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mercy you are what you are ? 'Tis cheering to a stranger to greet a brother in the pilgrimage, and unite with him in ascribing glory to the LOVELY ONE who has redeemed us by his blood. To him be all honour, power, might, majesty, and dominion for ever.
The theme concerning which you desire me to write, is to me most delightful. I can frame no opposition to your request, for, in complying with it, I shall indulge the richest emotions.
The hours passed with my Bible-class have been among the happiest of my life. I would fain say to them, what one in your own land has said of other hours; “ very pleasantly did they pass, and moved smoothly and swiftly along; they are gone, but have lett a relish and a fragrance upon the mind, and the remembrance of them is sweet.” Happier I do not expect to know, until I "reach the peaceful shore of blest eternity." They rise upon my view like the rich scenes of a beautiful landscape; and their interest is not a little heightened by the thought, that some, whose society I enjoyed in the midst of them, now rest in heaven. Yes, of the dear youth who have been in the Bible-class, more than one has gone down to the grave “in sure and certain hope of a joyful resurrection.” I seem to recal them around me as I write. 'I beheld them listening as they were wont, with the seriousness of devoted piety, to the sacred page; both answering and asking me questions; and for a moment I forget that they are no more living and breathing upon earth. If the thought breaks in upon my mind that they have departed, it is accompanied by the recollection of the peace of their dying moments, and for that peace, I desire ever to be thankful.
There is another circumstance which makes this theme pleasant. I have probably no more warmly attached friends in the world than the members of my Bible-class. They regard me with a strength of affection which I by no means deserve: but which arises from their perception of spiritual benefits resulting from the exercises in which they have been engaged. They regard me as God's instrument: and if, from the infirmity of human nature, they treat the instrument with more attention than he merits, you will allow, that, while, as in duty bound, I caution them against idolatry to the creature, it cannot but be cheering to me to meditate upon their friendship. They are my "joy and crown;" and many of them, I humbly hope, will, through the abounding grace of God, be “stars in my crown of rejoicing.”
Trusting that your feelings as a pastor will excuse these reflections, I proceed to give some account of the origin, progress, and blessed fruits of the Bible-Class of St. Paul's Church.
I know not how it may have been with you, my brother, but the opening of the twelfth chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes has always appeared to my mind peculiarly interesting. In saying,
REMEMBER NOW THY CREATOR IN THE DAYS OF THY YOU I H," Jehovah calls upon the whole race of Adam to become obedient
to his will. He says to each successive generation, bow at the foot of my throne, and receive the blessings of the life which now is, and of that which is to come. The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, speaks from his pavillion, and invites the young to become his sons and his daughters. He addresses himself to the tender heart and the opening mind; ere satan has established his dominion in the soul, or the world has spread its enticing snares; before “the evil days come, or the years draw nigh when they say, I have no pleasure in them.” The “high and lofty one who inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy,” thus bending from his throne to counsel the rising generation, is a spectacle astonishing to angels, and a spectacle which should lead to deep meditation on the part of man. God acts not without reason. Our duty, therefore, is to ponder his doings, that we may learn the way of wisdom for ourselves.
The susceptibility of the young is, undoubtedly, one reason why our Heavenly Father is pleased thus to address them. They are ready to receive any impression. Their expanding faculties look abroad and inquire for information. They are sensible of dependence; and the price they are ready to pay for protection and other benefits, is obedience. True, the waywardness of their nature prompts them to rebel; but they are by no means prepared to assert an independence of parents and teachers; and wholesome, affectionate discipline, can easily guide them into the way they should go.
Such a period never again returns during the life of man. Should we not then feel the importance of improving this seedtime? Infinite Wisdom sets us the example. Infinite Wisdom no where displays itself in a more charming manner than in calling the young to the lessons of the sacred page: to contemplate the wonders of creating, preserving, and redeeming love. Oh! what more becoming in us, than to invite them to stand at the foot of the Redeemer's cross, and receive into their understandings a knowledge of him who “was wounded for their transgressions!" What more suitable than to entreat thein to look away from Cal. vary to the right hand of the throne, and behold • 6 the which fadeth not away;" the "joy which is unspeakable;” the glories of that everlasting home, where “the Lamb in the midst of the throne will feed his people, and God himself wipe away all tears from their eyes!"
There are reasons for calling upon the young to remember their Creator," which are consequences of the susceptibility I have mentioned. One is, the permanence of the impressions they receive. Ask an aged man what it is his memory holds with greatest tenacity. He will tell you, “the scenes and instructions of my childhood.” Doddridge remembered to his latest day, the Dutch tile from which his mother taught him a lesson of Scripture. Gray, the poet, speaks beautifully of the occurrences
of childhood. And where is there an individual who has advanced into the vale of years, that does not know more of the circumstances of youth than of those of middle age? We see even such as are bowed beneath the weight of fourscore, retaining a most vivid impression of the lessons their mothers taught them. “ Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” is the saying of God himself. Would we then see a generation rising up to serve the Lord ? a people whose habits
are moral, and whose enjoyments are holy, covering the land ? We must seize the interesting period when the mind is ready to receive, and retain the instructions we give it: we must see that all know the Scriptures, even as Timothy knew them, “ from a child :" we must give ourselves, if not wholly, at least in great measure, to the work of training the young “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
The frame of society is such, that the young are led not only to look up with veneration to parents and teachers while living, but to retain a strong recollection of their opinions and instructions after they are dead; so that when scenes of youth rise upon the memory, the lovely forms of pastor and parent appear again; resume their influence; and, as it were, repeat their lessons. How important then is it, that those forms should be associated with the idea of Scriptural instruction; that the lessons they repeat should be lessons of Infinite Wisdom; and that the child, then become a man, should, as he thinks of the past, be led to look forward to the heavenly home in which parents, and children, and pastors, may meet, never to be separated.
A prominent reason for saying to the young, “ remember now thy Creator" is, that youth is liable to be called to eternity as well as old age. I have seen the eye sparkling, the cheek rich with bloom; and the whole countenance lighted up with the animation of health : as I beheld the form moving with activity amid scenes of pleasure and hope, it has seemed as if perpetual joy was the inheritance of youth. But, when summoned to behold the same form on the bed of sickness, the same cheek pale with disease, the same eye dimmed by the approach of death, I have felt the truth of the saying, “all flesh is as grass, and all the goodliness thereof as the flower of the field." Yes, and when by the pillow of the dying youth, I have heard the inquiry, what must I do to be saved ? I have felt, as I now feel at the recollection of such a scene, it is important for the young to remember their Creator,” because they may never be favoured with any other period than that of youth in which to remember him. I have heard the beautiful female when suddenly called to the experience of death, exclaim, “will the heavenly Father of whom you speak have mercy upon one, who has neglected to seek him until her last hour ?" I have heard the young man sinking beneath the arm of the destroyer say, “Oh! that the Lord would have mercy upon me!”
And shall not scenes like these-scenes which are continually occurring, arouse us to entreat the young to remember their Creator ? I know not what must be the feelings of the heart that is indifferent to the salvation of souls. Such a heart is certainly not one renewed by divine grace. Such a heart, my brother, is
One reason why the young should be called upon to “ ber their Creator," appeals with great power to parents. As the feebleness and infirmity of age draw nigh, what so cheering to a parent as the piety of his children! To see them walking in the way of the Lord; their time, their talents, their all devoted to JESUS : they living only to be benefactors to man-channels of blessing to all who are around them. What aged father, what even dying mother, but must rejoice! When, on the other hand, a parent who has affectionately watched over his child, beholds him in the ways of profanity—" in the seat of the "scorner"-with the riotous and the wine-bibber-how unutterable the anguish that seizes on his soul. “My son! my son! would God I had died, rather than to have seen thee thus!" is oft his exclamation.
And what can make a child grow up to be a blessing? The law of the Lord. What can occasion purity and holiness in his life and conversation? The inspired Word. If carried home to his heart by the Holy Spirit, that divine truth will be to him a means of holiness; and, in consequence, will be to his parent more precious than rubies. The husbandman desires an abundant harvest ; he ploughs the ground and casts in the seed; and the rain from heaven comes, with the beams of the rising sun, and a harvest is gathered. So let the anxious father, the affectionate pastor, sow the seed of Scriptural truth: the promise is, it shall not be in vain. It shall accomplish that which the Lord pleases: it shall prosper in the thing whereto he sends it.
Thoughts like these have long dwelt upon my mind; and it was in consequence of such thoughts, that I was led to the establishment of my Bible-Class. It had been my delightful habit to instruct the children of the congregation : but the Bible-Class was instituted for those who had passed the period of childhood : for young
ladies and young gentlemen who had passed the age of fourteen. I saw the benefit of instructions addressed to youth while in a country parish; I had heard of Bible-classes existing in different parts of the United States: and, on moving to Philadelphia, I resolved, in dependence on the aid of “ Him without whom' nothing is strong, to establish a Bible-class on what appeared to me an improved mode.
Having thus resolved, I commenced the work in the manner which shall be detailed in a letter to our mutual friend. May the blessing of the Most High rest upon you !
REV. AND DEAR BROTHER :
When we stood together at the grave of the Thorntons, it occurred to me that it would be difficult to find another sepulchre containing the relics of as much philanthropy. The idea 1 then cherished I expressed to you. While meditating upon the Scriptural instruction of the young, I cannot but say, that the reason why we are not favoured with more frequent instances of expansive benevolence, is our neglect of Bible-teaching. We suffer ourselves to be seduced by custom into a course, which, if we were false philosophers or deists, might become us; but which, as we profess to be Christians, is wonderful. “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" We leave our youth without any regular, systematic, well-applied plan of instruction in the Sacred Word, and we expect them to become ornaments to the country and pillars of the Church. Was it thus the Almighty counselled the Israelites to act, when he said concerning his revealed law, “ Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children; and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up?" Did our blessed Lord act thus, when he continually referred to the ancient Scriptures? Did the inspired apostle at Athens counsel the Areopagus, or preach to the young to go to the fables of Jupiter and Venus for instruction ? “ The times of this ignorance,” said he, “God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.” Are we then to anticipate a generation of philanthropists and holy men, while so little care is taken to hold up to our young the example of the Saviour, and invite them into the paths of the Gospel ?
The Bible-Class of which I am to speak, was commenced in the following manner:
Notice having been given of the design, a number of young ladies came together at three o'clock in the afternoon of a Friday in February, 1822. The place of their assemblage was a large school-room. The exercises of the occasion began with singing, and the use of the Litany. When prayer and praise had ended, they were addressed on the importance of religion to the young; an appeal was made to them concerning the benefits that would result to their souls, for time and eternity, if they diligently searched the Scriptures, and implored God's blessing on what they read. They listened attentively. There was enough in the subject to recommend it to their thoughts, and they were anxious to embrace the privilege of becoming thoroughly ac