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analysis to rules of a practical kind, as to aid the teacher or speaker in employing them for the benefit of his hearers.
It seems to have been generally supposed by writers on rhetoric and criticism, that illustrations must come of their own accord, and that the only controul we can have over the operations of our minds is that of rejecting or adopting such as thus spontaneously come—just as one may say “at home,” or “not at home,” to those who knock at the door. This appears to have been taken for granted, as an acknowledged truth, which needed not to be expressed in words. If such be the case, it is useless to urge upon our readers the systematic adoption of the illustrative method of teaching, unless they possess naturally a quick and fertile imagination. But we are prepared to dispute the justice of this position. We may have mistaken the power which others have over the processes of their minds; but we think we can furnish some hints, by attending to which, even those who have not lively imaginations may furnish themselves with illustrations sufficient for all the purposes of youthful instruction. To this we proceed at once.
Before laying down any rules for the guidance of our readers, we shall endeavour to explain, as clearly as we can, THE OPERATION OF THE MIND IN THE DISCOVERY OF ILLUSTRATIONS. It will be seen that it is a simple operation, and invariably the
In order to make the subject interesting, we shall select a few examples of a pleasing and instructive nature, by which to confirm our views.
Our first example is admirably adapted to explain the nature of that mental process which we are considering. It is as follows. “ We miscarry through want of faith. Prayer is the bow, the promise is the arrow, faith is the hand which draws the bow, and sends the arrow with the heart's message to heaven. The bow without the arrow is of no use, and the arrow without the bow is of little worth, and both without the strength of the hand are to no purpose. Neither the promise without prayer, nor prayer without the promise, nor both without faith, avail the christian anything." It will be perceived, on examining this passage, that there is a resemblance of relationship between two classes of things, viz.-prayer, the promise, and faith—and the bow, the arrow, and the hand that draws the bow. The mind of the author either sought after, or spontaneously hit upon, this
resemblance. Supposing the illustration were sought after, we can imagine the author thus thinking aloud : “Prayer is useless without the promise ; the promise is useless without prayer; both are useless without faith. Thus there is a clear relationship between these three things. What three things have I ever seen or heard of, which sustain towards one another the same kind of relationship?” He then makes trial of many things—and at last hits upon the one here given. ()ur readers may exercise their inventive powers by searching after three other things, between which there is the same relationship.
Take the following as a second example of a different order. “The great sculptor Phidias was employed by the Athenians to make a statue of one of their goddesses—Diana ; and he succeeded so well as to produce a chef d'oeuvre. The artist became enamoured of his own creation of genius; and anxious that his glory should go down to posterity, he secretly engraved his name in one of the folds of the drapery of this beautiful figure. The Athenians discovered it, and with a zeal worthy of a nobler object, they indignantly banished the daring mortal who had thus polluted the sanctity of the goddess with this earthly stain. And oh! with what eyes of flaming indignation, and utter abhorrence, must the Father behold that self-righteous mortal, who would venture to add the patches of his own “filthy rags” of righteousness to the pure, spotless, perfect robe of Christ's righteousness!” This is a beautiful illustration of an important matter. It is a pleasing example, too, of the manner in which profane history may be rendered subservient to the explanation of christian truth. But how did this illustration occur to the mind of the author of it? According to the law of operation already specified. It was his object to set in a striking light the dishonour done to Christ, by supposing that man's righteousness must be added to his, in order to justification. A certain relationship is perceived between two objects-man's righteousness and Christ's righteousness--a relationship of great disparity, so much so that the one is dishonoured by connecting with it the other. Further, this dishonour done to Christ's righteousness is observed with abhorrence by God. In seeking for an illustration suited to this subject, the author bore in mind, consciously or not, the above points, and inquired after similarly related objects and circumstances. Having read the story of The neglect of this simple rule has been productive of the most lamentable consequences in the religious education of the young; for, by the want of attention to these three particulars, many active and noble-minded sunday school children have acquired such a distaste for religious instruction as could never in after-life be wholly removed. This is a melancholy truth.
The cultivation of a cheerful and intelligent, though serious style of teaching, as a part of the duty of a sunday school teacher, demands more attention than it has hitherto received. The effects produced upon the minds of children by scriptural truths are greatly modified by the feelings that are excited during the time these truths are being delivered. When the language employed is energetic, and yet full of tenderness, interest, if not delight will be awakened; but when it is tedious and melancholy, weariness and distress will assuredly follow. The aspect of your style while presenting the offers of mercy will be intimately combined with the great message which you have to deliver: you must therefore see that attention to the style of language which you adopt, as well as to the tones in which you utter the words, are no trivial matters; but necessary and important parts of your duty. If your words are unsuitable, and your tones full of harshness, you will certainly degrade your high profession, and you may cause those perishing sinners to whom you are sent, to treat with contempt the proffered pardon, and to reject those gracious conditions, on which alone reconciliation and everlasting life can be obtained and secured.
In a limited sense, you are, as a sunday school teacher, an “ ambassador for Christ;" and the message which you have to deliver is truly sublime. Then let not the meanness of the dress in which you appear dishonour your Sovereign, or the inappropriate words in which you deliver his life-giving message make it of none effect. The continued love of the offended king for helpless rebels his intense compassion for their wretched condition—and his unceasing offers of pardon and peace, are subjects which may, without prolixity or wearisomeness, be so set before guilty sinners, as to awaken penitence and call forth love. Dwell upon these subjects yourself in secret, and then you will be enabled to present them with power, brevity, and effect, unto your scholars.
Avoid a declamatory or argumentative style of teaching : instruction so communicated may be adapted to the pulpit, but it is very unsuitable for children in a sunday school class. It is far better, by easy questions and pointed remarks, to call forth the thoughts, and draw out the minds of your scholars, than to attempt to fill their heads with clever arguments, or burden their memories with lengthened essays. Long discourses, even though they be most admirably constructed, weary children. Be short—but be very plain.
Endeavour so to communicate knowledge that you cannot be misunderstood; and when the subject has been previously taught, always question each individual in the class, before you reiterate instruction : ascertain, as far as practicable, what opinions your scholars have formed upon the subject; and if these opinions are false or mean, try to remove them. Never ridicule opinions that are offered, however foolish or monstrous they at first appear :—the exertion of mind that produced these strange opinions may assist future efforts, and under your guidance lead to the attainment of more correct and elevated views.
The first steps in the path of knowledge are rugged and difficult; inequalities scarcely discernible to others, are serious stumbling-blocks to the little infant. The gospel which you have to set forth is very simple when it is understood, but it cannot be understood without an effort. The object which it presents is not tangible, and the early efforts of children to seize abstract subjects are always tiresome and sometimes painful ; demanding at once the compassion and assistance of the teacher. Do not forget that the task which you have to impose on your scholars is not easy to their immature minds :-the great facility with which the instructor can grasp the whole subject, does not remove the difficulties which are felt by the little pupil in apprehending only a part :-lessen, therefore, by appropriate suggestions and unseen helps, the difficulty which the scholars are unable to surmount. Do not give direct help except it be required; even little children like to go alone--and why should they not, if they can ? but, if aid be wanted, give it with a ready and liberal hand; for a little encouragement and welltimed assistance will work wonders. Two or three preparatory suggestions often lead to the desired point. Give help when it is needed, and not before.
During the whole time of instruction let no spare or idle moments be found. Teach in a lively and continuous manner, keeping all the scholars close to the exercises :—when the weather is very hot, the school-room much confined, and the children very young, this will require some ingenuity and application; but that principle which devises means to attain its object when greater difficulties interpose, will suggest many suitable contrivances. Consider the nature of children; they are active beings, and have minds which must be engaged; their thoughts will rove abroad if they are not fully occupied at school. Slow speech and lengthened sentences allow time for wandering thoughts; but cheerful and energetic teaching will engage the mind, and a rapid succession of ideas will prevent the thoughts from going astray. Remember, that it is possible to weary the most attentive class.
Do not attempt too much at one time—and let each lesson that you teach have “ a beginning, a middle, and an end :” the beginning should arrest the attention—the middle should inform the mind—the end should affect the heart; four words sum up the whole-explain, illustrate, interrogate, apply.-Collins.
SCRIPTURE LESSON MEETINGS. The scripture lessons for the present year, published by the Sunday School Union, are arranged with great judgment, and afford important aid to the sunday school teacher in his work.
In the school which I am connected with, a weekly meeting of the above name has been established, which is devoted to the study of the particular scripture lesson fixed on the list for the following sabbath. The useful effects which have attended these meetings induce me to make known our plan for the benefit of other schools. All the teachers instructing the testament classes, who can conveniently attend, are present. The superintendent presides. He opens the meeting with a short appropriate prayer. The passage is then read—the first time without remark. In the second reading, each verse or number of verses which may embrace a particular portion of the subject is read separately; the superintendent, who is of course ex