Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 18

408/524

Ms 91, 1903

Talk/Self-Improvement

Healdsburg, California

August 20, 1903

This manuscript is published in entirety in 2SAT 238-248. +Note

Address given at the Teachers’ Institute, College Chapel, Healdsburg, California, Thursday morning, August 20, 1903. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 1

I have been thinking much in regard to what the Word of God is to us. As we read this Word, we are to remember that God is speaking to us and teaching us. Take, for instance, the book of Revelation. We all know that there are many who regard this Scripture as a closed book, because they cannot understand it; and yet it is a revelation that Christ has given in order to enlighten our understanding. In the very first verses the character and object of the book are brought to view. It is “the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” [Revelation 1:1-3.] 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 2

All through His Word, God has given us much instruction, and we should always be in a proper frame of mind to receive it. In the twelfth of Romans we read: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” [Verses 1, 2.] 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 3

Every youth of common sense and ordinary capability can constantly improve the mind that God has given him. Until I was seventeen years old, I could not understand the Scriptures; but my experience was a peculiar one. God was teaching me lessons, and He desired me to give my whole attention to these matters for a time, before He opened the Scriptures to my understanding. After I realized that I could not understand His Word, I would lie awake at night, thinking over the matter; and often I would get up and bow before God, to plead with Him to give me understanding. It was some time before my prayer was answered; and when at last it was, it seemed to me as if there shone a beautiful light around every passage relating to our Christian experience, and that this light entered into every fiber of my being. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 4

Some may ask, Why could you not understand the Bible before? It was because our brethren and sisters, immediately after the passing of the time in 1844, were searching diligently for the truth. They would meet together and talk and talk and talk, and it seemed as if they could never come to right conclusions in regard to the teachings of the Word. I would meet with them, and we would study and pray together; for we felt as if we must learn what God’s truth was. Often we remained together until late at night, and sometimes through the entire night, praying for light and studying the Word. All could see that my mind was locked, as it were, and that I could not understand what we were studying. Then the Spirit of God would come upon me, and I would be taken off in vision and be shown the meaning of the passages that we had been studying and the position we were to take. A line of truth extending from that time to the time when we shall enter the city of our God was plainly marked out before me, and I gave to my brethren and sisters the instruction God had given to me. They knew that I had not been able to understand these matters, and so they were ready to accept as light coming direct from heaven the revelations given me. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 5

For about two years I continued in this way, when, as I was praying, the precious promises and the words of instruction given us in the Scriptures were laid open before me and the meaning of these words made clear. I knew that my mind had been unlocked by the Lord. From that time to this the Scriptures have been an open book to me. I can understand what I read. God accomplished His purpose through this experience of mine, and ever since that time our people have cherished and maintained the positions that were taken then. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 6

Students, it is not with you as it was with me. God had a special work for me to do: therefore I had to pass through the humiliating experience of believing that we had the truth, and yet of being unable to understand and explain it. But you may gain an understanding of the Word without passing through such an experience. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 7

In Australia many of our young people have not had the advantages that most of our young people in America have had. There our brethren and sisters accepted the message a comparatively short time ago. They were not taught the truth in their youth and so have had everything to learn. While we were living at Cooranbong, where the Avondale School is located, the question of amusements came up. “What shall we do to provide for the amusement of our students?” the faculty inquired. We talked matters over together, and then I came before the students, and said: “Dear friends, we can occupy our minds profitably without trying to devise methods for amusing ourselves. Instead of spending our time in playing the games that so many students play, let us strive to do something for the Master. We have decided that the best course you can pursue is to do missionary work in the neighborhood. When you are listening to a discourse, take notes, and mark down the passages that the minister uses, so that you can study the subject carefully yourselves. Thus you will be able to prepare for giving a synopsis of the discourse, in the form of a Bible reading, to those who do not come to our meetings.” 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 8

The students decided to follow this suggestion. They had evening meetings for studying the Scriptures together. They worked for one another, and as the result of these Bible studies among themselves, quite a large number of the students were converted to the truth. And the effort resulted in good not only to themselves, but to those for whom they labored in the neighborhood. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 9

Those who went out were instructed to report to us any cases of sickness that they might find. Those who had had some training in giving treatment to the sick were encouraged to use their knowledge in a practical way by helping those who needed help. To work for the Master, I told them, was to engage in the most Christlike amusement in which they could engage. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 10

The Sunday-labor question came up for decision. It seemed as if the lines were soon to be drawn so tightly about us that we should not be able to work during Sunday. Our school was situated in the heart of the woods, far from any village or railway station. No one was living near enough to us to be disturbed in any way by anything we might do. Nevertheless, we were watched. The officers were urged to come around to inspect our premises; and they did come. They could have seen many things; if they had desired to prosecute us; but they did not appear to notice those who were at work. They had so much confidence in us as a people, and so great a respect for us on account of the work we had done in that community, that they believed they could trust us anywhere. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 11

Many recognized the fact that the whole community had been transformed since we went there. A woman who was not a believer, but who had almost accepted the truth before some churchman filled her mind with prejudice against our views, said to me, “You would not believe me, if I could inform you fully in regard to the transformation that has taken place in this community as the result of your moving here, establishing a school, and holding these little meetings.” 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 12

So when our brethren were threatened with persecution and thrown into perplexity in regard to what they should do, the same advice was given as was given in answer to the question concerning games. I said, “Employ Sunday in doing missionary work for God. Teachers, go with your students. Take them into the bush (this is what we called the sparsely-settled districts in the woods, where houses are often a mile or two apart), and visit the people in their homes. Let them know that you are interested in their souls’ salvation.” They did so, and, as the result, were greatly benefited themselves and were able to help others as well. The blessing of God rested upon them as they diligently searched the Scriptures in order to learn how to present the truths of the Word in such a way that these truths would be received with favor. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 13

In the Scriptures we read that to every man God has given his work. What does this mean?—It means that every one of us has a work to do. All do not have the same work, but all are to act their part in the service of God. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 14

Why do we need a Matthew, a Mark, a Luke, a John, a Paul, and all these other writers who have borne their testimony in regard to the life of the Saviour during His earthly ministry? Why could not one of the disciples have written a complete record, and thus have given us a connected account of Christ’s life and work? The Gospels differ. One writer brings in points that another does not bring in. If these points are essential, why did not all these writers mention them? It is because the minds of men differ and do not comprehend all things in exactly the same way. Some Scripture truths appeal much more strongly to the minds of certain persons than to others; some points appear to be much more important to some than to others. The same principle applies to speakers. Some speakers dwell at considerable length on points that others would pass by quickly or not mention at all. Thus the whole truth is presented more clearly by several than by one. In the Gospels the records blend in one harmonious whole. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 15

God desires us to move as He directs our minds, and not as some human mind directs us. We should preserve our identity sacred before God, and center our thoughts, not on any human being, but on Christ Jesus. We are members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 16

Students, as you attend school, make it your business to grow in intellect. Realize that it is your privilege so to act that your minds will develop and strengthen from day to day. If you consecrate yourselves to God, your minds will work under the direction of the Holy Spirit. But you must allow no trivial matters to interfere with this work. Concentrate your minds on what you are doing. Pray, pray to God, and He will open your understanding. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 17

The Work of Union Conference Training Schools

All our denominational colleges and training schools should make provision to give their students the education essential for evangelists and for Christian business men. The youth and those more advanced in years, who feel it their duty to fit themselves for work requiring the passing of certain legal tests, should be able to secure at our Union Conference training schools all that is essential without having to go to Battle Creek for their preparatory education. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 18

Prayer will accomplish wonders for those who give themselves to prayer, watching thereunto. God desires us all to be in a waiting, hopeful position. What He has promised, He will do; and if there are legal requirements making it necessary that medical students shall take a certain preparatory course of study, let our colleges teach the required additional studies in a manner consistent with Christian education. The Lord has signified His displeasure that so many of our people are drifting into Battle Creek; and since He does not want so many to go there, we should understand that He wants our schools in other places to have efficient teachers and to do well the work that must be done. They should arrange to carry their students to the point of literary and scientific training that is necessary. Many of these requirements have been made because so much of the preparatory work done in ordinary schools is superficial. Let all our work be thorough, faithful, and true. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 19

In our training schools, the Bible is to be made the basis of all education. And in the required studies, it is not necessary for our teachers to bring in the objectionable books that the Lord has instructed us not to use in our schools. From the light that the Lord has given me, I know that our training schools in various parts of the field should be placed in the most favorable position possible for qualifying our youth to meet the tests specified by state laws regarding medical students. To this end the very best teaching talent should be secured, that our schools may be brought up to the required standard. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 20

But let not the young men and young women in our churches be advised to go to Battle Creek in order to obtain a preparatory education. There is a congested state of things at Battle Creek that makes it an unfavorable place for the proper education of Christian workers. Because the warnings in regard to the work in that congested center have not been heeded, the Lord permitted two of our institutions to be consumed by fire. Even after this revealing of His signal displeasure, His warnings were not heeded. The Sanitarium is still there. If it had been divided into several plants, and its work and influence given to several different places, how much more God would have been glorified! But now that the Sanitarium has been rebuilt, we must do our very best to help those who are there struggling with many difficulties. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 21

Let me repeat: It is not necessary for so many of our youth to study medicine. But for those who should take medical studies our Union Conference training schools should make ample provision in facilities for preparatory education. Thus the youth of each Union Conference can be trained nearer home and be spared the special temptations that attend the work in Battle Creek. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 22

The Importance of the So-Called “Common Branches”

I was talking with one of the teachers of our school at Fernando, in Southern California; and he told me that some had come to this school with diplomas showing that they had taken some of the higher studies in other schools. “Did you examine every such student,” I inquired, “to find out whether he had received proper instruction in those branches?” “Why,” said the teacher, “we could give the students no credit for the work done in the past, as represented by the diplomas. Their training even in the common branches had been very defective.” 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 23

And thus it is in many instances. Not a few who study the classics and other higher branches of learning, and who reach certain standards, finally fail. And why?—Because they have neglected to do thorough work in the common branches. They have never obtained a good knowledge of the English language. They have not learned to read and spell and speak correctly. Those who ask to be allowed to take the higher branches should first be examined in these elementary branches, which are of greatest importance. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 24

One of the most important qualifications of a teacher is the ability to speak and to read distinctly and forcibly. I have been instructed that the so-called common branches are of more importance than the higher branches required by law. He who has the ability to use the English language fluently and correctly can exert a far greater influence than he could if he were unable to express his thoughts readily and clearly. There are many who cannot carry on school work successfully, because they are not qualified to do such work. Some will never be able to do acceptable work in this line, because they have not the gift of teaching. Their talents fit them for some other line of service. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 25

One of the fundamental branches of learning is language study. In all our schools special care should be taken to teach the students to use the English language correctly in speaking, reading, and writing. Too much cannot be said in regard to the importance of these branches. Voice culture should be taught in the reading classes, and in the other classes the teachers should insist that their students speak distinctly and use words which express their thoughts clearly and forcibly. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 26

Let the students understand that God has given to every one of us a wonderful mechanism—the human body—which we are to use to glorify Him. The powers of the body are constantly working in our behalf, and if we choose, we may bring them under control. Students should be taught to use their abdominal muscles in breathing and speaking. This will make the tones more full and clear. It is of greatest importance that we keep the bodily mechanism in good condition, in order that we may be able to impart to others that which we have learned. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 27

Let all guard themselves against becoming disturbed in spirit because they have to be drilled in these common branches. Students, remember that you yourselves will be educators of others. Strive constantly to improve in voice culture and in the ability to speak distinctly. Even ministers often fail in this respect. Not a few lower the voice at the end of sentences and utter the last syllable or two so indistinctly that they cannot be heard. Such ministers almost invariably fail in any missionary effort they undertake. They cannot bring souls to Christ, because the latter part of their work is defective, just as their expression is defective at the close of sentences. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 28

If words are worth speaking at all, they are worth speaking properly. Let the words be uttered in full, distinct tones. If voice culture were unimportant, it would not be so necessary for our youth to attend school. They could study at home. But of what use would their knowledge be, if they had not the ability to impart it understandingly to others? 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 29

When I was only about eleven years old, I heard a minister read the account of Peter’s imprisonment, as recorded in the book of Acts; and he read in so impressive a manner that the details of the story in all their reality seemed to be passing before my eyes. So deep was the impression made upon my mind that I have never forgotten it. When, a few years afterward, I was speaking in general meetings, I met this man again, and at the close of my discourse he asked, “How did you get that wonderful voice?” I told him that the Lord had given it to me. When I began my public labors, I had no voice, except when I stood before the congregations to speak. At other times I could not speak above a whisper. “And,” I added, “I have often thought of what you said to the people when someone asked you how you became a minister. You told them that your friends said you could never be a minister, because you could not speak properly; but that you went away by yourself and talked to the trees in the woods; and then when driving the oxen, you would talk to them just as if you were in meeting. ‘This,’ you said, ‘is the way I learned to speak in public.’” 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 30

Elder Andrews, our first missionary to Europe, was a self-educated man. I do not think he was in school a day after he was eleven years old. He almost always kept in his pocket a book treating on some language that he desired to understand, or on some historical or scientific subject; and as he went about his daily work, he would keep referring to this book. Whenever he had a little spare time, he would take out the book and improve his leisure moments by studying. At one time, when in feeble health, he went to Waukon, Iowa, to labor in the open air, hoping thereby to benefit his lungs and regain his health. He would go into the field with his oxen, and as he drove them, he would refer to his book and read a few words or sentences and then repeat these in full, loud tones in order to exercise his lungs as well as to impress the words and sentences upon his memory. Thus he improved his opportunities and became one of our most valued laborers. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 31

I could speak of several others who obtained an education by their own efforts. By keeping a book before them as they toiled from day to day, and by diligently improving all their spare time, many have gained knowledge that fitted them to be useful laborers in the Master’s service. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 32

Every one of us, if we will, can be successful. Brethren and sisters, whatever your calling may be, whatever opportunities you may have had, you can be successful in your work. But before attempting to study the higher branches of literary knowledge, be sure that you thoroughly understand the simple rules of English grammar and that you have learned to read and write and spell correctly. Ascend the lower rounds of the ladder before reaching for the higher rounds. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 33

Great improvement can be made in singing. Some think that the louder they sing, the more music they make; but noise is not music. Good singing is like the music of the birds—subdued and melodious. In some of our churches I have heard solos that were altogether unsuitable for the service of the Lord’s house. The long-drawn-out notes, and the peculiar sounds common in operatic singing, are not pleasing to the angels. They delight to hear the simple songs of praise sung in a natural tone. The songs in which every word is uttered clearly, in a musical tone, are the songs that they join us in singing. They take up the refrain that is sung from the heart with the spirit and the understanding. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 34

Students, try to make the most of yourselves. Christ has paid an infinite price for you, and you cannot afford to disappoint Him by neglecting to avail yourselves of the opportunities for self-improvement presented to you. Cultivate a spirit that is calm, kind, gentle, tender. By doing this you can learn so much the more rapidly, because you are not troubled over something that somebody has said in regard to you. When we come into a position where we can help one another, we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that we have done our best. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 35

The Healdsburg School

It is important that in our school in Healdsburg all the instruction shall be as thorough as it is in any similar school. If the laws of the land require that youth preparing for a medical course shall study some branches which you do not now teach, you should provide instruction in these required branches. Which is worse—to send our youth to Battle Creek to gain this required knowledge, or to give it to them in our schools in the various Union Conference where they are living? If it is right for this instruction to be given, we are to provide facilities for giving it in every training school in our land. Thus we shall be able to avoid the necessity of sending our youth to Battle Creek, or, as has been done in the past, to some worldly institution—to Ann Arbor or some other school of the world. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 36

A High Standard

Again there has been brought to my mind the instruction given years ago in reference to the great amount of trash that was brought into our schools—things that really unfitted many of our youth for usefulness as Christian teachers and workers. All our schools must be Christian schools; the education given must be based on the Word of God. Both teachers and students are daily to consider how much Christ has sacrificed in order to save them; and they are to ponder the instruction that He gave to His disciples just before He left them. “All power,” He declared, “is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” [Matthew 28:18-20.] These things we shall be able to find in His Word. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 37

We are not to search after oddities or after things that are not revealed. Some have asked me in regard to things that are in the heavenly courts. I have always sent them to the Bible to search out those things that God has commanded them to observe. Paul received revelation after revelation, but in no instance did he satisfy the curiosity of men by relating what he saw in the heavenly courts. He wrote that he “was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” [2 Corinthians 12:4.] Many things cannot be described so that they will make a correct impression upon minds befogged by sin. A wrong use would be made of such knowledge. The things that God has commanded us to study are the things that we are to teach and to live. To those who fashion their daily conduct in accordance with these teachings, Christ gives the promise, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” [Matthew 28:20.] 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 38

Students, never rest satisfied with a low standard. In attending school be sure that you have in view a noble, holy object. Go because you desire to fit yourselves for service in some portion of the Master’s vineyard. Do all that you can to attain this object. You can do more for yourselves than any one else can do for you. And if you do all that you can for yourselves, what a burden you will lift from the principal and the teachers! 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 39

To every student I would say: Remember that you are under the rule of God. He has given you opportunity to train yourself for usefulness in His cause. He has given you good teachers, and a principal in whom you have confidence. Be careful not to load down these faithful workers with unimportant details that you should attend to yourself. Give special attention to the little things of every-day school life. All these have to do with the formation of character. You may form a character that will make you useful in this world, or you may form one that will make you of no benefit to your fellow men. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 40

Let every student gain a rich experience in having his life hid with Christ in God. Let every one perfect a Christian character. Remember always that the holy angels are watching over you, and that when the day is completed, you have either lived to the glory of God or else you have been defective and have detracted from His glory. When tempted, resist the enemy. Realize constantly that you are receiving to impart; that you are consumers in order that you may become producers. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 41

I have a decided interest in every school in our land; and I greatly desire that the work which should be done in all these schools shall not be centered in one place that is already congested. Every school is to have the best teachers that can be obtained so that the work done will be thorough. Both teachers and students are to rise as high as they can in and through Christ. The religion of Jesus Christ lies at the foundation of all true education. 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 42

By receiving to impart, we shall become laborers together with God. Then He will work in and through us according to His good pleasure. Students, if you realize that you are to be laborers together with Him, you will not stoop to frivolity; all your work will be done thoroughly and conscientiously. You are standing on a high platform: you are God’s husbandry, God’s building; and therefore you are to bring into your character building no rotten timbers or other imperfect material. All things are open to Him with whom we have to do. Let us so conduct ourselves that at last it may be said of us, “Ye are complete in Him.” [Colossians 2:10.] 18LtMs, Ms 91, 1903, par. 43