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duty were made of Scripture reading, if questioning on that, in the same manner as on other reading, were introduced, and if a few passages of the Bible and a few hymns, from the copious collections which exist, were committed to memory, and if a little sacred singing were added to the morning prayer, it would give solidity to the whole fabric, and form a foundation for all the moral lessons which it is the duty of the teachers to inculcate. To expend all the pains on preparation for this short life, and leave an eternity of happiness or misery unthought of, uncared for, is not the act of a truly kind and reasonable government.
A little French pamphlet, entitled “ Le Palais de Cristal,” contains a few sentences that apply but too well to this subject—they are here translated: “It seems as if all would work without the influences of religion, and without having recourse to its aid. They never call it to help them, and even they think to do, or to be able to do, better without it than with it. They pretend that it has failed of its aim—that it has not succeeded; and they leave it on one side in the positive expectation to accomplish their design. They will not mention it, because they fear, in doing so, to introduce a source of quarrels, of divisions, and animosities, as the past has proved—for men have quarrelled and gone to war and strife as much for religion as for politics and other things. No-Jesus Christ and his religion go for nothing in modern plans and projects. The religious amelioration of man is of no moment. The sole object is the temporal, corporeal, material, and a little the intellectual good of man. All belongs to this world, and all is for this world; as if they supposed that man is not immortal nor fallen, and responsible before God. Here, man and his glory are the sovereign, nay, almost the sole object."
When the lack of religious instruction in Common Schools is mentioned, pious parents generally advert to Sabbath-schools, and try to console themselves with them as a substitute. And so they might, in some degree, were the influence all-pervading, and the attendance steady, and did not the heart require
upon line and precept upon precept,” before the truth sinks into it.
Were all who venture to take charge of classes themselves enlightened Christians, had all the gift of teaching, and all the zeal and love which would induce them to accompany lessons with their prayers —then one might comprehend how the tender mother who has begun to teach the sweet story of Jesus, and has delighted to hear her little ones lisp hymns in his praise, can venture to resign her office to another; then one might see the father confide the charge which is given him of God to a youth who, in the common course of things, is not likely to be as experienced a Christian as himself; then one might
hope that mollifying Sabbath influences would subdue young hearts, and bring them home to their parents what they wish them to become.
One cannot but question whether this is the natural result, if the natural guides withdraw entirely from the office of ordering their children well themselves. There is a uniting power, a respectful affection, an elevating sentiment, which, if it be awakened at all, is lost by the parent and transferred to the teacher. The years in which the young and helpless draw their support from their parents, are also the years when their sympathies may be interwoven, so as to make a life-long web of mutual help and unfailing concord. Why should this be sacrificed, and a gap made of the intervening time between the nursery lessons and their entering on public life?
It is said, if the well-qualified parents withhold their children from the Sabbath-school, the ill-qualified will not send theirs. If this be so, it must arise from a mistake lying somewhere as to the origin and use of such schools. When Mr Raikes first as. sembled a few children in the city of Gloucester, he did not go to the most pious people in the city and ask for their children, that he might instruct them in addition to the little vagabonds of the highways and hedges—but he filled his benches with the uncared-for, and his example was quickly followed by thousands.
An unfortunate consequence of children, who might be at least as well trained at home, going out
for religious instruction is, that they are often seated with the school in church; and thus another bond with their own family is not formed. They do not walk to the house of God in company; they are not under the parental eye during the service, and the hoard of remembrances is not treasured up which might come over the heart in after-life, like a breeze from the sweet south, fanning the flame of love, or awakening the drowsy conscience.
There is no more tranquil use of Sabbath morning hours than to enrich the memory with the Word of God, and no more social way of passing its evening than in reading and catechising the domestic circle. In a country where sociality is so lively, and natural buoyancy is so excitable, a stamp of domestic tranquillity may be placed on such use of the sacred hours, which may steady the character for life.
No one can suppose, from these remarks, that Sabbath-teaching in schools is meant to be rejected. To the Christian artisan who is glad of the unwonted delight of an hour for repose and meditation, what a privilege to send his young ones to the care of pious teachers, who act under the inspection of his pastor or elders ! He is glad that they are better taught than he could teach them, and that they procure from the library books which he could not seek for them, and he prays for a blessing on the teacher and his efforts; while to the children of the ignorant and regardless, the Sabbath-school is a boon of whose worth they are as yet unaware.