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did but walk in the steps of the energetic Nehemiah ; and if every laborer did but possess, like the men whom he commanded, a “ Mind to Work,"
The Sunday School is a great and a good cause, and well deserves the carnest thought and ceaseless efforts of all its friends. But is there not a lack of that genuine devotedness and self-denying zeal, which the exalted character of the work should everywhere call into exercise ? I love to see thoughtful young persons go into the service of the Sunday school, and be so employed that the conclusion is satisfactory—these teachers really have a mind to work. There is a great deal concentrated in a body of teachers having a “mind to work,” and there are many good and sound reasons why all that is involved in it should be realized in the Sunday school. There was something noble and patriotic in Nehemiah and his compeers resolving to reconstruct the prostrate walls of their much-loved city. But laudable as their undertaking was, it dwindles into insignificance when contrasted with the high and holy purposes of the Sunday school. We applaud the plodding industry of the men who kept their enemies at bay with one hand, and plied the implements of labor with the other ; but how much more should we honor those, who in the midst of obstacles and discouragements, are earnestly striving to instruct and elevate our rising youth. For my own part I cannot think too highly of the work itself, nor too honorably of those who are earnestly engaged in its promotion. I say carnestly, for I have seen some teachers (and there are, it is to be feared, many like them), who, so far from deserving that distinction, can hardly be supposed to know what is meant by “having a mind to work.” This class of teachers, happily fast diminishing, are singularly influenced by the erroneous supposition that their duty is a very easy one, and you see them act accordingly. Possessing a remarkable attachment to the school, they as frequently show their fondness to it by stopping away as by attending; and avowing withal a lively interest in their scholars, they are strangely addicted, when seated with them, to a habit of gazing vacantly over their heads. These characteristics, with some others by which they are known, are certainly unmistakable indications of a partial and meagre acquaintance with their position and its weighty obligations. We have another class of teachers more numerous than the last mentioned, and constantly increasing, which forms our chief staple in supplying the best and most useful laborers in the field. I mean our young friends, who begin the work simultaneously with an early and unreserved dedication of themselves to the service of Christ. They are earnestly attached to the highest objects of the school; and full of devout and growing zeal they surrender themselves to the undertaking with a settled decision, and a persevering ardour which silently reproves the indolent and uninterested around them. If they err at all, as we might expect they will, it is owing chiefly to inexperience, and the want of judicious instruction in the nature of their duties, and the way to discharge them. They show by their steady attention, and by their enquiring looks, how anxious they are to become useful and efficient teachers; and I think it likely, that all belonging to this class who get a sight of the title I have given to this chapter, will eagerly peruse it, in the hope of meeting with some hints or directions to guide them in understanding what is meant by the Sunday school teacher “having a mind to work?"
Not to disappoint such expectations, let us then try and ascertain the import of the significant motto we have thus adopted, “The people had a mind to work.” The head and the hands have here assigned to them their appropriate offices. The mind occupied in planning and arranging the work to be accomplished, and the hands employed in the execution of the work itself. The mind constructing the outline, and supplying a motive energy to the hands in the varied operations required of them. Considerably more, therefore, is indicated than simply that the people were willing to work. That they were willing to work is clear enough, but we ask further why they were willing to work, and we think we can see the reason. It was owing to the fact of their employment occupying their minds as well as filling their hands. Theirs was not only a physical or mechanical labour, it was likewise an intellectual pursuit. For although there was not much that was intellectual in the mere erection of the wall, there was associated with the undertaking, some of the most stirring and important considerations connected with the history, and even with the very existence of the people thus employed. Hence they entered upon their task, convinced that it was one which might well occupy their best thoughts, and engage their noblest powers. They knew why the wall should be re-built; they understood how it should be done; and they gave to it that earnest effort which an object so important demanded and deserved, “The people had a mind to work.”
Now it is precisely in this way that we would have Sunday school teachers carry on their high and sacred calling. They must have an exalted idea of the object for which they toil; a conviction, that it is a work deserving all the patient thought and earnest attention they can bring. Such a view will invest with the deepest interest all the little circumstantial details which come before them; not only regarding the ultimate end as one of great magnitude, but viewing every step in the direction of that end as being in itself of immense value. Look at Nehemiah and his men. They have one great object before them, but they are not so absorbed by the final result as to neglect the smallest thing that will hasten its accomplishment. On the contrary, you see them bending all their energies to the preparation of materials, and the careful adjustment of every stone in its proper position. While all this is going forward you see they are equally persevering in keeping off their enemies, and overcoming the obstacles in their way. And as you watch their exertions, and behold the massive walls, and lofty towers, one after another rise, you exclaim, “How marvellous ! this great and difficult undertaking has been accomplished by the use of means small and insignificant in themselves, but all-important when viewed in relation to the whole."
Are Sunday school teachers prepared to imitate this example of diligence by giving to each part of their work its proportionate share of attention? They have to prepare materials, for they cannot build without bricks and mortar; they have to raise every stone to its proper elevation, for the work will not go on without hands; and they have all the wbile to ward off the attacks of their adversaries, for there are a host of foes encompassing every workman in this service. True! the superstructure in this case is a spiritual, and not a material one : and no part of the fair edifice ever attained its position without the hand of the GREAT MASTER. “He that buildeth all things is GOD!" Still the fact remains, that he condescends to employ human agency : and it is equally certain that He honors with most success those who are most faithful in his service. “ The hand of the diligent maketh rich," in spiritual as in temporal things.
Teachers, therefore, who desire to be found possessing “a mind to work,” will be prepared to learn that one of the first requisites is attention to details. There is a service to be performed; it is important in itself, and is connected with the ultimate design of all your efforts ; it must therefore be done well. This principle everywhere carried out would give a new interest to the entire undertaking. Careful preparation would be studiously observed ; teaching in the class would become a pleasant labor; punctual and regular attendance a welcome necessity, and the meetings for prayer and business would be eagerly anticipated. There would be no disheartened superintendents bewailing classes destitute of teachere; no scholars trying to wile away their time, “ because the teacher has nothing to say to them;" no teachers wishing the bell would ring, and the service hasten to its close ; no absentees, no downcast looks, no "giving up." Ah, it would indeed be a glorious day when every Sunday school teacher possessed "a mind to work!"
Thus we have seen how the descriptive epithet before us, in its application to the Sunday school teacher, indicates a close and conscientious attention to all the several parts of his high vocation. But the testimony concerning the prophet and his people, contains a collective as well as an individual significance. The people would not have received this high encomium if there had been any evidence among them of disunion. They could not have merited such a testimony if they had not been united, and as a body deserved to have it said of them, “the people had a mind to work.” A glance at their labours, and the success which they obtained, will shew that there was with them united action. Perhaps their unanimity resulted in a great measure from the fact that each individual was heartily engaged at his own employment. There was, doubtless, a consciousness that all their efforts tended to one great end, and therefore it became them to act in concert. Every one had something to do, and did it well, so that there was no time or inclination to disagree. There was no discord in their camp. Peace reigned, and the wall went on, for “ the people had a mind to work.”
When this testimony can be honestly borne concerning any band of Sunday school teachers, we may safely conclude that a delightful spirit of union prevails throughout their ranks. Where each labourer receives an allotted task, and gives himself heartily to fulfil it, there will be no room found for “strife and debate." See how these teachers love one another. Behold their ardent attachment to their sacred calling What zeal inspires all their efforts. What peace and concord reigns in their midst. I love to linger over the contemplation of such a scene. Would there were more of them to gaze upon in this desert world! Truly this great enterprise cannot be too highly extolled. What immense interest surrounds the occupation of only one teacher who is in all respects fulfilling his important mission. Training the tender minds of his scholars for usefulness here : feeding them with knowledge that will make them wise unto salvation; and leading them to Him, who says,
« Suffer little children to come unto ME, and forbid them not.” No employment on earth can be more exalted; none so worthy to receive the best and noblest services it is ours to give.
" Laborious task ! What zeal is needful here!
The chosen instruments, but not the wielding liand.”
REWARD GIVING IN SUNDAY SCHOOLS.
“A Working Teacher " (Magazine for April, page 191) is not favorable to reward giving in Sunday schools. This is the conclusion at which he has arrived after eight or more years' experience. With this conclusion I cannot concur. That the result that might be
reasonably expected from the working of the system has not been realised, I freely admit, but I contend that that is no fault of the system. The failure, comparatively, so far, is to be attributed, I thiuk, to the careless and indiscriminate manner in which it is endeavored to be carried out, and to the paltry prizes generally given. No doubt “ A Working Teacher " tells us of a school where it has been discontinued to advantage, but I could tell him of one in which it has been carried out well, and where it proved to be of the utmost importance; and from its operation in this instance, I feel convinced that it has only to be fairly tried, for the result to be highly satisfactory.
“ A Working Teacher ” says, that impressing upon the young the evil consequent upon improper conduct, will do more real good than rewards. I am not aware that it ever was intended to substitute re. wards for this all important part of education. I think the intention has been to attract the young to the institutions established for teaching them their duty to God and man, and stimulating them to overcome every difficulty hindering their progress in knowledge. The successful teacher must aim at making learning as pleasing and attractive as possible. His own humour, intelligence, and aptness to teach, will very much contribute towards this object; and rewards, when judiciously distributed, will be found to be an excellent auxiliary. John Pounds found the simple reward of a roasted potatoe to the Irish boys on the street, to be very useful in bringing them to his workshop to receive instruction. Generally, it will be found that reward giving will enforce good attendance and proper conduct, which is absolutely necessary to successful teaching. But “A Working Teacher” says “it is unfair to give rewards. By giving them to the best scholars it may be unfair, as all cannot attain to that distinction if they were inclined.” But all can behave themselves in school; they can be industrious and punctual in their place, and those that thus act are worthy of rewards ; not because they are payment for good conduct, but because they are marks of distinction which will please the recipients, and be an inducement to the unruly to reform and merit the reward of industry and good conduct. I do not think, when an entry is made in the class book every time a ticket is given, and the teacher of the class, or a visiting teacher, makes enquiry at the home of the absentee respecting his absence, that the system will be putting a temptation to deceit in the way of the pupil.
Every time the school meets, a ticket should be given to every one present for punctuality, and every time it closes, another should be given for attention and good behaviour. These tickets should be collected every three months, and checked with the class book, to see that what each produces agrees with what is represented by the class book. They should be divided into three classes. The first class having the most tickets should receive the best prizes, and the second the second