SUNDAY-SCHOOL work is well-doing. How can it be otherwise, for it is an act of obedience? I trust you have entered upon it because you call Jesus your Master and Lord, and you wish to fulfill the great command, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” You find children to be creatures, fallen creatures, but still lovable little things, full of vigor and life, and glee. You see them to be a component part of the race, and you conclude at once that your Master’s command applies to them.
You are not like the disciples who would put them back, for you have learned from their mistake, and you remember the words of their Master and yours, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.” You know, too, that out of the mouths of babes and sucklings he hath ordained strength because of the adversary; so that you are sure that He included the little ones in the general commission when He said, “Preach the gospel, to every creature.”
You are doubly sure that you are obeying His will because you have certain special precepts which relate to the little ones, such as “Feed my lambs,” and “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he shall not depart from it.” You know that it is our duty to preserve alive a testimony in the world, and therefore you are anxious to teach the Word to your children that they may teach it to their children, that so, from generation to generation, the Word of the Lord may be made known. Be the task pleasant or irksome to you, it is not yours to hesitate, but to obey.
The love which has redeemed you also constrains you. You feel the touch of the sacred hand upon your shoulder, the hand which once was pierced, and you hear your Redeemer say, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you;” and because of that sending, you go forth to the little ones in obedience to His will. He who obeys is doing well, and in this sense your service among; the little ones is well-doing.
Well-doing it is, again, because it brings glory to God. We must always continue to receive from God, who is the great fountain of goodness and blessing, but yet, in infinite condescension, he permits us to make Him some return. As the dewdrop reflects the beam with which the great sun adorns it, so may we, in our measure, make the light of our great Father to sparkle before the eyes of men. Our lives may be as the rivers which run into the sea from whence they originally came. Whenever we attempt that which will clearly promote the divine glory, we are well-doing. When we make known Jehovah’s grace, when we work in accordance with His purposes of love, when we speak forth the truth which honors His beloved Son; whenever, indeed, the Holy Spirit through us bears witness to the eternal verities of the gospel, there is well-doing towards God. We cannot increase His intrinsic glory, but through His Spirit we can make His glory to be more widely seen and among the choicest ways of doing this we give a high place to the teaching of children the fear of the Lord, in order that they may be a seed to serve Him, and to rejoice in His salvation.
And who shall doubt that Sabbath-school work is well-doing towards man? The highest form of charity is to teach our fellow-man the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thou mayest give bread to thy fellow, but when he has eaten, it is gone; if thou givest him the bread of life, it abides with him for ever.
Thou mayest give him bread in plenty, but in due time he will die, as his fathers have done before him; but if thou givest him the bread of heaven, and he eat thereof, he shall live for ever. God has enabled thee to hand out to him immortal food, even Jesus, who is “that bread from heaven.” What a blessing it is to a man if you are the instrument of changing his heart, and so of emancipating him from vice and making him free unto holiness? To lead a soul to Christ is to lead it to heaven. It is assuredly a noble part of benevolence to deliver the gospel to the sons of men; and, if possible, this benevolence is of a still higher kind when you deliver the truth of God to children, for as prevention is better than a cure, so is it better to prevent a life of vice than to rescue from it; and as the earlier a soul has light the shorter is its night of darkness, so the earlier in life salvation comes to the heart the better, and greater is the benediction To receive the dew of grace while we are yet in the dew of youth is a double boon.
Your work is; one of well-doing, of the most thorough and radical kind, for you strike at the very root of sin in the child by seeking his regeneration. You desire, by the grace of God, to win the heart for Christ at the beginning of life, and this is; the best of blessings. I hope you are not among those who only hope to see your children converted when they, are grown up, and feel satisfied to let them remain in their sins while they are children. I hope that you pray for the conversion of children as children, and are working to that end by the Spirit’s gracious aid. If you are doing so, I know not of any service more fit to engage the angels of heaven, if they could be permitted to undertake it. Surely, if they could teach the gospel to mankind, and had their choice of learners, they might, well pass those by who are already hardened in sin, and who can only give their tottering age to Christ; and gather for Him the young whose day is but dawning. We may not set one work against another, but at any rate, we may count ourselves happy if our sphere is among the young. Let us gather the rosebuds for Jesus. Let us bring to Him the virgin in her earliest beauty, and the young man in his first vigor, before sin and age have quite despoiled them of their charms. Let us find for Him those who can give Him a whole life, and honor Him from dawn till its eve. Oh, it is glorious to have such work for Jesus! Go ye to your youthful charges, rejoicing in your work, for it is well-doing.
When I had a little garden of my own, and put in mustard and cress, I went the next morning to see if it was sprouting, and was; not satisfied to wait for the due season. I turned over the mould, and I daresay I checked the growth of the seed by my over haste. It is quite possible for teachers to commit the same folly by art unbelieving hurry, expecting to reap tomorrow what they have sown to-day. Immediate fruit may come, for God worketh marvelously, but whether it does or not, your plain duty is to sow.
Reap you shall, but meanwhile you must be satisfied to go on sowing, sowing, sowing, even to the end. Reaping is your reward, but sowing is your work. Sowing, sowing, ever sowing, till the hand is palsied in death, and the seed basket is carried on another arm. Well-doing by sowing the seed is your work.
You will be tempted to grow weary. Hard work, this teaching children.
Some, good souls seem born to it, do it splendidly, and enjoy it; to others it is a stern labor. Some are by constitution exceedingly inapt at it, but I do not think that they should excuse themselves by that fact, but should educate themselves into loving the work: many people around us are very inapt at anything which would cause them a perspiration, but we call them lazy, and goad them on. It is no new thing for men to attempt to escape the army by pretending to be in bad health, but we must have none of this cowardly malingering in Christ’s army; we must be ready for anything and everything. We must compel ourselves to duty when it goes against the grain, When it is a clear duty, obedience must master our aversion. I have no doubt whatever that teaching is, to some, very toilsome work, but then it has to be done all the same. I delight to hear you speak with holy enthusiasm of the privilege of teaching children, and I fully believe in it; but I know also. that it requires no small degree of self-denial on your part, self-denial for which the Church does not always give you due credit. To continue from Sabbath to Sabbath drilling some little Biblical knowledge into those noisy boys, and trying to sober down those giddy girls, is no light amusement or pretty pastime. It must be a toil, and therefore it is not difficult to become weary.
Teachers may the more readily tire because the work lasts on year after year. I admire the veterans of your army. There ought to be an Old Guard as well as new regiments. Why leave this work to young beginners? Did not David say, “Come, ye children, hearken unto me, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord,” when he was in the prime of life? Why, then, do so many cease to teach when they are best qualified to do so? Have not many aged persons a gentleness and an impressiveness which peculiarly qualify them to arrest the attention of the young? As they know more by experience than most of us, should they not be all the readier to impart instruction? It was always my delight to sit at my grandfather’s feet when he told out his experience of the grace of God. When he was eighty years old or more his witness to the faithfulness of God was worth going many miles to hear. There are scores of aged men and women whose life-story ought to be often told among children; with their loving ways and cheerful manners they would be an acquisition to any school for the children’s sake, while to the teachers their weight and wisdom would be an incalculable benefit. Die in harness if your mental and physical vigor will permit. Still, the long round of many years’ labor must tend to make the worker weary; and the more so if the work is allowed to become monotonous, as in some schools it certainly is. You go to the same dingy room and sit on the same chair before the same class of boys. It is true the boys are not the same boys, for though the proverb says, “Boys will be boys,” I find that they will not be boys, but that they will be men; but still one boy is so much like another boy that the class is evermore the same. The lessons vary but the truth is the same, and the work of teaching is like the sowing of seed — very much the same thing over and over again. Lovers of change will hardly find in regular Sunday-school work a field for their fickleness. The text says, “Be not weary.” Are you tired out? How long have you been teaching? A thousand years? You smile; and I smile, too, and say — Do not be weary with any period of service short of that. Our Lord deserves a whole eternity to be spent in His praise, and we hope so to spend it; and, therefore, let us not be weary with the few years which constitute the ordinary life of man.