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The teacher does not call upon one of the eldest scholars this morning; he reads the passage from the New Testament himself; and his occasional comments do not lessen, but for all that hear and try to connect their versions with that he is reading, supply much of the lifelikeness which can always be seen by those who study with their hearts that most wondrous history. Once more they sing, and another brief prayer is spoken. The reading books are now opened again, and the teacher begins to speak about the lesson. It is a remarkable address, if address it can be called, for it is interspersed with questions (which are answered, too), and seems now to be descriptive, and now didactic; now hortatory, and now persuasive; information of many kinds is afforded, but not aside from the general line of remark; anecdotes, parables, and such metaphors as observation supplies, abound ; suggestions are thrown out to the assistant teachers, which some of them hastily record ; the eldest scholars, too, at times put down a few memorial words ; there are tears and smiles, also, testifying to the earnestness and sympathy of the teacher and the taught; and when the address is ended, you cannot tell whether it has been a long or a short one, nor do the scholars seem more to perceive its length. Another hymn, and then the scholars propose questions to the teacher; in general they are apt, in some cases affectingly so ; some he answers directly, the replies to others are promised another time, and some are shown to be beside the mark. Arrangements for the afternoon are made, and a third brief prayer concludes the work. You find that the whole has occupied little more than an hour.
In the afternoon you return: after the opening hymn and prayer, the lesson for the following Sunday morning is studied. The subteachers are at work, each surrounded by a section of the scholars. First come the reading and literal understanding of the passage; then the geography, the manners, customs, and all that throws light upon it as far as they know, are communicated; the sections going in turn to those parts of the room where the illustrative maps and diagrams are hung. One hymn is sung in the midst of the work, all the sections pausing. Some hymns are repeated afterwards. In about an hour the younger scholars are dismissed, and the elder remain for further and more varied instruction — the Christian evidences, natural theology, or the Greek Testament. The teacher has unobtrusively directed all the work; some parts of it he has personally conducted; and his presence has been felt by both assistants and learners stimulating and encouraging their diligence. Most of the assistants take part in the after-lessons, as learners. The time taken up in them is not less than half an hour, nor more than an hour; but it is seldom so much as an hour.
We cannot describe all that would give completeness to a system like this; our readers can imagine how a wise teacher would study the various capabilities of his assistants, and adapt their tasks to his estimate of them, appointing to each the work he seemed best able to perform, and affording opportunities of practising the general conduct of a school to those of greatest promise ; and, in the same
spirit, would employ, the eldest scholars, some as occasional assistants, others as clerks, &c.; how he would, moreover, judiciously vary and relieve the occupations of the assistants, and of the eldest scholars, by permitting some of them, at times, to attend the ordinary public worship, in the morning, instead of the school; and, generally, not being bound by forms, would endeavour to attain the great end of his
ministry' by any and every means which truly lead to it. Meetings during the week, regularly held, or according to the teacher's convenience, could not be dispensed with ; singing would, of course, be taught at such times. And the little ones, we may add, learning to read from large-print tablets, by the look-and-say’ method—a method for teaching reading, infallible, and free from the drudgery of the oldfashioned plan, which was so disheartening to both teachers and learners infant classes' would be unnecessary.
That many objections to the plan we have suggested will arise in the minds of those who have not learned to distinguish between the divine principles of the gospel, and the expedients devised by men for inculcating them, we are quite sure ; but we cannot, within the limits necessarily imposed upon us here, notice more than a few which may occur to those who are disposed to regard Sundayschools in the light in which we have looked at them.
Those, more numerous by far, which might be brought against our estimation of them, we must leave unnoticed now. To some it may seem very undesirable to devote so little time to the actual work of the school, particularly as the scholars must needs be left almost entirely to themselves, when not receiving instruction ; and to them we reply, that the aim being to do effectually what is undertaken, vividness in the communications of the teacher to the learners is to be considered, rather than the length of time occupied by them; and that the self-discipline which being confided in when out of the school necessitates, helps more towards the attainment of the object proposed than the most vigilant watchfulness which could be exercised. The care taken beforehand to ensure the vividness we speak of, would be in no small degree the measure of the success to be anticipated.
Others may be struck with the fact, that the attendance of the teachers upon the customary public worship would be greatly abridged, and may entertain some fears in consequence. We can assure them that the work of the teacher, assumed and discharged from conscience towards God, far from being profitless to him that labours, both enlarges and enlightens the mind, and enables it to apprehend more firmly and more practically the truth which the gospel has revealed to man. Besides, there is the home study of these things, too much neglected in general, but without which it would be impossible to teach on the system we have sketched; and the evenings of the Sundays being free from the work of the school, would be employed in the cultivation of social religion by public worship. We can also imagine that the disuse of doctrinal catechisms, and the forms of Evangelical faith usually regarded as most essential, may cause some hesitation with respect to our suggestions; and we would anticipate any positive objections on
this ground by remarking that we have followed the plan of the Scriptures herein; and that it was by preaching Christ,' i. e., the personal, vital embodiment of the truth in his life, words, works, and death, that the first, which were also the most pure and brilliant, triumphs of his kingdom were achieved. And we may further say, that memory, intellect, affection, all are exercised by such teaching, and all in truest connexion with, and subservience to, the great aim of the Sunday-school-the leading of the young into the way of eternal life.
And here, for the present, we pause. Should our suggestions receive from any of our readers the notice we think they deserve, we may return to the subject, and endeavour to describe more completely, and to give other reasons for, the system by which, as we believe, the Sunday-school might be made the instrument for imparting unimaginable good to those who, in a few years, will be the class upon the character of which all hopes respecting the future of the world must depend. Nothing would give us greater satisfaction than, assisted by the results of the experience of others, to be able to mature an extensively practicable plan for giving to this institution, in fact, the dignity and worth which, in theory and intention, it possesses ; and thereby to show to those who long for an opportunity of serving their generation, that a work, great and rich with glorious promise, lies within their reach if they will but earnestly exert themselves, and with a single mind seek, in what they do, the glory of God.
Biblical compared with other Aurient Histories.
I.-BIBLICAL AND EGYPTIAN HISTORY.
THERE is no primeval religion equal to that of the Bible, and the biblical history excels all others. God, with the Hebrew people, was a reality, a living, ever-present, all-creating, and all-controlling Being, whose will was law, and whose nod was life or death. The acknowledgment of such a Being must have wrought no less beneficially than powerfully on his worshippers; conducing especially to the formation in their minds of a high and prevailing moral sense, which would have a restraining, directing, and refining effect on the whole character. Under this moral guidance, the word would be an image of the thought, and the thought would represent actual realities. But history is only recorded realities. The history, then, of a truly religious people is a true record of events; and as a truly religious people will feel a special interest in religion, and naturally give utterance to their religious emotions, so their history may be expected to wear a religious hue, if not to have a directly religious aim and bearing. Such is the history found in the Bible.
These preliminary remarks are based on the simple recognition of the Bible as containing historical statements and implications. We advisedly omit its claim to its inspiration. Believing that claim to be valid, we here waive it altogether, in order to meet men of the world on their own ground. Voltaire, and other historical sciolists, assailed the Bible as a history; as a history, we undertake its defence. In order to prevail we must not appeal to any kind of evidence which sceptics repudiate. From the high vantage ground of the Christian, we must descend into the arena of secular scholarship. This is what, in this series of papers, we propose to do. The advantage which we thereby lose we consent to forego for the sake of the cause, which to us is very dear—the cause of the Bible. Standing on purely historical grounds, we will prove its credibility; we will show its superiority; we will illustrate the wisdom of divine Providence in bestowing on the world an historical religion-a religion in history, and a history in religion.
Before we commence our remarks, we must guard ourselves against a misconception. The ordinary manner in which the argument before us has been conducted, tends too much to make the Bible appear to receive evidence from profane history. Now that to which testimony is given occupies a rank inferior to the witness whence the testimony is derived. To place the Bible in this lower position, is to inflict on it a serious wrong. Against such a method of procedure we protest. Historically viewed, the Bible is above all other ancient books. Such is our thesis. And this thesis we establish by a comparison of its merits with the merits of other ancient historical documents.
Of those documents we do not ask a testimony, and so compel the Bible to submit to a justification. We do not put the Bible in the dock and call witnesses to its character. But consenting for a moment to regard the Bible simply as a history, we collect around it other ancient historical memoranda, and by a fair investigation establish the supremacy of its excellence. With a view to this general result, we shall offer a number of illustrations combining to show that what in the Bible appears as history is history in reality. With Biblical facts we shall deal, proving that those facts are facts. Our general position may be thus stated :-The Biblical history is the most ancient history in the world; the Biblical history contains realities; its records are true, are reliable ; in very many points are the only true and reliable history we possess; and in all points, are far superior to any other memorial of the periods to which its pages refer.
We will begin our investigations with Egypt. In so doing we give the adversary an advantage, for we meet him on his strongest ground. The ancient Egyptians are a people described by Herodotus (ii. 77), 'the father of profane history, as of all others the most given to the recording of past events; a nation whose life, and the outlines of whose history, have been preserved even to this hour, in the changeless forms of sculptured granite, and the almost unfading colours of painting and portraiture. We have said that the outlines of their history have been preserved—but how preserved ?
Mainly in sculpture and painting. Of written history, native in its growth, there is now, properly speaking, none. Once indeed the Egyptians did possess annals, but they have all but quite perished; and the only historical details that we possess of ancient Egypt we find in the pages of Greek historians, of whom the earliest, namely, Herodotus (450 A.C.), did not begin to write until Jewish history had run its course, and accomplished its task. The exact facts, however, connected with native Egyptian history will be best understood by the statement of a few particulars. The best authorities concur in declaring that in the period of her prosperity, Egypt possessed lists of its monarchs in an unbroken line downward from Menes, the first king, whose date has been fixed at about 3500 A.C. These lists would appear to have been accompanied by an account of the physical powers and disposition, as well as of the exploits, of each sovereign in succession. Whatever particulars may have been connected with the names, they have nearly all perished. The list itself exists in several copies; but these copies are incomplete and defective, nor can their data be easily brought into harmony. Important as these lists are in furnishing grounds for extending the ordinary chronology between the deluge and the advent of Christ by some fifteen hundred years, they are yet connected with imaginary periods and rulers, whose appearance in them creates suspicion. Thus they make some twenty thousand years to have passed under the dominion of gods and heroes prior to the first purely human monarch. Here, beyond a doubt, fiction has been freely at work. Where did fiction stop? If imagination drew on its stores for the formation of a divine chronology, are we sure it had no hand in what professes to relate to human beings ? Other sources of historical information were once possessed by the Egyptians. Indeed, theirs was a rich literature, though its actual treasures have been much exaggerated. But where are those treasures now? Even the art of alphabetical writing, of which the Egyptians may have been the inventors, and which they certainly practised long anterior to the days of Moses, owes its preservation not to the most learned of mankind,' who filled the valley of the Nile with the wonders of a high civilization long before the call of Abraham, but to the pastoral and agricultural descendants of that patriarch, whom Greeks despised as unlettered, and whom it has been too much the fashion, with a classic pedantry, to treat as mere apprentices in literature.
Of the literature of the despised Hebrews, a large portion is even now in the hands of all civilized nations, and has exerted a most marked and decided influence in the formation of the highest class of character during a period of at least two thousand years. Most of the Egyptian books are lost, and have been lost for about the same length of time. What has caused the preservation of the one, and the loss of the other ? If you answer, the intrinsic excellence of the Hebrew books, we agree with you. But then that excellence had a cause. That cause we find in the predominating influence of a pure religion. The books of Egypt perished because containing much that was fabulous and mythological, and therefore taking no firm hold on the mind and affections of the