who have no personal connection with the churches. It is of these we would particularly speak. We remarked just now, that an acquaintance with the methods and conditions of the operations of the Holy Spirit, is exceedingly important to the successful teacher. Among these we would name, as one of the most signal and essential, that of the existence and use of the means of sanctification. Regeneration is an instantaneous and finished product, when it is effected; and it is ordinarily wrought in view of the subsequent sanctification of the individual. This is progressive, a work of time, frequently of many years, running through the entire interval between the regeneration and the death of the person. In the case of the children of believers, the appropriate and appointed means may readily be found. But in the case of others, who constitute the great majority of Sabbath-school classes, it is otherwise. The Bible, the family altar, the recognition of God at the table, the closet, religious conversation and instruction, a holy example, are all wanting ; and selfishness, worldliness, and godlessness, obtain and hold large sway in the household, and sometimes profanity and Sabbath desecration are habitually practised. The atmosphere of the family is irreligious. Is it not self-evident, that in such cases, the work of sanctification is, to a fearful extent, precluded? There is no doubt, that a little child, brought up under a home influence of this kind, presents a case exceedingly trying to the intelligent faith of a teacher. Is the early regeneration of such children to be expected ?

In answering this most pertinent and solemn question, we would briefly submit the following observations :

1. In the first place, the providence of God in the institution and vast enlargement of the Sabbath-school, must be honored. This is one of the most distinctive signs of the times in which we live. It is a special manifestation of God's love for children; for children outside of the pale of the visible church. This divine affection is real and wonderful. Witness God's word in respect to Nineveh, “Should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons, that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand ?” And in one day, that love emerges into activity, and permanent development, as never before in human history. The millions of children that have been brought under the care of the church, through the Sabbathschool, have been so brought by God's all-wise providence, not in judgment, but in mercy; mercy which can be overborne and thwarted only by the infidelity and neglect of his own professing people. The Lord's arm is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear, but the sins of his people, their coldness, and prayerlessness, and unbelief, and worldliness, may clog and stop the channels of his mercy. This high responsibility has been put upon the church, we may reasonably infer, not without the proffer of the needful supplies of divine influence, looking toward the actual regeneration and salvation of the perishing children. This is one all important consideration, which should sink down into our hearts.

2. In the next place, if this end is to be secured, it must be done within a limited period. There is to all men a day of grace, a space for repentance, a line drawn across their path, visible only to God's eye, beyond which there is no hope. This space is measured, not so much by years as by privileges and opportunities. If we take little children under our care, and they are not renewed by the Divine Spirit, the danger is very great that they will become gospel-hardened at an early period. The habit of refusing the Lord Jesus Christ, and of resisting and grieving the Holy Spirit, formed during the plastic period of childhood, grows rapidly and strikes deep into the soul. It is a lamentable fact, often mentioned and deplored, that great multitudes of Sabbath-school children cease their connection with the church when they leave the Sabbath-school, and that it is exceedingly difficult to retain, under Christian influence, very many of them, after they have opened into manhood and womanhood. So that, if they are not "born again " while in the Sabbath-school, the likelihood of their subsequent regeneration is immensely diminished. The processes of indwelling sin and Satanic agency are very subtle, very powerful, and urgent. And thus it would appear, that the existence of the Sabbath-school, while it is a signal token of divine mercy, is, at the same time, a sign of the shortening of the day of grace with large numbers of our population.

3. Assuming now God's willingness and readiness to renew these children, as evidenced by his notable providence, and assuming the solemn exigency in which they are placed by the simple fact of their being in the Sabbath-school, we remark, in the third place, that in order to the accomplishment of the saving work of the Holy Spirit upon them, there must be, humanly speaking, earnest and thorough consecration to the salvation of each child, on the part of the teachers and of the church-a consecration, hitherto, in a great measure unrealized. If the means of grace and holiness are so largely withheld from them at home, this lack must be supplied, to the atmost degree possible, by those who, in God's providence, have their spiritual welfare in charge. Especially should the teacher seek to take the place of faithless, godless parents. He should be now a father, now a mother in Christ to their children, a true sponsor, a real godfather and godmother. By frequent visitation at their houses; by taking them one by one to his own house and praying with them, counselling and instructing them; by providing them with suitable Christian reading; by writing letters to them; by a holy and happy example (and all this from year to year), he should supply to the Holy Spirit and to them, the means of sanctification. And the church, especially through her responsible officers preeminently through its pastor, should continually do all in her power to keep the pressure of eternal and divine things upon the minds and hearts of the children. In this way it would soon be found out that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and heaven. The writer has a friend, a member now of the Roman Catholic Church, whose love for souls, and whose labors with God and with them for their salvation furnish a lesson to us.

On a visit, paid her a year or two since, she took him into her place of private prayer. In an inner closet, whose door she opened, he noticed the photographs of nineteen persons. He asked her who they were. She replied, they were poor people she was trying to save. She visited them regularly, and instructed them carefully, but her great dependence was on God; and she was accustomed to take these photographs, one by one, and put them on a little table she had prepared for the purpose, and then, looking at them, she would kneel, and name their names, and mention their wants and trials to her Father, and plead for mercy in their behalf. Would that we, Protestants, rivalled the fidelity, and earnestness, and determination of this Roman Catholic lady! Would that Sabbath-school teachers and Christian churches were so imbued with divine grace, were in such deep and vital fellowship with the IIoly Spirit, were so heartily persuaded of the depraved, lost, and helpless condition of all children by nature, and were so bent on securing God's almighty power in their behalf, that they would make their salvation a matter of deeper concern than their own necessary food! If the spirit of Jacob, when he wrestled with the Angel of the Covenant, and said, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me;" if the spirit of Moses, when he said, “This people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold, yet, now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin, and, if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of the book which thou hast written;" if the spirit of Paul, when he wrote, “I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen, according to the flesh;” if this were the spirit that possessed Sabbath-school teachers, it would consume their indolence, and worldlines, and selfishness, and consecrate them thorough, hearty, lifelorg workers together with God in this sacred calling. And without this spirit in some good measure, the beneficial effects now derived from the institution would scarely counterbalance, we fear, the evil which it scals upon the souls of children by reason of its marked shortcomings.

If the views we have presented are just, it follows that the success of the Sabbath-school cause depends upon a mighty outpouring of Divine influence upon teachers and scholars. And this is our confidence, that as the providence of God has instituted the system, involving such solemn relations and consequences, so the Spirit of God will be given to it, and, by a pentecostal baptism, teachers will be consecrated and filled with the Holy Ghost, and the children will be renewed and flock to the church, as the clouds and as doves to their

windows. It is the cause of God, and he reigns sovereign and supreme over it; and none can stay the hand of his love, nor resist the energy of his invincible spirit, when the fountains of the great deep of the Divine compassions are broken up, and the time, the set time to favor Zion has come.

And how evident it is that no work can be named more blessed, and yet more difficult, requiring more assiduity and persistent faithfulness, than that of a Sabbath-school teacher, It is an employment transcending all earthly work, demanding supernal aid, and when properly performed throughout the church, will speedily usher in the millennial glory. To engage in it perfunctorily and prayerlessly, without a profound and vital sense of dependence on the sovereign agency of the Holy Spirit, is not only to sin against God, but also to sin most grievously and fatally against the souls of the rising generation in our land.

Art. III.- The Life of Samuel Miller, D.D., LL.D. Sec

ond Professor in the Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church at Princeton, N. J. BY SAMUEL MILLER. In two volumes. Philadelphia : Claxton, Remsen & Haf

felfinger. There are two reasons why we approach this biography with much more than ordinary interest. One is that the subject of it was one of the commanding spirits of his day, one of the greater lights of our American Church. The other is that, though his grave lias been made for nearly twenty years, he is still embalmed in our grateful remembrances for that kindly, formative, enduring influence, which rendered him to us, as well as many others, one of the best of benefactors. In going over the leading events of his life, and the prominent traits of his character, as they are brought out in these deeply interesting volumes,-notwithstanding we claim the position of impartial reviewers,—we do not pledge ourselves to ignore all past relations, or to forget that we are writing about one whose memory we cherish with unmixed reverence.



« ElőzőTovább »