All work and no play? A Bible Christian hymn for children

Below are some verses from the Child’s Hymn Book, circulating in the early 1830s in Cornwall. It urges the reader to work and study, holding out an unattractive alternative if little noses weren’t kept close to the grindstone. The book was published at Shebbear, in north Devon. It may have originated in the Bible Christians’ Prospect College, established in 1829 and later known as Shebbear College. The Bible Christians had been founded in 1815 and were a revivalist Methodist sect that gained its main following in rural areas in Cornwall and north Devon previously untouched by Wesleyan Methodism.

Tis the voice of the sluggard, I heard him complain
You have waked me too soon, I must slumber again,
As the door on its hinges, so he, on his bed
Turns his sides and his shoulders and his heavy head.
A little more sleep and a little more slumber,
Thus he wastes half his days, and hours without number,
And when he gets up, he sits folding his hands,
Or walks about sauntering, or trifling he stands.
I passed by his garden, and saw the wild briar,
The thorn and the thistle grow broader and higher,
The clothes that hung on him are turning to rags,
And his money still wastes, till he starves or he begs.
I made him a visit, still hoping to find
That he took better care for improving his mind,
He told me his dreams, talked of eating and drinking
But he scarce reads his Bible, and never loves thinking.

Said I then to my heart “Here’s a lesson for me
This man’s put a picture of what I might be
But thanks to my friends for their care in my breeding
Who taught me betimes to love working and reading.
William O’Bryan, founder of the Bible Christians

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