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Mankind are more familiar with the natural than the spiritual, but it does not therefore follow that the spiritual is any less near, real, and potential than the natural. Familiarity and reality are not synonyms. There are many things with which it cannot be said the human mind is very familiar, which are, nevertheless, near, real, and universal. Gravitation is a real, invisible, omnipresent power, influencing every organised and unorganised material body; and yet, of a knowledge of such a law as gravitation, all those who lived a few years prior to the advent of the immortal Newton, were entirely ignorant. Now, the spiritual impinges on and influences the natural, and yet, only to a few do these things present themselves as absolute matters of fact.
The Bible, if we would only fully believe it, makes this branch of the subject perfectly clear; but a blind and conceited naturalism or materialism, has closed the general eye to the great fact.
We are in intimate relation with the spiritual world, and our prayers ought frequently to ascend for spiritual help. I don't mean prayers to those who have gone before, that would be an encouragement and submission to the follies and absurdities of Roman Catholicism; but earnest prayer to the Great Spiritual Father, who is ever ready through Christ to aid those who call upon him in sincerity and truth. Answers to prayers may not come precisely at the time we want them, nor in the form we expect. It may be that some of us, for wise purposes, may have to endure long years of dreary and isolated probation; but if we pray with honest earnest hearts, with a sincere desire to be right and to prove a blessing to others, sooner or later, in the Almighty's good time, the blessing will come. If we have not had quite so much success in Sunday school labour as we desire, let us remember that all these agencies are under the control of our Heavenly Father, and that by His ordination He will send blessings and success when they are most opportune.
The inferences we may draw from the foregoing remarks, and from the facts that are familiar to all those engaged in Sunday school teaching, are, that Sunday schools have accomplished much; that by increased industry, devotion, and reliance on the Divine blessing, they may accomplish yet more; and that, therefore, it is the duty of all who have the interests of Sunday schools at heart, to labour more earnestly and prayerfully for the accomplishment of the design for which they are now conducted.
THE "WORD" AT CLASS, AND THE "WAY" AT HOME.
The words and ways of men, how different they are! How inconsistent, and how often absolutely opposed: men speak what they feel not—they advise what they practice not—and talk of what they live not. And to whom can we better apply these words, than to ourselves as teachers? Nor do I, after careful watching, think that the charge is false: it is an evil that has crept into most of our duties, and has effectually made weak the power of many a pulpit in our land. Many men might concludo their nermons by saying, "Now do as I say, not as I do." And since we are conscious of it here, much more likely are we to meet with it in the class and in the school; and what is more, how many of us are aware of its existence: it being to some a tearful knowledge, while to others one of little concern!
May we not liken ourselves to those of whom we sometimes hear, that can appear on certain days, and at certain seasons, decked with all that's fair, and arrayed in all that glistens, but who, when an admiring crowd has passed—and the ceremony is over—doff the jewels and the grandeur for the common-place attire? For we, on many a Sabbath morn have gone to teach, with heaven's fairest jewel in our hands, the sweetest words upon our lips, the loveliest smile playing o'er the countenance, the brightest glow upon our hearts: the children have admired, ay, loved and listened with rapt attention to the words of our mouth; but when the day has passed and the class dispersed, we lay aside the jewel-book, the heavenly harp is exchanged for the murmuring world; and the brightness of our religion fades with the sinking sun. And, seriously, do you not think that the children, seeing this, as they assuredly will, (they are often sharper in such things than we think them,) will soon be led to look upon fair speeches as mockery, and the teaching as delusion? Can they believe you, when, having told them the duty of the sanctuary, they see your vacant seat? Having told them to be loving, you grow to them unkind? Having bid them put aside the temper, you are heard on the morrow to indulge in needless angry words? Having bid them live in prayer, you, yourself, are seen at home to neglect it? Having bid them learn "the word," yours at homo is scarcely touched? Having told them that life is earnest, to employ every moment as it flies, you are found at home, the sluggard or the idler? Can they, I ask, believe you? No; your words of advice will not be taken, your counsel of good will not be heeded, your remarks on heaven will not be regarded,—the child is too sensitive to reality; as we would be, were we advised to abstain by a drunkard, or counselled to give up amusement, by the reckless worldling.
Brothers and sisters, do we yearn to do good? Let our word at class be our way at home. Let us live at home what we live in the class. The religion that is fit to teach the child is the religion for us. Did not the Lord say, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven"? Yes: the religion of the child is the religion of the man; so if the child is to live it, we must live it too; if the child is to love, we must love too; if the child is to pray, we must pray too; to be gentle, we must be gentle too. Oh! teach not the thing yon live not; advise not the thing you value not; or it loses all its charms, and its loveliness is hid. That which you do teach, let it be, every word of it, genuine, heart-felt and true; for then your life shall apply it, your life shall recommend it, and your children will say, "He's in earnest, he means it, he believes it, he feels it, he lives it at home, I will follow with him, come let us mark his words." So shall your labours be eminently blest, your words applied by your ways shall never be lost. The ripples of time shall not wear away, nor the waves of eternity ever obscure their impress.
"MEN WHO HAVE RISEN."
At a social temperance gathering, George Lomax told the following story:—"Henry Hetherington published the Poor Man's Guardian, which struck the first practical blow at the obnoxious stamp duties. The vendors used to sell a straw and give a paper. One day there came to the rendezvous, at New Cross-street, a youth, one of a class known in those days as a 'big piecer.' He told them that two of the newsvendors had just been taken to the New Bailey, and added to this effect—' If I had something to start with, I would go out and sell them; for if they put me in prison they would have to keep me.' Lomax took round his hat, half-a-crown was raised; the lad was furnished with a supply of papers, went out, sold them, took care of the profits; and so on from little to more, by dint of industry, steadiness, and an aptitude for business, he achieved a position in society. That lad's name was Abel Heywood; and he H at the present moment the Mayor of Manchester."—Southport Visitor.
SUNDAY SCHOOL ADDRESS. "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock." Let us take each word separately.
I. Behold! We all know what that means. When we are asked to behold anything, it is to look at it. How often do we see persons beholding many things that are not worth noticing. Here we are told to behold I But what? Is it worth our attention? We shall see as we proceed.
II. 11 This is whom we have to behold. Who is it? Let us enquire into the matter, and see if we can find, whether or not, the subject is worth our notice. Undoubtedly, it means Christ. He who was born at Bethlehem, in a manger, and to whom we find wise men of the East doing homage. Look into His life a little. We behold hitn at twelve years old in the Temple, hearing and asking the doctors questions, who were surprised at him and his answers, as well they might be. He, whom we find at the grave of Lazarus, and bidding him arise from the silent tomb. He, who as he passes by the city of Nain, beholds the widow, and makes her heart leap for joy by bringing her son back again to life. We find Him also, in his daily life, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, making the dumb to speak, and the lame to walk. Then, after all, we behold Him enduring the wrath and malice of His enemies, who thirst for His blood, and are crying out,—" Away with Him I away with Him." "Crucify Him ! crucify Him." Then we behold Him nailed to the accursed tree—the rocks rending—the dead rising— and darkness over all the land for three hours: and after this, "the third, the appointed day," we behold Him rising conqueror over death and the tomb. Thus proving that He was the Son of God, and that the grand scheme of redemption was once and for ever complete. This is He, who stands at the door and knocks for admission.
III. Stand! It does not say, "Behold, I sit at the door and knock," but stand! This implies that He will not always be there. Standing is not an attitude of rest. Whenever you see a person standing, you make up your mind that he will shortly remove from the spot. So here Christ is represented, or rather represents Himself, as standing, as though He would not always be found there.
IV. At! A little word, but an important one. Christ does not say, "I stand in the door," but at the door; implying, waiting for an entrance,—not thrusting himself in, but leaving it to the person to admit him. Just hke a friend going to the house of another and waiting at the door for admission.
V. The! Another little word, but of more importance perhaps, than the former. It does not say, at a door, but the door; your door, my door; at each individual sinner's heart. Religion is a personal thing, and as such Christ treats it, and comes to every sinner's heart and asks for admission.
VI. Door! If a person is going on a visit to a friend, at what part of the house does he knock for admission? Does he go to the wall or window and knock? Certainly not. Common sense tells him to go to the door and knock. Why? Just because that is the entrance to the house. So Christ knocks at the door, as that is the entrance to the heart of man.
VII. And! Very little words are often very important m a sentence. Undoubtedly this "and" is. Christ here represents himself as doing something else besides standing. Ton see a person standing at yonder door. If he was merely to stand there, do you think he would gain admission? How would the people inside know that there was anyone waiting at the door? No; common sense tells him he must do something besides standing. What! we shall see under our next head.
VIII. Knock 1 This is what a person does besides standing at the door. He knocks. Then he gains admission. So Christ does the same thing. He stands at the door and knocks. How? In various ways—by His word, works and ways. By all these, He knocks for admission into our hearts. Sometimes he lays affliction upon us, and thus reminds us that this is not our rest. Sometimes He takes away our dearest relatives, and thus says, "Prepare to meet thy God." Tn His works we can learn many a useful lesson: see in Autumn, the leaves falling to the ground, an emblem of the frailty of human life. Look into His word and there read the warnings and encouragement it contains. He knocks also, by our privileges; the means of grace by which we are favoured from time to time; and by a thousand different ways He is seeking to draw our hearts to himself, so that we may be happy, both in this life and that which is to come. Then ponder over the subject; seek to have " Christ in you—the hope of glory;" and then, after feeling the debt of gratitude you owe to Him, go and do good to those around you. We are put into this world to get good and to do good. "Then let us buckle on the whole armour of God, fight^the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life."
There, right before our Saviour,