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Sunday schools, upon such principles, and to such an extent, as
These institutions form a distinguishing characteristic of the
In these schools religious instruction should always constitute the grand and paramount object, and other learning be held in a just and obvious subordination to it. Without venturing to propose a particular plan, the committee only remark, that experience has decided in favour of gratuitous instruction; and has shown the advantage, and almost the necessity, of a considerable number of teachers under the direction of a general superintendant in each school; and they recommend as well on account of the efficacy of the system as its economy, the use of the series of lessons published by the Female Sunday School Union of New York,* and the catechisms and scripture selections employed in the schools under their direction.
VI. From the character and constitution of the society, it is important that the whole weight of its influence be employed in the suppression of vice and immorality, and while the members redeem the pledge given in their subscription, to discountenance by their example, their counsel, &c. every thing immoral in its nature and tendency, or injurious to the interests of society, the committee recommend further that special measures be adopted for this purpose, by aiding the magistrates in the execution of the laws, and by other prudent means. It is only where the tone of morals is sufficiently elevated, and the current of public sentiment is in conformity to the salutary provisions of the statute-book, that much good can be effected, and it is of the utmost consequence to the credit and influence of the society, that they act with a cautious and temperate zeal. Yet the committee are persuaded that something may be attempted, even now, and they indulge confident hopes that the state of things will be gradually meliorated, and afford them more and greater facilities to promote the general good.
VII. The very restricted opportunities which a large proportion of the society enjoy, of acquainting themselves with the operations of the Christian world, and with the many excellent institutions which have been established for doing good, while they deter the committee from inviting their attention to a va
* The Union Society of Philadelphia have always on hand a good selection of Sunday school books, which they furnish on very moderate terms.
Note by the Editor.
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riety of objects well meriting attention, but which would yet be premature, induce them to recommend also, the establishment of a library, in order to enlarge their knowledge of the most suitable objects of beneficence, and the most expedient means of accomplishing them. Individuals and societies are constantly communicating the results of their inquiries, and of their experience ; an acquaintance with which could not fail to be of advantage to the society in conducting their operations.
In addition to these occasional and periodical publications, with which the society should furnish themselves, the committee advise that a selection of the most useful books on religion and morals, and domestic economy, be provided for gratuitous distribution or circulation, and even if it were thought expedient that there should be combined with these, upon such principles as may be deemed most beneficial, a general library for the use of the vicinity. The extension of knowledge is directly calculated to promote the ulterior designs of the society; and the multiplication of valuable books in public or in private libraries, is the most convenient and effectual method of extending it.
VIII. Finally, if the funds of the society will authorize it, after supplying these wants of the vicinity, there are public institutions of charity, and of religion, which will gratefully receive the surplus, and employ it in the promotion of objects of indisputable importance.
The field is boundless, and can never be more than partially explored. Those minute portions which have been recommended to the attention of the society, it is hoped, will meet with their approbation, and be cultivated with zeal and effect. While the committee pledge themselves faithfully to devote their labours to duties of such high and holy interest, they would provoke their brethren to love and to good works: “Let us not be weary in well-doing--in due time we shall reap if we faint not."
In behalf of the Committee,
J. Pringle, Chairman.
CONCERT OF PRAYER FOR A GENERAL OUTPOURING OF THE
HOLY SPIRIT. A Letter from Rev. Mr. Stewart, of London, to Rev. Mr. Skinner, of Philadelphia.
No. 11, Alford Place, Bedford Square, London, July 22, 1822. Dear and Rev. Sir,-By a letter lately received from a religious friend in Boston, New England, I am informed that you would kindly permit me to communicate with you upon a sub
ject connected with the advancement of the kingdom of our blessed Saviour. It is upon the furtherance of a plan now widely extending, for uniting all sincere Christians in earnest prayer for the general outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The tract and small pamphlet* which I have the pleasure to enclose, will more fully explain the subject, which, you will observe, is not so much' establishing particular prayer-meetings, as bringing the church of Christ into a suppliant state-into a practical feeling, that whilst we are using every active exertion, no great blessing will take place, till the Lord pours down the gracious influences of his Holy Spirit in a much larger measure than he has done hitherto.
In prosecuting this object, I have taken an extensive tour through different parts of England, Scotland and Ireland, and have visited different Protestant churches on the Rhine, in Switzerland, and the ancient churches among the Vaudois in Piedmont. By the Divine blessing an entire unanimity of senriment has prevailed in all serious Christians upon the importance and desirableness of the object. Many among the most pious of my brethren in the Church of England, and amongst the ministers of the Kirk of Scotland, Lutherans, Calvinists, Independents, Moravians, Baptists, Wesleyans, &c. have agreed to supplicate the outpouring of the Spirit themselves, and to endeavour to excite other Christians to do the same.
There are now Christians in France, Russia, Germany, Switzerland, and on the coast of Africa and in India, who unite with you in America and with us in Britain, in supplicating this unbounded mercy regularly every Sabbath morning in private, and every Monday evening in their families, besides other seasons. Stili, as this object is so extensive, it requires exertion in all parts to bring it into full bearing. My particular request, therefore, is to call in your aid and the aid of all your pious brethren in Philadelphia and the neighbourhood.
It is very gratifying for us in England, to read the account of God's mercy in your parts, and of the increasing zeal of true Christians. May the Lord enlarge his borders more and more among you! May your churches be as well watered gardens-as streams of water whose waters fail not.
We have had no public society for exciting this spirit of prayer, but many private conferences have taken place among serious ministers upon the subject. At these friendly meetings this question has been discussed, “What is the best mode of promoting a spirit of prayer for the general outpouring of the Holy Spirit.” These meetings have been commenced and concluded with prayer, and a peculiar blessing has appeared to rest
The tract, and an extract (on the activity of Satan) from the pamphlet referred to, were published in our last number.
upon them. There has been a frequent acknowledgment that the office of the Holy Spirit has been admitted in theory, but in practice it has been too much overlooked. This has been confessed before God, and resolutions formed, in dependance upon His grace, to put a greater honour upon His person and work in future. In different parts of Britain, courses of sermons have been preached on the offices of the Holy Spirit. In the addresses of many of the speakers at our public meetings for spreading the gospel, this subject has been particularly dwelt upon. Resolutions have been passed at our annual meetings, calling upon the members earnestly to supplicate a more abundant measure of His gracious influences; and in various ways this flame of devotion is spreading among us. The point has been to diffuse this subject through all our societies, and to call upon all previously existing institutions to advance a spirit of prayer.Happy shall we be if this devotional ardour extends to all parts; if all the family of God, distributed as they are through all parts of the earth, would unite in determination to give him no rest till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. Oh, did the children of God but reflect upon the power of their heavenly Father, and upon his readiness to exercise that power in answer to their prayers, how eagerly would they supplicate his mercy! Our ever to be adored Saviour, when he drew nigh to Jerusalem, wept over it, and in his dying moments prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Had his members but a share of the tender pity of their dying Head did they but reflect that there are now near eight hundred millions living in sin; that ere another year is passed, thirty of these millions will be removed by death from the mercies of the gospel; that all their efforts in preaching, educating, and distributing tracts and the scriptures, without a Divine blessing, cannot effectually recover one soul; but that Jehovah can make the dry bones live--how earnest would be their cry, Oh Lord convert the Jews-Pity the Heathen-Have mercy on the whole race of man-Pour thy spirit upon all flesh, and let the knowledge of the Lord cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. May God pour this spirit of grace and supplication on his church, and if it be his will, may we see this blessed sight!
It is in promoting this object, that I again request your aid. And if in the revivals of religion among you, there are any hints you can offer upon the means which have generally preceded these revivals, upon the subjects of sermons, upon the best mode of forming and conducting prayer meetings, or, in short, upon any point which you may think useful, I shall feel very much obliged.
The sea separates our bodies--I trust the love of our Divine Master unites our hearts. May we live in the anticipation of the period, when there shall be no more sea, when his servants shall serve Him, and see his face! Peace be with you!
Your affectionate brother in the Lord,
JAMES HALDANE STEWART.
Oration delivered before the Somerset County Bible Society, 20th
(Continued from p. 495.)
Since the origin of Bible Societies, many well authenticated facts prove the extensive and happy influence which the circulation of the scriptures has had on the larger divisions of the human family. Villages and towns that before were infamous for profanity, for drunkenness, gaming and riot, at the approach of the Bible have undergone a total change of character. The drunkard has forsaken the tippling house; instead of oaths and imprecations, the lips of the swearer have uttered only the language of penitence and prayer; the gaming-table has been abandoned for the house of God; and scenes of riot and boisterous festivity have become scenes of order, of peace, and social happiness.
To facts like these, a variety of evidence could easily be adduced. We shall quote but one authority: it is from the Ninth Report of the Hibernian Bible Society. In this report the committee say, “they could mention entire villages, formerly the abodes of idleness and immorality, now exhibiting the pleasing aspect of industry and decorum.” “ The blasphemer (say they) fears an oath; the Sabbath-breaker respects the holy day of rest; the drunkard is sober; and he that stole steals no more, but labours with his hands to provide things decent in the sight of all men.” Before triumphs like these, how truly contemptible does infidel philosophy appear! Abashed and ashamed, her proselytes were they not callous to the sentiment of shame) would shrink from public view, to conceal the mortifying contrast between the effects of their principles and those of the Bible.
These pretenders to superior wisdom may borrow light from the “SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS," and call it the “light of Reason,”—they may boast of scattering the darkness of errer, and of freeing the human mind from the tyranny of superstition ; but when did they ever reclaim one reprobate from the slavery of vice? when did they ever shed the joys of hope, of contentVOL. II.- Presb. Mag.