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This has often given life and feeling to their prayers*, when nothing else has done it, and they have felt more earnestness in pleading for others, than they had in seeking blessings for themselves. And as such prayers are always returned sevenfold into the bosom of the petitioren, abundant blessings always descend in answer to them.
Many teachers have likewise experienced another benefit from their engagements, and that has been a desire to learn, that they may be able to teach. Their children have asked them questions which they felt themselves unable to answer, and they have searched the Scriptures, that they might be enabled to solve them. Several who have entered a School with very little knowledge, have been struck with a sense of their ignorance, by the remarks or the questions of the childreu, and while they were attempting to teach them, have been gradually led forward themselves, till they have acquired in the School a very considerable acquaintance with the Scriptures and the gospel plan of salvation. And in addition to this it has frequently happened, that in the School they found some who were qualified to be their guides, who by their age, their expe-、 rience, and their knowledge of the human heart, were fitted to direct them onward in the ways of God, and to whose company and conversation they have been very much indebted.
The last benefit I shall mention is, a conviction of our insufficiency to do any real good. When first we entered the school, we expected to convert every child to whom we could explain the depravity of its nature, and the glorious provision made to restore the ruins of the fall. And it has not been till after repeated and heart-rending disappointments, that we have been convinced that old Adam is too hard for young Melanc thon. We have set before them their ruined state by sin, the loveliness and excellency and completeness of the Saviour, the certainty and nearness of death and judgment, and have been amazed to see that we have been talking to the air, and that these all-important truths have not even sufficed to obtain their attention for a moment. We expected a universal and abiding impression, and have failed to produce even a momentary conviction. And we have sometimes met with even more painful circumstances than this. We have remarked some who seemed
• Dr. Doddridge in his Diary, after exceedingly lamenting his "distracted and wandering thoughts," his "barrenness and deadness of heart," in one of bis days of secret devotion, says, "at length the duties of this retirement concloded with a bright hour, when committing my family academy and church to God, and interceding for my friends and the public, my prayers were warn and lively."
to be promising children, who were deeply affected under the word, we have watched their prayers, we have seen their tears, and have at last been grieved to see the whole vanish like the morning cloud or the early dew, and leave them worse than before. But though these exercises have been painful, they have been salutary. They have weaned us in some degree from ourselves, taught us more of the depravity of the heart, and given us to see that nothing but the influence of the Holy Spirit can make the word in any degree effectual. They have led us to pray more earnestly for a Divine blessing, and to trust less to any merely human attempts to do good. And any thing which tends to weaken our dependance upon what is human, and call out our desires for the agency of God, is a signal blessing to the soul.
I shall now leave the subject with your readers, with my earnest prayer that every Sunday School teacher throughout the world may be a partaker of these and all other spiritual blessings.
Additional Letter on the Review of the Sunday School
IT appears from a letter in your last Repository, that the worthy compilers of the Bristol Sunday School Hymn Book plead" not guilty" to one of the charges you have brought against them, and question the propriety of the rule you have laid down, viz. that no language proper only in the mouths of Christians should be introduced into a child's hymn-book. I confess that my sentiments on the subject entirely accord with yours, and having often heard with pain and grief hymns of this sort sung in Sunday Schools, I shall accept the invitation you have given to your correspondents, and make a few remarks upon the subject.
I take it for granted, that the two following sentiments will be agreed to on all sides of the question; 1, That hypocrisy is perhaps the greatest of all dangers to which our children are exposed, and therefore above all things to be guarded against by us; and 2, That self deception is more common than any other species of hypocrisy, or in other words, that more are deceived as to their state, and go into eternity with a lie in their right hand, than wilfully and deliberately undertake to deceive others.
The principal source of self-deception is our fancying we possess the tempers and dispositions of Christians. Our hearts
are very deceitful, and consequently prone to cheat us into a good opinion of ourselves; and our enemy is very watchful, and earnestly desirous to promote this fatal delusion. Under such influences, we easily mistake the language of repentance, of faith, of hope, of assurance, for those graces themselves; and this should render us cautious how we make children familiar with such hymns, and teach them to use words which express sentiments that they never have felt. I am fearful of putting words into their mouths, by which they may deceive themselves and others, and of which the great enemy of souls will make use, to lead them to believe that they are partakers of graces of which they only know the expressions.
We must likewise remember, that many professors of religion are extremely enthusiastic in their views upon this head; they enquire much more eagerly after feeling than practice; and, forgetting the scriptural definition of pure and undefiled religion, make it consist in tumultuous emotions, in ecstatic joys, in violent and unwarranted impressions. By such persons, whose zeal considerably exceeds their judgment, all are noticed who appear attentive to the word, are persuaded into feelings, and immediately are brought forward in Christian society, with no better evidences of their saving conversion than warm imaginations and lively affections. The language of religion is easily acquired, and if they meet with no very great and pressing allurements to return into the world, they continue with us during the whole of their course; and at last, it is to be feared, leave our world to hear the awful sentence, Depart from me, I never knew you.
As I consider this the greatest danger to which in the present day of outward prosperity we are exposed, I labour the more earnestly to guard the children under my care against it.. I never notice or encourage their tears; and while I inwardly rejoice to witness their attention, and see that they are in a degree influenced by what they hear, I take effectual care that neither they or their schoolfellows should ever know my sentiments. I was not always thus upon my guard; but repeated humbling and grievous disappointments have taught me that children are easily affected, and that impressions made upon them are too frequently like the morning cloud, and the early dew. With these views, I never allow them to sing what is not true, fearing lest I should be accessary to self-deceit, and teach them to lie unto God. Here, however, I may remark, that while I never would allow children to use language which is untrue in itself, I do not scruple that which is true, though
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they may not exactly feel it. An example or two will explain my meaning. Such lines as
Should storms of seven-fold thunder roll,
or, Nothing I ask or want beside,
But let me feel thy blood applied,
or, Me for thine own thou lov'st to take,
are, I think, in every respect inadmissible; while such as
How justly might thine anger rise,
or, To every sin inclin'd,
Selfish we are and proud;
Our will perverse, our carnal mind,
or, Lord, we are vile, conceiv'd in sin,
Sprung from the man whose guilty fall,
Corrupts the race, and taints us all. p. 43.
are strains to which I think no one can object, because the doctrines they contain are true of every one, though all may not equally feel them.
Your correspondent remarks, that all our labours are directed to the great object of bringing children to an experimental knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, and that our efforts have repeatedly been crowned with success. Of this I have no doubt; but the preceding remarks have perhaps intimated, that I am not so sanguine on this head as some others are, and fear that both living and dying conversions have been too readily believed. I am afraid that instances of present success are much more rare than most of us would allow; and that many dying experiences, which we have thought much of, will at last turn out to have been merely language learned by rote, and repeated to please teachers. Experience has taught me to doubt the value of what I once thought sterling, and to
beware of pronouncing confidently of any. Though I wish and pray that the worthy " compiler" may be saved the painful defeat of hopes and expectations which I have experienced, yet I cannot but fear that future years will convince him, that some whom he thinks "deeply solicitous for their eternal welfare, conscious of their sin and misery," have merely transient convictions, and that he has more sinners and fewer saints to provide hymns for.
I cannot agree either with him in the opinion, that hymns should be inserted in the hymn-book which are not intended to be sung, because I apprehend that in every School such hymns will frequently be publicly used. All the teachers or superintendants may not be convinced of the impropriety of such language in the mouths of children, and may consequently use hymns which are dear to them as expressing their own sentiments, and for the moment forget their little charge. I have very often heard this in public prayer in Schools, and therefore entertain fears the more readily that it would be the case with hymns.
The wise and just observation he has quoted, viz. "That of the two ways of writing or speaking to children, the more excellent is not that whereby we let ourselves down to them, but that whereby we endeavour to lift them up to us," is to be understood with some qualification, and some limitation. Some qualification, for if it were strictly and entirely adhered to, they never could understand a word we say; and some limitation, because it refers only to the understanding, and not at all to the heart. Nor shall we ever "bring them up" to the state of Christians by directing them to speak the language of confident assurance that they are so, but must seek the influences of the Holy Spirit to bring them down to a sense of their exceeding sinfulness, and to lay them in the dust, crying, Behold I am vile.
Permit me, in conclusion, to refer to the excellent liturgy of our venerable Establishment. For warmth and energy of devotion I believe no human composition ever excelled it, and yet we meet throughout with hardly any sentiments in which unconverted persons cannot join, except in the sacramental service, where it is charitably hoped the majority present are believers indeed. In that service we say, "We do earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; the remembrance of our sins is grievous unto us, and the burden of them is intolerable;" and "Here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls, and bodies," &c. while in the more public services we confine ourselves to more general