The very foundation of all true prosperity for our college is a close union with God on the part of teachers and students. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. His precepts should be acknowledged as the rule of life. In the Bible the will of God is revealed to His children. Wherever it is read, in the family circle, the school, or the church, all should give quiet and devout attention as if God were really present and speaking to them.
A high religious standard has not always been maintained in our school. A majority of both teachers and students are constantly seeking to keep their religion out of sight. Especially has this been the case since worldlings have patronized the college. Christ requires from all His followers open, manly confessions of their faith. Each must take his position, and be what God designed he should be, a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. Every Christian is to be a light, not hid under a bushel or under a bed, but put on a candlestick, that it may give light to all that are in the house.
The teachers in our college should not conform to worldly customs or adopt worldly principles. The attributes which God prizes most are charity and purity. These attributes should be cherished by every Christian. "Everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us." "We shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure."
God has been moving upon the hearts of young men to devote themselves to the ministry. They have come to our college in the hope of finding advantages there which they could obtain nowhere else. But the solemn convictions of the Spirit of God have been lightly regarded by teachers who know but little of the worth of souls and feel but little burden for their salvation, and they have endeavored to turn the youth from the path into which God had been seeking to lead them.
The compensation of well-qualified teachers is much higher than that of our ministers, and the teacher does not labor nearly so hard or subject himself to so great inconvenience as the minister who gives himself wholly to the work. These things have been presented before the youth, and they have been encouraged to distrust God and disbelieve His promises. Many have chosen the easier course and have prepared themselves to teach the sciences or to engage in some other employment instead of preaching the truth.
Thus God's work has been hindered by unconsecrated teachers, who profess to believe the truth but who have not the love of it in their hearts. The educated young man is taught to look upon his abilities as too precious to be devoted to the service of Christ. But has God no claims upon him? Who gave the power to obtain this mental discipline and these accomplishments? Are they held on terms altogether independent of Jehovah?
Many a youth who is ignorant of the world, ignorant of his weakness, ignorant of the future, feels no need of a divine hand to point out his course. He considers himself fully competent to guide his own bark amid the breakers. Let such youth remember that, wherever they may go, they are not beyond the domain of God. They are not free to choose what they will without consulting the will of their Creator.
Talent is ever best developed and best appreciated where it is most needed. But this truth is overlooked by many eager aspirants for distinction. Though superficial in religious experience and mental attainments, their shortsighted ambition covets a higher sphere of action than that in which Providence has placed them. The Lord does not call them, as He did Joseph and Daniel, to withstand the temptations of worldly honor and high station. But they force themselves into positions of danger and desert the only post of duty for which they are fitted.
The Macedonian cry is coming to us from all directions. "Send us laborers," is the urgent appeal from East and West. All around us are fields white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal." Is it not folly to turn from these fields to engage in a business that can yield only pecuniary gain? Christ wants no selfish workers who are seeking only for the highest wages. He calls for those who are willing to become poor for His sake, as He became poor for them. What were the inducements presented before Christ in this world? Insults, mockery, poverty, shame, rejection, betrayal, and crucifixion. Shall the undershepherds seek for an easier lot than that of their Master?
The word of God is a great simplifier of life's complicated pursuits. To every earnest seeker it imparts a divine wisdom. We should never forget that we have been redeemed by suffering. It is the precious blood of Christ that makes atonement for us. By toil and sacrifice and peril, by losses of worldly goods, and in agony of soul the gospel has been borne to the world. God calls young men in the vigor and strength of their youth to share with Him self-denial, sacrifice, and suffering. If they accept the call, He will make them His instruments to save souls for whom He died. But He would have them count the cost and enter upon their work with a full knowledge of the conditions upon which they serve a crucified Redeemer.
I can hardly express my feelings when I think how God's purpose in the establishment of our college has been disregarded. Those who have a form of godliness are denying, by their unconsecrated lives, the power of the truth to make men wise unto salvation. Look at the history of the apostles, who suffered poverty, disgrace, abuse, and even death for the truth's sake. They rejoiced that they were accounted worthy to suffer for Christ.
If great results can be attained by great efforts and great suffering, who of us that are subjects of divine grace can refuse the sacrifice? The gospel of Christ includes in its requirements every soul that has heard the message of glad tidings. What shall we render unto God for all His benefits to us? His matchless mercy can never be repaid. We can, only by willing obedience and grateful service, testify our loyalty, and crown with honor our Redeemer.
I have no higher wish than to see our youth imbued with that spirit of pure religion which will lead them to take up the cross and follow Jesus. Go forth, young disciples of Christ, controlled by principle, clad in the robes of purity and righteousness. Your Saviour will guide you into the position best suited to your talents and where you can be most useful. In the path of duty you may be sure of receiving grace sufficient for your day.
The preaching of the gospel is God's chosen agency for the salvation of souls. But our first work should be to bring our own hearts into harmony with God, and then we are prepared to labor for others. In former days there was great searching of heart among our earnest workers. They counseled together and united in humble, fervent prayer for divine guidance. There has been a decline in the true missionary spirit among ministers and teachers. Yet Christ's coming is nearer than when we believed. Every passing day leaves us one less to proclaim the message of warning to the world. Would that there were today more earnest intercession with God, greater humility, greater purity, and greater faith.
All are in constant danger. I warn the church to beware of those who preach to others the word of life but do not themselves cherish the spirit of humility and self-denial which it inculcates. Such men cannot be depended on in a crisis. They disregard the voice of God as readily as did Saul, and like him many stand ready to justify their course. When rebuked by the Lord through His prophet, Saul stoutly asserted that he had obeyed the voice of God; but the bleating sheep and lowing oxen testified that he had not. In the same manner do many today assert their loyalty to God, but their concerts and other pleasure gatherings, their worldly associations, their glorifying of self, and their eager desire for popularity all testify that they have not obeyed His voice. "As for My people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them."
That is a high standard which the gospel sets before us. The consistent Christian is not only a new but a noble creature in Christ Jesus. He is an unfailing light to show others the way to heaven and to God. He who is drawing his life from Christ will have no desire for the frivolous, unsatisfying enjoyments of the world.
Among the youth will be found great diversity of character and education. Some have lived in an element of arbitrary restraint and harshness, which has developed in them a spirit of obstinacy and defiance. Others have been household pets, allowed by overfond parents to follow their own inclinations. Every defect has been excused, until their character is deformed. To deal successfully with these different minds the teacher needs to exercise great tact and delicacy in management, as well as firmness in government.
Dislike and even contempt for proper regulations will often be manifested. Some will exercise all their ingenuity in evading penalties, while others will display a reckless indifference to the consequences of transgression. All this will call for more patience and greater exertion on the part of those who are entrusted with their education.
One of the greatest difficulties with which teachers have had to contend is the failure on the part of parents to cooperate in administering the discipline of the college. If the parents would stand pledged to sustain the authority of the teacher, much insubordination, vice, and profligacy would be prevented. Parents should require their children to respect and obey rightful authority. They should labor with unremitting care and diligence to instruct, guide, and restrain their children until right habits are firmly established. With such training the youth would be in subjection to the institutions of society and the general restraints of moral obligation.
Both by precept and example the young should be taught simplicity of dress and manners, industry, sobriety, and economy. Many students are extravagant in expending the means furnished them by their parents. They try to show themselves superior to their associates by a lavish use of money for display and self-indulgence. In some institutions of learning this matter has been regarded of so great consequence that the dress of the student is prescribed and his use of money limited by law. But indulgent parents and indulged students will find some way to evade the law. We would resort to no such means. We ask Christian parents to take all these matters under careful, prayerful consideration, to seek counsel from the word of God, and then to endeavor to act in accordance with its teachings.
If facilities for manual labor were provided in connection with our school, and students were required to devote a portion of their time to some active employment, it would prove a safeguard against many of the evil influences that prevail in institutions of learning. Manly, useful occupations, substituted for frivolous and corrupting diversions, would give legitimate scope for the exuberance of youthful life and would promote sobriety and stability of character. All possible effort should be made to encourage a desire for moral and physical as well as mental improvement. If girls were taught how to cook, especially how to bake good bread, their education would be of far greater value. A knowledge of useful labor would prevent, to a great extent, that sickly sentimentalism which has been and is still ruining thousands. The exercise of the muscles as well as the brain will encourage taste for the homely duties of practical life.
The present age is one of show and surface work in education. Brother ----- possesses naturally a love for system and thoroughness, and these have become habit by lifelong training and discipline. He has been approved of God for this. His labors are of real worth because he will not allow students to be superficial. But in his very first efforts toward the establishment of a school he encountered many obstacles. Had he been less resolute and persevering he would have given up the struggle. Some of the parents neglected to sustain the school, and their children did not respect the teacher because he wore poor clothing. They allowed his appearance to prejudice them against him. This spirit of disrespect was rebuked of the Lord, and the teacher encouraged in his work. But the complaints and unwise reports carried home by the children strengthened the prejudice of the parents. While Brother ----- was seeking to inculcate true principles and establish right habits, overindulged children were complaining of their taxing studies. These very ones, I was shown, were suffering because the mind was not sufficiently occupied with proper subjects. Their thoughts were upon demoralizing matters, and both mind and body were enfeebled through the habit of self-abuse. It was this vile practice, not overstudy, that caused the frequent illness of these children and prevented them from making the advancement which the parents desired.
The Lord approved of the general course of Brother -----, as he was laying the foundation for the school which is now in operation. But the man has labored too hard, without a firm, blessed, strengthening home influence to lighten his burdens. Under the strain of overwork he has made some mistakes, not half so grievous, however, as those of persons who have cherished bitterness against him. In his connection with the youth he has had to meet that spirit of rebellion and defiance which the apostle declares to be one of the signs of the last days.
Some of the teachers in the college have failed to realize the responsibility of their position. They have not themselves been learners in the school of Christ, and hence they have not been prepared to instruct others.
Among the students will be found some of idle, vicious habits. These will need reproof and discipline; but if they cannot be reformed, let them not be driven further toward the pit by impatience and harshness. Teachers should ever remember that the youth under their charge are the purchase of the blood of Christ, and are younger members of the Lord's family. Christ made an infinite sacrifice to redeem them. And teachers should feel that they are to stand as missionaries, to win these students to Jesus. If they are naturally combative, let them carefully guard against the indulgence of this trait. Those who have passed the critical period of youth should never forget the temptations and trials of early life and how much they wanted sympathy, kindness, and love.
He who devotes himself to arduous public labor in the cause of humanity often finds little time to devote to his own family and, in one sense, is left almost without a family and without fireside, social influences. It has been thus with Brother -----. His mind has been constantly taxed. He had little opportunity to win the affections of his children or to give them needed restraint and guidance.
There are many in the college who need a thorough conversion. Let none seek to discern the mote that is in their brother's eye, when they have a beam in their own eye. Each should cleanse his own soul-temple from its defilement. Let envy and jealousy go with the accumulated rubbish. Exalted privileges and heavenly attainments, purchased for us at an immense cost, are freely presented for our acceptance. God holds us individually accountable for the measure of light and privileges He has given us. And if we refuse to render unto God the improvement of the talents committed to our trust we forfeit His favor.
Professor ----- would have served you well had he not been flattered by some and condemned by others. He became confused. He had traits of character that needed to be suppressed. In their enthusiasm some have given him undue confidence and praise. You have placed the man where it will be difficult for him to recover himself and find his true position. He has been sacrificed by both parties in the church, because they failed to heed the admonitions of the Spirit of God. This is injustice to him. He had newly come to the faith, and was not prepared for the developments which have been made.
How little we know of the bearing our acts will have upon the future history of ourselves and others. Many think it is of little importance what they do. It will do no harm for them to attend this concert, or unite with the world in that amusement, if they wish to do so. Thus Satan leads and controls their desires, and they do not consider that the results may be most momentous. It may be the link in the chain of events which binds a soul in the snare of Satan and determines his eternal ruin.
Every act, however small, has its place in the great drama of life. Consider that the desire for a single gratification of appetite introduced sin into our world, with its terrible consequences. Unhallowed marriages of the sons of God with the daughters of men resulted in apostasy which ended in the destruction of the world by a flood. The most trifling act of self-indulgence has resulted in great revolutions. This is the case now. There are very few who are circumspect. Like the children of Israel, they will not take heed to words of counsel, but follow their own inclination. They unite with a worldly element in attending gatherings where they will be brought into notice, and thus lead the way and others follow. What has been done once will be done again by themselves and many others. Every step these take makes a lasting impression, not only on their own consciences and habits, but upon those of others. This consideration gives awful dignity to human life.
My heart aches day after day and night after night for our churches. Many are progressing, but in the back track. "The path of the just . . . shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Their march is onward and upward. They progress from strength to strength, from grace to grace, and from glory to glory. This is the privilege of all our churches. But, oh, how different has it been with them! They need divine illumination. They must face square about. I know what I say. Unless they shall become Christians indeed, they will go from weakness to weakness, divisions will increase, and many souls will be led to perdition.
All I can say to you is: Take up the light which God has given you and follow it at any cost to yourselves. This is your only safety. You have a work to do to come into harmony, and may the Lord help you to do it even if self is crucified. Gather up the rays of light that have been slighted and rejected. Gather them up with meekness, with trembling, and with fear. The sin of ancient Israel was in disregarding the expressed will of God and following their own way according to the leadings of unsanctified hearts. Modern Israel are fast following in their footsteps, and the displeasure of the Lord is as surely resting upon them.
It is never difficult to do what we love to do, but to take a course directly against our inclinations is lifting a cross. Christ prayed that His disciples might be one as He was one with the Father. This unity is the credentials of Christ to the world that God sent Him. When self-will is renounced in reference to matters there will be a union of believers with Christ. This all should pray for and work for determinedly, thus answering as far as possible the prayer of Christ for unity in His church.