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while the holy prayers and praise emanating from and descriptive of the felt attainments of a real Christian, can never be suitable for the lips of one who has not experienced the renovating work of the Holy Spirit; were we always to remember this, and consider for whom we speak in our prayers, we should be likely to leave out those petitions, which, though personally applicable to a few, are, collectively, inapplicable to those present. It has been considerably painful to me, to hear some of my brethren pray in our schools in a manner suited to lively and experienced Christians, while we had no certain evidence of the conversion of any one child, and the speaker himself being the only person present of any considerable standing in the ways of God; and this injudicious conduct proceeded not from a want of sincerity, but of reflexion. I think every one must see the impropriety of such conduct, and the desirableness of confining our own feelings for the sake of others.
We should likewise endeavor to render our prayers suitable to the interest of the children. Perhaps a description of the fault into which some of our friends run, will give the best idea of what I mean. It is, many of our brethren (perhaps to occupy time) are accustomed to range through a wide field of benevolent objects of prayer, so as almost to exclude the cases of the children, occupying the prayers with petitions relative to subjects in a measure foreign to their primary and personal concerns. I do not wish these to be entirely excluded, but they ought not to be the main subject of our united petitions with the children. The concerns of their own souls should be the leading object of our prayers The success of the Gospel in foreign lands, blessing on ministers, &c. &c. though proper subjects of prayer, should not (as is sometimes the case) compose three-fourths of our petitions, unless we considered the blessing of others three times as important to us as our own salvation.
Another thing I wish to mention is, the propriety of suiting our prayers to present or recent occurrences. A Sunday School Teacher ought to turn every thing into gold; we should seize every opportunity which is put in our way, of leading our little charge to the most important of all objects. the salvation of their souls; not an incident in a Sunday School should be suffered to pass without some attempt at improvement. Were our prayers grounded more upon recent occurrences, which must be fresh in the minds of the children, it is likely that their attention would be obtained with greater facility, and the utility of this act of worship be extended while it would prevent immoderate recourse to objects in a measure foreign, to occupy the time.
Srd, Let us aim at simplicity of speech in our prayersThis simplicity should include ideas, sentences, and words— if we disregard either we cannot be said to pray in a manner suited to Sunday School Children. It must, however, be confessed, that it is no easy task to divest ourselves of our own methods and expressions, and descend to the capacities of children; but it must be remembered, that application makes hard things easy; the object is certainly attainable, and if we are desirous of being useful Teachers, we shall strive to attain unto it. We may as well pray in Latin, if we are not understood by the children with whom we pray, for in this case they cannot join our prayers, however applicable to their situation they might be if understood by them.
In order to pray with simplicity, we should first of all pay attention to the simplicity of our ideas; a confused idea can never be expressed in a clear manner. We should be careful to know for what we are praying, or we are very unlikely to convey that knowledge to others; we should likewise seek to acquaint ourselves with the method in which children think, if we desire to communicate our thoughts and desires to them, since it will be impossible to inspire them with kindred thoughts, if our sentiments are above their comprehension; and it is certain, unless we cultivate a clearness of idea, our prayers and instructions will be little comprehended by them. The sentences of which our prayers are composed, should be simple; long sentences should be carefully avoided, as intricacy often proceeds from this cause, especially when children are the principal auditors. An aim at novelty will be likely to becloud the sentence and obscure the idea; an attempt at the conjunction of two or three scriptural expressions, containing as many different ideas, tends likewise to obscurity, while their separation into several short petitions, would render them perfectly intelligible to all. If we intend to be understood, we must not be afraid of sinking in our methods of expression, nor should we fail to repeat a sentence again and again, if an unguarded expression should appear to have escaped us, not making our object grammatical accuracy, but so to speak as to be understood. Our words likewise must be plain, or we may as well or better be silent; nothing of itself is more disgusting, than to hear a person in prayer aim at what is denominated flowery expression; but if this were permitted in adult auditories, among children it is altogether inexcusable, and ought to be deprecated with the utmost severity, where we should rather appear childish than fiue. These considerations will apply to all our duties, for if we wish to benefit them we must speak their language.
4thly, Our prayers should partake of fervour.-If we are in earnest, it is desirable that we should appear so in our prayers, for unless we do thus appear, we are not likely to make the children think that we are so. The importance of the object of our prayers, demands ardour of entreaty, and warmth of expression; for who, with the feelings of Christianity glowing in his bosom, can reflect on those who surround him in the midst of a School; the awful state of many with whom he is praying, and the worth of immortal souls, and help praying with fervour. Yet such is the cold and lifeless manner in which some persons pray, that if we were not acquainted with the object of their petitions, we should naturally suppose it of trivial moment from their appearance; this may however be imputable to habit, and not to insincerity or want of interest in the welfare of the children; but it is very desirable for them to endeavour to overcome this frigid and formal habit, which doubtless might be effected by perseverance, for it is a shame that the desires of a mind burning with a vivid flame, should be expressed in words like icicles, coldly dropping to the frozen ground.
5thly, Our prayers should be short.-It seems hardly necessary to say any thing on this particular, as the necessity of brevity is self-evident. The minds of children cannot be kept a great while on one object, especially of a religious nature, but they are quickly tired with a protracted duty; if, therefore, we intend to pray with the children, it is absolutely necessary that our prayers should not be extended to an immoderate length; long prayers are likely to contain many "vain repetitions," which being of no utility, it is our duty to avoid, and not suffer the performance of one duty, by its length, to interfere with another. Eight or ten minutes I conceive to be fully long enough, and in general five minutes will be amply sufficient. I do not however intend to say that we ought to pray by the clock, or that in no case whatever we should exceed the periods mentioned, but every one must use his own judgment respecting this subject, and regulate his conduct accordingly.
These few cursory remarks I leave to the attention of my brethren. I feel sensible that it is far easier to direct than to practise, but if we do not consider and examine the subject, we are not likely to perform this duty acceptably or beneficially; we should endeavour to attend to the voice of prudence, lest our performance delightful and useful in itself, should be rendered painful and improper for want of attention to the dictates of reflection, prudence and experience.
On SCRIPTURAL QUESTIONS for SUNDAY SCHOOL
FROM a conviction that of all the labours of a Sunday School Teacher or Superintendent for the spiritual welfare of his Scholars, it is especially incumbent upon him to lead them to an intimate acquaintance with the sacred scriptures, and from a consciousness that I had myself been deficient in that point, I was led several months since to adopt the following plan, which has not only proved a source of exquisite pleasure to myself, but has also I believe, been really advantageous to several of the children under my care. After exhibiting a Bible in the presence of the whole School, and asking several questions which drew forth an explicit acknowledgement, that it was the Book of God, that it contained the revelation of his will to man, which if attended to would be a sure guide to present and eternal happiness, but if neglected the consequences would be awful indeed, and that it was the indispensable duty of every person to search it diligently, I directed them to read their Bibles attentively in the course of the week, and find out whether they contained any, and what directions to keep holy the Sabbathday, promising a reward to the most industrious; but the next Sunday I was disappointed as none of them were provided with any answers Judging that this arose either from shyness or the novelty of the plan, I read to them some of the most important commands to that duty; and then gave as the subject of research during the ensuing week, the duty of children to their parents; observing at the same time, that I should carefully read my Bible, and we would see who could find out most, they or myself. This succeeded in engaging their attention, and the ensuing Sabbath they brought me a number of appropriate texts, proving that children ought to honour and obey their parents. Other subjects were then given in succession, viz. İying, swearing, taking the Lord's name in vain, pride, the creation of the world, the fall of mau, the death of Abel, the flood, the heart of man in his natural state, the day of judgment, the final portion of the righteous and the wicked, the means devised by infinite wisdom for the delivery of man, &c. The industry of the children in finding out suitable answers was pleasing indeed; twenty, thirty, forty, and even eighty different texts, were brought by them on some of the subjects. I endeavoured as much as possible to prevent their availing themselves of the fruit of each others labours, and questioned them closely as to the methods they took to find out the answers; one, child had a concordance, this was forbidden, because all the
children had not concordances, and therefore did not stand on equal ground. Their general plan is to look over the contents at the heads of the chapters, and if they discover any thing there which suits them, they read the chapter till they find it. I believe several have thus gone through almost every book from Genesis to the Revelations; some have spent nearly every leisure hour in the employment, and others have agreed with their schoolfellows to meet in the evenings after the labours of the day and read the Scriptures together!! As might be expected, several of the passages they selected were very inappropriate, and sometimes even ludicrous; but others have been the most pointed and suitable that could be found, as may be seen on referring to the undermentioned texts, which were produced by them in answer to the questions proposed. On the Day of Judgment they brought Daniel vii. 9, 10, Matthew, xxv. 31, &c. ii. Peter i. 7, 10. Rev. xx. 12, 13. On the final state of the Righteous and the wicked, Psalm ix. 17. Matt. xxv. 34, 41. Rev. xxi. 3, 4, and xxii. 15. On the means devised for the Redemption of Men, Thou shalt call his name Jesus; for 'he shall save his people from their sins." Matt. i. 21. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have ever'lasting life.' John iii. 16. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the 'world to save sinners,' 1 Timothy i. 15. I desired them to find out who was the best king of Judah after the revolt of the ten tribes; they named Hezekiah, and gave as a proof, 2 Kings, xviii, 5, 6, 'He trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after 'him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him, for he clave to the Lord and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses.' I informed them I had read of one king of Judah who was remarkably wicked, but afterwards became a good man; and desired them to find out his name, the sins he committed, and the means of his conversion; they named Manasseh, and referred me to 2 Chron, xxxiii. 1-14. In answer to the question, what psalm is best suited to the state of a man broken down under a sense of his sin? they fixed upon the 51st; What psalm will best describe the feelings of a man whose sins are forgiven? they pointed out psalms xxiii, xxxii. 1, 2. xxxiv. xli. 1, 2, 3. lxxxv. xci. ciii.— What psalm is most descriptive of the omnipresence aud omniscience of God? they chose the cxxxix. Being required to find out who was the best servant of whom an account is given in the Old Testament? they enquired, Did I mean the servant