Sunday-school Among the modern developments of Christianity, Sunday schools, and what is known as the Sunday-school enterprise, are prominent. To persons familiar with their objects and the scriptural precepts by which they are sanctioned, it seems strange that so long a period elapsed before they came into actual existence. That a leading duty of the Church was to teach all nations was made plain in the great commission of our Lord to his disciples. That little children were included in the scope of that commission was evident from the great Teacher's own command to "suffer little children to come unto him and forbid them not," as well as from his impressive charge to Peter, "Feed my lambs." While evidence is not lacking to indicate that the Christians of the apostolic age both comprehended the duty enjoined by our Lord and illustrated it in adaptation to their circumstances, yet there are too many proofs that in the centuries immediately following, that duty fell into abuse and neglect amid the rapidly growing corruptions of the Church. The ceremonious catechetical system of the 4th and 5th centuries was a labored but poor apology for that neglect, and when it came to an end no substitute was left in its place. Hundreds of years then went by without any general effort on the part of the Church for the religious instruction of children. Following the Reformation of the 16th century catechization in the elements of Scripture doctrine was gradually introduced into most of the Protestant churches, but it was rarely extended to any beyond the recognized children of the Church.
I. Origin and Early History of the Sunday-school System. — It was not till near the close of the 18th century that the-modern system of Sunday- school instruction took its rise. Although in numerous instances previously catechization had been practiced on the Lord's day, and in several cases individuals remote from each other in time and locality had assembled children for instruction on that day, yet nothing like a general system of teaching the young on Sundays, whether in secular or religious learning, was known prior to 1780. The system that then arose was purely philanthropic in its design, and in its origin contemplated only local results. From an early period in the 17th century, pin making had been an important industry in the old city of Gloucester, England. This manufacture employed great numbers of small children not only residents of the place, but gathered in from surrounding regions. Vast numbers of these children were wholly uneducated, and, being without parental restraint or moral supervision, they naturally fell into gross disorder and immorality, especially on Sundays, when the factories were not in operation. The first person who undertook to remedy this distressing state of things was Mr. Robert Raikes (q.v.), a printer residing in Gloucester, and a member of the Church of England. He found four persons who had been accustomed to instruct children in reading, and engaged their services to receive and instruct such children as he should send to them every Sunday. The children were to go soon after ten in the morning, and stay till twelve. They were then to go home, and return at one; and after reading a lesson, they were to be conducted to Church. After Church they were to be employed in repeating the catechism till half after five, and then to be dismissed with an injunction to go home without making a noise, and by no means to play in the street. This was the general outline of the regulations as stated by Mr. Raikes, in his celebrated letter of June 5, 1784, which conclusively identifies him as the originator of the Sunday-school movement.
As has often happened in other cases of great results from small beginnings, there have been various endeavors to fix the origin of Sunday- schools at earlier periods than that named above. Although it is not difficult to establish priority in several cases, yet there is no other instance of an actual Sunday-school from which continuity or serial connection can be traced down to the present time. If therefore, mere priority were in question, it would be necessary to go back to the period of Moses, under whom the catechetical system of the Jews was appointed, culminating in the grand sabbatical year (De 31:10-13). But as it is not the origin of catechization (q.v.), which is under consideration, but rather of that form of catechization which, in modern times, is known as the Sunday- school system, it is safe to accept the general verdict of history, according to which Robert Raikes is recognized as its founder. When once the idea of Sunday instruction for the ignorant children of Great Britain was fairly developed, it was seen to have not only great intrinsic merit, but perfect adaptation to other places.. Hence the schools of Mr. Raikes soon began to be imitated in all directions, with results of the most encouraging character. A Sunday-school Society was formed in London, and, in various ways, so general an interest was awakened on the subject that in the course of a few years Sunday schools were commenced in nearly every part of England. They did not, however, become universal, nor in the largest degree useful, until a higher idea than that of mere philanthropy became embodied in them. The plan of employing hired teachers not only made it necessary to raise large amounts of money, but necessarily placed a limit upon their extension and permanence. Besides, it was not possible to secure the best quality of teaching by any appeal to mercenary motives. In discussing this subject at a comparatively early period of the history of Sunday-schools, the Rev. John Angell James said, "Hireling teachers can scarcely be expected to possess either the zeal or the ability of those who now engage in the work from motives of pure benevolence. Gratuitous instruction was 'an astonishing improvement of the system, and which does not appear to have entered into the views of its benevolent author. If we were asked,' says a writer in the Sunday-school Repository, whose name stood next to that of Robert Raikes in the annals of Sunday-schools, we should say, the person who first came forward and voluntarily proffered his exertions, his time, and his talents to the instruction of the young and the poor; since an imitation of his example has been the great cause of the present flourishing state of these institutions, and of all that future additional increase which may be reasonably anticipated." While it may not be possible to fix upon any one person as having been the first to commence gratuitous effort in the teaching of Sunday-schools, it is not difficult to determine, from the history of the times, who was probably more instrumental than any other man in establishing and diffusing the system of gratuitous and Christian instruction in those schools. It was the Rev. John Wesley, who, for more than thirty years prior to the first Sunday-school of Raikes, had been in the habit of assembling children in various parts of England for the purpose of religious instruction. It was he who, having recorded in his journal, July 18, 1784, that he found Sunday- schools springing up wherever he went, also recorded these memorable, if not prophetic, words: "Perhaps God may have a deeper end therein than men are aware of. Who knows but some of these schools may become nurseries for Christians?" From that time forward notices of Sunday- schools were frequent in his journals. The following is a brief specimen; "July 27, 1787. — We went on to Bolton. Here are eight hundred poor children taught in our Sunday-schools, by about eighty masters, who receive no pay but what they are to receive from their great Master." This record corresponds to the statement made in Myles's History of the People called Methodists (Lond. 1803). Having referred to Sunday-schools as an excellent institution begun by Mr. Raikes, the author says, "Mr. Wesley no sooner heard of it than he approved of it. He published an account of it in the Arminian Magazine for January, 1785, and exhorted his societies to imitate this laudable example. They took his advice. Laboring, hard- working men and women began to instruct their neighbors children, and to go with them to the house of God on the Lord's day." Whatever was done by others, the Methodists, from the beginning, practiced only gratuitous instruction in their Sunday-schools. By them the same institution and modes of instruction were simultaneously introduced into the United States of America, under bishop Asbury, who sustained to the American Methodist societies a similar relation to that of Mr. Wesley in England.
As early as the year 1784 the following paragraph was incorporated in the Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church:
"What shall we do for the rising generation? Who will labor for them? Let him who is zealous for God and the souls of men begin now. 1. Where there are ten children whose parents are in society, meet them at least an hour every week. 2. Talk with them every time you see any at home. 3. Pray in earnest for them. 4. Diligently instruct and vehemently exhort all parents at their own houses. 5. Preach expressly on education." In sequence of this mandatory rule, addressed primarily to ministers, but involving the co-operation of the laity, Sunday-schools were established in many places. Of one of those schools a very definite and satisfactory record was made. It was taught in 1786, in Hanover County, Va., at the house of Mr. Thomas Crenshaw, who, in 1827, forty-one years later was a living witness of the fact, as was also the Rev. John Charleston, a minister of thirty-nine years service in the Church, who had been converted in that school (Bangs, Hist. of the M. LE. Church). Further historic evidence of the early adoption of organized 'Sunday-school effort by the Church referred to grew out of the fact that persecution arose on account of its endeavors to instruct the colored children of the South. In Charleston, S. C., the Rev. George Daughaday "was severely beaten on the head, and subsequently had water pumped on him from a public cistern, for the crime of conducting a Sabbath school for the benefit of the African children in that vicinity." Nevertheless, the Methodist Conference, which met in Charleston in February, 1790, resolved to continue the work. Its minute on the subject was in these words:
"Ques. What can he do to instruct poor children, white and black, to read?
"Ans. Let us labor, as the heart and soul of one man, to establish Sunday-schools in or near the place of public worship. Let persons be appointed by the bishop, elders, deacons, or preachers, to teach gratis all that will attend, and have a capacity to learn… The Concil shall compile a proper school-book to teach them learning and piety." At the period of the origin of Sunday-schools the Methodist Episcopal Church found one of its principal fields of action in the Southern States, being drawn thither by the great spiritual destitution of the inhabitants. But it is easy to understand that, owing to the sparseness of the population and to other reasons, the condition of that region was not favorable to the rapid development and permanent establishment of Sunday schools. The same thing was, to some extent, true of the entire United States, owing to the general exhaustion of the country following the war of the Revolution and the unsettled condition of affairs in a newly organized government. Hence nearly or quite a quarter of a century passed by before Sunday-schools became common in either the Southern or Northern States.
Meantime they had been making steady and successful progress in Great Britain, where they were promoted by two classes of agencies, the philanthropic and the religious. Owing to the low state of public education in that country, hundreds of thousands of children were wholly dependent upon Sunday-schools for the first elements of instruction. Hence reading and writing were universally taught in the Sunday-schools-the former as essential to the perusal of the Word of God or the Catechism, which from the first were the text-books for all pupils able to use them.
Although much and well-rewarded effort was put forth in behalf of Sunday-schools from purely philanthropic motives, yet the greatest progress made by them and the highest results secured through them were in sequence' of avowed and consistent religious effort. When, at length, this species of effort became general, Sunday-schools assumed a position of importance and of promise not before realized. About the same period they began to develop what may be called their cumulative power. This was seen when the first generation, of Sunday-school scholars had grown up to become teachers, and felt themselves moved to do for others what had been done for them. In this manner the teaching force in Sunday- schools became greatly augmented. Besides, cases were not rare in which the grown-up scholars of Sunday-schools became ministers of the Gospel, while others, continuing in secular life, became prominent men in business and in society. The strong and effective support rendered by such persons, as well as by many others of less prominence, gave a new impetus to the Sunday-school enterprise, which has been enlarging and repeating itself ever since.
The enlistment of the press as an auxiliary to Sunday-schools was an event of great importance. For a considerable period Sunday-school work was done at a great disadvantage for lack of suitable books of all kinds, not excepting copies of the Scriptures. The organization of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804, and subsequently of numerous other societies for the publication and diffusion of the Word of God, tended to a general supply of the Holy Scriptures in forms and at prices adapted to extensive use in Sunday-schools. Besides Testaments, Bibles, and elementary instruction books, the first publications introduced extensively into Sunday-schools were called reward-books, on account of their being presented to children as an encouragement for punctual and regular attendance and for the memorization of lessons. At first they were tracts and story-books, in paper covers, of very inferior quality, no others being attainable. About 1810 the Religious Tract Society of London began issuing children's books, prepared and printed specially with reference to Sunday school patronage. The demand for such books increased in the ratio of their production, so that other religious societies, and even miscellaneous publishers, found it to their interest to provide them. At length the idea of introducing circulating libraries into Sunday-schools came into vogue, and with it a still greater publication of books designed for juvenile reading, and also for the instruction-and aid of teachers. —
There are no data for accurately tracing the numerical growth of Sunday- schools in the earlier periods of their history. Nevertheless, it is pleasing to know that some of the workers of those days were not inattentive to the broader aspects of the enterprise in which they were engaged. It was estimated by the Sunday-school Society of London, in 1786, that within five years after the opening of Raikes's first school 250,000 scholars had been enrolled in' the schools then established. About forty years later (1827) the American Sunday-school Union estimated that the aggregate number of scholars enrolled in the Sunday-schools of different countries was 1,250,000.
II. The Second Period of the Sunday-school Enterprise. — This enterprise, at the present writing, has had a recognized existence of about one hundred years. In considering its history, it seems proper to divide its first century into two periods of fifty years each. The first, which has been summarily sketched above, may be denominated its initial and formative period. The second, now closing, constitutes its period of adolescence. We must look to the future for its full development.
Owing to causes noticed above, it was not earlier than from 1825 to 1830 that the Sunday-school cause came generally and prominently before the American public. Between the years named two leading Sunday-school unions (q.v.) were organized-one in Philadelphia and one in New York.
About that time several great publishing societies were established that have given much auxiliary aid to Sunday-school efforts. The idea of religious instruction as the one great business of Sunday schools had then found universal acceptance. The development of public secular instruction had by that time become so general, at least in. the Northern and Central States of the American Union, that Sunday-schools had little occasion to go out of their proper sphere. The movement in behalf of general education in England had begun, having been greatly stimulated by the results of Sunday-schools. The purchase and use of Sunday-school libraries had become common in both countries, and the means of supplying them with suitable books were improving. In short, the Sunday-school enterprise was fairly launched, but no more than that. All the general improvement and progress of the intervening fifty years, together with the united and consecutive efforts of the multiplied workers in Sunday-schools, have been needed to bring those schools to the position they at present occupy.
There are two methods of indicating the progressive advance and the actual results of Sunday-schools. The one is by general statements, and the other by the comparative showing of such numerical statistics as may be found trustworthy. As neither of these modes is fully adequate, both will here be employed to a limited extent, in order that they may as far as possible supplement each other. Within the last fifty years Sunday-schools have come to be regarded as an essential branch of Church action, not merely in England and America, but throughout the Protestant world, whether in home or mission fields. They have also been adopted by Roman Catholics and Jews in Protestant countries. Not to speak of the influence of Sunday-schools in the last-named bodies, it is safe to say that the great majority of all the ministers, missionaries, and communicants of all the Protestant churches of the world are at this time the alumni of Sunday- schools, and, as such, their active friends and supporters. The recognized necessities of these schools have given rise to important changes in church architecture, by which nearly every church is provided with accommodations for the instruction of the young in graded classes, ranging from infancy upwards. They have called into existence not only an extensive literature, but also a varied psalmody, contemplating the special tastes and wants of the young. While in England they have been chiefly limited to the poorer and middle classes of the people, in the United States they have claimed, and in fact assumed, a relation to public (week-day) schools corresponding to that which the Sabbath holds to the secular days of the week. In this relation they seek to supplement public and general education with the moral and religious influences of Christianity. In this view, they secure the attendance of scholars from the higher as well as lower classes of the community, and enlist for their instruction a quality of talent and an amount of effort which money could never hire.
In passing from general though significant statements like these to such showings as may be made in figures, it seems necessary to explain that Sunday school statistics, as minute and comprehensive as are now seen to be desirable, are very difficult to obtain on a large scale. Only in rare instances have governments been interested to collect them, and comparatively few of the promoters of Sunday-schools have so far recognized their importance as to take the requisite steps for securing them. Consequently, up to the present' time, there has not been a uniformity of method and the extent of co-operation necessary to making up comprehensive exhibits of numbers and results. The most, therefore, that has been up to this time possible in the way of such exhibits has been to form estimates based upon accurate statistics taken within certain- districts or churches, and extending the pro rata outward. About the middle of the 19th century an effort was made in England, under government sanction to ascertain the number and attendance of the Sunday-schools of that country. On a given Sunday (March 30,1851) the Sunday-schools of England and Wales were simultaneously inspected; and there were found in 23,514 schools, 302,000 teachers and 2,280,000 scholars. The number of children enrolled as scholars was 2,407,409, or about three fifths of the number of children between the ages of five and fifteen enumerated by the census taken within the same limits. A similar proportion of children in American Sunday-schools at the same period would have reached the number of 3,000,000. If to those aggregates the probable number of Sunday schools in Scotland, Ireland, and other countries at the same date be added, it seems safe to believe that there were in Sunday-schools throughout the world, at the end of 1850, not less than 6,000,000 scholars. Similar estimates made at the end of another quarter of a century indicate that at the end of 1875 there were in. operation in all countries 110,000 Sunday-schools, embracing 1,500,000 teachers and 10,000,000 scholars. One statistician of some prominence has since estimated that there are in the United States alone not less than 98,303 Sunday-schools and 7,668,833 scholars. On that basis the above aggregate for all countries might be enlarged. To illustrate the thoroughness with which Sunday-school statistics are taken by at least one of the American churches, and also the instructiveness of such statistics when taken through a series of years, we subjoin the official summary of the Methodist Episcopal Church for the year 1889: Sunday-schools, 25,828; Sunday-school officers and teachers, 286,768; scholars, 2,188,077; scholars over fifteen years of age, 493,704; scholars under fifteen, and not in infant classes, 445,502; scholars in infant classes, 491,429; average attendance, 1,434,251; volumes in Sunday-school libraries, 1,871,132; annual expenses of the schools, $1,658,240; contributions to the Sunday- school Union for establishing new and aiding poor schools, $22,524.05; officers and teachers who were communicants in the Church, 257,959; scholars who were communicants, 610,861; conversions in connection with the Sunday-schools, 119,654. The total membership of the Church at the same period was 2,237,526, or 49,000 less than the aggregate number of teachers and scholars in the Sunday-schools. A retrospective comparison of the increase of members in the same Church from year to year shows a striking correspondence to the number of reported conversions in the Sunday-schools. To the extent that the above statistics may be considered representative of the condition and work of Sunday-schools in the American churches, they render superfluous any argument to prove the magnitude of that work and its auxiliary power for the promotion of Christian influence.
It is not to be supposed that results of the importance indicated in the foregoing sketch have naturally arisen from the spontaneous growth of Sunday-schools. On the other hand they are only to be attributed to the divine blessing upon the systematic and well-directed efforts of intelligent Sunday-school workers extending through successive years. In: fact, a considerable portion of the second half century of Sunday-schools had passed away before it could be said that these schools were thoroughly popular with even the Christian public of America; nor did they become so without great and continuous exertions on the part of enthusiastic friends of the cause. As one great agency for accomplishing that result, Sunday- school conventions were appointed and held in various places and in a great variety of circumstances. There were conventions for cities and towns, for counties, for districts, for conferences, and for states. Some of them were managed by single denominations and some by a union of all denominations. In these conventions, prominent Sunday school workers came in contact with masses of people, answering objections, diffusing information, and stimulating zeal. Such gatherings gave an opportunity for the discussion of new methods, and became a great agency for the promotion of all real improvements in the organization and conduct of Sunday-schools even in the remotest sections of the land. In proportion as the Sunday-school idea became popular, and agitation in its behalf became unnecessary, conventions of Sunday-school friends and workers began to take the form of institutes after the analogy of teachers institutes designed to elevate the standard of secular instruction. For a long period the most that was thought possible to be done for the higher training and special instruction of Sunday-school teachers, was sought to be accomplished through superintendents and pastors Bible classes. But at length it was found practicable, with no design of superseding the Bible-classes referred to, to secure many of their benefits on a more popular scale, coupled with the enthusiasm derived from the assembly of numbers of people interested in common objects. Hence at Sunday-school conventions and institutes, lectures were given on important topics, apparatus and new publications were exhibited and explained, and model and normal classes were taught and trained by skilled teachers. By these public proceedings, not only was the better classification and instruction of Sunday-schools promoted, but an esprit du coups was aroused among teachers; and in many schools normal departments were established for the special instruction and qualification of teachers.
The success of Sunday-school institutes and normal classes reacted upon the conventional idea and caused it to expand into that of Sunday-school assemblies, designed to continue in session from one to three weeks at a time. In connection with the growing American habit of taking summer vacations and of gathering in masses at popular resorts, Sunday-school assemblies, under wise and energetic management, have speedily grown to be influential of great good and promissory of long continuance. The Chautauqua Sunday-school Assembly, held on the borders of a beautiful lake in Western New York, under the presidency of Dr. John H. Vincent, may be considered at once the originator and model of various similar assemblies already held, and now said to be established for regular annual sessions in different parts of the United States; e.g. at Clear Lake, Ia.; Lake Bluff, Ill.; Loveland and Lakeside, O.; the Thousand Island Park in the St. Lawrence River; and at Round Lake, near Saratoga, N. Y. These assemblies are designed to do, for vast and widely separated sections of America, what was contemplated by the London Sunday-school Union in the erection of a building at 56 Old Bailey, in the heart of London. In that building is a Sunday-school museum and a large hall in which courses of lectures are given, while in other rooms training-classes are taught and competitive examinations held. While the center of a million-peopled city affords some peculiar advantages for the objects above indicated, and specially in being accessible at all seasons of the year, yet the ample spaces and the romantic associations of a beautiful American grove adapted to such uses leave nothing to be desired in view of the objects of the assembly and during the season allotted to it. Many of the constructions are somewhat rude, but the appointments are in excellent taste and constantly improving. Everything, however, is made subservient to the grand idea of intellectual and spiritual improvement, with specific reference to the promotion of Christ's kingdom upon earth through the agency of Christian instruction. No one can properly appreciate the importance and future bearing of the agencies now under notice without considering that each coming generation will require, in its turn, to be trained and fitted for the ever-expanding work of teaching all nations the truths of the Gospel.
It may here be remarked that Sunday-school conventions have not been limited even to large states; in fact, they have been expanded so as to enlist national and even international representation. A World's Sunday-school Convention met in London in 1862, and a German National Sunday-school Convention in Hamburg in 1874. In the United States, in 1875, twenty-one State Sunday-school conventions were held, besides one of a national and one of an international character. The meeting of leading and delegated Sunday-school workers from different churches and nations has had a happy tendency towards the promotion of practical Christian union on the largest scale. One of the best evidences of this may be instanced in the general adoption since 1872 of a system of international lessons for Bible study. Uniform schemes of simultaneous study had been previously adopted to a considerable extent, especially in Great Britain, where they had long been promoted by the London Sunday-school Union, but never officially accepted throughout the kingdom. As early as 1860 Mr. Orange Judd, editor of the American Agriculturist. originated a scheme of lessons having all the essential features of the present International Series namely, a: selection of about seven consecutive verses for each week, in historical order, from the several portions of Scripture. At his suggestion Dr. James Strong drew up such a scheme, which was printed in tabular form in the Agriculturist for February, 1862, and hundreds of thousands of copies of it were distributed and used in the Sunday-schools of various denominations throughout the United States. A similar plan was published in the same manner the following year, and in 1862 the first of four consecutive question-books, entitled Lessons for Every Sunday in the Year, was prepared under the same auspices, and published in New York. In 1865 the London system, with some modifications, was brought to the attention of the American public by Rev. J. H. Vincent, then editing a Sunday-school periodical in Chicago. The question was soon after proposed by him in a Sunday-school institute, "Is it practicable to introduce a uniform system of lessons into all our schools?" This question was earnestly and hopefully discussed in various ways for several: years following; until, at the National Convention at Indianapolis in 1872, it was answered in the affirmative by a large vote. When the project was agreed to by representatives of the leading denominations in America, it was through friendly correspondence endorsed by the London Sunday-school Union, and has since been in actual and extensive use on both sides of the Atlantic. The international use of systems of lessons, prepared by joint committees, has had a happy tendency to promote increased interest in scriptural study throughout the world. This mode of simultaneous study has been greatly popularized by the publication of notes and comments on the uniform lessons in hundreds of periodicals in various countries and in different languages. At the present time, the system of international study seems to have won general favor throughout the Protestant world, and to have the promise of a long, if not permanent, continuance.
In closing this article, it seems proper to say that it is in the United States that the greatest work has been done in the preparation and publication of Sunday-school' literature, although not without a great debt of obligation to English writers. Here Sunday school circulating-libraries were first adopted as an essential auxiliary of Sunday- school effort. By this means, the influences of the Sunday-school were projected through the secular days of the week. In this country also, Sunday-school requisites and periodicals, combining both elegance and cheapness, have been published in the greatest profusion. The Sunday-school libraries of the United States have, in fact, become so numerous and important as to have challenged and secured a partial enumeration in the official census of the government. The census of 1870 reported 33,580 libraries, and 8,346,153 volumes in those libraries. This aggregate, large as it is, does not include the State of Connecticut, and for other reasons is evidently far below the facts in the ease at the present time. No other libraries are so widely diffused as those of Sunday schools; they are not only found in cities, where most great libraries are established, but in the remotest sections and neighborhoods of the land, and everywhere they are free to all who by attendance on Sunday schools become entitled to draw their books for themselves or their friends. In so vast an aggregate of volumes, it would not be strange if there were some of an indifferent or even of a very objectionable character. But such would be only exceptions to the general rule that Sunday-school libraries furnish wholesome and attractive reading to millions of youths and children, many of whom, without them, would have no reading, or only that which is bad.
The most cursory view of the various agencies now in active operation as parts of the Sunday-school enterprise can hardly fail to impress any thoughtful mind with the moral grandeur of that enterprise as a whole. Especially will any true Christian that contemplates the feeble beginning of 1780, in comparison with the vast array of Sunday-school activities and agents at work in 1880, be led to exclaim, What hath God wrought through the instrumentality of those who have endeavored to obey the command "Feed my lambs!" When, moreover, he considers the glorious results of the Sunday-school efforts of the past hundred years, and the cumulative power of those that may be made in the centuries to come, he will see that the problem of the world's conversion is in process of solution. (D.P.K.)
"SUNDAY-SCHOOL SOCIETIES, UNIONS, etc. Associated Christian effort may be designated as the generic agency by which, under the divine blessing, the great results of the Sunday-school enterprise have been accomplished. Such effort has assumed two forms 1, local; 2, general-each correspondent and supplementary to the other. Local associations, whether in neighborhoods or churches, have from the first been necessary as a means of raising the money to found, and of enlisting the teachers to instruct, Sunday-schools. General associations were also, from an early day, seen to be important for the purpose of awakening public interest and of diffusing information both as to the necessity and the best means of instructing in religious truth. They have likewise had an important function to perform in prompting and guiding individual and local effort in the work of organizing and maintaining Sunday-schools, becoming at the same time an important bond of union between great numbers of schools not locally connected. General associations for these objects have assumed, somewhat interchangeably, the title of societies aid: unions, the latter predominating, apparently, on account of its expressiveness of their character and objects. The most important of those established in England and America will now be enumerated in chronological order.
I. English. —
1. In 1785 "The Society for Promoting Sunday-schools in the British Dominions" was organized in London. It was under the leadership of William Fox, who in various ways proved himself to be a true philanthropist, but specially in his zeal, liberality, and personal efforts for the education and moral elevation of the lower classes of his countrymen. This society, during the first sixteen years of its existence, paid out £4000 for the services of hired teachers in Sunday-schools. When, however, the plan of gratuitous teaching came to be universally adopted, and Christians and churches became generally enlisted in promoting Sunday-schools from purely religious motives, the importance and influence of this society declined until it became extinct.
2. In 1803 "The London Sunday-school Union" was organized. It was composed of lay Sunday-school workers of different denominations of Christians residing within a radius of five miles from the city post office. This limitation was adopted as a measure-of convenience and unity of action, but with no design of limiting the influence of the union to the circle thus described. This union has had an honorable and prosperous career from its origin to the present time. It has never controlled a large amount of funds, nor been able to take statistics on any scale of great importance; but it has steadily and consistently pursued its specific designs, and in so doing has been able, from its central position, to influence favorably the Sunday-school cause not only throughout Great Britain, but throughout the world. The following have been its more important functions;
(1.) The publication of Sunday-school requisites, lesson-papers, and periodicals. Of the latter, The Sunday school Teachers Magazine and several juvenile monthlies have long held a high rank.
(2.) The promotion of activity and improvement in the work of Sunday- school instruction. For this object the position of the union, in the practical center not only of London, but of England, has been eminently favorable. This advantage has been diligently and wisely, improved by a succession of intelligent and faithful workers, who, by personal and co-operative efforts, have kept the standard of Sunday-school instruction continually advancing. As a permanent means to this important end, they have secured the erection of a fine building in a central location, in which they maintain courses of lectures, training and model classes, together with competitive examinations for teachers.
3. In 1810 "The Religious Tract Society" of London was founded. This society, although not bearing the name Sunday-school in its title, or specifically naming Sunday-school objects in its constitution, has nevertheless been, from its origin to the present time, one of the most serviceable auxiliaries to the Sunday-school enterprise. Its publications have been unrivalled for cheapness, elegance, religious character, and adaptation to Sunday-school wants. As such they have challenged and secured the patronage of all Sunday-school workers throughout the British dominions. Vast numbers of them have been reprinted in the United States.
Of several other general associations we are not able to assign the exact date of origin. The order of their establishment is indicated in the list, and the specific object of each is sufficiently expressed by its title. They are as follows: "The Church of England Sunday-school Institute;" "The Ragged Sunday-school Institute;" "The Wesleyan Methodist Sunday-school Union." The Wesleyan Methodist Church has long had a form of denominational action in behalf of both weekday and Sunday school education. It has, moreover, through its publication office, issued many books for Sunday-schools, as well as requisites and juvenile periodicals. Between the years 1860 and 1870 it thought proper to adopt more specific measures in behalf of its Sunday-school work. Hence the institution of the union last named, and the appointment of a connectional Sunday-school secretary. In general, it may be remarked that the greater part of the churches throughout Great Britain maintain their Sunday-schools-by individual Church effort, often aided by the co-operative influence of local unions.
II. American. —
1. Not counting the Church action alluded to in the preceding article, the first general Sunday-school organization established in the United States dated from Jan. 11, 1791. It was formed in Philadelphia, under the title of "The First-day or Sunday School Society." It was composed of members representing different denominations of Christians, among whom were several members of the Society of Friends. "The first article of the constitution of this society required that the instruction given in the schools established under its auspices or receiving its beneficence should be confined to reading and writing from the Bible and such other moral and religious books as the society may from time to time direct. The teachers were paid for their services." Like its predecessor of similar design in London, this society did not have a very long or influential career. Neither did the New York Sunday-school Union, formed in 1816, nor the Philadelphia Sunday and Adult School Union formed in Philadelphia in 1817.
2. In 1824 the last-named association was merged in "the American Sunday-school Union." This union, like that of London, is composed of laymen belonging to different denominations of Christians; but from the first it has assumed and maintained a far more prominent position and more aggressive modes of action than its English prototype. It has undertaken the double work of the publication of Sunday-school literature and the missionary enterprise of founding Sunday-schools on the frontier and in all destitute portions of the United States. For these objects, it has appealed to its supporting churches for funds. Those appeals have been honored in large amounts from year to year; and thus, during more than half a century, it has carried forward a grand and expanding work in many places where denominational effort could not have commanded success. As an indication of the work it is and has been accomplishing we subjoin its principal items of statistics for the year ending March 1, 1890: Sunday-schools organized, 1685, containing 7353 teachers and 59,432 scholars. Schools aided 1852, containing 12,788 teachers and 120,792 scholars. Miles traveled by its agents and missionaries, 463,243. Addresses delivered, 12,020. Bibles distributed, 6779. Testaments distributed, 9337. Families visited, 42,222. It has expended in missionary operations an aggregate of $2,471,620, while the value of books and papers it has put in circulation is not less than $7,000,000. It is easy to perceive that such a system of evangelical effort, steadily and energetically pursued for a long series of years, must result in an amount of good quite beyond the power of figures to enumerate or words to express. When to this grand idea is added that of the influence of a rich and abundant Sunday-school literature, diffused on business principles and through business agencies among the, various Sunday- schools of the land, the mind strives in vain to comprehend the full extent of the significance and hopefulness of this system of effort. From the nature of its work, the American Sunday-school Union is unable to take what may be called permanent statistics, or to follow the schools it has founded into their subsequent changes and developments. Its office is usually that of a pioneer, making preliminary organizations, which, in the course of years — and often of a very few years — expand, subdivide, and become merged in the more permanent work of the various churches.
3. In 1827 "The Sunday-school Union of the Methodist Episcopal Church" was organized in New York, in a form, which also contemplated the publication and diffusion of religious tracts and the Holy Scriptures. Although all these objects had been previously contemplated and promoted by regular Church action as taken in 1784 and subsequently, it was thought proper, in 1827, to make special efforts in their behalf by the joint and special organization referred to. In 1840 the Sunday-school Union under notice was reorganized as a separate institution, and in 1844 its interests and functions were brought into greater prominence by the appointment of an official Sunday-school editor, who was also made corresponding secretary of the union. These movements were in harmony with the original policy of the Church that instituted them, namely, to promote Sunday- school instruction as a branch of regular Church action. For such action on a large scale circumstances at the last-named period were highly favorable. The Church had then become extended throughout the whole country, so that it could reach almost any inhabited place by its regular agencies. Its plan, therefore, was to stimulate its ministers and members to universal activity, in accordance with its rules, adopted in 1784 and 1790. This plan saved the great expense of sending out and maintaining special Sunday- school missionaries, while, it made sure of responsible and resident agents wherever the work was undertaken. By similar agencies it was sought everywhere to promote a higher grade of Sunday-school activity and improved methods of instruction. For the production of an extensive and varied Sunday-school literature, provided under official editorship, the union was able to avail itself of an organized and-most effective publishing establishment, owned by the Church, with the best of facilities for diffusing its sprinted matter. In these circumstances, all collections for the missionary department of Sunday school effort were applied directly and exclusively to the distribution of books, at cost price, to be used by persons engaged in founding new or maintaining poor schools. Probably no more thorough and efficient system of Church effort in behalf of Sunday-schools was ever organized, inclusive of the system of statistics by which its workings are shown from year to year. Some of the results of the action of that system, running on an irregular course, may be inferred from the statistical summaries given in the foregoing article.
4. "The Protestant Episcopal Sunday-school Union" was organized in New York, at about the period when the two unions last named had their origin; but, for some reason, it never secured a strong support from the Church in whose interest it was founded and whose name it bore. It acted for a time as a publication society, being often aided by individual congregations in the issue of particular books. After some years of a rather languid existence, its interests were sold out to a private bookseller. A similar result occurred in the Evangelical Knowledge Society, an organization also projected, about 1850, by ministers and members of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in the idea of securing and diffusing a more evangelical literature than that furnished by the union last named.
5. It is proper to say here that neither the Presbyterian nor Baptist churches of the United States have organized Sunday-school unions. They have availed themselves to a large extent of the publications of the American Sunday-school Union, and also, in part, of the juvenile literature issued by their respective boards of publication, as well as that of the American Tract Society.
6. In 1832 "The Massachusetts Sabbath-school Society" was founded in Boston, by representatives of the Congregational churches of New England. Its modes of action were denominational, and its publications were numerous and good, but after some years of independent existence the interests of the society were blended with those of the Congregational Publishing Society and the American Home Missionary Society. Neither of those societies publish Sunday-school statistics.
7. "The (Dutch) Reformed Sunday-school Union" was organized in New York about 1850, and for several years proceeded quite actively to promote the Sunday school interests of the Church it represented. It published a small catalogue of Sunday-school books and requisites, but did not long maintain a separate existence, its interests having been merged in those of a publishing society of a more general character.
8. It is not within the scope of this article to notice the numerous local Sunday-school associations that have sprung up in the cities, towns, counties, or even states of the American Union. Many of them have had but a brief existence. Others have been maintained for continuous years, happily illustrating the principles of Christian union, but rarely engaging in the enterprise of publication. Some of them have collected statistics, but usually within limited spheres.
9. The Foreign Sunday-school Association of New York and vicinity had a germinal existence as far back as 1864, but did not secure an incorporation till 1878. It is composed of practical Sunday-school workers, who, by means of correspondence, co-operation with missionaries, and judicious donations, seek to promote the organization and maintenance of Sunday- schools in countries, foreign to the United States and outside of the British possessions. It claims to have "been the means of planting 1977 Sunday schools in Germany, 1130 in France, 150 in Italy, 30 in Portugal, 40 in Japan, 405 in German Switzerland, besides some schools in China, Greece, Hungary, Holland, and other countries." Its published report for 1879 contains numerous interesting facts, and authorizes the hope that in years to come grand results may ensue from beginnings which are at first necessarily feeble, so far as human agency is involved.
The fact that the Sunday-school enterprise, during the first century of its history, has, with the divine blessing, come so fully to pervade English- speaking countries, and has made a hopeful commencement in many and remote foreign nations, deserves to be taken as a promise of success during the centuries to come of inestimable extent and value. (D. P. K.)