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Have the great facilities for getting hold of all the workers in the Sunday school hive been taken advantage of? Have teachers been stimulated and encouraged to greater exertions, as contemplated under the first head of the Constitution?
We have seen that they may be got at, but how have these opportunities been used?
An answer to this question might be given by many a now flourishing school in town and country, which in times past has been “a Syrian ready to perish ;" and which by timely counsel and encouragement has been raised from feebleness to strength: roused from apathy to exertion. In the country, more especially, many examples of this might be found; a good stirring-up has shaken off the sluggishness which was weighing down the schools, and by a systematic visitation a healthy animation has been substituted for ghastly feebleness. To keep up the spirit of Local Unions themselves, deputations from the London Committee are continually visiting all parts of England, inspecting the schools; meeting the teachers; conferring with them on important Sunday school topics; and endeavouring to infuse fresh vigour where it is lacking. The great interest which these visitations almost uniformly excite, and the high terms of pleasure with which they are always alluded to by our friends in the country, bear testimony to their value in promoting the Sunday school work. Then to revert to distant lands: the foreign correspondence continually laid before the central committee, and the interesting facts mentioned from time to time in the Annual Reports, evince how much the operations of the Union have been and are felt for good, not merely in those of our own Colonies already mentioned, but also in the West India Islands, as well as in the South Seas, France, Sweden, Denmark, India, Ceylon, Africa, New Zealand, and other parts.
Then within the last two or three years the great simultaneous canvass of London shewed that the Union was by no means disposed to be idle. The merit of originating the scheme cannot be claimed by the Union, but the merit of introducing it into the metropolis, is undoubtedly theirs, and without such an organization the thing would have been impossible. This effort, although like many other great works, not fully answering the expectations of its most sanguine supporters, did undoubtedly, do a great work for Sabbath schools. No less than 13 or 14,000 children were certainly known to have been added to schools, whilst reliable data exist for justifying the belief, that the total gain in all, was not less than 20,000 children; the larger proportion of whom are believed to have remained. The movement was followed up by similar canvasses in many large cities and towns, and will doubtless, be supplemented by many another yet, both in town and country.
The second point aimed at, we saw to be, "by mutual communication to improve the methods of instruction."
In this part of their work, the Union has been making continual progress. To obviate the inconveniences arising from every teacher selecting his own lessons, in a few cases certainly with system and judgment, but alas, in too many cases, merely at random, and with no attempt even at any plan, a list of Scripture Lessons has, for many years, been carefully prepared, in which, series of subjects are carried out, and a systematic course followed through. Prior to this, the first, second, and third class books, had been introduced with great advantage; vast numbers of these have been sold and are still selling, although they will, no doubt, now gradually give way before the Scripture lessons. Great pains have been taken to render these lessons available in every class, in all schools. The Scripture elementary lessons, which are selections from the Scripture lessons of the day, printed in good clear type, and sold, both in single leaves, and monthly and quarterly parts, are intended for use in the junior or elementary classes, whilst the large type texts, are provided from the same lesson for the still younger ones; and the little infants are not lost sight of but can be taught the same lesson by means of that inestimable boon conferred by the Union on infant classes, the Box of Moveable Letters, which no infant class should be without. To assist teachers in preparing for their classes, Notes on the Lessons are published, some parts of which can be made use of with advantage in every class, from the highest to the lowest. These notes find augmenting favour with the teachers throughout the country, as their augmenting circulation evinces; the plan has been adopted by other bodies of Christians, who pefer working in their own way, and whom, we would heartily bid God speed in their work, although they do not unite with ourselves. Convinced that certain parts of biblical instruction in Sunday schools can be best conveyed, when aided with good accessories, the Union has provided excellent Maps, on a large scale, which ought to be better known than they are, and which, I would recommend to the notice of every teacher, for use in his or her class. Palestine, in the time of our Saviour, the travels of Paul; Jerusalem and its environs, the land of Canaan, and the journeyings of the Israelites, in the Wilderness-they are not very costly, and would be found very useful-a Biblical Atlas also is published, which teachers would find of great service.
With a view to eliciting from the great body of teachers throughout the land, the best possible ideas and hints on teaching, and so benefiting the body at large, the Union, at different times, offered prizes for the best essays on Sunday schools, on senior classes, and on infant classes. The result was, the selection of three essays, by Mrs. Davids, Mr. Cooper, and Mr. Reed, which are published, and will well repay
the perusal. On senior classes also, a little book by Mr. Watson, senior secretary, has been published by the Union, and will be found serviceable to all connected with such classes.
A preparation class for the study of the lessons for the following sabbath, has for a long time been held, every Wednesday evening, first on the premises of the Union in Paternoster Row, and then where it is now held, at the Jubilee Memorial Building, Old Bailey.
From this, have sprung numerous other preparation classes, some in individual schools, others in districts; many of which continue to be held with great advantage to those teachers who are able to attend. It is evident, that by many meeting together, thoughts are interchanged, and valuable hints and information may be obtained by every person present, each in his turn communicating something to the common stock.
More recently, in one of the districts of our own auxiliary, a training class has been established, of which, it is impossible to speak too highly; and which has been followed up by a similar one at the Jubilee Building, Old Bailey, and others in the other auxiliaries. Here much practical valuable information may be gained by all who are engaged in Sunday school instruction.
Having now glanced at some of the efforts made by the Sunday School Union, to improve the methods of instruction, we come to the third head;- "To ascertain those situations where schools are most wanted, and promote their establishment." In the earlier days of the Union's history, the former part of this was more needed, than it is now, and was more carried out. Of late years the latter part has been more exclusively followed out, that is to say, assistance has been freely rendered to those who were establishing schools, although the Union has not taken the initiative in their establishment. Pecuniary grants to the extent of several thousands of pounds, have been made to schools in all parts of town and country, besides large amounts granted in aid of schools by the separate organization of the four London Auxiliaries.
The fourth head: "To supply books and stationery suited to Sunday schools at reduced prices"-opens so wide a field for amplification, that I must do it but scanty justice, lest the worthy chairman call me to order on the point of time. Under the head of "improved methods of instruction," we have already noticed many of the publications of the Union, and now we may notice others. It is in connexion with this branch of their operations, that some of the most laborious part of their gratuitous labor is undertaken by the members of the committee. First, we will notice the Hymn Books-selections known to all present, for teachers and for scholars. These collections are deservedly popular, and have been sold, and are still being sold, by tens, nay, hundreds of
thousands. These naturally lead us to the "Tune Book," concerning which such diversities of opinion exist. It certainly comprehends tunes of all sorts, and, speaking as an individual, I would remark, that it seems unreasonable to decry a collection of tunes containing many confessedly good, on account of the presence of some which may be thought to merit a contrary appellation, No person is bound to, nor, indeed, has time to sing all-let each select for himself. A good selection of chants is included, and is published separately also. Then we come to the "Union Harmonist," and "Juvenile Harmonist," containing numerous pieces, secular and religious, suited for general use. I must refrain from giving more than the mere names of the following, which, in their issue, have cost the committee and officers much time and attention. A series of Tracts on various Sunday school subjects,; a series of Sunday school Handbills for distribution amongst scholars and their parents; a Book of Prayers, suited for the opening and closing services in schools; not intended, of course, to supersede the practice of extempore prayers, but merely published to supply a need which is felt for such a book in many schools conducted by ladies, or persons unaccustomed to the habit of praying extempore in public. Directions for the establishment and management of Sunday schools. A valuable little work on Illustrative Teaching, lately published by a member of the committee. The three Tracts, published annually, for the new year, addressed respectively to teachers, parents, and scholars. Now a Penny Almanack is added to the list. These are but some of the publications prepared by the Union; a full detailed list may be easily obtained, and is now and then advertized in the various periodicals.
I must not omit to mention the four monthly magazines published by the Union-the "Union Magazine," price 2d., or to teachers 13d., containing much valuable Sunday school matter, and which, from its importance, combined with cheapness, really ought to be taken in by every teacher. The "Bible Class Magazine," suited for young people, generally, whether connected with Sunday Schools or not, price 1d., or to teachers d. The "Child's Own Magazine," at one half-penny, for the little ones, with several woodcuts; and the "Youths' Magazine," which, having been commenced some forty years ago by members of the Union committee, and having passed through various hands during that period, has from last Christmas come into the hands of the Union, and is now their property. These four are all under the management of a sub-committee, and are gratuitously edited by members of the committee.
A year or two back a publication which had come out in parts, known as the "Library of Biblical Literature," was offered to the Union, and considering that it was a work which would be valuable to
teachers, they purchased it, and now sell it at a reduced price. It contains a great deal of valuable information on subjects connected with the Bible, historical, geographical, scientific, literary, &c.
The Class Registers and Diaries, published annually, together with the various books for the Roll of Attendance, Minutes, &c. in each school, have found great favor, and are valuable helps to both teachers and officers of schools.
One of the most important features of the Union under this fourth head is, the granting of books for lending libraries to connected schools, at one-third of the retail price. Many thousands of pounds] worth of books have thus been given, and when we consider that in these days of cheap literature, our scholars, who will read something, will find abundance of temptation to procure trashy, or positively injurious reading, unless they are supplied with that which is good, we shall see the importance of maintaining every school library in a state of efficiency. No book is sent out which has not been read, and approved by three members of the committee.
Having thus taken a hurried review of the operations of the Union, in connexion with each of the four points of the constitution, we may allude to a few other matters.
For many years the Union has possessed a valuable and constantly increasing Library, both for circulation and for reference. It now contains about 4,000 volumes. Every teacher of a connected school may have the use of these, together with the use of a spacious reading-room, supplied with numerous periodicals, all the principal reviews, and several newspapers, every week-day, from three o'clock until ten, at the merely nominal charge of 1s. per annum. There is a separate room for the use of ladies, and latterly the privileges of the library have been extended on the same terms to senior scholars of sixteen years old and upwards.
Courses of Lectures are delivered also in the new large Lecture Hall in the Jubilee Building, to which subscribers to the Library have free access. Several of these have been printed in the Union Magazine, at the time of delivery, and two have been published separately; one by the Rev. Dr. Spence, on the Mistakes of Sunday School Teachers; the other by Mr. Fitch, on the Art of Questioning. A lecture by this same gentleman, on the "Art of securing attention in a Sunday school class," which was delivered to the members of a local training class, is published, and will be found very useful by all teachers who may peruse it.
Singing classes have also been held at the Jubilee Building, and at the present time, a valuable model of the Tabernacle is being exhibited gratuitously, illustrated by explanatory lectures.
To encourage the delivery of lectures in schools to scholars and