There are some things regarding the disposition and use of the lands near our school and church which have been opened before me and which I am instructed to present to you. Until recently I have not felt at liberty to speak of them, and even now I do not feel free to reveal all things because our people are not yet prepared to understand all that in the providence of God will be developed at Avondale.
In the visions of the night some things were clearly presented before me. Persons were selecting allotments of land near the school, on which they proposed to build houses and establish homes. But One stood in our midst who said: "You are making a great mistake which you will have cause to regret. This land is not to be occupied with buildings except to provide the facilities essential for the teachers and students of the school. This land about the school is to be reserved as the school farm. It is to become a living parable to the students. The students are not to regard the school land as a common thing, but are to look upon it as a lessonbook open before them which the Lord would have them study. Its lessons will impart knowledge in the culture of the soul.
"If you should allow the land near the school to be occupied with private houses and then be driven to select for cultivation other land at a distance from the school, it would be a great mistake and one always to be regretted. All the land near the building is to be regarded as the school farm, where the youth can be educated under well-qualified superintendents. The youth who shall attend our schools need all the land near by. They are to plant it with ornamental and fruit trees, and to cultivate garden produce.
"The school farm is to be regarded as a lessonbook in nature from which the teachers may draw their object lessons. Our students are to be taught that Christ, who created the world and all things that are therein, is the life and light of every living thing. The life of every child and youth who is willing to grasp the opportunities of receiving a proper education will be made thankful and happy while at school by the things upon which his eyes shall rest."
The Work Before Us
We need more teachers and more talent to educate the students in various lines, that many persons may go from this place willing and able to carry to others the knowledge which they have received. Orphan boys and girls are to find a home here. Buildings should be erected for a hospital, and boats should be provided to accommodate the school. A competent farm manager should be employed, also wise, energetic men to act as superintendents of the several industrial enterprises, men who will use their undivided talents in teaching the students how to work.
Many young people will come to school who desire a training in industrial lines. The industrial instruction should include the keeping of accounts, carpentry, and everything that is comprehended in farming. Preparation should also be made for teaching blacksmithing, painting, shoemaking, cooking, baking, laundering, mending, typewriting, and printing. Every power at our command is to be brought into this training work, that students may go out equipped for the duties of practical life.
Cottages and buildings essential to the schoolwork are to be erected by the students themselves. These should not be crowded close together, nor located near the school buildings proper. In the management of this work small companies should be formed who, under competent leaders, should be taught to carry a full sense of their responsibility. All these things cannot be accomplished at once, but we are to begin to work in faith.
The Land to be Reserved
The Lord would have the grounds about the school dedicated to Him as His own schoolroom. We are located where there is plenty of land, and the grounds near the school and the church should not be occupied with private dwellings. Those who believe the truth for this time are not all transformed in character. They are not all proper object lessons, for they do not represent the character of Christ. There are many who would be pleased to get close to the church and the school who would not be helps, but hindrances. They feel that they should be helped and favored. They do not appreciate either the character or the situation of the work in which we are engaged. They do not understand that all that has been done at Avondale has been accomplished with the hardest labor and through the use of money given with sacrifice or which must be paid back to those from whom it was borrowed.
Among those who will desire to settle near our schools there will be some who are filled with self-importance and anxiety about their own reputation. They are sensitive and factious. These need to be converted, for they are far from standing where they can receive the blessing of the Lord. Satan tempts them to ask favors which, if granted, will only injure them, and thus they bring anxiety to their brethren. The living principles of the word of God need to be brought into the lives of many who now find no room for these principles. Those who are learning in the school of Christ will count every favor from God as too good for them. They will realize that they do not deserve all the good things they receive, and they will count themselves happy. Their faces will express peace and rest in the Lord, for they have the word of God that He cares for them.
"Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool: where is the house that ye build unto Me? and where is the place of My rest? For all those things hath Mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word." Isaiah 66:1, 2. During the closing days of 1898 we had many experiences to teach us what these words mean. My heart was greatly burdened, and matters were then opened before me in regard to the evils that would arise from disposing of the land near the school to be occupied with dwelling houses. We seemed to be in a meeting for counsel, and there stood among us One who was expected to help us out of our difficulties. The words He spoke were plain and decided:
"This land, by the appointment of God, is for the benefit of the school. You have had evidences of the working of human nature and what it will reveal under temptation. The greater the number of families that settle around the school buildings, the more difficulties there will be in the way of teachers and students. The natural selfishness of the children of men is ready to spring into life if everything is not convenient for them. This land about the school is to be the school farm, and this farm is to occupy much more space than you have thought it would. Work in connection with study is to be done here according to the counsels given. Avondale is to be a philanthropic center. God's people in Australasia are to be moved upon by the Spirit of the Lord to give sympathy and means for the support and encouragement of many charitable and benevolent enterprises, which shall be the means of teaching the poor, the help less, and the ignorant how to help themselves."
On several occasions the light has come to me that the land around our school is to be used as the Lord's farm. In a special sense portions of this farm should be highly cultivated. Spread out before me I saw land planted with every kind of fruit tree that will bear fruit in this locality; there were also vegetable gardens, where seeds were sown and cultivated.
If the managers of this farm and the teachers in the school will receive the Holy Spirit to work with them, they will have wisdom in their management, and God will bless their labors. The care of the trees, the planting and the sowing, and the gathering of the harvest are to be wonderful lessons for all the students. The invisible links which connect the sowing and the reaping are to be studied, and the goodness of God is to be pointed out and appreciated. It is the Lord that gives the virtue and the power to the soil and to the seed. Were it not for the divine agency, combined with human tact and ability, the seed sown would be useless. There is an unseen power constantly at work in man's behalf to feed and to clothe him. The parable of the seed as studied in the daily experience of teacher and student is to reveal that God is at work in nature, and it is to make plain the things of the kingdom of heaven.
God and Nature
Next to the Bible, nature is to be our great lessonbook. But there is no virtue in deifying nature, for this is exalting the thing made above the great Master Builder who designed the work, and who every hour keeps it operating according to His appointment. As we sow the seed and cultivate the plant, we are to remember that God created the seed, and He gives it to the earth. By His divine power He cares for that seed. It is by His appointment that the seed in dying gives its life to the blade and to the ear which contains in itself other seeds to be treasured and again put into the earth to yield their harvest. We may also study how the co-operation of man acts a part. The human agent has his part to act, his work to do. This is one of the lessons which nature teaches, and we shall see in it a solemn, a beautiful work.
There is much talk about God in nature, as if the Lord were bound by the laws of nature to be nature's servant. Many theories would lead minds to suppose that nature is a self-sustaining agency apart from the Deity, having its own inherent power with which to work. In this men do not know what they are talking about. Do they suppose that nature has a self-existing power without the continual agency of Jehovah? The Lord does not work through His laws to supersede the laws of nature. He does His work through the laws and properties of His instruments, and nature obeys a "Thus saith the Lord."
The God of nature is perpetually at work. His infinite power works unseen, but manifestations appear in the effects which the work produces. The same God who guides the planets works in the fruit orchard and in the vegetable garden. He never made a thorn, a thistle, or a tare. These are Satan's work, the result of degeneration, introduced by him among the precious things; but it is through God's immediate agency that every bud bursts into blossom. When He was in the world in the form of humanity, Christ said: "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." John 5:17. So when the students employ their time and strength in agricultural work, in heaven it is said of them, Ye "are laborers together with God." 1 Corinthians 3:9.
Let the lands near the school and the church be retained. Those who come to settle in Cooranbong can, if they choose, find for themselves homes near by, or on portions of, the Avondale estate. But the light given me is that all that section of land from the school orchard to the Maitland road, and extending on both sides of the road from the meetinghouse to the school, should become a farm and a park, beautiful with fragrant flowers and ornamental trees. There should be orchards, and every kind of produce should be cultivated that is adapted to the soil, that this place may become an object lesson to those living close by and afar off.
Then let everything not essential to the work of the school be kept at a distance, that the sacredness of the place may not be disturbed through the proximity of families and buildings. Let the school stand alone. It will be better for private families, however devoted they may be in the service of the Lord, to be located at some distance from the school buildings. The school is the Lord's property, and the grounds about it are His farm, where the Great Sower can make His garden a lessonbook. The results of the labors will be seen, "first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." Mark 4:28. The land will yield its treasures, bringing the joyousness of an abundant harvest; and the produce gathered through the blessing of God is to be used as nature's lessonbook, from which spiritual lessons can be made plain and applied to the necessities of the soul.
An Object Lesson
There are great things before us which we see must be done, and as fast as the means can be obtained we must go forward. Patient, painstaking effort needs to be made for the encouragement and uplifting of the surrounding communities, and for their education in industrial and sanitary lines. The school and all its surroundings should be object lessons, teaching the ways of improvement, and appealing to the people for reform, so that taste, industry, and refinement may take the place of coarseness, uncleanness, disorder, ignorance, and sin. Even the poorest can improve their surroundings by rising early and working diligently. By our lives and example we can help others to discern that which is repulsive in their character or about their premises, and with Christian courtesy we may encourage improvement.
The question will often arise: What can be done where poverty prevails and is to be contended with at every step? Under these circumstances how can we impress minds with correct ideas of improvement? Certainly the work is difficult; and unless the teachers, the thinking men, and the men who have means will exercise their talents and will lift just as Christ would lift were He in their place, an important work will be left undone. The necessary reformation will never be made unless men and women are helped by a power outside of themselves. Those who have talents and capabilities must use these gifts to bless their fellow men, laboring to place them upon a footing where they can help themselves. It is thus that the education gained at our schools should be put to the very best use.
God's entrusted talents are not to be hid under a bushel or under a bed. "Ye are the light of the world," Christ said. Matthew 5:14. As you see families living in hovels, with scant furniture and clothing, without tools, without books or other marks of refinement about their homes, will you become interested in them, and endeavor to teach them how to put their energies to the very best use, that there may be improvement, and that their work may move forward? It is by diligent labor, by putting to the wisest use every capability, by learning to waste no time, that they will become successful in improving their premises and cultivating their land.
Physical effort and moral power are to be united in our endeavors to regenerate and reform. We are to seek to gain knowledge in both temporal and spiritual lines, that we may communicate it to others. We are to seek to live out the gospel in all its bearings, that its temporal and spiritual blessings may be felt all around us.
The Lord will surely bless all who seek to bless others. The school is to be so conducted that teachers and students will be continually gaining in power through the faithful use of the talents given them. By putting to a practical use that which they have learned, they will constantly increase in wisdom and knowledge. We are to learn from the Book of books the principles upon which we are to live and labor. By consecrating all our God-given abilities to Him who has the first right to them, we may make precious advances in everything that is worthy of our attention.
When entered upon with this spirit, the missionary work becomes elevating and uplifting both to the laborer and to the person helped. Let everyone who claims to be a child of the heavenly King seek constantly to represent the principles of the kingdom of God. Let each remember that in spirit, in word, and in works he is to be loyal and true to all the precepts and commandments of the Lord. We are to be faithful, trustworthy subjects of the kingdom of Christ, that those who are worldly-wise may have a true representation of the riches, the goodness, the mercy, the tenderness, and the courtesy of the citizens of the kingdom of God.
The students who will get the most good out of life are those who will live the word of God in their connections and dealings with their fellow men. Those who receive to give will feel the greatest satisfaction in this life. Those members of the human family who live for themselves are always in want, for they are never satisfied. There is no Christianity in shutting up our sympathies to our own selfish hearts. The Lord has ordained channels through which He lets flow His goodness, mercy, and truth; and we are to be co-workers with Christ in communicating to others practical wisdom and benevolence. We are to bring brightness and blessing into their lives, thus doing a good and holy work.
If the Avondale school ever becomes what the Lord is seeking to make it, the missionary effort of teachers and students will bear fruit. Both in the school and outside, willing subjects will be brought to allegiance to God. The rebellion which took place in heaven under the power of a lie, and the deception which led Adam and Eve to disobey the law of God, opened the floodgates of woe upon our world; but all who believe in Christ may become sons and daughters of God. Through the power of the truth they may be restored, and fallen man may become loyal to his Maker. The truth, peculiar in its working power, is adapted to the minds and hearts of wandering sinners. Through its influence the lost sheep may be brought back to the fold.
Whatever may be the position or possessions of any individual who has a knowledge of the truth, the word of God teaches him that all he has is held by him in trust. It is lent him to test his character. His worldly business, his talents, his income, his opportunities, are all to be accounted for to Him to whom by creation and redemption he belongs. When he uses every precious talent in carrying forward God's great work of education, when he strives to obtain the very best knowledge of how to be useful, how to labor for the salvation of souls ready to perish, God's blessing will surely attend his efforts. God bestows His gifts upon us that we may minister to others, and thus become like Him. Those who receive His gifts that they may impart to others, become like Christ. It is in helping and uplifting others that we be come ennobled and purified. This is the work that causes glory to flow back to God. We must become intelligent upon these points. Our souls must be purified from all selfishness; for God desires to use His people as representatives of the heavenly kingdom.
Our schools must be conducted under the supervision of God. There is a work to be done for young men and women that is not yet accomplished. There are much larger numbers of young people who need to have the advantages of our training schools. They need the manual training course, that will teach them how to lead an active, energetic life. All kinds of labor must be connected with our schools. Under wise, judicious, God-fearing directors the students are to be taught. Every branch of the work is to be conducted in the most thorough and systematic ways that long experience and wisdom can enable us to plan and execute.
Let the teachers wake up to the importance of this subject and teach agriculture and other industries that it is essential for the students to understand. Seek in every department of labor to reach the very best results.
Let the science of the word of God be brought into the work, that the students may understand correct principles and may reach the highest possible standard. Exert your God-given abilities, and bring all your energies into the development of the Lord's farm. Study and labor, that the best results and the greatest returns may come from the seed sowing, that there may be an abundant supply of food, both temporal and spiritual, for the increased number of students that shall be gathered in to be trained as Christian workers.
We have seen the giant trees felled and uprooted; we have seen the plowshare pressed into the earth, turning deep furrows for the planting of trees and the sowing of seed. The students are learning what plowing means and that the hoe and the shovel, the rake and the harrow, are all implements of honorable and profitable industry. Mistakes will often be made, but every error lies close beside the truth. Wisdom will be learned by failures, and the energy that will make a beginning gives hope of success in the end. Hesitation will keep things back, precipitancy will alike retard; but all will serve as lessons if the human agent will have it so.
The impression that work is degrading has laid thousands in the grave. Those who perform only manual labor frequently work to excess, while brain workers suffer for want of the healthful vigor physical labor gives. If the intellectual would share the burden of the laboring class to such a degree that the muscles would be strengthened, the laborers might devote a portion of their time to mental and moral culture. Those of sedentary and literary habits should take physical exercise. Health should be a sufficient inducement to lead them to unite physical with their mental labor.