Teach them morality: "Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it." Now, we never teach morality as the way of salvation. God forbid that we should ever mix up man's works in any way with the redemption which is in Christ Jesus! "By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." Yet we teach morality while we teach spirituality; and I have always found that the gospel produces the best morality in all the world. I would have a Sunday-school teacher watchful over the morals of the boys and girls under his care, speaking to them very particularly of those sins which are most common to youth. He may honestly and conveniently say many things to his children which no one else can say, especially when reminding them of the sin of lying, so common with children, or the sin of petty theft, or of disobedience to parents, or of breaking the Sabbath-day. I would have the teacher be very particular in mentioning these evils one by one; for it is of little avail talking to them about sins in the mass, you must take them one by one, just as David did. First look after the tongue: "Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile." Then look after the whole conduct. "Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it." If the child's, soul is not saved by other parts of the teaching, this part may have a beneficial effect upon his life, and so far so good. Morality, however, by itself is comparatively a small thing. The best part of what you teach is godliness. I said not, "religion," but godliness. Many people are religious after a fashion, without being godly. Many have all the externals of godliness, all the outside of piety; such men we call "religious," but they have no right thought about God. They think about their place of worship, their Sunday, their books, but nothing about God. He who does not respect God, pray to God, love God, is an ungodly man, whatever his external religion may be. Labour to teach the child always to have an eye to God; write on his memory these words, "Thou God seest me." Bid him remember that his every act and thought are under the eye of God. No Sunday-school teacher discharges his duty unless he constantly lays stress upon the fact that there is a God who notices everything that happens. Oh, that we were more godly ourselves; that we talked more of godliness, and that we loved godliness better!
The third lesson is, the evil of sin. If the child does not learn that, he will never learn the way to Heaven. None of us ever knew what a Saviour Christ was till we knew what an evil thing sin was. If the Holy Ghost does not teach us the exceeding sinfulness of sin, we shall never know the blessedness of salvation. Let us seek His grace, then, when we teach, that we may always be able to lay stress upon the abominable nature of sin. "The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth." Do not spare, your child; let him know what sin leads to. Do not, like some people, be afraid of speaking plainly and broadly concerning the consequences of sin. I have heard of a father, one of whose sons, a very ungodly young man, was taken off in a very sudden manner. The father did not, as some would have done, say to his family, "We hope your brother has gone to Heaven." No; but overcoming his natural feelings, he was enabled, by Divine grace, to assemble his children together, and to say to them, "My sons and daughters, your brother is dead; I fear he is in hell. You knew his life and conduct, you saw how he behaved; and now God has snatched him away in his sins." Then he solemnly told them of the place of woe to, which he believed—yea, almost knew he was gone, begging them to shun it, and to flee from the wrath to come. Thus he was the means of bringing his children to serious thought; but had he acted, as some would have done, with tenderness of heart, but not with honesty of purpose, and said he hoped his son had gone to Heaven, what would the other children have said? "If he is gone to Heaven, there is no need for us to fear; we may live as we like." No, no; I hold that it is not unchristian to say of some men that they are gone to hell, when we have seen that their lives have been hellish lives. But it is asked, "Can you judge your fellow-creatures?" No, but I can know them by their fruits. I do not judge them, or condemn them; they judge themselves. I have seen their sins go beforehand to judgment, and I do not doubt that they shall follow after. "But may they not be saved at the eleventh hour?" I have heard of one who was, but I do not know that there ever was another, and I cannot tell that there ever will be. Be honest, then, with your children, and teach them, by the help of God, that "evil shall slay the wicked."
But you will not have done half enough unless you teach carefully the fourth lesson,—the absolute necessity of a change of heart. "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit." Oh! may God enable us to keep this constantly before the minds of the taught, that there must be a broken heart and a contrite spirit, that good works will be of no avail unless there be a new nature, that the most arduous duties and the most earnest prayers will all be as nothing, unless there be a true and thorough repentance for sin, and an entire forsaking of sin through the grace and mercy of God! Be sure, whatever you leave out, that you teach the children the three R's,—Ruin, Redemption, and Regeneration. Tell the children they are ruined by the Fall, and that there is salvation for them only by being redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Keep constantly before them these vital truths, and then you will have the pleasing task of telling them the sweet subject of the closing lesson.
In the fifth place, tell the children of the joy and blessedness of being Christians. "The Lord redeemeth the soul of His servants: and none of them that trust in Him shall be desolate." I need not tell you how to talk about that theme; for if you know what it is to be a Christian, you will never be short of matter. When we get on this subject, our mind cares not to speak; it would rather revel in its bliss. Truly was it said, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." "Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust." Yea, verily, blessed is the man, the woman, the child that trusteth in the Lord Jesus Christ, and whose hope is in Him. Always lay a stress upon this point,—that the righteous are a blessed people, that the chosen family of God, redeemed by blood and saved by power, are a blessed people while here below, and that they will be a blessed people for ever in Heaven above. Let your children see that you belong to that blessed company. If they know you are in trouble, if it be possible, come to your Class with a smiling face, so that your scholars may be able to say: "Teacher is a blessed man, although he is bowed down by his troubles." Always seek to keep a joyous face, that your boys and girls may know that your religion is a blessed reality. Let this be one main point of your teaching, that though "many are the afflictions of the righteous," yet "the Lord delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken . . . The Lord redeemeth the soul of His servants: and none of them that trust in Him shall be desolate"
Thus have I given you five lessons; and now let me solemnly say that, with all the instruction you may give to your children, you must all of you be deeply conscious that you are not capable of doing anything in the securing of the child's salvation, but that it is God Himself who, from the first to the last, must effect it all. You are simply at pen; God can write with you, but you cannot write anything of yourself. You are a sword; God can with you slay the child's sin, but you cannot slay it of yourself. Be ye, therefore, always mindful of this, that you must be first taught of God yourself, and then you must ask God to use you to teach; for unless a higher Teacher than you work with you, and instruct the child, the child must perish. It is not your instruction that can save the souls of your children; it is the blessing of God the Holy Spirit accompanying your labours, May God bless and crown your efforts with abundant success! He will surely do so if you are instant in prayer, constant in supplication. Never yet did the earnest teacher or preacher "labour in vain in the Lord," and often has it been seen that bread cast upon the waters has been found after many days.