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RAGGED SCHOOL REMINISCENCES.
HAVE been led to think, dear children,
you might wish to hear something of Ragged Schools, and the poor children who attend them, schools so unlike anything you may have seen, and which are only to
be met with in the poorest and
most crowded parts of large cities. For nearly twenty years I have been uninterruptedly engaged amongst them, and have taught and worked in them in various
capacities; and thus many a sad and true
tale has come under my observation, some of which will, I trust, interest you, and cause you to think tenderly of those poor little ones who have so few to care for them.
I will begin by taking you, on a Sunday evening, into the Field Lane Ragged School, one of the oldest and largest in London. · The building was once a manufactory; it is large, well-lighted, and comparatively clean. The upper part is used as the schoolroom, the lower as the dormitory, or sleeping apartment, in which many homeless men and boys find shelter. The schoolroom is divided by sliding screens, on one side of which are the classes for the boys, on the other, for the girls. There are about a dozen scholars to each teacher, of whom there are of course a goodly number. The children's faces and hands are tolerably clean; but from their old dirty garments there arises an indescribable odour, differing from any other; and when about three hundred children are assembled, as is frequently the case, this, on first going in, is rather overpowering.
The scholars come tumbling in in the most extraordi
nary and noisy manner. Yet, when the superintendent's bell is rung, there is perfect quiet, for by this time each pupil has found his or her own place and teacher. The scholars of the day school are of various ages, and various degrees of ignorance, and they are taught reading, writing, arithmetic, and sewing ; but on the Sunday and at the night school, much older scholars present themselves; and every evening there are new faces. These have no difficulty in gaining admission, for there is always a teacher standing at the top of the stair to welcome them in with kind words and loving looks. At half-past six the business of the school is commenced by singing a hymn, such as the “Sweet story of old,' which some of you know; then prayer follows; and then, as the classes begin, there arises the hum of many voices, some of which are uttering for the first time the Scripture words you know so well. Scarcely any of these poor children have what may be called a home; many of them no other shelter than what the Ragged School affords.
Do you feel, dear children, who have your own happy homes, and your own comfortable beds, that it must be hard to lie all night in the dormitory of a Ragged School? What will you think, then, when I tell you that when Ragged Schools were first organized, the poor children had not even these dormitories to shelter them, but left the school at night to take shelter under a cart, a railway arch, a shed, or even on the steps of a stair ? for it was not till some time after Ragged Schools had been commenced that dormitories were added to a few of them.
Many of these children are orphans, or deserted by their parents, and have no one to care for them—not even to take them to the door of the workhouse. Others have no father; their mother going about the streets through the day, picking up what she could, and sleeping with her children in the casual wards' of the various workhouses, -these wards affording often, indeed, no better shelter than a railway arch. Others have parents worse than this,--drunkards, who starve and ill-use their poor chil
dren. Oh, how thankful you ought to be, dear young friends, to your heavenly Father, who has cast your lot in such happy circumstances! Think of the contrast, and lift up your hearts in thanksgiving and praise to Him who makes you to differ. In a future paper I will give you some other particulars of Ragged Schools.
'Eternity ! eternity!
How long art thou, eternity ?'
Spring has scattered o'er the lea;
Sparkling o'er the summer sea.
In the autumn forest glade;
Icy gems by winter made.
Early in the morning dew;
Under noon-tide's dome of blue.
In the evening's fading light;
O’er the firmament at night.
When thy counting all is done,
HE next peep we give you of David Sandeman,
is by the seashore, amongst the rocks and beautiful scenery of Torquay. He sits there in a retired spot, lost in thought; the blue
sea flecked with white-crested waves before his eyes, and the bright sunshine of autumn lighting up all around. Several years have passed since he left Manchester, where we first saw him. He is no longer a merchant: for some time he has preached the gospel in many parts of his own land, and now he is an ordained minister, on the eve of starting for China. Much good has he been the means of doing. His words have been with power of the Holy Ghost. Old and young have loved to hear him speak of Christ. His whole heart was in the work; and wherever he went, he always tried to tell of the Saviour's love. Even in his walks he loved to say a word to any he met about his Master.
Walking in the country one day, when the fields were covered with the golden grain, he saw a poor woman cutting grass by the roadside. Plucking a head of wheat from a field, he spoke to her, telling her, that as a grain of wheat must die before that beautiful head could spring up, so Christ needed also to die ere we could be saved. The woman listened attentively, and he went on, praying God to bless the words spoken.
My space will not admit of telling you much of what he did. One thing is certain, he was no idle follower of his Lord. Now we find him preaching to crowds of colliers in the neighbourhood of Glasgow; again, in the open air round the Custom House in Liverpool; then at a small village in Cheshire, before entering which, he and some young friends knelt round a heap of stones on the wayside, asking the Lord to bless the words that were to be spoken; then again, when thousands are met together to witness an execution in the town of Stafford, Mr Sandeman is there, distributing tracts, and preaching to the immense crowds. It seemed as if he could never grow weary of speaking of 'Him whom his soul loved,' and whom he felt ever near him; and all the while his happy face told of the joy of his spirit. Yes, Jesus had made him very glad with the light of His countenance.
But much as he loved thus to work, a longing filled his heart to preach these good tidings to the poor heathen. The fields were 'white to harvest, but the labourers were few.' The cry heard by Paul so long ago, as he lay wrapt in slumber at Troas, 'Come over and help us,' was heard again. And, like Paul, feeling that it was the Lord who had called him to preach the gospel in distant lands, David Sandeman prepared, at that call, to leave all and go wheresoever the Lord might appoint.