The Transmission of Knowledge
The transmission of life is an intriguing subject that engages the minds of biologists and medical men. The transmission of power is another great study that engages the time and the talent of physicists and engineers. The transmission of knowledge is the great duty of the educator and this is the subject that interests us as Sunday School teachers, for our duty is the transmission of Biblical and spiritual knowledge.
As there are different principles in the transmission of energy, so there are different principles in the transmission of knowledge. We can transmit electrical energy from the dynamo to the motor by wires. We can transmit the power of gasoline to the wheels of a car by means of a motor, a shaft, and gears. We can transmit the power of the steam-engine to the factory by means of pulleys and belts. In the transmission of knowledge there, likewise, are employed different principles.
We cannot call the Bible a book of science, but it is certainly scientific and contains the sound principles of Psychology and Pedagogy.
In the four portions we are going to consider, there are four significant expressions used by the Holy Spirit of God in giving instruction to the people of Israel in regard to the transmission of knowledge to their children.
I. “And it shall come to pass when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover.” (Ex. 12:26-27).
“That ye shall say:” The verb “to say” used here means to say out publicly or to report. It is used in Gen. 1:3, “And God said, Let there be light.” It seems to imply a public word of authority and suggests that in the instruction of little ones there must be a voice of authority and dignity. They said of the Lord Jesus that He spake as one having authority and not as the scribes. In the character, manner, and message of every Sunday School teacher, there should be sufficient authority and dignity to silently enforce kindly discipline, and to make his influence felt for good.
The message we have for our children is heavenly in its character, and should, therefore, be spoken with heavenly authority and dignity. The language we use should be the simplest, and yet the finest and the most dignified. We should not stoop, in our classes, to undignified familiarities or to the use of cheap slangish expressions. Speak and act with authority and create an atmosphere of respect in your class.
II. “And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the Lord did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt” (Ex. 13:8).
“Thou shalt shew thy son:” This verb “to shew” means to expound. The work of the teacher of children is to expound the things of God to the child. This may appear as something very difficult. We think of an exponent of the Word of God as a talented man, but let us view this matter in a very simple way. Let us think of the minds of our scholars as little cameras; because to expound is to expose the Word of God. In the taking of a photograph, four things are necessary: the object, the lens of the camera, the shutter, and the sensitized film. The shutter on the camera is simply a metallic curtain between the object and the film. The click of the shutter means that the curtain has been removed for an instant from between these two, allowing the light from the object to pass through the lens and to leave its impression upon the film. This is called exposure. What a teacher must do is remove the curtain of ignorance from between the subject that be is teaching and the scholars’s mind. He is to permit the light to enter and illuminate the mind. This is the very figure that is used in 2 Cor. 4:3-4, “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, Who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”
It is for us to remove, if possible by example and teaching, the blindness of satanic influence and gross ignorance.
III. “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons” (Deut. 4: 9).
“But teach them thy sons:” “To teach” in this case means to cause to understand. It has to do with the idea of perception. In teaching there are two things to consider: first, the child must be made to understand; then, in turn, he must be allowed to state what he has understood. These two things may be stated thus: impression and expression.
We endeavour to make impressions on the mind of the child so that he will be able to express these impressions to us. Some would seek to change this order and to allow the child, first, to express himself freely in any way at all, and then hope, later, to make proper impression upon his mind. The idea being to permit the child to freely express himself on any subject that may interest him and then attempt to draw lessons of moral and spiritual worth from what he has said.
One may run into difficulties with this method and find himself greatly embarrassed before his entire class. The story has been told about a brother who specialized in children’s work. Occasionally, he would have the children bring any object they wished as long as that object was mentioned in the Scriptures. From each object he received, he spoke a short message impromptu. One evening a boy brought a weiner. The brother was sure that no mention ever had been made in the Bible of the weiner; therefore, he could not speak any message from it. The boy was very insistent that a Biblical reference could be found, and when the speaker finally asked what the verse might be, the lad quoted John 4:32, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of.” How embarrassed the speaker would be, and how triumphant the mischievous boy! It would take unusual gift and grace to recover the balance of a meeting after such a humorous speech, much of the solemnity of the message and application of the Word would be forgotten.
The old principles of teaching are safest in the Sunday School. Let every one seek to impress the children with the truth, and then determine how much has been understood. Allow the scholar to tell in his own language what he has been taught. We have all heard little children retelling a Bible story which has impressed them deeply. Every detail is so vivid before their minds, and one has no trouble in knowing how much or how little had been imbibed.
IV. “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 6:7).
“Thou shalt talk of them:” The verb “to talk” here means to converse together. It is a matter of talking things over. Experience in Sunday School and in Bible classes have proved the excellence of conversational teaching. It would be well if a period of each session in our schools was given over to this, and the children, under the guidance of their teacher, were permitted to discuss the lesson.
From these four Scriptures, we have suggested four principles to be used in the transmission of biblical knowledge in the Sunday School: first there should be an atmosphere of authority, dignity, and respect; in second place, there should be light, an exposition for the eye of the soul; in third place, there should be food for thought, the mind should be deeply impressed and thus nourished; and finally, there should be mental exercise, for this deepens the impression and develops the truth in the child.
S. O. M.
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God is in every to-morrow,
Therefore I live for to-day,
Certain of finding at sunrise,
Guidance and help for the way;
Strength for each moment of weakness,
Hope for each throbbing of pain,
Comfort for all of my sorrow,
Sunshine and joy after rain.