Imágenes de páginas

to cultivate it to the greatest possible extent. The greatest commercial benefactors of their race are not those who enclose the largest spaces for cultivation, but those who cultivate well the spaces that are enclosed, and then endeavour to enclose and cultivate more.

We have at the present time a large area under cultivation. Mr. Watson informs us that there are 3,000,000 of seeds in the field, all requiring nurture and culture, and that there are 300,000 cultivators; that is one teacher to each ten scholars.

The first enquiry that arises out of this aspect of the question is this are the 300,000 cultivators all skilled workmen and workwomen? And the second,-if they be skilled, do they do their duty? It is one thing to possess the means of doing good, and quite another to use these means rightly. There are hundreds of thousands in Lancashire starving for want of the common necessaries of life; there are persons in the same locality who have thousands of pounds for which they have no special use, and yet they do not relieve the distress which surrounds them. It will be admitted by all that the great want in the field of Sunday school effort is not a lack of scholars, nor is it a deficiency of teachers, but a want of a more comprehensive education on the part of the teachers, and perhaps a deficiency of earnestness in the prosecution of the work.

Plain truths, of a personal nature, are not always pleasantly received by those to whom they are addressed. If truths be told in a loving spirit, with a desire to do good, and not in a captious spirit, for the express purpose of finding fault, then they ought to be agreeably received. It is a peculiar characteristic of the human mind, that if we once become habituated to an erroneous or imperfect course of conduct, we rarely detect the error ourselves, and we unconsciously go on blundering to our graves; but another person looking at the same course from a different stand-point, sees defects of the existence of which we were not conscious. Why should not he be thanked for pointing them out to us? How are we to remedy defects of the existence of which we are not cognisant? He who, in a kindly spirit, at proper times and with due discretion, points out the errors of others is worthy of praise rather than worthy of the censure he too frequently receives.

Bearing the foregoing remarks in view, we will look at the state of education among our Sunday school teachers, and afterwards at the spirit in which the Sunday school work is conducted. Many, perhaps we may say the majority, of our teachers are young and imperfectly trained, not only in sacred, but also in secular knowledge, and therefore the instruction that is

given, for the most part, lacks breadth and substantiality. I have seen schools, for example, though they are certainly the exception, where some of the teachers, even in the middle and advanced classes, have limited their teaching to reading the chapter or chapters, and telling a few anecdotes; cases where there appears to have been the absence of all right ideas of what really constituted Sunday school teaching; and where the lessons for the Sunday have either never been previously looked at, or if looked at, have not been understood by the teacher.

In order that teachers may be prepared for their Sunday duties, it is not only necessary that they previously read the chapter which is to be the subject of the lesson, but that they should seriously and prayerfully study it, and with a view to understanding it, they should obtain all the aid they can from the many excellent works now published, admirably adapted to aid them in their benevolent labours. I know of no book more fitted to assist teachers in the study of the New, and some portions of the Old Testament, than the แ Notes" of the Rev. A. Barnes. Teachers in more advanced classes should master such works as "Butler's Analogy," "Angus's Bible Hand-book," "Nichols's Help to Reading the Bible," and last, though not least in these days of hyper-scepticism, that excellent book, published by the Religious Tract Society, entitled "The Bible and Modern Thought," by the Rev. T. R. Birks.

Men and women are naturally social and gregarious. You may find here and there a man who, through wounded pride or affection, or influenced by superstition, lives the life of a recluse; but mankind will cluster and group, it is part of their nature, and a part too of which advantage should be taken.

Not only then ought there to be solitary students of the Divine Word and Works, but teachers should themselves be taught. Taught either by meeting together weekly or at convenient intervals, and selecting some of the best informed of their number to conduct preparatory classes; or where they have the advantage of a minister, requesting him, in conjunction with the best teachers, to conduct the class for the mutual benefit of all the teachers in the school.

In these efforts, as in all others, we must not expect perfection, there will be great defects even in a teachers' Bible-class. Our duty, however, is to make them as good as we can, and leave the rest to an infinitely wise and gracious Providence.

There is a charm about the very name of home. A well-managed home where father, mother, sisters and brothers, all work together in harmony and love, is the best earthly type of heaven; indeed, heaven itself is described as a home.

School should be made to the young as attractive as home, and the teachers should be to their flocks as fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers; there should be the greatest sympathy and reciprocity of feeling between teacher and scholar, and in order to this, teachers should be on the most friendly terms with scholars; they should not only see them in school, but they should aid them during the week in the work of secular instruction. I do not mean

the secular instruction which has reference to the ordinary routine of the day school, but secular instruction in the wondrous epistles written by the Divine fingers in the great book of nature itself. Depend upon it, we are not thrown into this world without any sympathy for the wonders which the Almighty has scattered broadcast about us: and the teacher whose knowledge of the laws and operations of nature is sufficiently extensive, will lose none of the affections of his pupils by taking them out with him or with her, occasionally, into the fields and woods, or by the sea-shore, and pointing out to them the divine handiwork which is manifest in the crust of the earth, in every blade of grass, in every trembling leaf, and in every living creature that roams over the face of the earth, or plunges in its oceans, lifting their minds from nature up to nature's God. This principle of teaching is applicable in all cases, but specially so in reference to our senior scholars. The great weakness in Sunday school tuition, is just where it ought to be most strong; and many of those who for years have been associated with the Sunday schools, leave precisely at the time which is most pregnant with promise of real usefulness.

Many, perhaps the majority of our scholars, leave school at an age when it is most desirable to retain them, and a frightful proportion of them fall into habits of idleness and vice; to which public houses, singing saloons, and other places of resort, open numerous temptations. Rely upon it, our culture cannot be too broad and our lessons too deeply graven in these days, when latitudinarianism is rampant on the one hand, and a narrow and rigid bigotry and dogmatic self-conceit on the other.

Enough, perhaps, has been said on the natural side of Sunday school teaching, viz., that side which has reference to the natural mode of acquiring and communicating knowledge.

We are, however, placed in relation to two worlds and two spheres of being,-a natural and a spiritual. Both conditions of life, in our case, constantly impinge upon each other, and we are as intrinsically the creatures of spiritual as of natural influence. We should not, therefore, look to natural instrumentality only, but we should seek for the aid of the spiritual.

Mankind are more familiar with the natural than the spiritual, but it does not therefore follow that the spiritual is any less near, real, and potential than the natural. Familiarity and reality are not synonyms. There are many things with which it cannot be said the human mind is very familiar, which are, nevertheless, near, real, and universal. Gravitation is a real, invisible, omnipresent power, influencing every organised and unorganised material body; and yet, of a knowledge of such a law as gravitation, all those who lived a few years prior to the advent of the immortal Newton, were entirely ignorant. Now, the spiritual impinges on and influences the natural, and yet, only to a few do these things present themselves as absolute matters of fact.

The Bible, if we would only fully believe it, makes this branch of the subject perfectly clear; but a blind and conceited naturalism or materialism, has closed the general eye to the great fact.

We are in intimate relation with the spiritual world, and our prayers ought frequently to ascend for spiritual help. I don't mean prayers to those who have gone before, that would be an encouragement and submission to the follies and absurdities of Roman Catholicism; but earnest prayer to the Great Spiritual Father, who is ever ready through Christ to aid those who call upon him in sincerity and truth. Answers to prayers may not come precisely at the time we want them, nor in the form we expect. It may be that some of us, for wise purposes, may have to endure long years of dreary and isolated probation; but if we pray with honest earnest hearts, with a sincere desire to be right and to prove a blessing to others, sooner or later, in the Almighty's good time, the blessing will come. If we have not had quite so much success in Sunday school labour as we desire, let us remember that all these agencies are under the control of our Heavenly Father, and that by His ordination He will send blessings and success when they are most opportune.

The inferences we may draw from the foregoing remarks, and from the facts that are familiar to all those engaged in Sunday school teaching, are, that Sunday schools have accomplished much; that by increased industry, devotion, and reliance on the Divine blessing, they may accomplish yet more; and that, therefore, it is the duty of all who have the interests of Sunday schools at heart, to labour more earnestly and prayerfully for the accomplishment of the design for which they are now conducted.


THE words and ways of men, how different they are! How inconsistent, and how often absolutely opposed: men speak what they feel not-they advise what they practice not-and talk of what they live not. And to whom can we better apply these words, than to ourselves as teachers? Nor do I, after careful watching, think that the charge is false: it is an evil that has crept into most of our duties, and has effectually made weak the power of many a pulpit in our land. Many men might conclude their sermons by saying, "Now do as I say, not as I do." And since we are conscious of it here, much more likely are we to meet with it in the class and in the school; and what is more, how many of us are aware of its existence it being to some a tearful knowledge, while to others one of little concern!

May we not liken ourselves to those of whom we sometimes hear, that can appear on certain days, and at certain seasons, decked with all that's fair, and arrayed in all that glistens, but who, when an admiring crowd has passed-and the ceremony is over-doff the jewels and the grandeur for the common-place attire? For we, on many a Sabbath morn have gone to teach, with heaven's fairest jewel in our hands, the sweetest words upon our lips, the loveliest smile playing o'er the countenance, the brightest glow upon our hearts the children have admired, ay, loved and listened with rapt attention to the words of our mouth; but when the day has passed and the class dispersed, we lay aside the jewel-book, the heavenly harp is exchanged for the murmuring world; and the brightness of our religion fades with the sinking sun. And, seriously, do you not think that the children, seeing this, as they assuredly will, (they are often sharper in such things than we think them,) will soon be led to look upon fair speeches as mockery, and the teaching as delusion? Can they believe you, when, having told them the duty of the sanctuary, they see your vacant seat? Having told them to be loving, you grow to them unkind? Having bid them put aside the temper, you are heard on the morrow to indulge in needless angry words? Having bid them live in prayer, you, yourself, are seen at home to neglect it? Having bid them learn "the word," yours at home is scarcely touched? Having told them that life is earnest, to employ every moment as it flies, you are found at home, the sluggard or the idler? Can they, I ask, believe you? No; your words of advice will not be taken, your

« AnteriorContinuar »