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that, by such indifference, they are also robbing themselves of much spiritual edification; for God has ordained it, that in watering the souls of others, our own souls should be watered, -and that by exercising our talents, they are greatly increased; while they who hide their Lord's money in a napkin, or buries it in the earth, will be slain by the master, as wicked servants? (Luke xix. 20-27.) Hoping that the following sentiments may, by the divine blessing, be made effectual in rousing the members of the Churches to a sense of duty. I remain, faithfully, yours,
TO THE MEMBERS OF CHRISTIAN CHURCHES IN BELFAST.
DEAR BRETHREN IN CHRIST,-We, the members of the Belfast Sunday-School Union, assembled in a special meeting, earnestly solicit your attention to a very important subject. The subject of Sunday-school education is very important, whether viewed in connexion with time or eternity. It has long held a distinguished place in your esteem, on account of the wide sphere of pleasing usefulness which it opens, the good and happy intercourse, between the rich and poor, which it establishes, the inestimable information which it communicates, and, more than all, the spiritual blessings which it confers, both on those who are taught, and on those who teach.
One of the very earliest seats of Sunday-school education was Belfast; and in its numerous and varied blessings her people have largely participated.
A Sunday-school, in connexion with each congregation, is now justly considered an essential part of that moral machinery, by which the world is to be converted to God. While, however, the members of each Christian Church are zealously affected, on behalf of their own congregational school, let them not forget, that without the communion, and beyond the bounds of their own and of all Churches, there is a helpless multitude of children, (thousands in Belfast alone,) the wickedness of whose parents has hitherto shut them up in the darkness of ignorance, and kept them far away from the benevolence, and even the sympathies, of Christian people. This most pitiable class are the common family of Christians, of all denominations; and Christians, of all denominations, should unite in performing towards them a parent's duties. No member of a Christian community should rest satisfied, while the congre gation with which he is connected affords religious education only to youth within its pale, or in its immediate neighbourhood. Each Christian community should furnish a surplus supply of labourers for reclaiming the uncultivated wild around
them; and the system of Sunday-school education should prove, by its aggressive and catholic spirit, that it has the same source as the ministry of the Word, whose divine Author's last charge to his disciples was, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." Though rejoicing most sincerely in the new aspect which the system of Sundayschool education has lately presented in the congregational Sunday-schools of Belfast, we would exceedingly regret, if their establishment should either break the bond of Christian union, which has hitherto been a chief glory of Sunday-school education, or leave neglected the perishing thousands, who are scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
Christian brethren! on behalf of these perishing thousands, we beseech your sympathies now. Come, with all your energies, and help them, in their extreme destitution and wretchedness. They are advancing to maturity rapidly, around your own doors, with contaminating example before them, and temptations to wickedness, in unnumbered forms, assailing them every hour of every day. You cannot be independent of them. Their bad example is before the eyes, and in the ears of your children. They rise up before your faces, to be your dependents or household servants; and no eminence, either of rank or riches, can raise ycu above their influence for evil, if you neglect them; or for good, if you discharge towards them the duties of brethren. It will not satisfy conscience, if, on account of their crimes, you shall, after a few years, banish them from your service, or from their native country, if you use not now the means of heaven's appointment for preventing crime; and you will not be prepared to meet them, or to meet your God and theirs, in judgment, if now you neglect opportunities of doing them good. Their situation is most wretched, most melancholy, most alarming,-alarming for themselves and for the whole community. And why? Is it because there are no means of making them wise and good? or that they cannot be induced to attend upon the means? or is it that no accommodation can be obtained for assembling them, to train them for God? The simple and the only reason, Christian brethren, is, that there is a grievous want of Sundayschool teachers. And shall it be so still? We leave the question with faithful ministers, who know that Christian converts cannot be expected to grow in grace, except in spheres of Christian activity. We leave it with Christian converts themselves, that they may determine whether they can preserve a conscience void of offence, while anxious merely to possess as much religion as will save their own souls. We solemnly lay the question, as the burden of the Lord, on the hearts of all in Belfast, of every name, who love the Saviour; and to Him who shed his blood for them, let them be prepared to tell in judgment, how the whole term of their Sabbaths were spent,
while Satan was doing his worst, in training young immortals for serving him on earth, and partaking of his torment in hell.
To all the Churches of Christ in Belfast, we say, with much earnestness and anxiety, We want many Sunday-school Teachers; not teachers of an enthusiastic hour, or a fine summer day; not teachers of mere spelling and reading; but steady, laborious, persevering, and enlightened Christian teachers, whose prayer and whose effort will be to train up children for God. We would cast no stumbling-block in the way of the weakest, nor discourage one sincere wish, that seeks room for usefulness in the cause of Christ; but we entreat all to remember, that the grand work of Sunday-school education is "bringing many sons unto glory;" and we solemnly put the inquiry to all; How, in such a work, any one can expect to be useful, in whose own heart there is not found some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel? We trust, that none will consider this appeal as restricted to the young; the duties of a Sundayschool teacher are sufficiently arduous and honourable to call for the energies of mature strength, and the wisdom and experience of age. Though we would encourage the young; we would not conceal the fact, that too many act as teachers in Sunday-schools, who should be scholars; and we press upon those of advanced life, that nothing but more important or pressing duties, can excuse them from refusing the invitation now made, to become workers together with God.
We speak not, at present, of the revival of zeal and energy which Sunday-school education in Belfast so much requires ; we complain not of our need of more enlightened, experienced, and spiritually-minded teachers, than many now employed; nor do we indulge in a word of censure against the Church, for having given, in time past, to the humble Sunday-school teacher, so little of her sympathy, her countenance, or her prayer; we turn not attention for a moment away from the one subject which absorbs all others now,-the pressing want of many more Sunday-school teachers in Belfast, such teachers as the Spirit of God has qualified.
It is a fact, and we must repeat it till every heart feels it, that thousands of our youth are perishing for lack of knowledge, while many of high Christian profession are spending a portion of each Sabbath in indolence, and, in many respects, are living in vain. We would break in upon the slumbers of such, we would speak to their consciences as with the voice of God, and with a brother's faithfulness and a brother's love, we would say to them, What evidence have you that yourselves are in the way to glory, while you are saying to none of the lost, Come with us, and we will do you good?
Christian brethren, we know not how these feeble words of our's may be received, or what may be their fruit. Some,
no doubt, will sleep on, and dream of travelling to heaven alone; but, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, we have sounded in their ears the voice of friendly warning; and should they persevere in a religion without sympathy and without charity, this our testimony will be on record against them, when vice, through their inactivity, shall have spread wide and far, and when their own souls, though watered by the dews of heaven, shall be as the bones in the valley of vision,-dry, very dry.
We cannot but hope, however, in a da of light and life like ours, that many hearts whom the Lord hath touched will answer to our call; that some from every congregation of our native town will commence, from this present time, a career of usefulness and happiness unknown to them before; and that the God of Samuel and of the young Josiah, will give them many of the youth entrusted to them as their glory and their joy.
May He who bringeth the blind by a way that they know not, direct this call of ours, as light to many dark minds; and, through the divine blessing, in answer to many prayers, may it be a link in the chain of that adorable Providence, by which our land, so barren now, shall yet be as the garden of the Lord, and which shall cause righteousnes and praise to spring forth before all the nations. For thus saith the Lord who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, " Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face wax pale. But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel."
Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever, and let the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and amen.
Belfast, June 18th, 1836.
THIS is a grace not often found in a state of high cultivation and perfection, and the reason is plainly this :-it is the point of Christian character, at which all the sharp twitches from conscience, all the severe overturns in business, all the firm reproof of the Word and ordinances of God, and all the unexpected and severe turns of his adorable providence meet. Submission, on our part, is absolutely and instantly due to Him, who worketh according to the counsel of his own will, among the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the
earth; who doeth all things well, and is incapable of any mistake, oversight, or accident. He that keepeth Israel, neither slumbers nor sleeps.
It is evident, from the view taken above, that this grace as much tried as any of the graces which the Spirit has planted in the Christian. These two facts being considered, it is a plain consequence, that, in respect of this grace, we are all very criminal in the sight of God our Father, have brought much discredit on the cause of Christ our Lord, and must often have been stumbling-blocks to our fellow Christians, and the cause of sinners hardening themselves in sin.
From personal observation, I should think it is a grace not much cultivated, not much sought after, and, generally speaking, not in high esteem. You will hear those who are truly pious excusing one half of their neglect of duty by a reference to some untoward circumstance in their lot. "If I were but in a different position, or in different circumstances, then it would both have been done and delighted in; but, in the present case, I can do nothing." It was an excellent remark which I heard drop from the lips of an experienced Christian, and a shrewd observer of men: 66 Many men, in looking to the past, excel in the power of discerning how they would have acted; and many, looking to things future, find their minds equally clear and commanding; but few men are to be found, who can act with great compass and power, in the moment of action." In like manner, many Christians delight to imagine what they would do in other circumstances. They have more pleasure, by far, in that, than in doing what God has called for, by placing them in present circumstances, as a trial of their obedience. What a sore, what a grievous failure is this! Not only do they miss the end of their being placed where they are, and neglect the duties imposed on them in their station, but they offer their being there as a reason why they neglect them; and tell it to other Christians without a blush on their part, and without the fear of a reproof from them. This is the very opposite of the grace of Christian submission. This, the very reverse of saying,-"He hath done all things well." It is any thing but living to his glory, who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light. The action, when put into words, is a direct charge upon God, for putting such a worthy person into such disadvantageous circumstances. He that would have done so much good in a better position, and under better circumstances, is in such a situation as to preclude it all, and left, as a log on the water, a useless member of