Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

give a conscientious response to it. Leave the Church of England, if you so please, and join any other society; or frame a distinct one—do any thing, except it be the abandonment of the saving doctrine of Christ crucified. If you choose to abjure infant baptism, and unite with the abjuring party, yet preach like Fuller and Hall. If you join the Wesleyans, endeavour to catch the mantle of Benson. But if you retire from the establishment, and retire also from the simplicity of the Gospel, to wander after revived systems of doubt and error, your last state may peradventure be worse than the first.

Another point demands the deepest consideration from the persons involved in these remarks. We are wrestling, in a fresh and hard conflict, against Papal powers and principalities. But, oh! what unspeakable confusion is it for Protestants to waste their resources amidst intestine feuds. Up to this darkening moment it has been ever matter of devout exultation and gratitude, that the spiritual members of the Reformed churches have been integral parts of each other. There was no schism in the body; but the halcyon days of the church universal appear to be clouding over with the shadows of a cold and black night. Nay, some of our speculators are actually papalizing, by placing, for example, the church above the Scripture; and the minister, I know not where. But this I know, that, being a minister myself, and painfully conscious of my own ignorance and spiritual insufficiency, I have frequently and earnestly warned my own flock to compare what I tell them, with the infallible word of inspiration. My office is no security againstundesigned error or wilful aberration; and I regard it, not as a degradation, but a privilege, to be able to guard the people against their pastor's possible heresies. I am also confident, that such a procedure, however it may startle and irritate those who would think and believe by proxy, and so

far neither believe nor think at all; yet, that every enlightened Christian will honour his instructor the more, when he hears him place the one just and specific value upon the written oracles of God. The blind formalist will be satisfied with the blind teacher, and we know how they are both in peril of perishing. In the opposed example, each party will own an authority superior to the purest human teaching; and to make such a concession, indicates a mind docile and dependent. If this be obliquely an act of self-commendation, it is more than was intended. But, however this may be, the principle retains its identity, and its inherent value; and protects, at least, my own flock from their shepherd's unfaithfulness.

ECC. ANG. PASTOR.

ON THE SUPPOSEO FAILURE OF
SUNDAY SCHOOLS.

To the Editor of the Christian Observer.

Assuming with your correspondent R. in your Number for December, that Sunday schools have failed in the good effects expected from them, I venture to assign the following as some of the true causes of such failure :—

1. The absence of that just degree of public countenance and support to which they are entitled.

2. The inadequate agency too frequently employed in them.

3. The want of more constant co-operation, supervision, and direction on the part of the clergy and ministers in general.

Upon the first point, I would call the attention of your readers to this striking fact: there are in England only two societies of a general or comprehensive character for the promotion of Sunday schools ;—the Sunday-school Society established in 1785, and the Sunday-school Union in 1804 ; the first confining itself to the supply of suitable elementary books and the Holy Scriptures to needy schools within the British dominions,—and the latter seeking, by correspondence, publication of Sunday-school works, and pecuniary grants, to promote Sunday-school objects throughout the world. Now, on looking over the Reports of these institutions for the last seven years, I find that the average annual amount contributed by the public, in subscriptions and donations, has been to the first only 155/. to the latter, only 156/. The first kept an existence during that period, with the exception of an occasional legacy, by expending the funds contributed by its founders and early supporters; and the latter simply by the profits on the works published, which an almost entirely gratuitous agency and management have enabled its committee to effect. Nor is the case improved if we turn to Scotland. I have not former Reports before me; but 1 find that the subscriptions and donations last year to " the. Sabbath-school Union for Scotland," was only 69/.,—a poor amount indeed, this, for extending Sunday-school operation in that kingdom. Now what should we say of the public feeling towards Bible Societies or Tract Societies, if such a picture could be drawn of the metropolitan institutions *?

* Our correspondent should recollect that there is a wide distinction between the classes of institutions which he mentions. Every clergyman or dissenting minister cannot be his own tract maker or Bible printer, and he therefore subscribes to a metropolitan society, that supplies his demand; but he does not perhaps feel the same necessity with respect to his Sunday school, which he supports from local funds, procuring his books from Bible, Tract, or ChristianKnowledge Societies, without the specific intervention of a Sunday-school Society. Besides which, without entering into the question of the merits of the two Sunday-school Societies which our correspondent mentions, it should be remembered, that so far as the clergy and the members of the Church of England are concerned, the National-school Society is expressly, as to one half of its functions, a Sunday-school Society; and this most important and valuable institution reports in its last returns not fewer than 143,784

But to descend to local and individual schools; I am personally ac

boys, and 147,361 girls, as receiving Sunday-school instruction in the Church of England, independently of the daily National Schools. We do not believe it possible that there can be a common basis upon which a Cburch-of-England and a Dissenting Sunday-school could be united; the Churchman would not give up his catechism, and the Dissenter would not receive it; and so of many other points, especially tracts; but we think both parties to blame in their respective departments and societies. As regards our own communion, there is a disgraceful apathy. The whole amount of donations and subscriptions last year to the National Society, for all its purposes, local and general, daily and Sunday, was but 1133/. Many clergymen and episcopal laymen rind much difficulty in regard to promoting Sunday-school instruction. They do not patronize the institutions alluded to by our correspondent, on account of their not being in connexion with the Church of England (they profess, we believe, to be neutral) ; and having already subscribed to the National-school Society for its general purposes, it does not occur to them to give a second donation for its Sunday-school objects; besides which, they perhaps feel hesitation in adopting the society's rule, that no books shall be used but those on the list of the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge. Experience proves that many persons will give two guineas to two societies for two objects, who would only have given one to one society, embracing them both. Would it not then be advisable for the National Society to keep a separate fund for Sunday-school objects, or even to form a separate society, to be called the National Sunday-school Society, both being so far united as to work together as at present, but embodying the advantages of two specific institutions. The difficulty of books and tracts would still remain, unless some liberty of choice were allowed to the local clergyman. Even if the society's list were perfection itself, it would not produce uniformity of opinion; and while differences exist, persons do not usually wish to tie their own hands. A Church-of-England Sunday-school Society, either in connexion with the National Society, or otherwise, that would promote the general object, without binding the local authorities by any stricter rules than were necessary,would be a most useful and acceptable institution. Let the National Society form a distinct institution from its daily school business, recommending the Christian-knowledge books, and offering to supply such of them as were required, but not making the list exclusive, and being content with the

quainted with several in the metropolis, but I do not know one which is not in debt to its treasurer. I perceive the average number of schools gratuitously assisted with books by'' theSunday-school society" during the last seven years, is not less than four hundred each year, all claiming on the ground of not being able to obtain sufficient local aid. Now considering, with this fact, that that society is almost unknown in many parts of the kingdom, I think I may fairly maintain that the public, so far from rendering that support to Sunday-school institutions which their importance demands, have, on the contrary, exhibited towards them a lamentable apathy.

But, it may be asked, are there not schools enough already? I answer, Not half enough, including those maintained by all denominations of Christians. This is no hasty assertion, but is founded on the best attainable information. As to the numbers instructed in existing schools, and the number of our population (allowed on all hands) to be proper objects of such institutions, the fact painfully presses on visitors of the poor, particularly in certain districts of the metropolis, and in the large towns, and yet we are told over and over again that Sunday schools have failed. No; they have not yet reached the most necessitous half of the population. On these their influence cannot be said to have failed, for it has not been tried. Witness the state of the prisoners brought to the bar of justice in the southern and western

guarantee that the children go to church, and the patron is a clergyman, and the work would be done. It will not do in such a matter to raise questions within the common pale. It ought to be a church society, but to leave churchmen to their different schools. Suppose that a clergyman fancies Watts's First Catechism, and does not fancy some other person's, why might not a society be sufficiently large to allow of this not damnable heresy, and thus to comprehend all who, within the Anglican establishment, are really anxious to promote Sunday-school instruction?

counties last year, whose deplorable ignorance of even the rudiments of religious knowledge has been so painfully demonstrated. Witness the report of the chaplain of Bedford gaol, who, on a recent investigation, could scarcely find one prisoner able to read intelligibly. Witness the reports of Mr. Wontner, the present worthy governor of Newgate, which have at various times been before the public, as to the grossly ignorant state of the great mass of offenders committed to his custody. If indeed our criminal calendars were filled with those who had been Sunday scholars, or if any thing approaching to half were such, then might we well begin to doubt the utility of the system altogether; but the fact happily is, that instances are extremely rare where any that have remained long scholars in a Sunday school have been found among that degraded class.

I have mentioned, as the second cause of failure, the inadequate agency too frequently employed in Sunday schools. This respects the number and the qualifications of the teachers. As to number, if much instruction is to be conveyed, where one day only in seven is in part occupied, there should be at least one teacher to every ten scholars. But in few schools is this proportion effectively maintained. Then as to qualification for the teacher's office, Dr. Johnson has laid it down as a maxim, that they cannot be well instructed whose teachers are not themselves well taught: now, I have conversed with clergymen and others from various parts of the country on this subject, who unite in lamenting that the more respectable classes of society too generally shrink from the teacher's office; and in a vast number of schools it is now the fact, that nearly half (and in some the greater portion) are those who were formerly scholars in the school. Now I am far from lamenting that these have stepped forward to do that which others have neglected; but, on the contrary, would bear testimony to the honourable degree of zeal, perseverance, and self-denial, frequently exhibited by this class of teachers: what I lament is, that others with better cultivated minds, greater means of information, and influence in society, have not come forward to assist, and thus give a still more extended and useful direction to those labours. The influence of example among teachers would do much in displaying the advantages of skill and method in dealing with the young, and cause the art of communicating ideas to be made much more an object of study by all employed.

And here I would just reply to one inquiry of R. He says, "Observe the teachers and children of our schools as they parade the streets from school to their places of worship: are the latter the poor neglected children of our population?" I answer, that children, soon after their entrance into Sunday schools, generally exhibit a marked improvement as compared with their previous appearance. The influence of precept as to cleanliness and decorum of habits, 1 hope inculcated in every Sunday school, together with that of example, operates powerfully; add to which, that in most schools exertions are made to provide decent articles of clothing in cases where the destitution assumes an extreme character. A common cotton frock or pincloth costs but little, but makes a wonderful improvement in the appearance of the children. In some schools such articles are merely lent for the Sunday use, and the weekly cleanly appearance of one child has often a most beneficial effect on a whole family: and in this respect Sunday schools have not departed from their pristine character; for Mr. Raikes, in a letter written in 1787, recently published, mentions particularly the transforming character of his school in the appearance of the scholars, and his own practice of giving a pair of shoes or other decent article of apparel to the most necessitous.

I should certainly be ashamed of that Sunday school that did not soon give another appearance to its pupils, than thatof" poorneglected children, filthy and half clad." Such I agree with R. are, and ought to be, the primary objects of Sunday-school tuition; but that they should, when brought into our school, remain filthy and half clad, as R.'s argument would seem to imply, forbid it Christian charity: it would disgrace, I think, both the conductors of the school and the Christian body with whom it is connected.

The last cause of failure named was the want of more constant cooperation, supervision, and direction on the part of ministers, the removal of which would be the most effectual step to remedy the former two. I am far from insinuating that ministers, either in the Church or among the Dissenters, have opposed Sundayschool efforts; but I lament to say that, with some honourable exceptions, they have not taken such an active personal interest in the proceedings of Sunday-schools as to give the character and tone to their proceedings. How far it might be expedient or profitable both to children and adults to catechize or examine on the lessons during evening service, I shall leave your clerical readers to decide; but, certainly, if the clergyman were frequently in the school, examining the classes respectively and the whole school publicly; if he would meet the teachers at stated periods, offering suggestions on the various arrangements of the schools, the division and appropriation of the school hours, yea minutes; if he would arrange the lessons (for in every well regulated school, be it ever so large, one lesson, andone on ly, should engage all the children who can engage in it; and these pre-arranged for periods,that scholars, teachers, minister, and all who interest themselves in the school, may always know what Scripture, what hymn or part of catechism, engages its attention),—if, having thus arranged (for from him should such arrangements directly or indirectly emanate) the minister would monthly, or oftener, meet the teachers, illustrating, explaining, and pointing out the proper mode of treating the lessons, and the instruction which should be drawn from them; might we not confidently look for far greater general efficiency than has yet been witnessed?

So far from " superceding parental and pastoral religious instruction," a well-regulated Sunday-school will ever facilitate both. If the minister can enlist the services of the pious and intelligent of his flock in the work of religious instruction, is he not enlarging his own usefulness? does he not raise up a little host of agents which he may employ to carry out plans of usefulness, which, as an individual, it is physically impossible himself to effect ? *

• Another correspondent (T), addressing us on the same subject remarks :—

"The other objection brought against our Sunday-schools is, that tin y take the work of education out of the hands of respectable mothers and pastors, and remove the children from their most beneficial supcrintendance to that of others. Your correspondent gives a strong description of former times, when mothers gave the Sabbath to instructing their children thoroughly, and ministers assembled their young flock in the vestry for the purpose of catechising. Whereas he complains that now even respectable mothers hand their children over to a stranger, without the means of knowing for certain that they are with him, and ministers have lost sight of their young people, and arc well nigh alienated even from the children of the poor. There is a propensity in our nature to magnify former times to the disparagement ot the present, but, as Solomon intimates, witli little truth or wisdom. When that time was when mothers were so competent and willing to teach, and ministers so diligent in catechising, is beyond modern recollection; but surely the pious mother will be amply employed in watching the progress of Sunday-school instruction in her children now, and will confirm it by precept and example at home; and if the minister has lost sight of his young flock in the vestry, he may follow them to the school and guide and teach them there at his will. Shame indeed on that minister who in these days is not to be found in the Sunday-school! If our blessed Lord were now upon earth, he would not only preach in our churches but I fully believe that

Christ. Observ. No. 364.

That too little ministerial notice has been devoted to Sunday-schools I think our periodical literature proves, presuming as I do that in our religious magazines clergymen are the principal contributors. How seldom are their claims brought under consideration! how seldom is their very existence adverted to! and as to plans and suggestions for improving their internal economy, where and when have they appeared?

I trust some of your many intelligent correspondents will take up this important subject, for surely to give a just and beneficial direction to the efforts of Sunday-school teachers— to rouse those at present slumbering in their work—to call forth the energies of those Christians who are nt present livingtoo much to themselves, while the youth are perishing for lack of knowledge at their very doors would not be considered an unworthy application of your volumes by any class of your readers; while to those who are anxious to see both schools and teachers all they ought and are expected to be, such communication would be in the highest degree gratifying to none more than to your humble servant, w

Remarrs On Some Statements In Mr. Simeon's Sermons On The Holy Spirit.

To the Editor of the Christian Observer,

I Am desirous of calling the attention of your readers to the valuable sermons lately reviewed in your pages, on the Offices of the Holy Spirit, by one whose praise is justly in all the churches, the Rev. C. Simeon, with a view to the consideration of one of the statements in them, which I will begin by transcribing :—" But whilst in his essential Godhead he (the Holy Ghost) is equal with the Father and the Son, in his office he is inferior to them both, and acts, if

he would also teach in our schools. Let them then have our help and encourage

ment for his name's sake. 2 E

« AnteriorContinuar »