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OUR SUNDAY SCHOOLS.
HE time has happily long passed away when any apology for the discussion of Sunday School administration would be necessary before this or any other audience. Sunday Schools have indeed become so accredited and acknowledged a actor in the well being of our country, that these Easter gatherings may be considered as of national importance. Here are assembled men and women who have under their Christian care the young of our land; those who, in a few years, will either give Great Britain a mighty impulse for good, or hinder her onward progress. And it is no slight thing that both teachers and taught are brought and kept together, not by legislative enactments, or the promptings of self-interest, but by mutual love-the human sentiment crowned and
blessed by the Divine. Christianity has no choicer flower than the Sunday School. Its beauty is apparent to all men, and is smiled upon by the Master, Who "took a little child, and set him in the midst of them."
If all this be true, consultation on every question affecting the welfare of our Schools is not only wise but necessary. When a variety of thoughts are expressed, suggestions of value are sure to result from mutual discussion, and therefore I ask your attention to "The Atmosphere of our Sunday Schools."
It is hardly needful to explain that I do not intend to raise a debate on ventilation! although that is of no insignificant importance, and is too frequently overlooked. Rather would I request you to consider with me that subtle spirit which reigns in every family, every assembly, every school; which cannot be rigidly defined, but which nevertheless is distinctly felt, and is powerful in its influence for good or evil.
Have not all of you often recognised the existence of this atmosphere on joining a family circle for the first time? You enter one home where father, mother and young people are gathered together under conditions that should be mutually helpful and pleasant, but somehow, you cannot explain why or how it is, there is a restlessness in the air; without any serious quarrels or open breach there is a total lack of that harmony, that rest, that peace and brightness which make up the happiness of every day life. The different elements of the family jar one against the other; the home is not one whither you wish to return. You cannot attach distinct blame to any one individual, yet you say to yourself," the atmosphere of that home is one of discomfort." You enter another house, no grander or richer, with the
same number of inmates old and young, and how different is the effect! As a writer has said: "With what ease, what mastery, what graceful disposition, do the seeming trivialities of existence fall into order, and drop a blessing as they take their place! how do the hours steal away, unnoticed but by the precious fruits they leave! and by the self-renunciation of affection there comes a spontaneous adjustment of various wills; and not an innocent pleasure is lost, nor a pure taste, offended, nor a peculiar temper unconsidered; and every day has its silent achievements of wisdom, and every night its retrospect of piety and love; and the tranquil thoughts that in the evening meditation come down with the starlight seem like the serenade of angels bringing in melody the peace of God." The "atmosphere" of such a home is an atmosphere where one would gladly abide for ever.
Now it is this subtle spirit, so readily felt, so hard to describe, which I call the "atmosphere" of our Sunday Schools, and I intend to indicate a few points to which attention must be paid if the atmosphere is to be that which will promote the spiritual well-being of the scholars. For just as the physical nature of children is stunted by lack of fresh air, their moral and spiritual nature cannot flourish unless they breathe a pure and invigorating atmosphere.
I. THE ATMOSPHERE OF A SUNDAY SCHOOL SHOULD BE FULL OF BRIGHTNESS AND BEAUTY.
Let this not be deemed a merely trivial or secular thing. Our Puritan forefathers, in righteous revolt from the superstition and idolatry of Rome, rushed to the opposite extreme in their hatred of all that was agreeable to