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sible to maintain the religious character of these schools. In this country, where the religious sentiments of the people were almost infinitely diversified, the moment that the schools came to be supported from the public treasury, every individual felt himself entitled to say, “You must not interfere with my conscience ;” and he (the Chairman) did not know how the argument was to be resisted. Hence, as was the case in America, where they had the greatest difficulty in maintaining the Bible in the common schools, and as was also the case in Ireland, so he believed tho samo struggle would take place in this country. Or even if they should succeed in maintaining it in the schools, there would, in the course of a few years, be the difficulty of securing anything like dogmatic, doctrinal teaching. He was not about to treat this question argumentatively, and merely referred to it for the purpose of founding on it this conclusion,—that if a danger of such a kind were impending, it was of the utmost importance that the religious interests of our Sunday schools should be maintained, and that their influence should become more practical, extensive, and continuous ;" so that whatever might become of our daily schools, the religious instruction of our youth should not be wholly disregarded. They had, to a large extent, the youthful population of the country under their care for one day in the week, and it was for the Sunday school teachers to say whether they should not be thoroughly well instructed in the word of God on that day. The subject, then, which had been selected by the Committee, was one of very considerable importance, and he trusted the result of the Conference would be to send all present away with a deep sense of their solemn responsibility, and an earnest determination to make, as far as their means extended, the religious influence of the Sunday school more " practical, extensive, and continuous.” Mr. MEEN, according to arrangement, opened the conference.
He said :
:--The Sunday school system has been gradually acquiring increased power ; we have seen with delight the progressive development of its resources, and the beautiful unfoldings of its true character and excellence. The infantile state of Sunday schools was largely dependent on those who were only prepared to give so much time for so much money; but ere long there were indications of piety and vigour ; the religious element was recognised, and voluntary effort, sanctified by religion, was brought to bear upon the church and the world, in a way and to an extent till then unknown. The necessity for Sunday school literature arose ; libraries were originated; and the Bible itself, though amid strife and contention, was produced at such a price as to render it emphatically the “child's own book." In our ignorance, the little ones had been thought too young to come within the compass of our efforts, and the older ones, because of their increasing years, were sent astray, being too old longer to enjoy the benefits of a Sunday school ; but better days were dawning, and, almost simultaneously, classes for infants and senior scholars were commenced. In order, however, that the whole might be better taught, and that teachers might have greater facility in their work, preparation classes were established, and many have sprung up both in town and country, in imitation of the model conducted here by Mr. Cuthbertson.
The regenerating influence of the Sunday school agency has not stopped here : it was felt that, in many of the homes of our scholars, there was a fætid atmosphere, an intellectual miasma, working most surely (though silently) on the mind. To check the influence of a corrupt and vicious press amongst parents and children, selections from the best cheap literature are put into circulation by our teachers from week to week.
In order to render the teachings of divine truth more suited to the youthful mind, separate services, and also Sunday evening servicos, have been successfully conducted : the former intended to supply the place of public worship-or rather to be the
children's public service--but of such a character as that they should feel a special interest in its exercises ; and the latter intended to preserve our children from the streets, and afford still further opportunity for usefulness. While it has been felt to be of importance that the teachers should be well informed, it has even been felt of more importance that they should know how to communicate that which they possess : hence the introduction of training classes. Having discussed this matter at our last Conference, it is only necessary to say that we must all rejoice in what is now doing at home in regard to these classes ; while we are encouraged to hope that the same scheme of usefulness will ere long prevail in the distant States of America. Notwithstanding all that Sunday schools have effected for men and nations, either socially or in their more direct religious influence, we have ever and anon to revert to the fact that our labours are successful but to a small extent, as compared with the means omployed. Hence I am invited to point out some of “the means by which the religious influence of the Sunday school may be made more practical, extensive, and continuous.” It is not too much to say, that the predo. minating influence in the school will depend mainly on the moral charaoter and influonce of its conductors. Is a school disorderly in appearance or management ? that disorder is referable to its head. Is a school feeble and wanting in discipline? the indications of weakness among those who manage it are unmistakeable. Is a school to a large extent inoperative or unsuccessful ? then you will find, by the most superficial glance, that there is a want of power and earnestness. Is there wanting, in our schools generally, the display of God's saving power ? I believe, brethren, it is because we are not sufficiently prayerful and earnest in our work. The majestic vessel moves on proudly, defying the waves that roll around her ; but amid the billowy surge, she answers with unwavering fidelity to the mind of him who directs her course. So will our schools be affected by the prayer of faith : there is a wheel like that which Ezekiel saw, which the living power of prayer will move. In our schools there may be the most perfect order and organisation-everything may be symmetrical, the mechanism complete, and the teaching in its way effective; and yet, without the Spirit of the living God be present, we may read and talk about the evil of sin and the grace of Christ, but there will be no living apprehension of Him as a Saviour either by teacher or scholar. The most brilliant instrument may excite our gaze, but it will fail to charm us without the aid of a master. The slumbering stores of our largest arsonals lie harmless at our feet till war begins its desolation. The locomotive may command our admiration as we examine its parts in detail, but without the moving power it would be but a magnificent toy ; only let that power be applied, however, what wonders will it accomplish ! what emergencies is it equal to ! how continuous its labour ! how triumphant its success! Brethren, we have done well while perfecting our machinery and improving our plans ; but never shall we have an enlarged measure of prosperity, till the Spirit be poured out from on high. May we fain hope that, in the coming year, we shall look more than ever for the conversion of our children.
The fact indicated in our question is this, that our schools in a greater or less degree exert a religious influence. Whatever changes may come over us or operate on our spirits ; whatever modifications may be adoptod by us in our modes of action, children will remain pretty much the same, and we shall have to deal with them as such. But it may be asked, Is there anything that would tend to render them more susceptible of impression, or that would in any degree prevent the loss of those impressions, when once they are kindled in the mind ?
All who are engaged in this work must have felt there are hindrances in the way ; it may be that many of them are of our own creation, but there are others over which we have little control, One of these arises from the dissolute habits of the
parents; another, the want of sympathy among parents with their children upon the subjects that are taught. There is no following up of the subject-no con: versation upon it. Thus the homes and outdoor companionship create among our scholars a bias in favour of evil; and added to these is the practice of Sunday purchases, and excursions on the Lord's day. Now, it is certain that, whatever hindrances arise, our duty is clear. To seek to create religious impressions is mainly our work. Childhood, in all its stages, is susceptible of impression. encouraged to expect success in our efforts to produce it, and we are bound to seck it. Little reliance is to be placed on teaching power, organisation, or social position. There may be all the appliances for a good school, and yet little success may be achieved. Our labours should have immediate relation to each one.
We seem rather to think it just possible that some good may arise, instead of labouring with that one aim.
In speaking of “the means whereby the influence of the Sunday school may be made more practical, extensive, and continuous,” Mr. Meen touched upon several points. He said :-Mr. Ferguson, writing on the claims of London, says (Standard, October 15, 1858), “We may build sanctuaries and opon schools, and a thousand other good things ; but the great desideratum is an adequate agency to carry our living and loving Christianity to the homes and hearths of our teeming and crowded masses. It is not enough to invite them to come and take the water of life freely : we must carry it to them, put the cup to their very lip, and ask them to drink that they may live." In order that this may be done among the parents of one scholars, it should be regarded as of far more consequence to win souls than to have several of our best teachers engaged in mere routine duties. Our teaching should be less discursive-there should be more point, more direct aim. We should exercise more care in the classification of the children, who are often disgusted by being placed in association with those with whom they have littlo sympathy. No teacher should enter upon the work without some amount of preparation and training ; while superintendents generally should better understand their duties. No less than teachers they require to be instructed, in order that they may understand the art of good government. The moral power of the school will be influenced, more or less, by the status of the superintendent himself, and tho influence he may be able to exert. Not long since, after speaking on this very subject, a superintendent came to me and said, "I have hitherto been doing the very opposite of what you have been recommending." I think it would be well that thero should be meetings of superintendents from time to time, that they may take counsel with each other on this matter. Then, too, think that special regard should be paid to our elder scholars. They have peculiar claims upon us, because they are exposed to peculiar difficulties and temptations; and they are more inclined to speak freely to their teachers upon them than to others. I remember hearing a young friend once say, “I can never talk to my mother upon religious matters.” It seems strange it should be so, but I believe it is often the case ; therefore we should honour their confidence, for they demand our special regard in this particular. I would encourage amongst them prayer meetings and epistolary correspondence, from which the most blessed results have been known to follow. Be yourselves also possessed of a deep religious feeling; have faith in your work : we want earnestness, intelligence, and sympathy, and deep-toned piety, that we should drink deep into Christ's spirit, and get our spirits refreshed by waiting upon God. Seek, too, in prayer, both when alone and with your classes, enlarged measuros of blossing. It is sometimes a grievous matter that the prayers put up in our Sunday schools are any. thing else than what they should be, embracing every subject, and having no special reference to the object in which the teachers are engaged. The speaker concluded hy referring to the recent revivals of religion in this country and in America, and by
urging upon teachers to seek for a more abundant outpouring of the Spirit in connection with their work.
Mr. COLLINS believed they were all prepared to admit that a considerable improvement had taken place in the Sunday schools of this country, both as regarded their organization, and the qualifications of the teachers engaged in them. But it was the opinion of some, that satisfactory results had not yet been realized, -results commensurate to the improved and enlarged machinery brought into operation ; and Inighest degree of perfection of which it was capable ; and they must no longer be content when they had merely got the children in the church and left them there. He could not understand how it was that hundreds and thousands had been brought into church fellowship, of whose after carcer, as far as usefulness was concerned, they heard but little. If all these persons were thoroughly imbued with the Christian spirit, and went forth to convert the world with a thorough, downright, earnest, practical, abiding and unreserved determination to succeed, would they not soon see more pleasing results in the extension of religious influence than was now presented ? It was not enough that our children should be brought into the church ; when there they had a work to do, and that work was the development in themselves and others of a religious influence which would be practical, abiding, and extensive.
It hence it was that the subject now submitted for discussion had been selected. was a thoroughly practical subject, and he should like in the first place that they should settle what they meant by religious influence. For his own part, he found so much vagueness whenever he conversed with friends upon the subject, that he felt it was desirable they should start by defining it more accurately than was usually done. He thought if they looked at the question in two aspects it would materially assist the inquiry. Let them ask first how much of the production of this influence belonged to God, and then how much of it belonged to themselves. If he were required to say what it was that peculiarly distinguished man from the brute creation, he should not be inclined to say reason ; for the mere untrained reason of man was far inferior to the instinct of the brute, which almost invariably led him right, while man untrained as invariably went wrong. He would rather describe the peculiar characteristic of man as the possession of the religious instinct, whereby he naturally, and under all circumstances, felt after the unseen. Let them see how this was developed. Wherever they went they found this constant searching after God manifested in the various forms of superstition and idolatry. The right training of this religious instinct belonged to man. The precise line of demarcation between that which fell within his province and that which was the direct work of God, was, perhaps, as difficult to define as in scientific inquiry to settle the quadrature of the circle ; but there was a practical point, at which the one began and the other ended. In looking at the accounts given in Scripture of the miracles performed by Christ, they found that the lame man was told to rise up and walk, and the man with the withered limb to stretch forth his hand. And so with religious feeling ; sinful men were told to repent, to believe, and to pray. Therefore, in reference to all questions about human capability, there could be no doubt that when God called upon men to obey the gospel, they were bound to follow His commands. The subject put before them for consideration indicated that there was a religious influence, and the point was, how that influence was to be increased. Among the means proposed, prayer meetings and revival meetings had been named. He felt, whenever quostions were put to him respecting children's prayer meetings, that he could not give down. right answers to them. His own experience had made him rather afraid of such meetings ; but he believed that it was because proper means had not been perseveringly carried out. Then with regard to teachers' prayer meetings, he could only say that he considered the great fallacy upon the subject was, that they were not looked upon as a means to an end, and that frequently persons met together and enjoyed a sort of religious voluptuousness instead of working. If they could not both pray and work, let them pray at home and work abroad. A large amount of their want of success as teachers consisted in this, that they had too often left off work and gone to prayer, without having settled in their minds whether they had done anything on which they could satisfactorily invoke the divine blessing. He thought, too, that if they would only look more carefully and constantly at what their aim was in this undertaking, they would
more practical religious influence. If every child in their schools and throughout the kingdom were converted to God, that was only a small part of their work. They had looked upon conversion as the whole object of their labours ; but something more was wanted : it was the bringing of the Christian character to the
Mr. GOVER thought that, without going into the metaphysical part of the question, and without having anything to say in reference to the church, but confining their attention to their schools, there were two things which they would all agree were necessary,—the one, to get a better state of religious impression in the minds of the teachers; and the other, to extend that influence among their children and their parents. With regard to the teachers, he thought that they were admitted into the schools in a way that was not calculated to give them an impression of the importance of the work as a religious institution. Young people were frequently invited by friends to enter the school; and if they were pleased with the occupation, they remained. Ministers of the gospel were not admitted into their responsible and sacred office without having a charge laid upon thom; and though he did not know that any public introduction would be deemed advisable in the case of a Sunday school teacher, he would suggest that it would be well for the pastor of the church, the superintendent, or some judicious friend, to introduce the teacher solemnly to his important work. If this were done, the office would not be lightly taken up, nor, for secondary considerations, resigned. Then, if the pastors were more frequently to attend teachers' meetings, it would help to keep up in them a right view of their duties, and prevent their sinking down too much to the secularities of their work. Teachers' prayer meetings had hitherto bcen, to a great extent, failures, and it was rarely that the attendance at them had been regularly maintained. They were too formal in their character; the prayers were too long by three times ; and the interest, generally, was found to flag. He recommended that the engagements at such meetings should be diversified, and that not only portions of Scripture, but suitably selected pieces from other books, such as James's “ Teacher's Guide," should be read on such occasions. In addition to these things, they wanted to exercise an influence over the children at home, as well as their parents. There was a great difficulty in this matter, but the importance of it was so great, that it demanded their very carnest consideration. He thought all present would be inclined frankly to acknowledge that hitherto the system of visiting scholars had been the exception, and not the rule. There must be something wrong in their plan, and he entertained the opinion that it would be well if they had, in connection with all the schools, regular trained visitors, upon whom this duty should be devolved. The churches would, no doubt, furnish such persons, and give them to the school. It might be urged that the objection to this would be, that it did not meet the great need, which was, that the teachers themselves should visit the scholars. Well, then, having a band of trainod visitors, let the teachers of the class go with them. In conducting such visitations, a definite object should be kept in view, and he would suggest that the visitors should take with them the lessons on single leaves, converse with the parents upon the subject of those lessons, and urge them to talk with and thus impress their children's minds in reference to them.
Mr. COOPER, of Birmingham, said his own mind had been much engaged of late in