My Teacher

My Teacher

James Gunn

Fifty-five years in anticipation is a long time, but in retrospect it seems but as yesterday. What pictures they produce in the imagination!

I can see him yet although more than five decades separate us from those early impressions. A man of medium height with dark wavy hair, slow and deliberate of speech, spiritually devoted, yet kind and considerate of little children, my Sunday School teacher, Mr. George Hall.

If time could only roll backward, how eagerly now would I listen to his message, learn the memory work assigned, and properly behave. The respect in which we held him then has deepened with the passing of the years until now we revere his memory.

Honours of different types have been given throughout the years but none has excelled the honour of being called to conduct the funeral services of my esteemed former teacher. To preach the sermon and present his example to the congregation was an esteemed privilege. To stand with the mourners and mourn with them, and to meet with the many at the grave-side who, like myself, felt the poorer for his passing, are cherished memories.

The Sunday School in East Toronto of which he was both superintendent and teacher was small; there was only one class. It would have been difficult to have convinced Mr. Hall of the virtue of the so-called graded lesson; his one lesson had to be adaptable to all grades, all grades in the one class. While the majority of the twelve or fourteen children who encircled him on a Sunday afternoon ranged from eight to ten years, there were some younger and a couple older. I sometimes wonder where they all are. From information gathered here and there, a number of them are Christians living for God in some divinely appointed sphere. How much the lessons taught by Mr. Hall contributed to this only the Judgment Seat of Christ will reveal. Some have been very successful in life but the most are honest working folk; some have already passed into Eternity.

The building in which our Sunday School met (How vividly I recall its appearance!) had served more than one generation in more than one capacity. It had been a parish hall, a municipal hall, and a day school; but in the years of which I am thinking, it was called simply, “The Gospel Hall.” There was only one large room and the vestibule, no anterooms and no basement. Later a room was built on the rear, and in this room the Bible Class was conducted. From the street level seven or eight steps led up to the entrance. Age had not been kind to the structure; the elements had taken their toll. In spite of several coats of paint and the strict cleanliness of the place, it looked shabby. The greatest attraction to the Swanwich Avenue Gospel Hall of 1910 was the warm hearts within.

Occasionally the severe inclement weather of winter would influence the attendance at the Sunday School, but usually we trudged through the snow along Gerrard Street to Kimberly and up Kimberly, around the corner on Swanwick to the Hall. We kicked the snow from our rubbers as we climbed the steps to the entrance, and there our teacher awaited to welcome us. He had earlier opened the drafts on the old Quebec heater, and the glowing brickettes shining through the little mica door in the front added cheer to the literal warmth it produced.

The opening exercises were very simple. With childish enthusiasm we sang as Mr. Hall led us in suitable hymns: “Jesus loves me this I know,” “Into a tent where a gypsy boy lay,” “There’s a Friend for little children,” and “When mothers of Salem their children brought to Jesus,” etc.

There was no black-board, no flannel-board, no object, no model, helpful though these may be, he needed none of them. His tools were few but effective. He had a little red register, a well-used Bible, and the indwelling Spirit of God. He drew his message from the Holy Book and relied upon the Holy Spirit to help him teach it.

After the opening hymns and prayer, our teacher would pick up the register, take his pencil in hand, listen to our memory work, and mark the points merited in that little red book that recorded the deeds done in the class. This register was the instrument that decided our reward at the annual children’s treat. That little book had the power to produce on that great occasion either shame or joy.

I have on my desk to-night another little book held by the same fingers as held that thin red one; in it appears the same hand-writing. The difference between them is this, what I have to-night is a little black book. It is the one he carried in his pocket and jotted down the thoughts and ideas which occured to him as he meditated on the Scriptures of Truth. In this tiny book there are also some loose notes, among these the poem that appears this month on the back cover of Food for the Flock. Also among these there is another lengthy note, it looks like the content of a letter written to someone in order to comfort and encourage. I would not like you to read some of the pages from the little red book, but I have decided to share with you some of the notes from the little black book:

Some things that will never fail for the Lord’s people.

The Lord’s presence: “The Lord thy God, He it is that doth go before thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Deut. 31:6). Notice the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:25), and the two who walked to Emmaus downcast and discouraged (Luke 24:13-32).

The Lord’s faithfulness (reliability or trustworthiness): “My loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer My faithfulness to fail (Psa. 89:33). Notice God’s word to Israel, “When I see the blood I will pass over you” (Ex. 12:13), and His promise to us in the New Testament, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9).

The Lord’s compassion (His mercy or pity): His compassions fail not (Lam. 3:22). The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting (Psa. 103:4, 8, 11, 17).

The Lord’s care: “For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail” (1 Kings 17:14). Notice also, “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19).

The Lord’s promises: “There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass” (Jos. 21:45). Notice also, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5). “If I go away, I will come again” (John 14:1-3).

To the above I can add a hearty, “Amen!” having proved the truth of God’s word and faithfulness. See also Psalm 119: 67, 71, and 75.

With love in Christ, Your friend, Geo. E. Hall

It is Sunday School teachers of Christian simplicity and godly sincerity like Mr. George Hall who mould the lives of the young, and direct them in paths of blessing and success. May the Lord raise up in our own day and generation such men, men who aspired to nothing yet accomplished much, men who walked in separation from evil yet benefited many.