If you are occupied with a class in the Sunday School, it will be well for you to have a definite aim before you in this work. It is not enough for you to be regularly in your place in the teacher's chair. Nor will it be sufficient for you to struggle lamely through the hour appointed for teaching. You ought to have one distinct purpose ever pressing upon you. And you should bend every energy in the direction of attaining this set purpose. Aimless teachers accomplish nothing.
Let every Sunday School teacher carefully consider, (1) what is to be taught, (2) who is being taught, and (3) how they are to be taught.
In the first place then let us think of what it is your business to teach. In a few words, your business is to instruct your charges in the Holy Scriptures.
I am quite prepared to hear you remark that you are well aware of this already, and you suppose most others are also. And yet from the methods pursued by many, one would hardly suppose their object was scriptural instruction. When, for instance the time is spent in the recital of various anecdotes of doubtful authenticity, or when, stranger to say, the class is invited to listen to some story book read in their hearing, it would be hard to suppose that the teacher is impressed with the responsibility to teach the Scriptures. We could not understand a shoemaker who employed his time in making wooden boxes instead of shoes: neither can we understand a person taking the place of a Sunday School teacher who puts aside the Bible for amusing or "instructive" stories.
Bear in mind, my young friends, that once you lose faith in the Bible as God's word, your work will degenerate into mere philanthropic effort of a very poor quality indeed; and the effects of it will hardly last from one week to another. But on the other hand, if you are used of God to communicate to your scholars a knowledge of the Scriptures, even though it be, comparatively speaking, only a slight knowledge, the result of your work is of incalculable value. A thread of gold is worth far more than a cartload of rubbish. And because of divine character of what is imparted in Bible teaching, its effects abide for eternity.
Possibly you may be thinking that I should have said just now that the aim of the teacher ought rather to be the conversion of the scholars. Undoubtedly this should be very much before every one engaged in this work, so much so as to be the constant desire and prayer. But if you reflect for a moment, I think you will conclude that conversion is really included in the aim I have stated above. For what is the means by which every soul is born anew? Is it not the word of God (1 Peter 1:23)? Indeed we are expressly told that the scriptures are able to make "wise unto salvation," though, of course, not apart from faith in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:15). So that by instilling into children's minds the great facts of the Bible, you are providing what may be used by the Holy Ghost at any moment for the eternal blessing of their souls.
The passage last referred to (2 Tim. 3:15) is doubtless a familiar one to you. It is certainly full not only of interest but of cheer for the teacher of the young. The apostle Paul writes to Timothy, "From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
Here you have two plain facts which will assist you to know that you have the divine sanction in your endeavours:
1. Timothy knew the scriptures from a child. 2. The Scriptures have power to make wise unto salvation.
In the case of Timothy you have an example of one whose instruction in the scriptures began from his very earliest days with the most blessed results. In his childhood, Timothy's acquaintance with the ancient oracles commenced, and by the enlightenment of the Spirit he became not only a living member of Christ, but also an active and honoured servant of Christ. He was trained in the way he should go, and when he was old he did not depart from that way.
Be encouraged therefore. Maybe there is a young Timothy among your tiresome boys. At any rate be as zealous as if they were all Timothys.
In the next place, observe that the scriptures are the means of imparting that wisdom "that is from above." This is the wisdom which is inseparably connected with eternal salvation. What Eve vainly sought in the fruit of the forbidden tree (Gen. 3:6). is promised in the word of God.
Dear fellow workers, never forget that it is the Bible, not your weekly lessons, that God uses. If you are engaged in teaching passages of scripture, you are like a person planting acorns. The manner of planting is not the chief thing, but whether there is a germ of life in the seed or not. The Lord said, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life" (John 6:63). So you may be sure in teaching scripture that you are teaching words of life. At any moment the Holy Spirit may use the text learned in Sunday School to the eternal salvation of some of your scholars.
This then may be considered as the answer to the question what we must teach.
"How precious is the book divine,
By inspiration given!
Bright as a lamp its doctrines shine,
To guide our souls to heaven.
This lamp, through all the tedious night
Of life shall guide our way
Till we behold the clearer light
Of an eternal day."