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urging upon teachers to seek for a more abundant outpouring of the Spirit in connection with their work.
Mr. COLLINS believed they were all prepared to admit that a considerable improvement had taken place in the Sunday schools of this country, both as regarded their organization, and the qualifications of the teachers engaged in them. But it was the opinion of some, that satisfactory results had not yet been realized, -results commensurate to the improved and enlarged machinery brought into operation ; and hence it was that the subject now submitted for discussion had been selected. It was a thoroughly practical subject, and ho should like in the first place that they should settle what they meant by religious influence. For his own part, he found so much vagueness whenever he conversed with friends upon the subject, that he felt it was desirable they should start by defining it more accurately than was usually done. He thought if they looked at the question in two aspects it would materially assist the inquiry. Let them ask first how much of the production of this influence belonged to God, and then how much of it belonged to themselves. If he were required to say what it was that peculiarly distinguished man from the brute creation, he should not be inclined to say reason ; for the mere untrained reason of man was far inferior to the instinct of the brute, which almost invariably led him right, while man untrained as invariably went wrong. He would rather describe the peculiar characteristic of man as the possession of the religious instinct, whereby he naturally, and under all circumstances, felt after the unseen. Let them see how this was developed. Wherever they went they found this constant searching after God manifested in the various forms of superstition and idolatry. The right training of this religious instinct belonged to man. The precise line of demarcation betwoen that which fell within his province and that which was the direct work of God, was, perhaps, as difficult to define as in scientific inquiry to settle the quadrature of the circle ; but there was a practical point, at which the one began and the other ended. In looking at the accounts given in Scripture of the miracles performed by Christ, they found that the lame man was told to rise up and walk, and the man with the withered limb to stretch forth his hand. And so with religious feeling ; sinful men were told to repent, to believe, and to pray. Therefore, in reference to all questions about human capability, there could be no doubt that when God called upon men to obey the gospel, they were bound to follow His commands. The subject put before them for consideration indicated that there was a religious influence, and the point was, how that influence was to be increased. Among the means proposed, prayer meetings and revival meetings had been named. He felt, whenever questions were put to him respecting children's prayer meetings, that he could not give downright answers to them. His own experience had made him rather afraid of such meetings ; but he believed that it was because proper means had not been perseveringly carried out. Then with regard to teachers' prayer meetings, he could only say that he considered the great fallacy upon the subject was, that they were not looked upon as a means to an end, and that frequently persons met together and enjoyed a sort of religious voluptuousness instead of working. If they could not both pray and work, let them pray at home and work abroad. A large amount of their want of success as teachers consisted in this, that they had too often left off work and gone to prayer, without having settled in their minds whet they had done anything on which they could satisfactorily invoke the divine blessing. He thought, too, that if they would only look more carefully and constantly at what their aim was in this undertaking, they would secure more practical religious influence. If every child in their schools and throughout the kingdom were converted to God, that was only a small part of their work. They had looked upon conversion as the whole object of their labours ; but something more was wanted : it was the bringing of the Christian character to the
highest degree of perfection of which it was capable ; and they must no longer be content when they had merely got the children in the church and left them there. He could not understand how it was that hundreds and thousands had been brought into church fellowship, of whose after career, as far as usefulness was concerned, they heard but little. If all these persons were thoroughly imbued with the Christian spirit, and went forth to convert the world with a thorough, downright, earnest, practical, abiding and unreserved determination to succeed, would they not soon see more pleasing results in the extension of religious influence than was now presented ? It was not enough that our children should be brought into the church ; when there they had a work to do, and that work was the development in themselves and others of a religious influence which would be practical, abiding, and extensive.
Mr. GOVER thought that, without going into the metaphysical part of the question, and without having anything to say in reference to the church, but confining their attention to their schools, there were two things which they would all agree were necessary,—the one, to get a better state of religious impression in the minds of the teachers; and the other, to extend that influence among their children and their parents. With regard to the teachers, he thought that they were admitted into the schools in a way that was not calculated to give them an impression of the importance of the work as a religious institution. Young people were frequently invited by friends to enter the school; and if they were pleased with the occupation, they remained. Ministers of the gospel were not admitted into their responsible and sacred office without having a charge laid upon them; and though he did not know that any public introduction would be deemed advisable in the case of a Sunday school teacher, he would suggest that it would be well for the pastor of the church, the superintendent, or some judicious friend, to introduce the teacher solemnly to his important work. If this were done, the ofhce would not be lightly taken up, nor, for secondary considerations, resigned. Then, if the pastors were more frequently to attend teachers' meetings, it would help to keep up in them a right view of their duties, and prevent their sinking down too much to the secularities of their work. Teachers' prayer meetings had hitherto been, to a great extent, failures, and it was rarely that the attendance at them bad boen regularly maintained. They were too formal in their character; the prayers were too long by three times ; and the interest, generally, was found to flag. He recommended that the engagements at such meetings should be diversified, and that not only portions of Scripturo, but suitably selected pieces from other books, such as James's “ Teacher's Guide," should be read on such occasions. In addition to these things, they wanted to exercise an influence over the children at home, as well as their parents. There was a great difficulty in this matter, but the importance of it was so great, that it demanded their very carnest consideration. He thought all present would be inclined frankly to acknowledge that hitherto the system of visiting scholars had been the exception, and not the rule. There must be something wrong in their plan, and he entertained the opinion that it would be well if they had, in connection with all the schools, regular trained visitors, upon whom this duty should be devolved. The churches would, no doubt, furnish such persons, and give them to the school. It might be urged that the objection to this would be, that it did not meet the great need, which was, that the teachers themselves should visit the scholars. Well, then, having a band of trained visitors, let the teachers of the class go with them. In conducting such visitations, a definite object should be kept in view, and he would suggest that the visitors should take with them the lessons on single leaves, converse with the parents upon the subject of those lessons, and urge them to talk with and thus impress their children's minds in reference to them.
Mr. COOPER, of Birmingham, said his own mind had been much engaged of late in the consideration of the subject to which the chairman had alluded, viz., the importance, in a national point of view, of maintaining the Sunday school as an institution for the religious education of the young ; and within the last few days he and his colleague bad had an interview with the parliamentary representative of their borough upon the subject. He would add, that he left that meeting with the deep conviction that, for the future religious instruction of the young, they must look mainly, if not entirely, to the Sunday schools of the land. The day schools were doing little, comparatively, in that direction, and he felt convinced they would have to do less. Mr. Meen had referred to the importance of early piety, and of their looking for manifestations of it. He (Mr. Cooper) was afraid there was a great deal of scepticism amongst teachers on this point. There were many, he believed, who had little faith in the realization of it, and who really did not seem to expect it. As to the value of scholars' prayer meetings, he was able to bear testimony from experience. He thought it was always desirable to have their teachers with them. In Birmingham, the teachers' prayer meetings were well attended ; not unfrequently from 150 to 200 met together at their monthly prayer meetings, and a deep interest was felt in them. He was glad that the subject of epistolary correspondence had been touched upon, as it was a matter to which, some years back, he had given some attention. He had always found that the teachers' letters were received in a kind spirit, and he was convinced it was one very powerful means of maintaining a religious influence over the elder children of their charge. Another means was that of the teacher meeting his class at home, where they could kneel together in prayer. He recently called upon a friend so engaged, and he left with the deep conviction of the value of such an opportunity. The great hindrance in the way of a systematic visitation of scholars was, that the teachers had great difficulty in finding the necessary time for the purpose; but, after all, there was no visitation so good as that of the teacher himself, who was sure to get a kind reception, and an attentive hearing. He strongly recommended the holding of parents' meetings. They had been held regularly, during the last seven or eight years, in Birmingham, and with the happiest effects. He recognized the importance of the superintendents of Sunday schools being duly qualified for their responsible undertaking, believing, as he did, that the character of the school very much depended upon the qualifications of its officers. And while on this point, he would suggest that the Committee of the Parent Society could render them great service by the publication of some works specially designed for superintendents of schools -
- Superintendent's Manual, ---pointing out what they ought to do, and how they ought to do it.
Mr. BUTCHER, of Bury, as the representative of a school which for some years past had yielded about twelve members to the church annually, said he had come to the conclusion that, in proportion to the religious influence which the church exerted, so would be the character and influence of Sunday schools. He thought the friends present must not go away with the idea of "getting up” prayer meetings and revivals, for it was only where there was a spontaneous outburst of religious feeling that prayer meetings could be expected to excite a wholesome and lasting influence. The duty of teachers was not only to seek the conversion of their scholars, but the training of all their powers for the work of God. Separate religious services for the children had been tried with good effect, and it had struck him whether they might not have children's commnnion services also, from which the youth who had thus publicly acknowledged themselves on the Lord's side, might be drafted off to the ordinary communion service of the adult church. Teachers' prayer meetings and parents' meetings had been held, and with the best results, in his locality.
Mr. C. REED had always been an advocate for separate services for the young, but he should deprecate most strongly the attempt to commence the holding of
children's communion services, either by the churches or the Sunday schools. He believed that there was a very large amount of youthful piety at the present day, In one town the church record had been taken during the past year, and it was found that the per-centage of youthful members had very much increased, as compared with five or ten years ago. He believed that this would be found to be the case in many other places, some pleasing instances of which had come to his own knowledge, and therefore they ought not to be discouraged with the present aspect of their work. The importance of the question before them to-day lay in this,--that they had never as yet considered the subject of the duty of the Sunday school teacher out of the school, but only of what he ought to do in the school, and with his class. But the first-named duty was 'as important, if not more so, as the last. Thcir connection with their children hitherto had been more of the character of an acquaintance, or at best a friendship ; whereas it ought to assume the features of a relationship, if their influence was to be of the highest kind. With regard to the visitation of scholars, there could be no doubt that it was the teacher's duty to visit the parents and children at home. But he was fearful that some teachers were not competent to the work. Everything which interested the child-his home, his companions, his parents, bis reading books, his workshop,---everything with which he came in contact during the week, should be familiar to the mind of his teacher, because an acquaintance with these things brought the teacher into contact with tho influences which most affected the child for good or evil, and enabled him to adapt his instructions accordingly. Where systematic, regular home visitation had been conducted, he knew that lasting good had followed ; that the teachers themselves had been received with kindness, and treated with respect ; and the parents had begun to regard religion with very different feelings to what they had done before. The same thing might be said in reference to correspondence, which he believed was carried on extensively in some schools. Sunday school teachers ought to feel that they had a pastorate in their classes, and that their concern for, and responsibility in, the child, did not close when he was removed from the class. He wanted the influence of the Sunday school to be as stated, in the topic of conversation, "continuous."
Mr. MORGAN, of Buckingham, spoke of conversion as the great aim of the Sunday school teacher's labours. The means at the disposal of the teacher were precept and example, and he pointed out the importance of adapting the instruction given in the school to the sphere of action in which the children were called to movo.
Mr. COOPER, of Cambridge, said some people professed to believe that the work of the Sunday school was limited, and that its utility or existence would last only for a certain time. He believed, on the other hand, that it was a "continuous” work, --that it was an agency well adapted to lay hold of the youthful mind, and to imbue it with religious truth ; and he conceived that they had altogether mistakon its mission, or had failed to accommodate themselves to the circumstances of the times, or the wants of the age, if that agency came to be generally regarded as obsolete. They were not called upon in any way to interfere with, or supersede, parental discipline and teaching, but where these were totally noglected, to offer auxiliary aid in such case, and to supply the only means which could be obtained of religious training. He did not sympathize with the suggestion offered in reforence to juvenile communion services, and he would deplore any step which appeared to draw a distinction between the school and the church. In his neighbourhood, efforts had been made to carry on the instruction of the children out of the school, and to keep. up opistolary correspondence, and both classes of effort had been attended with success.
Rev. James IngLis, of Glasgow, said a great deal had been urged in Sunday schools about the art of teaching, -the simple art of presenting truth, in a certain way, to the scholars' minds,—which was all very valuable, but he had very frequently noticed among teachers that, after acquiring the art, they imagined that no more was to be done ; and instead of giving the cultivation of their minds a prominent place in their occupations, forbore to read carefully, or to think closely, even upon the subject lessons for their classes. The consequence was, that though a stranger going into their classes would think such teachers were models of adroitness, from the facility with which they used the art they had acquired, he would, if he attended those classes for a few times, find a great meagreness in the quality of the teaching. Therefore, as a practical question, how to increase the efficiency of the Sunday school ? he would say, there was nothing more important than that teachers should set seriously to work to think ; that they should not read superficial works, but the very best books published, not simply on religion, but on every other subject, so that they might acquire a mental stamina, which would fit them for the more efficient discharge of their important duties. But there was another matter of far more importance than intellectual qualifications, and that was the temperature—the spiritual temperature-of the teacher's own mind. He believed it sometimes happened that the intellectual power and the moral strength of the teacher existed in inverse ratio ; and that a teacher with feeble intellectual power possessed so extraordinary a development of spiritual life, that in all that he undertook for God, he seemed to do good ; while men of much higher intelligence, though they might produce skilful scholars, had but few fruits. It had been his privilege lately to have intercourse with a gentleman in Scotland who had been a principal agent in the revivals there,
,-a man of considerable mind, and who was converted to God at forty-eight years of age. Though possessing, as he said, considerable powers of mind, they were undisciplined, and his sermons, though sound and good, were not superior to what were heard in most pulpits ; but the secret of his success was his intense- it might almost be said, his red-hot earnestness. He scarcely ever addressed an audience, either in town or country, whether educated or unlearned, whether among the higher classes of society, or amongst its drogs, without seeing souls converted. In private, his intercourse with friends or strangers was of precisely the same quality. He had ono ruling idea and passion in his heart—that of saving souls,-and it was the intense earnestness of that man's life that made him so successful in the work. He (Mr. Inglis) therefore pressed this point upon the attention of teachers, as the principal thing of all in connection with their works. They could not all be clever ; they had not all got great intellectual powers, or the means of cultivating their intellectual powers, such as they were, but they had all the means of going to a throne of grace, of living heavenly, devoted, earnest lives, for Christ Jesus. A great deal had been said with regard to correspondence. Many years ago he had a class of girls, one of whom was very serious and attentive. She left the school for service, and he had no means of communicating with her. It so happened, that he accidentally learned that she had given up all religious ideas and feelings. He corresponded with her, and in her reply she made use of a most extraordinary expression,-“When I attended your class,” she said, "I loved the sabbath, the Bible, the Sunday school, and prayer; but I have given them all up, and now I am going to hell, --and I don't care!” This expression made him feel that she did care, and he sat down and wrote her as earnest a letter as he could pen. He heard no more of her for some time. The first sermon that he preached, he saw her before him, but he had no communication further with her, until he heard she had applied for admission to the church. She then told him his letter was not the means of her conversion ; but after she had read it she laid it open in her trunk, so that whenever she got anything out of it, it lay before her as a