last past, has ended in a general feeling that unless we stop short, and reform the system, it will ruin us.

The rebellion, with its burden of debt; the debt, with its necessities of taxation; the taxation, with its inducements to fraud; fraud, with its rich rewards; and honesty, with its small encouragement: these have been the operating causes that must at length open our eyes to the enormous difficulty of the task in hand, and its vast importance.

Whatever we can learn of past evils and present good in the working of other governments, is worth knowing. To this end, the sketch we have given of the history of a limited class of offices in Rome and in France, as we have attempted it, from the learned pages of M. Durand's treatise, may serve to direct attention to the same quarter. “Political Biography” gives other writings on this branch of administrative law in the various Continental states. Wide as are their systems from our own, there is yet a great deal to be learned from their wholesome faith in having the public business done as well as anybody else's, and it is just that that we have carefully unlearned and forgotten here. To those who know any thing of the advantages of any system besides our own, it seems only strange that even Congress should require such persistent efforts to secure the passage of some measure of reforın. The cause, however, is not far to seek, and the result on public business and private interests in it, as exhibited of late, is enough to show that there is a world of difference between the public as citizens and as constituents of representatives and senators. It looks as if the votes given to Jenckes's bill were given in full knowledge that it never could become law; yet, the only means of reforming the public service is to take away the existing inducements to trade in offices, just as corrupt as was that openly recognized in Roman legislation.

Art. II.The Eurly Regeneration of Subbath-School Children. One of the most important institutions which have arisen within the church, during the present century, is the Sabbathschool. Its original design was to reach the children of those who neglected the divine ordinances of worship, and who were thus kept aloof from the means of grace. While the sphere of its operation has been somewhat enlarged, and the children of the church are now generally included in its instructions, its first and chief aim is still preserved, and its work has widened till several millions of the children and youth of the land are embraced in its beneficent inclosures.

The remark is often made: “The Sabbath-school is still in its infancy.” Its machinery and methods, the style and spirit of its management and development are imperfect and crude. It by no means accomplishes the good of which it is capable and for which it is intended. Indeed, not a few evils grow out of it which should be corrected and avoided. Many of the best minds of the church are earnestly pondering these things, and we note not a little advance in many schools.

In the following pages we propose to suggest some thonghts touching the fundamental principles of this wide-spread insti. tution. We shall not discuss its constitution, or government, or relations to the church, or modes of teaching, or external appliances by which the interest and attention of children are secured. We shall seek to reach the root of the matter, and attempt to point out some of the conditions of a larger success in the high end which we all so much desiderate.

The title of this article embodies the substance of what we wish to say, and we ask an earnest and candid attention to its unfolding. The views we offer are based upon the faith of the church, as expressed in its symbols; and we firmly believe that their intelligent application to the Sabbath-school work will greatly increase its usefulness, and result in the cure of many of the evils so generally deplored.

The first thing on which we remark is suggested by the language in which the theme is announced. It is not the “conversion ” of little children that is brought before us, but their “regeneration;" and the difference between the two should be carefully discriminated. Regeneration is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit, creating anew its subjects in Christ Jesus. It is the planting of “the seed of God” in the soul; the imparting of a divine, spiritual life to one who is “ dead in trespasses and sins.” It is the resurrection of such & one, “by the exceeding greatness of God's power” from the grave of the apostasy, from the deep and dark depravity in which the whole race is buried. It is the formation of that vital and indissoluble union, between the sinner and the Lord Jesus Christ, in which, as the branch and the vine are one, as the body and the head are one, as the husband and the wite are one, so, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, the renewed sinner and Christ become one. It is a transcendent work of Divine power which any, and all human analogies fail fully to set forth in its supernatural reality, and which is resembled, by the Lord himself, to that mysterious and ineffable union which subsists between the Eternal Father and his only begotten Son: “ As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us."

Conversion is the result and evidence of regeneration. It is the action of the person's own mind and will, in consequence of this prior and fundamental work of the Spirit. It is the sinner himself turning from sin and the world to holiness and God, manifested by a variety of acts and exercises. And there is all the difference between this and regeneration, that there is between the work of the infinite God, and the resulting work of a finite man.

There is, moreover, a popular use of the word conversion, which is by no means applicable to regeneration. A person may be "converted ” many times. Whenever sin has been committed by a Christian, and he is convinced of it, he is converted from it. So it was with Peter; “when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” But we do not often hear, either in ordinary conversation or in the pulpit, of repeated “second births ;” repeated “new creations” in regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Thus the distinction between the two terms is easily made. There is a divinity, a glory about the one we do not immediately associate with the other. A man may be deceived as to the character of his own acts and feelings in conversion ; “for the heart is deceitful above all things." But God knows his own work. And when lie has wrought the great effect, when he has regenerated the sinner, there can be no mistake about it. The gracious result is produced and remains, no matter what the sinner's thoughts and feelings may be respecting it. There are doubtless many who are converted, as the language is popularly understood, who, in the exercise of their own wills, resolve to be, and to do, good, are sorry for their sins, and feel that they believe and repent, and who run well for a time, but who were never really “born again,” “begotten" of God the Holy Ghost. But when God has once begun his good work of Omnipotent grace in the soul, he will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Hence the meaning and importance of the word regeneration in our subject.

Accordingly, this is the first, the chief thing, that those who are engaged in the work of Sabbath-schools should aim at, pray, and labor for the actual regeneration, by the third Person of the Godhead, of the children brought under the care of the church. It is not so much to secure the right action of the child, important as this may be, as to secure the almighty, efficacious action of the Blessed Spirit, by which the right action of the child will be infallibly assured. On the very face of it, this is an unspeakably solemn busi

It brings the teacher into nearer, closer contact with the Eternal Spirit, than with the child. In dealing with the child, the teacher simply presents truth, motives, and appeals; and we know that this is to no good purpose unless the Holy Spirit is present, and by the secret Omnipotent insinuations of his grace, seals and makes them vital in the soul of the child. The most serious and tremendous truth we can speak is pow. erless for salvation, apart from this Divine co-operation. Paul may plant and Apollos may water, but God alone gives the increase. There is thus absolute need of some extrinsic power to make truth forcible, efficacious, renewing; and there is no power available to this end, other than that of God's eternal spirit. Accordingly, he who presents that truth, must have power with God as well as power with his fellow-man to whom he presents it.


The sentiment is more or less prevalent, that there is a difference between the spiritual condition of unrenewed little children, and that of unrenewed adults. Doubtless the former are more accessible, more easily moved by statements of Bible truths than are the latter. Their constitutional susceptibilities are more keen; their intellectual acquaintance with error and evil comparatively slight; their habits of sin less fixed and persistent; but these things do not touch the undeniable and awful fact of their native hereditary depravity; which, while it may not be as active, is none the less existent and total, than in the most hardened sinner. Little children have the same indispensable need of the “exceeding greatness of God's power” for renewal and salvation as adults. A new creation in Christ Jesus is the essential prerequisite in all instances whatsoever of human salvation. The Sabbath-school instructor should understand and profoundly feel this; else he will in all likelihood fail of the result which he seeks, because he does not direct his efforts to the right object, to his only efficient Helper.

The idea of “conversion' when most prominent in the mind of the teacher, takes him to the child, to his intellect, his heart, his will. The idea of “regeneration ” when most prominent, takes the teacher to the Holy Spirit, to his sovereign agency, to his almighty power, to his infinite love. The first makes the teacher a worker together with the child ; the second, makes him a “worker together with God." And, as we have seen, the Divine influence is primary, and must be exerted in order to the right mental and moral action of the child.

With such a view of the work of saving the souls of men, particularly of children, how solemn, how fearfully responsible is the office of a teacher in the Sabbath-school! Who is sufficient for these things? What a friendship, what a sacred familiarity with the Holy Spirit are requisite? What an acquaintance with the methods, and conditions, and circumstances of his gracious operations is needed. What a profound sense of dependence on his august presence. IIis holy

« ElőzőTovább »