Alma Street Sunday School

Opening of a new school-room at Far Cotton

On Wednesday afternoon last a public tea-meeting was held at Far Cotton, in celebration of the opening of the new school in that village of new homes lying to the south of the railway. A large number of persons attended, indeed many more than could be accommodated with tea at one time. The new school-room is a large, commodious, well-lighted and ventilated building, of neat appearance, and what is considered a great desideratum in these days, has been raised at a very slight cost, although at a cost exceeding the original ideas of its founders by 170 per cent.

In the evening, a public meeting was held in the school-room, which was closely packed, the numbers attending the tea-party being considerably recruited. The Rev. J. T. Brown, of College-street Chapel, presided, and was supported by a large number of people, both of his own and of other denominations. After the usual religious exercises had been gone through, the Chairman who was loudly applauded, addressed the meeting and said:

“My Christian friends, there are certain phrases which we are accustomed to use, and which very often come out of our lips, and sometimes without very much meaning. They do not come out from the depths, and represent what is really existing there. They are rather phrases of the lips than phrases of the heart, and one of these is when we express our pleasure in any meeting we may come to under such like circumstances. But I beg to say to-night, that in beginning what few remarks I have to make with an expression of my pleasure in being here to meet you on the present occasion, to enter for the first time into this school-room, which has been erected and brought to a completion, and not merely built up, but ornamented with all manner of flowers and greeneries as I see it before me to-night: therefore, my expression of pleasure at meeting you on such an occasion goeth not forth out of feigned lips.

“I have observed, from the very beginning of the effort made by our friends in this place, which I know not why, I suppose only for some arbitrary reason, is called New Zealand—I say from the beginning of the effort made by our friends in this place, I have looked on with a considerable interest. It gave me great pleasure when I found there were minds and hearts living in this neighbourhood, or not far off from it, who seemed to feel that all classes of the people resident here, the poor especially, and if I may make use of another special term, the children of the poor, still more particularly, were, as it were, given to them in charge, and were a part of the flock over which God had made them overseers, and I not only witnessed with pleasure a rising feeling on the part of our friends ripening and growing into determination to make some effort that the charge might be instructed and the people gathered together, but I have seen that feeling grow, and those efforts continue, until this school-room, which it is no flattery to say is a very nice one, and which, I think, is exceedingly convenient for the purpose, while it does honour to all that have had concerning it and which I trust will be the means of vast and continued blessings to this neighbourhood—until this school-room, has risen up, crowning their efforts, and as a monument of their seal.

“There are two or three things which have given me pleasure in connection with it, or rather, which have contributed to the pleasure I have felt. The one is the source and origin of the efforts itself. We bad no bigotry in what we attempted to do. It was not because another denomination was here that we came to plant our foot here too. Had another had the charge of this district, had it been cared for by our Christian friends, we should have sought some other region, where there was room and want for us, and should have left to others the guardianship of the neighbourhood which they bad taken up. It was because the people were, the children more particularly, were as lambs of the flock without a shepherd ; it was because there was no effort here, and there seemed to be a field unoccupied, and needing culture, that our friends looked with the tenderness and the love of Christian hearts towards it, and manfully and zealously resolved that that want should be supplied, and that the field should be cultivated. Allow me to say—though I am what I am—I am a Baptist why should I be ashamed to own it? I am a Dissenter, and I not only am not ashamed to own that, but with increasing thought and increasing reflection, I glory in that foot.” (Loud cheers.) “But, Dissenter as I am, if this neighbourhood had been properly cared for I should have thought—while other regions were as deserts, and other peoples wanted looking after, it would have been better for us, when we have no energy to spare, and so few means at our command to go where none were rather than where others wore already acting.” (Cheers.) “It has been that my knowledge of the origin and source of the thing which has given me an exceeding interest in it.

“Well, then there is another thing I may just allude to that has tended likewise to promote my pleasure, that is, the thorough spirit with which our friends have taken it up. .All honour to them! They wore exceedingly few; their chances of success were comparatively poor; they had at first very little sympathy and help on which they could rely ; but nothing daunted, and nothing caring, with the boldness of a true, loving heart, the boldest thing in all the world, they determined, spare though their means were, and few though themselves were, that what they could do even that they would. They began their work in this spirit, and in the midst of difficulties and discouragements they still pursued their toil, until we heard from them that courageous word—for courageous it was, very courageous when all the circumstances are taken into account—’We cannot have this, little room any longer; there is need for more space and accommodation; the children are willing to come; true, at College-street you are about to build a chapel, and have plenty on your hands; true, at Nelson-street it is thought a chapel should be raised; but at New Zealand a structure shall rise; we will conquer difficulties, and difficulties we admit there are, but we have a will; ‘a feint heart never won a fair lady,’ and, debt or no debt, determined are we to pursue our course.’

“The crown of that determination suitably sustained is the building in which you, my friends, are met together to-night. I honour courage wherever it is found. I do not like war, I do not like the battle-field, but if there must be war, and if there must be battle-fields, then all honour to the brave. I honour courage anywhere, whether in the man in desperate circumstance, who makes a bold effort to extricate himself for courage is, of all tidings, the highest, and sublimest, and the most worthy of our admiration. The mainspring of it is benevolence. and he end of it is to do good unto others. There is one draw-back from my pleasure, a little drawback—we are not out of debt. The chapel is not quite clear; it will be; that spirit that said ‘New Zealand shall have it,’ will say ‘New Zealand will see it paid for.’ The courage that said, amid difficulties, ‘We will build’, will say amid doubts, ‘We will pay, and that before long’.

“And when it is paid, this shall be an addition to my joy, it is an anticipation, a pleasure to me now – that we shall not have gone to the State for a penny; we shall hare sold nobody’s goods.” (Hear, hear, and applause.) “We shall have extracted nothing from anybody by violence. Our building will represent—not the piety of an age that is dead, but the piety of an age that is living. It will be from the voluntary contributions of those who take an interest in this measure.

“Well, now my friends, it is not for me thoroughly to occupy your time to-night, or I could go on a little longer.” (Cheers.) “But there are one or two things I want to impress upon the minds of the friends here. I want to impress them upon the minds of those of you who have lent your sympathetic aid to this work, to all friends who have taken an interest in it, and who look upon our teachers who come down here from Sabbath unto Sabbath, and say as Boaz did when he came to his reapers, ‘The Lord be with you’.  You, though you cannot come, will lend them all the pecuniary aid you can, but an aid which is better and higher for than that- your prayers, which will bring down from Heaven the blessing of highest God; but for us all for the teachers especially, on whose shoulders the yoke is resting, who will have to bear the burden and beat of the day. It is just that courage maintained with which you have begun that we require. On, on, on; on, when January pinches you with cold; on, when a July sun looks at you and makes itself felt in its looks; on, when the cheery spring is fall of promise; on, when the winter has stripped bare the trees, and all the land looks desolate and unpromising; on, my friends; stay for nothing; with a heart never growing old; with a spirit never faring, however much the body may be wearied; fresh from your closet, and fresh from the Cross, fresh as the morning when it comes forth, fresh as the fields are when the dew has just raised on them, may you be able to come to your work from the beginning of the end even unto the end. Do not bo discouraged; if people favour you, be thankful, and if they do not, do not be sad; if you have sympathy and concurrence, give praise to God; and if you have to go alone, trusting in the Lord, do as well as you can; if obstacles spring where you did not look for them, and kinds of discouragement come to you which you have no right to expect; if rivalry spring, take no heed; let your heart and eye be on your work evermore, your soul trusting in him who will inspire and bless you, and so let your work be done. Do not seek publicity, noise, and notoriety; work as the Heavens work, in holy silence; work as nature works, underground, unseen, and leaving the spring to toll what all the winter she has been doing. Do not care to publish abroad all your activities. I confess I am led to male that remark by the fact that there is in the present day a great deal of tattling, ” What we are doing!” I take up the newspapers; they may be Dissenting papers, and you all say ” What we are doing?” I look to our Church friends, and take up their paper, but still the same cry, ” What are we doing?” as if we lived upon the public eye, or upon the public breath, and drew our very inspiration and life from the recognitions of men. We are thankful for a friendly recognition, but after all our work and judgement is with our God. and I say to my friends here in New Zealand, and I say to all that my voice may reach, let us do our Master’s work, and think about that, and not about what people round about us are remarking. Be anxious that in the great day our work shall be declared, and the result of it apparent, and not in noisy newspaper reports. I have another remark that I want to make, and I make these remarks purposely. Let us remember, and let the teachers here in New Zealand remember, that our great object is not, like the old Pharisees, to compass the sea and land to make proselytes. Is not proselytism too rampant in our day ? Is it not to make a Dissenter—a Christian if you can, but a Dissenter at all rate ? Is it not to make a Christian if you can, but at all events a Churchman ? Is there not, I say, too much of this spirit abroad amongst us in the present day? Brethren, I am a Dissenter, and, as I said before, I glory in it; but after all, our work here is to train up men for ever, and bring the children unto Christ. Let ua promote spiritual life amongst them; let us seek the lost souls; let us feel that it is poor gain to have made a Dissenter or a Churchman, if we have not made a better man and a Christian. May God enable us to look more to our work and to our doing in the light that shall presently shine, when the work-day is at an end, and when we stand in our naked simplicity before God the judge of all.”

The rev. gentleman concluded by observing upon the number of gentlemen by whom he was supported on this occasion.

Mr. Blackwell made a statement of their financial position, which showed that the receipt., had been £114 5s. 9 1/4d and the disbursements, £210 10s. 10 1/2d; leaving a balance against them of £93 5s. 1 1/4d. The entire cost of the building had been £270 ; there was a balance due to Mr. Geo. Hall (who built the school-room) of £44 10s., which, together with some other expenses, made a debt of £145 15s. They calculated that the tea meeting, and the promises which they since received, would bring them in £10 15s., which would reduce the debt to £125. The building was to be placed, in the hands of trustees connected with the College-street

Mr Geo Hall briefly addressed the meeting, and urged the importance of local exertion in order to ensure success and continued prosperity.

The Rev. Mr. Haddy, of Ravensthorpe, said he thought it much to their honour that, under the Divine blessing, they had been enabled to work so hard and so well, and bring their labours to that complete form in which they, were found at that moment. But while thus commending them, be would ask them to look beyond themselves—to the great Master, and to think of the honour which be had conferred upon them in permitting them to labour in any way, however humble, to do good to those who were perishing for lack of knowledge. In honouring the Master they were honouring themselves. It was, indeed, an unspeakable mercy that he bad not only given them a disposition to work, but that be had also inspired them with courage to go forward in the work. And that they might know that the work was so for completed, they would turn away their eyes from themselves, and look up lovingly to his throne and say, “What hath God wrought!” That building had been erected, but their work was not yet half done, it was only just begun. They must remember that they needed to have Christ’s presence with them in that place if any real good was to be done there among the children and the adult population of that neighbourhood. And in order that they should have Christ’s presence, he entreated them to ask by earnest and importunate prayer that that presence might be vouchsafed unto them, and that though feeble, by his presence and strength they might become strong for labour, and might do his work right heartily and well They should go round amongst their neighbours and , by to induce them to attend tbe divine services that would bo held within those walls.

The Rev. T. Arnold expressed the pleasure he felt at seeing Mr. Brown so far restored to health as to be able to preside at that meeting, and to witness the seal and devotion of bis people, for the minister’s heart looked first at the growth of his church, and next at the increasing usefulness of his people, the one contributing much towards the other. They had come forth in a legitimate, because in a thoroughly Christian, way; as water would find its level, so they had come to that place, where they found that repose which arose from genuine activity in serving the Lord Jesus Christ. There was no better test of their true Christianity than that afforded by their activity. He knew how tedious and difficult their work was, and how little there was to reward the teachers, and how much they had to forego, but still he urged them to keep on with their work. Looking at what had been done by all parties, he thought they would be of opinion still more than ever that there was no necessity for legislation, and for compulsory payments towards education and the preaching of the Gospel. In what they had done they had fully exemplified that their Christianity was drawn from the Gospel. But let them look to what churchmen had done by means of the voluntary principle, and pointing to that the argument would accumulate considerably to their advantage. But apart from those distinctions of denomination which must cease with the growth and seal of the Christian churches of this land, be felt that they bad great reason to rejoice that night. He did not deny that there might be advantages in denominational distinctions, but be urged them not to let those distinctions be as mountain chains, which totally separated them, but rather let them rise above tho mountains and lend a helping hind in the labours of those of their brethren who dwelt in the valleys on the other ode. (Cheers.)

The Rev. J. T. Brown said be wished to make one observation with regard to education. It must be gratifying to Churchmen, as well as to Dissenters, to read the results of the commission which had been sitting for some time, and which had most carefully and thoroughly gone into this matter of education. It must be most gratifying to witness, what with one effort, and what with another, the immense progress which during the last few years had been made in the matter of education, and how rapidly the wants and necessities of the people of this country were being overtaken. He wished to allude, for one single moment, to a fact in connection with the Commissioners’ Report, and be did so for this purpose—while he had been away he saw in the newspapers a report of a meeting at which Mr. Sydney Gedge made a speech, in which be referred to the amazing preponderance of the children under instruction by the Church of England over other bodies. He was sure that Mr. Gedge only wished for fairness, and he knew that he had made that statement from the Commissioners’ Report. So for he was justified in making it; but it bad since transpired that the commissioners themselves were in fault, and they had acknowledged their error. The statistics they had published did not represent the fact. He had no doubt Mr. Gedge would take an early opportunity of correcting his statement, which he (Mr. Brown) thought would be right as a mere matter of justice. Fair was fair all the world over.

John Perry, Esq., said he rejoiced exceedingly with them that night. He was glad that that place had been built, but he could not help feeling a little jealous on comparing that well-ventilated place with poor old Compton-street. He had felt rather sad, though now he rejoiced, and he hoped that building would rejoice a great many others, and encourage them in the work they bad undertaken. He did not believe their labours would be in vain; he therefore urged them to continue in their labours, and to work on, trusting in the great and gracious promises of their Master; in due season they would reap, if they feinted not.

Northampton Mercury. Saturday 15 June 1861

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