To the students of South Lancaster Academy I would say: "Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you." Never be ashamed of your faith; never be found on the side of the enemy. "Ye are the light of the world." Your faith is to be revealed as precious truth, truth which all should have and all must have if they are saved. As a people, we are in the minority. We are not popular. Our enemies will be watching us for evil, to betray us and to ruin our souls. They will not appreciate our motives. They will misinterpret our earnest zeal and our intense desire to have others see and understand the truth, that they may do the will of God by obeying all His commandments. But we should fight the good fight of faith, and be found "steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord."
It is with feelings of inexpressible sadness, and sometimes almost with despair, that I contemplate the condition of the young and see how difficult it is to encourage those to obtain an education to whom I know God has liberally entrusted capabilities. Without education they will be crippled and inefficient in any position. Yet in gaining this education they will be exposed to dangers and temptations. Satan will try to employ their cultivated abilities in his service.
Some employ their powers to evil purposes. The subtle poison of sensuality courses through their veins, and it finds little obstruction in its way. It is fascinating, bewitching. The mind, which, with due regard for moral integrity, is capable of the highest degree of cultivation and literary excellence, is often degraded to administer to lust. Elevated morals and practical godliness have no charms for these deluded souls; and it is almost impossible to bring to bear upon them any influence, either by precept or example, that shall counteract the efforts of Satan to corrupt and ruin their souls. Unless these young men and women are willing to learn, willing to be counseled by those of experience, they will surely be led astray by the wiles of Satan. And unless those who teach them are steadily growing in grace and in a knowledge of the truth, and in real spiritual discernment, they will be in danger, by their example and by advancing erroneous ideas, of unconsciously aiding the enemy in his work, leading souls to regard that as best for them which will bring the least good and be of the least benefit to their souls.
The plans devised and carried out for the education of our youth are none too broad. They should not have a one-sided education, but all their powers should receive equal attention. Moral philosophy, the study of the Scriptures, and physical training should be combined with the studies usually pursued in schools. Every power--physical, mental, and moral-needs to be trained, disciplined, and developed, that it may render its highest service; for unless all are equally developed, one faculty cannot do its work thoroughly without overtaxing some part of the human machinery.
Much has been said and written in regard to the importance of training the mind for its highest service. This has sometimes led to the opinion that if the intellect is educated to put forth its highest powers, it will strengthen the physical and moral nature, for the development of the whole man. Time and experience have proved this to be an error. We have seen men and women go forth as graduates from college who were in no way qualified to make a proper use of the wonderful physical organism with which God had provided them. The whole body is designed for action, not for inaction. If the physical powers are not taxed equally with the mental, too much strain is brought upon the latter. Unless every part of the human machinery performs its allotted tasks, the mental powers cannot be used to their highest capability for any length of time. Natural powers must be governed by natural laws, and the faculties must be educated to work harmoniously and in accord with these laws. The teachers in our schools can disregard none of these particulars without shirking responsibility. Pride may lead them to seek for a high worldly standard of intellectual attainment, that students may make a brilliant show; but when it comes to solid acquirements, --those which are essential to fit men and women for any and every emergency in practical life,--such students are only partially prepared to make life a success. Their defective education often leads to failure in whatever branch of business they undertake.
Gymnasium exercises may in some instances be an advantage. They were brought in to supply the want of useful physical training, and have become popular with educational institutions; but they are not without drawbacks. Unless carefully regulated, they are productive of more harm than good. Some have suffered lifelong physical injury through these gymnasium sports. The manual training connected with our schools, if rightly conducted, will largely take the place of the gymnasium.
Teachers should give far more attention to the physical, mental, and moral influences in our schools. Although the study of the sciences may carry the students to high literary attainments, it does not give a full, perfect education. When special attention is given to the thorough development of every physical and moral power which God has given, then students will not leave our colleges calling themselves educated while they are ignorant of that knowledge which they must have for practical life and for the fullest development of character.
My heart aches as I see these deficiencies; for the result must be loss of health, a lack of care-taking ability, and a want of adaptation to that kind of labor which is most essential to success in life. The newspapers abound in sensational records of frauds and embezzlements, of misery in families, husbands eloping with other men's wives, and wives eloping with other women's husbands--all because these parties were not trained to habits of industry and never learned how to economize time or to employ their faculties in the best way to make a happy home.
Would that I could arouse every teacher in our land on this subject. There is a work for them to do to broaden and elevate their educational work. There is a period of time just before us when the condition of the world will become desperate, when that true religion which yields obedience to a "Thus saith the Lord" will become almost extinct. Our youth should be taught that wicked deeds are not forgotten or overlooked because God does not immediately punish the perpetrators with extreme indignation. God keeps a reckoning with the nations. Through every century of this world's history evil workers have been treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath; and when the time fully comes that iniquity shall have reached the stated boundary of God's mercy, His forbearance will cease. When the accumulated figures in heaven's record books shall mark the sum of transgression complete, wrath will come, unmixed with mercy, and then it will be seen what a tremendous thing it is to have worn out the divine patience. This crisis will be reached when the nations shall unite in making void God's law.
The days will come when the righteous will be stirred to zeal for God because of the abounding iniquity. None but divine power can stay the arrogance of Satan united with evil men; but in the hour of the church's greatest danger most fervent prayer will be offered in her behalf by the faithful remnant, and God will hear and answer at the very time when the guilt of the transgressor has reached its height. He will "avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them." They will be jealous for the honor of God. They will be zealous in prayer, and their faith will grow strong.
There is too little zeal among the students. They should make more earnest efforts. It requires much study to know how to study. Each student must cultivate the habit of industry. He should see that no second-class work comes forth from his hand. He should take to himself the words Paul addressed to Timothy: "Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee."
The duty of old and young must be set forth in simple, positive language because our lot is cast in perilous times when it seems that truth must be overborne by falsehood and satanic delusions. In the time of testing and trial the shield of Omnipotence will be spread over those whom God has made the depositaries of His law. When legislators shall abjure the principles of Protestantism, so as to give countenance and the right hand of fellowship to Romanism, then God will interpose in a special manner in behalf of His own honor and the salvation of His people.
The principles necessary for our youth to cultivate must be kept before them in their daily education, that when the decree shall go forth requiring all to worship the beast and his image, they may make the right decisions, and have strength to declare, without wavering, their confidence in the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, even at the very time when the law of God is made void by the religious world. Those who waver now and are tempted to follow in the wake of apostates who have departed from the faith, "giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils," will surely be found on the side of those who make void the law of God, unless they repent and plant their feet firmly upon the faith once delivered to the saints.
If we are living amid those fearful perils described in the word of God, should we not be awake to the realities of the situation? Why keep so silent? Why make of the least importance the things that are of the greatest interest to every one of us? The Bible should be our dearest treasure and should be earnestly studied and zealously taught to others. How can this marvelous indifference continue upon those who have had light and knowledge?
Prophecy and history should form a part of the studies in our schools, and all who accept positions as educators should prize more and more the revealed will of God. They should, in simplicity, instruct the students. They should unfold the Scriptures and show by their own life and character the preciousness of Bible religion and the beauty of holiness; but never, for one moment, let the impression be left upon anyone that it would be for his profit to hide his faith and doctrines from the unbelieving people of the world, fearing that he might not be so highly honored if his principles were known.
It is no time to be ashamed of our faith. We are 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. At such a time as this, just as the great work of judging the living is to begin, shall we allow unsanctified ambition to take possession of the heart? What can be of any worth to us now except to be found loyal and true to the God of heaven? What is there of any real value in this world when we are on the very borders of the eternal world? What education can we give to the students in our schools that is so necessary as a knowledge of "What saith the Scripture"?
Examples of Heroic Fidelity to God
Joseph, when honored by the Egyptians, did not conceal his loyalty to God.
Elijah, amid the general apostasy, did not seek to hide the fact that he served the God of heaven. Baal's prophets numbered four hundred and fifty, his priests, four hundred, and his worshipers were thousands; yet Elijah did not try to make it appear that he was on the popular side. He grandly stood alone. The mountain was covered with people full of eager expectation. The king came in great pomp, and the idolaters, confident of triumph, shouted his welcome. But God had been greatly dishonored. One man, and only one man, appeared to vindicate the honor of God. With clear, trumpetlike tones Elijah addressed the vast multitude: "How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him." The result was that the Lord God, who ruleth in the heavens, was vindicated, and the Baal worshipers were slain. Where are the Elijahs of today?
Daniel's history is a remarkable one. He carried out his faith and principles against great opposition. He was condemned to death because he would not abate one jot of his allegiance to God even in the face of the king's decree. It might, at this day, be called overrighteousness to go, as was his wont, three times a day and kneel before the open window for prayer while he knew that prying eyes were observing him and that his enemies were ready to accuse him of disloyalty to the king; but Daniel would allow no earthly power to come in between him and his God, even with the prospect of death in the den of lions. Although God did not prevent Daniel from being cast into a den of lions, an angel went in with him and closed their mouths, so that no harm befell him; and in the morning, when the king called him, he responded: "My God hath sent His angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before Him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt." He was a noble, steadfast servant of God.
Nothing is gained by cowardice or by fearing to let it be known that we are God's commandment-keeping people. Hiding our light, as if ashamed of our faith, will result only in disaster. God will leave us to our own weakness. May the Lord forbid that we should refuse to let our light shine forth in any place to which He may call us. If we venture to go forth of ourselves, following our own ideas, our own plans, and leave Jesus behind, we need not expect to gain fortitude, courage, or spiritual strength. God has had moral heroes, and He has them now,--those who are not ashamed of being His peculiar people. Their wills and plans are all subordinate to the law of God. The love of Jesus has led them not to count their lives dear unto themselves. Their work has been to catch the light from the word of God and to let it shine forth in clear, steady rays to the world. "Fidelity to God" is their motto.
An Educated Ministry
The merchant, the carpenter, the farmer, and the lawyer all have to learn their trade or profession. At first, for want of knowledge, they do imperfect work; but as they continue patiently at their vocations they become masters of their several callings. Without close application of mind and heart, and all the powers of the being, the minister will prove a failure. He may be a preacher, but he must also be fitted to act as a pastor. Study must never cease; it must be continued all through the period of his labor, no matter how well qualified for the labor he may think himself to be.
The times demand an intelligent, educated ministry, not novices. False doctrines are being multiplied. The world is becoming educated to a high standard of literary attainment; and sin, unbelief, and infidelity are becoming more bold and defiant, as intellectual knowledge and acuteness are acquired. This state of things calls for the use of every power of the intellect; for it is keen minds, under the control of Satan, that the minister will have to meet. He should be well balanced by religious principles, growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Too much haphazard work has been done, and minds have not been exercised to their fullest capacity. Our ministers will have to defend the truth against base apostates, as well as to measure Scripture evidence with those who advocate specious errors. Truth must be placed in contrast with bold assertions. Our ministers must be men who are wholly consecrated to God, men of no mean culture; but their minds must be all aglow with religious fervor, gathering divine rays of light from heaven and flashing them amid the darkness that covers the earth and the gross darkness that surrounds the people.
Vice and crime, and iniquity of all kinds, are steadily on the increase. The penetrating power of Bible truth must show the contrast between truth and error. A higher grade of preparation is required in order to do good service for the Master. But if the minister leans upon the knowledge he acquires, and does not feel the great necessity of divine enlightenment daily, the education gained is only a stumbling block to sinners. We want the God of all wisdom to be brought into all our labor, into all our experiences; then every iota of knowledge obtained is a power for good and will aid in developing capacity and Christlike earnestness. This is religion.