Sabbath School and Bible Teaching Management of the School
Business of the school.
time of meeting. This will depend on the convenience of teachers and
scholars. In England and Ireland, it is usual to meet about half-past-
nine o'clock in the morning, for one hour and a half, afterwards take
the children to forenoon service, and then meet again for another hour
and a half, or more, at two. Few schools in Scotland meet more than once
Duration of meeting. Where reading is not taught, about an hour and a
half is enough for one meeting. When children are kept very long, they
grow weary and dull; and to associate dulness with religion, is to make
the one suggest the other. When the mind becomes fatigued, it will not
receive much more instruction. You may put a certain quantity of salt
into .water, and have it all dissolved, but after a given point, the
salt will fall to the bottom ) so with a child and instruction. Those go
to the other extreme who meet only for one hour. Cases are not rare
where the children do not remain together above
three quarters of an hour. Such schools are
scarcely worthy of the name ; the amount of teaching must be very
insignificant. Before the devotional exercises and the tasks committed
to memory are gone over, it is nearly time for dismissing. We have known
instances in which the teacher was stopped by the signal for closing the
school while the children were reading their Bible lesson, before one
word of instruction from it had been given. We should have no sham
schools; let the work be done heartily, and to purpose.
Praise. The Sabbath-school should be opened and closed with praise and
prayer; these should on no account be dispensed with, even in disorderly
schools. Children are seldom so serious at any part of the lessons, as
during the devotional exercises, when intelligently conducted. The hymn
sung should be short, and of such a nature that children can understand
it easily. The tunes which children sing may either be lively or
plaintive, but they should always be simple, and, though serious, not
heavy ; a child will sing a tune like French, or Old Hundredth, in a
very spiritless manner, compared with the life which he throws into a
tune like "The Happy Land." Tunes that are too noisy and rapid are
inconsistent with the
sentiment of praise. Softness and sweetness
are indispensable to good singing, though too seldom attended to by
Sacred music should receive more attention than has been bestowed upon
it. The singing in many of our Sabbath-schools and congregations is very
inferior, and is little calculated to aid the spirit of devotion. A
week-evening class for practising music should be held during a few
months every year. The children will need little solicitation to make
them attend, and recent experiments have proved that almost every child
is capable of being taught to sing. When the children of a school have
once been well trained, it is not difficult to maintain the quality of
the singing, as the new scholars will catch the spirit of the rest.
Prayer. There are several errors committed in the prayers common in
Sabbath-schools. They are too long.— we have heard them more than ten
minutes in length; they are too
learned, being couched in technical and
theological language; and they have often little connexion with the
Sabbath-school. Prayer is made for the minister and congregation, for
the sick and all who were absent from church, for the queen and royal
family, and all magistrates, for ministers and missionaries, of every
denomination, witli a few words at the close about the business of the
day; in fact, we have the same "unwritten liturgy" which is in use on
all occasions, public or private. We believe that one reason why persons
have to complain of wandering minds in prayer, is from being accustomed
in childhood to prayers which they could not understand, and therefore
never tried to follow. A habit was thus formed, which it cost years of
painful struggle to overcome. The prayers of a Sabbath-school should be
three minutes long j simple in language,
such as all may join in; and they should be strictly confined to the
exercises of the day; in short, they should be children's and
Sabbath-school prayers. If we wish to pray long, let us do it at home.
Wherever a teacher wants fluency in prayer, he should carefully ponder
over his subjects beforehand.
Lessons. When the opening services have been concluded, the first
exercise should consist of the repetition of the tasks committed to
memory. The children will not give attention to the remarks of the
teacher till their memories have been disburdened of their load. These
tasks should not occupy very much time, as they are subordinate in
importance to the Bible lesson.
hour for commencing the Bible lesson (which is the next exercise) ought
to be the same in all the classes, and may be publicly intimated by the
superintendent. The ringing of a small bell is a common signal. This
intimation secures a proper regard for the Bible lesson, which, for want
of such care, frequently obtains inadequate attention.
the scholars of one class ought to have the same lesson. It will
scarcely be believed that it is still a common thing in some places for
a number of children, passing under the name of a class, to be divided
into parties of one, two, or three, having each a totally different
lesson. They have each a different psalm, a different catechism, a
different doctrine to prove, and, it may be, a different Bible lesson to
read. A system so contrary to common sense could not exist without great
is advantageous to give all the children in the school the same Bible
lesson. Various schemes of lessons for schools have been published,
which may be used with profit.
The last exercise, previous to the closing hymn or prayer, is either a
general address or an examination of the school, or a combination of the
two. The subject is usually taken from the lesson of the day.
examination, when well conducted, is useful in testing the knowledge of
the different classes; but it has rarely interest enough to engage a
large body of children at once. We doubt if a general examination has
the ear of many more children at a time than one of the private teachers
has when catechising his own class. When a question is asked and not
answered, the pause, from the large number who have been unable to
reply, is felt to be a painful one; and when the question is properly
met, the answer is not heard distinctly enough to enable the rest to
understand it. For these reasons, the interest in a public examination
soon flags unless interspersed with short addresses.
address is more valuable because more engaging. A lively speaker may
have great power over his youthful audience. The address, if arising out
of the lessons of the day, is directed to minds prepared for receiving
it by previous instruction; and it supplies the chief deficiency in
class teaching—its want of
passion; for class teaching, though
invaluable as a means of instruction, and though it gives scope for a
large amount of quiet devotional earnestness, does not allow of very
animated or stirring-appeal.
addresses are not too frequent, or too long continued— if they are mixed
with examination, and possess intrinsic merit—they are very beneficial.
We are not prepared to recommend a weekly address in all schools. The
form should not be kept up when perhaps not one of the teachers is able
to reach the minds of his youthful audience : the benefit of the
scholars — not some fanciful scheme of excellence—is to regulate us in
all our lessons and arrangements.
missionary society should be connected with every Sabbath-school.
Nothing expands the heart so much as doing good, and the habit of
contributing when young is excellent training for future usefulness.
Some of our home missionary schools collect very liberally. The children
should be strictly prohibited from indiscriminate begging for
The dismission of the scholars. When the exercises of the day have been
concluded, the children should be sent away in a very orderly manner.
The classes nearest the door ought to rise first, and walk out
leisurely, and those farthest in should not be permitted to rise till
the signal is given by the superintendent. It is most unseemly to see
the children with their bonnets in their hands waiting impatiently for
the concluding words of the prayer, and, the moment that the speaker has
pronounced the " Amen," to behold them rushing tumultuously out of
school. There should be strict discipline enforced upon all the
scholars, that they may leave the room with the reverence befitting the
Sabbath-day and a religious school.
same reverent demeanour should be observed during praise and prayer. The
children should be taught to keep their psalm or hymn books open till
they have sung the last word of the last line, and to keep their eyes
closed and their heads bent for a moment after the teacher has concluded
the prayer. Some congregations and children are quite noted for their
neglect of these proprieties. Let us train the rising race to more
reverent manners, for reverent manners are no unimportant aid to
bell is useful in a school. It may be rung five minutes before the close
of the lessons, and again when the lessons are to be concluded, and for
all signals in which the children have a common interest. Such minute
arrangements are not to be despised when they tend to the discipline of
the school; they are like ruling to paper, which enables us to write
Every school should be provided with a set of books for recording the
names of the scholars and teachers, and the general business of the
The General Register. The object of this book is to preserve a history
of the school. There should be three divisions in it. (1.) One division
for entering the names of the teachers, and the date of their joining
the school and leaving it. (2.) A division for entering the names of the
scholars in a similar manner. When the teacher or scholar leaves school,
there should be an entry made of the reason assigned for leaving. These
divisions should be ruled and kept in this manner :—
Admitted. I Name and Address. I Age. I Class. || Left. I Remarks.
A division for making an annual minute of the year's proceedings. This
should contain the date at which the school was first opened, and the
number of teachers and scholars when it was commenced ; the names of the
books that have been used in the classes from time to time; the number
of library volumes lent out during the year; the number of teachers and
scholars who have attended school during the year; the number of those
who have joined or left it; and the names of those who have died. How
interesting would such a record prove at the end of a few years !
Minute-Book. This book is for the purpose of keeping a weekly account of
the general attendance of teachers and scholars. The following is the
mode in which it is kept for one month :—
means of this register, the number of classes in the school can be
ascertained at once — the attendance of teachers—the number of scholars
on the roll, and their attendance—and the number of those who have been
admitted and who have left during the month. The whole of the entries
will not occupy above two or three minutes, unless the school is very
large. There are various modifications of this plan, which it is
unnecessary to notice here.
The Teacher's Roll-Book. Every teacher should mark the attendance of his
own scholars. We prefer this method to its being done by the
superintendent, as it makes the teachers feel their responsibility. We
lay no stress, however, upon the particular mode of keeping the
roll-books of the school, if they are well kept. The following is a
following minute directions should be attended to : —1. The teacher's
name and address, with the number of his class, ought to be entered in
the beginning of the roll-book. 2. The full name and address of the
scholars ought to be entered, and altered when a scholar changes his
residence. 3. The entry should be in
ink, not in pencil.
The attendance should be marked while in the school;— without accuracy
and regularity, a roll-book is useless.
When a scholar is absent, the cause of absence ought to be filled in,
opposite his name. 6. On a scholar leaving school, the cause of his
leaving should be marked, and the place to which he is gone. Lastly, The
roll-book ought to be kept
neatly; whatever is worth doing is worth
doing well. By carrying out these rules, the
class roll-book will be a history of the
classes, as the general register is a history of the school.
Though the books we have mentioned are a necessary part of the furniture
of a school, many superintendents want them all. Many could not inform
us when their schools commenced, and what has been their history. Some
do not preserve even one year's transactions, and could not tell us,
without considerable trouble, the number of the classes, the names of
the teachers, or the average attendance. We have known whole towns where
the Sabbath-school statistics had to be guessed at, or where they could
not be taken at all, from want of an account being kept. No school will
ever be in a very efficient state where there is not a well-kept set of
Arrangement and Classification.
due arrangement and classification of the scholars is of great
importance to the proper management of the school.
The seats. The seats should be made very short, so as to hold four
scholars, and they should be arranged as three sides of a square, the
teacher occupying the fourth side on a stool. The teacher's seat may be
made like a little box, capable of holding the books or bibles of the
class. There should be a shelf below the seats for the children's
bonnets; seats ought all to have backs, otherwise the children in a
little while become restless and weary.
strongly recommend this mode of arranging the classes wherever it is
practicable. It is the only arrangement by which the teacher can have
the entire command of his class. Instead of requiring to travel
backwards and forwards from one end of his class to the other, as when
the children are seated in a line (a very bad disposition of them), he
never needs to change his position; and instead of having the attention
of only one or two scholars at once, he is equally well seen and heard
by the whole.
Children of both sexes should meet together in the same school. We have
not seen any evil resulting from the boys and girls meeting together. We
do not know how such a Mohammedan custom as the separation of the sexes
should have been introduced. We have seen boys and girls, even in the
same class, assorting very well, and acting as a mutual stimulus to each
Indeed, a school of boys only, or girls only, is incomplete. A
superintendent who has only girls to address, is apt to become
sentimental; if he has boys alone, he may become too stern. Certain
parts of discipline cannot be so well carried out by a female teacher as
by a male; and we have the authority of those who have seen much of both
systems for saying, that the teaching of a girls' school is in great
danger of becoming tame. We do not object either to male or female
teachers for either boys or girls; matters of this kind usually arrange
The scholars should be classified according to their age and education.
Age alone is not a sufficient ground of
classification, for talents and education make a wide difference between
children of the same age ; nor is
education alone a sufficient standard; for a
child of twelve who has been neglected, will not patiently take a place
beside a child of six or seven who has been well instructed. Both
elements should be taken into consideration in classifying the scholars.
order to carry out a proper system of classification, the superintendent
must have absolute power to place a new scholar wherever he thinks
proper. The scholars should not be allowed to bring a younger brother or
sister, or a companion, into the same class with them; nor should
strangers be permitted to attach themselves to any teacher for whom they
take a fancy.
is also necessary to classification that the superintendent shall have
such an acquaintance with the standing of each class as may enable him
to determine at once where to place the new scholar. It may be well,
however, at the end of a month's probation, to inquire if he suits his
classmates, so that, if he has been placed in too high or too low a
class, the error may be rectified.
new scholar should be received with great kindness both by
superintendent and teacher. It may be his first entrance into a school
he may have straggled in by chance from the midst of wicked companions;
he may have had a careless teacher in the school he has left, and may be
taught by his reception, that in his new school every one is sincere and
earnest or he may have had a very pious teacher whom he was forced to
leave, and may behold the same love in the new teacher to whom he is
introduced;—but, whatever be his circumstances, his entrance may be the
turning point of his life, and he should be welcomed to the school with
the greatest cordiality. On the introduction of a new scholar, no matter
what is the subject of lesson, his teacher should set the way of
salvation through Christ explicitly before him, that, if he should never
return, he may have heard for once in his life " the faithful saying,
Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners."
proper classification of the scholars is a matter of primary importance.
A perfect classification is indeed impossible, but an approximation may
be made sufficient for all practical purposes; yet few parts of the
arrangement of a school are less attended to. We have seen one class
contain children ranging from the age of five to fifteen— their
acquirements being as diversified as their ages; the youngest could not
read the alphabet, and the oldest was very intelligent. Nor is this a
solitary case. A large number of teachers have two or three classes
under the name of one, and are obliged to teach the classes as much
apart as if they sat on different seats; anything better fitted to
insure failure cannot be imagined.
is desirable to have a periodical revision of the classes, that those
children who have outstripped their fellows, or who may have fallen
behind them, may be placed among classmates more equally matched.
we object very decidedly to the plan of removing children from class to
class as they advance. When a scholar is found in advance of his
teacher, he should be removed at once to a higher class; but if the
teacher is competent for his duties, we think that the longer the
scholar is under him the better. A most important part of the education
of the children is the affection excited for their teachers, and this
should not be trifled with as it is when a yearly change is made. When
the children are somewhat advanced, one removal, especially of girls
from a female teacher to a male teacher, is highly proper, but more in
ordinary cases we do not recommend. It is a most interesting sight to
witness a class'who entered as ignorant little boys or girls, gradually
advancing under their teacher's care, till they become the senior class
of the school. How closely must the better portion of them have attached
themselves to their teacher, and how many sacred recollections must they
have of his earnest instructions !
will be found occasionally, that a teacher and a scholar, though
good-natured enough when apart, do not agree when placed together; they
do not sort. It is not easy to say where the blame lies in such cases;
the two seem like charcoal and saltpetre, very innocent in themselves,
but very explosive in combination. These cases may be noticed, and the
knot of dull children should not be allowed to sit together in a class,
but be intermixed with those whose minds are sharper. Unruly children
should be placed where they may be most directly under the teacher's
younger classes should be ranged near the superintendent's desk, so that
they may be under his command.
of the classes is to be regulated by the ability of the teacher, and the
age or dispositions of the scholars. An infant and a senior class may be
pretty numerous, and where there is good order and accommodation, the
number may be greater than with ill-trained children and defective
accommodation. Perhaps ten scholars in ordinary cases are enough.
teacher should have more scholars than he can thoroughly manage, and
every teacher should have his hands quite full. If a teacher cannot
teach and keep in order ten scholars, let him try eight, or six, or four
; but it is a great waste of power, to commit only four or six children
to the care of a teacher who can as easily manage a dozen. The present
staff of teachers, we are persuaded, could instruct a great many more
than they now teach, were care taken to fill up vacancies as they occur,
and rather to run two classes into one, and seek scholars for a new
class, than allow two teachers to trifle their time with three or four
spiritless scholars each.
principal objection to a large class (apart from the difficulty of
teaching it) is, that the teacher cannot easily find time to interest
himself about the members of it individually. Now a class should never
be so large as to prevent his visiting all absentees, looking after the
sick, and acquiring a personal acquaintance with each individual.
The size of the school can only be determined by circumstances. Where a
sufficient number of children can be got, we should prefer a school of
one or two hundred to the same number in different schools.
Classification can be better carried out; there is more life in such a
school; the sympathy of numbers is greater; and a good superintendent
influences a wider sphere ; the children themselves prefer a large
school, and the funds will generally be in a better condition, from the
school occupying a larger space in the public eye.
Order is said to be heaven's first law; it is among the last recognised
in our Sabbath-schools. Very few teachers seem aware of its importance;
yet to teach amid tumult or inattention, is to sow seed in a whirlwind.
Among the more unruly children, the height to which disorder rises
occasionally, almost passes belief. We do not say that the blame lies
entirely with the teacher, for bad children have such a resolute spirit
of evil in them, and are so ingeniously mischievous, that they will
occasionally baffle the most experienced teacher; they often take
intermittent fits of wickedness, and for a week or two are nearly
ungovernable; there is then an interval of comparative quiet, till the
mischief having accumulated a second time, it breaks out, and there is
another season of anarchy. They who are thus tried need great patience
and prayer. We have known some scholars, at a given signal, overturn the
seat on which they were placed, and send the whole children rolling
delighted on the floor ; we have known others who agreed to imitate
different trades ; one boy would hammer like a smith, another draw up
his arm as if he were sewing like a tailor, and another imitate a
shoemaker. Putting out the gas is a favourite trick in some schools; and
a school has been known to rise
en masse, and form a ring round two boys who
were fighting. A teacher, therefore, who has sxich wild scholars, must
not be hastily blamed if the reins should sometimes slip from his hands.
in schools far removed in character from the specimens above noticed
there is a great amount of disorder, for which teachers cannot be so
easily excused. We have wondered sometimes where a teacher puts his eyes
and ears when he comes to school. His children may be talking together,
but he does not hear it; they may be reading, or looking with lack-lustre
eye to the ceiling, but he does not see it. Out of ten scholars he has
perhaps only one auditor j yet he is quite satisfied, as if he " fit
audience finds, though few and of all that the rest are doing he is
singularly oblivious. One boy falls asleep, and enjoys his repose for
several minutes without interruption; and another leaves the class
altogether for a time, and on his return is received as if the teacher
was unaware of his having been absent. Even in quiet and well-ordered
schools, attention is the exception. Very few teachers have the
attention of above the
fourth of their scholars at a time, or seem
to take any means to secure it. A great deal of the best teaching is
wasted through this neglect. The children are taught only when addressed
individually, instead of having the benefit of an hour or an hour and a
half's instruction. A certain amount of heedlessness may be calculated
on, but it may be very much lessened by proper care.
Order is not something which requires to be superinduced upon a school;
it should be the natural result of the arrangements for instruction. If
all the teachers and scholars came at the appointed hour, and the
lessons and exercises were made sufficiently interesting, order would
follow as a matter of course. But since neither teachers nor scholars
fulfil their duty entirely, other means to secure order must be resorted
Punctuality on the part of superintendent, teachers, and scholars, is
the first point of order. Be punctual yourselves, and enforce
punctuality on your scholars. It a teacher takes five minutes to
himself, the scholars will take ten. If ten o'clock or four o'clock is
the time appointed for opening the school, let it be opened as the clock
strikes the hour. The same punctuality must be observed in closing. The
children will become very restless whenever the school hour is exceeded.
Punctuality, as its name implies, is a very small matter ; but it is not
for that reason unimportant. It is like the lynch-pin of a wheel— very
small, but indispensable.
Supposing the classes comfortably seated and well assorted (two
preliminaries all but indispensable), keep your eye on the class during
the whole time of meeting, and check the very first appearance of
misbehaviour. The scholars should be made to feel that they are under
the most vigilant care, and that they cannot look down to their hooks,
or smile to a companion, or give a pinch with their fingers, which their
teacher does not mark. This feeling will be more influential in
preventing improprieties than a world of admonitions; indeed, constant
fault-finding is very injurious.
Have no unexecuted threats. How common is a scene like the following:—A
teacher addresses a boy who is misbehaving.—"Sit still, John; if you do
that again, I will put you out." In a few minutes the offence is
repeated. "Are you really doing that again? I told you I would put you
out." The boy, however, is allowed to keep his place. Again he renews
his offence. The teacher pauses, looks steadily at his refractory
scholar for a minute or two, and holding up his hand in mingled
astonishment and vexation, exclaims, "Is it really possible, after I
have spoken so plainly? I
will execute my threat!" Yet all the while
the boy knows that he is quite safe from expulsion. Now, never give a
child occasion to doubt your word; never promise what you do not perform
it is not honest, and it teaches your scholars to despise you. If they
have trifled with your authority once, make them feel it shall be the
we should not be rash in our threats. Expulsion ought to be a last
resort, since the worse a person is he has the more need to be at a
Sabbath-school. It may not be amiss to remind teachers not to make
threats they are unable to execute. We have known a teacher say, "I will
put you out," and, when he attempted
It is very improper to attempt to put down disorder by threatening the
offenders with everlasting punishment. It only brings that awful
doctrine into contempt. The children at such a time hear in it only the
voice of an irritated teacher.
The teachers should be very firm and decided with their scholars, and
teach them from the first which is to he master. " My boy," said a
teacher to an unruly scholar who had recently joined his class, "if you
come hither to be taught, I will teach you; but if you are come to be
master, you are come to a wrong place." Too much has been said about the
influence of love over disorderly children. No doubt its influence is
very great; no teacher will succeed without it; his love must be a love
which many waters cannot quench nor the floods drown. But love may be
overrated. Few who have the charge of hardy, stirring boys, or
quickwitted, mischievous girls, will say that nothing but love is
required to govern them. We must be
firm as well as loving, and, if need be,
stern. The conscience of an ill-disposed
child will teach him that this firmness is just; and therein lies its
power. A teacher is the
master of his class, not their equal; and
though he may be full of love for them, and manifest his love on all
suitable occasions, he should shew that he has authority over his
scholars—that he does not entreat or beseech, but commands them, and
that whatever he says must be done. We are no advocate for a harsh,
unsympathising government; nothing can be more foreign to the sacred
character of the Sabbath-school. We would only qualify the
indiscriminate praise that has been heaped upon love, and remind
decision are equally necessary to
One of the most effectual means of preserving good order, and dealing
with a refractory pupil, is to visit him at home, and, while he is
removed from the temptations of the school, to speak very plainly but
very kindly of his evil conduct. Many have been won by such means who
seemed utterly irreclaimable.
Lastly, The best way to preserve order is
to teach well. It is for want of sufficient
interest in the lesson that children have attention to spare for other
things. Let us give them occupation, and make our instructions more
attractive than anything else they see, and we shall have a quiet
is in commencing a school that the teacher has the greatest difficulty
in procuring order. When it is once established, it is easy to preserve
it. A child in a good school has not merely the rule of the
superintendent or the command of his teacher to resist when he is
disobedient—he has the whole habits and sympathies of the school against
him; and is kept in his right place by a pressure as gentle and
insensible, but as real, as the pressure of the air. He comes in and
goes away without noise, rises or sits down at the word of the teacher,
preserves a devout attitude in prayer and an orderly appearance at his
lessons, because all others around him do the same. To the establishment
of thorough order and discipline, therefore, as indispensable requisites
to the proper working of all the other parts of a school, one of the
first efforts of superintendents and teachers should be directed.
custom of bestowing annual prizes on the best Sabbath-scholars is
falling into deserved disrepute. There is at least an appearance of
propriety in giving prizes to those who excel in reading, writing, or
arithmetic, in a week-day school, for to learn these branches the
children are sent to school, and the most proficient may be supposed to
be the most diligent; but in a Sabbath-school, the best scholar is not
he who has the best memory, or the quickest intellect, or who has been
most diligent and regular ; but, if we judge him by the end for which a
Sabbath-school is instituted, the best scholar is he who is the
humblest, most prayerful, obedient, and holy. Now, as prizes cannot be
given for these Christian graces, to bestow a prize upon mere
proficiency is to Ramsay, by the reward, what we have been saying
through thewholeyear's lessons, and to teach, in the most
practical manner, that the scholar whom we place highest is not the best
Christian, but the best learner.
however, a modified system of rewards can be devised, which will
encourage attendance and proficiency, without exciting the envy of other
children, or obscuring the main design of religious instruction, it is
not to be hastily rejected because it bears the name of a reward. In
schools where reading is taught, the necessity of a stimulus to regular
attendance is not much felt, as both parents and children soon learn to
appreciate the advantage of being able to read; but in schools which
confine themselves to religious instruction, there is always a
considerable proportion who will be induced by a very slight temptation
to absent themselves. In all schools, also, there is a certain number
whom it is very difficult to induce to commit a lesson to memory, even
though the lesson he made ever so short or easy. We think the following
plan, which is in operation in several schools, might be useful in such
plan is, 1st, To bestow a ticket for
attendance, the ticket being withheld if the
scholar comes too late to school. 2d, To bestow another ticket for
accurate repetition of tasks. 3d, These
tickets are returned monthly or quarterly to the teacher, who takes a
note of their number. 4th, A certain number, say fifty or a hundred,
entitles the scholar to a book, in value, say sixpence or a shilling. If
a scholar chooses, he may defer applying for his book until he has
gathered double or treble the number of tickets, when he receives a book
of corresponding value.
benefits of this plan are—1st, It makes the attendance of the children
more regular, and encourages them to greater diligence. 2d, The stimulus
which it supplies is not confined to the quickest scholar, but takes
effect upon the whole class j so that a slow child may, by diligence,
have as many tickets as his more talented neighbours. 3d, The stimulus
operates at all times, instead of for a few weeks merely before the
distribution of the prizes. 4th, There is no room for envy, for the
child forfeits his ticket, not because others are better than he, but
because of his own carelessness. 5 th, It does not interfere with the
religious character of the school. A prize, won by competition, may
teach a child to overvalue mere learning ; but a gift or testimonial for
diligence and attention merely teaches him their true value.
plan noticed above, or any similar plan, will not succeed unless all its
provisions are rigidly enforced. If late attendance, or a lesson
imperfectly committed, obtain a ticket contrary to express rules, the
sooner the plan is abandoned the better.
are, however, far from thinking that the bestowal of rewards, according
to this modified system, is indispensable, or even in all cases
advantageous ; it is rather to be permitted than recommended; very good
teachers will not require it; it is in danger of being abused, and
entails a heavy expense upon the school.
110 law can be enforced without a penalty for disobedience, even the
laws of the Sabbath-school, simple as they are, require to be protected
by suitable sanctions; happily it is not requisite that these shall be
either numerous or severe. Reproof for lesser offences, and expulsion
for more serious offences, are all that are needed to maintain authority
in a Sabbath-school.
Reproof. The more watchful that a teacher is, and the more interest he
takes in his scholars, he will have the less occasion to reprove them;
but in the most favourable circumstances, the inconstancy and perversity
of childhood will betray it into error. Smiles and signals interchanged,
whispering, petty acts of annoyance, and even occasional outbreaks, are
common enough, and require the corrective hand of the teacher. We refer
our readers to what we have said on preserving order in school, for some
suggestions on the subject; we add here one or two observations on
Let the reproof be proportioned to the offence. Distinguish between
heedlessness and wickedness; never give factitious importance to
trifling faults by saying too much about them. A speck falling on a
sheet of white paper may be blown away by a breath and leave no stain ;
brush it off roughly, and it will be engrained into the paper.
Never charge a child a second time with faults which have been pardoned
or punished ; it is unjust, and will steel him against the most deserved
Never reprove in anger. The most rigid restraint should be placed upon
the natural feelings of anger or impatience at the children's dulness
and perversity; indeed, we should never reprove them on account of
natural dulness or of unavoidable ignorance. We must occupy a high
position before the scholars, and shew them that we are deeply in
earnest; so that we may conquer their ignorance by diligence, their
waywardness by patience, and their indifference by love.
Appeals to the superintendent should be rare, and only when the teacher
after long trial has found himself unable to cope with his scholar's
refractory temper. The more rarely that a public rebuke is administered,
it will be the more dreaded.
a public reproof is thought to be necessaiy, it should be administered
with all solemnity. The nature of the offence should be briefly stated,
in order to secure the approbation of the children to the rebuke; for,
if the culprit imagines that he has the sympathy of his schoolfellows
with him, he will brave almost every punishment; but the most obdurate
will give way if he stand alone.
Expulsion. This is the highest punishment allowable in a Sabbath-school,
and should not be inflicted except in extreme cases. We believe that
expulsion is too frequently resorted to. The teacher is apt to consult
his present comfort in ridding himself of a troublesome scholar, more
than the interests of the scholar or the school.
Expulsion should not be resorted to except in cases of determined
insubordination, and till everything has been tried to reclaim the
culprit. The class of offences for which it is made the penalty will
depend upon the class of children of which the school is composed. If
the children are well educated, or well behaved, such an offence as
swearing, or improper language, when repeated and persevered in, may
perhaps constitute a sufficient reason for expulsion ; but if the school
is a missionary school, where the greater portion of the children are in
the habit of hearing or using bad language, as the evil done is less,
the penalty must be less.
Expulsion should be a
public act, and should not be left to the
caprice of individual teachers. There is nothing more offensive than to
have a school disturbed, first by the angry tones of an irritated
teacher, and then by his dragging by the collar a boy, whose face is
distorted with passion, while he is thrust into the street, and the door
shut against him. Perhaps three public reproofs should be administered
before expulsion is resorted to, with a warning at the last reproof,
that expulsion would be the penalty for the next offence. If the
intervals between the offences were very wide, we should allow one or
two more trials. When expulsion is finally necessary,
criminal should be again publicly rebuked, and be told to leave the
school. It will be appropriate to the character of the school that the
offender shall be remembered in prayer.
Exclusion for non-attendance is another mode of punishment. We think
that a scholar should not be cut off though he has been absent for two
or three Sabbaths without a sufficient reason, until all proper means
have been tried, and found ineffectual, to secure his attendance. Such
summary exclusion will be a bribe to an indolent teacher, it will effect
nothing as an example, and we must not forget that the school is for the
evil rather than for the good.
is a third mode of punishment sometimes to be found in our
Sabbath-schools. For this Ave are no advocate, simply because it is
unnecessary. In families, we believe that corporal punishment is
frequently demanded, and, we might say, indispensable. That it is
sometimes inflicted with cruelty, and in anger, is true, and
inexcusable, but the remedy lies not in abandoning it, but in
administering it with moderation. Most of the substitutes that have been
proposed are for parents in easy circumstances, who have rooms to
confine the culprits in, and time to bestow in dealing with them. But
what are those to do who have but one room, who are toiling all the day,
and who have no leisure for lengthened admonition? And how shall they
withhold a meal from their rebellious child, whose daily meals are
scanty enough already? Nothing but personal castigation can avail in
Sabbath-schools, however, the same necessity does not exist. The
teachers are there for the exclusive purpose of watching and educating
their scholars; they have small classes which it is possible to keep in
good order; the fact that they are teaching religion makes a reproof
come with doublepower; and if
the teacher's personal influence is insufficient, a public rebuke in
presence of the whole school is what few are hardy enough to encounter a
second time. Indeed, in schools where the children are very rough and
untutored, blows are the worst of all ways of influencing them, as they
are so used to them at home; and, though you may heat a child into
silence, you will never beat him iuto attention. We would strongly
advise our friends who have used the rod, to leave it at home for the
future, and never strike any of their scholars with a clenched fist, an
open palm, or a Bible. We do not remember of once seeing a blow given in
a Sabbath-school in a right spirit.
teachers recommend, as a substitute for the rod, a pretty rough shake by
the collar or shoulder. It has the effect of paralysing the spirit of
mischief, without exasperating the scholar.
well-selected library is an indispensable appendage to the
Sabbath-school, and good books are now so abundant, and so iheap, as to
render the neglect of the library inexcusable. It attracts and attaches
children to the school, cultivates their minds, fosters a taste for
knowledge, prepares them for a higher kind of instruction, and
powerfully seconds the lessons of the Sabbath.
Though libraries are increasing in number, not a few schools are still
without them, especially schools in thinly-peopled districts of the
country, and local and home mission schools. Want of funds, rather than
indisposition on the part of teachers, may account for the omission, but
perhaps a little more exertion would obtain a sufficient sum with which
to commence a library, and a very small yearly collection would keep up
a supply of new works.
libraries are well selected. We generally find that a considerable
proportion of the books are never read. Teachers are apt to trust too
implicitly to catalogues and attractive names, or they consult their own
matured taste rather than the wants of the children. We have seen
Letters, and Edwards on the
Freedom, of the Will, in a Sabbath-school
library, where all the children were young. Now, until we have exhausted
the most suitable books, we should introduce none of a different order.
On the choice of books for a Sabbath-school library, we make the
following remarks :—
Religious biographical works should occupy a considerable place in the
library. They convey instruction in a very pleasing "way.
The Dairyman's Daughter is a good specimen
of this class of writings. We should like, however, to see the greater
part of abridged
memoirs, and the memoirs of children, excluded from Sabbath-school
libraries. Abridged memoirs are usually very dry. The spirit of the
larger work has escaped in the process of condensation ; they are
therefore very unsuitable for children. When such works are in small
type, and in closely-printed pages, they are unreadable. The biographies
of children, with a few exceptions, are equally unsuitable. The evidence
of the piety of the children, in many published memoirs, is extremely
unsatisfactory. We read a memoir lately, where the only proof of the
child's piety consisted of his having said to his mother before he died,
"I am going to heaven." A little boy said one day to his aunt, "I wish
my name had not been William." "Why?" "I wish I had been called
John, for none of the apostles are called
William." This was an
interesting saying, but we should not attach
too much importance to it.
evidences of true religion are different in children and in adults. An
aged saint will speak freely of his love to God, and his faith in
Christ, for he is accustomed to look into his mind to understand its
operations. But a child may love God, and believe in Christ, and yet
have never reflected on his doing so, so as to give his faith and love
expression. Children do not study their own minds. A little girl of
seven years of age came to her mother one day, and said, "Mamma, I
think." This girl had been thinking
for seven years, but not till then had she examined the operation of her
own mind. We have no doubt whatever, that many children at an early age
are disciples of Jesus, but the evidence is not to be sought in their
repetition of pious passages which they have picked up from books or
from their parents, but in their conduct in the practical duties of
Independently of these considerations, even all the good biographies of
children are not suitable for children. They generally exhibit a piety
immature, and with an elevation so little superior to that of their
readers, that they are not calculated to exert a very important
influence over them.
are fitted, however, to encourage parents and teachers, as they prove
how soon the spark of divine life may be kindled in the heart.
Historical works. There are only a few
religious histories which are suitable for
the young. A history of the Church, in the style of Sir Walter Scott's
Tales of a Grandfather, would be a most
valuable acquisition to religious literature. Instead of detailing the
strifes of councils, and the internal dissensions of the Church, we
should have a history that would exhibit the encounters of the Church
with the world, and describe the noble stand which good men have in all
ages made for the gospel. A condensed history, like Earth's
General History, cannot be perused
continuously. It is only useful as a book of reference, and is not
suitable for children.
Missionary works. Writers for the young have rarely been so happy as in
missionary works. We have read few which are not both instructive and
Works of fiction. There is less need for such works now than when the
stock of juvenile literature was more scanty. They should be sparingly
introduced, but we cannot exclude them altogether without losing some
very valuable works.
Miscellaneous works. Our language is rich in doctrinal, experimental,
and practical works, that are very well suited to the Sabbath-school
Anxious Enquirer, and the works of Abbott,
are good specimens. The older writers, even though the matter is so
excellent, do not suit the young very well, because of their antiquated
style. There are some exceptions, but, in general, books of this
description should be modern.
of the books in the library should be large. We may except such a work
Missionary Enterprises. Children will not
read through a bulky volume, or, if they do, it is with little interest.
children are very young, the books given to them should contain only a
few leaves. By commencing them with small works, they learn the habit of
reading a book quite through.
The books should all bear a religious character. Books of science and of
general history, lives of such men as Franklin or Francis Horner, and
works of general literature, are not suitable for a Sabbath-school
library. An unexceptionable list of books for Sabbath-schools is yet a
It has been proposed by several writers, that the librarian should
select the books for the children, and give to each what he thinks most
suitable. The extent to which this principle can be carried is very
limited. The greater part of the scholars have nothing peculiar in their
circumstances; the same book will perhaps suit nineteen out of twenty
scholars equally well. The librarian cannot have sufficient acquaintance
with the children of a large school, to know what to give them ; and as
from twenty to fifty volumes are read yearly by every scholar, the
supply becomes exhausted. The teacher of each class may, however, be
useful in pointing out suitable books for his scholars. Wherever there
is a peculiarity in the situation or religious condition of any of his
scholars, this should be especially attended to.
great difference should be made in the class of books which are read by
children of six and children of twelve. It is most injurious to put a
solid work of divinity into the hands of a little child, and thus make
him believe that religious literature is unintelligible. It is equally
improper to keep intelligent children at the books they read when five
Unless the librarian is very strict in enforcing the regular return of
the books, they will soon be lost. We have known fifty volumes lost in a
school in one year, in consequence of lax book-keeping. When a scholar
has lost a volume, he should be called upon to pay a part of the price
of a new one. A small fine should be inflicted for injuring the book, or
the child may be denied the use of the library for a week or two. Some
teachers take a small deposit from the children on giving them a book.
Some schools make a charge of a halfpenny, or a penny, monthly, for the
use of the library. Others make it dependent on the conduct of the
scholars ; while others make it free to all. Circumstances must
determine which of these plans should be adopted.
Every library should contain a supply of good books for teachers. Among
the books should be the following :—(1.) One or two good commentaries,
to which the teachers shall have access.
A Bible Dictionary. Kitto's
Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature, in two
volumes, although expensive, is the best. There is also the abridgment
in one volume, and Dr Eadie's
Biblical Cyclopaedia, which are cheaper
Biblical and Theological Dictionary, and
Dictionary of the Bible, may be had for a
few shillings. Jiyery teacher should endeavour to procure one of these
Works relating to the history of the Bible, its interpretation, the
manners and customs of the Jews, the geography of Palestine and the
East, and all books that will enable the teacher to extend his knowledge
of the Bible generally.
Works on Sabbath-schools and teaching. The following are the best with
which we are acquainted :—
Teacher's Guide, by the Rev. John Todd. Of
this very popular work it is unnecessary to say more than that it is
worthy of the extensive circulation it has obtained.
The Teacher Taught,
by Packard. This is also an American work. It is not so lively as the
work of Todd, but it is not inferior in merit.. It keeps closer to its
title, and is eminently sensible and practical. There is a reprint of a
portion of it in this country, under the title, The Sunday-school
Principles of Teaching,
by Henry Dunn.
The Teachers Manual of Method, by W. Ross.
These two works are written for teachers of week-day schools, but they
contain so many judicious observations on teaching, and the management
of children, alike applicable to the Sunday-school, as to deserve an
honourable place in the library.
Teachers Guide, by J. A. James The aim. of
the author of this excellent work is to give teachers a higher view of
their duties and obligations.
End and Essence of
Sabbath-school Teaching, by James Gall,
senior. This work has been very useful in pointing out the true nature
and end of religious instruction.
by David Stow. A guide to the manner of catechising children, and
illustrating Scripture truths.
The Sunday-school, an
Essay, by Louisa David. The hopeful, onward
spirit of this lady's writings is contagious. Her essay abounds in
useful practical directions for the government of schools.
Works of Jacob Abbott. As au intellectual and moral teacher, Abbott
ranks very high. From an attentive study of his works for the young, we
may derive great advantages. His principles of teaching are excellent,
-and most happily illustrated.
by Isaac Taylor. This admirable work is written in a spirit of the most
genial philosophy. Its object is to trace the development of the
faculties, and to shew how instruction should be adapted to them, as
they are progressively unfolded. A work of the same nature on religious
education would be invaluable.
of the greatest auxiliaries to the instructions of the Sabbath-school is
a well-sustained system of home visitation. A teacher never takes his
right place in a child's affections until he has had personal
intercourse with him out of school. Until then, the only connexion
between the teacher and his class is a link which is renewed and snapped
once a week, and which is available for no other purposes than the
communication of instruction. A teacher cannot feel the same interest in
a child whom he knows only for an hour on Sabbath, as in one whose joys
and sorrows he has shared—whom he has aided by his counsel or cheered by
his sympathy; and the child must receive the school instructions in a
very different spirit from a person whom he knows only as a teacher,
than from one who is his friend as well as his teacher, and to whom he
can come frankly in every emergency. If the amount of knowledge
possessed by a child be of less importance than the spirit in which he
embraces instruction, assuredly visitation ought to occupy a high place
in every Sabbath-school teacher's estimation, for nothing gives such
weight to instruction as friendly home intercourse between teacher and
scholar. The best feelings of the child's nature are awakened by it.
The first class of scholars requiring visitation is
the absentees. These are usually pretty
numerous. Even in the best schools we may calculate on a considerable
weekly deficiency. Where the children are drawn from the more destitute
classes, the percentage will necessarily be higher; and where visitation
is neglected, the absentees will soon outnumber those who attend.
Indeed, nothing will secure a regular attendance on school so
effectually as painstaking and persevering visitation. Tickets and
rewards will have a certain influence, and may be employed sparingly ;
but they will be greatly aided by the visits of the teachers. Tickets
and rewards usually fall into the hands of those who are disposed to be
regular at any rate, but visitation reaches the worst members of the
class. A full class is an almost infallible sign of a teacher who is
conscientious in his visitations. We never saw a school thrive where
visitation was neglected. We have known large schools emptied in the
course of a few months through the carelessness of the teachers, though
the children were drawn chiefly from the congregation with which they
were connected, and where, consequently, there was every advantage ;
and, on the other hand, schools opened under the most discouraging
circumstances, where the children had received the worst education, and
were exposed to the greatest temptations, have flourished through many
years, by dint of good teaching in the school, and great faithfulness in
usual excuse for neglect of visitation, is want of time. A press of
business, and the distance of the scholars from the abode of the
teacher, render it impossible, it is said, to look after the absentees.
In the majority of cases, this plea cannot be allowed. It is a very
suspicious circumstance, that it is an excuse which takes almost the
very same shape, by whomsoever it is made. Whether the teacher be male
or female—in business, or a lady whose time is very much at her own
disposal—and whether the town be small or large—there is the same
engrossing occupation with business, and the same impassable distance to
the residence of the scholars.
time required to visit absentees is very much less than those who
neglect visiting imagine ; for one of the first effects of visitation is
greatly to reduce the number of irregular attenders. The following is an
extract from the roll-books of three teachers, whose classes were drawn
from a locality unfavourable to regular attendance :—
believe that few teachers who are very much in earnest will find any
insuperable difficulties in the way of visitation. It is not necessary
to spend more time in the call than to ask the reason of the scholar's
some schools, visitors are appointed, whose special duty it is to visit
absentees. There may be circumstances which render such visitors
necessary; and in all cases it is better that the children be visited by
a regular agent than that they shall not be attended to at all. But the
benefits of visitation will be very imperfectly realised wherever the
teacher does not become responsible for his own absentees. We would lay
it down as a settled rule of every school, not to be departed from but
in extreme cases, that every teacher shall be able to give an account,
by the following Sabbath, of his absent scholars. We should hesitate to
receive a teacher, whatever his merits might be, who refused to comply
with this rule. The best interests of the school rest upon it, and for
no slight reason should it be put aside. It may be noticed, that a new
scholar should be visited as soon as possible after his admission.
The sick are another class requiring visitation. It is not necessary for
us to attempt to determine how far a teacher is justified in exposing
himself to the risk of infection in visiting the sick ; every case must
be settled on its own merits ; but wherever a visit can be profitably
made without undue risk, it should not be neglected. Sickness takes away
the false glare of life, gives a subduedness of tone to the mind,
seconds the voice of conviction, and brings the realities of death and
eternity home to the heart. " The blessed beams of heavenly truth," in
such a time, have often shone
such a hallow'd vividness and power,
As ne'er were granted to a happier hour."
teacher robs himself of one of his highest privileges who neglects to
visit his sick scholars. To see the dim eye light up with pleasure as
the teacher takes the child's burning hand in his own—to win a smile to
that wan cheek as we cheer him with a few words of comfort—to speak, in
the hushed accents befitting a sick chamber, of the love of the Saviour—and
breathe a brief, earnest prayer with, it may be, the dying child—is
indeed a sacred privilege.
we ueed to remind our readers that their visits to the sick should not
be prolonged; that the weakness of the patient should temper the remarks
they find it necessary to make to him; that the prayer should always be
very short; and that the child's mind should be led away from a
superstitious trust in the person praying to the God to whom the prayer
periodical visitation of all the scholars is greatly to be recommended.
The advantages of this practice are manifold. In the first place, the
teacher becomes better acquainted with his scholars ; he sees their
minds in their working dress, and learns their capabilities for other
things than religious instruction. On one occasion, a teacher, on
visiting a scholar, who was a poor ragged boy, found him very busily
studying a Latin grammar; the boy afterwards became an accomplished
linguist, and rose to a respectable station in society;—very little of
the mind of such a boy could be known in the school.
Again, the teacher by visitation learns the habits of his children,
their temptations, the example good or bad they have at home, the
business they pursue, and the character of their associates, and is thus
enabled to give a more practical character to his Sabbath instructions.
Has a child ungodly parents 1 Is he an orphan 1 Is he in poverty 1 Is he
proud, or passionate, or addicted to any open vice 1—An answer to these
questions can only be obtained by personal intercourse, and will be of
great benefit to the teacher as a guide to the lessons which the child
stands most in need of;—for we are not to shoot our arrows at a venture;
we are not to teach in the dark; we are not to give the same medicine
for all diseases; we are to probe the wounds, that we may know how to
cure them, and seek out all the peculiarities of the complaint, that the
medicine may be intelligently administered.
Again, by visitation a teacher will ascertain what influence his
instructions have had on his scholars, and will have an opportunity of
renewing them in a more direct and personal manner. A person can know
very little of the effect of his lessons by the appearance of his
children in the class ; those who are most moved may be the first to
forget their impressions, and those who are slowest to shew their
feelings may be most deeply excited. A teacher one day, on visiting a
scholar, who, though regular in attendance, and always prepared with her
lessons, shewed remarkable outward apathy, was surprised and delighted
to find that for two long, happy years, she had sought and found the
Lord. We have known young people who, on being spoken to in private,
have given vent to long-suppressed feelings in a burst of joy or sorrow,
and have acknowledged that they had been longing for an opportunity of
conversation. Unexpected revelations will sometimes be made in such
interview's; doubts will be mentioned by young girls as to the being of
God, or the divinity of Christ, from which we would have imagined their
sex, or their age, or their education should have protected them ; and
wherever there is real anxiety, the teacher will have a difficult task
in meeting these strange forms of unbelief which rise up and darken the
view of the cross, and prevent the soul from accepting the mercy which
God for Christ's sake has so freely bestowed. We believe that, with
scarcely an exception, every child who has enjoyed the instructions of a
devoted teacher for any considerable period will at one time or another
be under serious impressions more or less permanent. There can hardly be
one person who has read his Bible, or who has heard it expounded, who
has not once
at least had some startling sense of the awful truth that he is a
sinner, or that God is just and holy, and will by no means clear the
guilty ; or who has not realised for a moment the sublime truth of his
own immortality, and of the inexpressible glory and happiness of
dwelling with God on high. In the case of multitudes this goodness is
only temporary, but, if watched and nourished, it may pass from
conviction to conversion and salvation.
subject, however, must be approached with the greatest tenderness, and
handled with the most scrupulous delicacy. Confidence cannot be forced.
It has often happened that a hasty observation upon the apparent piety
of a young person has repelled him from all spontaneous communication
with his teacher, and even caused him to recoil from the decision to
which he was fast approaching.
our intercourse with our scholars on the state of their religious
feelings, let us beware of fostering religious vanity. A young person
will learn to speak of his doubts and darkness, as a sick man of his
troubles, till he becomes almost proud of them, and may be tempted to
undervalue those whose Christian experience has had more of light and
joy. The best way to prevent this error, and at the same time to arrive
at a true knowledge of the quality of a child's religion, is to direct
the conversation from the individual to the Bible or some good work, and
to see, on the one hand, how his religion expresses itself—what estimate
it forms of character, or motives, or duties; and, on the other hand, to
watch what fruits it produces : these are two tests far superior to the
personal testimony of an individual regarding his own feelings. Any one
can express attachment to his relations or his friends—the words of love
are easily feigned; but there are a thousand nameless offices of
affection where love cannot be counterfeited, and in which the spurious
feeling will betray itself in slights and neglects. So, when we find a
child with a dim sense of the immorality of particular sins—when Ave
discover a feeble response to what is truly noble and holy—when vice
excites little horror, and godliness is a something to be praised in set
phrases, rather than gloried inwith the
unforced joy of awarmheart — we may suspect that, if the light of
religion is kindled in the soul at all, it yet burns very
whatever be the state of mind in which the teacher finds his scholar, he
has a most favourable opportunity of renewing his instructions. We have
the child alone, away from the support of his class; we address him as
an individual; we tell him that
he is the sinner who needs forgiveness ;
that it is his
soul we are pleading for ] that he
is in the most imminent danger by his delay; and that for
hirn there is present and everlasting mercy
provided. There is much in this private and personal address which is
well calculated to reach the soul and rivet what had been previously
taught; and whoever would do all he can for the salvation of his
scholars, will not be slow to adopt some such mode of personal address.
recommend teachers, while visiting, to make inquiry with regard to the
private devotions of children. They should be urged to read a portion of
the Bible every
day, and not to neglect their morning and
evening prayers on any temptation. Every child should be taught to
commit a few prayers to memory; it is the first step to induce him to
pray for himself.
has been found Useful to invite the children to the teacher's house, to
ask them to tea, or to take them to some scientific lecture or
interesting exhibition—any plan which brings teachers and scholars
together, which develops their minds and cultivates their affections, is
to be recommended. It is a very serious fault in a teacher to have a dry
manner to his scholars, to keep them haughtily at a distance, or to pass
them in the street as utter strangers. We would have our teachers to go
out of their way to see a scholar, and, when they meet him, exchange a
friendly nod and smile with the youngest, poorest, or most ragged.
periodical visitation of the scholars is to be recommended, as it
engages the sympathies of the parents in favour of the school. The
lessons will be better learned, and the attendance more regular, when
the teacher has a friend in the mother or father.
Finally, Visitation may be made instrumental in promoting the
temporal interests of the scholars. A
teacher is not stepping out of his way when he procures a situation for
his scholar, or gives him his counsel as to his projects in life. The
path of Christ Jesus lay right through the centre of this world's
misery; and as he went, he scattered blessings to the bodies as well as
the souls of men; and he has left us an example that we should walk in
the importance of
prompt visitation of absentees, the
following incident, with which we conclude this chapter, is sufficient
Sabbath evening (writes a teacher), on looking over the roll of my
class, I found that, among others, Ann had to be marked among the
absentees. I took a note on my visiting list, intending to call during
the week according to custom ; but afterwards, as the girl's house was a
out of my way, I thought there could be no great harm in delaying my
call for a week.
Sabbath returned again, and I found myself once more in the school with
my children around me; and though feeling a
little uneasiness on seeing that Ann was
still absent, it soon wore off, and was forgotten in the excitement of
teaching. The lessons were concluded, and we were just about to engage
in praise, when a neighbouring teacher stepped across the floor to me,
and said, very seriously—
"Have you a girl in your class of the name of Ann-?"
"Yes; what of that?"
have something to tell you about her," said he, hesitating.
"What is it? what is the matter?" said I, with a presentiment of there
being something wrong.
"Yes; she died four days ago. She was buried yesterday. Her brother is
in my class, and brought word last Sabbath that she was ill, and wished
to see you, but I forgot to tell."
if you had only told me!—I wish you had told me!"
am very, very sorry I did not."
heart sank within me—I could not speak. Dead! —gone from this world for
ever—gone from any power or means I could use. Is she saved or lost?—a
sinner in hell or a saint in glory? Dead! and I not at her deathbed!
Have I done my duty to her?—have I done all I could? Alas! alas! my
conscience, now fully aroused, told me I had not. There was no want of
time. What I wanted was
inclination. I felt I ought to have called
at once, and then some opportunity would
have been afforded me of smoothing the pillow, and speaking peace and
comfort to my dying scholar. But now it was too late! The thought was
bitter anguish. I knew my duty, but I did it not.
called on the mourning parents next day. For a few minutes nothing was
said. At last I spoke.
Ann has gone to her rest?"
"Yes, sir," said the mother; "she is gone."
did she die?"
don't know, sir; we hope she is in heaven."
she much pain ?"
"Vera little; she just sleepit awa'"
she happy in her mind?"
hope sae. She could speak but little for three days before her death."
am very sorry I was not here to see her."
we thought you might have come," said the mother, reproachfully;—"we
sent you word, but you didna come. Puir thing! Annie was fond o' the
Sabbath class, and would not stay away, wet or dry"—and she burst into
explained as well as I could why I had not come when sent for, but could
myself. Time—means—opportunity—I had
neglected them all. And now, why do I write this? It is to urge on my
fellow-teachers never to let slight excuses induce them to defer
visiting their scholars, and thus they shall not have cause to lament,
as I do, a
was a Sabbath evening-—the teacher's work was done;
To God he breathed his evening prayers, but for himself alone;
Then lightly laid him down to sleep, "to sleep but not to rest,"
For dark and troubled visions seared all quiet from his breast.
thought he seem'd to stand in a dark, deserted room;
A feeble flickering tap'ev scarce relieved the cheerless gloom;
Upon a bed—how throbb'd his heart!—a scholar dying lay,
A girl, long absent, left alone, life ebbing fast away.
roar'd the angry tempest, and shook the crazy door,
And swept in chilly gusts across-the damp, unwashen floor;
And searee the scanty coverlet could shield her from the blast,
But while the storm
was wild without—within, all strife was past.
smiles of more than earthly joy illumed her pallid cheek,
And gleams of heavenly rapture' told the bliss she could not speak;
And oft her falt'ring notes she tuned, in praise to God above,
Or sang, how sin is wash'd away, through the Redeemer's love.
length her teacher's name she call'd—his heart fill'd to the brim:
"I know not if he prays for me, but I must pray for him;
O grant him light to guide his stops, and love to warm his heart,
And grace to teach souls perishing to choose the better part!"
started from his slumbers—the night was dark and wild ;
But conscience-struck, in haste, he sought to see the dying child;
Too late, alas ! a stranger hand had closed her fading eye,
And no kind teacher e'er had been to see the orphan die.
ENGLISH AND IRISH SABBATH-SCHOOLS.
has the honour of being the birthplace of the Sabbath-school, and to it
she owes more, perhaps, than any other nation. The sons of her
Sabbath-school are to be found in every rank and department of society.
Merchants, manufacturers, mechanics, missionaries, and ministers, and
many thousands of teachers, revere it as their first guide to salvation.
Instead of declining with age, it is growing more vigorous, and scholars
are multiplying with the increase of population. Amid so many schools,
it was to be expected that there would be considerable diversity of
management. The north and south of England, London, and the
manufacturing districts, have their own peculiarities. In some schools,
writing and arithmetic are (very improperly) taught on Sabbath. In
others, one set of teachers attend the morning classes, and a second in
the afternoon; and in others, on a plan still worse, two sets teach on
alternate months; while again in others we find a very high degree of
proficiency. The schools of Ireland exhibit the same diversity. It is
not our intention in this chapter to take any further notice of local
and temporary peculiarities; we wish to call the attention of our
readers for a few moments to the practice of teaching reading in the
Sabbath-schools in England and Ireland.
The want of cheap education in common schools, and other causes, have
rendered it necessary to teach reading on Sabbath. It is frightful to
contemplate the depth of the ignorance which at this moment would have
enveloped the country but for the invention of the Sunday-school, and
which would soon envelop it, were the teaching of reading on Sabbath
reading can be very imperfectly taught in Sunday-schools. Good reading
can only be attained by long and frequent practice, and two hours a-week
are quite insufficient for the purpose of teaching it.
The teaching of reading in Sunday-schools should be regarded as a
temporary expedient. The Sabbath-school has a far higher end than to
teach secular arts. Its principal business is with the soul; and
wherever children are taught reading on Sabbath, who could be taught on
the week-day, it is a departure from what ought to be its leading
object—we are teaching mere reading when we might have been teaching
something far higher. It is a good remark, that, "in imitating the
institutions of our ancestors, we do not
always imitate their
spirit" It was a noble scheme to rescue
children from ignorance by teaching them on the Sabbath ; but when other
means can be found more efficient, we should not cling to a worn-out.
machinery. The elementary classes of an English Sunday-school are not to
be made a boast of, but to be lamented as a necessary evil. Were the
Sunday-school relieved from the drudgery of elementary instruction, it
would be enabled to perfect its religious instruction.
trust that the increased attention which has been devoted to secular
education will, in the course of a few years, render it unnecessary on
the Sabbath ; in the meantime, we think some steps may be taken to
accelerate the change.
Nothing gratuitous should be given to those children whose parents can
afford to pay for it. We have seen primers, Testaments, and Bibles—pens,
ink, and paper— all furnished gratuitously to children whose dress
bespoke that they were far indeed from being objects of charity. Would
it not cultivate a more honourable and independent spirit, were they
required to purchase whatever books they needed ?
All children whose parents are able to pay for a common school education
should be discouraged from attending reading classes in the
Sunday-school. It is not to the honour of many persons, in good
circumstances, that their children are indebted to the Sabbath-school
for their education. Every proper means should be taken to shame such
persons out of their penuriousness. We believe a considerable proportion
of the children who are taught to read on Sabbath could afford a common
school education without difficulty.
When young persons have attained some proficiency in reading, they
should be transferred immediately into the Bible classes. We have seen
young men and women, who could read with fluency, occupied an hour and a
half in the mere practice of reading. We know not whether to wonder most
at the patience of the scholars or of the teachers. They were senior
scholars in age ; their education was that of mere children.
Congregations should provide for the secular education of the children
of persons connected with the church, wherever the parents are unable to
do so. Every family in the church should be visited periodically, to
ascertain if the children are at school, and to provide education for
them if they are not. The church's first care ought to be for the lambs
of her own flock; and while sending missionaries among the heathen, and
establishing schools in India for reading and writing, why should there
be one child of the church allowed to beg his education at
a Sabbath-school? It is not necessary to have a separate weekday-school
for the children of the congregation; it is enough (and at how little
expense might it be done!) to provide for every child receiving at one
school or another a good education.
religious education of the people of Scotland, is equal, if not
superior, to that of any other country. For this they are indebted, not
so much to their Sabbath-schools (though to them they owe much), as to
the general diffusion of common school instruction, to the reading
habits of the people, the very general profession of religion, and of
attendance on church, and the common, though far from universal,
observance of parental instruction. It was the natural consequence of
the prevalence of other modes of instruction, that the Sabbath-school
should not receive the same attention as if it had been the chief means
of educating the young. When introduced into Scotland, about the year
1790, it was intended, almost exclusively, for the children of ignorant
and irreligious parents. It was feared that, if the children of
church-going parents were permitted to attend Sabbath-schools, it would
interfere with parental instruction. This prejudice, though not entirely
extinct, is greatly on the wane, and the Sabbath-school is gradually
assuming its proper place among the permanent institutions of the
Church. Unfortunately, the effects of the prejudice attending its first
formation still adhere to it. It is not supported with sufficient
liberality; and, instead of being adapted to the ascertained wants of
the children, it is conducted too much upon the original contracted
plan, when the destitution was, if not less than it is at present, at
least less understood, and the school was regarded as a temporary
expedient, or a necessary evil.
There are three changes which might, we think, be made with advantage on
the Sabbath-schools of Scotland. First, good school-rooms should be
provided for the children to meet in; second, the missionary schools
should meet twice every Sabbath-day, instead of once ; and, thirdly, the
schools should be better organised.
Good school-rooms ought to be provided. The want of suitable
accommodation is felt alike by missionary and congregational
Sabbath-schools, the discomforts of the place of meeting being often one
of the teacher's most serious hindrances.
majority of Sabbath-schools in Scotland meet in churches, where almost
every convenience is wanting. Those who have had experience of good
school-rooms only, well-seated, can Lave little idea of the
inconvenience of being cooped up in the pews of a church.
small and ill-ventilated rooms in narrow, filthy-streets, where so many
of our missionary schools are to be found, are still more injurious. In
summer, a heavy, hot atmosphere oppresses the spirits and exhausts the
energies of the teachers; and in winter, the ill-fated doors and windows
are insufficient to exclude the cold.
expense will be urged as an insurmountable obstacle to building
school-rooms. We answer the objection by asking, How does it happen that
almost every congregation in England, of all denominations, even
Scottish congregations there, can provide funds for school-rooms? Many
of them have spent £500 or £1000 on schools. They are not more liberal
in contributious for other purposes—why should they be so liberal to
this ? The answer is simply this, that they understand its importance.
It is less the poverty of congregations than their want of interest in
the Sabbath-school cause, that renders them so reluctant to expend money
on Sabbath-schools. It is a parsimony extremely ill-judged, for
defective accommodation places serious hindrances in the way of the
efficiency of the school. A good school-room for children is as
necessary as a good church for a congregation ; and not until such rooms
are provided in sufficient abundance, can the Sabbath-schools of
Scotland attain to great perfection.
Missionary schools should meet
twice every Sabbath-day. We expressly limit
this obligation to missionary schools; for wherever the children have
parental instruction it is unnecessary. By meeting twice a-day, their
efficiency will be doubled. It is manifestly a most inadequate provision
for the ignorance and wickedness of the children of our mission schools,
to meet with them for an hour or an hour and a half weekly. Does it not
prove the amazing power of the gospel, when instructions so limited,
opposed by seven days' bad example, should even in
one instance prove successful ?
may be thought impossible to procure the attendance of children twice
a-day. That it is difficult, and that till it gains the force of a
custom there will be much to dishearten those who commence it, we do not
question; but in England all the schools meet twice a-day, and what can
be done there can be done here. It is also well known that many children
are accustomed to attend two different schools on the same Sabbath,
which is just an awkward remedy for the school meeting only once.
impossibility of finding teachers who will come twice to school may be
thought fatal to this scheme ; but it is well known that a considerable
number of Sabbath-school teachers have two schools on the same day; and
there is no difference of labour between teaching in two different
schools and teaching twice in the same school; and as the great majority
of English teachers meet twice a-day, what is possible to them is
possible to the teachers of Scotland.
The schools should be better organised. Order, arrangement,
classification, and discipline, are very imperfectly carried out in many
of the Scottish Sabbath-schools. We refer our readers for directions on
these points to the preceding chapters.
Sabbath-school is an institution for all classes of society, and is
equally well adapted to the rich and educated as to the poor and the
illiterate. But of the educated classes a small proportion only attend
Sabbath-school. We design at present to shew that it is the duty of the
Church to give public religious instruction to her own children, and
that the Sabbath-school is one of the best means by which this may be
The Church is bound to give public religious instruction to her own
children, by the
command of Christ and His apostles. Our Lord
said to Peter, "Feed my lambs ;" by which is undoubtedly meant the
children of the Church. The apostle Paul, in
his address to the elders of Ephesus, said, " Take heed to
all the flock;" and
children form a part of the flock.
The Church has its duty to perform as well as the parent. Parental
instruction is not superseded by public instruction; but neither is
public instruction superseded by that of parents. The private
responsibility of parents is quite separate from the public
responsibility of the Church. The texts above quoted are addressed to
teachers of the Church, and not to private
members; so that, although parents were in the habit of teaching their
children, the Church is bound to do it also.
All parents are not competent to instruct their children. There is a
fallacy in the common objection which is still urged against
Sabbath-schools —" parental instruction is superior to every other
kind." If this means that parents can teach their own children better
than they can teach the children of strangers, it will be easily
admitted ; but it is nothing to the purpose. If it mean that every
parent, or the generality of parents, can teach their children better
than any one else can teach them, then it is not true. Can an ignorant
parent teach his child as well as an intelligent teacher ? The mere
circumstance of a man becoming a father, does not supply all his
previous deficiencies. We believe the superiority is all on the other
side, and that domestic instruction, as a whole, is behind the teaching
of Sabbath-schools. Parents read or hear very little about teaching, and
are apt to follow, to the letter, the system in which they were brought
up themselves ; but teachers are rapidly improving.
want of ability in parents to teach
well, does not in the slightest degree remit
the duty of teaching, but it renders more imperative the obligation upon
the Church to provide a higher means of instruction. An uneducated
Christian has a positive claim upon the Church for the religious
education of his children; he is entitled to say, "I will teach them as
well as I can, but I look to the Church for assistance."
Though all parents were competent, all are not faithful to their duty.
Does any one suppose that the mass of the people in this country are
truly earnest and prayerful in the manner in which they train up their
children % There are a number, indeed, who yearn over their children
with godly sincerity; but every person knows, that, while multitudes
omit instruction altogether, a great many more teach in a manner so dull
and formal, as to render their instructions nugatory. The ignorance
sometimes to be found among the children of church members, is very
mournful. Now, the Church cannot be acquitted of the guilt of these
children's ignorance, because it holds the theory, that if parents did
their duty at home, there would be no need of Sabbath-schools. We are to
legislate for people as they are, not as they should be. The Church is
blameable for the ignorance of her own children, until she has used
every means in her power, private or public, to remove it. The amount
and the density of this ignorance is known to every minister who
examines young people before admitting them to the Lord's table.
Parental instruction is incomplete without public instruction. There are
certain particulars in which parental teaching excels all other modes of
tuition. It can be begun at the very dawn of life ; it may be insinuated
in a thousand direct and indirect ways ; it can be applied when the
temptation is present, or the sin is fresh; an accessible moment can be
seized when the heart is moved; and, withal, it drops from the lips of
love. But again, there is a life and excitement in public teaching which
are extremely useful. Emulation quickens the intellectual faculties, and
the sympathy of numbers is calculated to touch the heart. There is no
opposition between Sabbath-schools and domestic instruction, and there
is enough of time on the Sabbath for both.
Having seen the duty of public instruction, let us now see how much of
it lies in the hands of the minister, and how much with the
The minister can preach to children. We believe this duty has been very
much overlooked. A fourth or a fifth of the attendance at church is
composed of children, yet frequently there is no part of the sermon
addressed to them. Is anything better calculated to engender a religion
of mere formalism ? We think ministers should study the art of
addressing the young. Practice will make it easier, as practice has
perfected them in other things. A part of every discourse, we think,
should either be especially addressed to youth, or should be adapted to
their capacity. Occasional sermons for the young should also he
The minister can teach the senior classes of the church. Many ministers
have large classes of both sexes, either on the Sabbath or the week-day,
and instruct them with great success.
Ministers may direct the Sabbath-school. The minister should have
nothing to do with the minutiae of superintendence, but he should take a
personal interest in all the operations of the school, be familiar with
the teachers and the state of their classes, occasionally examine the
classes separately, and address the school; meet with the teachers to
examine their lessons, and shew them that he has a deep interest in the
school, and will aid them in every movement for its improvement.
Congregations and Sabbath-schools have hitherto stood too much apart.
Ministers cannot teach the whole children of the church. No minister who
attends to his other duties can be expected to undergo the labour of
instructing the children of the congregation class by class. It is here
that the Sabbath-school steps in to his assistance, and furnishes him
with a well-appointed body of teachers, by whom, without cost, and in
the most efficient manner, the whole children may be instructed.
every congregation there are a certain number of members superior to the
rest in intelligence, piety, and skill in imparting knowledge. When all
the children of the congregation are put under the care of these
members, we have the
beau ideal of a congregational
Sabbath-school. What parent should not be eager to embrace its
advantages? The deep-toned piety of a godly teacher may prove an
everlasting benefit to his children. However far the actual
Sabbath-school falls short of this
beau ideal, its teachers are unquestionably
among the best members of the church. But some one may object, " We
doubt if the principle of a Sabbath-school for the children of members
be a sound one." We reply, that there are thousands of children growing
up in the bosom of the Church very imperfectly instructed, and, instead
of starting objections to particular schemes, all Christians should be
anxious to second the efforts for their improvement. We care nothing for
Sabbath-schools but as a means of doing good. Teach children in any way,
but see to it that they are taught; save them by any means, but see to
it that they are saved.
There are two special reasons for congregational Sabbath-schools which
have received but little attention.
large number of the children of church members attend Sabbath-schools
unconnected with the congregation to which they belong. While
congregations have been doubting and hesitating, the work in some
measure has been done by strangers. We would be fai1 from
wishing to foster that hateful bigotry which grudges to see" good done
by any but those of one's own church. It is a delightful thing to
witness teachers and children of different denominations meeting in
harmony. But the most natural place for a child is in a school belonging
to his own congregation, superintended by his own pastor.
every congregation to establish schools for their own children, we
should have at once, perhaps, one-third of the children of England, and
two-thirds of the children of Scotland, attending them; and all those
teachers who are now engaged in missionary schools, and whose classes
are composed as much of the children of church members as of those who
are not, would be free to labour among those who are really destitute.
The congregational Sabbath-school is the only means of reaching the
children of the middle and upper classes. They will not attend a general
school; but were the influence of the minister and the leading members
of the church brought to bear upon them, they would attend a school
composed of the children of their own congregation. The experiment has
been tried, and has succeeded. Are not the souls of the rich as precious
as those of the poor? Shall all our energies be expended upon the
destitute poor, and nothing be done for the destitute rich? The whole
children of the country, from the lowest to the highest, should be
publicly taught by the Church of Christ.
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