Christian Education


Chapter 17—Formality, Not Organization, An Evil

Evil does not result because of organization, but because of making organization everything, and vital godliness of little moment. When form and machinery take the pre-eminence, and a laborious task is made of carrying on the work that should be done with simplicity, evil will result, and little will be accomplished in proportion to the effort put forth. The object of organization is just the reverse of this; and should we disorganize, it would be like tearing down that which we have built up. Evil results have been seen, both in the Sabbath-school work and in the missionary society, because of making much of machinery while vital experience was lost sight of. In many of the imagined improvements that have been brought in, the mould of man has been placed upon the work. In the Sabbath-school, men and women have been accepted as officers and teachers, who have not been spiritually minded, and had no live interest in the work committed to their care; but matters can be set in order only through the aid of the Holy Spirit. The same evil has existed for years as now exists in our churches. Formality, pride, and love of display have taken the place of true piety and humble godliness. We might see a different order of things should a number consecrate themselves wholly to God, and then devote their talents to the Sabbath-school work, ever advancing in knowledge, and educating themselves so that they would be able to instruct others as to the best methods to employ in the work; but it is not for the workers to seek for methods by which they can make a show, consuming time in theatrical performances and musical display, for this benefits no one. It does no good to train the children to make speeches for special occasions. They should be won to Christ, and instead of expending time, money, and effort to make a display, let the whole effort be made to gather sheaves for the harvest. CE 134.1

Many have seemed to think that all that was essential in Sabbath-school work was to organize the school, and drill the scholars so that they would act in harmony with a set of ceremonies and forms; and that if persons could be secured as teachers, the Sabbath-school would run itself. Teachers are often secured who cannot lead souls to Christ because they know not what it is to find him precious to their own souls; but all those who do not value the soul so that they will work as Christ would have them, will scatter away from Christ. “He that [mark these words] gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad.” [Matthew 12:30.] If teachers have no burden to lead souls to Jesus, they will grow indifferent to the truth; they will become careless, and the atmosphere with which they surround their souls will work to scatter away from Christ. And with such elements in the Sabbath-school, there will be a perpetual conflict with difficulties; for when the teachers engage in the work and have no interest in it, the pupils will partake of the same spirit. CE 135.1

But although these difficulties exist, will it abolish them to put an end to organization? I am sure that the Lord has wrought in the organization that has been perfected, and the fact that there are discouraging features in the work should not be thought a sufficient reason for disorganization. Much light was given to us in reference to the organization of churches, and yet we had a hard battle to fight in perfecting organization; but the victory was gained at last, and now shall the church be disorganized because of indifference, formality, and pride? Shall we go back to disorder because unconsecrated members of the church have placed upon the work the mould of man, and sought to fashion the church to meet a popular standard? CE 135.2

It is true that the simplicity of true godliness has to a large degree been lost from the church, and many of those who profess to be followers of Christ have become so blinded that they think that gain is godliness, and they devote their powers to the things of time. They do not realize that all their intellectual ability has been purchased by Christ, and that they should devote to him the best results of their thought, that his cause may be advanced. But instead of giving their sharp, clear ideas to advance the cause, to strengthen and bless the church, they devote all their powers to the advancement of their own interests. They do not gather with Christ, but lead away from him by their words and acts. They surround their souls with an atmosphere that is deleterious to spirituality. They profess to be followers of Christ, but they do not know him by an experimental knowledge. They do not practice religion. They do not seek to be Christians in the same way in which they would learn a trade. They profess to believe advanced truth; but it is evident that they keep it in the outer court; for it has no sanctifying power on life and character. They do not realize how much is at stake; for the salvation of their own souls and that of others is imperiled. They do not realize that in order to be a savor of life into life they must be under spiritual discipline and training, learning in the school of Christ. Without this spiritual discipline, they become inefficient, ignorant, and undeveloped, and see no necessity for the spiritual training and knowledge which would qualify them to hold positions of influence and usefulness. If they do not consecrate themselves wholly to God, becoming learners in his school, they will do hap-hazard work that will result in injury to the church. CE 136.1

But because of these unconsecrated influences, shall we take backward steps, and tear down those methods which it has cost us much to build, and declare that organization is all a mistake? We dare not do this. There are many things that need adjusting; for some things of little importance are made much of, while other things of vast importance are neglected, and looked upon as unessential. The minds of men need literary as well as spiritual training that they may be harmoniously developed; for without literary training, men cannot fill acceptably various positions of trust. CE 136.2

The great educating book is the Bible, and yet it is little read or practiced. O that every individual would seek to make of himself all that he could, improving his opportunities to the very best of his ability, purposing to use every power which God has given him, not simply to advance his temporal affairs, but to advance his spiritual interests. O that all might search diligently to know what is truth, to study earnestly that they might have correct language and cultivated voices, that they might present the truth in all its elevated and ennobling beauty. Let no one imagine that he will drift into some position of usefulness. If men would be used to work for God, let them put to the stretch their powers, and concentrate their minds in earnest application. It is Satan that would keep men in ignorance and inefficiency, that they may be developed in a one-sided way which they may never be able to correct. He would have men exercise one set of faculties to the exclusion of the exercise of another set, so that the mind will lose its vigor, and when there is a real necessity, be unable to rise to the emergency. God wants men to do their best, and while Satan is pulling the mind in one direction, Jesus is drawing it in another. CE 137.1

When the truth is received into the heart, it begins the work of refining and sanctifying the receiver. He who cherishes the truth, will not feel that he has no more need of enlightenment, but will realize as he carries out the truth in his practical life, that he is in need of continual light that he may increase in knowledge. As he brings the truth into his life, he will feel his real ignorance, and realize the necessity of having a more thorough education, that he may understand how to use his ability to the best account. CE 137.2

There is a dearth of educated ability among us, and we have not men who are sufficiently trained to do justice to the work of managing our Sabbath-schools and churches. Many who know the truth, still do not understand it in such a way that they could hold their own in its presentation. They are not prepared to present it in such a way that its sacred, majestic character will be clear to the people. Instead of less discipline, they need more thorough training. It is impossible for any one to foresee to what he may be called. He may be placed in situations where he will need quick discernment and well-balanced arguments, and therefore it is for the honor of Christ that well educated workers should be multiplied among us; they will be better able to communicate the truth in a clear, intelligent way, and the truth should be presented in a way that will be as free as possible from defects. CE 138.1

True education, when the mind is under the controlling influence of the Holy Spirit, is of great importance, and each individual should learn to rightly appreciate the capabilities that God has given; and by the practice of the knowledge he gains, he may, by the influence of his own character, impress upon others the value of obtaining a training for the service of Christ, and lead them to follow his example. There is much to be done in the world, and it is not profitable to set novices to work upon those matters that are of the highest importance. The apathy, the indolence, the inattention that has been manifested in regard to education is marvelous; but it is well pleasing to Satan. God would have us arouse from our indifference, and no longer allow the intellectual powers to run to waste, and degenerate into imbecility. Men are to appreciate the talents entrusted to them, and take advantage of the opportunities placed within their reach. Let the mental powers be girded for work, and by vigorous exertion let the mind be enlarged and developed. CE 138.2

There is more need now than ever before that our young men and women shall be intellectually qualified for the work. Our Sabbath-schools not only need intellectual, but spiritual workers, and the mind receives its tone and efficiency by thorough discipline. By superficial study, the mind gradually loses its tone, and degenerates into imbecility, and is not capable of any taxing effort. But education prepares men to know and to do the very line of work that must at this time be done. Thorough discipline, under a wise teacher, is of more value than the natural aptitude and endowment, where there is no discipline. CE 139.1

The Lord has made manifest his appreciation of man, in that he gave his only begotten Son to redeem him. Satan has also manifested his appreciation of well trained and sanctified ability, by the ingenious methods by which he seeks to divert the mind and heart of such an one from the service of God, that he may lead him to join in the ranks of apostasy. Like an angel of light, he comes with his insinuations to draw men into his service; for he knows that an educated man or woman, when not under the control of the Spirit of God, can be of great advantage to him. He will pursue the student with specious temptations, seeking to induce him to take pride in his attainments, and to imagine that he is some great one, that he may trust in himself, and walk in the sparks of his own kindling. Thus he is led to separate his soul from God, the source of all light and knowledge, and, in order that he may exalt himself, unite with Satan, the originator of all sin. CE 139.2

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom; and when God is not depended upon, the result of education is only to elevate ungodliness. The reason that the church is weak and inefficient is that there is a want of the grace of Christ among those who profess the truth for these last days. If the Lord has ever spoken by me, there is sin of almost every character cherished by many who claim to be children of God; and unless they separate themselves from Satan and cling to Jesus our righteousness, the woe of God will be upon those who have had great light, and yet have chosen to walk in darkness. “Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chorazin; Woe unto thee, Bethsaida; for if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee.” [Matthew 11:20-25.] CE 140.1

It is a fearful thing to have great light and blessing, to have many opportunities and privileges, and yet make no saving use of them. Those who do not make a saving use of their opportunities, will be condemned by the privileges God has granted to them; but those who walk in the light will have increased light. Those who have had the light of truth, and yet have failed to walk in the light, are under the same sentence of condemnation as were Chorazin and Bethsaida. Shall not these warnings be heeded? Shall not these admonitions have weight with us? In the near future it will be seen just who have been walking humbly with God, and who have been obeying his orders. Those who have been walking in the sparks of their own kindling will lie down in sorrow. It will be seen that they have made a terrible mistake. O let us awake! light is now shining; let the windows of the mind and heart be open to welcome the heaven-sent rays. Shall Jesus say of those who profess to obey the truth, and yet who fail to walk in its light, “In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them”? [Matthew 13:14, 15.]—MS. CE 140.2