Page images

such a superintendent that we speak. Take a school with three rooms, there must be six superintendents, and these the best men in the school. This we believe is a serious evil, and is confined chiefly to this part of the country. It is a great waste of the talent which God has given for the evangelization of the world.

Let us revise our plans, and let our object be to seek work in our Sunday schools. The result will be, that many whose zeal is almost dying of nothing to do in the discharge of one-half or one-third of the duties of superintendent, will be placed at the head of select classes, where they will find that pleasure and work are inseparable allies in the Sunday school. This is our answer to the question, Where shall we find efficient teachers for our select classes? Yon who are delegates from schools with four or six superintendents, study the law of adaptation in your schools as you would in your business; and you will find many an indifferent teacher who is a first-class business man of exemplary piety, with a large amount of tact, who would fill well the office of superintendent; but the gifted and earnest in our ranks should be retained for our select classes.

Remember that the efficient teacher is the great bulwark of the Sunday school.

Two questions ought ever to be kept before us, viz.,—What is the great object aimed at by our select classes? and how can we best attain that object?

The common answer to the first question is, that the great object of select classes is to retain our elder scholars. We ask, for what purpose do we wish to retain them?

To supply our Sunday schools with teachers, is the general replv. These classes, if allowed to do their work properly, will supply our Sunday schools with their best teachers; but the supply will be much greater than the demand.

This will, perhaps, be the proper place to point out one of the greatest evils which select classes have to contend with, the full magnitude of which the teacher of the class only knows. We refer to what we think is the common error, that one great purpose which these classes are to serve, is to supply the places of absentee teachers. Take any school, with from thirty to forty teachers, where the want of system, which prevails too much in our best schools, is seen in every part of the institution. In the supposed school there are three or four teachers noted for irregular attendance. Seldom, if ever, a Sabbath comes, but one or other is absent. The superintendent has the choice of two evils: he must either put the scholars into another class, or procure a teacher from the select class.

Which would be the better course? Superintendents generally will say, take a teacher out of tho select class, rather than allow a clasB to be neglected. We would offer several remarks on this common, but we think evil practice.

1st. This plan is adopted because it is the most convenient, and not because it is the best.

2nd. A clasB without a teacher may be distributed into two or three classes, so that there is no necessity for the alternative of tho class being untaught, if a teacher be not taken from the select class.

Srd. If the neglected class be thus distributed, the scholars composing it will be under the care of one who has come to teach the lesson for the day.

4th. To take a member of the select class to supply the place of an absentee, as a rule, is to pander to the giant evil, (viz., irregular attendance,) which is the bane of our Sunday schools.

It is much more pleasant for the superintendent to ask the kindhearted young man or woman to take a class, than to enquire of the irregular teacher as to the cause of his absence.

5th. The above course disturbs the select class, interrupts the teacher, and not unfrequently spoils the lesson.

6th. The young person, who, after much persuasion, consents to take a class, is not prepared to teach, he has come to hear, not to give a lesson.

The lesson for the select class may be a particular one, and, therefore, the services thus rendered are given with only half a heart, and so far as he is concerned, the occupations of the Sabbath end with disappointment.

The common argument which settles all objections on the part of the members of our select classes, when asked to take charge of a class is, "it is your duty." We think that this is a great mistake. To miss one lesson may make a break in a series of lessons. We have known a member of a select class request another to furnish him with his notes, as he himself was expected to go at the call of the superintendent. At other times we have known all to remain resolute, and give a firm no! to the superintendent's request, which refusal was regarded as rebellion.

We think it is not the duty of the members of our select classes to offer themselves up as the victims to the caprice of any teacher, who may be allured from his class by a fine morning, an interesting book, or an eloquent preacher. The young man or woman has a right to demur to the request of the superintendent, especially when the subject of the lesson is of a peculiarly interesting character. We are not speaking of absence from illness; a teacher's place, vacant from such a cause, would be most cheerfully filled by the members of our select classes.

It will augur well for our Sunday schools, when the members of our select classes respectfully, but firmly, make a stand against the above evil, and say, we will either come to teach, or to bo taught; but we will not be the makeshifts for those who have neither a conscience to impel them to attend to their classes, nor the dignity to resign them; give each of us in our turn a class, and say, that is yours, and we will show ourselves worthy of the important trust.

Lessons.—The lessons best adapted to the select class iss a question on which there are many opinions. The Sunday School Union Lessons are recommended by some. Taking them as subjects for all classes in our schools for any lengthened period of time, we believe that the Union lessons cannot be surpassed.

A plan which will commend itself to some, is to take Genesis for one part of the day, and Matthew with parallel passages from the gospels on the other part of the day. We have known the above plan carried out with some success in a young men's class.

Another plan which we have known work well, is worthy of a trial, as it gives the members of the class a choice in the selection of subjects.

The plan of taking the Scriptures in consecutive order, may be better adapted to young men than the one which we are about to describe, whioh we think will be preferred by many young women's classes. Take a class of young women, numbering from twenty to thirty members. If newly formed, the teacher may eeleot subjects for the first two Sabbaths. When the teacher (there are very good teachers of both sexes of young women's classes) announces them to the class, it will be stated that these will be the last subjects which will be selected for the class, and that at the close of the second Sabbath, each member will be expected to furnish a subject in writing—each subject to occupy one Sabbath. On the given day, after the duties of the class have closed, the papers are collected, and the subjects proposed will probably occupy the class for the subsequent six months. Of course, the teacher would reject any improper subject, of winch there would not be much danger, as each subject would be accompanied by the proposer's signature.

Some would think that the above plan would give too much power to the class. Let our young men and women see that they have our confidence, and they will give their affection in return. It is the unwise exercise of "a little brief authority," simply for the sake of mastery, which ruins many select classes. The above plan has many advantages.

The subjects are the choice of the class, the members will therefore feel an additional obligation to be present to hear the teacher's exposition. By this plan, you will have variety; also a particular lesson for each member. Some subjects will be very difficult; a few may be ridiculous, but the judicious teacher can turn them all to good account. It may happen that one will try from sheer misohief to set the teacher fast, and will chuckle at the prospect of the teacher's confusion when the subject selected for that object is announced for the coming Sabbath. When the lesson is opened, and great truths are shown to be hidden in the mysterious language which the proposer thought would perplex the teacher, admiration takes the place of mischievous design, and the teacher has won the esteem of the proposer for life. This plan gives the teacher the opportunity of solving doubts, which members of our select classes do not like formally to express. It is remarkable what a number of passages aro selected, such as " How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" and others indicative of an awakened conscience, where the above plan is adopted. Some may prefer a systematic course of lessons for both young men and young women's classes, but what succeeds in one class may fail in another; no two classes are alike; no two localities are alike; nor can you find two minds exactly alike, hence the difficulty of making a list of lessons adapted to all. The above plan recognizes the fact, that in one sense all minds are alike, and therefore while each subject will be adapted to all, it will be equally suited to each, as it also takes into account the universally admitted truth, that each mind has its own peculiarity.

From the many other questions which claim attention, we can only select the following: what good results from our select classes meeting in the general school at the opening service and during the address? This will be regarded as a bold question. From those who are in favour of the retention of old plans, we request a calm hearing.

We are fully aware that changes are not always improvements, and that changes which are not improvements are often great evils, and tend to keep an institution in a state of disturbance. It is far wiser to adhere to old plans than to adopt new ones, unless they be better than those which they displace.

The argument which is generally used in favour of select classes meeting in the general schools, (which argument is regarded as conclusive,) is, that for our select classes not to meet in the general school, would be to break up our schools into fragments, and fill our young men and women with pride.

This argument was urged in favour of infant classes meeting in the general sohool some years ago. Superintendents who insisted on infant class teachers bringing the infants into the general sohool at the opening service, would now regard such an act as wrong in principle and inconvenient in practice.

Try to look at this question calmly. Select classes consist of our eldest scholars, and are (or ought be) taught by our best teachers, and are expected to take an intelligent view of all their engagements in the Sunday school. They usually meet in the general sohool at the opening, they sing and pray with the rest. After prayer the teacher in the general school proceeds to his lesson. The select class teacher very properly prays with and for Ins class before he begins his lesson. The peculiar age and circumstances of his class require peculiar petitions. Individual members require speoial mention. The loss of a relative, or the sickness of a member, is not overlooked. The erring and headstrong youth, who had gone into forbidden paths, and who after a long absence from school, has been conquered and reclaimed by a mother's prayers and tears, makes his appearance. The teacher can utter his affectionate solicitude for him best in prayer, though in a tremulous voice—for that erring one is a noble lad, and only wants grace to make him a gem,—the class is melted, and the youth is broken down. A mother's tears were hard to resist, this is a greater trial still to his fortitude; he never knew till now how much he was loved; there is no chiding, no questions, that prayer binds him to his teacher for life.

Every Sabbath the teacher will have some member, who has been beset by enemies to the Bible, or who may have ungodly parents at home, whose care will require special mention ; these we think are legitimate objects for the prayers of our select classes.

We regard prayer as a most important exercise of select classes, but if duly attended to in addition to attendance at the opening of the general school, the time required will materially shorten the lesson, and thus place the teacher of the select class at a disadvantage in relation to his fellow teachers in the general school. The above evil would be lessened, (though not removed,) if select classes were not required to be present in the general school during the address.

To some members of select classes, the address in the school is the great trial of the Sabbath. If the subject of the class for the day be tho Union lesson, the teacher has expounded it; the members of the class have therefore to pass their time in simple endurance, to keep up the appearance of union with the school. Some make their escape when the teaching is over, to the great grief of the teacher, who finds it impossible to answer such questions as, "what

« PreviousContinue »