The model children’s choir?

In 1788, at the age of 84, John Wesley made one of his last tours to the north-west of England. What he found at Bolton, in Lancashire, is surely an inspiration to anyone running, or thinking of running, a Christian children’s choir:

[Sat 19 April 1788]

We went on to Bolton…And this I must avow, there is not such a set of singers in any of the Methodist congregations in the three kingdoms. There cannot be; for we have near a hundred such trebles, boys and girls, selected out of our Sunday-schools, and accurately taught, as are not found together in any chapel, cathedral, or music-room within the four seas.

Besides, the spirit with which they all sing, and the beauty of many of them, so suits the melody, that I defy any to exceed it; except the singing of angels in our Father’s heaven.

[Sun 20 April]

At eight, and at one, the house was throughly filled.

About three I met between nine hundred and a thousand of the children belonging to our Sunday-schools. I never saw such a sight before. They were all exactly clean, as well as plain, in their apparel. All were serious and well-behaved. Many, both boys and girls, had as beautiful faces as, I believe, England or Europe can afford. When they all sung together, and none of them out of tune, the melody was beyond that of any theatre; and, what is the best of all, many of them truly fear God, and some rejoice in his salvation.

These are a pattern to all the town. Their usual diversion is to visit the poor that are sick, (sometimes six, or eight, or ten together,) to exhort, comfort, and pray with them. Frequently ten or more of them get together to sing and pray by themselves; sometimes thirty or forty; and are so earnestly engaged, alternately singing, praying, and crying, that they know not how to part.

You children that hear this, why should not you go and do likewise? Is not God here as well as at Bolton? Let God arise and maintain his own cause, even “out of the mouths of babes and sucklings!”

Children who can sing; children who are well disciplined; children who are getting to know and love the Lord Jesus. All of those, praise God, are not totally unknown to us in 2013.

But children who fill their spare time visiting the poor who are sick, or getting together to sing and pray? What an inspiration. As Wesley says, “Let God arise and maintain his own cause, even “out of the mouths of babes and sucklings” (Psalm 8:2; Matthew 21:16).

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