The Sunday School
This article consists of a letter on the general subject of the Sunday School, written many years ago by that diligent servant of the Lord, well-known even now by his writings over the initials C. H. M.
Submitted by T. G. Wilkie.
We are truly thankful to hear that you have commenced the Sunday School, and we count it a real privilege to be allowed to comply with your request for a word of counsel as to the mode of running it.
The longer we live, the more highly we prize the blessed work of Sunday School teaching. We look upon it as most interesting and delightful; and we believe that every Assembly of Christians, gathered in the Name of the Lord Jesus, should support such work by their sympathy and prayers.
Some, we are sorry to say, exhibit much lukewarmness in reference thereto, and others seem to disapprove of such work altogether. They look upon it as an interference with the duty devolving upon Christian parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This, we own, would be a grave objection, were it well-founded; but it is not so, for the Sunday School is not designed to interfere with, but to assist, or to supply the total lack of, parental teaching and training. There are thousands of dear children thronging the alleys, lanes, and courtyards of all our large cities and towns who either have no parents, or else parents utterly unable or unwilling to instruct them. It is on these the Sunday School teacher fixes his benevolent eye. No doubt he is glad to see all sorts filling the seats. It is impossible to tell where and when the fruit of a Sunday School teacher’s work may turn up. It may be on the burning sands of Africa, or amid the frozen regions of the North; it may be now, or it may be years after the workman has gone to his eternal rest. But let it be when or where it may, the fruit will assuredly be found when the seed has been sown in faith and watered by prayer.
It may be that the Sunday School pupil will grow up a wicked youth — a wicked man; he may seem to have forgotten everything good, holy and true — to have worn out, by his sinful practices, every sacred impression; and yet, notwithstanding all, some precious clause of Holy Scripture, or some sweet hymn, remains buried in the depths of memory, beneath a mass of folly and profanity; and this Scripture or this hymn may come to mind, in some quiet moment, or it may be on a death bed, and be used of the Holy Ghost, for a quickening and saving of the soul. Who can attempt to define the importance of getting hold of the mind while it is young, fresh, and plastic, and of seeking to impress it with heavenly things?
But we may be asked, “Where, in the New Testament, have we any warrant for the special work undertaken by the teacher or the superintendent of a Sunday School?” We reply, “It is only one way of preaching the Gospel to the unconverted, or of expounding the Holy Scriptures to the children of God.” Properly speaking, the Sunday School is a profoundly interesting branch of evangelistic labour, and we need hardly say, we have ample authority in the pages of the New Testament for this.
But, alas, there are too many amongst us who have no heart for any branch of Gospel service, whether amongst the young or old, and not only do they neglect it themselves, but throw cold water on those who are seeking to do the blessed work. And as it sometimes happens that those who raise objections to Sunday Schools and stated Gospel preachings seem to be persons of intelligence, their words are all the more likely to weigh with young Christians.
But to you, dear friend, we say, “Let nothing discourage you in the work you have undertaken. It is a good work, and go on with it regardless of all objectors. We are told to be ready for every good work, and not to be weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.”
Now a word as to the mode of working a Sunday School. You must remember it is an individual service to the Lord. No doubt it is most important to have full fellowship in your work with your fellow labourers, and with all your brethren; but the work of a superintendent or a teacher must be carried on in direct responsibility to the Lord, and according to the measure of grace imparted by Him. Most assuredly the Assembly, if in a spiritual, healthy condition, will have fullest fellowship with the Sunday School, as well as with the entire range of Gospel work for the Lord.
You will find, if we mistake not, that in order to work a Sunday School effectively, you must have a good superintendent — a person of energy, order, and rule. The old proverb, “What is everybody’s business is nobody’s business,” is specially applicable here.
We have seen several Sunday Schools come to the ground from not being properly worked. Persons take up the work for a time, and then drop it. This will never do. The superintendent, the teachers, and the visitors must enter upon their blessed work, not by fits and starts, but with calm determination and spiritual energy; and having entered upon their blessed work, they must carry it on with real purpose of heart. It will not do for the superintendent to leave his school, or the teacher to leave his class to chance, under the plea of leaving it to the Lord. We believe the Lord expects him to be at his post, or to find a proper substitute in case of illness or any other unavoidable cause of absence.
It is of the utmost importance that every branch of Sunday School work should be undertaken and carried on with freshness, heart-zeal, and energy, and thorough personal devotedness. And, inasmuch as these can only be had at the Divine Treasury, all who are engaged in the service should meet together for prayer and conference.
Nothing can be more deplorable than to see a Sunday School falling into decay through lack of diligence and perseverance on the part of those who have taken it up. No doubt there are many hindrances; and the work itself is very uphill and very discouraging; but, oh! if our words have any weight, we would say with heartfelt emphasis to all who are engaged in this most precious service, “Let nothing damp your ardour, or hinder your work.”