Bible Study and Memory Work
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“Hold fast the form of sound words; … that ye may be able to give to every one that asketh, a reason of the hope that is in you.” Paul.
The development of the Bible-memory work, that, during the later years of this period, moved forward very rapidly, was one of small beginnings and slow progress at first. The meetings were held at half past two o’clock on Sabbath afternoons.
The girls were formed into one class and their meeting was held in the sitting room of the Girls’ Hall. The boys met immediately afterwards in the office of the superintendent in the Boys’ Hall.
The weekly lesson consisted in committing to memory five to seven verses in the more important chapters of the New Testament and Psalms, commencing with the Ten Commandments in Exodus XX, 1-17. The passages assigned were read and studied every week in the school under the direction of the principal, in order that all the younger pupils, as well as the older ones, might be able to repeat them on Sabbath.
At the meetings, which were conducted by the superintendent, the lesson assigned would have to be read over several times in concert before their voices would acquire the right movement and expression. The effort to train the memory, by committing scripture verses, was one from which many of them shrank as being too irksome, and the weekly lesson of one verse a day would have to be repeated a number of times, before most of them could continue to be heard to the end of the lesson. The previous lessons were then reviewed, to fasten them more firmly on the memory. The advance lesson was then read together that all might surely know its place and extent.
Aims In Bible Study
“Accurate Bible Knowledge” and “Character building” were the keynotes of the instruction given at these meetings. A third object, that was constantly kept in view, was the training and development of their youthful voices for public address in religious meetings. This was accomplished by making a large use of the concert drill, both in reading and repeating the classic and beautiful passages of the Bible.
The tendency of the new pupils to speak and act badly from sudden impulse was freely admitted at these meetings. As a means of enabling them to put a check on their impulsive dispositions and acquire the art of self-control, the following questions were prepared and asked of each, at the opening of the lesson hour.
1. During the week that has passed, have you refrained entirely from the use of profane or quarrelsome words and actions?
2. Have you been uniformly respectful and obedient to all of your teachers?
3. Are you using your spare moments each day for some good purpose, that will promote your best interests?
The cordial and helpful co-operation of Miss Adelia Eaton, our first matron, in connection with this Bible memory work at the period when it was most difficult to awaken interest and enthusiasm in it, was very greatly appreciated. Although her presence was not required, she voluntarily arranged to be present at every meeting. She seldom if ever participated in the meetings, but she invariably arranged the room in the most convenient form for the meeting and continued to patiently aid and encourage those of the girls, to whom this memory work was the hardest, until the last moment before the meeting. The increased attendance of later years, made it advisable to hold these Bible meetings in the chapel, and there both classes met together.
Training The Memory
The memory, the natural power of retaining and recalling what has been learned, is the basis of all progress in study. It is the faculty that enriches the mind by preserving the treasures of labor and industry. The beauty and perfection of all the other mental faculties are dependent on it. Without its aid there can be no advancement in knowledge, arts and sciences; and no improvement in virtue, morals and religion.
Those who cannot read acquire knowledge by hearing, and their vision is occupied principally with large rather than small objects. It was soon a matter of observation that the children of illiterate parents in whose homes there are no books; find it very difficult to learn to read, after they have passed fourteen years of age. That which is natural and easy in childhood, becomes more difficult the longer it is delayed. They form the habit and find it much easier to acquire knowledge like their parents by the ear or “by air” as it is sometimes called, than by poring over the letters and words of a printed line in a book. Many that are over fourteen before they are sent to school shrink from the mental discipline and labor of learning things so small as letters and words, and seek relief by looking elsewhere than on the printed page.
By the aid of a memory that has been trained for service in childhood, one is able to learn easily and rapidly; and also to express their treasures of knowledge in such a way as to give life and animation to every word that is uttered.
The memory is very responsive to training in childhood and youth. Its retentive power may then be very greatly increased by judicious exercise and labor, which have that distinct end in view, just as the limbs gradually grow stronger by daily exercise. If it is accustomed to retain a moderate quantity of knowledge in childhood, it is strengthened and fitted for more rapid development in youth. That is the golden period to learn the “form of sound words,” that shall exert a molding influence upon the entire life.
Repeated acts form a habit, and habits of thought may be aided by a methodical system in the arrangement of intellectual possessions. Frequent review, repetition, conscious delight in the things to be learned and association of the new with the known, are important aids to the memory that may be profitably observed throughout the entire life.
Divine Truth The Need Of All
Truth is the natural food for the mind and does for it what bread and meat do for the body. The mental faculties include the intellect, the power of thought; the memory, the conscience, the power that enables one to distinguish between right and wrong; and the judgment, the power of decision. There are no truths so well adapted for the best training and development of all these faculties, as the great and important ones that God has so attractively and plainly revealed in His holy word. The poetic parts of the Old Testament and the words of Jesus in the New are adapted alike for the comfort and instruction of childhood, manhood and old age. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever.”
One Book In The Home
One aim of the requirement to commit one verse a day in the Bible presented to each pupil was, of course, to make even those, whose terms in school were the shortest, familiar with some of the most important parts of the one book, they were expected to take to their homes; but another distinct aim was to develop the memory of every pupil so as to make the mastery of other books easier and their progress in them more rapid.
Every pupil was encouraged to train their memory to be their ready and faithful servant, so that it would recall a line, a verse or a rule, when it had been carefully traced the third time, by the eye.
The definitions and rules form the most important parts of most of the necessary text-books above the primary department. The future value of these studies, as well as the pupils advance in them while in school, depends on his ability to understand, apply and easily remember the rules. The thorough teacher will discard the use of those superficial authors, whose books lack these important parts, tersely and plainly stated. The sooner that a pupil learns to follow, obey and never to violate a rule, the sooner does he begin to advance rapidly and profitably in his studies.
Committed To Memory
The memory work of a term, according to the rule, one verse a day, would usually carry the student through the following passages:
The Oak Hill Endeavor Benediction, Numbers 6, 24-26 and Rev. 1, 5-6; The Ten Commandments Exodus 20, 1-17; Words of Comfort, Confession and Devotion, Psalms 1st, 8th, 19th, 23d, 27th, 50th, 51st, 90th, 103d, part of the 119th, 122d and 150th; Wise Counsels, Proverbs 3d and 4th; A new heart promised, Ezekiel 36, 25-32; John Baptist’s Message, Matthew 3d; The Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5th; The Divinity of Christ, John 1st; His Farewell Address, John 14th; The Bible inspired, 2 Timothy 3, 14-17. Also the first half of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, with its ever memorable beginning, “Man’s Chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
Every new pupil is encouraged to read the Bible in course, an average of one chapter a day or seven each week, making report of progress at the Bible hour each Sabbath afternoon. By this plan many of them read, during their first term, the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts and Romans.
The Bible Only In The Sunday School
The Inter-National lessons are always prepared for the Sunday school hour, but always and only from the Bible in the hand of each scholar. The teachers only are supplied with other helps, and even these are used only during the period of preparation. The Bible, black board, map and charts only are used by the teacher and students during the Sunday school session. This use of the Bible only in the Sunday school, served to create a demand for it on the part of every scholar and attendant, and to increase the familiarity of each with their own copy of it. It is a good plan for any teacher or Sunday school that wishes to promote reading and circulation of the Scriptures in the homes of the people.
A Life-Long Golden Treasure
He has a rich treasure whose memory is well stored with words from the Holy Scriptures. Such a treasure is “more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold.” It is a life-long treasure to those who secure it in youth. It cannot be taken away, but it may be imparted to others. Whoever shares this treasure with others, sows the good seed of the Kingdom of God and realizes in his own soul, that he “who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.”
Committing the scriptures to memory was a delightful employment to the Psalmist, who said: “Thy word have I hid in my heart,” and again, “Let my heart be sound in thy statutes.” “Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.” “I will never forget thy precepts; for with them thou hast quickened me and caused me to hate every false way.” “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” “Order my steps in thy word; for the entrance of thy words giveth light.”
A Beautiful Tribute
The following beautiful tribute to the Bible, printed by Soper and Son, Detroit, was pasted on the inside of the front lid of every Bible presented to the students.
This Book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable.
Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter. Here Paradise is restored, heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed, Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened in judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor, and condemns all who trifle with its sacred contents.
A Fountain Of Blessings
The Bible is an infallible revelation from God in regard to his own character, will and works. One result of a practical faith in it is the development of an heroic missionary spirit. The noblest heroisms that mark the history of the human race have had their inspiration in implicit faith in the Bible. “Men in whom life was fresh and strong, and women, the embodiment of gentleness and delicacy, have met the martyrs death of fire, singing until the red-tongued flames licked up their breath.”
It is the fountain from which have come the principles of a pure morality and “all sweet charities.” It has been the motive power that has effected the regeneration and reformation of millions of men. “It has comforted the humble, consoled the mourning, sustained the suffering and given trust and triumph to the dying.”
Rational minds will ask for no higher proof, that the Bible, as a revelation from God is reliable, than the nature and results of the faith that is based upon it. The results include the noblest phenomena of human experience, the richest fruitage of our Christian civilization. The Bible is the one great regenerative and redemptive agency in the world, and this soon becomes apparent, whenever it is read in the homes of the people.
Uplifting Power In New Hebrides’ Islands
A very interesting illustration of this fact has been narrated by John Inglis a Scottish Missionary to the New Hebrides. On going there about the middle of the last century, he selected for his abode an island occupied by cannibals. Among the things he took with him was a mason’s hammer. When he began to dress and square the hard rocks of the neighborhood to build the chimney of his house, the novelty of the operation drew a crowd of the natives around him. They looked on in wonder, and were surprised to see the hammer break in pieces and bring into shape those hard stones, which no one had before attempted to break.
Missionaries, like philosophers sometimes find “sermons in stones,” as well as “good in everything.” On this occasion, he took the stones and the hammer as his text and gave them a short practical sermon as follows:
“You see these stones and this hammer. You might strike these stones with a block of wood till you were tired and you would not break off a single chip; but when I strike with a hammer you see how easily they are broken, or cut into needful shapes. Now God tells us that our hearts are like stones, and that his Word is like a hammer. Some white men came among you before the arrival of the missionaries, and you continued as much heathen as ever. But when the missionaries came and spoke to you, you gave up your heathenism, began to keep the Sabbath day, to worship God and to live like Christians. What caused this difference? The words of the missionaries were not any louder or stronger than those of the other white men. The difference was merely this-the other white men spoke their own words; they spoke the words of men; and that was like striking these stones with a piece of wood. But the missionaries instead of speaking to you their own words read to you the Words of God; and that was like this hammer striking, breaking and bringing into shape your stony hearts.”
This illustration took hold on their imagination; the sermon on the stones and the hammer was not soon forgotten. Many years afterwards, some of the older natives when leading in prayer in the Church would offer the petition, “O Lord, thy word is like a hammer, take it and with it break our stony hearts and shape them according to the rule of Thy holy law.”
There were 3,500 natives on this island. Through the influence of God’s Word, for no other means were employed save the human voice to make it known, all of them were led to abandon heathenism and place themselves under Christian instruction.
These people had no money but they could gather and prepare arrowroot. They were encouraged to bring this to the missionaries, in order to secure a supply of Bibles for the island, with the result that in a few years they sent $2,500 to the British and Foreign Bible society, London, for copies of the New Testament and Psalms; and a few years later $3,500 to pay for the printing of the Old Testament in their own language.
There is no instance on record of a like number of heathen people, so poor, being persuaded to contribute so much money to obtain any other book; and why not? It is because the Bible alone is divine and this divine power has subdued human hearts. “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” Jer. 23. 29.
The Bible is the Book of the Lord, a “sure word of prophecy, whereunto we do well to take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place.” It challenges us to “prove all things and hold fast that which is good.”