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prevented until every class shall be taught in a separate room. But in the absence or scarcity of such desirable accommodation, some improvement may be made. Perhaps it may be worth while to mention that Robert Raikes adopted the system of having in each large class a monitor to about every five scholars, whose duties were to keep order amongst the pupils, hear their lessons and the repetition of what they had been told to commit to memory; such reading and reciting always being carried on in a subdued tone, only just above a whisper. Might not something of this sort be adopted with advantage in the schools of the present ? Moreover, if all teachers would give increased attention to modes of management, and all superintendents would manifest improved regard to the enforcement of discipline, the great evil of which we complain would be considerably mitigated, and the efficiency of schools increased.

Another weak point is the defective preparation of teachers for their work. It may be proper to remark here that the preparation required is both intellectual and spiritual in character, the former embracing both the acquisition of knowledge of the subjects to be taught, and of ability to present the same effectively to the children; and the latter the attainment of a state of mind in harmony with the spiritual character of the work. The first of these-intellectual preparation—is to be obtained by reading, study, and observation ; the last of them—spiritual preparation—by meditation and prayer.

Must it not be allowed that, even in this day of improved methods of teaching, there is a wide-spread defectiveness among teachers in regard to both kinds of preparation ? Do not many go to their classes with very misty ideas floating in their minds as to the meaning of the lessons they have to teach? Do not many appear amongst their pupils from Sunday to Sunday with far too little of love to Christ and desire for the salvation of the souls committed to their care ? As tending to forcibly illustrate the last point, it may be stated that, according to the returns of the schools of our own denomination which were presented to the Conference of 1880, there are in those schools no less than 11,069 teachers who are not members of the church, whose little ones, by the way, they are appointed to feed ! Here, most assuredly, is a weak point, a point which ought to command a degree of attention equal to its vast importance.

Another weak point is defect in visiting absentees. Visits paid by teachers to the homes of their scholars serve important purposes. They help to discover whether the absence of their pupils is justifiable or otherwise, and thus open a convenient way for the impartation of comfort or correction as each case requires. They also serve to attach scholars firmly to the school, and thus promote regularity of attendance -a matter of the first importance. Such visits, moreover, generally make favourable impressions on the minds of the parents, and at the same time afford teachers such insight into the home-life of their scholars as greatly aids in the task of securing adaptation of teaching to their requirements. But, as a matter of course, in the absence of such visits, a contrary state of things is witnessed. Sick children pine away and die apparently uncared for by their teachers; truants are undiscovered and confirmed in their evil ways; parents, whether rightly or otherwise, conclude that teachers feel little or no concern for their scholars ; attendance at school is irregular, and many of Christ's lambs wander far from His fold. Robert Raikes was not long in discovering the necessity of such visitation, and that distinguished man both engaged therein himself and appointed others to do the same. It is somewhat remarkable that his visitors bore a name which Popery has rendered odious—that of inquisitors'-a name which we will not recommend for adoption at present. Sometimes senior scholars were employed by him in the duty of visitation. May we not derive from the example and practice of the Founder of Sunday-schools both stimulus and instruction in regard to the important matter now before us, and thus convert a weak point into a strong one?

Another weak point is found in the small success attending endeavours to retain senior scholars and attach them to the church. Many of these, it is thankfully admitted, are retained, and at present are rendering valuable service to the church; for they are filling with efficiency the offices of steward, leader, teacher, local preacher, tract distributor, sick visitor, minister, author, and missionary. But how small the number retained compared with the number lost ? It is well to realise the fact that Christ died for the latter as well as the former, and also tbat the youths and maidens whom we have failed to retain possess souls as precious and capabilities for usefulness as great as those who remain with us. By their non-retention, then, what valuable talent is perverted, what usefulness is prevented, what danger and loss are brought upon the young people themselves, and what dishonour is heaped on Christianity and on God! Here, surely, if anywhere, is a weak point. Besides, the loss of which we complain gives evidence of defectiveness in the training of young people. It is written, “ Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. When, therefore, a child does depart from the right way, there is in the fact good reason to suspect that something has been lacking in his religious education. Hence, the principle enunciated recently in the Albert Hall, Sheffield, by Sir Charles Reed, that the retention or non-retention of senior scholars furnishes a test as to whether the work done by teachers is Scripturally sound as well as practically valuable.

Though it scarcely agrees with our present design to give details as to the causes of the above loss, we venture briefly to indicate what we believe to be some of them. These are : the noise and confusion prevalent, as before stated, in too many schools; the absence or scarcity of class-rooms for adults ; insufficient attention to visiting ; deficient preparation on the part of teachers for their duty; the lack of persevering endeavours to induce senior scholars to attend Sunday evening services, and thus escape those foes of the young-Sabbath breaking, bad company, and strong drink. But there is yet another fruitful cause of the loss in question, and one which is more remote than those above-mentioned : we mean the insufficiency of the efforts put forth by teachers of junior classes to gather their pupils while they are yet young and tractable into catechumen classes, in order that advice and teaching may be given them of a character calculated to produce love to the Saviour and attachment to the Church. Not to make efforts of the above description is to leave the door unlocked by which the burglars may enter; it is to invite the evil of which we complain. Considering the magnitude of the evil, it is pleasing to perceive that, as a body, we are beginning to take preventive measures against it by means of catechumen classes, and also Bands of Hope.

Finally, the system of having two sets of teachers, each in attendance on alternate Sabbaths, is thought by many to be a weak point. Something may be said in favour of such a system. It manifestly possesses the merit of opening the way for employing twice as many teachers as would otherwise be needed, and of reducing by one-half the labour of preparation and teaching required of each. But something must also be said on the other side. The system of alternate teaching weakens the teacher's hold upon the scholars, or, rather, prevents him from obtaining a proper hold upon them. It introduces into the class different modes of teaching, which tend to perplex and do more harm than good. It also helps to make teachers indolent and lean upon each other instead of being diligent and self-reliant; while, at the same time, it almost unavoidably lessens their feeling of responsibility in reference to their work. Having thus supplied some materials of thought, we leave the matter for decision to the judgment of every school and of every teacher.

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In doing so, however, we feel moved to offer a practical suggestion -that, in places which have adopted the alternate system, the superintendent and teachers hold training-classes during school hours on the Sabbath that is free from school duty for the study of the forthcoming lessons. Such classes are, by common consent, of the first importance; and amongst Methodists, with their various and frequent religious services, it is often very difficult to find suitable times in which to hold them. Now, it strikes us that the above suggestion may assist in lessening this difficulty, as well as in furnishing a prac ticable mode of redeeming time and promoting efficiency in teaching.

The sum of the matter, then, is—that the Sunday-school, in many places at least, is weak in ability to retain senior scholars, and in the visitation of absent ones; weak in the preparation of teachers for their work, and in order and discipline during its performance. But, on the other hand, it is strong in means of usefulness, strong in the fact that it is founded on imperishable truth, strong in the approval and appreciation it has won from nearly all real and nominal Christians in every church, rank, and nation; strong, also, because it is worked by a mighty and increasing host of gratuitous teachers, who, fed by an ample and nourishing literature, are qualified, at least in a good degree, for the all-important duty of training twelve millions of young immortals to walk in the way everlasting. It is pleasing to see that the strong points outnumber and outweigh the weak ones, that improvements are continually witnessed, and that, ere long, if the present rate of progress be kept up, the weak will be able to say, 'I am strong. Hence, the subject should occasion joy as well as sorrow, and gratitude to God for success as well as penitence on account of shortcomings and mistakes, together with a determination formed in humble dependence on the Holy Spirit's aid to avoid mistakes and shortcomings such as the above in future, and carry the institution to the highest attainable efficiency and power.

JOHN BARFOOT.

VIII.--CHARLES DICKENS' LETTERS.

IF Dickens could have looked into the future, it is highly probable that he would not have thought himself ill-served by the fate which cut him off while still, according to English reckoning, in the prime of life. He died at the extreme and toppling peak of his popularity. The breezes of applause and admiration which were the very breath of life in his nostrils, and seemed then swelling to an actual hurricane, have ever since been steadily subsiding. By clinging to life a few years longer he would have reaped a solitary, though a very substantial, advantage, he would have escaped the consequences of his own misjudgment by surviving Mr. Forster, and so rendering it impossible for that gentleman to write his biography. Really, he fares, in this respect, vastly worse than Thackeray. It was a singular error which led to the selection of Mr. Trollope as Thackeray’s biographer. A dull, arrogant, loud-toned man, a novelist of the third rate, endowed generously only with self-conceit, who had chosen the tamest phase of social existence visible around him, and had depicted its insipidity with deplorable truthfulness, was chosen to write the memoir of the most subtle humourist and most delightful writer of the age. The result is a book so bad that irritation gives way to pity for the thickwitted author-a book doomed to the harmlessness of dusty death by its own unutterable stupidity. Mr. Dickens is less fortunate, for Mr. Forster’s volumes will be read so long as any one cares about their subject; and Mr. Dickens will be led out before coming generations by this patronising showman, who will clumsily display the tricks of the animal which he so unluckily has the monopoly of exhibiting. It is true that Dickens himself was partly to blame for this; he selected his own manager, gave his own instructions, and went through all his posturing beforehand very carefully to avoid mistakes. He intended to have a magnificent scenic apotheosis in the presence of a worshipping audience co-extensive with the civilised world; he would be deity, and Forster would be high-priest. How incensed he would have been could he have foreseen that the high-priest would insist upon continually hopping up to the pedestal of the god till the puzzled adorers became doubtful which was which. It reminds one of the picture in Punch of the two revellers brought home at the small hours in a cab, the distracted cabby appealing at the door of

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