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We often hear complaints of the slow progress of our children, and generally attribute this to their inattention to spiritual things; but I much fear whether the imputation is always just. Does it not often arise from our neglect of private duties, in consequence of which we feel cold and barren while engaged in the work of instruction? If I have made correct observations: in this respect, and if experience will aid me, I think I may assert with some confidence, that in many instances, the teacher will have as much to answer for in a future day, as the poor child whom he instructs.
But there are those who know the blessings to be derived from a conscientious discharge of those private duties which qualify the teacher for his important work; and I was much pleased on reading the letter of Sergius in your last number, u on the tendency of Sunday Schools to promote the spiritual interests of the teachers : and the following extract afforded me much encouragement. “ A concern for the children has often drawn them (the teachers) to a throne of grace, and he who goes there on 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 have had in seeking blessings for themselves.”
I am well convinced that teachers who are inost mighty in prayer, on behalf of the children, are the means of communicating the most good; and while they often feel and regret barrenness and deadness of heart in their work, “yet the duties of retirement often conclude with a bright hour."
It is a source of regret that there are many teachers who seldom know the privileges of retirement, and though we cannct doubt their piety, yet they do not sufficiently attend to this important duty, and as I conceive, after much consideration and reflection, that this neglect is one of the most formidable impediments in Sunday Schools; perhaps I may be permitted through the medium of your Repository, to make a few remarks on this interesting subject : a subject of vital importance to the prosperity of our souls, the schools, and the cause of God.
" It is to be lamented,” says a celebrated preacher, " that the duties of retirement are almost totally neglected by multitudes of professing Christians in the present day.”. How exceedingly averse are many from the labour of exercising the powers of their mind, in order to obtain religious improvement. Most of mankind bury themselves in the noise and bustle of this world; strangers to retirement, and devout reflections ; stran. gers to the sublime pleasures of the contemplative soul, in the held, the garden, or the closet; they are like so many machines which are kept in motion by external influence. Happy is the Christian, who accustomed to retirement and holy contemplation, can adopt the language of the pious Watts.
“In secret silence of the mind,
My God and there my heaven I find.” Men of the world have always considered retirement absolutely necessary to attain proficiency in their objects; and shall Christians, shall teachers, neglect a duty considered of the utmost importance, by earthly wisdom?
That there is an absolute necessity for the performance of ihis duty, if we wish to increase our knowledge of divine things, I think but few will deny: “ for the great art of piety," sats Dr. Johnson, “ and the ends for which all the rites of religion seem to be instituted, is the perpetual renovation of the mouves to virtue, by a voluntary employment of the mind, in the contemplation of its excellence, its importance, and its necessity, which in proportion as they are more frequently and more willingly revolved, gain a more forcible and permanent influeuce; till in time, they become the standing principles of action; and the test by which everything proposed to the judgment is rejected or approved."
But there may be some who will ask, Is command for the performance of this duty ? There is; and not only a command, but a glorious example. There is a command, and it is from him who spake as never man spake, “ Enter into thy closet; and, when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father, who seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” But most will adinit, that example is better than precept; but when both are combined, surely there must be the strongest grounds for following: let me then point my brethren to the sinners friend. He loved retirement; how often did he depart into desert places apart to pray. But let us follow him to Gethsamene, solemn scene ! it is sufficient! this speaks volumes, and does not only point out an example, but oh! it does say, “ If ye love me keep my commandments."
But there may be others, who will further ask, What good has resulted from the practice of retirement ? The answer is plain.-Much.-How many thousand of poor pilgrims, who once went monrning here below, were encouraged by the Revelations, recorded by John in his solitude of Patmos? What mulutudes of ransomed sinners are now rejoicing in glory, VOL. II.
ere any divine
through the retirement of a poor pilgrim in Bedford jail ? Are there not many who have have been animated by the effusions of a pious Rutherford, in the castle of Aberdeen? But hark! what are those celestial tones I hear in the new Jerusalem? They proceed from the harps of a triumphant band of juvenile victors, who are now singing in glory through the instrumentality of Raikes! Where did the idea of teaching the young on the Sabbath day, enter his benevolent niind ? Methinks, while pleading for sinners in retirement, the thought on Seraph wings descended from heaven on the children's friend.
Experience, no doubt will support me, when I assert that the most useful teachers are those who conscientiously feel the duty of retirement; and when we look through our schools, the classes of such are easily distinguished, by their progress, order, and punctuality; while on the contrary, the teacher who neglects this duty is often cold in his work ;-he is continually complaining of the difficulties of the way ;---he may possess the principle of grace in its purity, but, “he certainly resembles a winter's evening when the moon shines bright, though very clear, 'tis very cold."
Although I have extended my remarks further than I intended, yet I cannot leave the present part of my subject, without adducing something further, to shew the beneficial results of the duty recommended. It is this practice that prepares the teacher for all his duties, and inspires him with holy contidence. It is this by which a spirit of self-examination will be exeited. Our motives will be looked into the slow cause of our progress in the divine life sought out, a holy fervor infused into the mind, and here we may fully expect to enjoy in rich abun. dance, the blessings of the divine presence; and then we shall be fully qualified to discharge the important stations we fill in the church of God.
From the observations that have been made, it will appear, that one great effect of retirement will be to withdraw the affections from earthly things, while engaged in this sweet employment. “The tumultuous hurry of the world, appears like thunder rolling at a distance; like the murmuring noise of many waters, the course of which you perceive, while it's waves break against the rock on which you are safely seated;" the mind is drawn out in the contemplation of heavenly things.
“ There like the nightingale she pours
Her solitary lays,
Nor seeks for human praise."
And it is in these moments we are enabled to say, “ Yea, doubtless, and I count all things as loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord.
Meditation and retirement are inseparably connected, and when thus viewed the advantage of the latter is apparent, What is a Teacher without meditation ? he certainly resembles a broken cistern which holds no water. “Meditation is a means by which we receive and improve ideas; notwithstanding we may have received important ideas into our minds, yet, without subsequent meditation they will soon be overgrown, like flowers and plants in a neglected garden. Meditation is the Jabor of the soul in its search after truth. The christian who seldom or never reflects on spiritual and eternal things, knows but little of mental pleasure. Want of meditation leaves the mind open, and the fowls of the air soon carry off the seed that is dropped into it.” When, therefore, the importance of meditation is considered, and its close connexion with retirement : ob! may Teachers reflect on its importance and necessity, if they wish to communicate good to the lambs of the Redeemer's flock.
How important then is it that teachers should live much with God. The teacher who continually waits on the Lord in the paths of retirement will renew his strength: he will be filled with holy zeal, he will mount up as on the wings of eagles; he will run and not be weary, he shall walk and not faint: and when this is the result of our private devotions, a most important impediment will be removed, and Sunday Schools promote the spiritual interests of the children.
I am well aware that many objections against the discharge of this duty may be made, and many pleas urged in extenuation of the conduct of some of my fellow labourers. I anticipate one formidable, though I trust not insurmountable impediment that will be brought forward, “I have no time;" but is this correct? is it just? time for every thing except the pri. rate duties we owe to our children and our God. Surely, if any man could have successfully made this plea, it might have been done by the pious Col. Gardiner ; but he knew too well the blessings he derived from meditation and retirement, to let any thing interrupt him in them; and we are told, that when his reginsent was ordered to march at six in the morning, he was up at four; when they marched at four he rose at two: and for many years he never suffered any thing of an ordinary nature to impede the performance of this practice; and I doubt not but he fought more valiantly as he prayed most ferrently. And what would be the result of Sunday School
teaching, if all felt equally with the holy Colonel, respecting this duty? We should put to fight the armies of the aliens, we should pull down the strong holds of Satan, erect the glorious standard of the cross so firmly, that all the powers of hell could not prevail against it.
I am well aware, that in the present day of zeal and activity, most teachers are fully occupied in the different societies, which may justly be called the glory of our country; and in short, Sunday Schools appear to be the reservoirs for activity, to which every cause resorts for help in the time of need; but it should be kept in remembrance, that if a christian wishes to be lastingly useful, he must not always live in a crowd, and therefore in the language of friendship and brotherly love, I beseech my fellow teachers to attend to their own souls, and let it never be said," they made me the keeper of the vineyards, but mine own vineyard have I not kept.
Zeal is praiseworthy, but it must be tempered with know, ledge in order to be nseful. Where is knowledge to be obtained ? “ when a king asked Euclid, the mathematician, if he could not teach him bis art in a more compendious way, he answered, there was no royal way to geometry. Other things may be seized by might, or purchased with money; but knowledge is only to be attained by study, and study only to be prosecuted in retirement."
May all our schools be filled with teachers who resemble Isaac of old, of whom it is said, "he went out to meditate in the field at eventide." I am, Sir, Your's respectfully,
MINUTES taken at the QUARTERLY MEETING of the
SUNDAY SCHOOL UNION. Question.- What means are most adapted to promote the spiritual welfare of children who have left Sunday Schools.
A teacher stated, that he thought it very desirable that each child on quitting a Sunday School, should have a book publicly presented to him, and that the minister of the place should address him on the occasion. The publicity of this proceeding is useful, there is something in it singular and striking, and it may have a beneficial influence on their future conduct. He thought an epistolary correspondence maintained with those children who had left Sunday Schools, would be useful, aud particularly enforced the necessity of seeking their welfare at the throne of grace,