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Christian benevolence; the testimonies of wise guides, “ holy men of old” chiefly, whose end and aim, in bearing their testimony, was “not yours but you”—who, putting their talents to use, according to the commandment, laboured not for your praise ; but that many hearts might enjoy with theirs the peaceable fruits of that wisdom from above, which had guided them and made them
Religion beyond sublunaries prize.” While the general usefulness of a volume of selections, gathered from such authors, thus pleads for the compiler in every instance—it was a particular and special object that actually gave rise to the present work.
Being commenced upon a small scale, it was employed originally, in the manuscript form, in the education of the young persons who were induced to attend some Evening Schools. The mode of using the extracts was by dictation, the whole of the young people echoing clause after clause with one voice. Each piece was repeated three times at least before a fresh subject was chosen. And more selections were added to the manuscript as the old ones became familiar. In this manner the greatest part of these selections were in frequent use, in more schools than one, long before they appeared in the printed form.
The large number of youths who are growing up, not absolutely in vice and immorality, but without any fixed religious principles, whom no persuasions can induce to attend the Sunday Schools and the Churches, seem to be thwarting directly every undertaking for the general improvement, and perpetuating those corrupt practices which a Christian ministry is designed to remedy. In my own village, which is agricultural, one-half of the youth at least grow up, in point of religion, in a hap-hazard kind of waywhile they are occupied from an early age in the fields or at the neighbouring manufactories. These are hastening to supply the future ranks of the drunkards, and of the bad fathers, and the bad husbands.
The recourse of the clergy, under these circumstances, in order to bring this large portion of the youth under religious cultivation, is usually to some system of Evening or Adult Schools. And such a system ought to be adopted as would effectually draw them together, and supply the religious and moral food they require. Sunday Schools, where they can be induced to attend, afford the same or greater facilities : but some special circumstances seem to be required as a foundation to make these succeed, namely, good voluntary masters, and other helps, which in every neighbourhood are not immediately to be got. Though a Sunday School may be large and well attended, it may nevertheless be found not to embrace a great many youths who are receiving no religious instruction, and who cannot be persuaded to attend school upon the Sunday to receive only religious instruction, and from thence to be drawn into Church.
A chief use of Evening Schools, if there were no other, is the bringing the clergyman acquainted with this fugitive portion of his charge. This acquaintance produces kindness and attention out of doors, while they learn to regard their minister not as their enemy, but as their friend.
There are, however, difficulties attending evening schools, as affording a sufficient channel for religious instruction, arising from the short time that can be allotted to religious subjects, the uncertain attendance, and that the school can be made to exist only during the short days. But there is a greater difficulty still arising from the inequality of attainments in the scholars themselves, and the small advancement that most of them have made in reading, rendering it impossible to instruct them all sufficiently by means of books and classes. Oral instruction, in consequence, in addition to the class system, becomes as necessary, in Adult as in Infant Schools, where reading is not used as a vehicle.
In Adult Schools the oldest scholars are sometimes but learning to read; but they have understanding and years sufficient to receive
instruction given them by the ear, and these are the persons to whom the chief attention ought to be given, as they will be the first to go out into the world, and to become parents and guardians of others; while the same instructions given to the younger scholars will be making earlier and deeper rooted impressions upon their minds, and
pre-occupying the ground which would otherwise be sooner or later taken by the world.
It was with the view to insure the implanting of a greater stock of knowledge than could be communicated, under these circumstances, in the ordinary way, and from feeling the need there was of some varied and enlivening additions to the usual exercises, that I was induced to adopt the method I have explained, as a subsidiary means of instruction, second to the Bible and Catechism. By means of extracts of this description, a great number of useful and pious sentiments and varied knowledge may be imparted after the usual readings in the Scriptures and catechising are over, without the aid of many books; with the advantage also of being a relief and refreshment when the attention of the scholars is relaxed.
If this mode of instruction be considered, it will be found to be an enlargement of the catechetical system rather than as distinct from it. Though the present collection is far from perfect, and does not (as it was unnecessary) follow the order and