The Signs of the Times


June 22, 1882

The Schools of the Prophets


The institutions of human society find their best models in the word of God. For those of instruction in particular, there is no lack of both precept and example. Lessons of great profit, even in this age of educational progress, may be found in the history of God's ancient people. ST June 22, 1882, par. 1

The Lord reserved to himself the education and instruction of Israel. His care was not restricted to their religious interests. Whatever affected their mental or physical well-being, became also an object of divine solicitude, and came within the province of divine law. ST June 22, 1882, par. 2

God commanded the Hebrews to teach their children his requirements, and to make them acquainted with all his dealings with their people. The home and the school were one. In the place of stranger lips the loving hearts of the father and mother were to give instruction to their children. Thoughts of God were associated with all the events of daily life in the home dwelling. The mighty works of God in the deliverance of his people were recounted with eloquence and reverential awe. The great truths of God's providence, and of the future life, were impressed on the young mind. It became acquainted with the true, the good, the beautiful. ST June 22, 1882, par. 3

By the use of figures and symbols, the lessons given were illustrated, and thus more firmly fixed in the memory. Through this animated imagery the child was, almost from infancy, initiated into the mysteries, the wisdom, and the hopes of his fathers, and guided in a way of thinking and feeling and anticipating, that reached beyond things seen and transitory, to the unseen and eternal. ST June 22, 1882, par. 4

From this education many a youth of Israel came forth vigorous in body and in mind, quick to perceive and strong to act, the heart prepared like good ground for the growth of the precious seed, the mind trained to see God in the words of revelation and the scenes of nature. The stars of heaven, the trees and flowers of the field, the lofty mountains, the babbling brooks, all spoke to him, and the voices of the prophets, heard throughout the land, met a response in his heart. ST June 22, 1882, par. 5

Such was the training of Moses in that lowly cabin home in Goshen; of Samuel, by the faithful Hannah; of David, in the hill- dwelling at Bethlehem; of Daniel, before the scenes of the captivity separated him from the home of his fathers. Such, too, was the early life of Christ, in the humble home at Nazareth; such the training by which the child Timothy learned from the lips of his “mother Eunice, and his grandmother Lois,” the truths of the Holy Writ. ST June 22, 1882, par. 6

Further provision was made for the instruction of the young, by the establishment of the “school of the prophets.” If a youth was eager to obtain a better knowledge of the Scriptures, to search deeper into the mysteries of the kingdom of God, and to seek wisdom from above, that he might become a teacher in Israel, this school was open to him. ST June 22, 1882, par. 7

These institutions were missionary seminaries, designed to maintain a higher standard of morals and religion at a period when the deplorable condition of degeneracy and corruption called loudly for such reformatory effort. The aged Eli had dishonored the Lord by his neglect to restrain and control his children. These degenerate sons called license liberty, and under the cover of their holy office practiced the most debasing sins. The character of these men as leaders of the nation, indicates clearly the state of things existing at that time. Had Eli restrained his excessive fondness for his sons, and performed his duty to them as a father and a priest, theirs had been a nobler life and a happier fate. They might have been an honor to their father, the crown of the nation, and the guardians of the sanctuary. But their crimes had polluted the ordinances of the Lord, and corrupted his people. To prevent the moral degeneracy from becoming universal, he resorted to a speedy and powerful remedy. Divine justice destroyed the father and the sons. ST June 22, 1882, par. 8

Then amid the moral darkness there shone forth once more the light of purity and holiness and truth. The chosen leader was a youthful Levite, whose infant years had been guarded by a faithful, praying mother, whose boyhood had been unsullied by the surrounding corruption. Samuel was now invested by the God of Israel with the threefold office of judge, prophet and priest. Placing one hand in the hand of Christ, and with the other taking the helm of the nation, he holds it with such wisdom and firmness as to preserve Israel from destruction. ST June 22, 1882, par. 9

By Samuel, the schools of the prophets were established, to serve as a barrier against the widespread corruption, and to promote the moral and spiritual welfare of the youth. These schools proved a great blessing to Israel, promoting that righteousness which exalteth a nation, and furnishing it with men qualified to act, in the fear of God, as leaders and counselors. In the accomplishment of this object, Samuel gathered companies of young men who were pious, intelligent, and studious. These were called the sons of the prophets. As they communed with God and studied his word and his works, they were imbued with wisdom from above, as well as richly endowed with intellectual treasures. The instructors were men not only well versed in divine truth, but those who had themselves enjoyed communion with God, and had received the special endowment of his spirit. They enjoyed the respect and confidence of the people, both for learning and piety. ST June 22, 1882, par. 10

In Samuel's day there were two of these schools—one at Ramah, the home of the prophet, and the other at Kirjath-jearim, where the ark then was. Two more were added in Elijah's time, at Jericho and Bethel, and others were afterward established at Samaria and Gilgal. ST June 22, 1882, par. 11

The pupils of these schools sustained themselves by their own labor as husbandmen and mechanics. In Israel this was not considered strange or degrading; indeed it was regarded a crime to allow children to grow up in ignorance of useful labor. In obedience to the command of God, every child was taught some trade, even though he was to be educated for holy office. Many of the religious teachers supported themselves by manual labor. Even so late as the time of Christ, it was not considered anything degradable that Paul and Aquila earned livelihood by their labor as tent-makers. ST June 22, 1882, par. 12

The chief subjects of study in these schools were, the law of God with the instructions given to Moses, sacred history, sacred music, and poetry. The manner of instruction was far different from that in the theological schools of the present day, from which many students graduate with less real knowledge of God and religious truth than when they entered. In those schools of olden time, it was the grand object of all study to learn the will of God and the duties of his people. In the records of sacred history, were traced the footsteps of Jehovah. From the events of the past were drawn lessons of instruction for the future. The great truths set forth by the types and shadows were brought to view, and faith grasped the central object of all that system, the Lamb of God who was to take away the sins of the world. ST June 22, 1882, par. 13

The Hebrew language was cultivated as the most sacred tongue in the world. A spirit of devotion was cherished. Not only were students taught the duty of prayer, but they were taught how to pray, how to approach their Creator, how to exercise faith in him, and how to understand and obey the teachings of his Spirit. Sanctified intellects brought forth from the treasure-house of God, things new and old. ST June 22, 1882, par. 14

The Spirit of God was signally manifested in these seminaries, in prophecy and sacred song. Upon one occasion a company of prophets met Saul at the “hill of God,” not far from Gibeah, with psaltery and tabret, pipe and harp. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, these men were prophesying and praising God with the music of instruments and the voice of song. The Spirit of the Lord and his converting power came also upon Saul, and he prophesied with them. ST June 22, 1882, par. 15

The art of sacred melody was diligently cultivated in those schools of the prophets. No frivolous waltz was heard, nor flippant song that should extol man and divert the attention from God; but sacred, solemn psalms of praise to the Creator, exalting his name and recounting his wondrous works. Thus music was made to serve a holy purpose, to lift the thoughts to that which was pure and noble and elevating, and to awaken in the soul, devotion and gratitude to God. ST June 22, 1882, par. 16

How different the objects to which musical talent is often devoted! How many who profess this gift employ it to honor and exalt self, instead of glorifying God! A love for music leads the unwary to unite with world-lovers in pleasure gatherings where God has forbidden his children to go. Thus that which is a great blessing when rightly used, becomes one of Satan's most successful agencies to allure the mind from God and from eternal things. ST June 22, 1882, par. 17

Music forms a part of God's worship in the courts above. We should endeavor in our songs of praise to approach as nearly as possible to the harmony of the heavenly choirs. I have often been pained to hear untrained voices, pitched to the highest key, literally shrieking the sacred words of some hymn of praise. How inappropriate those sharp, rasping voices for the solemn, joyous worship of God. I long to stop my ears, or flee from the place, and I rejoice when the painful exercise is ended. ST June 22, 1882, par. 18

Those who make singing a part of divine worship should select hymns with music appropriate to the occasion, not funeral notes, but cheerful yet solemn melodies. The voice can and should be modulated, softened, and subdued. ST June 22, 1882, par. 19

The proper training of the voice should be regarded as an important part of education. The singer should train himself to utter every word distinctly. It should be remembered that singing as a part of religious service is as much an act of worship as is the prayer. The heart must feel the spirit of the words, to give them right expression. Parents should not employ to instruct their children, a teacher of music who has no reverence for sacred things, nor should they allow them to learn and practice dance songs and frivolous music. ST June 22, 1882, par. 20

How wide the difference, between the schools of ancient times, under the supervision of God himself, and our modern institutions of learning. Few schools are to be found that are not governed by the maxims and customs of the world. There are few in which a Christian parent's love for his children will not meet with bitter disappointment. ST June 22, 1882, par. 21

In what consists the superior excellence of our systems of education? Is it the classical literature which is crowded into our sons? Is it in the ornamental accomplishments which our daughters obtain at the sacrifice of health or mental strength? Is it in the fact that modern instruction is so generally separated from the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation? Does the chief excellence of popular education consist in treating the individual branches of study, apart from that deeper investigation which involves the searching of the Scriptures, and a knowledge of God and the future life? Does it consist in imbuing the minds of the young with heathenish conceptions of liberty, morality, and justice? Is it safe to trust our youth to the guidance of those blind teachers who study the sacred oracles with far less interest that they manifest in the classical authors of ancient Greece and Rome? ST June 22, 1882, par. 22

“Education,” remarks a writer, “is becoming a system of seduction.” The most bitter feelings, the most ungovernable passions, are excited by the course of unwise and ungodly teachers. There is a deplorable lack of proper restraint and judicious discipline. The minds of the young are easily excited, and drink in insubordination like water. ST June 22, 1882, par. 23

The existing ignorance of God's word, among a people professedly Christian, is alarming. The youth in our public schools, have been robbed of the blessings of holy things. Superficial talk, mere sentimentalism, passes for instruction in morals and religion; but it lacks the vital characteristics of real godliness. The justice and mercy of God, the beauty of holiness, and the sure reward of right-doing; the heinous character of sin, and the certainty of punishment,—these great truths are not impressed upon the minds of the young. ST June 22, 1882, par. 24

Skepticism and infidelity, under some pleasing disguise, or as a covert insinuation, too often find their way into school books. In some instances, the most pernicious principles have been inculcated by teachers. Evil associates are teaching the youth lessons of crime, dissipation, and licentiousness that are horrible to contemplate. Many of our public schools are hot-beds of vice. ST June 22, 1882, par. 25

How can our youth be shielded from these contaminating influences? There must be schools established upon the principles, and controlled by the precepts, of God's word. Another spirit must be in our schools, to animate and sanctify every branch of education. Divine co-operation must be fervently sought. And we shall not seek in vain. The promises of God's word are ours. We may expect the presence of the heavenly Teacher. We may see the Spirit of the Lord diffused as in the schools of the prophets, and every object partake of a divine consecration. Science will then be, as she was to Daniel, the handmaid of religion; and every effort, from first to last, will tend to the salvation of man, soul, body, and spirit, and the glory of God through Christ. ST June 22, 1882, par. 26