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PRONOUNCED BEFORE THE SUNDAY SCHOOL SOCIETY.
BY WILLIAM E. CHANNING, D, D.
PRINTED FOR THE
American Unitarian Association.
JAMES MUNROE & Co. 134 WASHINGTON STREET.
Price 4 Cents.
MATTHEW XIX. 13, 14.
Then were there brought unto him little children that he should put his hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
THE subject of this discourse is indicated by the name of the society, at whose request I appear in this place. The Sunday School, this is now to engage our attention. I believe I can best aid it by expounding the principles on which it should rest, and by which it should be guided. I am not anxious to pronounce a eulogy on this and similar institutions. They do much good, but they are destined to do greater. They are in their infancy, and are only giving promise of the benefits they are to confer. They already enjoy patronage, and this will increase certainly, necessarily, in proportion as they shall grow in efficiency and usefulness. I wish to say something of the great principles which should preside over them, and of the modes of operation by which they
can best accomplish their end. This discourse, though especially designed for Sunday schools, is in truth equally applicable to domestic instruction. Parents who are anx ious to train up their children in the paths of Christian virtue, will find in every principle and rule, now to be laid down, a guide for their own steps. How to reach, influence, enlighten, elevate the youthful mind, this is the grand topic; and who ought not to be interested in it? for who has not an interest in the young?
I propose to set before you my views under the following heads. I shall consider, first, the Principle on which such schools should be founded; next their End or great object; in the third place, What they should teach; and lastly, How they should teach. These divisions, if there were time to fill them up, would exhaust the subject. 1 shall satisfy myself with offering you what seem to me the most important views under each.
I. I am, first, to consider the principle on which the Sunday school should be founded. It must be founded and carried on in Faith. You must not establish it from imitation, nor set it in motion because other sects have adopted a like machinery. The Sunday school must be founded on and sustained by a strong faith in its usefulness, its worth, its importance. Faith is the spring of all energetic action. Men throw their souls into objects, only because they believe them to be attainable, and worth pursuit. You must have faith in your school; and for this end you must have faith in God; in the child whom you teach; and in the scriptures which are to be taught.
You must have faith in God; and by this I do not mean a general belief of his existence and perfection, but a
faith in him as the father and friend of the children whom you instruct, as desiring their progress more than all human friends, and as most ready to aid you in your efforts for their good. You must not feel yourselves alone. You must not think when you enter the place of teaching, that only you and your pupils are present, and that you have nothing but your own power and wisdom to rely on for success. You must feel a high presence. You must feel that the Father of these children is near you, and that he loves them with a boundless love. Do not think of God as interested only in higher orders of beings, or only in great and distinguished men. The little child. is as dear to him as the hero, as the philosopher, as the angel; for in that child are the germs of an angel's powers, and God has called him into being, that he may become an angel. On this faith every Sunday school should be built, and on such a foundation it will stand firm and gather strength.
Again, you must have faith in the child whom you in, struct. Believe in the greatness of its nature, and in its capacity of improvement. Do not measure its mind by its frail, slender form. In a very few years, in ten years perhaps, that child is to come forward into life, to take on him the duties of an arduous vocation, to assume serious responsibilities, and soon after he may be the head of a family, and have a voice in the government of his country. All the powers which he is to put forth in life, all the powers which are to be unfolded in his endless being, are now wrapt up within him. That mind, not you, nor I, nor an angel, can comprehend. Feel that your scholar, young as he is, is worthy of your intensest interest. Have faith in his nature, especially as fitted for religion. Do 1* NO. 126.