FIRST, recollect whom you are teaching; “Come, ye children.’ I think we ought always to have respect to our audience; I do not mean that we need care if we are preaching to Mr. So-and-so, Sir William this, or My Lord that, — because in God’s sight such titles are the merest trifles; but we are to remember that we are preaching to men and women who hive souls, so that we ought not to occupy their time by things that are not worth their hearing. But when you teach in Sabbath-schools, you are, if it be possible, in a more responsible situation even than a minister occupies. He preaches to grown-up people, to men of judgment, who, if they do not like what he preaches, can go somewhere else; but you teach children who have no option of going elsewhere. If you teach the child wrongly, he believes you; if you teach him heresies, he will receive them; what you teach him now, he will never forget. You are not sowing, as some say, on virgin soil, for it has long been occupied by the devil; but you are sowing on a sot’, more fertile now than it ever will be again, — soil that will produce fruit now, far better than it will do in after days; you are sowing on a young heart, and what you sow will be pretty sure to abide there, especially it’ you teach evil, for that will never be forgotten. You are beginning with the child; take care what you do with him. Do not spoil him. Many a child has been treated like the Indian children who have copper plates put upon their foreheads, so ‘that they may never grow. There are many who are simpletons now, just because those who had the care of them when young gave them no opportunities of getting knowledge, so that, when they became old, they cared nothing about it. \lave a care what you are after; you are teaching children, mind what you teach them. Put poison in the spring, and it will pollute the whole stream. Take care what you are after! You are twisting the sapling, and the old oak will be bent thereby. Have a care, it is a child’s soul you are tampering with, if you are tampering at all; it is a child’s soul you are preparing for eternity, if God is with you. I give you a solemn admonition on every child’s behalf. Surely, if it be murder to administer poison to the dying, it must be far more criminal to give poison to the young lift. If it be evil to mislead grey — headed age, it must be far more so to turn aside the feet of the young into the road of error, in which they may for ever walk.
Second, recollect that you are teaching for God “Come, ye children, hearken unto me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” If you, as teachers, were only assembled to reach geography, it might not injure them eternally if you were to tell the children that the North Pole was close to the Equator; or if you were to say that the extremity of South America was hard by the coast of Europe; or if you assured them that England was in the middle of Africa. But you are not teaching geography, or astronomy, nor are you training the children for a business life in this world; but you are, to the best of your ability, teaching them for God. You say to them, “Children, you come here to be taught the Word of God; you come here, if it be possible, that we may be the means of the salvation of your souls.”
Have a care what you are after when you pretend to be teaching them for God. Wound the child’s hand if you will; but, for God’s sake, do not wound his heart. Say what you like about temporal things; but, I beseech you, in spiritual matters, take care how you lead them. Be careful that it is the truth which you inculcate, and only that. With such a responsibility, how solemn your work becomes! He who is doing a work for himself, may do it as he likes; but he who is laboring for another, must take care to please his master; he who is employed by a monarch must beware how he performs his duty; but he who labors for God must tremble lest he doth his work ill. Remember that you are laboring for God, if you are what you profess to be. Alas! many, I fear, are far from having this serious view of the work of a Sunday-school teacher.
Third, remember that your children need teaching. “Come, ye children, hearken unto me I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” That makes your work all the more solemn. If children did not need teaching, I would not be so extremely anxious that you should teach them aright. Works of supererogation, works that are not necessary, men may do as they. please; but this work is absolutely necessary. Your child needs teaching. He was born in iniquity; in sin did his mother conceive him. He has an evil heart; he, knows not God, and he never will know the Lord unless he is taught.
He is not like some ground of which we have heard, that hath good seed lying hidden in its very bowels; but, instead thereof, he hath evil seed ‘within hi,; heart. God can place good seed there. You profess to be His instruments to scatter seed upon that child’s heart; remember, if that seed be not sown, he will be lost for ever, his life will be a life of alienation from God; and at his death everlasting punishment must be his portion. Be careful, then, how you teach, remembering the urgent necessity of the case.
This is not a house on fire, needing your assistance at the engine; nor’ is it a wreck at sea, demanding your our in the lifeboat; but it is a deathless spirit calling aloud to you,” Come and help me.” Therefore, I beseech you, teach the fear of the Lord, and that only; be very anxious to say, and to say truly, “I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”