Special Testimonies On Education


Chapter 9—God in Nature

While the Bible should hold the first place in the education of children and youth, the book of nature is next in importance. God's created works testify to his love and power. He has called the world into being, with all that it contains. God is a lover of the beautiful; and in the world which he has fitted up for us, he has not only given us everything necessary for our comfort, but he has filled the heavens and the earth with beauty. We see his love and care in the rich fields of autumn, and his smile in the glad sunshine. His hand has made the castle-like rocks and the towering mountains. The lofty trees grow at his command; he has spread earth's green velvet carpet, and dotted it with shrubs and flowers. Why has he clothed the earth and trees with living green, instead of a dark, somber brown? Is it not that they may be more pleasing to the eye? And shall not our hearts be filled with gratitude, as we read the evidences of his wisdom and love in the wonders of his creation? SpTEd 58.1

The same creative energy that brought the world into existence is still exerted in upholding the universe and continuing the operations of nature. The hand of God guides the planets in their orderly march through the heavens. It is not because of inherent power that year by year the earth continues her motion round the sun, and produces her bounties. The word of God controls the elements. He covers the heavens with clouds, and prepares rain for the earth. He makes the valley fruitful, and “grass to grow upon the mountains.” It is through his power that vegetation flourishes; that the leaves appear, and the flowers bloom. SpTEd 58.2

The whole natural world is designed to be an interpreter of the things of God. To Adam and Eve in their Eden home, nature was full of the knowledge of God, teeming with divine instruction. It was vocal with the voice of wisdom to their attentive ears. Wisdom spoke to the eye, and was received into the heart; for they communed with God in his created works. As soon as the holy pair transgressed the law of the Most High, the brightness from the face of God departed from the face of nature. Nature is now marred and defiled by sin. But God's object-lessons are not obliterated; even now, rightly studied and interpreted, she speaks of her Creator. SpTEd 59.1

As divine truth is revealed in Holy Writ, so it is reflected, as from a mirror, in the face of nature; and through his creation we become acquainted with the Creator. And so the book of nature becomes a great lesson book, which instructors who are wise can use, in connection with the Scriptures, to guide lost sheep back to the fold of God. As the works of God are studied, the Holy Spirit flashes conviction into the mind. It is not the conviction which logical reasoning produces; but unless the mind has become too dark to know God, the eye too dim to see him, the ear too dull to hear his voice, a deeper meaning is grasped, and the sublime, spiritual truths of the written word are impressed on the heart. SpTEd 59.2

The most effective way to teach the heathen who know not God, is through his works. In this way, far more readily than by any other method, they can be made to realize the difference between their idols, the works of their own hands, and the true God, the Maker of heaven and earth. The same principle applies to the ignorant, neglected colored race in that part of America where slavery once existed. When these lowly members of the human family have learned to know God through his works, a foundation will be laid for the spiritual truths of the written word, which will elevate and purify their characters. SpTEd 59.3

There is a simplicity and purity in these lessons directly from nature that make them of the highest value to others besides the heathen. The children and youth, all classes of students, need the lessons to be derived from this source. In itself the beauty of nature leads the soul away from sin and worldly attractions, and toward purity, peace, and God, For this reason the cultivation of the soil is good work for children and youth. It brings them into direct contact with nature and nature's God. And that they may have this advantage in connection with our schools there should be, as far as possible, large flower gardens and extensive lands for cultivation. SpTEd 60.1

An education amid such surroundings is in accordance with the directions which God has given for the instruction of youth; but it is in direct contrast with the methods employed in the majority of schools. Parents and teachers have disregarded the counsel of the Lord. Instead of following the light he has given, they have walked in the sparks of their own kindling. The minds of the young have been occupied with books of science and philosophy, where the thorns of skepticism have been only partially concealed; with vague, fanciful fairy stories; or with the works of authors, who, although they may write on Scripture subjects, weave in their own fanciful interpretations. The teaching of such books is as seed sown in the heart. It grows and bears fruit, and a plentiful harvest of infidelity is reaped; and the result is seen in the depravity of the human family. SpTEd 60.2

A return to simpler methods will be appreciated by the children and youth. Work in the garden and field will be an agreeable change from the wearisome routine of abstract lessons, to which their young minds should never be confined. To the nervous child, who finds lessons from books exhausting and hard to remember, it will be especially valuable. There is health and happiness for him in the study of nature; and the impressions made will not fade out of his mind, for they will be associated with objects that are continually before his eyes. SpTEd 61.1

God has, in the natural world, placed in the hands of the children of men the key to unlock the treasure-house of his word. The unseen is illustrated by the seen; divine wisdom, eternal truth, infinite grace, are understood by the things that God has made. Then let the children and youth become acquainted with nature and nature's laws. Let the mind be developed to the utmost capacity, and the physical powers trained for the practical duties of life; but teach them also that God has made this world fair because he delights in our happiness; and that a more beautiful home is preparing for us in that world where there will be no more sin. The word of God declares, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” SpTEd 61.2

The little children should come especially close to nature. Instead of putting fashion's shackles upon them, let them be free like the lambs, to play in the sweet, fresh sunlight. Point them to shrubs and flowers, the lowly grass and the lofty trees, and let them become familiar with their beautiful, varied, and delicate forms. Teach them to see the wisdom and love of God in his created works; and as their hearts swell with joy and grateful love, let them join the birds in their songs of praise. SpTEd 62.1

Educate the children and youth to consider the works of the great Master Artist, and to imitate the attractive graces of nature in their character building. As the love of God wins their hearts, let them weave into their lives the beauty of holiness. So shall they use their capabilities to bless others and honor God. SpTEd 62.2

May 20, 1896.