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Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith." Now these were the divisions, simple enough,-just, in short, the natural groupings in which the lessons, by a diligent study, fell. First, what Barnabas saw. He saw the grace of God. Grace is a thing which is to be seen. The Bible does not recognise secret grace. Secondly, what he felt,“When he saw the grace of God, he was glad." Joy, then, is the genius of the Christian dispensation. Thirdly, what he did,—"he exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord,"—the sum and substance of all religion,-its Alpha and its Omega. Cleaving unto the Lord is the hum of the six days, and the rest of the seventh ; in conflict and sorrow, in prosperity and joy.. What Barnabas was,—"a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost;" and more especially of that which is the cardinal fruit of the Spirit-faith. What he saw, what he felt, what he did, what he was. Now I leave the work of preparation, and speak for a moment or two upon the second point, which tho resolution calls upon us to bear in mind, -that is, the importance of earnest prayer ; the importance of seeking, by specific prayer for and with our scholars, and by personal and individual appeals to their hearts,--to render the class instruction more interesting and efficient, and thus to bring them to an early decision for Christ. I was thinking to-day of that striking passage in the forty-fourth chapter of Isaiah, “I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring : and they shall spring up as among grass, as willows by the water-courses. One shall say, I am the Lord's ; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel." I thought of the first clause especially, “I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring ;" and it struck me that the clauses were identical, only that different terms were used in each. In the first part, it was “thy seed;" in the next, “thine offspring.” In the first, “my Spirit ;" in the next, “my blessing ;” and I deduced from it this conclusion,—that God meant His Spirit to be identical with His blessing. It is not so with us. We say, “ Blessed are the strong," for in this world might has often triumphed against right, and justice walks about desolate, for want of a friend. "Blessed are the rich,” for a hundred tongues are ready to trumpet their praise ; a hundred hands are ready to work in thoir service; and a hundred feet ready to run their errands; and “blessed are the wise," to them knowledge unlocks its stores, science its secrets. They know how to calculate, in any given case, the probabilities of success or failure, and to take time at the time which, if taken, will lead on to fortune. A competency for life, celebrity in the literary world, a commission in the army or the navy, a name in the commercial world, which shall be the symbol of credit, of respectability, and of honour,--these are the withered gourds with which we seek to embower our children's earthly heritage ; this is the false jewellery with which we bedeck their persons. But when the Lord says, "I will bless," what saith he ? "I will give them that which, if they are the proudest of earth's nobles, will constrain them to pour contempt on all their pride, and which, if they are the pitifullest of earth's sons, will fill their hearts with holy joy, and invest their persons with sacred dignity. I will give them that which shall warm the heart if it be cold, break the heart if it be hard, comfort the heart if it be troubled ; that which shall be as fire to penetrate, as the wind to purify, as the water to cleanse, as the dew to refresh and fertilize." I will pour upon them my Spirit in giving unto them my blessing ; thus upon thy seed will I do." In the first part of the verse the church had been mentioned. "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground.” And then succeeds the mention of the churches younger members : "I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, my blessing upon thine off spring." When the rain descended upon God's heritage, the oaks of Bashan, the cedars of Lebanon, and the vines of Eshcol, all felt its fertilizing effects, but the
tender grass of the valleys also became, from its effects, groener and sweeter; the little hyssop upon the garden wall became hung with liquid jewels; the rose of Sharon emitted a richer fragrance to the breeze, and exhibited a deeper purple to the eye. Thus shall it be when God's Spirit comes down upon a church. The old shall feel its effects; in their case the formalism of half a century shall fall in one vast flake from the spirit ; a new world shall dawn upon their sight, and they shall ask themselves for the first time, “What must I do to be saved ?" The middle aged shall feel it; they shall realise then, that the tilling of their farm, the selling of their merchandise, is not life's great end, that they may run a risk by too much worldly effort of bartering the everlasting for the perishable ; and they shall brace themselves up with a vigour, which neither earth nor hell shall stop, to press towards the work for the prize of their high calling. But chiefly the young, those in whose eyes the fires of youth are flashing, and upon whose cheeks the glow of youth is mantling ; they shall come, and in the morning freshness of their existence, in life's spring time, they shall consecrate their powers to the service of their Redeemer, and open their hearts to the breath of the Sanctifier; they shall spring up as flowers among the grass, as willows by the water-courses. Instead of the flippant tone, and the volatile disposition, there shall be a listening ear when the things of God are preached, a yielding spirit when the claims of Christ are urged, a throbbing heart when the hopes of God's elect are pourtrayed, a liberal spirit when the claims of the heathen are advocated ; there shall be an earnestness of countenance, and an expression of eye, which shall show clearly that the heart's great question is, “ What must I do to be saved ?" They shall spring up in love, in zeal, in hope, and in all manner of fruitfulness; and, at the same time, there shall be the downward shoot in humility and in faith, a grasping of the tree of life with a closer hold, and a fixing of the roots the firmer in the Rock of ages. One shall say, "I am the Lord's;" his, because made by him, preserved by him, redeemed by him, renewed by him.
“ Long as my God shall lend me breath
My every pulse shall beat for Him,
My spirit shall renew the theme-
One shall say, I am the Lord's, and there shall be a blessed contagion in the work. Another shall subscribe himself by the name of Jacob, and here and there they shall ask, “What ! is the heavenly dew coming on all around, and shall my fleece alone be dry ?” One and another, starting to the ground, shall say, What! are my friends become Christ's free men, and am I to remain for over the devil's drudge ?" Thus there shall be a blessed work on the right hand and on the left, and they shall flock unto the church like doves into their windows. Now, if this blessed picture is to be realised, it must be in answer to prayers of believing people. Now, though I have no confidence in prayer without effort; I have a little less confidence in effort without prayer. If the work be accomplished, it must be accomplished by the Lord. Conversion, like all other of God's works, is a mighty work., Ignatius, I think it was, remarked long ago, a Christian is not a work of persuasion, but of majesty; and if the blessed Spirit is to come down which is to quicken these dry bones, to clothe this instrumentality with power, and make our words so many seeds of everlasting life, we may try to bring our children, our scholars, to the sound of the word ; but oh! when they are under that sound, and before they come to the sound, and when they retire from the sound, let us pray that their hearts may be like wax, ready to receive the heavenly impression ; like ships upon the ocean ready to sail north, south, east, or west, in the direction in which the heavenly breeze shall blow : like strings of the Æolian
harp, through which the gales of the spirit sweeping, shall wake the responsive echo, “ Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.” Let us have the pains, but let us have the earnest prayer of which the resolution speaks. Elliot says, “Prayer and faith in the Lord Jesus will accomplish everything." What we want is to impress the hearts of our scholars with the living truths which we teach them. I remember, during my residence in Sheffield, one of our colporteurs came to me, and said he had met with a person, in the course of his day's canvass, who had shown him a copy of the Word of God, which had saved his life. “I was once in a storm," he said, "and the vessel was wrecked, and all on board were in imminent danger of finding a watery grave. One secured this article of property, and another secured that ; I fised around my neck my Bible, and I determined that, lose what I might, I would at least retain, as long as life lasted, God's Word. I thought that, at length, I must go down to the bottom, for the storm was so furious, and my strength was so small; but as I was on the point of sinking, I felt my Bible bump at the back of my neck, and I thought I shall never perish as long as I have a book upon my back with these words in it, When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee."" The text acted like a stimulus ; the man was buoyed up till help came, and he was thus rescued. What we want is the living word, not upon our children's backs, but in their hearts. Then will they be able to walk upon the top of the waves ; in flames the Lord shall preserve them, and they shall lose nothing in the flames but their bonds ; if they are exposed to sorrows, thick as flakes of the winter's snow-storm, or sparks from the blacksmith's forge, he will enable them to go resolutely forward, saying, “ Come, brethren, let us sing the forty-sixth Psalm, and let the devil and Rome do their worst; we are nothing compared with our foes, but our foes are nothing compared with Jesus Christ."
The Rev. JAMES H. WILSON, of Aberdeen, seconded the resolution. He said : Mr. Chairman and my dear friends, I suppose most of you have heard the anecdote about the good Mr. Hervey, who on one occasion was praised for the works he had written by a very kind but somewhat injudicious friend. Mr. Hervey stopped him in the midst of his praise, and said, putting his hand upon his heart, "O, my brother, if you knew how much tinder there is in this box of mine, you would not strike the sparks of praise so freely." I assure you, friends, that my tinder box is not empty; and while I thank you for your kindness in recognising a stranger, I would pray for humility of spirit on this exciting occasion. I hope we shall this day receive the unction of the Holy Ghost; so that after the joy and exuberance of foeling now produced, there will remain an earnest determination to live more for God in the time to come than we have over yet done. I thank my good brother, the mover of this resolution, for the logical manner in which he has analysed it, and I trust we shall all carry away with us the practical truths which he has illustrated. We hear a great deal at the present moment about war, and the little town of Milan is probably at this hour the theatre of one of the bloodiest wars which has ever desolated Europe. I was just looking into a catechism which is issued by authority in that town, and ordered to be used in the instruction of youths in the Government schools of the country. Just hear one or two sentences from this catechism, and tell me what you think about it. The question is asked, “How must subjects behave towards their sovereign ?” And the reply is, “Subjects must behave towards their sovereign like faithful slaves towards their master.” Again : “Why must subjects behave like slaves ?" "Because their sovereign is their master, and has power over their property as well as their life.”——“Are subjects bound to obey bad sovereigns also ?” “Yes ;" subjects are bound to obey not only good, but also bad sovereigns." When there is such a catechism as that in the Government schools of Italy, how can we wonder
that their only appeal is to the sword whenever they quarrel ? Let me take you as a contrast to this to an instance which I have become acquainted with in London, which shows how an influence of a totally different character is being exerted. I was attending the other day a school meeting at Kentish Town in connection with Mr. Fleming's chapel, at which a most interesting report was presented. It appeared that one set of boys had divided the district amongst themselves, and had canvassed the inhabitants for subscriptions to periodical literature. Another set of boys distributed the works so ordered, as they came out once a month ; and I will now read you a list of the works so circulated in the course of last year, leaving you to form your own judgment respecting the intelligence which this fact represents, and that which must be the natural consequence of such a course of training as is pursued in the Government schools of Milan. I find that in the course of last year those boys at Kentish Town have delivered the following periodicals, for which they had previously obtained subscribers :—193 Leisure Hour, 158 Sunday at Home, 24 Sunday Teacher's Treasury, 47 Sunday School Union Magazine, 61 Christian Miscellany, 26 Ragged School Magazine, 10 British Messenger, 35 Christian Witness, 16 Christian Treasury, 153 Mother's Friend, 242 Bible Class Magazine, 789 British Workman, 1,224 Child's Companion, 46 Children's Paper, 99 Christian's Penny Magazine, 24 Tract Magazine, 291 Teacher's Offering, 19 Day Star, 27 Friendly Visitor, 13 Sabbath School Messenger, 691 Band of Hope, 563 Dew Drop, 92 Juvenile Missionary Magazine, 565 Child's Own Magazine, 76 Gospel Trumpet, and 100 miscellaneous publications, making a total of 5,587 during the past year, and during the last three years and a half no fewer than 17,428 copies of periodicals of the most healthy and useful character.
Now let me take you a little further north. Our beloved Sovereign has got two schools on the Royal estate at Balmoral. When two teachers were required for one of those schools, I was applied to by a person who was high in the confidence of the Queen to know whether I could certify that those teachers were pious, and would be prepared to teach the Bible among the youths of Balmoral. I think, my friends, with such instances as I have given ; first, of the growing intelligence of the young, and then the anxiety of our illustrious Queen to provide for the religious instruction of those around her, contrasting so nobly as it does with the example of the despot of Austria, we may indeed bless God for the circumstances in which we are placed, But my resolution, after referring to the increase of general education, and the extended circulation of periodical literature, intimates that these facts "require on the part of all those who undertake the intellectual and moral and religious instruction of others, diligent preparation for the faithful discharge of so important a duty. And this is a most important question, demanding the earnest attention of those who desire to be successful labourers in the work of the Lord. I would urge upon you to seek wherever you are, and under all circumstances, to obtain materials for illustrating the lessons you have to communicate. And remember that the simpler the truth is, the better for children. Do not puzzle them with questions of a com. plex and difficult character ; go kindly and tenderly to your work : and, above all, have faith in prayer if you would get at the hearts of your children. We are too much in the habit of looking at prayer merely as an act of personal devotion in private, or of public homage in the house of God. Now, as I understand it, prayer is as much a means in the hands of God for the conversion of the world as the preaching of the everlasting gospel is, and even more so. You know perfectly well that though Ezekiel preached over the dry bones in the valley, and bone came to bone, and there was motion, and to some extent beauty, yet until he prayed to the four winds of heaven, "Come, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live," there was no vitality amongst them; and it was only when the Spirit took possession
of them that they stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Therefore never forget that while you instruct, you must also pray, and that it is only as you pray that God will bless you. In the far north of Scotland, a teacher, who has bcon the means of bringing eight of his class into church membership in the little village of Banff, was one day missing from our school, and when he was sought for by the superintendent, it was found that he had been so deeply engaged in prayer for his class, that he had actually forgotten the time of meeting. If all our teachers were men of that spirit, we should soon have all our youth converted to God. A British merchant was at one time on board of a slave ship, where he observed a poor negro in chains. He went up to the owner of him, and demanded the price of the slave. A large sum was asked, but he said, “I must buy bim, even if it costs every farthing I am worth.” He did purchase him, and the papers by which he was transferred were made out, and handed to his new owner. Calling the slave on to the quarter deck, the Englishman said to his servant, "strike those manacles from his arms, and those chains from his feet.” It was done, and the poor negro stood up before the merchant, who said to him, "I have bought you, not that you may remain a slave, but that you may be free-here are your papers ; use your freedom well.” The poor fellow fell on his knees, and said, “I will never leave you ; I will be your slave for ever." "No," said the merchant; "you shall not be my slave, you may be my servant, and I will pay you wages. You shall do my work, and we will endeavour to help each other.” Could that negro help serving with all his energy and all his heart? Would he require written rules respecting every point of duty ? Would not every impulse of his being throb with a desire to serve him who had bought his liberty, and to serve him well ? Now, we are all by nature the bond slaves of sin, but Jesus Christ has purchased for you and for me a pardon, which he freely offers to us. The holy Spirit is at hand, and God gives the command, "Strike off those fetters, and let the slave go free." If we have received that pardon, and all our chains are gone, we cannot help loving and serving God, not only in the Sunday school, but everywhere else. 0, then, pray for grace that this motive may be more deeply and lastingly impressed upon your minds, and seek also, as the resolution urges, by specific prayer for and with your scholars, and by personal and individual appeals to their hearts, to render the class instruction more interesting and more efficient, and thus to bring the scholars to an early decision for Christ. A poor lad, who had lost his father, said to his widowed mother one day,“ What is to become of me? I must be taken from school." "Do not despair," said his mother, “God will provide ; and Jesus Christ has said, If ye ask anything in my name, I will do it. Pray, then, my boy." “What is prayer, mother ?" “ Just like sending a letter to a friend,” said she, "and waiting for the answer." The poor little fellow went away and wrote a letter to the Lord Jesus Christ, in which he told him-"Father is dead; we have no bread to cat, and I shall be taken from school ;" and he asked the Lord Jesus to send them some money, quoting the promise which his mother had repeated to him. He addressed his letter to the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven, and dropped it into the letter-box of the post-office. The postmaster, when he found it, read it, put it aside, supposing it to have been written by some foolish person. By-and-by a friend, who was a member of the Methodist church with wbich the poor lad's mother was connected, incidentally called upon the postmaster, who shewed him this curious epistle. He asked to have the letter given to him--went with it to a benevolent lady, showed it to her, and asked what should be done in the matter. "Send for the mother," said the lady, “the prayer is answered." The mother came. “Is that your boy's writing ?” said the lady. “It is." "Then God has answered his prayer; I will provide for you, and your boy shall be kept at school." Then turning to the lad, she said, “My boy, you prayed to the Lord Jesus, and though you did