The work done in our schools is not to be like that done in the colleges and seminaries of the world. In the grand work of education, instruction in the sciences is not to be of an inferior character, but that knowledge must be considered of first importance which will fit a people to stand in the great day of God's preparation. Our schools must be more like the schools of the prophets. They should be training schools, where the students may be brought under the discipline of Christ and learn of the Great Teacher. They should be family schools, where every student will receive special help from his teachers as the members of the family should receive help in the home. Tenderness, sympathy, unity, and love are to be cherished. There should be unselfish, devoted, faithful teachers, teachers who are constrained by the love of God and who, with hearts full of tenderness, will have a care for the health and happiness of the students. It should be their aim to advance the students in every essential branch of knowledge.
Wise teachers should be chosen for our schools, those who will feel responsible to God to impress upon minds the necessity of knowing Christ as a personal Saviour. From the highest to the lowest grade they should show special care for the salvation of the students and through personal effort seek to lead their feet into straight paths. They should look with pity upon those who have been badly trained in childhood, and seek to remedy defects, which, if retained, will greatly mar the character. No one can do this work who has not first learned in the school of Christ how to teach.
All who teach in our schools should have a close connection with God and a thorough understanding of His word, that they may be able to bring divine wisdom and knowledge into the work of educating the youth for usefulness in this life and for the future, immortal life. They should be men and women who not only have a knowledge of the truth, but who are doers of the word of God. "It is written" should be expressed in their words and by their lives. By their own practice they should teach simplicity and correct habits in everything. No man or woman should be connected with our schools as an educator who has not had an experience in obeying the word of the Lord.
Principal and teachers need to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. The earnest prayer of contrite souls will be lodged by the throne, and God will answer these prayers in His own time if we cling to His arm by faith. Let self be merged in Christ, and Christ in God, and there will be such a display of His power as will melt and subdue hearts. Christ taught in a way altogether different from ordinary methods, and we are to be laborers together with Him.
Teaching means much more than many suppose. It requires great skill to make the truth understood. For this reason every teacher should strive to have an increased knowledge of spiritual truth, but he cannot gain this knowledge while divorcing himself from the word of God. If he would have his powers and capabilities daily improved he must study; he must eat and digest the word, and work in Christ's lines. The soul that is nourished by the bread of life will have every faculty vitalized by the Spirit of God. This is the meat which endureth unto everlasting life.
Teachers who will learn from the Great Teacher will realize the help of God as did Daniel and his fellows. They need to climb heavenward instead of remaining on the plain. Christian experience should be combined with all true education. "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 2:5. Teachers and students should study this representation and see if they are of that class who, through the abundant grace given, are obtaining the experience that every child of God must have before he can enter the higher grade. In all their instruction teachers should impart light from the throne of God; for education is a work the effect of which will be seen throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity.
Teachers should lead students to think, and clearly to understand the truth for themselves. It is not enough for the teacher to explain or for the student to believe; inquiry must be awakened, and the student must be drawn out to state the truth in his own language, thus making it evident that he sees its force and makes the application. By painstaking effort the vital truths should thus be impressed upon the mind. This may be a slow process; but it is of more value than rushing over important subjects without due consideration. God expects His institutions to excel those of the world; for they are His representatives. Men truly connected with God will show to the world that a more than human agent is standing at the helm.
Our teachers need to be constant learners. The reformers need to be themselves reformed, not only in their methods of labor, but in their own hearts. They need to be transformed by the grace of God. When Nicodemus, a great teacher in Israel, came to Jesus, the Master laid before him the conditions of divine life, teaching him the very alphabet of conversion. Nicodemus asked: "How can these things be?" "Art thou a master of Israel," Christ answered, "and knowest not these things?" This question might be addressed to many who are now holding positions as teachers, but who have neglected the preparation essential to qualify them for this work. If Christ's words were received into the soul there would be a much higher intelligence and a much deeper spiritual knowledge of what constitutes a disciple, a sincere follower of Christ, and an educator whom He can approve.
Deficiencies of Teachers
Many of our teachers have much to unlearn and much of a different character to learn. Unless they are willing to do this,--unless they become thoroughly familiar with the word of God and their minds are absorbed in studying the glorious truths concerning the life of the Great Teacher,--they will encourage the very errors the Lord is seeking to correct. Plans and opinions that should not be entertained will imprint themselves on the mind, and in all honesty they will come to wrong and dangerous conclusions. Thus seed will be sown that is not true grain. Many customs and practices common in school work, and which may be regarded as little things, cannot now be brought into our schools. It may be difficult for teachers to give up long-cherished ideas and methods; but if they will honestly and humbly inquire at every step, "Is this the way of the Lord?" and will yield to His guidance, He will lead them in safe paths, and their views will change by experience.
The teachers in our schools need to search the Scriptures until they understand them for their individual selves, opening their hearts to the precious rays of light which God has given, and walking therein. They will then be taught of God and will labor in entirely different lines, bringing into their instruction less of the theories and sentiments of men who have never had a connection with God. They will honor finite wisdom far less, and will feel a deep soul hunger for that wisdom which comes from God.
To the question Christ put to the twelve, "Will ye also go away?" Peter answered: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God." John 6:67-69. When teachers bring these words into the work of their classrooms, the Holy Spirit will be present to do its work upon minds and hearts.
The Teacher's Work
Teachers are to be laborers together with God in promoting and carrying forward the work which Christ by His own example has taught them to do. They are to be indeed the light of the world, because they manifest those gracious attributes revealed in the character and work of Christ, attributes which will enrich and beautify their own lives as Christ's disciples.
What a solemn, sacred, important work is the endeavor to represent Christ's character and His Spirit to our world! This is the privilege of every principal and of every teacher connected with him in the work of educating, training, and disciplining the minds of youth. All need to be under the inspiring, assuring conviction that they are indeed wearing the yoke of Christ and carrying His burden.
Trials will be met in this work; discouragements will press in upon the soul as teachers see that their labors are not always appreciated. Satan will exercise his power over them in temptations, in discouragements, in afflictions of bodily infirmities, hoping that he can cause them to murmur against God and close their understanding to His goodness, mercy, and love, and the exceeding weight of glory that is to be the reward of the overcomer. But God is leading these souls to more perfect confidence in their heavenly Father. His eye is upon them every moment; and if they lift their cry to Him in faith, if they will stay their souls upon Him in their perplexities, the Lord will bring them forth as gold purified. The Lord Jesus has said: "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Hebrews 13:5. God may permit a train of circumstances to come that will lead them to flee to the Stronghold, by faith pressing to the throne of God amid thick clouds of darkness; for even here His presence is concealed. But He is ever ready to deliver all that trust in Him. Gained in such a way, the victory will be more complete, the triumph more sure; for the tried, sore-pressed, and afflicted one can say: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." Job 13:15. "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." Habakkuk 3:17, 18.
A Personal Appeal
I appeal to the teachers in our educational institutions not to let religious earnestness and zeal retrograde. Make no backward movements, but let your watchword be: "Advance." Our schools must rise to a much higher plane of action; broader views must be held; stronger faith and deeper piety must exist; the word of God must be made the root and branch of all wisdom and intellectual attainments. When the converting power of God takes hold of them, they will see that a knowledge of God covers a much broader field than the so-called "advance methods" of education. In all the education given, they should remember the words of Christ: "Ye are the light of the world." Matthew 5:14. Then they will not experience so great hindrance in preparing missionaries to go out and give their knowledge to others.
We have every endowment of capability every facility provided for discharging the duties devolving upon us; and we should be grateful to God that by His mercy we have these advantages, and that we possess the knowledge of His grace and of present truth and duty. Are you, then, as teachers, trying to maintain the false education you have received? Are you losing the precious opportunities granted you to become better acquainted with God's plans and methods? Do you believe the word of God? Are you every day becoming better able to understand, to give yourselves to the Lord, and to be used in His service? Are you missionaries to do God's will? Do you believe the Bible and heed what it says? Do you believe that we are living in the last days of this earth's history? And have you hearts that can feel? We have a large work before us; we are to be bearers of the sacred light of the word, which is to illume all nations. We are Christians, and what are we doing?
Take your position, teachers, as true educators, and by words and expressions of interest for their souls pour into the hearts of the students the living stream of redeeming love. Counsel with them before their minds are preoccupied with their literary work. Entreat them to seek Christ and His righteousness. Show them the changes that will surely take place if the heart is given to Christ. Fasten their attention on Him; this will close the door to the foolish aspirations that naturally arise, and will prepare the mind for the reception of divine truth. The youth must be taught that time is golden, that it is perilous for them to think they can sow "wild oats" and not reap a harvest of woe and ruin. They must be taught to be sober-minded, and to admire the good in the character of others. They must be trained to place the will on the side of God's will, that they may be able to sing the new song and blend with the harmonies of heaven.
Put off all manifestations of self-importance, for this can be no help to you in your work; and yet I beseech you to place a high estimate upon your own character, for you are bought with an infinite price. Be careful, be prayerful, be serious. Do not feel that you can mingle the common with the sacred. This has been done so continually in the past that the spiritual discernment of teachers has been obscured, and they cannot distinguish between the sacred and the common. They have taken common fire and have exalted and praised and cherished it, and the Lord has turned away in displeasure. Teachers, will it not be better to make a full consecration of yourselves to God? Will you imperil your souls by a divided service?
By pen and voice give due honor to God. Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and be ready always to give to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. Will the teachers in our schools understand this? Will they take the word of God as the lessonbook able to make them wise unto salvation? Will they impart this higher wisdom to students, giving them clear and accurate ideas of truth, that they may be able to present these ideas to others? It may seem that the teaching of God's word has but little effect upon many minds and hearts; but if the teacher's work has been wrought in God, some lessons of divine truth will linger in the memory of even the most careless. The Holy Spirit will water the seed sown, and often it will spring up after many days and bear fruit to the glory of God.
The Great Teacher who came down from heaven has not directed teachers to study any of the reputedly great authors. He says: "Come unto Me. . . . Learn of Me; . . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Matthew 11:28, 29. Christ has promised, and in learning lessons of Him we shall find rest. All the treasures of heaven were committed to Him that He might give these gifts to the diligent, persevering seeker. He is of God made unto us "wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." 1 Corinthians 1:30.
Teachers must understand what lessons to impart, or they cannot prepare students to be transferred to the higher grade. They must study Christ's lessons and the character of His teaching. They must see its freedom from formalism and tradition, and appreciate the originality, the authority, the spirituality, the tenderness, the benevolence, and the practicability of His teaching. Those who make the word of God their study, those who dig for the treasures of truth, will themselves become imbued with the Spirit of Christ, and by beholding they will become changed into His likeness. Those who appreciate the word will teach as disciples who have been sitting at the feet of Jesus and have accustomed themselves to learn of Him. In the place of bringing into our schools books containing the suppositions of the world's great authors, they will say: Tempt me not to disregard the greatest Author and the greatest Teacher, through whom I have everlasting life. He never mistakes. He is the great Fountain head whence all wisdom flows. Then let every teacher sow the seed of truth in the minds of students. Christ is the standard Teacher.
The word of the eternal God is our guide. Through this word we have been made wise unto salvation. This word is ever to be in our hearts and on our lips. "It is written" is to be our anchor. Those who make God's word their counselor realize the weakness of the human heart and the power of the grace of God to subdue every unsanctified, unholy impulse. Their hearts are ever prayerful, and they have the guardianship of holy angels. When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of God lifts up for them a standard against him. There is harmony in the heart; for the precious, powerful influences of truth bear sway. There is a revelation of the faith that works by love and purifies the soul.
Pray that you may be born again. If you have this new birth you will delight yourself, not in the crooked ways of your own desires, but in the Lord. You will desire to be under His authority. You will strive constantly to reach a higher standard. Be not only Bible readers, but earnest Bible students, that you may know what God requires of you. You need an experimental knowledge of how to do His will. Christ is our Teacher.
Let every teacher in our schools and every manager in our institutions study what it is essential for them to do in order to work in His lines and carry with them a sense of pardon, comfort, and hope.
Heavenly messengers are sent to minister unto those who shall be heirs of salvation; and these would converse with the teachers if they were not so satisfied with the well-trodden path of tradition, if they were not so fearful of getting away from the shadow of the world. Teachers should beware lest they close the gates so that the Lord can find no entrance into the hearts of the youth.