Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

papers which have been read and delivered during the last year; and I now rejoice to find that your chairman himself shortly meditates to give you a history of the invention of that art of printing, which, in its maturity, has been so honourably illustrated by the name he bears. If I had to choose one of the most encouraging and gratifying circumstances of the times in which we live --if I were asked the feature in them upon which I should be inclined to dwell with most of complacency and hope, I should not select even the expansion of commerce, or the revival of trade, little as I should be disposed, anywhere, and least of all in this neighbourhood, or this society, to undervalue the numberless direct or indirect advantages connected with these considerations ; nor yet the increase of our naval force, though I concur in the probable expediency of such a step ; nor still the wisdom of any of the provisions of the recent budget, for which I trust I may be allowed to do justice even to a political opponent: but it would be the manifest increase and development of that kindly and considerate spirit, which in so many quarters and in so many directions seems to be guiding many of the wealthier and more educated classes to improve, cheer, and elevate the condition, to consult the present comfort—and the abiding welfare of their worse-provided and destitute brethren. I do not seek to attach an exaggerated or undue importance to any single measure or undertaking of the sort-public libraries in one place, public laundries in another, public walks and parks in a third. I know that wisdom is not always inseparably to be found eren in a library, and that health cannot be commanded in every case, even by the Hydropathic establishment of Ben Rhydding. But I believe all these measures to be useful as auxiliaries; I believe them to be conceived in a right spirit, and to be directed with a proper aim. I know that the mass of penury and wretchedness which occasionally may fester in your streets and wound the eye of day, or else shrink to pine and perish in the shade — and I am sorry to observe that the recent experience of some of you

bears witness to these dark truths-I know that this unsightly and gloomy mass cannot be raised by any single wrench of the lever, or be moved by the prowess of a single arm ; but if a persevering, and discerning, and conscientious benevolence will keep itself fixed to the work, if it will stretch out its many and far-reaching hands, loaded with the supplies for all the necessities of mankind-food for their hunger, medicine for their sickness, air and light for their dwellings, culture and instruction for their ignorance, relaxation for their long weary spells of toil, the vigour and buoyancy that wait upon that blessed thing called progress, there is nothing that I would despair of, from the efforts of the enlightened sagacity of our day, ministering the charity of the Gospel. I do not wish to arrogate too high or solemn a character for our present proceedings, or for the gathering of to-night, but I believe them to be subsidiary to the graver duties and sterner business of life. Looked upon in that light, I believe such meetings and such institutions to be conducive to sound information, to refined accomplishment, to social enjoyment, to mental and to moral progress; and thus esteeming them, I have no hesitation in giving, and in commending to your favourable acceptance, “Prosperity to the Leeds Mechanics’ Institution and Literary Society."

[ocr errors]

SUNDAY SCHOOL JUBILEE.

Halifax, June, 1846. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I am extremely obliged to you for the great kindness and warmth of fyour welcome to me. I must state to you, that I come before you, at present, in rather a chance or haphazard manner, and it was a very sudden thought my finding myself able to be here at all; so that I am by no means able to address you in anything like a prepared or premeditated harangue. But knowing that you were to meet this evening, and having been favoured with an invitation to be present on the occasion, I could not forego the sincere gratification which it gives me to find myself among such an assembly, upon such an occasion, and at the close of such an exhibition as we have beheld this morning. I was very sorry indeed to be prevented by an inevitable engagement from witnessing more of that interesting and elevating spectacle than I did, as I only came in at what may be called the tail of it; but I did see enough, and I did hear enough, to convey impressions which I feel assured will remain to the end of my life. I have, indeed before, had occasion to be present, and even to be a speaker, in that same noble area, the Piece-hall of this town; but then it was upon occasions which took place amidst the maddle of electioneering bustle and the din of political excitement. I confess, that it was a very pleasant and a very soothing contrast to be present in that same space, upon an occasion when all who are brought together seem to breathe the same atmosphere of good will, of harmony, and of love; and I felt sure that no more precious and acceptable offering could arise to the skies than the hymn'which came from so many thousands of artless youthful lips, and the homage that I hope ascended to the same quarter from hearts upon which the passions and vices of the world have as yet been able to infix no stain. But, gentlemen, glad as I was to be present at the assembly of young children this morning, and amply as I participated in all the emotions which that exhibition was calculated to convey, I feel I pay debt of still more strict justice and obligation by coming this evening among the instructors and teachers of those children, among those who not only teach the infant notes to join in the hymn of praise, but those whose higher and still nobler endeavour it is to instruct the youthful mind and to improve the youthful heart. Such, my friends — whether men or women- such is your praiseworthy and noble endeavour; and I have long felt convinced, both from what I have observed, and still more from what I have been able to collect and learn from others, that it is scarcely possible to overrate the real solid and practical good which is conferred upon our common country by its Sabbath school teachers.

There may be those who come forward more prominently and more noisily in the service of their species, in the busy and tumultuous scenes in which my lot is cast. When I resort to the great metropolis of this empire, I see crowds of people, some of them plunged in the giddy round of dissipation and the frivolous routine of fashion, — some of them striving, one after another, upon the ladder of ambition, and all engrossed in an absorbing course, whether of pleasure or of business. I will not deny, that it is the bounden duty and

proper vocation of many to mix in those scenes, to bear their part in the strife of the political arena, and endeavour to do what good they can to their country and to their kind, in the various walks of public and political life: but those aims and those labours, however necessary in themselves, however laudable when properly pursued and duly superintended, are but too often mixed with the promptings of selfishness and vanity, and with the desire of personal aggrandisement. But no such drawback seems to me tu present itself when we consider the exertions of the common Sunday school teachers, when we consider those exertions which it is your habit and your pleasuré soberly, and quietly, and un

;

ostentatiously to carry on in your several districts and neiglibourhoods, very often unmarked by society at large, very often without meeting the praise of your fellows, sometimes even encountering their obloquy, sometimes provoking their ridicule sometimes being questioned how you can be weak and foolish enough to take so much pains about what does not concern you, and about what does not profit you; about that which does not actually put any money in the purse, which does not bring any grist, as they say, to the mill, — and with no other incitement but the sense of duty which you feel, in your own consciences, and the experience of the good, which, day by day, week by week, and year by year, is manifesting itself around you ; for you best knowyou, the instructresses and instructors of the Sabbath schools, best know, both what amount of real and practical good they are calculated to effect in this country, - and I will say in this county, situated and circumstanced as it is, and especially in so busy a manufacturing neighbourhood as this; or, rather, you best can feel what a void, what a cruel loss would be felt, if by any sudden calamity your ministrations could be closed, or the Sabbath schools of this active district shut up and abandoned. I know it must be often irksome to you; I am willing to suppose

that you will not have been influenced by that weak and unprincipled scoffing to which I have just alluded; I know that you will think, when the path of duty is plain before you, it is your duty to tread it. But I feel that very often it is no common sacrifice you are called upon to make. I know what a life of toil, of exertion, and of watchfulness must be the lot of

many of you have to labour the whole week long in your warehouses, at your counters, in your shops, in your mills, in your factories, and in your quarries ; and I can well conceive, that when the seventh day comes, especially after you have given its due portion to the services of the sanctuary,— I well know what a temptation there must be before you, either to enjoy those beauties of nature, and those pleasant walks with which this neighbourhood so eminently abounds, or to spend more time in the family circle and by the family fireside, and thus to rest in comparative inactivity altogether. But you forego these claims; you are willing to make the seventh day also, -I will not say a day of toil, but a day at least where love is labour ; for

many

of
you.
I know that

you feel what an awful thing it would be to see the infant and young population of these crowded districts growing up, them

selves subjected to wearing and harassing toil, often debarred from the opportunities of education, often destitute of a father's care and a mother's love, exposed to all the temptations of evil association and bad companionship,--you know what a desolating and awful thing it would be if this youthful population should grow up without any knowledge of the duty they owe to their neighbour, without any instruction in the faith which is to make them wise unto salvation and bring them to their God; and when I looked at that interesting crowd before us to-day, of those who, though now small in stature and weak in strength, are yet to furnish the skill and si'news which are to continue the wondrous processes of British manufacturing ingenuity and enterprise, and who are to bequeath the riches of English industry and augment the glories of the · British name, when you, their teachers, are silent in your graves, I could not help breathing a fervent aspiration in my heart that when the time shall come for them to emerge into manhood, and they shall meet the crosses and be exposed to the temptations of this weary

and wicked world when for instance the invitation of the drunkard shall be sounding in their ears, or when the call to dissipation shall be spreading all its allurements before them, the recollections and impression of the Piece Hall at Halifax might come upon their minds, that the infant hymn they had raised in the days of their youth might yet ring freshly in their ears, and that they might determine to abide by the better inspiration of their youth which you did so much to keep straight and active in the path of duty, in the ways of virtue, and in conformity to the will of God. It does not become one such as I am to offer anything in the way of advice or suggestion to such a meeting as the present, especially as I am quite ignorant whether there is the least occasion for it. But in considering the subject of Sabbath schools, it sometimes comes to my mind, that whereas the young people are themselves exposed to a great deal of toil and hard work during the week, and necessarily must undergo a considerable degree of lassitude, some degree of caution should be observed, lest the pleasing ideas which I should always wish to see attached to the Sabbath might be interfered with, and that too much confinement, too much keeping within doors, too much of what is called commonplace school work, should not be exacted from them. I know that the circumstances of their position in life, I know that the circumstances of this district, render it absolutely imperative,

« ZurückWeiter »