THE aim of the Author, in the present work, is to supply Sabbath-school Teachers with a practical guide to the mode of teaching and conducting a Sabbath-school. He has endeavoured to exhibit the general principles of teaching to shew by detailed examples their application to the different -branches of religious instruction to point out prevailing errors and otter suggestions by which they may be rectified and to furnish directions for the more efficient management of the Sabbath-school.
The Sabbath-school is one of the most important religious institutions of the age. As a means of educating a large portion of the rising generation—of cultivating habits of order and obedience—of uniting together by offices of goodwill the different classes of society, and of calling forth a large amount of self-denial, perseverance, and Christian principle—it is entitled to a high place. But it has still higher claims on the church and the world. It is one of the most efficient means of extending the kingdom of Christ. Many thousands have been rescued by its instrumentality from the dominion of sin; and it is now rearing numerous plants which shall one day bloom in the paradise of God. The religious aspect of the Sabbath-school, therefore, ought principally to engage our attention. Let us notice some of its more striking features.
1. It must be recollected that the children who attend our schools are all immortal beings. In every child we see
From which may spring an angel."
The humblest child in our schools is to live for ever. From hands mightier than man's he has received the awful privilege of immortality. His bark has been launched on a shoreless sea; and the teacher is to be his pilot to purer skies and calmer waters than are to be seen in this troubled world.
Let the teacher, then, forget both the ragged and the gay garment; let him look beyond the rosy cheek of the happy child, and the fierce eye of one of life's outcasts. There is an immortal spirit in that youthful form; that eye is to look on other stars than what gem our sky; that tongue to speak a language which mortal man has never dreamed of; and that heart to throb with life when the world's history shall be but a leaf in the book of eternity. Eternal issues hang on every Sabbath's instructions. Woe to the teacher who betrays his trust!
2. All children are sinners. We may not believe that a child is a fair flower, fresh as in Eden's perfection. It was planted by the hand of God, and that all we have to do is, with hands washed in innocency, to train it to open its beauties to the sun. Who would not wish to believe this, were it true? Alas! it is not true. However early we begin our instructions, we find that sin has been before us. Anger, envy, selfishness, are bound up in the heart of every child. We are not seeking in teaching it to preserve a pure soul from pollution, or to ward off a distant danger; guilt is already on the child's head, and a mortal disease preying on its heart; its own way is very sweet, and the way of God very hard.
3. Religion does not leave children to perish in their sins; its teachers are ministers of peace to them. Christ Jesus died to save children. Of such is the kingdom of heaven. The fold of the Good Shepherd has lambs as well as sheep; and He who suffered the little children, and forbade them not to come to Him on earth, has often welcomed them to heaven. To children, therefore, as children, we must teach the gospel. They need no more sins or years to give them a claim on God's mercy. The youngest is old enough and guilty enough already; and the gospel provides present remedies for their present wants.
It is very much in the teacher's favour that he has young minds to instruct. He stands, as it were, near the point where the broad and the narrow ways part; ere much of either has been trodden, or the children's feet have become familiar to the path. Let the teacher improve his opportunity. The period of youth cannot be retained. The sapling will soon be a hard and knotted trunk; the rill of passion, an impetuous torrent; the soft impressible sand, impenetrable rock. It is when the child is trained in the way he should go that he will not depart from it.
From the importance of the truths taught in the Sabbath-school, and the value of the interests at stake, we see at once the principle on which all its arrangements are to be made. Are children immortal and guilty, and is there salvation provided for them? Then our only business in the school is to draw them to God. Whatever plans we adopt, whatever arrangements we make, and whatever lessons we teach, must have this object directly in view. We should never hear a child repeat a hymn, or read a passage of Scripture—we should neither require a scholar to prove a doctrine, nor examine him on what we have taught,—but for the purpose, in one way or another, of advancing his eternal interests. A teacher does not go to the school to spend an hour in hearing lessons, but, as in the sight of God, to shew to his pupils the way to eternal life.
Were this high object ever kept in view, what an energy would be infused into our Sabbath schools! With what earnestness should we proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ! what solemn appeals should we address to those who are living in sin! and how would the most trifling arrangements acquire a dignity because seen in their relation to eternity!
The present work is divided into two parts. The First Part is occupied with Religious Instruction, which is discussed under the heads Preparation, Explanation, Illustration, Application, Revision, Catechising, Bible History, Parables, the Law and the Gospel, and Catechisms, &c. The Second Part is dedicated to The School, under which are considered rules for its formation, management, and improvement.
- Systems of Teaching
- Bible History
- The Law and the Gospel
- Infant Classes
- Senior Classes