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writer of the letter signed “J. G. T.,” which appeared in the last number of your valuable little work.
As the subject is one upon which I have, as a Sunday-school Superintendent, for many years experienced difficulties, and on that account have been compelled to give the matter serious consideration, I shall confine my observations to circumstances which have occurred during that period, and then, with a few practical remarks, leave the inference to be drawn to the readers of your publication.
“J. G.T." observes, that “we gather the children into our Sunday-schools that we may endeavour to bestow on them that religious instruction which their parents feel themselves unable to impart.' If this be the case, have we performed our duty, when the instruction given in the school-room is concluded ? Has the Teacher got rid (if so I may express myself) of all responsibility, when he hears the bell ring for closing books, or when the concluding hymn has been sung? or should he watchfully and prayerfully walk by the side of his class from the school to the house of God, he having endeavoured to impress upon the minds of his scholars, prior to leaving the school-room, that his little ones are going into the immediate presence of God? for that he has said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” If the Teacher would adopt this plan, and proceed by the side of his class, and show by his demeanour, both on the way to church, and during the service there, that he himself feels the truth of what he has described to the children of his class, is it too much to hope that their childish, playful feelings would be allayed, and that a devotional and serious impression would be made upon their youthful minds at the opening of the service, and that their attention would be kept alive during the whole of the service? Let the Teachers try this plan-let them teach the children how to find the places in their Prayer-Books--let the children be taught to value the privilege of having seats procured for them in the church, and to repeat to their parents on the Sunday evening the text, and as much of the substance of the sermon as they have retained, and greater good is more likely to result than by suffering the children to disperse immediately on closing the sehool, which would be the result, provided “J. G. T.’s” suggestions were attempted; for it is not possible to draw a line of distinction between one child and another, or between one family and another; and if once the door is opened to excuses, the careless will avail themselves of it—the discipline of the school is destroyed the authority of the Teachers and Superintendent set at nought. Either all must go to the seats allotted to them, or the rule must be entirely given up.
If we could be assured that the parents would call for their children every Sunday morning, and again in the afternoon, at the close of the school, and that they would take their children with them to church, and that every child would be called for, then there would be less objection; but can we suppose that a mother, with a helpless baby, could leave her own house on the Sunday to call at the schoolroom for her children, and to take them with her to church? Can we not more easily believe that she would rather remain at her own home, and take care of her little one-she knowing that her children attending school would be under proper care, would be affectionately guided and taught by a Christian Teacher, and that she would in the evening be able to hear, at all events, some portion of the sermon given by the minister ?
Again, do we not linow, from experience, that many of the children who attend our schools are the offspring of parents, who, from some cause or other, known perhaps only to themselves, very seldom, if ever, join in public worship at church; and do we not also know that they are the children over whom it is necessary, on the part of the Teacher, to look with the most watchful eye? Have we not also often seen parents and their children on the Sunday afternoon rambling into the fields during the time of service at the church, in which the children, if not kept by them away from the Sunday-school, would have been worshipping God; and if such be the case, how then can it be expected that a blessing will rest upon the instruction conducted upon such unsound principles ? In the school, the children are taught to keep holy the Sabbath-day: when they leave the school, they are taught to forget it.
I am quite ready to admit, that there are many families connected with our Sunday-schools who do attend our church, and who also take pleasure in sending their children to our Sunday-schools, and feel the privilege to be great, and with confidence entrust them to our care on the Sabbath-day. Now, with these we have comparatively no trouble. They, as a matter of course, Sunday after Sunday are found in their respective classes, and meet their Teachers with countenances lit up with joy; they go to the house of God with seeming reverence, and when they have taken their places in the benches allotted to them, fall down upon their knees to ask the aid of the Holy Spirit to guard their thoughts, and to enable them to derive instruction from the lips of their minister. These are our patterns, these are such as “J. G. T.” proposes to remove, and these are our stay. Remove them, and you encourage the restless to rebel.
I am afraid that I shall occupy too much of your space, and therefore will, in conclusion, only name one other objection, out of the many, to the plan proposed by your correspondent; but I will just name the difficulty I have experienced with regard to the attendance of the children at the allotted places in church, arising from pride; but I am happy to say this is of rare occurrence in the female school with which I am connected. There are many young persons beyond 20 years of age, but with these there is no difficulty: with some of those between the age of 15 and 17, pride, with all its gaudy accompaniments and consequent temptations, will make its appearance, and then a struggle takes place. The tempted one shows a desire to shun the eye of her Teacher, irregularity in attendance at the school, excuses for absence from church, an occasional walk with parents or her friends (as they are frequently but improperly called) in the afternoon, follows; and it is to be regretted that in some cases Satan for a time has appeared to have the victory; but is this a reason for our relaxing? Ought we not rather to press on with greater zeal, to be continually more watchful over those committed to our care; to feel that we did, when we became Teachers in the Sabbath-school, virtually, as it were, take upon ourselves to perform a similar duty towards our scholars to that undertaken by sponsors for an infant when baptized ; and do we not, by our attendance at the school-room, Sunday after Sunday, in the eyes of Christian men, renew that promise ?
Let Teachers have this feeling, and let all be taught this lesson, that the great object of the Sabbath-school instruction is to fit us to dwell together in the “house not made with hands,” as children of one family, as children of the living God. Let us learn to love each other, and let us seek our heavenly Father's blessing on our labours.
Let us not attempt to establish any plan that would in the end induce us to hope that “few were left under the Teacher's care at church.”-I remain, Rev. Sir, your most obedient servant, Preston, June 17th, 1845.
J. J. M.
In closing the correspondence on this subject, the Editor begs to give his opinion. Where practicable, there can be no question but the most desirable thing is for a whole family to go to the house of God, and sit there together; but he sees so many difficulties in the way, that his own opinion is, it is better to let the wonted Sundayschool arrangements continue as they are in the present state of society. If things were in a right state, there ought to be no need for Sunday-schools. If parents were all true Christians, they would, however poor, have an eye to the discharge of all the relative duties of life. Their children would be the objects of their first regard.
The Sabbath would be valued for their special culture. While at home, the Scriptures would be read together, and the children would be catechized and trained in the right way; the whole family would go with joyful steps to the house of the Lord, and our churches would be filled with happy family groups—one of the most blessed sights which the Sabbath could present. But, alas! we are far from this prevalence of practical family religion. Hence arises the duty of caring for the children of the poor on the Sabbath-day, and supplying their want; and we fear that, as it is necessary to do that for the children of the poor in the way of Sabbath instruction, which parents fail to do, so it is equally necessary to have them under our own direction in the church.
How many parents never go to church at all! How many very irregularly! Unless all were called for and taken by the parents, we see great difficulty, in some being taken and some not. Without uniformity, we do not see how the plan is practicable. Then, again, unhappily many of our churches are so wanting in proper accommodation for the poor, that there would not be room to locate the children with the parents.
It is our firm conviction, that so long as Sunday-schools are rendered necessary to supply the neglect of parents at home, so long will it be found necessary to confide the children to the care of Teachers in the Church; and, further, till habits of more becoming devotion are effected amongst the parents, it is better that the children should be learning them under the direction of their Teachers.
And, lastly, we wish to urge, again and again, the vast importance of placing children in those parts of the church, where they can with the least facility behave ill; and, if possible, where the clergyman's eye is fully upon them.
REMOVING CHILDREN FROM ONE CLASS TO
Rev. SIR,-A Correspondent in your number of the “Teacher's Visitor" for July, wishing for information on the subject of removing children from one class to another, I, who have been engaged as Teacher in a Sunday-school for four years and a half, and during that time na wly observed the workings of the school, venture to offer a few remarks, which I hope will throw some light on the subject. I cannot certainly agree with any one who thinks that the changing of children from one class to another should be abandoned, but, on the contrary, believe it has a very salutary
effect, especially if the Teachers in the ascending classes are superior, which ought to be the case, and is so in every well regulated school; so that if their advancement and good is not promoted by the change, it is the fault of the Superintendent, who ought to remove an inefficient Teacher from his class, and to see that the instructions conveyed in the higher classes are conducted in a superior manner. I have often felt a regret at parting with my best scholars, and could not do it, had I not their good at heart. The children themselves have acknowledged, that they left the class with mingled feelings of joy and sorrow--joy at the idea of being promoted, and grief at parting with their old Teacher.
I consider that every different individual puts questions to the children in a different manner, thereby exercising their mental faculties; and also asks many questions which the former Teacher did not think of; besides, keeping the children in the same class, after they have made greater progress than the others, is injurious to the one or the other ; because, while you are giving instructions to the advanced ones, the others do not understand ; and while instructing the less-informed, the others gain no good, consequently much time is lost, which might have been obviated by a removal. The instructions we have given them, accompanied with prayer for God's blessing on the means used, we have reason to believe will never be lost upon them. Then again: children are sent from a lower class to make up for the lost ones, to whom we may prove similarly useful, and have an opportunity of doing good to a greater number of precious souls.
Yours, very sincerely,
WHEN OUGHT THE DOOR TO BE CLOSED?
Rev. Sir,-May I be allowed to offer a few remarks in reference to the question proposed in the “ Visitor” for June, “ When ought the door to be closed?" and if you think them at all serviceable in answering the question there proposed, will you allow those re, marks to appear in the pages of your practical monthly “ Visitor?"
I concur with a Sunday-school Teacher in Devon," with respect to the solemnity of praise as well as prayer, and also, as to the effects of not properly attending to the one as well as to the other ; but we must look at other circumstances, before we decide to close the school doors at the commencement of the singing.
Your correspondent mentions half-past nine o'clock, as the hour of commencement of the Sunday-school with which he is connected.