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- BACK HOME - 6/31 -

We've duties and responsibilities. Who wants to be a child again? Not I. Let me stick just at my present age for about a hundred years, and I'll never utter a word of complaint.


"We-a love the Sunday-school. We-a love the Sunday-school. (Girls) - So do I. (Boys)-So do I. (School) - We all love the Sunday-school."


Some people believe that when General Conference assigned them to the Committee on Hymn-Book Revision, power and authority were given unto them to put a half-sole and a new heel on any and all poetry that might look to them to be a little run over on one side. If they felt as I do about the lines that head this article they would have "Sunday" scratched out and "Sabbath" written in before you could bat an eye. The mere substitution of one word for another may seem a light matter to a man that has never composed anything more literary than an obituary for the Western Advocate of Sister Jane Malinda Sprague, who was born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, in 1816, removed with her parents at a tender age to New Sardis, Washington County, Ohio, where, etc., etc. If he wanted to extract a word he would do it, and never even offer to give the author gas. But I know just how it hurts. I know or can imagine how the gifted poet that penned the deathless lines I have quoted must have walked the floor in an agony until every word and syllable was just to suit him, and so, though I feel sure he meant to write "Sabbath-school," I don't dare change it.

To most persons one word seems about as good as another, Sunday or Sabbath, but when there are young people about the house you learn to be careful how you talk before them. Now, I would not go so far as to say that "Sunday" is what you might call exactly rowdy, but er . . . but . . . er . . . Let me illustrate. If a man says, "It's a beautiful Sunday morning," like enough he has on red-and-green stockings, baggy knickerbockers, a violet-and-purple sweater, a cap shaped like a milk-roll, and is smoking a pipe. He very likely carries a bagful of golf-sticks, or is pumping up his bicycle. But if a man says, "This beautiful Sabbath morn," you know for a certainty that he wears a long-tailed black coat, a boiled shirt, and a white tie. He is bald from his forehead upward, his upper lip is shaven, and his views and those of the late Robert Reed on the disgusting habit of using tobacco are absolutely at one.

Not alone a regard for respectability, but the hankering to be historically accurate, urges me to make the change I speak of. Originally the institution was a Sunday-school, and not very respectable either. I should hate to think any of my dear young friends were in the habit of attending such a low-class affair as Robert Raikes conducted. Sunday-schools were for "little ragamuffins," as he called them, who worked such long hours on week-days (from five in the morning until nine at night) that if they were to learn the common branches at all it had to be on a Sunday. A ragged school was bad enough in itself, putting foolish notions into the heads of gutter-brats and making them discontented and unhappy in their lot; but to teach a ragged school on Sunday was a little too much. So Robert Raikes encountered the most violent opposition, although from that beginning dates popular education in England.

To be able to read is no Longer a sign that Pa can afford to do without the young ones' wages on a Saturday night, and can even pay for their schooling. It is no longer a mark of wealth or even of hard-won privilege, but the common fate of all; to know the three R's, and Sunday is not now set apart for secular instruction. So good and wholesome an institution as the Sunday-school was not permitted to perish, but was changed to suit the environment. It is now become the Sabbath-school for the study of the Bible, a Christian recrudescence of the synagogue. For some eighteen centuries it was supposed that a regularly ordained minister should have exclusive charge of this work. At rare intervals nowadays a clergyman may be found to maintain that because a man has been to college and to the theological seminary, and has made the study of the Scriptures his life-work (moved to that decision after careful self-examination) that therefore he is better fitted to that ministry than Miss Susie Goldrick, who teaches a class in Sabbath-school very acceptably. Miss Goldrick is in the second year in the High School, and last Friday afternoon read a composition on English Literatoor, in which she spoke in terms of high praise of John Bunion, the well-known author of " Progress and Poverty." Miss Goldrick is very conscientious, and always keeps her thumbnail against the questions printed on the lesson-leaf, so as not to ask twice, "What did the disciples then do?"

It were a grave error to suppose that no secular learning is acquired in the modern Sabbath-school. I remember once, when quite young, speaking to my teacher, in the interval between the regular class work and the closing exercises, about peacocks. I had read of them, but had never seen one. What did they look like? She said a peacock was something like a butterfly. I have always remembered that, and when I did finally see a peacock, I was interested to note the essential accuracy of the description.

Also, one day a new lady taught our class, Miss Evans having gone up to Marion to spend a Sunday with her brother, who kept a stove store there, and this new lady borrowed two flower vases from off the pulpit and a piece of string from Turkey-egg McLaughlin to explain to us boys how the earth went around the sun. We had too much manners to tell her that we knew that years and years ago when we were in Miss Humphreys's room. I don't remember what the earth going around the sun had to do with the lesson for the day, which was about Samuel anointing David's head with oil - did I ever tell you how I anointed my own head with coal oil? - but I do remember that she broke both the vases and cut her finger, and had to keep sucking it the rest of the time, because she didn't want to get her handkerchief all bloodied up. It was a kind of fancy handkerchief, made of thin stuff trimmed with lace - no good.

The Sabbath-school may be said to be divided into three courses, namely, the preparatory or infant-class, the collegiate or Sabbath-school proper, and the post-graduate or Mr. Parker's Bible-class.

What can a mere babe of three or four years learn in Sabbath-school? sneers the critic. Not much, I grant you, of justification by Faith, or Effectual Calling; but certain elementary precepts can be impressed upon the mind while it is still in a plastic condition that never can be wholly obliterated, come what may in after life. Prime among these elementary precepts is this: "Always bring a penny."

Some one has said, "Give me the first seven years of a child's life and I care not who has the remainder." I cannot endorse this without reserve; but I maintain as a demonstrated fact: "Bring up a child to contribute a copper cent, and when he is old he will not depart from it." It was recently my high privilege to attend a summer gathering of representative religious people in the largest auditorium in this country. Sometimes under that far-spreading roof ten thousand souls were assembled and met together. This fact could be guessed at with tolerable accuracy from the known seating capacity, but the interesting thing was that it could be predicated with mathematical certainty that exactly ten thousand people were present, because the offertory footed up exactly one hundred dollars. What an encouragement to these faithful infant-class teachers that have labored unremittingly, instant in season and out of season, saying over and over again with infinite patience, "Always bring a penny," to know that their labor has not been in vain, and that as a people we have made it the rule of our lives always to bring a penny - and no more.

I have often tried to think what a Sabbath-school must be like in California, where they have no pennies. It seems hardly possible that the institution can exist under such a patent disability, and yet it does. Do they work it on the same principle as the post-office in that far-off land where you 'cannot buy one postal card because the postmaster cannot make change, but must buy five postal cards or two two-cent stamps and a postal? In other words, does a nickel, the smallest extant coin, serve for five persons for one Sunday or one person for five Sundays? I have often wondered about this.

Subsidiary instruction in the preparatory course consists of sitting right still and being nice, keeping your fingers out of Johnny Pym's eye, because it hurts him and makes him cry, not grabbing in the basket when it goes by, even though it does have pennies in it, coaching in a repertory of songs like: "Beautiful, Beautiful Little Hands," "You in Your Little Corner and I in Mine," " The Consecrated Cross-Eyed Bear," "Pass Around the Wash-Rag" - the grown folks call that "Pass Along the Watchword" and stories about David and Goliath, Samson and the three hundred foxes with fire tied to their tails, Moses in the bulrushes, the infant Samuel, Hagar in the wilderness, and so forth. The clergy have often objected that these stories, being told at the same period of life with those about Santa Claus, "One time there was a little boy and he had a dog named Rover," the little girl that had hair as black as ebony, skin as white as snow, and cheeks as red as blood, because her Ma, who was a queen by occupation, happened to cut her finger with a black-handled knife along about New Year's - the clergy, I say, have often objected that all these matters, being brought to a child's attention at the same period in its life, are likely to be regarded in after years as of equal evidential value. I am not much of a hand to argue, myself, but I should like to have one of these carping critics meet my friend, Mrs. Sarah M. Boggs, who has taught the infant-class since 1867, having missed only two Sundays in that time, once, in 1879, when it stormed so that nobody in town was out, and once, last winter a year ago, when she slipped off the back porch and hurt her knee. I can just see Sister Boggs laying down the law to anybody that finds fault with the infant-class, let him be preacher or who. Why the very idea! Do you mean to say, sir - I guess Sister Boggs can straighten him out all right.

No less faithful is Mr. Parker, the leading lawyer of the town, who conducts the Bible-class. I believe one morning he didn't get there until after the last bell was done ringing, but otherwise his record of attendance compares favorably with Sister Boggs's. Both teachers agree to ignore the stated lesson for the day, but whereas Sister Boggs leads her flock through the flowery meads of narration, Mr. Parker and his class have camped out by preference for the last forty years in the arid wilderness of Romans and Hebrews and Corinthians First and Second, flinging the plentiful dornicks of "Paul says this" and "Paul says that" at each other's heads in friendly strife. Mr. Parker's class is also very assiduous in its attendance upon the

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