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done at a wrong time, becomes as thoroughly bad, as if done in a wrong spirit or an improper manner. God's commendation, too, is pronounced on those words only which are spoken in season-not on tħose which are uttered out of it.
But valuable as the right appropriation of time is thus shewn to be, its right measure and division, are of nearly equal importance. It has been well said that if we lose an hour in the morning, we may run after it all day without overtaking it. Yet this carelessness is a very common fault among Sunday school teachers - not, perhaps, to the extent of an hour-but often to no inconsiderable portion of time. Five minutes' procrastination will push every thing out of its proper place or proportion, as really, though not to the same extent as sixty, and occasion as much confusion and disorder, amounting not unfrequently to the entire subversion of all comfort or usefulness.
I am not speaking now of a want of punctuality only in commencing Sabbath school exercises. The spirit which I am anxious to correct, pervades every part of those exercises, dislocating and deranging all the movements of machinery which ought to be exact as clockwork; and actually doing mischief where good only should be thought of.
But as the worst feature (which I shall therefore mention first) I would dwell particularly on this want of punctuality-this utter disregard and recklessness of time-as concerns the commencement of Sabbath school duties. There are many secretaries, and superintendents, and moderators, who practically recognize the heathenish notion that time was made for slaves, and for slaves only–who come dawdling to their duties, five, ten, twenty minutes after the proper time, and who yet expect their brother-teachers, and their young charge are to do nothing till they arrive. . Multiplying the minutes thus wasted, by the number of souls kept waiting, how many hours are squandered in this way every Sabbath ?
Yet, this I do not hesitate to say, so far as my limited experience has extended, is a common evil in Sabbath schools. Indeed I have often thought that it must be a recognized principle with teachers, especially as it pervades one of their favorite hymns
“ The clock has struck- I cannot stay~"
I should think not. Why! instead of being still at home to hear it, every thorough teacher should have been with his class, waiting the signal to commence operations five minutes before the first stroke was given !
Nothing is so self-propagating as this spirit of procrastinationthis want of punctuality. Often from injudicious kindness, or false delicacy, the superintendent, or teacher on whom it devolves to open the school or meeting, will give his fellow-teachers, as it is called, a few minutes' grace, or in other words, wait for their assembling beyond the proper moment of beginning. The inevitable consequence of this will be, that those who came late, will go away with the idea that they were, after all, in very good time; and on the next occasion, come still later. But clocks and watches ought to be the regulators of time—and not the caprice, or indulgence of the teacher.
Nor is it only the due observance of time in this sense that demands the attention of Sunday school teachers - its notation, or punctuation, in such a way as to be obvious to the whole school, must be attended to. Many who have correct ideas on the subject in their own minds, go through their duties in such a way as to leave no impression of the kind on the minds of others. The commencement of the service, and the transitions from one part of it to another—from prayer to singing, or reading; or, vice versa, are very often not sufficiently marked. Without any call to order, or any intimation as to what is about to be done, the hymn is given out in a low, monotonous, tone of voice; and it is presently discovered that the same voice has crept half way through the chapter, or is just about concluding a prayer. Instead of this, there should be a military smartness about the speaker; and a marked modification and emphasis in all he says and does. Everything should have its time—its head, body, and tail--and not form a soulless congeries of words like a legal affidavit, or a nonsensical tissue of false and contradictory pleading
Bad as this indifference to time is in itself, it is usually symptomatic of something worse. It indicates, very generally, a dreamy, moody, indefinite, state of mind, as if every thing were cloudy and indistinct within, and the service of the Sunday school so far from requiring the whole man to be put forth in
thought and action, were a painful, but necessary passage of still-life, which if gone through at all, might as well be dreamed over, as prosecuted with all that body and spirit can possibly do for the glory of God.
Strange as the statement may appear, I have myself actually met with teachers so entirely heretical as to a belief in clocks and watches, as not to know at what time this or that service ought to commence. Such expressions as “a little after nine,"—“about three”—“ six, for half-past,” have been frequently elicited in reply to enquiries on the subject; and I once encountered a teacher on the look out for some one to address a meeting, the sum and substance of whose knowledge was thus versified by a waggish friend:
He wanted a person - he didn't know who,
A little before-or, perhaps, after-three. We know pretty well what such meetings are likely to be-an old man, whose face is as familiar as the walls themselves, with, perhaps, a grandchild at his knee, and the individual who takes care of the room, are endeavoring to look as much like an audience as possible, when, ten or twelve minutes after the time appointed, the teacher or speaker comes in. A hymn is given out, and though there are but two or three voices to join in it, is heard by the good woman next door who, like an apt scholar, has so well learned the art of disregarding time from her teacher, that she puts no faith whatever in her old dutch clock, but thinks when the tune strikes up, it must be time to move. She, therefore, joins the little party ; and by twos and threes, the congregation drops in afterwards, so that there are no less than twenty or thirty present just as it is time to leave off.
Warmed by such a cheering spectacle, the speaker goes on till all are fairly tired out; and the impression which appeared to have been gradually deepening up to a certain point, grows weaker and weaker, till it is quite smothered by the restlessness or drowsiness that gathers like a cloud over the little auditory.
Here, again, we see a new phase of this censurable disregard of time, not less common than the other. To know when to begin ; when to change the scene, and when to close it, are points well worthy the serious attention of all Sunday school teachers ; and if these hints, rude and ungracious as they may seem, though meant in all kindness, should in any way assist in remedying the evils complained of, the writer will not regret that he has been invited to meet you on the present occasion.
THE STRAWBERRY STAIN. In the United States there are ministers sent by the Sabbath School Union into different parts of the country to preach to children. They are called children's ministers, and very dearly did I love the one who used to come into my father's neighbourhood, though he often had occasion to reprove me or some of my companions. An account of his being born again he once related, and I am sure I shall never forget it. Well, the children's minister said he went one Saturday, with a number of his companions, into a field to gather strawberries. When he had eaten as many as he wished, he thought if he only had something to put them in as the other boys had, he would gather some for his mother and sister ; but as he had nothing, one of the boys said, "Tear a leaf from one of your books, and twist it into a pottle;' Taking his bag from his shoulder, he drew out his spellingbook: his fly-leaf was gone. “If,” thought he, “I tear a leaf from this, I may lose my spelling lesson, and get a bad mark for not knowing it; I will take one from my English Reader.” So, putting back his spelling-book, he took his Reader out, when the same thought came to him as before, and he could not make up his mind to tear a leaf from any of his books till he saw his Bible. “Well,” thought he, “this is the largest book of them all; I shall never read it through ; and I am sure I shall not miss a leaf if I tear it from the middle.” He therefore opened it at Isaiah, and took out the leaf on which is the 55th chapter; this he made into a little pottle, and filled with strawberries.
When the boys had filled their baskets, they all started for home. This little fellow had to go alone across the field, and as he went along, feeling very lonesome, he began to eat his strawberries, till at length he had eaten all but one. One stuck upon the side. He unrolled the paper and put it to his lips to get it off. When he had done so, he was about to throw away the leaf when the bright red stain of the strawberry caught his eye.
He looked at it, and read, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.”(chap.lv. 6.) Turning over the leaf, the red spot was on these words, “ He is despised and rejected of men.”(chap. liii. 3.)
“What can this mean," he asked himself, “Who has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows ?” Who is it that was “ wounded for our transgressions,” and by whose“ stripes are we healed ?” I believe it means Jesus Christ. He then read all that was on that side of the leaf, turned it, and read till he came to the strawberry stain at the 6th verse, when he burst into tears ; “Oh!” thought he, “how wicked I have been tearing this leaf from my Bible; and if I had thrown it away, God might have been angry.” He kept the leaf, and read it many times, until at length he felt himself so much a sinner that he ventured to tell his sister, and ask her what he must do to be saved? She prayed with him, and for him ; and though every night and morning he had been accustomed to say his prayers, yet, until now, he had never prayed with his whole heart. The issue was that he obtained pardon and peace, and became a new creature in Christ Jesus.
SOME PARTICULARS OF REV. ISAAC BRIDGMAN.
MR. BRIDGMAN, when about eighteen years of age, was taking a walk with a friend on the afternoon of Sunday, May 18th, 1807. Observing many persons going into the church of St. George, Southwark, where the Rev. J. Wilcox was then preaching, he was induced to follow them. The clergyman took his text from Isaiah i. 18.: “ Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
The sermon was accompanied with Almighty power, -it reached his heart,- he was awakened, convinced of sin, and brought to true repentance.