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dren will naturally result in its gradual extension to all grades of the destitute, it will be sufficient to limit our attention to this preliminary stage. And yet we must, in deference to human sense and the weakest Christianity, spare an elaborate argument to prove the value to individuals, to families, churches, neighbourhoods, and society universally, of having children taught statedly the principles and practice of religion from the Scriptures; watched over; and visited with affection and interest, followed in sickness, misfortune, and separation; by kind, prudent, and intelligent Christian friends. The proposition is too self-evident to need an argument, and, as one should think, the object of too much self-interest to require enforcement. These services in detail are beyond the power of any minister, with whatever variety of gifts he may be endowed, unless he superadd the faculty of collecting all these classes of persons together in one place, and instructing them with adaptedness to each case. minister, a faithful association of Sunday School teachers is the hundred eyes and hundred hands he is often disposed to wish for, and no human agency is capable of yielding him such efficient assistance. They supply the loss children have long sustained in the services of the sanctuary, by imparting a knowledge of the history and doctrines of the Bible in a manner which their immature minds can comprehend. They thus prepare a generation of hearers who are more likely to attend to, and understand the discourses of the pulpit, in consequence of their noviciate in the schools, and give the best security for becoming intelligent, stable, and useful members of the Church.
If the institution be recognised in the rank of importance to which we have assigned it, it is easily seen that the Church, as a body, has a deep interest in it, and is called on to be vigilant of its course.
It must cease to be considered an adventitious appendage to the house of worship. Teachers must be regarded in another light than as amateurs of the science of school keeping, and must meet with some more cordial recognition than the unmeaning complacency with which they are commonly greeted as engaged in a harmless employment, for which they have some whimsical predilection. The Sunday School must be identified with the Church as positively as any of the other external means of grace. It claims the patronage and prayers of every Christian, and should enlist their active interest in its support. In it is their
hope for their own children, and there is the best cooperation they can have in training their families. In it are educating their successors in the visible church, and there is the strong-est human guaranty for its continued purity and prosperity. Individual members should well and prayerfully deliberate, before they relinquish the privilege of guiding these minds, and decide that Providence does not call them to be efficient agents in the cause. They well know that Christ denounces unprofitable servants, and before a professed follower determines to avoid the duty, or is contented to spend the Sabbaths without being engaged in some scheme of benefiting others, let he or she be certain that the reason is such as will bear the test of the Gospel requisitions.
We are commonly left to our own perceptions to judge when circumstances indicate any special duty as the assignment of Providence. If we seriously consider the history and present attitude of Sunday schools, we suppose it impossible to come to any other conclusion than that they have been sanctioned by the Saviour, not only as a means of hastening his triumph, but that none of his followers might be without a field for active and direct service. Its operations are so multifarious, that we can scarcely imagine a case of total disqualification. If precluded by any circumstances from direct teaching, the private member may still exert a general influence in furtherance of the design. One of the concurrent blessings of the plan is, that it opens so wide a door to practical benevolenee, and such a person may be excellently employed in visiting the poor and the ignorant, to inform them of the advantages of the school, to impress them and their children, by their kind familiarity, with favourable ideas respecting it. If poverty or sickness prevent their taking advantage of the offer, an opportunity is afforded of giving the most conclusive evidence of sincerity and disinterestedness, by guiding them to means of relief. In like manner they may make friendly visits at the homes of those who are already scholars; where they are sure of an unaffected welcome. By this proof of earnestness they open a way to the confidence and the consciences of the child's family, whom they may persuade to an attendance on the means of
to the pursuit of holiSecular and moral reformation, at least, will be easily
promoted in this way; and there is no surer pioneer of religion, among the uncultivated, than philanthropy. Its whole range is opened to the person who is willing to be the friend of the Sunday scholar's family, and an entire neighbourhood may be blessed for the sake of the youngest of its inhabitants.
The office of teacher or any other agent in the Sunday school is an unquestioned passport to any household, poor or rich, and the latter rank of the congregation, as well as the former whether in or out of it, are accessible to such visiters. Sensible parents, and well meaning people generally, will not deem such attentions intrusive. The persuasion that the welfare of their own offspring is an object of a stranger's solicitude, will soften many a rugged disposition, and open the heart to unwonted emotions. And in spiritual humanity it will be difficult to decide which is the stronger claimant for Christian compassion, the child of the poor or rich.
Energetic action is one of the best means of promoting healthful personal piety. It is the indolent professor who is most liable to despondency, and to a disrelish of spiritual duties. The prescription of the apostle springs from the principles of nature, as well as religion, that if Christians expect to be otherwise than barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of their Lord,' they must add 'energy' to their faith.' In the words of an eminent philosophical and evangelical observer of the times, there is, manifestly, something which requires to be balanced or adjusted, and kept in equipoise, between the principle of faith, and the principle of action. The one has a tendency to exclude the other, or to overpower it
. Bit Christian excellence consists in the preservation of this balance; and the preservation of it, we must add, greatly depends upon the circumstances of the times. Now, perhaps, for a season, faith and energy are both strongly stimulated; and the highest style of Christian heroism is reached. Again, the inducement of action being slackened, faith is deprived of the invigoration it had received from the contest with the antagonist principle; it triumphs, or rather seems to triumph, for a moment; but presently becomes extravagant, then imbecile; and at lengih, utterly inert. We need not be surprised to find that faith, though heaven-born, can neither live nor be productive alone. Excellence of all kinds, physical, intellectual, and spiritual, is the product, not of the simple operation of some one principle; but of the op
pugnant forces of two or more powers, which have a natural fitness to counteract each other."*
We think this remark pertinent to our argument, as furnishing the highest motive next to the immerliate desire of glorifying God, that can be presented to stimulate the zeal of the disciple, and as another incentive to the Church to seize with eagerness any new mode that is offered of elevating the standard of piety.
Collectively, the Church is bound to provide for this department upon an adequate scale. The necessary accommodations and facilities should be furnished by it; and the care of these details should not be superadded to the duties of the teachers, any more than the financial concerns of the congregation should be laid upon the minister. The time ought long since to have arrived when every house of worship should have a separate building for its Sunday Schools, admitting of the necessary subdivision of pupils, in distinct apartments, with a chapel for at least occasional services for the children exclusively. A small fund would furnish an amount of moral and religious reading sufficient to benefit many hundreds of families at once. Over these circles of subordinate agency, the minister and other ecclesiastical officers should maintain a kind superintendence. They should consider it part of their pastoral and official duty to inspect their operations; to be familiar with the process and nature of the instructions afforded. The maintenance of purity and orthodoxy requires that they should not be ignorant of the character, capacity, and views of those who have the almost exclusive care of a large portion of their rising charge. The schools constitute, literally, the nurseries of the Church: from them are continually presented applicants for union with it, and their character will soon determine that of the whole body. The official guardians of the young, no more than' parents, should feel that this part of their charge is alienated to the teachers. Parental fidelity is important to maintain the influence of the teacher, and the spiritual officers are bound to extend their episcopacy over persons holding such responsible stations as the directors of the minds of the young.
In most churches at this day, (we again remind our readers that our observations are general, and refer to the Christian community at large,) the only ecclesiastical provision made
Saturday Evening,' Art. xii.
for the benefit of the children, is the requirement of a regular recitation from the catechism of the denominations to which they are attached. These examinations occur, commonly, at intervals of several weeks, during which there is no pretence of actual supervision by the official overseers. The formularies which are to be repeated by rote, mostly comprise a system of theology arranged as a science, and composed in technical phraseology. When these sententious definitions are duly committed and rehearsed, the maternal offices of the Church are discharged, and the nurslings are dismissed, with perhaps some common-place advice, until the next recurrence of the ceremony. Now, we have no hesitation in saying that such exercises, unaccompanied by plain exposition calculated to enter the understandings of the young, and without a faithful aim to reach their hearts, are not only without any present profit, but are likely to engender an aversion from them which may end in an invincible misesteem of this portion of the standards. Under the most faithful and popular conducting, these brief examinations must be meagre and superficial, and in all respects inferior to the practical, constant, and exclusive services of the Sunday school teacher. Formerly many children in our congregations had no opportunity of access to religious influence, excepting such as the catechetical class might afford. Their parents, even the pious, were often satisfied that they had met their obligations by requiring their preparation for their tasks; and if not pious, they sent them as one of the acts of courtesy, which the moral world deems fit to be occasionally shown to the institutions of religion. For all these deficiencies the Sunday School should be welcomed as a relief, and if not adopted as a substitute, yet admitted as a better scheme, to the spirit and mode of which the old one should be made to conform.
As a means of grace, too, which has been peculiarly blessed to the teachers who undertook the service before their own conversion, it is of great moment that an anxious eye should be kept upon this class of the congregation. To decide that professors only should have charge of the schools, would discard a vast number of efficient teachers, and remove them from an influence which has been so remarkably favoured. Besides, a disposition that inclines persons to engage in a service of this nature, almost certainly implies the existence of some degree of inclination to attend to the claims of religion, and in this state of mind they are most likely to be