CENTENARY OF SUNDAY SCHOOLS.
Last Sabbath afternoon a united meeting of the Wesleyan, Primitive Methodist, and Presbyterian Sabbath schools was held in the Town Hall, at 2.30, in celebration of the centenary of the establishment of Sunday schools. There were present on the platform the Revs. Keall (Wesleyan), Smith (Primitive Methodist), and Beattie (Presbyterian). Mr. W. Gavin, superintendent of the Presbyterian school presided. There were present about 300 scholars, 40 teachers, and 100 friends. After the opening hymn and prayer had been offered by the Rev. Mr. Smith, The Chairman, Mr. Gavin, said —It is a most cheering sight to see so many Sabbath scholars with their teachers assembled here this afternoon representing three different congregrations belonging to different sections of the Christian Church, with our esteemed and affectionate pastors on the platform ready to address us. This circumstance reminds us that the Church of Christ on earth is one, and that although we meet separately on other Sabbaths in our respective churches, and are engaged in our own special work, yet we seek to serve the same Master, we seek an interest in the same common salvation, and we desire to be united to the same kind and loving Saviour, who so freely invites us to Himself ; who died for us, and “ of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. ” Some of you young people may have been enquiring at your parents or teachers “ what meaneth this service 1” What is all this ado about what they call a centenary of Sunday schools 1 Why have they had these meetings in Christchurch, in other parts of New Zealand, and in London, too, where a whole week of meetings has been held, and no less than 300 churches have taken part in the proceedings, with delegates present from America, Australia, and New Zealand ? and the Bishop of London also uniting with the Nonconformist ministers in this grand celebration 1 The word centenary means the number of one hundred, and it is common nowadays after the lapse of an hundred years to mark the recollection of some great event in which we have cause to rejoice. Mr. Robert Raikes, of Gloucester, in England, though not exactly the first to commence, yet along with others, gave such an impetus to the establishment of Sunday schools, that under God’-s blessing they have become extended nearly over the world. It has been computed there are at present in the world no fewer than 50,000 Sabbath schools, one million teachers, and from ten to twelve million Sabbath scholars. In Canterbury the honor of establishing the first Sunday school is due to Mr. Farr, of Christchurch, who commenced in Akaroa, Banks Peninsula, in March, 1850, now 30 years ago. The Rev. Mr. Keall next spoke—The blessed effects of the Sabbath school institution had, under God’s blessing, been secured by hard work. That work was voluntary, commanding intellect, wealth, and influence. It was well disciplined and concentrated, and was largely duo to the influence of woman. From the first the labor had been educational, stemming the tide of aggravated ignorance, and had kept abreast of the times. Now it would have to qualify the secular education of the young people. No doubt the future Sunday school would be equal to the work. Dogmatic teaching, rightly regarded, was unobjectionable. If it was taught that twice two make four, because such was a fact, so because such facts as the presence of sin, the Deity of Christ, and the universality of the atonement being dealt with in the Sunday schools, dogmatic teaching was in keeping even in a catechetical form. The work further was reproductive, in that those taught became teachers in their turn. Then in aim, principles, and spirit the work was one, and in these we saw Christ’s cause far above isms —these isms preserved too carefully would moulder like a dry rot in a house. Many benefits were found in the associated labor, for individual schools were freed from narrowness. The 'best working methods were diffused ; the best Sunday school literature was .procured ; the close study of the Bible was stimulated ; district and national unions were framed ; the world was belted with the noblest enterprise ; the celebration of the centenary was brought about, and honor was done to a worthy name. The enterprise had the strongest claims upon the Christian public, for it was the sunshine and the glory of the Church of Christ. Mr. Beattie said the audience had been hearing about labor, specially in connection with Sabbath schools during one hundred years past. They had also been told something about Mr. Raikes, who had, in the providence of God, been the means of inauguarating what is now bo common wherever Christianity exists throughout the world. It only remained for him to say a few words in regard to what he believed to be the one great object to be aimed at in all such work, viz., to impress us all, by the blessing of God, with the great truth that “ The Lord Jesus Christ istheperson we should alllove most.” This is the first and great commandment. “ Thou shalt love,” is applicable to every one of the human race, from the youngest boy or girl, to the oldest man or woman. The person who makes such a claim upon our highest affections, is the only begotten Son of God, and the son of the Virgin Mary—lmmanuel—who lived and died on this earth nearly two thousand years ago. The same Jesus who rose again as the first fruits of them that sleep, now lives and says “I am He that liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore,” and again, “Because I live ye shall live also.” Thus he had given nnmistakeable proof of his love to us first. Indeed this Divine person unceasingly shows his love to us even up to the present hour. The air we breathe, and all things we possess are tokens of his love. He is never weary from year to year, and from generations to generations. What have we that we have not received from him 1 He expects nothing less than that we return his love. Old and New Testament saints all loved him better than anything else, and he alone is worthy of all such supreme love. No one can love him too much. You love one who is possessed of only a few good qualities, and even these imperfect, but oh ! Jesus is infinitely worthy—nothing but goodness, and all goodness in Him. Wisdom, cower, holiness, faithfulness—yea, every praiseworthy perfection resides in Him. The second proposition in this speech was, that “ To lo ve Jesus most, we must know him well.” The more you know Jesus, the more you will love him. It is knowledge that js required, and then faith grounded upon such knowledge, He that increases knowledge increases sorrows, but not so with regard to this knowledge. It is the reverse. Whatever other knowledge you may obtain or fail to secure, neglect not this, for it is your life —eternal life ! All are completely destitute of this best of all knowledge by nature, for no one knows the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will re-
veal him. Yet none are too young for knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. He can reveal himself even unto babes, and he does it. “If ye seek me early,” Rays he, “ye shall find me.” You may be too late in becoming acquainted with him, but you cannot be too early. Samuel began to know God when a child, and Timothy knew the Scriptures from his youth, being taught by his own mother, though his father was regardless. None can ever comprehend all, but each can know something, and follow on. to know more in this world, and even throughout eternity in Heaven above. The third and last proposition was that “ Such knowledge is obtained from His word and Spirit only.” This is the reason why both teachers and scholars meet from Sabbath to Sabbath, and from year to year, to bend over the pages of God’s blessed word. The entrance of His word gives light, and converts the soul. Read it, commit it to memory, specially in youth. For this purpose let the young people be always present in the various classes, and in good time ; and above all, let every meeting be preceded and followed by much prayer to God, both by teachers and scholars. Never forget to seek the Holy Spirit to come and be your daily teacher, as well as guide and support, for He alone teaches savingly and to profit. “ Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me.” There can be no excuse for ignorance on the part of even the weakest, so long as the Holy Spirit is so willing and able to take of the things of Christ, and show them unto ua. We have God’s word in our hands, but His Spirit can put it into our hearts, for we know who has said that “all thy children shall be taught of the Lord.”
Rev. A. J. Smith commenced by saying that it was well known that the late venerable Robert Raikes was not really the first who gathered children together for instruction on the Sabbath day. Repeated efforts were made long prior to his time, but no permanent success was accomplished till the system inaugurated by Mr. Raikes. He then gave an epitome of the life of Raikes, and referred to the circumstances which prompted him to commence a Sabbath school, after which he dwelt upon the rapid progress which Sabbath schools had made, especially during the past twenty years. He next dwelt upon the importance of the work, and showed how necessary it was for children to be instructed early in religious principles. A wicked Jesuit once said, “ Give me a child until he is twelve years old, and I don’t care who takes him in hand after that.” It was necessary that the child’s entrance upon life should be well guarded. Children could scarcely receive religious instruction too young, for if we do not teach them the devil will. He was glad that this subject was pressing itself with increasing force upon the Christian Churches year by year. Mr. Smith closed by making an urgent appeal to the parents and teachers to be earnest in their great work e’er night should throw its darkling mantle around them, and remind them of duties left undone. This duty of watchfulness and care over the young was plainly indicated in Nature.He had read of a traveller who once saw a bird in evident fear and distress, flying backwards and forwards from the nest, and plucking leaves from a certain tree, which she deposited very carefully in her next. Presently she perched herself upon a branch near at hand, and directly the traveller saw a large snake, which the bird’s watchful eye had seen coil itself around the tree and slowly ascend, till, with glistening eye and open mouth, it reared its head just above the edge of the nest, but when it came in contact with the leaves, most offensive to the serpent tribe, the reptile uncoiled itself from the tree and dropped to the ground, as if the ball of a rifle had passed through its head, and thus the parent bird had been able to save her young. And the lesson so plainly taught in Nature was quite as distinctly illustrated in Scripture—‘ c Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” During the meeting, hymns were sung by the children, led by Mr. Alexander Craighead, and accompanied on the piano by Mr. H. J. Weeks.
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