Sunday Schools come next under consideration. These assume the same high stand as do Tract Societies. They claim the honor of converting their tens of thousands; of leading the tender minds of children to the knowledge of Jesus; of being as properly the instituted means of bringing children to the knowledge of salvation, as the preaching of the gospel that of bringing adults to the same knowledge, &c. Such arrogant pretensions we feel bound to oppose. First, because these as well as the pretensions of the Tract Societies are grounded upon the notion that conversion or regeneration is produced by impressions made upon the natural mind by means of religious sentiments instilled into it; and if the Holy Ghost is allowed to be at all concerned in the thing, it is in a way which implies his being somehow blended with the instruction, or necessarily attendant upon it; all of which we know to be wrong.
Secondly, because such schools were never established by the apostles, nor commanded by Christ. There were children in the days of the apostles. The apostles possessed as great a desire for the salvation of souls, as much love to the cause of Christ, and knew as well what God would own for bringing persons to the knowledge of salvation, as any do at this day. We therefore must believe that if these schools were of God, we should find some account of them in the New Testament.
Thirdly. We have exemplified in the case of the Pharisees, the evil consequences of instructing children in the letter of the Scripture, under the notion that this instruction constitutes a saving acquaintance with the word of God. We see in that instance it only made hypocrites of the Jews; and as the Scriptures declare that Christ's words are spirit and life, and that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, we cannot believe it will have any better effect on the children in our day.
The Scriptures enjoin upon parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; but this, instead of countenancing, forbids the idea of parents entrusting the religious education of their children to giddy, unregenerated young persons, who know no better than to build them up in the belief that they are learning the religion of Christ, and to confirm them in their natural notions of their own goodness.
But whilst we thus stand opposed to the plan and use of these Sunday Schools, and the S.S. Union, in every point, we wish to be distinctly understood that we consider Sunday Schools for the purpose of teaching poor children to read, whereby they may be enabled to read the Scriptures for themselves, in neighborhoods where there is occasion for them, and when properly conducted, without that ostentation so commonly connected with them, to be useful and benevolent institutions, worthy of the patronage of all the friends of civil liberty.