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virtues and following his example; and lead others to examine the nature of that religion which was the object of such devotion to a mind of no ordinary vigor and acuteness,--great will be the reward. In that case, it may at last appear that John Urquhart lived not in vain; and that the time spent in recording his history has not been unprofitably employed.
THE subject of these memoirs was born in the town of Perth, on the seventh of June, 1808. As his parents are both alive, it would be indecorous to say much more than that, professing the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, they felt the importance of devoting their offspring to him, and of bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. To his mother in particular he was indebted for his earliest ideas and impressions; and of her tenderness and attention to him, he retained, as will afterwards appear from his letters, the liveliest and most grateful recollections.
From the extraordinary quickness and precocity which distinguished him, more than usual encouragement must have been presented to instil into his mind the elements of knowledge and religion; and I have reason to believe that advantage was duly taken of his docile and inquisitive disposition, to direct his attention to the most interesting of all subjects. It is not often that we can trace the impressions of childhood in the future habits and character of the man. They are made during a period in which the mind is inattentive to its own operations, and unconscious of the nature of the process which it is undergoing. The effects remain after the cause which produced them is for
gotten. The writing upon the heart often becomes legible, only when the hand which traced it is mouldering in the dust; and the prayers which have been frequently breathed over the cradle of infancy, sometimes do not appear to have been heard, till after prayer has been exchanged for praise. These considerations, as well as the appropriate promises of the word of God, ought to induce Christian parents to commence their work of instruction with the first dawn of intelligence, and not to be dispirited because they do not soon. reap a visible harvest of success. To this, as to other departments of service, the language of inspiration is applicable:-"In the morning, sow thy seed, and in the evening, withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good."
At five years of age he went to school, and, from having a remarkably sweet and melodious voice, soon became an object of interest, as one of the finest readers among his juvenile associates. Shortly after, also, he was sent to a Sabbath School, there to receive instruction of a more strictly religious nature than can be communicated in the seminaries of every day instruction. At this school he remained, I believe, with occasional interruptions, till a short time before he went to the university.
While referring to this part of his brief history, I cannot but advert to the system of Sabbath school instruction which is pursued in Scotland, and from which the most extensive benefits have been experienced. Having been myself in the situation, first of a scholar, and afterwards of a teacher, I speak from experience, as well as from
observation. I do not say that the system is faultless, or that it does not admit of improvement; or that it is always conducted in the most enlightened and efficient manner: but, take it altogether, it presents many points worthy the consideration and imitation of Christians.
In the first place, these schools are for the exclusive purpose of religious instruction. No branch of secular knowledge is there attended to, nor any of the mechanical processes of education pursued. These are provided for on the other days of the week, by the parents, or by other means. No doubt can be entertained by Christians as to the advantages of this method, where it is practicable. Reading is a mechanical and mental art, which must be taught as other acquisitions of a similar kind. The natural tendency of the process is to secularise that portion of the Lord's day which is devoted to it; and must produce on the minds both of pupils and teachers, an impression not altogether favorable to the hallowed nature of the day of rest. Unless this tendency is carefully watched and counteracted, I apprehend a greater injury may be sustained by religion than many are aware of.
I am sensible of the difficulties which embarrass the benevolent exertions in which the Sunday School Teachers are engaged. I am likewise satisfied that "The Sabbath was made for man; not man for the Sabbath:"-that we are justified, on the score of necessity, in devoting a portion of the Lord's day to the good of our fellow-creatures, though not in the direct form of imparting religious knowledge. But I would respectfully submit to the consideration of all who are engaged in this labor of love, whether a
remedy may not be found, for what must be acknowledged to be an evil? Is it not too much taken for granted, that the children cannot be taught to read, unless they are taught on the Lord's day? Is not the system which is generally adopted, regarded as the only one likely to succeed? Hence, it is pursued as part of a plan of permanent operation, instead of a temporary scheme which ought gradually to be supplanted by a more excellent way. Is it certain that the parents will do nothing to get their children taught on other days, and that the teacher, or others, can do nothing to assist in this good work? I merely suggest these queries, not feeling myself capable of answering them; but regarding them as of high importance in connexion with the existing machinery of religion.
I feel the more anxious to solicit attention to this subject, on two accounts. The wide spread and increasing desecration of the Lord's day, and of numerous evils which invariably follow in the train of this vast enormity, must be very painful to every contemplative and serious mind. Are Christians guilty of nothing which encourages or justifies the evil which they deplore? is a question which it becomes them to consider. Is the obligation to devote the entire day to the sacred exercises of Christianity, generally held, and sufficiently felt? If we lay a foundation in all our congregations for the secularizing of a given portion of this day, are we satisfied that this is not a human device, and which must therefore be attended with injurious consequences?
In the second place, though the system of Sunday School teaching has now been in operation, over a considerable part of the country, for
thirty or forty years, the effect can scarcely be regarded as answerable to the amount of service or labor which has been employed to produce it. Complaints are generally made that the number of individuals actually benefitted, in the full sense of the term, is comparatively small. I am very fár from insinuating, that the benefit to the country at large, and to many individuals, has not been considerable. The prevention of evil, and the retarding of the rapid deterioration of society, which is continually going on, are of immense consequence. But, still looking at the thousands of teachers employed, and the tens of thousands who are taught, it is impossible not to feel regret that the extent of spiritual benefit produced is comparatively so limited. Far be it from me to use the language of discouragement, or of censoriousness. I am conscious of the danger of appearing to find fault with existing operations, and of the difficulty of substituting something better in their stead. "But better are the wounds of a friend than the kisses of an enemy." We are too much accustomed, perhaps, with the voice of praise, and are in danger of being lulled by it into a state of security and self-complacency, most injurious to the effective operation of Christianity.
Religion is the concern of another world, and its appeal is rather to our wretchedness and our guilt, than to our speculative powers. Its design is to relieve and to rescue; and it directs itself to our mental faculties, and assists in improving them chiefly with a view to its conferring the important boon of salvation. It has chiefly to do with the spiritual feelings and moral habitudes of our nature; and is adverse to every intermixture and association, by which things earthly and hea