Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

faithful to their charge, and to be led to set an example of submission to Christ. But it is, undoubtedly, prudent that these individuals should not be unknown, and that they should be the objects of special watchfulness and spiritual anxiety.

The ministry have not yet exhibited the intimate and active connexion with this department of their charge that is expected from them. The general system owes much to their approbation and encouragement, but they have not begun to consider it is a prominent part of their pastoral duty to take care of their schools. Would they be content to have several hundreds of their congregation taken from their immediate control, and taught by thirty or forty individuals, of whom they know little more than that they are communicants in good standing? And is it lawful for them to be indifferent to, or ignorant of, the nature of the course of teaching which is applied weekly in the training of the most important portion of their people? How deeply must those principles be fixed which a zealous teacher plants in the mind of a young scholar! The circumstances of this education are infinitely more favourable for the success of his efforts than those of a pastor can ever be. Each of these ministers has a congregation of but eight or ten, whose attention is necessarily concentrated on him; he has the facility of direct personal appeal to each one, and this for a length of time equal to that employed by the minister in the public services; he is able to visit them every week, to follow and direct them in all their pursuits, and confirms his official authority by the affection which his kindness and interest have excited. Under such care his mind is formed, and the impressions can hardly be counteracted. The sermon from the pulpit is not adapted to his capacity; and even should he comprehend it, and hear the doctrines of the school-room controverted, he would be apt to satisiy himself in the conclusion, that his teacher was the oracle after all. The pulpit-minister is to him a comparative stranger; he is the man in black whom he holds in mysterious awe; he does not know him as a private friend, an affectionate adviser; and he always associates him with the desk and the rites of the sanctuary, as a personage who is not to be thought of in any other connexion. Thus the mind is preoccupied, and thus it will grow up and strengthen, and take its character from the inflection the teacher has given it, whatever that character be. If there be a variance with the opinions of the minister, there must be a their part.

contest with the prejudices thus instilled that will make a change of views at least difficult and perplexing. But it is more probable that it will result in dissatisfaction, or confusion, if not in an entire theological revolution in the character of the Church. For such an issue the ministry should be held in a great degree responsible, if they have thus permitted a whole generation to go through a course of indoctrination from year to year, without inquiry or interference on

It will certainly be admitted that such an issue is possible, where there is no pastoral supervision, and that the Church may thus be said to be in the hands of Sunday school teachers. Let the constituted guardians of its peace and purity, then, see that they are not cherishing an infant Hercules for its own subversion. The surest way of guarding against all such possible evils is, that the teachers should feel that they are recognized as co-pastors, and that they are held by some responsibility to the Church of Christ. A minister may, by the indifference he manifests to the state of his schools, the formality of his visits to them, and the avoidance of all intercourse or pastoral duty with the teachers as such, so effectually repel them as to be considered to have refused their control. Lest in this way to their own course, discouraged from going to their natural adviser, they are compelled to be their own guides, and to go on in their labours unnoticed and forgotten, excepting perhaps, to be classed in an occasional paragraph of prayer with the ancient covenant people,' Ethiopia, and other expletory topics.

An inversion of this would, of course, insure an auxiliary in his functions whose efficiency will tend more to lighten his burtben, and promote his success, than many clerical colleagues. By devoting a regular service to the instruction and advice of teachers; by mingling so much with the business of the school as to have his connexion with it felt, without involving him in the peculiar duties of the teachers; by combining it as an integral portion of the general interests of the Church; by keeping parents in a right estimation of its privileges, and their corresponding duties; by connecting it in prayer, and preaching, and pastoral visitation with the most prominent means of promoting religion; by all such methods as he employs in impelling his people to duty, he may and should elevate in their consideration the system of youthful religious education. The ministry is the proper source of

knowledge to which teachers look. If their views of truth are to be clarified, established, and made consistent, it is the province of the ministry to do it. To qualify them properly for their station, something more than the proficiency of cate. chumens is necessary. Some intellectual discipline is required to prepare them for a systematic study of truth; and they need habits of regular thought and judgment. These may or may not have been parts of their education, but they should be applied to religious investigations with skilfulness. . The minds of the children, too, will claim their study, if they hope to mould them, and prepare them for substantial exercise. Children should be guided in the art of thinking, as well as supplied with subjects of thinking; and that scholar will, through the grace of God, be the most intelligent, stable, and useful Christian, whose mind was disciplined whilst his soul was subdued. There is now also great need of biblical knowledge of all kinds amongst teachers. They should be well furnished with the variety of information necessary for the exposition of the Scriptures: yet out of the clerical order how few have taken any pains to study their chronology, geography, antiquities, and evidences?' They need too, no small imbuing in polemic theology to meet the inquiries and remarks which are constantly presented by intelligent scholars. Every instance of doubt or ignorance on a doctrinal, casuistical, or historical question, makes an impression of incompetency very prejudicial to the influence of the person thus found at fault. Children assume that one who undertakes to teach, virtually professes to know, and they are quick at detecting deficiencies. Yet their speculations are usually within a compass that something less than a Doctor of

a theology can satisfy; and a wise minister can easily prepare his teachers for such emergencies. This whole duty, of biblical instruction, however, pertains directly to the ordinary functions of a minister, and he would do well to keep all his congregation qualified to explain the literature of the Bible, as well as intelligently and scripturally to give a reason of the spiritual hope they profess to indulge.

Without some uniform plan of study on these topics, there may be a very unfortunate diversity of explanations in the same school. Each may have a doctrine, a revelation, an interpretation,' of his own, if the results of longer study are not furnished by the minister and adopted by his agents. Besides, his course of reading enables him to gather all ac

VOL. IV. No. III.-3C

cessible information, and he may communicate it with more ease and advantage than it could be derived by the consultation of original sources of knowledge. It is the best expedient a minister could adopt of refreshing his memory with his early theological and biblical studies, to give his teachers, if not his whole congregation, an introduction to the learning connected with a full understanding of the Bible. He may, at least, be always ready to refer the studious to authentic sources of instruction, and furnish every facility to enable them to make their own acquisitions.

An intimacy with the school also commends itself to a minister as creating a new tie between him and his people. It connects him with the teachers and learners, in a manner which greatly strengthens the affection and promotes the influence of their mutual relation. The indication of an active interest on his part in their plans, has a natural tendency to persuade them of his earnestness in the service of the Redeemer. His countenance and assistance encourage them in their labours, and an assurance of his sympathy relieves them amidst many trials of faith and patience. The members of the classes are more deeply impressed with the importance of their privileges, when they see their clergyman putting a high estimate upon them. The same remark may be applied to the Church at large, and children will be likely to undervalue the institution when they see Christians, both minister and people, keeping aloof from them, or viewing them occasionally, as they do a curious exhibition. No set rules are desirable to regulate the manner in which the proper interest should be manifested. We know that there are some ceremonious assemblings of the schools in presence of the congregation; that a church-member sometimes accidentally strays into the school-room; and sometimes a regular delegation makes a perfunctory progress through the apartments. Even these cold recognitions are better than total neglect; but let Christians determine the value of the institution as a means of glorifying God; let them pray for it with the energy that a conviction of its true nature would inspire; and then shall they find appropriate methods of efficient patronage: then shall be seen more enduring and extensive results than the amplest pecuniary endowment can buy. The minister must guide the faith and charity of his people into this channel. His mere declamatory sanction will avail little; but let him be seen as an active member of the organization ; let not

only his prayers and sermons, but his whole pastorship, testify that the Sunday School is, in his estimation, a concern of the Church, and the Church will be led to their duty. Parents will not be brought in any other way so strongly to realize their obligations, and to feel the magnitude of the results dependent on the manner in which their children are instructed.

But besides the duty of carrying it into immediate effect, there is much required of the Church in perfecting the system itself. For the former services, we need the heart and hand; in this, the efforts of the Christian mind are most particularly required. The whole scheme of religious education needs improvement. The minds of children have never been sufficiently studied, so as to facilitate the adaptation of a system of teaching to the moral and intellectual diversity which characterizes the juvenile mind. Christian philosophers are needed to trace the principles of reason from the most plastic stage of their germination through all their development. Men are needed to take advantage of the results of such observation, to suggest the proper modes of apply. ing instruction to the respective cases. This would open the whole science of efficient teaching. Sound minds are wanted to prepare books on these principles for the use of children, fitted not only to their comprehension, but to their reason, judgment, and conscience. The importance of the agency of the Sunday School library can hardly be spoken of in extravagant terms. It is enough to say, that an opportunity is offered by it of supplying the daily reading of the six hundred thousand pupils connected with the schools in this coun. try, and of every family to which these pupils are attached. It is not, therefore, sufficient to furnish books of innocent amusement to keep improper publications out of their hands. There should be books for their study; elementary works in all the departments of useful learning and information, books that should invite the exercise of thought, and lead to a standard of correct moral judgment. A large field for this kind of labour is still open in the science of biblical elucidation. The histories and characters of the Bible are themes which might well attract the attention of pious authors. There is no way so effectual of recommending the revealed word as by showing its excellencies and beauties distinctively, in the separate condensation of its endless topics of usefulness. Children are in this manner more sensibly impressed with the reality and force of the incidents and morals of the Bible, than

а

« AnteriorContinuar »