Manuscript Releases, vol. 19 [Nos. 1360-1419]


MR No. 1406—Counsel on the Importance of Making Every Aspect of the Sabbath School, Including Enactments, Count for Eternity

(Written December 26, 1888, from Battle Creek, Michigan, to “Dear Brother Morse.”)

I have risen at three o'clock this morning to write you a few lines. [This letter refers to a dramatized Christmas program put on by the Battle Creek Sabbath school. The children wore costumes. Ella White, Mrs. White's six-year-old granddaughter, was in the program, dressed to represent an angel.] I was pleased with the lighthouse, and the scene which had required so much painstaking effort was one which could have been made most impressive, but [it] failed to be made as forcible and striking as it might have been when it cost so much time and labor in preparing it. The part acted by the children was good. The reading was appropriate. Then if there had been good solid talk on that occasion in regard to children and teachers in the Sabbath schools laboring earnestly for the salvation of the souls of the children under your charge, presenting the most acceptable offering to Jesus, the gift of their own hearts, and impressive remarks, short and right to the point, [on] how they could do this, would it not have been in keeping with the work we have been trying to do in the church? 19MR 300.1

Every stroke now should be in harmony for the one great purpose, preparing of the hearts, that individually, pupils and teachers should be as a light set on a candlestick that it may give light to all that are in the house, which would be carrying out the idea strikingly of a lighthouse guiding souls that they may not make shipwreck of faith. Can you tell me what marked impression the two poems rehearsed by the two ladies on the stand would have to do with this work? 19MR 300.2

The singing was after the order we would expect it to be in any theatrical performance, but not one word to be distinguished. Certainly the tempest-tossed ship would be wrecked upon the rocks if there were no more light coming from the lighthouse than was seen in the exercises. I must say I was pained at these things, so out of order with the very work of reformation we were trying to carry forward in the church and with our institutions, that I should have felt better if I had not been present. This was an occasion that should have been gotten up not only for the Sabbath school children, but words should have been spoken that would have deepened the impression of a necessity of seeking for the favor of that Saviour who loved them and gave Himself for them. If only the precious hymns had been sung, “Rock of ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee,” and “Jesus lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly, while the billows near me roll, while the tempest still is high.” Whose souls were inspired with new and fresh zeal for the Master in those songs sung whose virtue was in the different performances of the singer? 19MR 301.1

While these painstaking efforts were being made to get up the performances, meetings were being held of the deepest interest which should have engaged the attention, and which called for the presence of every soul lest they should lose something of the message the Master had sent to them. Now this Christmas has passed into eternity with its burden of record, and we are anxious to see the result of it. Will it make those who acted their part in it more spiritually minded? Will it increase their sense of obligation to our heavenly Father who sent His Son into the world at such an infinite sacrifice to save fallen man from utter ruin? Was the mind awakened to grasp God because of His great love wherewith He has loved us? 19MR 301.2

We hope, now that the Christmas is in the past, that those who have put forth so much painstaking effort will now manifest a decided zeal and earnest, disinterested effort for the salvation of the souls of the teachers in the Sabbath school, that in their turn they may each labor for the salvation of the souls in their classes, to give them personal instruction as to what they must do to be saved. We hope that they will find time to labor in simplicity and in sincerity for the souls of those under their care, and that they will pray with them, and for them, that they may give to Jesus the precious offering of their own souls, that they may make literally true the symbol of the lighthouse in the beams of light shining forth from their own strong efforts in the name of Jesus, which should be put forth in love, they themselves grasping the rays of light to diffuse this light to others, and that there shall be no settling down to a surface work. 19MR 302.1

Show just as great skill and aptitude in winning souls to Jesus as you have shown in painstaking effort for this occasion just past. Point them in your efforts, with heart and soul enlisted, to the Star that shines out to the morally darkened heaven at this time, even the Light of the world. Let your light shine that the tempest-tossed souls may set their eyes upon it and escape the rocks that are concealed beneath the surface of the water. Temptations are lying in wait to deceive them; souls are oppressed with guilt, ready to sink into despair. Labor to save them; point them to Jesus who so loved them that He gave His life for them. 19MR 302.2

Repeat to them the precious assurance which God Himself has given to them: I am “The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6, 7). What a precious declaration is this! What can be too hard for Him, what sin too great for Him to pardon? He is gracious, not working according to our merit, but in His boundless goodness healing our backslidings, forgiving our iniquities, and loving us freely while we were yet sinners. 19MR 302.3

The Light of the world is shining upon us that we might absorb the divine rays and let this light shine upon others in good works, that many souls shall be led to glorify our Father which is in heaven. He is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, and it grieves the heart of Jesus that so many refuse the offers of His mercy and matchless love. 19MR 303.1

Will all who acted an interested part in the program of last evening work as zealously and interestedly to show themselves approved unto God in doing their work for the Master, that they may show themselves intelligent workmen that need not to be ashamed? Oh, let the teachers in the Sabbath school be thoroughly imbued with the spirit of the message for this time, carrying that message into all their labor. There are souls to be saved, and while in the Sabbath school work there has been much form and great amount of precious time occupied in reading of reports and records, there has been but little time to really let light shine forth in clear, steady rays in the very instruction needed to save the souls of the children and youth. Less elaborate speeches, less lengthy remarks, and plain, pointed truth presented, not one word uttered to exhibit profound knowledge, not one word in any speech, but the greatest evidence of real knowledge is the great simplicity. 19MR 303.2

All who have taken knowledge of Jesus Christ will imitate Him in their manner of instruction. They will not have hard words, difficult to understand, but will aim to do no surface work, be short in every address, and not labor to exhibit themselves but to come directly to the point to inculcate ideas which are of value, and every word used should be so plain that the children need not go home and get a dictionary and search out the meaning of the words used by teachers and superintendents. The strength of the educator is in being understood, that he shall not need an interpreter. The less there is of machinery and forms that are really not necessary, the better it will be for the school. 19MR 304.1

Imitate the great Teacher, give lessons that are clear and plain, not complicated, not buried up with a mass of words. Few words spoken plainly, clearly, presented in humility and the meekness of Christ will reach hearts, while the many words cannot be retained and are as a lot of waste paper thrown into a wastebasket, to be lost as rubbish. Few words, distinct and simple, will accomplish far more that a multitude of words which confuse the mind and will not interest, so that nothing stands out clear and forcible. 19MR 304.2

Our Sabbath schools should not be molded to become mechanical, but all teachers and superintendents should look upon them as the Lord's school where souls are to be instructed how to become Christians, that while the awful guilt and grievous character of sin shall be urged home upon the soul, at the same time the mercy and compassion of God should be clearly presented in Christ giving His life for the sins of the world, thus revealing a love that is measureless. 19MR 304.3

Jesus must be presented in simplicity to the children as a sin-pardoning Saviour offering within the veil the blood of His atonement, and while Jesus is pleading in their behalf, now, just now, while Jesus is making an offering for sin, ask Him to forgive and pardon your sins, to remove your transgressions. 19MR 304.4

Thus educate the children and youth to pray, teach the children how to repent. The time taken up in so large a school in reading reports ought to be occupied every moment in the very best kind of solid instruction. Lead out the minds by making interesting remarks. Tell them to seek God, and make the service of Christ full of attraction, tell them it is in vain to think they can make themselves better and promise to amend, for this will not remove one spot or stain of sin but impress upon their minds that they must not only repent and forsake sin, but the way to obtain a sense of sin and true repentance is to cast themselves just as they are upon the declared mercy and revealed love of God. This would not be presumption, for every ray of light comes to them from the throne of God. It is the duty of teachers and ministers to guard against ideas that lead to presumption and confidence that cannot be sustained by the Word of God, to feel safe for eternity when they are not safe. 19MR 305.1

It is the duty to rouse the soul to a sense of its privileges, and God expects corresponding returns in faithful service to Him. The soul is not to be always shrouded in clouds of doubts, but they are to make their calling and election sure. The Scripture makes the marks of true religion clear and decided if we will apply the close test Christ has given. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” The rewards of eternity, though purchased by Christ, shall be rigidly proportioned to their works. There must be no listlessness, no drifting with circumstances, with a feeling of security. There must be faith and hope and patience and longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, goodness, and mercy enlisted.—Letter 5, 1888. 19MR 305.2

Ellen G. White Estate

Washington, D. C.,

July 7, 1988.

Entire Letter.