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ADDRESS TO THE SUNDAY SCHOOL
CHILDREN AND TEACHERS BELONG-, ING TO ST. MARY'S EPISCOPAL CHA. PEL, GLASGOW. .
BY THE Rev. ISAAC HITCHEN, M.A. DEAR CHILDREN AND FRIENDS,—To detain you, longon such an occasion and on such a day (New Year's Day, 1843) would be as ill-judged as to: dismiss you without any exhortation at all. I shall therefore be brief in my remarks; but I re-, quest from you most serious attention while they; last.,
In times of old, men differed in their determi- : nation of what was the chief good, or of what: mankind ought principally to strive for; and this variety of opinion arose from the fact that the immortality of the soul, or the incapability of the : soul's dying, and a future state of rewards and punishments, were facts, only indistinctly guessed: at by some, and entirely unknown to others. i Among the lesser interests of mankind (for all other interests are small), therefore, as it was. most difficult to select an universally predominant. one-one passing without exception all others, in i importanceso such attempted selection was ever i varying.
Some placed the greatest human good in military renown-fame as great warriors; some in the acquirement of letters the being accounted learned above other men; some in the accumulation of wealth ; some in sensual gratification in the unrestrained indulgence of appetite; some in general a pathy-a deadness to all feeling. Recollect that these doubts and differences, existed
among the most learned and reflective, the most wealthy and ennobled. Now the peculiar blessedness of being born in a Christian land is this, that all such distressing doubts and difficulty are at an end. The youngest child who has learned the Christian elements is put upon a higher intellectual footing than the greatest heathen sage. The complex theories of the philosopher are trod. den under foot by the Christian infant. It is this fact which causes that outbreak of thanksgiving from our Lord, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." Now the exalting medium which brings this to pass is the gospel, the message of your New Testament, which has brought life and immortality to light. There is no longer doubt that the soul will not die ; it is sure that after the death of the body there remains an eternity of spiritual existence: we shall live for ever in happiness or in misery. But by “ eternal life" is invariably meant an eternal life of happiness; for unending woe, misery without end, is the second and most terrible death. Henceforward to obtain eternal life is the grand object of existence. We are permitted to live here in order to prepare to live hereafter. No other interest can be compared with this: the inquiring mind is not distressed by many proposed ends ; for, if we obtain this, and lose all else, ours is the greatest blessedness. “And this is life eternal, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.”
My young friends, I have stated this with such emphasis in order to shew you how unspeakably privileged you are by God over myriads who have fived before you. Many of you are poor in this
world's goods-have to look forward, as your fathers before you, to a life of labour in this time present; but in being taught, and in pursuing the way to eternal life, you are raised by God, " that he may set you with princes, even with the princes of his people.” The wisest philosopher can arrive at no more profitable knowledge than you have: the richest and the noblest of the land can reach no higher glory or dignity than that which is so equally opened to you.
Now the acquirement of this knowledge, the being made acquainted with these privileges, forms the duty and occupation of a Sunday school. Yes, my dear children, let that place be one of delight to you: go thither with no unwilling step: in your cases it is more especially the place of instruction. God's house with you is almost entirely the house of prayer, whither you come to utter praise and thanksgiving to that almighty Being of whose nature and goodness you have been hearing at school. Never, if you can avoid it, omit attending school: you never can stay away without losing something, and that of great value.
Doubtless, on your way from home, you often meet with those who would tempt you to accompany them to wicked carelessness and disregard of the Sabbath day-idlers, swearers, liars : others again may jeer you, and call you ill names. When you are thus tempted, flee away from such companions. When you are thus reviled, revile not again, only be ye not shaken: if they do not repent they will have their portion in the unquenchable fire. Yours is the wise, and manly, and safe part: theirs is the foolish, the cowardly, and soulruinous one. Feel assured that your Sunday school and its consequent step-attendance at the
house of God-both give you refreshment after the labour of the week that is past, and strengthen you for the week that is to come.
Yet do not forget that the most regular attendance at school and church will be worse than unprofitable, if you do not carry out in the week time the lessons imparted to you on the Sunday. The eternal life of which I have been speaking, the knowledge of which is so great wisdom, and the obtainment of which will be so great riches this eternal life cannot be available to us unless we live a godly life now. Rather, if we know God's will and do it not, we are in a worse condition than the wildest savage who worships stocks and stones, or than the most ignorant and depraved among ourselves. Hence, then, in the week time, be diligent: make a point of never being idle; for idleness is the root of every evil. You can always find something to do : but, before you set about the work of any day, fail not to ask the blessing and guidance of your Father which is in heaven. How it should exalt and gladden you to know that the almighty Lord of heaven will be your father, and is more ready to answer your earnest prayers than you can possibly be to make them! Ask him to make you good, and · strive hard to be what you ask to be. Not only be diligent in that you have to do, but be faithful, be honest, be affectionate one to another:guard your very words ; speak no evil ; and especially be obedient to your parents. Recollect God says, “ Honour thy father and thy mother;" “and you must obey and honour them, excepting when they would have you do something which the word of God tells you not to do (and this seldom occurs), or you cannot please God. Be cleanly as far as you can : cleanliness is a certain
property of a good child, and to be clean it is not requisite to be clad in the finest garments: in any dress you can be respectable.
I need scarcely say to you, that, if Christian love for you brings Christian instructors to you at your school, you owe them all attention, all respect. Through the grace of God they are conferring upon you the greatest of all blessedness; and though, in so doing, they discharge only an imperative duty laid on themselves, yet it is for you to be grateful : it is for you to love them, and to make their labours light by diligent attention, and their hearts glad by letting them see the benefits of their instruction. Let those who teach you have the reward of witnessing your improvement and decent deportment. In like manner as to the gifts which your richer neighbours bestow upon you. While it is avowedly their duty to give, you have no right to expect: as far as you are concerned, every bestowal is free and not to be expected: to give is a matter of conscience between God and those that have the ability. For you to receive should be at once to acknowledge the goodness of God, whose grace so disposes the hearts of your benefactors; and to the benefactors themselves to exhibit all respectful acknowledgment. This day kind friends give unto you a slight testimony that you are not forgotten in the Lord. To-day should be with you a happy day: let it be so. You have prayed to God: you have listened to the words of one who speaks to you as a messenger from God, and who will esteem it a bright day of rejoicing if his words are instrumental in inclining your hearts to righteousness: you will have received something to remind you that the rich forget you not; that they feel there is no respect of persons with God;