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In every Sunday-school will be found young persons of various dispositions and circumstances, towards whom the superintendent is often required to act as a subordinate Pastor, as well as their friend and adviser. Hence, if consistent, he will generally have the confidence and esteem of those engaged therein; while from the nature of their relative position, his juniors become moulded into much of his character and habits. If energetic, they will be zealous and diligent; if easy, and slow of apprehension, or undecided when he ought to act, they will become vacillating and indifferent. On him, therefore, rests a responsibility far greater than is often recognized. Fearful consequences sometimes attend any intemperate and unhallowed conduct, whether in public or private, which not only mar his own usefulness, but seriously obstruct, instead of aiding the Minister in his labours.
As a superintendent, with extreme feebleness and infirmity, the writer of the following pages has laboured with some esteemed colleagues for many years : and he covets not a more honourable record, either for himself or any of his friends, than that of each it may be said,
To his latest day
He was a teacher of babes. Amidst these engagements, without being strictly connected therewith, opportunities have transpired in which faithful monitions were requisite; while the advice which has sometimes been sought in cases of emergency, and in the removal of doubts on religious truths, have left on his mind an impression that some of these opinions, if less formally expressed, might also be useful to others whose diffidence prevents them from asking counsel of their Pastor, until far entangled with difficulties from which it is not easy to extricate them.
In times like the present, it is fashionable to be associated with some denomination of Christians; and then, as a matter of course, with the Sundayschool and other benevolent efforts; but there is too much superficial religion prevalent; and, in many cases, the mere profession is mistaken for
the possession. This, together with the juvenile character of some of the teachers, will account for many of the errors and failures which Christians have to deplore in connexion with these endeavours. Happily, the remedy is in their own hands, and available at any moment.
Evils of every kind are more readily overcome while in their first stages. A simple remedy may suffice then, but vigorous efforts and the utmost skill may be required merely to check the malady, when it has been allowed to increase in virulence and magnitude. Perhaps the neglect of exercising early discipline, for fear of giving importance to things of minor character, will be found one of the most dangerous experiments in which the church of Christ has indulged. Many bitter proofs of the impolicy of thus acting, are daily furnished in the history of inconsistent professors. Deprecating all precipitancy, and still more any undue severity, it may nevertheless be necessary to be firm and decisive where discretion and the honour of religion dictate.
Entertaining these opinions, and to present some memorial of departed worth, the writer has prepared this little work, mainly for private distribution.
It may be too desultory in matter, and diffuse in style for critical taste, but the persons for whom it is specially intended will not despise it on these accounts. It professes not to be “ manual” nor “ a guide” to Sunday-school teachers — these are sufficiently numerous, probably, yet it may stimulate some to renewed efforts who are ready to forego such humble but self-denying labours ; while in other cases, it may fan the spark of piety to a flame and prompt to cheerful obedience in religious and moral duties.
If any of these objects should be accomplished, especially amongst those with whom he unitedly labours in “ the little hill of Zion" more immediately under the writer's eye, he will be amply rewarded for his effort.
Sheffield, May 1st, 1844.