In attending our colleges many of the youth are separated from the softening, subduing influences of the home circle. At the very time of life when they need vigilant supervision they are withdrawn from the restraints of parental influence and authority, and are thrown into the society of a large number of their own age, of varied characters and habits of life. Some of these have in childhood received too little discipline and are superficial and frivolous; others have been governed too much and have felt, when away from the hands that held the reins of control perhaps too tightly, that they were free to do as they pleased. They despise the very thought of restraint. By these associations the dangers of the young are greatly increased.
Our school homes have been established that our youth may not be left to drift hither and thither, and be exposed to the evil influences which everywhere abound; but that, as far as possible, a home atmosphere may be provided that they may be preserved from temptations to immorality and be led to Jesus. The family of heaven represents that which the family on earth should be; and our school homes, where are gathered youth who are seeking a preparation for the service of God, should approach as nearly as possible to the divine model.
Teachers who are placed in charge of these homes bear grave responsibilities; for they are to act as fathers and mothers, showing an interest in the students, one and all, such as parents show in their children. The varying elements in the characters of the youth with whom they are called to deal bring upon them care and many heavy burdens, and great tact as well as much patience is required to balance in the right direction minds that have been warped by bad management. The teachers need great managing ability; they must be true to principle and yet wise and tender, linking love and Christlike sympathy with discipline. They should be men and women of faith, of wisdom, and of prayer. They should not manifest stern, unbending dignity, but should mingle with the youth, becoming one with them in their joys and sorrows as well as in their daily routine of work. Cheerful, loving obedience will generally be the fruit of such effort.
The education which the young men and women who attend our colleges should receive in the home life is deserving of special attention. It is of great importance in the work of character building that students who attend our colleges be taught to take up the work that is appointed them, throwing off all inclination to sloth. They need to become familiar with the duties of daily life. They should be taught to do their domestic duties thoroughly and well, with as little noise and confusion as possible. Everything should be done decently and in order. The kitchen and all other parts of the building should be kept sweet and clean. Books should be laid aside till their proper season, and no more study should be taken than can be attended to without neglecting the household duties. The study of books is not to engross the mind to the neglect of home duties upon which the comfort of the family depends.
In the performance of these duties careless, neglectful, disorderly habits should be overcome; for unless corrected, these habits will be carried into every phase of life, and the life will be spoiled for usefulness, spoiled for true missionary work. Unless corrected with perseverance and resolution they will overcome the student for time and for eternity. The young should be encouraged to form correct habits in dress, that their appearance may be neat and attractive; they should be taught to keep their garments clean and neatly mended. All their habits should be such as to make them a help and a comfort to others.
Special directions were given to the armies of the children of Israel that in and around their tents everything should be clean and orderly lest the angel of God should pass through their encampment and see their uncleanness. Would the Lord be particular to notice these things? He would; for the fact is stated, lest in viewing their uncleanness He could not go forth with their armies to battle against their enemies. In like manner all our actions are noticed by God. That God who was so particular that the children of Israel should grow up with habits of cleanliness will not sanction any impurity in the home today.
God has given to parents and teachers the work of educating the children and youth in these lines, and from every act of their lives they may be taught spiritual lessons. While training them in habits of physical cleanliness we should teach them that God desires them to be clean in heart as well as in body. While sweeping a room they may learn how the Lord purifies the heart. They would not close the doors and windows and leave in the room some purifying substance, but would open the doors and throw wide the windows, and with diligent effort expel all the dust. So the windows of impulse and feeling must be opened toward heaven, and the dust of selfishness and earthliness must be expelled. The grace of God must sweep through the chambers of the mind, and every element of the nature must be purified and vitalized by the Spirit of God. Disorder and untidiness in daily duties will lead to forgetfulness of God and to keeping the form of godliness in a profession of faith, having lost the reality. We are to watch and pray, else we shall grasp the shadow and lose the substance.
A living faith like threads of gold should run through the daily experience in the performance of little duties. Then students will be led to understand the pure principles which God designs shall prompt every act of their lives. Then all the daily work will be of such a character as to promote Christian growth. Then the vital principles of faith, trust, and love for Jesus will penetrate into the most minute details of daily life. There will be a looking unto Jesus, and love for Him will be the continual motive, giving vital force to every duty that is undertaken. There will be a striving after righteousness, a hope that "maketh not ashamed." Whatever is done will be done to the glory of God.
To each student in the home I would say, Be true to home duties. Be faithful in the discharge of little responsibilities. Be a real living Christian in the home. Let Christian principles rule your heart and control your conduct. Heed every suggestion made by the teacher, but do not make it a necessity always to be told what to do. Discern for yourself. Notice for yourself if all things in your own room are spotless and in order, that nothing there may be an offense to God, but that when holy angels shall pass through your room, they may be led to linger because attracted by the prevailing order and cleanliness. In doing your duties promptly, neatly, faithfully, you are missionaries. You are bearing witness for Christ. You are showing that the religion of Christ does not, in principle or in practice, make you untidy, coarse, disrespectful to your teachers, giving little heed to their counsel and instruction. Bible religion, practiced, will make you kind, thoughtful, faithful. You will not neglect the little things that should be done. Adopt as your motto the words of Christ: "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much."
Christian sociability is altogether too little cultivated by God's people. This branch of education should not be neglected or lost sight of in our schools.
Students should be taught that they are not independent atoms, but that each one is a thread which is to unite with other threads in composing a fabric. In no department can this instruction be more effectually given than in the school home. Here students are daily surrounded by opportunities which, if improved, will greatly aid in developing the social traits of their characters. It lies in their own power so to improve their time and opportunities as to develop a character that will make them happy and useful. Those who shut themselves up within themselves, who are unwilling to be drawn upon to bless others by friendly associations, lose many blessings; for by mutual contact minds receive polish and refinement; by social intercourse, acquaintances are formed and friendships contracted which result in a unity of heart and an atmosphere of love which is pleasing in the sight of heaven.
Especially should those who have tasted the love of Christ develop their social powers, for in this way they may win souls to the Saviour. Christ should not be hid away in their hearts, shut in as a coveted treasure, sacred and sweet, to be enjoyed solely by themselves; nor should the love of Christ be manifested toward those only who please their fancy. Students are to be taught the Christlikeness of exhibiting a kindly interest, a social disposition, toward those who are in the greatest need, even though these may not be their own chosen companions. At all times and in all places Jesus manifested a loving interest in the human family and shed about Him the light of a cheerful piety. Students should be taught to follow in His steps. They should be taught to manifest Christian interest, sympathy, and love for their youthful companions, and endeavor to draw them to Jesus; Christ should be in their hearts as a well of water springing up into ever lasting life, refreshing all with whom they come in contact.
It is this willing, loving ministry for others in times of necessity that is accounted precious with God. Thus even while attending school, students may, if true to their profession, be living missionaries for God. All this will take time; but the time thus employed is profitably spent, for in this way the student is learning how to present Christianity to the world.
Christ did not refuse to mingle with others in friendly intercourse. When invited to a feast by Pharisee or publican, He accepted the invitation. On such occasions every word that He uttered was a savor of life unto life to His hearers; for He made the dinner hour an occasion of imparting many precious lessons adapted to their needs. Christ thus taught His disciples how to conduct them selves when in the company of those who were not religious as well as of those who were. By His own example He taught them that, when attending any public gathering, their conversation need not be of the same character as that usually indulged in on such occasions.
When students sit at the table, if Christ is abiding in the soul there will come forth from the treasure house of the heart words which are pure and uplifting; if Christ is not abiding there, a satisfaction will be found in frivolity, in jesting and joking, which is a hindrance to spiritual growth and a cause of grief to the angels of God. The tongue is an unruly member, but it should not be so. It should be converted; for the talent of speech is a very precious talent. Christ is ever ready to impart of His riches, and we should gather the jewels that come from Him, that, when we speak, these jewels may drop from our lips.
The temper, the personal peculiarities, the habits from which character is developed--everything practiced in the home will reveal itself in all the associations of life. The inclinations followed will work out in thoughts, in words, in acts of the same character. If every student composing the school family would make an effort to restrain all unkind and uncourteous words, and speak with respect to all; if he would bear in mind that he is preparing to become a member of the heavenly family; if he would guard his influence by sacred sentinels, that it should not scatter away from Christ; if he would endeavor to have every act of his life show forth the praises of Him who has called him out of darkness into His marvelous light, what a reformatory influence would go forth from every school home!
Of all the features of an education to be given in our school homes the religious exercises are the most important. They should be treated with the greatest solemnity and reverence, yet all the pleasantness possible should be brought into them. They should not be prolonged till they become wearisome, for the impression thus made upon the minds of the youth will cause them to associate religion with all that is dry and uninteresting; and many will be led to cast their influence on the side of the enemy, who, if properly taught, would become a blessing to the world and to the church. The Sabbath meetings, the morning and evening service in the home and in the chapel, unless wisely planned and vitalized by the Spirit of God, may become the most formal, unpleasant, unattractive, and to the youth the most burdensome, of all the school exercises. The social meetings and all other religious exercises should be so planned and managed that they will be not only profitable, but so pleasant as to be positively attractive. Praying together will bind hearts to God in bonds that will endure; confessing Christ openly and bravely, exhibiting in our characters His meekness, humility, and love, will charm others with the beauty of holiness.
On all these occasions Christ should be set forth as "the chiefest among ten thousand," the One "altogether lovely." Song of Solomon 5:10, 16. He should be presented as the Source of all true pleasure and satisfaction, the Giver of every good and perfect gift, the Author of every blessing, the One in whom all our hopes of eternal life are centered. In every religious exercise let the love of God and the joy of the Christian experience appear in their true beauty. Present the Saviour as the restorer from every effect of sin.
To accomplish this result all narrowness must be avoided. Sincere, earnest, heartfelt devotion will be needed. Ardent, active piety in the teachers will be essential. But there is power for us if we will have it. There is grace for us if we will appreciate it. The Holy Spirit is waiting our demand if we will only demand it with that intensity of purpose which is proportionate to the value of the object we seek. Angels of heaven are taking notice of all our work and are watching to see how they can so minister to each one that he will reflect the likeness of Christ in character and become conformed to the divine image. When those in charge of our school homes appreciate the privileges and opportunities placed within their reach, they will do a work for God of which heaven will approve.