Archibald Forbes.

The Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 online

. (page 99 of 121)
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matic theology too frequently usurp the place of
pointed moralinstructions addressed to the affections
and the consjcienoe. 4. Catechisms and other hu-
man formularies are too fircquenUy set in competi-
tion with the instructions to be derived directly uom
the Scriptures. 5. Many of the teachers, however
jnons and well intentioned, are deficient m that de-
gree of Biblical and general knowledge which all
religious instructors ought to possess. This last cir*
cumstance I consider as one of the greatest deficien-
cies in our Sabbath school arrangements, and there-
fore shall offer a few remarks on the subject.

It is generally admitted, that a professor of any
science, such as chemistry, ought to be acouainted
not only with aU its principles and facts, out with
those subjects, such as natural history, experimental
philosophy, and phjrsiology, with which it stands
connected. It is also admitted, that the religious
instruction of the adult population, in order to be re-
spectable and efficient, requires that the ministers
of religion be trained in all those branches of know-
ledge which tend to prepare them for their office,
and that they be men not only of piety, but of talent
and intelligence, and found qualified by their supe-
riors forme duties they undertake. And can we
suppose, that either the literary or the religioas tui-
ticm of me youngs can be intelligently or efficiently
conducted oy men who are comparatively ignorant,
and who have undergone no previous training for
such an office 1 On the contrary, I have no hesi*
taticn in asserting, that instructors of youth ought
to have as much information on every subject as is
usually judged necessary for a respectable minister
of the gospd, and even more thvi many of this class
actually possess. Besides, they ou^ht to possess not
only dear conceptions of every portion of knowled^
they wish to impart, but also of the best modes m
which it may be communicated with effect to the
juvenile mind. It reouires eyen more information
and greater powers or mind to simplify knowledge,
and render U perspicuous to the opening intellect,
than to convey it to the understandings oi those who
are advanced in years. The man who wishes to act
as an intellectual and religious instructor, should, if
possible, acouire a comprehensive yiew of the whole
of the revelations of Heaven, and of the collateral
subjects with which they are connected— of the lead-
ing facts of ancient and modem history— of the
scenery of nature in all its varied aspects— of the
operations of the Creator which are di^layed in the
" firmament of his power," and of human nature as
exhibited in all the scenes and relations of social
life. For it is from these, and similar sources, that
he is to derive his iUustraiions of divine subjects;
and unless such subjects be illustrated by sensible
scenes and objects, no ckar and distinct ideas can be
communicated to the young, nor any deep impres-
sioos made upon their hearts. The instructor of
the young must have the ficolty of ascertaining the



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110



MORAL IMPROVEMENT OF MANKIND.



rtmge of thought possessed by his papilsr— of adapt-
ing his instructions to that range or tboDght— and
of rendering the ideas they have already acquired
sabservient for increasing their number^ and for

ring a wider field of intellectual vision. For
purpose, his imagination must roam over the
whole circle of his own knowledge, to select objects,
events, scenes, circumstances, and similes, adapted
to the conmrenension of his pupils, and calculated
to expand their views, and to illustrate the particular
snbject to which their attention is directed. He
must sometimes extend his views to the histories of
ancient times, both sacred and profane, to the dr-
cumstances which attended the accomplishment of
ancient prophecies, and to the doctrines, maxims,
and precepts of the Bible— sometimes to the know-
ledge he has acquired of the earth, the ocean, or the
atmosphere, the animal and vegetable creation, or
the glories of the heavens— and sometimes to the
state of barbarous nations, the persecutions of the
church, the lives of ^ood men, the progress of the
gospel among unenhghtened tribes, the scenes of
domestic life, or the wars and revolutions of nations.
Circumstances, incidents, anecdotes, descriptions,
and similes, derived from such sources, he will find
expedient and in some cases necessary, to be brought
forward ror explaining and illustrating many por-
tions of Divine Revelation. And therefore, were it
possible for a teacher to be a man of universal know-
iedge, so much the more qualified would he be for
imparting reli^ous instruction, provided he had the
art of simplifying his knowledge, and rendering it
subservient to moral improvement If religions in-
struction, indeed, consisted in nothing more than
prescribing tasks, and hearing children recite cate-
chisms, psalms, hymns, and passages of Scripture,
nxkj man, however ignorant, who had been instruct-
ed in the art of reading, might be considered as quali-
fied for such an office ;— and hence, I have seen men.
pious and well-meaning perhaps, but ignorant oi
almost every branch of knowled^. and without any
clear ideas on the subject of religion, appointed as
Sabbath school teachers, who did nothing more than
take the Psalm-book or Catechism into their bands,
and put on their spectacles to see that the young-
sters repeated their prescribed tasks with tolerable
correctness. But if the great object of religious in-
struction is, or ou^ht to be, the communication of
clear ideas respecting the attributes of God, the prin-
ciples of his moral government, the variety ana im-
mensity of hL<( wor&, the histoiy of his providential
dispensations, the plan of his redemption, and the
way in which its blessings are to be obtained, the
principles of moral action, and the rules of duty he
has prescribed, and whatever tends to display the
riches of his grace and the glories of his universal
Vdngdom— in so far as such subjects can be imparted
to the youthful mind— then it is evident, that a reli-
gious instructor ought to be a person endowed with
as much general and Biblical knowledge as he can
possibly acquire.

In throwmg out the above remarks, it is by no
means intended to insinuate, that no good has oeen
effected in Sabbath schools where the teachers were
comparatively ignorant ; as I believe many good
impressions have been made upon the youthful mind
by pious and well-meaning men whose range of
information was extremely limited. But it is evi-
dent, at the same time, tliat were such instructors
more enlightened than they have generally been,
a much greater degree of imponant instruction
would be communicated, and a more powerful moral
impression made upon the heart.

It is consistent with the dictates of reason and the
general practice of mankind, that every man should
be trained for the profession he adopts, and be found
qualified for any office before he enter on the per-



formance ot its duties. And is the religious in-
struction of the youne a matter of so trivial impor-
tance^ that such a rule should be set aside in ap.
pointing teachers to Sabbath schools 1 If not, tbea
every one who wishes to devote himself to the reli-
gious tuition of the rising race, should be regularly
trained in all those branches of sacred knowledge
which are requisite for rendering hi» instructions
fblly efficient for the purpose intended. It sboald
likewise be ascertained whether he be of a commn-
nicative turn of mind, and has acquired a facility
of imnarting ideas to the youthful undenstandine;
and for this purpose his qualifications shoold be
tried by experiment^ by placing under his superin-
tendence, for a few days, the instructions of a reli-
gious seminary. Every one found duly qualified
for the office should receive a certain pecuniary
compensation, as well as the teachers of other semi-
naries, provided he chooses to accept of it Hithcno
our Sabbath schools have generally been taught
gratis by the benevolent individuals who have de-
voted themselves to this service, and if duly quali-
fied instructors can be found who will give their
services without remuneration, no olijectioD, of
course, can be brought against such labors of lo?e;
but it is nothing more than equitable^ that every mta
who devotes his time and the energ;ie8 of his mind
to any object, should receive a fair compensation
for his exertions, especially when he is under obli-
gation to cultivate his intellectiial powers, and to
pass through a course of training for this purpose.
The departments of knowledge to which religions
instructors should devote their attention are such as
the following:—!. Sacred Historv, or, in other
words, the Records of the Divine dispensations, as
contained in the Old and New Testaments. For
elucidating certain portions of this history, nnnr
veiling difficulties, answering objections, and ex*
plaining various circumstances connected with the
Jewish worship and economy, the perusal of soch
works as Home*^ " Introduction to the study of the
Bible," Shuckford's " Connection of 8a^ and
Profane Hiftory," and Stackhous€*s *< Bidory of ik
BiUe** particularly the last, will be found of great
utility in expanding our views of the revelations of
Heaven, ano of the facts connected with the moral
government of God. For illustratinff the histoiy
of the Jews and surrounding nations, from the time
of the prophet Malachi to the birth of Christ— §
period of more than four hundred years, daring
which many of Daniel's prophecies were accom-
plished—the First Book of "The Maccabee^" Jo-
sephus* '< Antiquities," and his " Histoiy of the
Wars of the Jews," and Prideanx's " Connection
of the History of the Old and New Testament,"
will be found particularly useful.— 3. AndmU Bis-
tory and QeograpKy. Tne history of such nations
as the Egyptians, 'Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes
and Persians, is so interwoven with the sacred his-
tory aqd the predictions of the prophets, that a
knowledge of it is, in many instances, necessaiy
for understanding the descriptions and allusions of
the inspired writers. Millot's " Elementsof GencnJ
History," pan i. and " Rollings Historical Works,
particularly his " Ancient History," will aflbrd the
most satisfactory information on this subject, u
connection with the history of ancient nations, m-
(M^ geographm ^Qn\^ be particularly studied, for
the purpose of acquiring clear idea.< of the botm-
daries and divisions of the Land of Palestine, and
of the relative positions of the coimtries that lie
adjacent to it, which are so firequently alluded to m
the history both of the Old and New Testaments.
Without some knowledge of this subject we can
have no clear conceptions of many interesting cir-
cumstances recorded in the writings of the Pwhejs
and Evangelists, and must frequently read their



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in



namtiyes withoat ideas. Maps, on a large scale,
of the countries to which I allade, are of course
indispensably requisite, when enga^ng in this study ;
and sach maps shoold be hung up in every Sabbath
sehool, and referred to, for illnstratine the narra-
tiyea of the sacred historians. WeU'^ "Sacred
Geography," and his "Set of Maps of Ancient
Geomphr," and similar works, will afford the re-
quisite miormatioa on this sabject— 3. Thedrcwm'
Oamca ttmmeted with tkifidJiimnU of aneUrU pro-
fhedn. The accomplishment of prophecy is re-
corded either in the sacred history itself in the
annals of ciyil and ecclesiastical history, in the
present state of the nations and the events passing
under oar daily obseryation,— or it is to be looked
forward to in the prospects which will open on fo-
twre generations. Hence the necessity of beins;
aeqoiunted with the hitiorif of the Omrck and of
ike noHontf and with the political and religions
movements now going forward thronghoot the
world, if we wish to trace the Ihithfolness of Ood
in the accomplishment of the predictions of his
word. Sach works as Newton's " Dissertations on
the Prophecies," and Keith's " Folfilment of Pro-
phecy." and his " Signs of the Times," will direct
the mind to many interesting views on this snbject
4. Another subject which deserves the attention
of religions instructors, is, BiUical CriHeism and
jHierpntUtUon. As the Scriptures form the ground-
work of all religious knowledge, it is of importance
to ascertain that the copy or edition which we use
approaches as nearly as possible to the original;
and when we are satisfied on this point, it is equal-
ly important to determine the rules by which the
mScrtai portions of the Bible are to be interpreted^
according to the subjects on which they treat Thuf
includes an inquiry into the Uteral meaning of
words, and the JigwraHve sense in which they are
frequently nsed-^e scope of the writer— the paral-
lel passa g es t he sources of poetic imagery, or the
objects whence the saered writers derive their ^pi-
rative representatioos— the principles of symbolical
lanffuage— and a knowledge of the loeaUtiet in
which the writers were placed, and the historical
ciwtmmstmncts to which they allude. On this sub-
ject many voluminous works have been written;
MC the ceneral reader may. perhaps, be sufficiently
gratifled by the perusal of such volumes as Car-
penter's " Scripture Difficulties," and his "Popular
Lectures on Biblical Criticism and Interpretation."
6. The manmers and enstewu of the eastern nations.
The manners, cnstoms, arts, and sciences of the
Habrewa, and the natural and artificial scenery
with which they were surrounded, exerted a pow-
erful influence upon their literary productions—
•▼en upon those which were dictated by inspiration.
Without a knowledge of these it is impossible, in
Buny instances, to nnravel the sense of the inspired
wrilerB, to perceive the beauty and emphasis of their
compo si tions, or to feel the roll force of their nar-
larives and allusions. For the elucidation of this
•object we are now Aimished with a variety of
interesting works, of which the following are
•peeimene r^Paxton's " Dlostrations of Scripture;"
Barmer's " Observations on certain passaffes of
Scripture;" Taylor's "* FYafmenta," appended to
Oalmefs Dictionary*, Bnrder's "Oriental Cus-
toms:" Carpenter's "Scriptmre Natural History;"
aad the reports of certain modern travellers, such
88 Barckhardt, Buckingham, Legh, Dr. Jowet,and
the American Miwionkries, In the first six vo-
Inmee of " The Modem Traveller " compiled by
Mr. Conder, almost every thing will be found re-
quisite for the illustration of the physical geogra-
phy, climate, seams, Ac of Jodea, and tte sur-
rounding eoontries. An occasionai referenee to
•nek •obf^etB Ibr the •hicidation of Scripture, could



not fail of exciting the attention and improving the
tmderstandinn of the young.

6. The stnay of the system of NaUi/re, or the ma-
terial works of God, as displayed throagbouc the
earth and the starry firmament. To these works
the inspired writers, on numerous occasions, direct
our attention, as evidences of the Power, wisdom,
and Gkxxiness of Jehovah, and of Ids superintend-
ing Providence. They should therefore be studied
with care and contemplated with a>i eye of intelli-
gence, as illustrative of the perfections of the Dei^
and of the declarations or his word. There is
nothing to which young people listen with more at-
tention than to familiar discourses on the wonders
of creation, when they are delivered in a clear uid
distinct manner, and made level to their capacities;
and when the works of God are brought into im-
mediate connection with the truths ofhis word, a
more powerful impression of these truths, on the
principle of association, will be made upon the
mind. For example, when we describe the im-
mense mass of water in the caverns of the ocean ;
the lofty ranges of mountains : the flaming volca-
noes ; the magnitude of our globe ; the rapid mo-
tion with which it ffies through the voids or space:
or the immense number ana size of the celestial
orbs— and bring these objects in connection with
such passages as these: " He holdeth the ocean in
the huUow of his hand ; he hangeth the earth upon
nothing; he meteth out the heavens with a span;
and taketh up the isles as a very little thing— Great
is our Lord, and of great Power, his cmderstanding
is inflnite— Great and marvellous are thy works,
Lord God Almighty ," du:.— when these passages
are at any time recalled to mind, the objects which
illustrate them will naturally occur; and, when the
objects themselves are directly contemplated, the
mind will revert to the dictates of inspiration with
which they were formerly associated. For thepur-
pose of acquiring some general knowledge on this
subject, religious instructors should peruse some of
the popular works which have been lately publish-
ed on the subjects of Natural History, deof raphv,
Astronomy, Experimental Philosophy, and Chemis-
try, such as those formerly recommended, and par-
ticularly thoee works which treat of Natural The-
ology, and the connection of science with religion.
Besides the above departments, the Sabbath school
teacher should study with particular attention An-
•km nature in all its varieties and modes of opera-
tion. He should learn to contemplate, with the eye
of a Christian philosopher, the dispositions of man-
kind, as displayed in their social intercourses, the
scenes of public and domestic life, the varions
modes in wnich the principle of evil operates, and
the practices, whether good or bad, which prevail
either in Christian or in general society. From
such sources he will derive many home illustrations
of the effects of sin, and of the manner in which
Christian principle should operate in all the rami-
flcations of human society. He should likewise
study some of the best works on the "Evidences
of Christianity"— a system of Divinity such as
" Dwight's Theology"— and, above all other branch-
es of knowledge, he should study with the utmost
care the discourses of our l^viour, as recorded in
the Evangelists, and Xhe ftracUeal parts of the writ-
ings of the Prophets and Apostles, which, in reli-
gious instructions, are too frequently thrown into
the shade.

In teaching Sabbath schools, a practice which is
not uncommon shoold be carefblly avoided— and
that is, addressing long-winded discourses to younr
peopUj most part of which they do not understand.
I lately visited a school in a neighboring town, con-
taining from 80 to 100 catechumens. Among these
were about 90 young persons, chiefly females, f^om



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MORAL IMPROVEMENT OF MANKIND.



che age of 16 to the afc of 24 ; the rest were children
th)m 7 to 12 ye&rs of age. After theWneHHon of
texts, psalms, catechisms, and passages of Scripture,
more than an hoar was consumed in some erode
dissertations, in a preaching style, on the meaning
and references of some passages m the prophecies
of Isaiah, which none ot the yoimger persons coold
possibly understand; and only about a dozen gene-
ral questions, for the sake of form, were put to the
younger class, to which the answers, "-'' yes,'' or '* no,"
were chiefly required. It seemed as if the chief
aim of the teacher had been to recommend himself
to the attention of the adult part of his audience,
while the children were sitting in a state of afmihy,
playing with their fingers, and eagerly wishing to
be gone. Such a conduct is quite preposterous, and
tends to frustrate the 'great object oi such institu-
tions. No address to young people should be con-
tinued b^ond five or ten minutes at a time, unless
the subject be extremely interesting and the atten-
tion exclusively fixed upon it. The method of teach-
ing l^ JiUerrogatorie$, and interspersing occasional
remarks on tl^ different topics, will befound in ^
neral the best mode for keeping alive the attention
of the young.

Sabbath schools should not be considered as con-
fined to the children of the poor, or of those who
are inattentive to the spiritual interests of their off-
spring, but as embracing the instruction of all
classes of society. It is indeed a duty, from which
no parent can be exeoipted| to impart mstruction to
his children in the principles of religion, and " to
train them up in the nurture and admonition of the
Lord." But, without neglecting this duty in private,
their children might derive important addUumal in-
struction by attending a public religious seminary.
If the system of religious instruction were once im-
proved, and carried to that pitch of perfection of
which It is susceptible ; and, if that superior intelli-

E:e and wisdom, which we hope ere long to see
layed in the department of religion, were to per-
i all the details of juvenile instruction, I nave
no hesitation in asserting that the children of the
most learned and intelligent of the copimunity would
derive much advantage from attending such semi-
naries of instruction. Nor should sucn seminaries
be confined to young persons under 12 or 14 years
of aee. as they too frequently are; but schools
should DC organized, adapted to persons from the
age of 15 to the age of 20, and upwards, in which
they may be trained in the higher branches of know-
ledge connected with reli^on, and thus be enabled
to take more expansive views of the revelations of
Heaven, that tneymaybe *' thoroughly fhmished
for the performance of every good work." For the
mstruction and superintendence of such schools, the
study of those departments of sacred knowledge re-
ferred to above, will be found an indispensable qua-
lification. In order that proper qualified teachers
maybe obtained for such seminaries^ colleges or
academies might be established for their instruction.
Evening lectures on the different branches of sacred
knowledge and popular science, accompanied w h
Virions other mental exercises, might be delivered
two or three times every week, to which all might
have access who wish to devote themselves to the
religions instruction of the young. Various discus-
sions might likewise be entered into relative to the
best modes of commimicatinff knowledge and im-
pressing divine truths upon tne heart ; and txperi-
ments in the art of instruction might be occasionally
tried, by collecting a number (mT children for this
purpose, and observing the effects which different
instructors and different modes of teaching produce
upon their affections and understandings. In the
mean time, before such systems of instruction be es-
tablished, It might be expedient for the teachers of



Sabbath schools in large towniL to meet once a-week
or once a^fortnight for mutual instmction, and for
discussing the various subjects connected with thi^r
official duties. A librarv might be formed of dM
best books connected with Sacred Histoiy, Theob-
gjr, and general information, to which each of them
might have access for the pnrpose of private study.
By such means the knowledge of our letchen
would be enlaiged, their interest in carrying for-
ward improvements kept alive, and the system of
religious instruction would gradually apfiHroximste
towards perfection. To guide the teacher in his se-
lection of books on Sacred Literature, he may U
referred to the Rev. E. Bickersteth's "Christin
Student," which contains lists of books in the viii*
ous departinents connected with the study of DiviJM
TevelatioB, interqtersed with a variety of jodieioii
remarlm.*



CHAPTER IX.
■oBooLs FOR Toima FsaaoMi, noM tib loi er

FOUBTXBH TO TBI AOS OP TWSNTT AMD UPWiBSl

It is one of the grand defects of onr preaent sjrsteB
of education, that it is considered as terminatiaf
about the period when our youth arrive at the age
of fourteen or fifteen years. Prior to this period,
little more than the fudimenls of knowledge can be
communicated, even where education is oondicted
on an intellectual plan. The whole period of oar
existence should be considered as the course of on
education ; and there is no portion of human life of
more importance in this respect than that which is-
tervenes between the age of fourteen and the age of
twenty. At this period, the rational powers are ad-
vancing towards perfection, and are capable of ae*
quiring clear and expansive views both of scientifle
truths and of Scriptural doctrines. At the am
time the moral powers and propensities are beftt*
ning to arrange themselves on tne side either of vi^
tue or of vice ; and, in the great laajority of inetsD-



Online LibraryArchibald ForbesThe Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 → online text (page 99 of 121)