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SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHERS'
A COMPENDIUM OF INFORMATION ON THE
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES :
ARRANGED FOR READY REFERENCE, AND ILLUSTRATED WITH WOODCUTS.-
WITH AN INTRODUCTION
REV. J. F. KITTO, M.A.,
"whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." (Ecclesiastes ix. 10.) The rule is very important and far-reaching. It applies to religious "work quite as much as to secular, and to voluntary efforts fully as much as to paid services. Our own half-heartedness is a surer sign of weakness, and a more certain cause of failure and disaster, than the hostility of enemies, however powerful, and the bitterness of foes, however fierce.
Difficulties often stimulate effort and call out enthusiasm; indifference destroys our own earnestness, and checks and stifles the zeal of others; and, of course, the more arduous and the more important our work, the more the need for diligence and thoroughness in the doing of it. He who is careless in the presence of large responsibilities, dishonours his cause and degrades himself. "He that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame." (Proverbs x. 5.)
Now, teaching is confessedly a most difficult work, demanding the full exercise of all our intellectual powers. For in teaching it is not enough that we should ourselves appreciate the value of the truths which we teach, but we must also exercise such influence upon the mind of another as to enable and dispose him to receive the same truths. And this task becomes the more difficult in proportion to the depth and greatness of the subject which we are given to teach. But what subject can be more profound and more magnificent than that with which the Sunday School Teacher has to deal! His work is not merely to inform the mind, but to direct the affections and to influence the soul. He teaches not only that be may convey certain truths to the mind of another, but also in order that these truths may be as the seed of eternal life. The result of his teaching is not transitory, but eternal. It affects not only the welfare of the body, but also of the soul. In such work, how much need is there of ardour and earnestness and enthusiasm; how little room for half-heartedness and carelessness and indifference.
If, then, the Sunday School Teacher wishes to be successful, be must adopt the ordinary means to attain success. It may appear almost superfluous to assert, that in order to teach we must know; and, in order to know, we must be willing and anxious to learn. No man can really teach that which he has never taken pains to learn. Nor is it enough that the Teacher should possess a mere smattering of knowledge. He ought to be a thorough master of his subject. No one who desires to gain a complete and accurate knowledge of any art, will be satisfied to receive instruction at the hands of any one whose knowledge of that art is shallow and superficial. He naturally seeks the aid of a teacher who is thorough and proficient. Imperfect and inadequate knowledge on the part of" the teacher is sure to be reproduced, with all its imperfections, in the scholar, and is certain to cause also a want of interest and zeal. We do not say, indeed, that the Teacher who is best instructed will always be the most successful, because there are many qualifications besides mere knowledge which help to form an efficient Teacher. But we do say, and that most emphatically, that no Teacher either deserves or has any right to expect success, unless he has given all diligence, and taken all pains to gain a thorough knowledge of the subject which he is to teach.
And, in these days, there are special reasons which increase the importance of a thorough preparedness on the part of the Sunday School Teacher—for now he occupies a recognised, and definite, and prominent position in the machinery of the Church for religious instruction of the young. A hundred years ago, when the founders of the Sunday School first gathered together a few children, in order to preserve them from the common and open profanation of the Lord's Day, they little imagined to what dimensions the movement, thus inaugurated, would extend. And, in these days, when the Sunday School is to be found in every town and almost every village in the land, there is a danger lest the tendency should arise to lay a greater burden upon this machinery than it is at all adapted to bear, and then, wnen failure comes, to find fault with the system rather than lay the blame upon those who have overtaxed its powers aud overstrained its capacities. Just as we have sometimes seen a horse vainly struggling with a load far beyond its strength, and at the same time mercilessly beaten by its driver, as though the poor beast were to blame, because he had been too heavily burdened, and was unable to accomplish a task which was impossible. But while we protest against having our Sunday School system loaded with responsibilities which it is not fitted to discharge, at any rate let the high expectations which are formed of us, and the evident and growing desire to increase our burdens, stir us up to employ all our energies, and to use all our efforts, so that if we are not able to accomplish all that is demanded of us, we may, at the least, do as much as lies within the reach of our capacities. If we disclaim, on the part of the Sunday School system, any desire to occupy the whole ground, or to give all the religious training which our children have a right to claim—if we refuse to ignore the value of religious instruction in the Day School, or the duty of Christian parents to bring up their own children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—let us also be very jealous of our own exalted position as religious teachers of the young, and let us be eager to recognise and anxious to discharge the responsibilities which lie upon us, and which are ours to use, just in proportion to the opportunities which God opens before us. And, in these days, when so great efforts are being made, and rightly made, to improve our teaching in every department of human knowledge, it is only reasonable that Sunday School teaching should share in the general improvement, and be more searching and more thorough.
But it may be said that we are making a much larger claim than the ordinary Sunday School Teacher would be able to meet. There are many Teachers in our schools who possess but moderate gifts, and who are only able to secure a small amount of time to give to the preparation for their work; and who, nevertheless, are influenced by the "constraining love of Christ," and are anxious to do all that they can for the Master whom they love. Are such persons to be deterred from the offer of their voluntary service in the cause of the Sunday School? By no means. In this, as in all other work, the rule holds good—" It is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not." What we claim from every Sunday School Teacher is that he should diligently use all the opportunities he has, and never shrink from the labour and the self-denial which the work entails. And be it remembered that opportunities are often hidden from those who do not seek them; while to those who are diligent and watchful, larger talents will be given than they had even dared to hope for. This is God's rule in all the work to which He calls us —" To him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath."
Once more, then, we urge upon the zealous Sunday School Teacher that, if he would be successful in his work, he must be, according to his opportunities, an earnest student—& student of the subject which he has to teach; a student of the plans and methods of teaching; a student of the characters and dispositions and necessities of his scholars.
With the two latter branches of the subject of the Sunday School Teacher's study we do not purpose now to deal; but it is above all things of paramount importance that the Teacher should be a student of the Word Of God; and this not only because every Christian ought, for his own sake, to seek the guidance of the revealed will of God for his own personal edification and help, but especially because this is the subject with which his teaching is concerned. It is some passage of the Word of