To some extent the Bible has been introduced into our schools, and some efforts have been made in the direction of reform; but it is most difficult to adopt right principles after having been so long accustomed to popular methods. The first attempts to change the old customs brought severe trials upon those who would walk in the way which God has pointed out. Mistakes have been made, and great loss has resulted. There have been hindrances which have tended to keep us in common, worldly lines, and to prevent us from grasping true educational principles. To the unconverted, who view matters from the lowlands of human selfishness, unbelief, and indifference, right principles and methods have appeared wrong.
Some teachers and managers who are only half converted are stumbling blocks to others. They concede some things and make half reforms; but when greater knowledge comes, they refuse to advance, preferring to work according to their own ideas. In doing this they pluck and eat of that tree of knowledge which places the human above the divine. "Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve." "If the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him." Joshua 24:14, 15; 1 Kings 18:21. We should have been far in advance of our present spiritual condition had we moved forward as the light came to us.
When new methods have been advocated, so many doubtful questions have been introduced, so many councils held that every difficulty might be discerned, that reformers have been handicapped, and some have ceased to urge reforms. They seem unable to stem the current of doubt and criticism. Comparatively few received the gospel in Athens because the people cherished pride of intellect and worldly wisdom, and counted the gospel of Christ foolishness. But "the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men." Therefore "we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." 1 Corinthians 1:25, 23, 24.
We need now to begin over again. Reforms must be entered into with heart and soul and will. Errors may be hoary with age; but age does not make error truth, nor truth error. Altogether too long have the old customs and habits been followed. The Lord would now have every idea that is false put away from teachers and students. We are not at liberty to teach that which shall meet the world's standard or the standard of the church, simply because it is the custom to do so. The lessons which Christ taught are to be the standard. That which the Lord has spoken concerning the instruction to be given in our schools is to be strictly regarded; for if there is not in some respects an education of an altogether different character from that which has been carried on in some of our schools, we need not have gone to the expense of purchasing lands and erecting school buildings.
Some will urge that if religious teaching is to be made prominent our schools will become unpopular; that those who are not of our faith will not patronize them. Very well; then let them go to other schools, where they will find a system of education that suits their taste. It is Satan's purpose by these considerations to prevent the attainment of the object for which our schools were established. Hindered by his devices, the managers reason after the manner of the world and copy its plans and imitate its customs. Many have so far shown their lack of wisdom from above as to join with the enemies of God and the truth in providing worldly entertainments for the students. In doing this they bring upon themselves the frown of God, for they mislead the youth and do a work for Satan. This work, with all its results, they must meet at the bar of God.
Those who pursue such a course show that they cannot be trusted. After the evil has been done, they may confess their error; but can they undo the influence they have exerted? Will the "well done" be spoken to those who have been false to their trust? These unfaithful workmen have not built upon the eternal Rock, and their foundation will prove to be sliding sand. When the Lord requires us to be distinct and peculiar, how can we crave popularity or seek to imitate the customs and practices of the world? "Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." James 4:4.
To lower the standard in order to secure popularity and an increase of numbers, and then to make this increase a cause of rejoicing, shows great blindness. If numbers were an evidence of success, Satan might claim the pre-eminence; for in this world his followers are largely in the majority. It is the degree of moral power pervading a school that is a test of its prosperity. It is the virtue, intelligence, and piety of the people composing our schools, not their numbers, that should be a source of joy and thankfulness. Then shall our schools become converted to the world and follow its customs and fashions? "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye . . . be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." Romans 12:1, 2.
Men will employ every means to make less prominent the difference between Seventh-day Adventists and observers of the first day of the week. A company was presented before me under the name of Seventh-day Adventists, who were advising that the banner, or sign, which makes us a distinct people should not be held out so strikingly; for they claimed that this was not the best policy in order to secure success to our institutions. But this is not a time to haul down our colors, to be ashamed of our faith. This distinctive banner, described in the words, "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus," is to be borne through the world to the close of probation. While efforts should be increased to advance in different localities, there must be no cloaking of our faith to secure patronage. Truth must come to souls ready to perish; and if it is in any way hidden, God is dishonored, and the blood of souls will be upon our garments.
Just as long as those in connection with our institutions walk humbly with God, heavenly intelligences will co-operate with them; but let all bear in mind the fact that God has said: "Them that honor Me I will honor." 1 Samuel 2:30. Never for one moment should the impression be given to anyone that it would be for his profit to hide his faith and doctrines from the unbelieving people of the world, fearing that he may not be so highly esteemed if his principles are known. Christ requires from all His followers open, manly confession of faith. Each must take his position and be what God designed he should be, a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. The whole universe is looking with inexpressible interest to see the closing work of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. Every Christian is to be a light, not hid under a bushel or under a bed, but put on a candlestick, that light may be given to all who are in the house. Never, from cowardice or worldly policy, let the truth of God be placed in the background.
Though in many respects our institutions of learning have swung into worldly conformity, though step by step they have advanced toward the world, they are prisoners of hope. Fate has not so woven its meshes about their workings that they need to remain helpless and in uncertainty. If they will listen to His voice and follow in His ways, God will correct and enlighten them, and bring them back to their upright position of distinction from the world. When the advantage of working upon Christian principles is discerned, when self is hid in Christ, much greater progress will be made; for each worker will feel his own human weakness; he will supplicate for the wisdom and grace of God, and will receive the divine help that is pledged for every emergency.
Opposing circumstances should create a firm determination to overcome them. One barrier broken down will give greater ability and courage to go forward. Press in the right direction, and make a change, solidly, intelligently. Then circumstances will be your helpers and not your hindrances. Make a beginning. The oak is in the acorn.
To Teachers and Managers
I call upon our school faculties to use sound judgment and to work on a higher plane. Our educational facilities must be purified from all dross. Our institutions must be conducted on Christian principles if they would triumph over opposing obstacles. If they are conducted on worldly-policy plans, there will be a want of solidity in the work, a want of farseeing spiritual discernment. The condition of the world previous to the first appearing of Christ is a picture of the condition of the world just previous to His second advent. The Jewish people were destroyed because they rejected the message of salvation sent down from heaven. Shall those in this generation to whom God has given great light and wonderful opportunities follow in the trend of those who rejected light to their ruin?
Many today have veils upon their faces. These veils are sympathy with the customs and practices of the world, which hide from them the glory of the Lord. God desires us to keep our eyes fixed upon Him, that we may lose sight of the things of this world.
As the truth is brought into practical life, the standard is to be elevated higher and higher to meet the requirements of the Bible. This will necessitate opposition to the fashions, customs, practices, and maxims of the world. Worldly influences, like the waves of the sea, beat against the followers of Christ to sweep them away from the true principles of His meekness and grace; but we are to stand as firm as a rock to principle. It will require moral courage to do this, and those whose souls are not riveted to the eternal Rock will be swept away by the worldly current. We can stand firm only as our life is hid with Christ in God. Moral independence is wholly in place when opposing the world. By conforming entirely to the will of God, we shall be placed upon vantage ground, and shall see the necessity of decided separation from the customs and practices of the world.
We are not to elevate our standard just a little above the world's standard, but we are to make the distinction decidedly apparent. The reason we have had so little influence upon unbelieving relatives and associates is that there has been so little decided difference between our practices and those of the world.
Many teachers permit their minds to take too narrow and low a range. They do not keep the divine plan ever in view, but are fixing their eyes upon worldly models. Look up, "where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God," and then labor that your pupils may be conformed to His perfect character. Point the youth to Peter's ladder of eight rounds, and place their feet, not on the highest round, but on the lowest, and with earnest solicitation urge them to climb to the very top.
Christ, who connects earth with heaven, is the ladder. The base is planted firmly on the earth in His humanity; the topmost round reaches to the throne of God in His divinity. The humanity of Christ embraces fallen humanity, while His divinity lays hold upon the throne of God. We are saved by climbing round after round of the ladder, looking to Christ, clinging to Christ, mounting step by step to the height of Christ, so that He is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity are the rounds of this ladder. All these graces are to be manifested in the Christian character; and "if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 1:10, 11.
It is no easy matter to gain the priceless treasure of eternal life. No one can do this and drift with the current of the world. He must come out from the world and be separate and touch not the unclean. No one can act like a worldling without being carried down by the current of the world. No one will make any upward progress without persevering effort. He who would overcome must hold fast to Christ. He must not look back, but keep the eye ever upward, gaining one grace after another. Individual vigilance is the price of safety. Satan is playing the game of life for your soul. Swerve not to his side a single inch, lest he gain advantage over you.
If we ever reach heaven, it will be by linking our souls to Christ, leaning upon Him, and cutting loose from the world, its follies and enchantments. There must be on our part a spiritual co-operation with the heavenly intelligences. We must believe and work and pray and watch and wait. As the purchase of the Son of God, we are His property, and everyone should have an education in the school of Christ. Both teachers and pupils are to make diligent work for eternity. The end of all things is at hand. There is need now of men armed and equipped to battle for God.
It is not men whom we are to exalt, but God, the only true and living God. The unselfish life, the generous, self-sacrificing spirit, the sympathy and love of those who hold positions of trust in our institutions, should have a purifying, ennobling influence which would be eloquent for good. Their words in counsel would not then come from a self-sufficient, self-exalted spirit; but their unobtrusive virtues would be of more value than gold. If man lays hold of the divine nature, working upon the plan of addition, adding grace to grace in perfecting a Christian character, God will work upon the plan of multiplication. He says in His word: "Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord." 2 Peter 1:2.
"Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord." Jeremiah 9:23, 24. "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" "Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger forever, because He delighteth in mercy." Micah 6:8; 7:18. "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do well." Isaiah 1:16, 17.
These are the words of God to us. The past is contained in the book where all things are written. We cannot blot out the record; but if we choose to learn them, the past will teach us its lessons. As we make it our monitor, we may also make it our friend. As we call to mind that in the past which is disagreeable, let it teach us not to repeat the same error. In the future let nothing be recorded which will cause regret in the by and by.
We may now avoid a bad showing. Every day we are making our history. Yesterday is beyond our amendment or control; today only is ours. Then let us not grieve the Spirit of God today, for tomorrow we shall not be able to recall what we have done. Today will then be yesterday.
Let us seek to follow the counsel of God in all things, for He is infinite in wisdom. Though in the past we have come short of doing what we might have done for our children and youth, let us now repent and redeem the time. The Lord says: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword." Isaiah 1:18-20. The message, "Go forward," is still to be heard and repeated. The varying circumstances taking place in our world call for labor that will meet these peculiar developments. The Lord has need of men who are spiritually sharp and clear-sighted, men who are certainly receiving manna fresh from heaven. The Holy Spirit works upon the hearts of such men, and God's word flashes light into the mind, revealing to them more than ever before the true wisdom.
The education given to the young molds the whole social fabric. Throughout the world society is in disorder, and a thorough transformation is needed. Many suppose that better educational facilities, greater skill, and more recent methods will set things right. They profess to believe and receive the living oracles, and yet they give the word of God an inferior position in the great framework of education. That which should stand first is made subordinate to human inventions.
It is so easy to drift into worldly plans, methods, and customs and have no more thought of the time in which we live, or of the great work to be accomplished, than had the people in Noah's day. There is constant danger that our educators will travel over the same ground as did the Jews, conforming to customs, practices, and traditions which God has not given. With tenacity and firmness some cling to old habits and a love of various studies which are not essential, as if their salvation depended upon these things. In doing this they turn away from the special work of God and give to the students a deficient, a wrong education. Minds are directed from a plain "Thus saith the Lord," which involves eternal interests, to human theories and teachings. Infinite, eternal truth, the revelation of God, is explained in the light of human interpretations, when only the Holy Spirit's power can unfold spiritual things. Human wisdom is foolishness; for it misses the whole of God's providences, which look into eternity.
Reformers are not destroyers. They will never seek to ruin those who do not harmonize with their plans and assimilate to them. Reformers must advance, not retreat. They must be decided, firm, resolute, unflinching; but firmness must not degenerate into a domineering spirit. God desires to have all who serve Him firm as a rock where principle is concerned, but meek and lowly of heart, as was Christ. Then, abiding in Christ, they can do the work He would do were He in their place. A rude, condemnatory spirit is not essential to heroism in the reforms for this time. All selfish methods in the service of God are an abomination in His sight.
Satan works to make the prayer of Christ of none effect. He makes continual efforts to create bitterness and discord; for where there is unity there is strength, a oneness which all the powers of hell cannot break. All who shall aid the enemies of God by bringing weakness and sorrow and discouragement upon any of God's people, through their own perverse ways and tempers, are working directly against the prayer of Christ.