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SABBATH SCHOOL MAGAZINE.
WESTERN DISTRICT SABBATH SCHOOL UNION.
FOR many years it has been felt that the Western District Union was much too large for local purposes. But though the subject of dividing it into two has been often ventilated, it is only recently that a proposal having this object in view has taken definite shape. At the last two or three meetings of the Directors a proposition to divide the district into at least two parts, each part to be formed into a District Union reporting to the General Union in the usual way, has been under consideration. The present boundary of the Union is, all west of the line of Jamaica Street, Buchanan Street, and Port-Dundas Road, and north of the river. The proposed dividing line will run east and west; and, beginning at Buchanan Street, will be, Sauchiehall Street, St. George's Road, Woodlands Road, South Woodside Road, and Great Western Road; the upper district being named the North-Western Union, and the lower the Western Union. From the then Western Union it is proposed, if practicable, to detach the Partick and Hillhead district, say all westward of the river Kelvin, forming it into a separate Union; not an independent Union, as was tried some years ago, but a District Union, reporting and sending representatives to the board of the General Union.
This proposition has received the approval of the Directors both of the Western District Union and General Union; and at the last bimonthly meeting of the former it was agreed to call a general meeting of the teachers to consider the subject.
The meeting above referred to was held in the hall of Free St. Matthew's Church, on the evening of the 13th ult. Mr. D. Marshall Lang, the President, occupied the chair, and was supported by several of the Directors of the Union. After making a few prefatory remarks, the chairman called upon Mr. Ronald, one of the secretaries, who read an explanatory statement, of which the following is an abstract:— "The object of the Glasgow Sabbath School Union may be briefly NO. I.] [VOL. XXIV.
stated to be the advocacy and furtherance of the Sabbath school cause, and the perfecting of Sabbath school organization and machinery. It seeks this by means of publications, public meetings, and correspondence. For its better attainment, it was thought necessary, about twenty-five years ago, to divide the city into five districts, each district to have a Union of its own, and all to report to the General Union. This was the origin of the present District Unions; and the particular work, as I understand it, which they were intended to perform, was-first, to see that the whole of their respective districts was canvassed by Societies for scholars, promoting the establishment of new schools where such were needed; second, by visitation of schools and correspondence to circulate useful information regarding the best methods of managing them and attaining success; and, third, to promote local meetings of teachers for the purpose of mutual encouragement and instruction. And, in passing, it may be remarked, that the work still before the Sabbath School Union and its District Unions seems as great, and even more important, than ever it was. Whether we consider the defective hall and class-room accommodation of our schools, the inefficiency and inexperience of many of our teachers, the noise and disorder too often attending our services, our inability to retain the bulk of our scholars after they pass the age of boyhood and girlhood, or the smallness of the spiritual results, it manifestly appears that improvement is wanted.
"At the time the five District Unions were formed they each had connected with them from twenty to thirty societies. But in 1870, while the other Unions had increased considerably, the Western, owing to the growth of the city westwards, had now sixty-six societies reporting to it, and this year three or four more are expected. It is now really composed of four distinct and populous districts-viz., Anderston, Cowcaddens, Maryhill, and Partick.
"The disadvantages which have had to be borne for many years past are chiefly these-first, no public meeting held in one district is convenient, or in point of fact is attended, by the teachers resident in the other districts; second, the supervision of the district for the purpose of seeing that it is properly canvassed for scholars and covered with schools, is simply in abeyance, on account of the extent of territory to be superintended; and, third, a visitation of schools can only be accomplished once in several years, and that by different committees of visitors, whereby much of the benefit to be expected from such visitation is lost.
"The proposition which your Directors have now to submit for your
decision is, that the district be divided into three parts,"-as already described.
"The number of societies and general schools in the new Unions (including those that are expected to report this year) will be as follows:
After a very full discussion, which was altogether favourable to the proposition, the chairman called upon Messrs. Richmond, Simpson, and King-a deputation from the General Union-who expressed their hearty concurrence in the action of the Western Union Directors. It was thereupon unanimously resolved to divide the district into a Western and North-Western Union, as proposed, and the Directors were authorized to make the necessary arrangements in connection with the matter. It was also unanimously recommended that the Partick and Hillhead societies be formed into a separate District Union; and the Directors were instructed to convene a meeting of teachers to be held in Partick, where the matter will be decided.
The arrangement subsequently come to is, that a prayer meeting of teachers is to be held in Partick on a Sabbath evening previous to the general meeting. There is to be another prayer meeting held in Cowcaddens. Notice of both is given on the cover of the Magazine, and the attention of teachers is particularly requested to it.
IN Roger Ascham's Toxophilus, or "The Schole of Shotynge," is a dialogue between Toxophilus, " lover of the bow," and Philologus, "lover of learning," which we transfer, as suggestive to Sabbath school teachers, who are supposed to be shooting at a mark:
Philol. What is the cheyfe pointe in shootynge, that everye manne laboureth to come to?
Tox. To hyt the marke.
Phi. How manye thynges are required to make a man ever more hyt the marke?
Phi. Whiche twoo?
Tox. Shotynge streyght and kepynge of a lengthe, (calculating distance.)
Phi. How shoulde a man shoote streyght, and how shoulde a man kepe a lengthe?
Tox. In knowynge and hauynge thinges belongynge to shootynge; and when they be known and had, in well handlynge of them.
DEFECTS OF THE SABBATH SCHOOL SYSTEM.
In a sermon delivered lately in the Cathedral by the Rev. T. B. W. Niven of the Tron Parish, the preacher made some suitable remarks on imperfections of the Sabbath school system, which will be found deserving the attention of our readers. Having described the aims of the system, Mr. Niven continued :
"True, the Sabbath school system was yet in its infancy. It had much to rectify in itself before it was perfected; while the Sabbath-day godlessness amongst the juvenile population was far from adequately reached. Quite evidently one part of the remedy lay in the extension of the local system. They remembered how nobly that system was organized and carried out, nearly 60 years ago, by the great apostle of modern Scottish Evangelism, Dr. Chalmers. In his gigantic spiritual strength, it might almost be said that the waste places of the Tron Parish began to rejoice. Every close had its spiritual superintendent, every entry its Sabbath school. And it was not only that thus the number of children overtaken was very much greater than it could otherwise have been, there was an unspeakable moral effect also over the whole locality. Such an institution placed right down in a centre of vice was a silent protest against it. It was a quiet testimony that Christ's power was not at an end, a check upon the openness of unrestrained vice, and a source which sent its leaven of piety into many a darksome home around. But, apart from this, he was compelled to say that there were other practical defects in the Sabbath school system. The most obvious and the most grave was the inexperience of the teachers and the inartistic character of the teaching. There was no doubt whatever that there was an immense waste somewhere in our Sabbath school power. Young persons entered upon it without appreciating its importance. They did not realize the necessity of perseverance, of punctuality, or regularity. Nay, often they had no adequate conception of the labour to be undergone, and the self-training that was requisite to form an accomplished Sabbath teacher, And so schools were conducted from year to year without any definite principle of coherence; and teachers did their best, but that was crude and ill-digested. We had all the elements of great success-numbers, piety, enthusiasm; and the question would now and then obtrude itself, Why is it that our success is not greater than it is? He conceived that but one answer could be made, and that was, that Sabbath teaching had not yet been regarded (as it ought to be) as something of a science. There were but few means at the command of the teachers for perfecting them in their sacred art. It had often seemed to him that some strong effort should positively be made to institute a process of training in Sabbath school work, so that the mass of power which was undoubtedly at work just now might be utilized to the best advantage. It seemed to him that the Church, i. e., the congregations of the Church, ought to bestir themselves to see to this-that by some system of previous training our Sabbath school teachers might pass from the ranks of the merely well-meaning to the membership of the well-equipped and accomplished. Meantime, however, brethren, said Mr. Niven, in conclusion,