Imatges de pÓgina
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conscience nor the heart moved. According to the common modes of instruction, the minds of the young become worn to great truths. By reading the Scriptures without thought or feeling, their minds are dulled to its most touching and sublime passages ; and, when once a passage lies dead in the mind, its resurrection to life and power is a most difficult work. Here lies the great danger of Sunday schools. Let us never forget, that their end is to awaken life in the minds and hearts of the young.

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The Gospels are to be the study of the Sunday school teacher, and of all who teach the young; and the great object of study must be, to penetrate to the spirit of the divine writings, and above all things to comprehend the spirit, character, purpose, motives, love of Jesus Christ. He is to be the great study. In him, his religion is revealed as no where else. Much attention is now given and properly given, by teachers, to what may be called the letter of the Gospels, to the geography of the country where Christ lived, to the customs to which he refers, to the taste of society which surrounded him. This knowledge is of great utility. We should strive to learn the circumstances in which Jesus was placed and lived, as thoroughly as those of our own times. We should study the men among whom he lived, their opinions and passions, their hopes and expectations, the sects who hated and opposed him, the superstitions which prevailed among the learned and the multitude, and strive to see all these things as vividly as if we had lived at the very moment of Christ's ministry. But all this knowledge is to be gained not for its own sake, but as a means of bringing us near to Jesus; of letting us into the secrets of his mind; of revealing to us his spirit and character, and of bringing out the full purpose and import of all that he did and said. It is only by knowing the people among whom he was born, and brought up, and lived and died, that we can fully comprehend the originality, strength, and dignity of his character, his unborrowed, self-subsisting excellence, his miraculous love. We have very few of us a conception, how Jesus stood alone in the age in which he lived, how unsustained he was in his great work, how he found not one mind to comprehend his own, not one friend to sympathise with his great purpose, how every outward influence withstood him ; and, for want of this conception, we do not regard Jesus with the interest which his character should inspire.

The first aim of the teacher will of course be, to fix the attention of the pupil. It is vain that you have his body in the school-room, if his mind is wandering beyond it, or refuses to fasten on itself the topic of discourse. In conmon schools attention is fixed by a severe discipline, incompatible with the spirit of Sunday schools. Of course the teacher must aim to secure it by a moral influence over the youthful mind.

As the first means of establishing an influence over the young, I would say, you must love them. Nothing attracts like love. Children are said to be shrewd physiognomists, and read, as if by instinct, our feelings

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in our countenances ; they know and are drawn to their friends. I recently asked, how a singularly successful teacher in religion obtained his remarkable ascendancy over the young. The reply was, that his whole intercourse expressed affection. His secret was a sincere love.

The next remark is, that, to awaken in the young an interest in what you teach, you must take an interest in it yourselves. You must not only understand, but feel, the truth. Your manner must have the natural animation, which always accompanies a work into which our hearts enter. Accordingly, one of the chief qualifications of a Sunday-school teacher is religious sensibility. Old and young are drawn by a natural earnestness of manner. Almost any subject may be made interesting, if the teacher will throw into it his soul.

Another important rule is, Let your teaching be intelligible. Children will not listen to words which excite no ideas, or only vague and misty conceptions. Speak to them in the familiar, simple language, of common life; and if the lessons have difficult terms, define them. Children love light, not darkness. Choose topics of conversation to which their minds are equal, and pass from one to another by steps which the young can follow. Be clear, and you will do much towards being interesting teachers.

Another suggestion is, Teach much by questions. These stimulate, stir up the young mind, and make it its own teacher. They encourage the spirit of inquiry, the habit of thought. Questions, skilfully proposed, turn the child to his own consciousness and experience, and will often draw out from his own soul the truth which you wish to impart: and no lesson is so well learned, as that which a man or child teaches himself.

Again, teach graphically where you can. That is, when you are discoursing of any narrative of Scripture or relating an incident from other sources, try to seize its great points and to place it before the eyes of your pupils. Cultivate the power of description. A story well told, and in which the most important particulars are brought out in a strong light, not only fixes attention, but often carries truth farthest into the soul.

Another rule is, Lay the chief stress on what is most important in religion. Do not conduct the child over the Gospels as over a dead level. Seize on the great points, the great ideas. Do not confound the essential and the unessential, or insist with the same earnestness on grand, comprehensive, life-giving truths, and on disputable articles of faith. Immense injury is done by teaching doubtful or secondary doctrines, as if they were the weightiest matters of Christianity; for, as time rolls over the child, and his mind unfolds, he discovers that one and another dogma, which he was taught to regard as fundamental, is uncertain if not false, and his scepticism is apt to spread from this weak point over the whole Christian system. Make it your aim to fix in your pupils the grand principles in which the essence of Christianity consists, and which all time and experience serve to confirm ; and, in doing this, you will open the mind to all truth as fast as it is presented in the course of Providence.

Another rule is, Carry a cheerful spirit into religious teaching. Do not merely speak of Christianity as the only fountain of happiness. Let your tones and words bear witness to its benignant, cheering influence. Youth is the age of joy and hope, and nothing repels it more than gloom.

Do not array religion in 'terror. Do not make God a painful thought by speaking of him as present only to see and punish sin. Speak of his fatherly interest in the young with a warm heart and a bearning eye, and encourage their filial approach and prayers. On this part, however, you must beware of sacrificing truth to the desire of winning your pupil. Truth, truth in her severest as well as her mildest forms, must be placed before the young. Do not, to attract them to duty, represent it as a smooth and flowery path. Do not tell them that they can become good, excellent, generous, holy, without effort and pain. Teach them that the sacrifice of selfwill, of private interest and pleasure, to others' rights and happiness, to the dictates of conscience, to the will of God, is the very essence of piety and goodness. But at the same time, teach them that there is a pure, calm joy, an inward peace, in surrendering every thing to duty, which can be found in no selfish success. Help them to sympathise with the toils, pains, sacrifices of the philanthropist, the martyr, the patriot, and inspire contempt of fear and peril in adhering to truth and God.

I will add one more rule. Speak of duty, of religion,

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