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NOTES OF A SUNDAY SCHOOL TOUR.
AMONGST the various efforts put forth by the Sunday School Union for the improvement of Sunday schools, the visits paid by various members of the Committee to the provinces are not the least important. They have thus an opportunity of seeing how the schools are conducted, and of talking over with the teachers the suggestions which have resulted from those visits. The value of these efforts is seen, not only in the pleasure with which such visits are received, but by the adoption of similar plans by other bodies. The Church of England Sunday School Institute and the Friends' First-day School Association have both followed the example thus set, and, we doubt not, with much benefit to the schools associated with them.
During the last few years, teachers in different parts of the country, finding so much benefit arise from mutual intercourse, have gathered together in counties or districts for the discussion of practical subjects, and Good Friday has been found very convenient for such assemblages. The attendance of some member of the Committee of the Sunday School Union is generally solicited, and we believe that no less than seven such applications were received this year. The difficulty of supplying the demand thus made, led to our being requested to undertake one of these missions at Easter last. It would probably be more correct that our report should appear in the "Union Magazine," as the official organ of the Committee by whom we were sent forth; but the Editor will doubtless thank us for relieving him from some of that embarras des richesses which the number of such communications will occasion.
Our first destination was Doncaster, where the Seventh Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Sunday School Teachers' Conference was to be held; but on our way we stopped at Grantham, and saw the statue of Sir Isaac Newton, who, though born about six miles off, received his education at the grammar school of that town. The statue was cast out of the metal of a large bell taken from the Russians during the Crimean war; it is of full life size, and is placed on a green by the high road leading into the town from the south.
We reached Doncaster in time to attend the prayer meeting, held to supplicate the Divine blessing on the proceedings of the following day. Mr. Joseph Marsden presided, and delivered an address on the importance of prayer, adverting to the difficulty of the teacher's work as arising, not merely from the depravity of the
human heart, but still more from direct Satanic agency.
The prayers were short, earnest, and to the purpose. About ten brethren engaged in prayer during the meeting, which did not last more than an hour and a-half.
On Good Friday morning, the delegates assembled in Priory Place Chapel to commence the proceedings of the conference. The Rev. Dr. James Campbell, of Bradford, presided. The subject for the morning conference was introduced by a paper on "Sunday School Classification," in which a three-fold division of the school, into infant, scripture, and senior classes, was recommended. This formed the topic for a lively discussion, in which fifteen delegates and the chairman took part; and it appeared in the course of the afternoon proceedings, that a large school in Sheffield, called the Wicker School, comprising above 400 infants, partly taught in a gallery and partly in classes, about the same number of Scripture readers, and senior scholars, raising the total to about 1,100 scholars, was so classified.
After dinner, Mr. Sissons, of Sheffield, took the chair, and in his opening address adverted to the importance of the subject appointed for consideration-" Select Classes." He said, that his own class of young men disappeared on one occasion, having gone to hear some infidel lecturers. He determined not to take any notice of the circumstance, but to leave it to the lads to introduce the subject. This they soon did, by requesting him to enter upon the discussion of the evidences of Christianity. A time was fixed for the purpose, and then all the arguments of the lecturers were brought forward and urged with much energy. He met the difficulties as well as he could, and the result was a declaration on the part of the young men- 'You have beat us; we determined to beat you, but God has helped you."
The paper was read by Mr. Adam Wood, of Sheffield, and met with very general acceptance. Thirteen of the delegates took part in the discussion, which principally turned on two subjects: firstwhether select classes should meet with the general school in the opening and closing exercises, or either of them? secondly-whether superintendents should resort to such classes to supply the lack of absent teachers? On the first question great difference of opinion prevailed; but on the latter, the preponderance of sentiment seemed to be, that it was unwise to disturb such classes by making such demands upon them.
In the evening the Annual Meeting of the Doncaster Sunday School Union was held, when E. Dannatt, Esq., of Braithwell, presided, and the Rev. Messrs. Britcliffe and Jubb, with others, ad
dressed the assembly. Mr. Jubb very kindly, but firmly, expressed his doubts as to the propriety of separate services, which had been incidentally referred to in the afternoon conference. One of the speakers in urging the importance of home visitation, cautioned teachers against speaking unfavourably of their scholars on such occasions. He referred to himself as having been a very troublesome scholar, and as being always afraid to see his teacher coming to the house, lest he should report unfavourably of him. On one occasion, when he had transgressed more than usual, he saw his teacher approaching, and being otherwise unable to avoid meeting him, he rushed to the top of the house, and hid himself on the roof. When the object of his terror had left, he descended with alarm, expecting to receive punishment for the offences which he had no doubt his teacher had laid to his charge. He, however, found that nothing unfavourable had been said of him. This melted his heart, and proved the turning point in his moral history.
The Committee of the Union appeared to be zealously employed in carrying out its objects.
As our next engagement was at Halifax on Monday evening, we determined to spend our Sunday at Doncaster. This afforded us an opportunity of visiting, in conjunction with Mr. Hughes, one of the secretaries, several of the schools; amongst others, one conducted in the Friends' Meeting-house; this was small, and wholly composed of adults; two of whom are Roman Catholics. There is a school for children containing about 100 scholars, which meets in the evening, and which we were pressed to visit, but had not an opportunity of doing. The chief deficiency in the schools visited was an adequate provision for the infants, whose teaching was consequently unsatisfactory. The Church of England schools, which were held in day school-rooms, had, however, ample accommodation, if it had been suitably employed. In one school not connected with the Union, enquiry was made, what scheme of Scripture lessons was employed, and it appeared none was used. The following conversation then ensued:
"Do the teachers select their own lessons ?"
"No; we choose their lessons."
"Do they know beforehand what lessons they will have to teach?" "No; we tell them when they come. We used to put them on a board, but we have given that up."
"Your teachers must be wonderfully clever."
"What do you mean?"
"Why, you expect your minister to study his subject during the week, but your teachers are able to take any part of the Scripture
you select, and to teach the truths it contains without any previous study."
"Well, whether they are wonderfully clever or not, they do it; but it is time to go into chapel, so that I cannot stay."
This school was formerly connected with the Union, but has withdrawn; and we could only hope that the connexion might be soon restored, and the advantages which would attend the intercourse with other teachers be fully realized.
On Sunday morning we attended service at the new and beautiful church erected in consequence of the destruction by fire of the former parish church. It is a noble building. Being Easter Sunday, the Vicar, (Dr. Vaughan, the late Head Master of Harrow School,) the Mayor, and Corporation, assembled at the Mansion House, and proceeded to the church in full state. The Vicar has five curates and a full body of choristers, who entered the church in procession when the Corporation had arrived. There were two clergymen in the desk who divided the ordinary service between them, while the communion service was read by two clergymen at the altar. The musical department was admirably attended to, but it was a quarter to one before the Vicar announced his text, which was suited to the day-" Why seek ye the living" (or the living one, as he said it should be rendered) "among the dead?" The sermon was an excellent one, but sadly too short, not occupying much more than 20 minutes.
In the afternoon several of the schools were assembled in the Prioryplace Chapel, where an address was delivered to them, founded on the words, "She hath done what she could," and which was listened to with much attention; the singing was also excellent. A wellattended united teachers' prayer meeting was afterwards held in the school-room. A social meal with the Secretaries of the Union, at the house of Mr. Hughes, very pleasantly closed the engagements connected with the visit.
On Monday we proceeded to Halifax, and were kindly received by Mr. and Mrs. James Haigh, of Savile Grove, to whose hospitality we have been indebted on many former occasions. We met at dinner Mr. Philbrick, of Halifax, who was to be the chairman of the evening; Mr. Butler, of Leeds, who had come over to take part in the proceedings; and Mr. Corke, who so long held the office of Secretary, but is now the Treasurer of the Union.
In our way to the meeting we inspected the outside of the magnificent Town Hall now being erected, but unfortunately situated in a position which will prevent it from obtaining the attention and admiration which it deserves. The Annual Meet
ing of the Halifax Union was held in the Square School-room, consisting of what was formerly the Square Chapel. On the erection of the beautiful Gothic building adjoining, the old chapel was converted into a school, not as in many cases, by merely removing the pews and leaving the galleries standing, but the whole interior has been taken away, and an upper floor constructed. This constituted the general school-room, while the lower floor was converted into class-rooms. In addition to this there were the former vestries, so that every convenience was supplied for a large educational establishment. The meeting of the Union was held in the general school-room, which was densely crowded; it was calculated that there were about 700 persons present, and they remained very patiently until a quarter to ten o'clock. The report of the Committee showed how diligently and successfully they had been prosecuting their work.
The Rev. Arthur Hall, of Luddenden Foot, gave an interesting account of himself, and of the school under his care. He said, that fifteen years ago it would have appeared most improbable that he should be addressing such an assembly, for he had then fallen into infidel society, and was engaged in infidel discussions. The only thing that seemed to preserve him from going to the length which some did, was the holy example of his father and mother. When God, by his grace, opened his eyes to see his danger, he returned to Maidstone, his native town, resolved on the very first Sunday to enter a Sunday school, lest, if he delayed, his resolution should give way. He accordingly applied to the superintendent, who listened to him with surprise, but gave him a class, and ever since he had felt a deep interest in the religious instruction of the young. The particulars Mr. Hall gave of his school were highly instructive, as showing how great an improvement might be made in the attendance at many of our schools. The number of scholars, January 1, was 267, which had increased to 275 by the end of March; and the average attendance in January was 81 per cent. in the morning and 83 per cent. in the afternoon; in February, 80 per cent. in the morning, and 82 per cent. in the afternoon; in March, 80 per cent. in the morning, and 84 per cent. in the afternoon; thus shewing an attendance of 4-5ths of the scholars on the books in the morning, and a somewhat larger attendance in the afternoon. The returns as to late attendance were equally gratifying; thus, through the whole month of January, there had only been one teacher and nine scholars late in the morning, and one scholar in the afternoon; while in the whole month of February, there were three teachers and eight scholars late in the morning, and two scholars late in the