« PreviousContinue »
TEACHERS MUST PERSEVERE. No one ought to enlist for a Sunday School Teacher without having first well counted the cost; and having once enrolled yourself as a teacher, let there be no turning back. Some are never willing to walk the same path that other people do, they must strike out something new, and will persevere so long as they feel that they have a new road, and that it will not lead, ultimately, into that which is occupied by other people. Others will set out with great zeal for a time, and it seems as if they were something great; but their zeal soon cools, and their courage relaxes. Like some of the beautifully equipped soldiers, who have never known real, hard service, they at the first call of the bugle move off to admiration; but a few miles destroys all their courage, and even their arms seem too burdensome. We do not want soldiers for parade days, who can shew a nice uniform, and who can maneuvre to admiration when on parade, but who cannot endure a long march, and who are worn out by a single campaign of hard service. Remember that you came into the business voluntarily, of your own choice; and if there were reasons why you should commence these duties, there are many more why you should continue in them. You feel like shrinking away at times, and can say, “Oh! that I had the wings of a dove, then would I fly away and be at rest.” You see no fruits of your labours, and you feel discouraged! Yon cannot persevere ! Let me tell you that if we might fall back when we meet with discouragements, then would most of the ministers of the Gospel take off the harness, and retire from their anxieties and responsibilites. I venture
to say, there is not a minister in the land who prays for faithfulnesss, and who weeps over his own deficiencies, that does not at times wish to retire and leave the work, were it not that he is bound by conscience. You find that the retired but repeated labours of the school-room are fatiguing; that you are cut off from many hours of reading, meditation, and even devotion; that you cannot often go and see your friends abroad, because your class cannot well be left; that you cannot spare time to get your lessons, and besides all this, you do not see that you do any good! I reply, that the children whom you instruct may be young, may be ignorant, may be spoiled by bad example at home, yours may be the only impression about religion they ever receive ; they are soon to be a part of the nation, and will help to form its character; and above all, they have immortal souls to be saved or lost. Would you not condemn a
minister of Christ who should turn back, and give up his profession because he met with disappointments ? Would you not blame a Missionary of the Cross, who left his field and came home with bis hands hanging down, and his heart failing hin, crying out, “ that he met with difficulties, and could not persevere ?" You do not persevere, and you chill the hearts and freeze the zeal of all who are engaged with you. You cease to persevere, and perhaps your class is scattered, perhaps others become discouraged, and your example may, for a time, destroy the school. You desert a work which God has most abundantly blessed, by which he has raised up multitudes of new friends, and by which thousands have been led to heaven; you abandon the work, too, at a day when we need a thousand active, devoted men, to every one whom we now have. Stand, then, at your post, and in your lot. Do not attempt too much at once. Do not be fickle, and change often. My maxim has been for many years past, to aim at great things, but if I cannot accomplish great things to do what I can, and be thankful for the least success, and still follow on without being discouraged at the day of small things, or by unexpected reverses. For years I have laid it down as a maxim to guide me, never to give up a place in despair of success. If one way does not succeed, new means must be tried; and if I see no increase this year, perhaps I may the next. I almost wish to blot the word impossible from my vocabulary, and obliterate it from the minds of my brethren. You must not expect to see the mind of each scholar shoot up, and mature at once; to see old habits at once thrown off; the effects of a bad training at once counteracted. It will reqnire time and persevering labour. “We cannot and we do not expect that the human marble (to borrow the fignire of an old philosopher) is to leap out upon us, self-formed, and self-wrought, from the quarry. But it requires the force and the art of the chisel, to fashion it into all those shapes of grace and beauty which it ought to wear.” Teachers are moral sculptors, and must be contented to labour long and faithfully to fit these models of all that is good, for various niches of society. One single teacher in the school who has genuine perseverance, will do more for that school than a score of fickle, changeable, and easily-discouraged teachers. Who can help admiring the following specimen of this quality ? “I knew & pious young man who was sustaining himself at a literary institution, in America, by the labours of his own hands. His feelings became much affected by the spiritual condition of a populous neighbourhood, which had never enjoyed religious privileges, and
consequently did not appreciate them. He visited the children of that neighbourhood from house to house, invited them, one by one, to meet him on Sunday-mornings in a Sunday School. Several children acceded to the proposal, and then he again went round to find a room for them to meet in; but every door was closed against him. He told the children to meet him under a shady tree upon a grassy bank; and thither they came, and he prayed with them, and taught them to study the word of God; and the children were delighted with their Sunday School. So it went on from week to week, with increasing interest, and increasing numbers, till one Lord's day opened with a cold storm of rain. The teacher repared to bis tree at the usual time, supposing some few children might be there; and there indeed he found almost his whole school; wet and cold it is true, but they had warm hearts in their bosoms, and how could they forego the enjoyments of their beloved Sunday School for a single morning? The teacher took off his hat and prayed as usual for the blessedness of God upon the exercises, and began to teach, when a man in the place told him that for that time he might take the childrn into his stable. The teacher turned to the children, and said, “This man offers us the use of his stable, and it was in a stable that Jesus Christ took sbelter when he was a little child. Let us go.""
There are no situations in which the teacher may not, and should not labour faithfully, devotedly, and prayerfully; for there are none in which his labours will not do good. I introduce the following narrative to illustrate the point, that a single teacher, under the most unfavourable circumstances, may be a worker together with God. I trust, too, that the reader will think as I do on this point after having read it.
A few years since, a man and his wife arrived in the town of M , N. Y., as permanent residents. They were young, lately married, and their prospects for the future were bright and cheering. They purchased a farm in M , which was then a new country, and had happily spent two or three years in this situation, when, by a mysterious Providence, the young man was called from this world. With his surviving widow he left two lovely twin infants, to deplore a loss which time could not retrieve. The widow sought comfort in vain from the limited circle of her acquaintance. , There was no minister of the Church in that region to direct her to the great source of comfort, nor was there a pious friend who could direct her trembling footsteps to the cross of Jesus. But she went to ber Bible, and by the assistance of the Spirit of Truth, found that consola
tion which a selfish world can neither bestow nor taste. She mourned indeed a husband who was no more, but she was cheered by the hope that God would protect her and hers. She wept over her babes, and resolved that while she lived, they should never need a mother's care. As they grew up, she endeavonred to teach them the first principles of religion but they received only her instructions. One week after another rolled away, one Sabbath after another dawned upon the wilderness, but they brought none of its privileges. The wilderness had never echoed with the sound of the Church-going bell. The solitary place had never been gladdened by the voice of one who proclaims glad tidings of great joy. The feeling mother clasped her little boys to her aching bosom, and sighed and wept for the opportunity of taking them by the hand, and leading them up to the courts of God. In the days of her childhood she had possessed great advantages, and she now mourned that her babes could only receive instruction from her lips. Alas! no man of God came to instruct, to cheer, to gladden the bosom of her, who for years, bad never heard the whispers of love from the servants of her Saviour. When the little boys were five years old, and before they were old enough to be sensible of their loss, a consumption had fastened upon their tender parent, and she was soon encircled in the cold arms of death. She steadly watched the certain issue of her disease, and even in her last moments commended her children to Him who is “a father to the fatherless." A few moments before she expired, she kissed her little boys, who wept, almost without knowing why, on feeling the last grasp of the clay-cold hand of their mother. “ It is hard," said she to a neighbour who was present, “it is hard for a mother to leave two such helpless babes without any one to protect them; but I leave them in the hands of God, and I do believe He will protect them. My last prayer shall be for my poor destitute orphans."
After the death of their mother they were received into the house of a neighbour, a poor widow. In less than a year, one of them was stretched beside his mother beneath the sod.
About this time a pious young lady arrived in the place. She, too, was an orphan, but was not comfortless. It was her first inquiry how she could do good to the spiritually destitute vil. lagers around her.
In the course of one of her afternoon walks she met a little boy straggling by the side of the road. There was & something in his countenance which excited interest at once, though he was exceedingly ragged. The young lady was struck with his
appearance, and immediately entered into conversation with him.
“ What is your name, my little boy?” said she gently.
“ With widow Parker, just in the edge of the wood, there, in that little loghouse ; can't you see it ?”
“I see it; but is widow Parker your mother?”
“No: I had a mother last year, and she loved me. She used to take care of me and my brother John. She made our clothes, and taught us to say our prayers and catechisms. Oh! she was a most good mother.”
“But where is your mother ?" said the lady as soothingly as possible.
“Oh madam, she is dead! Do you see that grave-yard yonder?” “ Yes.”
" And the great maple-tree which stands in the further corner of it?” ,« Yes, I see it."
“ Well, my poor mother was buried under that tree, and my brother John lies there too. They were both buried deep in the ground, though my mother's grave was the deepest. I shall never see them again, never, never, as long as I live. Will you go with me and see the graves ?” continued he looking at the lady with great earnestness and simplicity. ** The short account which the little boy gave of himself awakened the best feelings of the young lady, and she had been devising some plan by which to do him good. For the present, she declined visiting the grave, but continued to converse with him and to gain bis confidence. She found him very ignorant, having never been at school, and the instructions of his pious mother, not having her to repeat and enforce them by precept and example, were nearly forgotten.
A Sunday School had never been established in the place, and whether it was practicable to establish one was doubtful, but she was determined to make the experiment. Accordingly, she visited every little cottage in the village, and urged that the children might be assembled on the next Lord's day, and a school formed. A proposal of this kind was new, was from a new comer, and was unpopular. All the old women in the place entered their protest against innovations. For the first three Sabbaths, the young lady had no other scholar besides her little James.
But in a few weeks the prejudice of the people began to wear away, and, before the summer closed, this school embraced every child whose age would allow it to attend.