Page images
PDF
EPUB

“Many years ago, a Mr. Scudder came to my father's house in New York, wishing to reside in the family while prosecuting his medical studies. Not a member of the family then knew any thing of practical religion. But * Mr. Scudder added to the attractiveness of a Christian life the persuasions of earnest zeal, that we would seek after peace with God. The result of his patient efforts was the entire change of the character of our household. Harriett, my sister, became a Christian, and afterwards was married to Mr. Scudder, and has most faithfully rewarded his fidelity to her by the devotion of her life to him and to his work as a missionary.

“ After a long residence in India, Dr. Scudder sent his sons to America to be educated. Henry was a wild boy, and gave his friends great disquietude. But his father and mother never lost their confidence in God. Their fervent prayers for him were incessant. Now mark how God answers -how he rewards, after long years and heavy trials, the faithful labors of his servants. I had been brought to know and love the Saviour through the influence of Mr. Scudder, when living in my father's family. In the spring of 1826, I went to New York to spend a college vacation. While there I addressed an audience of young men. At the close of the meeting one of them followed me up Greenwich Street, and at length accosted me. His question was direct, 'What must I do to be saved?' I gave him Paul's answer to the same question, and it was not long before he fulfilled it happily in his own experience, and in a few years after entered the ministry.

In 1840 this young man, now grown to be that eloquent champion of the truth, the Rev. E. N. Kirk, was preaching in Dr. Skinner's Church in New York, and a son Dr. Skinner became a Christian through his influence. He was an intimate friend of young Scudder, and urged him to come and hear the preacher who had so wrought upon his own heart. Scudder went, and by the sermon he then heard was brought to receive the truth as it is in Jesus, and is now laboring with his father, as a missionary in India."

* LORD TEACH US HOW TO PRAY." MR. EDITOR,—The excellent paper you have taken from the "Scottish Sabbath School Teachers' Magazine,” enters so fully into the subject of the want of a devotional spirit among Sunday scholars, and the best methods of inducing the same, as to leave but little more to be said on the subject, unless by way of confirmation.

The entire accuracy of the description of the behaviour of scholars during prayer-time, cannot alas be called in question.- (By the way, 20 scholars is one half too many for one class, unless in a separate room.) Shall I be accused of exaggeration, if I say that one prayerful scholar among twenty irreverent, would be more than the usual average ?

And if we consider that every prayer neglected makes it harder still to pray, and that irreverent and inattentive behaviour has not only a growing deadening effect on those who indulge in it, but a vast influence for evil on any seriously minded scholar in the school, we may well shudder, and prayerfully bestir ourselves to the consideration of cause and cure of so acknowledged a wide-spread evil.

There is no doubt that the great secondary cause of this inattention has been that the prayers to which scholars have listened have not been suitable to their understanding, their feelings, or their wants. Teachers have stood up to pray for children--to be their mouthpiece as it were to God-and have forgotten them entirely; have uttered it may be, beautiful prayers, full of the divine spirit and holy eloquence, it may be, homely and threadbare prayers; but in either case, containing scarce one want or desire of children, and scarce one idea or sentiment which they would respond to, or could join in.

Can we wonder then, that with such small inducements to join in public prayer, our scholars have grown up into an unprayerful spirit? I have known, and could point out instances of children, earnest and attentive in class, and of whom their teachers have had bright hopes, have yet neglected prayer entirely in the public services of the school; and I doubt not that every teacher can call many such instances to mind.

No one can be more sensible than myself of the extreme difficulty of uttering prayers, which, without becoming unmeaning or childish, shall express a child's wants, hopes, aspirations, and longings-making confession of his (not our) peculiar sins-his (not our) peculiar temptations and trials; but with God's help it may be done ; and when we can get teachers to admit that it is no easy task to pray for children-nothing to be done offhand and without such contemplation and private prayer as they would bestow if called upon to pray publicly for adults-aye, and more too-we have half won the battle.

The various practical recommendations contained in the extract before referred to, may, I think, be summed up in the one word that to teach, pray for, or preach to children, we need to have sympathy with them. We must put ourselves in their places, and learn what they require, and how, ere we can supply their wants. You ask how this sympathy, or practical love, is to be had—I answer, of Christ. Was not he the God-man, the most active and entire sympathizer of man with men that ever existed ? Is not his religion one of sympathy entirely, (speaking of Christians' relations to their fellows) as opposed to false religions which set man against mañ, and each man's hand against his brother man ? Let us, then, in our closets seek Christ's love, and be assured that if we have a true spirit of self-sacrificing love within us, we shall have little difficulty in putting that love into an active shape, as sympathy for-feeling with-our Sunday scholars.

One practical word and I have done. Be above all things very cautious in using common biblical and religious phrases and words. There is great danger that by familiar, almost, I may say, cant phrases, (using cant not in an offensive sense) which come easy and glib to the tongue, we may convey no adequate meaning to the hearts of our hearers; when the same meaning couched in every-day household words, might make a deep and lasting impression.

The whole tendency of modern popular (effective) preaching, is to the discountenance of terms, symbols, and phrases, which, through long use or misuse have lost their original effect and power, and to the substitution instead, of plain, homely, Saxon every-day words and symbols--culled from the market-place, the shop, or the fireside.

I believe this to be wise and philosophic, but this is no place, nor have I time now to prove it so. Success alone fully justifies the practice, and persons inclined to be fastidious and hypercritical must remember that Christ's own words, symbols, and parables-classic now by eighteen century memories and tears, were taken from the then daily life around him, and doubtless were thought very vulgar and commonplace by the refined Pharisees.

If this practice answers well with adults, how very much better it will with children, numerous bright examples among teachers and preachers for children will shew.

Lastly, let me caution any one who tries to make his prayers for children more suitable for them, not to expect immediate fruit. The tree growing up many a year long, cannot be thrown by one hatchet blow; let it suffice us' to do according to our consciences, and leave the rest to God.

Next month I propose to examine the subject of a Sunday school Liturgy. Southampton.

N.

.

" WAIT ON THE LORD."
We must learn to wait-

No prayer sent up to God can e'er miscarry;
Nor will the answer come too late,

E'en tho' beyond our life time it may tarry!
" He shall not make haste"

(So saith the scripture) “who on Christ believeth ;"
Nor shall a moment run to waste,

Ere" he that asketh" be " he that receiveth!”
Not one prayer in vain !

Who would not pray, with such assurance given ?
Who would not make of prayers a chain

Reaching from lowest earth to highest heaven!
We may never know

On earth, the glad result of our petition-
Yet thence a stream of life may flow

O'er barren souls, and help them to fruition.
And a happy thought

Comes in to cheer us, as we work and wait-
That in the heart of Jesus, nought

Springing from love can find low estimate !
Let us then be strong.

To watch and labor, pray and persevere-
Nor, tho' the twilight linger long,

Fail to expect a day most bright and clear !
Norwich.

P.S.S.

REWARD GIVING IN SUNDAY SCHOOLS. MR. EDITOR, Though a teacher, and I trust a Christian teacher, holding the same views as a Sunday School Secretary," my cheeks were not tinged to the extent required by a "Country Superintendent," in your number for March, nor did I feel “ the blush of honest shame," which the proprieties of the occasion demanded. I did feel, it is true, that while it may be “a very lamentable and humiliating fact,” that the children in our schools should be rewarded for being good, it is a more lamentable and humiliating fact that the Sunday Schools of this country, as a rule, require such helps to their efficiency, and that we are only on the road to perfection, not having yet attained thereto. And though we may be pitied by our more enlightened brethren, yet we are vain enough to believe, that the advocates of the system of rewards may not therefore be more sinful than their fellow-teachers, and may not be necessarily, either ignorant, antiquated, or absurd.

At the risk of being consigned to one of these three classes, I do maintain that the principle of giving rewards to our classes, is founded on reason and common sense, and is neither sinful nor inexpedient, but quite the contrary.

From my very earliest childhood till the present, I have uninterruptedly been in the closest connection with Sunday schools, and have had many opportunities of comparing schools in different parts of the country, and these, again, with regard to their discipline and general efficiency, with well-known day schools. My general experience has shown me, and I know in this matter I am supported by the majority of those who have to do with education in its more extended forms,) that our most efficient institutions number very largely those in which a judicious system of rewards is pursued.

Before proceeding further, let me look at a few of the reasons brought forward by those of contrary opinions. It is said, that "we should teach them, (i, e. the children,) to love and serve God, as both their duty and their highest pleasure, and not for what they can get by it"-that the good they receive should be a sufficient inducement for them to come to schoolthat to give them prizes is to appeal to their lower nature—and that it is unjust to poor children of slender capacity, and fewer advantages. These considerations are the chief that I have ever heard against the system of prizes. The first, no teacher who upholds prizes, ever disbelieves, or ever attempts to teach its latter clause, and it has, therefore, nothing whatever to do with the question. The rest I hope to notice incidentally as I proceed.

The moral government of God is a system of rewards and punishments. If we do good, we are rewarded ; if evil, we are punished. The principles of human law, being founded on those that are Divine, recognize the same general truth. Those who do right, though not immediately rewarded by the State, feel that they receive remuneration for their good conduct in the protection of the government to both their lives and property. The bad are directly punished. Why then, in the school, should not the same principle hold? Why should we not deal with our children as God deals with us ? God has not merely told us to do good, and left the satisfaction which the performance of good brings to be our only reward. No, he promises us Heaven as a positive prize. Why not, then, positively reward our children? It is, I know, comparing higher things with lower, but why not?

But “the system of givirg rewards appeals to the lower natures of the children." That this should be brought forward as an objection to prizes, strikes me as most ludicrous. Do the opponents of this practice by exhibition of art, handicraft, or scholarship, ever endeavor to carry off a medal or a prize? Shocking selfishness! What a yielding to the lower nature ! Why is not the satisfaction of having exercised one's mind and hands a sufficient reward? But is it so? We forget, however, that this has to do with secular affairs, and we were considering holy things. Where, I would ask, is there to be found in the Bible any motives for action in secular affairs different from those for action in sacred ones? The Christianity of Christ has as much to do with the counting house, the workshop, and the studio, as with the Sunday school. He gave us the religion of common life-the rules for every-day holiness. What is morally right in one place, cannot be wrong in another, for right is immutable and changes not. And if wrong to reward in Sunday schools, it is wrong to reward for doing good in the affairs of life, and vice versa.

Our public day schools, our colleges, and our universities, are neither infidel nor heathen. Many of the former can be backed for real Christian teaching in a real Christian spirit, and for efficiency and high discipline, against any Sunday school in the country. One well known instance is to be found in the British School at Cheltenham, under the management of Mr. Moore, though I could easily furnish a score of others if required. These, considering numbers and teaching power, are more efficiently disciplined, and have as high a moral tone as any Sunday school I have ever seen. And yet in these schools prizes and rewards are liberally distributed, and their efficiency largely maintained by these means.

Mr. Moore's certificates are known to every teacher, and every teacher also knows how much of Mr. Moore's great success is due to them. The privy council have lately imitated the plan, and furnish certificates to deserving children in schools under inspection. The Hants and Wilts, and all the other adult education societies liberally bestow prizes upon the deserving. And think you, that by this appeal " to the lower nature" of those who are brought under such influences, their moral tone is lowered ? Go into such excellent schools as I have named, and then answer.

Our colleges and older universities are professedly, and in the main, really religious. Those who go there are not children but men. They are thus more open to higher considerations, and should therefore act accordingly, It follows that the cultivation of religious knowledge (at least) should, if anything, give to them a sufficient reward ir itself. It should be studied for its own sake, our opponents would say, and any probability that it will count towards a medal or a fellowship, ought not to be thought of. Yet is such the case? How many would not strive as they do, did not prizes and rewards allare them ?

Our minds have been given us by God. We are responsible for them, and bound to cultivate them. If anything is to be striven for, for its own sake, surely it is knowledge. Any other motive, argue such as a “Union Secretary,"

« PreviousContinue »