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them as trod upon these hidden pitfalls immediately fell through them into the tide. This figure comes upon my mind with a sorrowful force as an illustration of one feature in a Sunday school. If we regard the school as such a bridge, each successive class being an arch leading further to the Church as the utmost shore, and spanning the tide of human ignorance and spiritual degradation, are there not innumerable unseen trap-doors or pitfalls along this bridge through which how many of the children fall into the abyss over which we had hoped to convey them? Some fall at the very commencement, through the first arch of the bridge; others go to the fourth or the sixth, and then disappear for ever. Still more unhappily go higher, and as they are nearing the final arches slip and make the fatal plunge. I am aware how disheartening, how terrible are these statements, but are they not facts? Far be it from me to induce upon the mind of any Sunday school worker a feeling akin to despair. I know we are counselled to cast our bread upon the waters. I believe in such counsel. I am convinced that no honest effort, however humble, is altogether lost, for if it do not apparently effect a positive good, it is yet a resistance to evil, such resistance being a negative good, the value of which is not enough appreciated. But the fact remains; the Sunday school is not such a nursery of the Church as it ought to be. Let us ask ourselves why this is, and seek how it may become such.
Where constituted, as it frequently is, not of the children of members of the Society and congregation, but of the denizens of the neighbouring streets who can be gathered into it, one of the chief causes of the ill-success of the Sunday school is the ignorance of the pupils in all elementary secular subjects. Where these little ones stand in need of the merest elements of knowledge it is surely a work of charity to afford those elements, though they be but stepping-stones to better things to come. It is still requisite in many schools to do these things, though the other and higher duties be for a while left undone. The Elementary Education Act recently passed, if its provisions are fully carried out and faithfully administered, will, however, gradually supply this preliminary want, and we may thus believe that this difficulty, with which the Sunday school teacher has now to contend, will surely, if slowly, be overcome.
There is an alleged cause of the comparative failure of Sunday schools to effect their desired object, which, how much soever it has been disputed, is a favourite and continual charge made against us by men of the world. It is urged (do not suppose that I am also urging it) that the great majority of Sunday school teachers do not enter
on their labours with a single eye to their important, their truly Christian mission. We are told that this teaching is begun with vanity or conceit, and with a very inadequate idea of its proper character and importance; that it becomes too often an excuse for flirtation, an opportunity for premature and flippant courtship; that, being pursued without earnestness, it is given up without reluctance when suitable occasion offers. Far be it from me to endorse such charges as against the teachers of our own Sunday schools. I would willingly discredit them-I trust they are misrepresentations on the part of those who are too selfish to engage in such labours, or too indolent to persevere in them when commenced. Still, it is well for us to know that such charges are made, in order that we at least may so wisely and honestly conduct ourselves as to assist to demonstrate their unsoundness.
If the children attending our Sunday schools shall in a little while enter them fairly grounded in secular knowledge-if our teachers come to their duties with earnest hearts and minds well-directed to their purpose, may we not reasonably hope that all causes of failure may soon be removed? May we not anticipate that the Sunday school will then truly become a nursery of the Church? We may well hope for, we may almost anticipate, so worthy a result; but, if we look carefully round the subject, we shall find fresh obstacles, to overcome which will demand serious forethought and increasing vigilance. In the first place, not allowing our minds to slide into the narrow groove of politicoreligious controversy, we cannot glance abroad upon the general tendency of popular thought in reference to educational matters without being struck by the fact, that it is swaying in a direction much at variance with the special aims of the religious teacher. Those who claim to be the foremost educational reformers are, no doubt, both in principle and practice, religious men, and when they so loudly advocate merely secular teaching in national day-schools, they certainly do so on the ground that they are thereby laying the more sure foundation upon which religious doctrine and precept may be superimposed. Let us, in all charity, whatever our opinions, give credit to those who make such assertions for honest belief in what they say ;-though at the same time we must rigidly inquire if such results may be fairly expected. We can only judge of what we do not know by comparison of the nearest similar circumstances within our knowledge. Let us therefore take the case of the middle classes in this country, whose children have for many years enjoyed a generally excellent secular education in their day-schools. We find that, as the middle classes advance in mental attainments and worldly position, they are more and more disposed to withdraw their children from any systematic religious education on Sundays. To many this is probably a strange assertion, but is it not capable of proof? Is there a single New Church Society which has conducted a Sunday school for a number of years which cannot bear witness to this fact? When this Sunday school first opened did not the children of the members sit in its classes? But, as the members of this Society grew more gifted in secular knowledge, more opulent and more respectable, did not these children of members absent them
He may send
selves, one by one, until now there is hardly one to be seen in the school, except in the capacity of teacher; and even in that capacity do they form more than a mere remnant of the past? I know this is only a too general picture, and being so, is not this example of the middle classes, like the influence of fashion, certain to operate downwards, even to the poorest? If Mr. A., a member of the Church Committee, or perchance a Deacon, thinks it unnecessary to educate his children in religious subjects other than by taking them to Church, does not Mr. B., the poor member, who never covets or obtains office, now that his children are well trained in all secular subjects and bring home hard lessons-does he not feel justified in following the example of Mr. A., in allowing their young minds to rest from the labours of the past six days, rather than in forcing them to fresh drudgery on the Sabbath? Let me ask you then, in all sincerity,Do you think this tendency will stop here? Do you think that Mr. C., the typical working man, who agitates so steadily for his political rights, but cannot be induced to enter a place of religious worship, do you believe he will not be influenced by the example rather than by the precept of professors of religion? He now sends his child to our Sunday school, to obtain a little secular knowledge, because he is either too poor or too improvident to pay for his week-day education. But in a year or two his youngest child will be educated on week-days either by his own act or in spite of it. Then comes the question before him-What about the Sunday-school? his child there for a time, or permit his wife to send him, with an indolent desire that the son shall become a better man than his father. But when the boy, impatient of seventh-day restraint, and little relishing studies for which his six days' secular lessons have given him no appetite, comes and tells his parent that the sons of Mr. A., the deacon, and Mr. B., the poor member, enjoy a liberty of which he is deprived, the working-man, Mr. C., naturally draws his inference between Church precept and example, and naturally prefers to follow the latter. I will leave it to the convictions of any observant mind whether this is an overdrawn view of the case. If it is not, the difficulties in the way of the Sunday school teacher are not diminishing. I know that enthusiastic advocates of secular national education invariably tell us that religious bodies are equal to the work that lies before them. I hope they are I believe they might be if they could make efforts equal to the occasion, but I fear they as yet are hardly alive to the urgency of the occasion. I see the modern schoolmaster abroad, and I see him marching steadily in one direction. He cries ever Educate ! educate! But educate in no religious dogma or observance within my secular domain." "Educate by opening our museums and free libraries on the Sabbath-educate by Sunday science classes and scientific lectures: enlarge the plane of natural vision,-let us have more light on all the forces of nature-let us make the mechanic a better intellectual machine-let us make the professor a greater master of the motive powers which impel nature and humanity." Birmingham. (To be continued.)
J. W. T.
"HISTORY OF THE EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH."
To the Editor of the "Intellectual Repository."
DEAR SIR,—I have been intending for some little time to write and thank you for your kind and appreciative review of my "History of the Early Christian Church."
You do me no more than justice when you say that I "have no prejudice against Swedenborg," and that "I would not knowingly misstate the views of his followers."
The fact is, I believe you credit me with more knowledge than I really possess of the writings of Swedenborg, and the tenets of the New Church. And that is the reason why I feel particularly obliged to you for pointing out in your review what it is that you do hold with respect to the Blessed Trinity. I have read with the greatest interest and attention what you lay down in page 173. And except for those miserable controversies about words which have been the bane of the Church of God since the fourth century, I cannot see that there is anything in your view of the doctrine of the most Holy Trinity to which the most orthodox Catholic need take exception. In truth, one sees, I think, more and more that all such words as Personality, Substance and the like, as applied to the Divine Nature, convey absolutely no idea whatsoever to a finite intelligence. And therefore it appears to me that, taken as illustrations, there is something exceedingly beautiful in speaking and thinking of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost as being Love, Wisdom and Energy.
For myself, I shall, please God, hold to the old traditional Creeds of Christendom; but I could not help being painfully struck some time ago, in reading a controversy between Canon Liddon and Mr. Voysey, to observe the inability of their ablest advocates to give any intellectual explanation or even defence of them.
Mr. Voysey had asked, very naturally from his point of view, how it could be truly said that there was only one Person in the Lord Jesus Christ, when, as the Creed says, He is perfect man, as well as perfect God, that is to say, He is the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, God the Son. Yet, as we know, we cannot so much as frame a mental idea of a perfect man, I mean of course a man like ourselves, who has no distinct personality of his own, but whose personality is the Person of another and an infinite Being.
I need scarcely say that I have not the very slightest sympathy with Mr. Voysey's views, yet he seemed to me to put his questions with earnestness, and as a truth seeker. And it gave one a saddening feeling that so eminent a divine as Dr. Liddon could give him, substantially, no other answer, than that such was the doctrine of the Church, and that it was his duty to believe it.
Now your view of the Son being the Divine Wisdom does seem to give one just a glimmering of light, in the thought that the Divine Wisdom became incarnate in Jesus, who was a perfect man.
Oh! that we would all just simply accept the words of Holy Scripture without these perpetual controversies: and discuss whatever seems dark and mysterious in a spirit of gentleness and perfect love, without for ever calling
one another heretics and schismatics.
I believe from what I hear that this is the spirit which the members of the New Church endeavour to cultivate; and if so, you have a grand and glorious future before you. Yours in the Lord Jesus,
THOMAS W. MOSSMAN.
THE LORD'S PRAYER: Sermons by the Rev. JOHN PRESLAND.
London: J. Speirs.
THE pattern of all true prayer, the form of words uttered by the Lord, with the direction to His disciples, "After this manner therefore pray ye," must be most worthy of our frequent consideration and capable of continual instruction. As the Lord Himself is disposed to do for us, so His Divine Prayer expresses, more than we can think or ask. And such is its fulness that every new commentator may bring out new truths or present those already known under some new aspect. Mr. Presland has evidently intended his sermons to be not so much novel and striking as plain and practical; and he has succeeded admirably in making them so. Devoting a discourse to each petition of the prayer and one to the doxology, he has given us eight sermons full of excellent matter. Commending these sermons to our readers, we present them with a part of the one on forgiveness, as a fair sample of what the volume supplies for their use.
"And yet perhaps there is no evil more universal or more deeply rooted in our nature, than the disposition to judge harshly and resent the misdoings--or supposed misdoings-of our neighbours. I say supposed misdoings, for how often the injuries which most excite displeasure are found far slighter than at first appeared, and sometimes wholly imaginary and based on misconception. And even when most real, why, then the greater need for charity. Do you think our Lord meant fancied grievance when He said (Matt. v. 44)-Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you?'-and bade us forgive a sinning brother, 'not until seven times, but until seventy times seven (Matt. xviii. 22)? When we remember the indispensableness of forgiveness one towards another, to our own absolution before God, it is terrible to observe the prevalence of sentiments directly opposite, and the light estimation in which they are too often held. How many families are divided-how many friends and associates severed by suspicion and dislike! How many hold aloof from enterprises they approve, from aversion towards those pursuing them! How many appeal to litigation to crush those they regard as enemies! How often are our streets disturbed by disgraceful fights of men and boys-ay, and of women also! And in all these cases how eagerly the bystanders take sides with the disputants, instead of striving for the blessing promised to the peacemakers (Matt. v. 9)! Wherever angry passions smoulder, a host of talebearers, scandal-mongers, and slanderers, are ready to fan them to a flame. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Here we are children of the same Father, fed by the same bounty, cheered by the same hope, subject to the same infirmities, debtors to the same Lord-wasting our little day of preparation for eternity, in wrangling and quarrels and envyings one against another! And all the time we know, that except from our hearts we forgive every one our brother his trespass, God will notGod cannot-remit our own load of guilty obligation to Himself!
"O may the lesson of our text sink deep into our hearts, and practically manifest its influence in our lives. When aggrieved, let us take the straightforward, manly course of seeking our offending brother with a view to reconciliation. Let us obey the gentle precept, Pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you' (Matt. v. 41).
"More things are wrought by prayer Than this world dreams of.'
Thought is spiritual presence: while praying for an adversary, we are spiritually with him, our yearning for peace, it may be, operating in secret on his heart: at least our own affections are being calmed and chastened, so that when next we meet, or the subject of our variance comes in question, we shall be placable and friendly, averse to aggravate our injuries, but disposed towards reconcilement and re-established union. And if we know that any one has aught against us-if we are conscious of having wronged any-let us strive to renler forgiveness on his part easier, by frankly confessing our misdeeds, and honestly seeking to repair them. Thus shall we pray in word, in thought, in heart, and in action, 'Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.' Amen."