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O GOD, O Verity divine,
T. H. S.
NEW TO THEIR DUTIES.
The subject of Sunday School teaching in these times receives very much more attention than it did in former days. Now it is recognised as a true power in the Church, and its importance is rightly estimated as being very great. Teachers have helps now in the way of model lessons; meetings where difficulties are discussed and often cleared away; manuals, schemes of lessons, and many aids of that kind.
That place is indeed out of the way, which some branch of an association does not touch, and if it does not, books are within reach of all, so that it can hardly be allowed that a teacher is destitute of all these aforenamed helps.
However, the fact remains, and a very stubborn fact it is, that many teachers, indeed I may say the generality of teachers, are inefficient and lamentably ignorant. I speak particularly of lady teachers. Men can rarely be found the same fault with, for the few who do teach seem specially drawn to the work, or they would never do it at all.
As I write I think of a morning a few years ago, when I found myself at the head of a class of girls whose ages varied from about ten to thirteen. I had only taught two or three times before in my life, but then I was taking a class in earnest, and feeling very hopeful. Can you imagine my sensation of being utterly crushed, when a pert looking girl with a broad grin said to me, “I see, teacher, that you are new to your duties !” It was true, and a most unpleasant truth into
Since then I have had some experience of Sunday Schools, meetings, teachers, classes, and books, and the result is, that I am convinced that most teachers are new to their duties. “That can't be helped,”
says some one contentedly, we can't learn to be Sunday School teachers, experience is the only thing." What would
you think of any one who attempted to play a difficult sonata without knowing a note of music, or of some one who, ignorant of their letters, wanted to read off-hand? Of course you know that hard work must precede in either case, and yet any girl who has an hour to spare on Sundays, thinks she can take a class and be a successful teacher, without much, if any previous preparation. This is a fallacy. The girl may manage her class and keep them in order. If devout, she may talk to them of deep truths, the chances are in language considerably over their heads. If giddy and frivolous she will most likely infect her class with the same tone, and if only bent upon cramming the children with some historical facts, she will reach their heads, strengthen their memories, but I doubt her touching their hearts. In any case she will not be a successful teacher.
Let it be distinctly understood what I mean by success. I do not mean that a teacher must needs reap the results of her work, that she must be able to see marvellous changes, that her class should be a model class, but I do mean that she should work in such a way that she can conscientiously feel she is trying hard, and leaving no stone unturned that can help her in her labours. Let her feel that she is teaching herself before venturing to teach others, that she is not giving to God that which costs her nothing, and that she is going to her class not unprepared.
True preparation is the germ of all success. Let that be done in earnest, and leave the results to God, Who has promised to those who are not weary in well doing, that they shall reap if they faint not.
As to preparation. The preparation of the heart is from the LORD. I do not say that God may not use the words of a teacher, who himself or herself is still living estranged from Him; that He may not touch them with His Spirit and cause them to bear fruit. To Him we leave those possibilities. But in common sense we cannot but see that the first, most important of points is, that the teacher should be prepared from the LORD : that she should be living in the recognition of her privileges as a member of CHRIST, and herself endeavouring to follow in the blessed steps of His most holy life.
That being granted, there is a preparation needed as regards what she is to teach. Generally speaking, the children are well instructed in the main facts of Scripture history, and have dates and chronology,
cut and dried answers at their fingers' ends; this having been taught them in the day schools. Now a teacher ought to be well up in these same facts herself, and to be careful aś to accuracy. There is no shame in not knowing when a particular king reigned, or to have forgotten some date, only if uncertain about a subject, leave it untouched and do not talk vaguely about it to the great chance of making blunders, the like of which you would never forgive yourself, if you were teaching the History of England. And learn about the subject as soon as you can.
A story was told me lately of a clergyman who stayed for a moment in the Sunday School behind a young lady, and he overheard the following instruction being given as explanatory of a picture:
“See, dear children,” said the teacher, “this is a picture of Samuel kneeling up in bed in the night to say the Lord's Prayer.” I should say statements quite as great anachronisms and quite as inaccurate were often made by ignorant teachers.
Then as to distinctness. It is of no use talking to the children about the Church, Sacraments, Salvation, Redemption, Sanctification, and kindred matter concerning which they answer glibly enough, unless you make sure that they understand what those terms mean. understand them yourself? Of course you indignantly say you do, and very likely you may, but the question is, do you understand them
you can cast your thoughts into a mould which your hearers will apprehend and take to themselves ? Put it simply and clearly, but let it be done ; and if you find it hard, write it out, learn it, teach an imaginary class, or resort to whatever expedient suits you best, so long as you end by having your material in teachable form. If
you understand the full meaning of terms yourself, and have explained them to the children, you will be less likely to obtain the ridiculous answers which most Sunday School teachers come in for a share of, sooner or later. Some of the answers are amusing enough. For instance, a lady I know, asked her class in Ireland, what an unclean spirit was, and obtained the ready reply, “a dhirty divil.” I myself have a vivid remembrance of asking a girl how a father would disinherit a son: whip him and send him to bed,” was the answer.
Some time ago a scheme of Lessons which I shall not particularize was used in the school where I taught, and which contained some questions that were very childish and silly. A lesson one day was on
in such a
forbearance and kindness, and the teacher was supposed to ask the child what he should do if his little brothers and sisters were tiresome and naughty? I asked the question in meek obedience to the scheme,” and one child answered, brightly and decidedly, "We can 'it them."
I have touched but lightly upon some few ways of preparation for the great work of Sunday School teaching. It need not here be said how important it is that a teacher should pray for herself that she may be led to teach aright, and for her scholars, that the words spoken by her mouth“
may have such success, that they may never be spoken in vain.” Above all, I need not remind you of the greatest help of allthe Holy Communion. There, where you offer up yourselves, your souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice to Him, all your work, failing, and imperfect as it ever must be, is, if done for Him, accepted of Him.-Surely the thought that it is a work He would have you do, and one which is well pleasing in His sight, is encouragement enough to lift you above all thoughts of earthly praise or outward success.
And surely as work for Him, you should make it as perfect as you can, and spare yourself no trouble in your efforts that it should at least bear the stamp of earnest endeavour and determinate labour.
Now I have done. Holy Communion and Prayer are the greatest helps, praying for the children is a help, but, do not stop here. Be fit for the Master's use, and try and be as efficient a teacher as possible, remembering that unless you do your part and work, you cannot expect God to do His, and grant your prayers. To pray, and then trust to the rest coming of its own accord will not do. To use an old Spanish proverb, you must "pray to God while hammering away,” and thus praying and working, and teaching yourself, you are not likely to be new to your duties.
L. E. D.
THE CURSE OF EDIPUS.
AN OLD GREEK TALE.
THERE was fierce strife in the city of Thebes, after that Edipus had been driven out by his scheming brother-in-law, and his unnatural sons. These two sons, Polyneices and Eteocles, contended together for the
crown, and some of the citizens held with one and some held with the other, while the crafty Creon took no part in the struggle, but looked on, and bided his time. At length wiser counsels prevailed, and for the moment the voice of kindred blood was heard checking the unseemly strife. The brothers came to an agreement to share the royalty. Each was to fill the throne for one year in alternate succession, each at the end of his year of power was to give way to the other. So Polyneices, the elder, reigned, and at the end of the year gave up the reins of government to his brother. But the dark Erinnys, called up by their exiled father's curse, brooded over the house where dwelt the royal pair, and put it into Eteocles' mind to do an unworthy deed. At the end of the year he kept the throne for himself, and thrust out his brother from the land. And the people were quiet and content, for Eteocles had gained their favour by his fair speech and goodly presence. And so Polyneices fled away and tasted the hard lot of exile which he had himself ruthlessly inflicted upon his blind, old, broken down father.
Fate, or perchance the renown of that fair city, took him to Argos, and there in the court of Adrastus, the king, he soon won high favour, for indeed he was goodly to look upon, and expert in all manly exercises. His presence was kingly, and his well compacted frame, his broad shoulders, and open chest, gave witness that the royal blood of the Labdacidæ flowed in his veins. So Adrastus loved him, and gave him his daughter to wife, and sware a royal oath, that oath which never could be rescinded even by the gods who see all things and can do all things, that he would surely call together his forces against Thebes, and never rest until he had restored Polyneices to the throne of his fathers. So he sent forth his messengers and gathered together a mighty host, and the hero-bands were soon assembled in the plain of Argos. Some came because they feared Adrastus, and some came because they loved Polyneices, and thought that he had suffered unmerited wrong at his brother's hands, and many came because they hoped to enrich themselves with the plunder of the Cadmeian city, and many because the curse of Edipus was now working. Thus the dark Erinnys, by him called up from Tartarus, was planning mischief to the two unnatural sons by that force.
At length a gallant army filled the plain of Argos, and in the assembled host shone forth conspicuous seven bold leaders, glittering in arms, renowned for valour and for skill in war. Among these