An Address To Sunday-School Teachers – Only A Prayer Meeting
Dear Friends, the Sunday-school teachers, I hardly think that I need to tell you tonight how greatly we value your work, and how thankful we are to God for your holy zeal and Christian love. There are some of you who are our most continual helpers in the work of the Lord; the very sight of your faces always gives me pleasure, because I remember how many of the dear children and young people you have brought to the Saviour’s feet. Go on, brothers and sisters, with your sacred service, and the Lord be with you! I should like you to think, however, not only of the benefit that you bestow on others by this holy work, but also of the great good you yourselves receive by teaching. Will you try, just for a moment, in order that you may be humbled by gratitude, to think how much you have gained by teaching others? Speaking for myself, I can testify that I owe very much to the Sunday-school.
I never was in a Sunday-school as a child; but that was because my mother thought she could be a better teacher than anybody else, and so she taught me at home, and I think she did right. But after I knew the Lord, I soon became a great debtor to the Sunday-school, because it gave me an immediate and important field of labour, and it also helped very materially to prepare me for service. I could not do much for my Lord at first; but I thought that I could go and teach a class in the Sunday-school, and I did so. Then, through teaching a class, I was asked to give addresses to the scholars. I do not think I had any idea that I could speak in public until I began to address the children; but God gave them such attention that I was asked to speak to them every Sunday. Some of the teachers, some of the young men, thought it was a pity that any one of their number should always be the speaker, and therefore it was agreed that they should take the address alternately with me.
Then the superintendent divided the girls from the boys, and I had to speak to the girls once a fortnight, and to the boys on the intervening Sabbath, and thus I was kept at the happy employment every Lord’s-day. To my surprise, before long I found the end of the schoolroom filled with grown-up people; and soon I had more to hear me in the afternoon than my pastor had to preach to on a Sunday morning. I could not make it out; but I did know that the opportunity of speaking was blessed. One of my friends was telling me, the other day, that he recollected an address of mine to the boys in the schoolroom at Cambridge. He said that I told them a story about a fly on the window. I told them that I was standing in a farmhouse, and there saw a fly on the window, and I tried to catch him; but as soon as I put out my finger, he went a little lower down the pane; and as I moved, he moved. I soon saw that the fly was on the other side of the glass, so that I was not likely to catch him; and my friend reminded me that I said to the boys, “Now, there are many people who are trying to be happy, and they are aiming at happiness in this way and that way, and they think they will get it here or get it there; but all their efforts are in vain, for it is on the other side of the glass.
It is only when they have been renewed in the spirit of their minds that they will catch that fly, and secure that happiness which they so much desire.” It was a striking simile for boys, and I was glad my friend had not forgotten it. I recollect a boy who was struck with that simile; he was the worst lad in the school until the day when God blessed that message to him. Now, I feel so glad that I had an opportunity of opening my mouth for God in a Sunday-school, because it helped me to begin preaching; and I have no doubt that many of our pulpits have been filled by those whose first training in speaking for Christ was received in a Sunday-school, where they were asked to address the children. I do not say this that all of you may become preachers; you are not all wanted in that particular service; our good sisters, for instance, are not required as preachers. Yet, what a blessing it is for you to have an opportunity of doing good to others, and, at the same time, of getting good yourself!
Nothing, I think, tends to keep piety so much alive as trying to bring others to Christ. If a man does not feel his own weakness, and his entire dependence upon the Holy Spirit as he once did, when he begins to teach others, he soon finds that old Adam, even in young children, is far too strong for him. Thus, trying to teach others, teaches us humility. It also teaches us earnestness, for children, as a rule, will not listen to us if we are not in solemn earnest. I remember seeing the boys spinning round over a form, and twisting over and under the seats in a school while the teacher was addressing them, and I really wished I could do the same, for there was nothing to interest anyone in what he was saying. If all our people could amuse themselves in that fashion whenever we preached dull sermons, it would tend to wake us up. They have done away with the good old custom of clapping or hissing the preacher, because, while the people applauded the minister, all was right, but when they hissed him, it was another matter; so they said that it was improper to have any manifestation of approval or disapproval, and they put it down.
I am inclined to think that something or other of the kind would be good for some of us when we are dull, just to let us know that it will not do to waste our people’s time, and our own, too, in that fashion. It is only natural that, when you are talking as if your hearts were miles away, that your hearers’ hearts go gadding away, too. If you are not yourself interested in your theme, you cannot expect them to be much concerned about it. But when you do labour for your Lord with real earnestness, and especially when you do bring souls to Christ, what a blessing it is to yourself as well as to them! “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” To be feasting in the house of God, is good; but oh, to go out and speak for Jesus, and to bring others to Him, is one of the highest felicities on earth! Go on, brothers and sisters, work away for your Lord, and God send you abundant success! I do not think it is necessary to say to you, but I will say it in case it should be necessary, that the same Gospel that saves grown-up people saves children. You must not give to the children a different gospel from that which we have to preach to their parents.
Do not give your scholars a diluted gospel, the Gospel and water. I have noticed that children are often told, “You must love Jesus, and then you will be saved.” Yes, but that is not the Bible plan of salvation; it is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved;” and though, undoubtedly, where love exists in the heart, it is an abundant proof of the exercise of faith, yet you were never sent into the world to tell people, either old or young, that they would be saved by loving Christ; you have altered your Master’s commission, which you have no right to do. Those children need to know what they have to believe in order that they may be saved; and you must tell them that it is in Christ and Him crucified that they have to trust, and that it is by faith that even little children are brought to Jesus, and saved. I know you, my dear brethren and sisters, will do that, I have no fear that you will do otherwise; but I do know some Sunday-schools where it is not so, and where the children are taught anything but the truth as it is in Jesus. There are other schools where there is nothing for the scholars but the reading and explaining of those regular orderly lessons that are issued by the Sunday-school Union.
I suppose they are very capital things for those who can use them; but I know that my experience was that they were of no use to me. They were so often about David and Goliath, or about Ezra and Sanballat, or about Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar; but I wanted to get away to Jesus Christ at once. Now, whether you use the regular lessons or not, do seek to bring your scholars to Christ, and do the best you can to win every one of them for the Saviour, and remember that persuasion is a mighty force with the children. All of you teachers, I am sure, will get a blessing if you pray for your children one by one, and speak with them one by one. Much more is usually done by a special, particular, personal word than by a general message delivered to a large number.
If you were all bottles, and I wanted to fill you, I should not try to do it by squirting over you all at once; but I should come to you one by one, and pour the liquor into you one by one, slowly and gently. I think that, in your Sunday-school teaching, you can try to do too much, and accomplish nothing. You cannot get a quartern loaf into a child all at once; but it goes to be done by breaking it up, and putting some nice warm milk with it. So, when you have a great mass of truth, and you say to yourself, “How am I to get this loaf into that child’s mind and heart?” break it up small, and give it to them with some nice warm milk of affection; and thus, by God’s grace, you will get it into the children, and they will be built up thereby. That is the way, I have no doubt, you are doing it. Go on doing it in that way; and may God bless you, dear friends, more and more! Amen.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Excerpt From Only A Prayer Meeting By C.H Spurgeon
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