in every journey which I take, in every meeting which I conduct, I must be useful. And oh, I wish it were possible for me just to collect you all together, that we might sign our names, each one of us, as in the presence of God, to the adoption of that glorious motto. Come, Sunday school teachers, shall it not be this? Shall we write it up in our dwellings ? Shall we get it written in our workshops ? Shall we ask the Eternal God to write it upon the fleshly tables of our hearts ? —'I must be useful. Cannot you say that, though my circumstances are low, though my talents are few, though my sphere of usefulness is small.— I must be useful. Let the flesh cry out never so loudly let my friends oppose never so warmly, let Satan tempt never so fiercely-I must be useful. Though I work for my bread, though my pockets are empty, though my name is unknown-I must be useful. I was born to be useful; I was redeemed to be useful; I was converted to be useful, and, I must be useful. I will take the Lord Jesus for my copy-He who went about doing good,-and the day in which some good has not been done or attempted to be done by me, shall be a day mourned over, wept over, and this black sentence written down against it in the calendar of my life, —' I have lost a day.' So help me God! and the vow that I make on earth, let it be ratified in heaven."

The Rey. J. P. CHowì, began his speech by referring humorously to the fact that the tune fixed to the hymn sung at the opening of the meeting was "Bradford," the name of the town where he resided.

"I felt at once considerably relieved in my mind, and knew that my dear old northern town would not be unworthily represented in this meeting. I saw that she would be all right among the tunes, however she might stand among the speeches, and that however it might be with the speaking of her son, the singing of her four or five thousand friends would be sure to be a success. And may I be permitted, Mr. Chairman, to say how sincerely I rejoice in this part of the plan of the directors, that makes music so important a part of the proceedings, and gives us a glorious public meeting, because a good part of it is actually done by the public themselves, the only difference being that your part of it is poetry set to music, while that of the speakers has to be such plain talk and common prose as we may be enabled to set before you. And I like to think that your Committee, Mr. Chairman, are willing that we should learn from this matter the importance they attach to music in conducting Sunday school operations generally-a matter whose importance, when rightly looked at, it would be difficult to over-estimate. Our Saviour tells us that the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light; and I am not sure that this matter of music is not an illustration of it. Millions are lured from virtue into the paths of sin, and down to everlasting ruin, and especially among the young, by music; and why should not we use the same power to

« FöregåendeFortsätt »