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SUNDAY SCHOOL REPOSITORY;,
EXTRACT from the EIGHTEENTH ANNUAL REPORT of the
Committee of the EDINBURGH GRATIS SABBATH
THE young are a most interesting portion of the community. They are the hope of families, of our country, aud of the Church of God. They are coming forward to fill those places in civil and religious society which we occupy at present but from which we must ere long retire, worn out by age, or cut down by disease, and hurried prematurely to the grave. -If they are neglected ; if they are suffered to grow up in ignorance of God, of Christ, and of their own hearts, and to follow the bent of their corrupt inclinations, without the benefit of salatary discipline, it must fare ill with themselves, and with that society in which they are destined to act a part. They will enter upon life without armour to resist its temptations, and without qualifications for performing its duties. They will commence the journey through time to eternity, not aware of the dangers in their way, nor prepared for avoiding them ; ignorant of the path which leads to happiness, and indifferent to all that concerns their everlasting welfare; ruining themselves by their irreligion and vice, and by their example corrupting and ruining others.
If, as good citizens, we wish well to the country which gave us birth; if, as Christians, we love the prosperity of Zion, and feel any portion of anxiety that her citizens may abound, and flourish in holiness and zeal, when we shall be numbered with the dead; still more, if we cherish in our hearts any genuine affection for the young, and desire not merely their temporal good, but their eternal salvation, we shall watch with the most solicitous care, over those of the rising
generation who are under our more immediate inspection, and promote to the utmost of our ability, every benevolent institution, which has in view their general welfare as its object. By commencing early our endeavours for their benefit, we have the greatest reason to hope that our labour will not be lost ; the tree will keep the bent which was given it, while a twig ; the man will retain the principles instilled into the boy, and the habits to which he was formed in his tender years. At least, we use the most likely means for the temporal and eternal good of our fellow-creatures, when we endeavour to initiate them early in the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, and to impress their consciences and hearts with the awful importance of eternal things, before they becoine yet more corrupted by intercourse with the world, sedaced by its pleasures, or engrossed by its affairs.We use the prescribed means, and have reason, when we prudently and conscientiously use thein, to hope for the divine blessing.
The religious instruction of the young is the immediate duty of their parents; and it is the sin and the disgrace of such as are their 'natural protectors, when they are at no pains to promote it; when, on the contrary, they suffer themselves to forget that their offspring are immortal beings, and lainidst their general care of them, overlook that most important and most nccessary branch of education--education for eternity! preparation for filling an honourable station among the blessed in the kingdom of our Father.
But are the interests of Society, and of the Church of God, to be neglected ? and are precious souls to be suffered 'to perish through lack of knowledge, if those whose direct duty it is to watch for the souls of the young, are either themselves so ignorant as to be incapable to teach them the things of God, or feel so little the power of religion on their own hearts, as to be indisposed to it? Shall multitudes of human beings grow up to maturity in a Christian country, our eyes and our ears bearing joint testimony to their depravity, and to the cruel neglect of their parents; and shall it 'be said, that no man careth for their souls? .
Reflections of this kind, as you well know, suggested the formation of the Edinburgh Gratis Sabbath School Society. Your intention was not to supercede the labours of parents for the religious instruction of their children, but to give aid to the diligent and conscientious, and to perform towards the young those labours of love, which the negligence of others did not even attempt. You could have no motive but
compassion to souls ready to perish, and ihe desire of doing good, as your labours weie from their comiuencement graTuitous, and not such as were likely to procure for you the honour which cometh from man. You have persevered now for these eighteen years, and have not seen any reason in the course of your experience 10 conclude, that your Society was unvecessary, nor to be discouraged from want of success. Your foriner Reports furnish delightful evidence, that your labours have not been altogether in vain; and it is the pleasant duty of your present Committee, in reporting on the state of your schools, to lay before you such information as inust satisfy you that some measure of the dithe blessing still accompanies your labours, and that it is your evident duty to continue, and even to increase your exertogs,
The first circumstance to which your attention must be directed is the number of the schools, and of the scholars who ordinarily attend them. It will give you pleasure to be informed, that the number of your schools, is at present Sixty-Four, and that the Scholars who attend them amount to Four Thousand and Fourteen. There has been therefore an increase during the year, of Nine in the number of schools, and of Eight Hundred and Forty-Four in that of the scholars. This is the more gratifying, as it appears to be the consequence not of any diminution of the numbers attending the parochial Sabbath schools, or other similar institutions, (which, so far as is known, are as numerously attended as formerly); but it is to be hoped, of an increased desire on the part both of parents and children, for religious instruction. In this number, your Committee do not include those schools which, though erected by your influence, or for a while under your patronage, are not now receiving from you support.
You will be anxious to learn whether their be any evidences that good is doing by the labours of so many Teachers. It is proper however to remind you, that we are not to estimate our duty by the measure of our success.Our duty may be clear, while it pleases him who giveth none account of his matters, to withhold from long continued and diligent endeavours, almost every visible token of syccess, and all that encouragement to perseverance which success affords. Our great Master, notwithstanding very unpromising appearances that he had laboured in vain, did Tot faint nor was discouraged ; and it would in like manner be our duty to persevere in our endeavours for the spiri.
tual benefit of the rising generation, though we could see no immediate good fruits following our labours, equally as though instances of apparent benefit to them, were numetous and striking.
It would not correspond with the usual methods of the divine procedure, to incline the hearts of so many of his people to labour with perseverance and zeal as Teachers of the young, and to bring together from Sabbath evening to Sabbath evening, upwards of Four Thousand Children to places where prayers are offered to God for them, and endeavours used to teach them the first principles of religion, and impress them on their hearts; and yet no advantage whatever result from all this to immortal souls. The seed which is thus sown, though it lie long under ground, it may be hoped, will not all perish. In a few instances, perhaps, it may spring up almost immediately, in hopeful appearances of youthful piety; but when this is not the case, yet, in many instances, some portion of it, buried deep in the memory and long out of view, may, through the divine blessing, at length spring up, and bring forth fruit unto eternal life.
Your Teachers have not, in general, the means of knowing minutely what infuence the instructions and advices of the Sabbath evening, have on the conduct of the children. On many cases, therefore, they can only report to you what has fallen under their own observation at school, or has incidentally been communicated to them, concerning the good effects of the attendance of the children, apparent otherwise in their conduct.
The greater number of the Teachers report favourably of the children's diligence in learning their prescribed tasks; of the regularity of their attendance at school, and of the spirit with which they enter into the exercises of the even. ing. Many of them report a visible improvement in regularity, propriety of behaviour, and diligence, during the last year. And some bear very pleasing testimony 10 the general progress made by their scholars in religious knowledge. In a variety of instances, parents have reported a general improvement in the conduct of their children; and especially in regard to the sanctification of the Sabbath ; and have expressed; their gratitude to the Society and to the Teachers. One of your Teachers in giving in his report, mentioned a striking instance of the beneficial effects of Sabbath school instruction on the morals of youth. The village in which his school is situated, stands on the side of a public road. Previous to the erection of the school, complaints were
frequently made against the boys of the village. They were in the practice of annoying and assailing the passengers, especially on the Sabbath ecenings, so that their comfort, and even safety was often endangered. Since the erection of the school, ihere have been no such occurrences; and there forination in this respect has been particularly remarked to hiin by respectable persons residing in the neighbourhood.
But in addition to these general accounts of a favourable nature, we have to report more decided evidences of the success of our labours. It will give, we are sure, very particular pleasure to all, to be informed, that Bible Societies have been erected in sonie schools, and are conducted by the children themselves. It will not be less pleasing to be informed, that in other schools the children are subscribing to furnish themselves with Bibles and Testaments, at the rate of twopence per week for the one, and a penny per week for the other; and that many children have already obtained them for themselves, in this manner, without the aid of any Bible Society. It may be added, that in a considerable number of schools, the Teachers report their opinion of the decided piety of some individuals, and the hopeful appearances of others; and that in four or five schools, a number of the boys have united in the formation of prayer meetings ainong themselves, which promise in be of sngu ar benefit for their growth in knowledge, and establishment in grace.
It appears from the following narratives, the first respecting a scholar yet alive, and the second and third respecting three lately deceased,—that God is blessing the schools to some as the means of saving benefit.
" I had called,” says the Teacher who communicates the the first case, “ once or twice upon the mother of two of the scholars, when she thanked me for my attention to ber chil. dien, the good effects of which she saw illustrated in their conduct.
“ Not long after this, I missed her eldest girl from school, and on enquiry learned she was unwell. I called and found her so altered that I did not at first recognize her. Her mother informed me that she was affected with a violent fever, and that for some days ber medical attendant would express no opinion of her case.
* My pupil then said she was very unwell, and thanked Ine for my attention in calling to see her. I replied she was in the hand of God, who would do nothing to the hurt of those who trusted in him ; when she expressed the