It is absolutely impossible to over-estimate the importance of reaching the human soul while in tender years. The Jesuit says, and says wisely, "Give me your child for the first seven years of its life, and I will give it to you for all the rest thereof." The infant mind is in that receptive and fertile condition, that what is then implanted is rarely, if ever, got rid of, or completely destroyed. If error be then diligently and effectively instilled, the blightful fruit thereof will be manifest in the whole life. On the other hand, if the truth of God be deposited in the child, then there is material which the Spirit of God in later years can, and very frequently does, utilise and bring to fruition.
Hence my sympathies go most heartily with Sunday School work, and all efforts to reach the young, carried on after a godly sort. Personally, I owe everything to early tuition and instruction in the Scriptures. As soon as I knew my letters, my dear mother taught me to read the Scriptures, particularly the historical parts thereof, and as a child of seven I could frequently have been found, cross-legged under the dining-room table, reading in the big family bible, in which my father had been reading at prayer-time. Although then untouched by the Spirit of God, and quite unconverted, the Scripture history, and stories, and Gospel narratives which I was encouraged to peruse, got into my mind, and have never got out; and when brought to the Lord at twenty, I found myself the possessor of a vast mass of Scriptural information which, as a servant of God, has been of immense use to me in seeking to help and teach others.
It may be argued that this was the result of home-life teaching. Granted, but if you are aware that there are children whose parents do not afford them this boon, happy is your privilege if you can get hold of such, and teach them the Word of God. This demands prayer, perseverance, and self-denial, but it is sure to be rewarded of the Lord; and of one thing you may be perfectly certain, and I also, that there will be no reward by-and-by for our laziness—laziness which is the outcome oft-times of disinclination to put ourselves about, though we may sometimes flatter our indolent souls with the thought that Sunday School work, and such like, is "not in our line." If we got to the bottom we should more probably find out that we were not sufficiently interested in the little children, whom Jesus bade to be brought to Him, to give up our comfortable home-rest for the hard bench, the noise, and general toil connected with Sunday School work.
I could cite many instances of the blessing of God through this work. More than twenty-five years ago, when I was Superintendent of a large school, I well remember a restless, curly-headed little fellow in one of the classes, who, after two or three years' instruction, disappeared. After a quarter of a century I met him again, preaching the Gospel, and blessed of the Lord to souls. He told me he had never forgotten the lessons which he learned in that Sunday School, and now always thanked God for what he heard then.
To all my young brethren and sisters I would say—devote yourselves to the Lord, it may be in this special line of work. Remember you have but one life—live it and use it for Christ.
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" 1 Cor. 15:58.
"The night cometh, when no man can work" John 9:4.
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