This Sunday in Baptist History
Samuel Slater immigrated from England, bringing with him the skills though which he had been earning a living. From memory he reproduced the cotton machinery he had been using. In this it is said that Samuel Slater founded the American cotton industry. In 1793 he established a factory in Pawtucket, Rhode Island under the name of Almy, Brown and Slater, employing – before the days of child labor laws – many of the local children.
Slater noticed that his boys spent the Lord’s Day wastefully or worse. He decided to do something about it. Following the plan of something else he had seen in Britain – the Sunday School of Robert Raikes. Inviting some of the most promising children to his home on Sundays, he sought to give them an education. On this day in 1799, America’s first Sunday School was established – composed of seven boys. The texts used were two testaments and three Webster’s spelling books.
Five years later David Benedict became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Pawtucket. He saw the work of Slater and lead his church to start a Sunday School for the purpose of teaching the Word of God. Slater’s school was placed under Bro. Benedict’s care, and the secular instruction became more spiritual. Near the close of his life, Benedict, entered into his book, Fifty Years Among the Baptists, “Sunday Schools… which are now in such successful operation with us, and other communities in the land, were wholly unknown in my early day.”
Can we find Sunday Schools in the Bible? Not directly. But the teaching of God’s Word, along with preaching the Word, is never out-of-place. Thousands of young people have been saved through the work of faithful Sunday School teachers, and hundreds of churches have prospered because of their work.