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First Report of the Frome Sunday School Union......
de'ivered at the Meeting....
THE SEVENTEENTH ANNUAL REPORT OF THE EDINBURGH GRATIS SABBATH SCHOOL SOCIETY.
WHEN we enter an extensive manufactory, and look around us, we are naturally filled with surprise at the various and complícated machinery which we see in movement; we admire the nice adaptation of every wheel or bolt to its intended purpose, the harmonious relation of every part to another, the facility and power with which the whole operates, and the beauty and excellence of the material which is thus fabricated. But the first question that occurs to us, particularly if we are entire strangers to the nature of the machinery, is, What is the cause of this regular and powerful motion. And to satisfy this enquiry, we are conducted to inspect the steam engine, upon which the action of the whole apparatus depends, and to see the fire, from the effect of which, upon the water in the boiler, the vapour arises that produces so magnificent a result. We are perhaps, however, too deeply engrossed with the grand operation of the machinery, to think much of its cause; yet we cannot forget the fire, and it is our wish, for the sake of its effects, that it should be amply and equally supplied with fuel.
The religious world, at the present moment, presents to our view a vast and complex machine, moving with a regularity that delights, a power that astonishes, a sublimity that overwhelms the mind of the attentive and unbiassed spectator. Through the instrumentality of a variety of institutions, all formed for promoting the interests of divine truth, but each selecting for itself a peculiar department, a work is in rapid progress, which, when accomplished, will consummate the happiness of man on earth. Although what has been effected, VOL. I.
when compared with what remains to be done, sinks much in importance; yet it is cause for rejoicing, that the Book of Life is translated into more than fifty languages; that the glad tidings of great joy are proclaimed in almost every latitude; and that the Gospel has not only been read and heard, but understood, believed, and obeyed, by persons of every rank, age, colour, and nation.
Now, to what is all the exertion, the effects of which are so striking, to be attributed? Is it not to be ascribed to the influence of pure and undefiled religion on the heart? Many men undoubtedly befriend the cause of Bible Societies, and some perhaps that of Missions, who are probably far from understanding the power of godliness. But, although they contribute to the work, it was not with them that it originated, nor is it on them that it depends. It never would have been commenced, if love to God and to man, inspired by the gospel, and ruling in the hearts of Christians, had not planned, and undertaken, and continued it; for there is no other motive that can act as a uniform and steady incentive to instruct mankind in the will of God, but the faith of the Gospel. This faith, then, is the mighty engine which sets and keeps in motion the extensive machine of Christian activity.
The bulk of Christians must trace their religious impressions to their earliest years. The grace of God, indeed, is not limited in its exercise to any particular period of life. Nume. rous are the instances of men, who, although they have devoted the days of their youth to folly and sin, have afterwards been eminent servants of Jesus Christ, and have become as distinguished for their piety as they once were for their wickedness. Frequent, however, as exanıples of this kind are, the general rule lies on the other side. The operations of grace, like those of providence, are for the most part carried on by gradual steps and regular means; and these commence with the early instillation of religious principle into the mind. It is in youth especially, that God demands the heart; it is in youth, that those impressions are made on it by his grace, which terminate in its surrender to the Lord; and we consequently tiud, that the Christian character, in general, owes its complexion to the admonitions of a tender parent, of a faithful guardian, or of a benevolent teacher. When, therefore, we contemplate the efforts which are made for the diffusion of the knowledge of eternal life through the world; when we observe, that these have their origin in the influence of true religion; and when we reflect, that the existence of the latter is commonly to be traced to the instructions received in the morning of life, -2