Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

July 11, 1882

The Primal Object of Education

By Mrs. E. G. White

“Education,” says Webster, “is properly to draw forth, and implies not so much the communication of knowledge as the discipline of the intellect, the establishment of the principles, and the regulation of the heart.” By a misconception of the true nature and objects of education, many have been led into serious and even fatal errors. Such a mistake is made when the regulation of the heart or the establishment of the principles is neglected in the effort to secure intellectual culture, or when eternal interests are overlooked in the eager desire for temporal advantage.

The great object of life is well defined in the old-time catechism, “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” To make the possession of worldly honor or riches our ruling motive, is unworthy of one who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ. It should rather be our aim to gain knowledge and wisdom that we may become better Christians, and be prepared for greater usefulness, rendering more faithful service to our Creator, and by our example and influence leading others also to glorify God.

Here is something real, something tangible. Not only words, but deeds, not only the affections of the heart, but the service of the life, must be devoted to our Maker. To bring man back to harmony with God, to so elevate and ennoble his moral nature that he may again reflect the image of the Creator, is the great purpose of all the education and discipline of life. So important was this work, that our Saviour left the courts of Heaven, and came in person to earth, that he might teach men how to obtain a moral fitness for the higher life. For thirty years he dwelt as a man among men, passed through the experiences of human life as a child, a youth, a man, endured the severest trials, that he might present a living illustration of the truths he taught. For three years as a teacher sent from God he instructed the children of men; then, leaving the work to chosen co-laborers, he ascended to Heaven. But his interest in it has not abated. From the courts above, he watches with the deepest solicitude the progress of the cause for which he gave his life.

The character of Christ is the one perfect pattern which we are to copy. Repentance and faith, the surrender of the will, and the consecration of the affections to God, are the means appointed for the accomplishment of this work. To obtain a knowledge of this divinely ordained plan should be our first study, to comply with its requirements our first effort. Solomon declares that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Concerning its value and importance he declares, “Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting, get understanding.” “For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.”

He who is following Divine guidance has found the only true source of happiness, and has gained the power of imparting happiness to all around him. No man can really enjoy life without religion. Love to God purifies and ennobles every taste and every desire, intensifies every affection, and brightens every worthy pleasure. It enables men to appreciate and enjoy all that is true, and good, and beautiful.

He who is seeking with diligence to acquire the wisdom of human schools, should remember that another school also claims him as a student. Christ was the greatest teacher the world ever saw. He brought to man knowledge direct from Heaven. The lessons which he has given us are what we need for both the present and the future state. He sets before us the true aims of life, and how we may secure them.

In the school of Christ, students never graduate. Among the pupils are both the old and the young. Those who give heed to the instructions of the Divine Teacher, constantly advance in wisdom, refinement, and nobility of soul, and thus they are prepared to enter that higher school, where advancement will continue throughout eternity.

Infinite Wisdom sets before us the great lessons of life,—the lessons of duty and of happiness. These are often hard to learn, but without them we can make no real progress. They may cost us effort and tears, and even agony, but we must not falter or grow weary. We shall at last hear the Master's call, “Child, come up higher.”

It is in this world, amid its trials and temptations, that we are to gain a fitness for the society of the pure and the holy. Those who become so absorbed in less important studies that they cease to learn in the school of Christ, are meeting with an infinite loss. They insult the Divine Teacher by their rejection of the provisions of his grace. The longer they continue in their course, the more hardened are they in sin. Their retribution will be proportioned to the infinite value of the blessings they have spurned.

Those who consider it brave and manly to treat the claims of God with indifference or contempt, are thereby betraying their own folly and ignorance. While they boast their freedom and independence, they are really in bondage to sin and Satan.

The religion of Christ lifts man above every debasing, groveling vice. Linked to the Infinite One, partakers of the Divine nature, we are clothed with a perfect panoply against the shafts of evil.

Every faculty, every attribute with which the Creator has endowed the children of men, is to be employed for his glory; and in this employment is found its purest, noblest, happiest exercise. While religious principle is held paramount, every advance step taken in the acquirement of knowledge or in the culture of the intellect, is a step toward the assimilation of the human with the Divine, the finite with the Infinite.

The mind gradually adapts itself to the subjects upon which it is allowed to dwell. If occupied with common-place matters only, to the exclusion of grand and lofty themes, it will become dwarfed and enfeebled. If never required to grapple with difficulties, it will after a time almost lose the power of growth. As an educator, the Holy Scriptures are without a rival. Nothing will so impart strength and vigor to all our faculties as requiring them to grasp the stupendous truths of revelation.

The Bible is the most comprehensive and the most instructive history that men possess. It came fresh from the fountain of eternal truth; and a Divine hand has preserved its purity through all the ages. Its bright rays shine into the far-distant past, where human research seeks vainly to penetrate. In God's word only we find an authentic account of creation. Here we behold the power that laid the foundation of the earth, and that stretched out the heavens. In this word only can we find a history of our race unsullied by human prejudice or human pride.

In the word of God the mind finds subjects for the deepest thought, the loftiest aspirations. Here we may hold communion with patriarchs and prophets, and listen to the voice of the Eternal as he speaks with men. Here we behold the Majesty of Heaven, as he humbled himself to become our substitute and surety, to cope singlehanded with the powers of darkness, and to gain the victory in our behalf. A reverent contemplation of such themes as these cannot fail to soften, purify, and ennoble the heart, and at the same time to inspire the mind with new strength and vigor.

A clear conception of what God is, and what he requires us to be, will lead to humility. He who studies aright the sacred word will learn that human intellect is not omnipotent. He will learn that without the help which none but God can give, human strength and wisdom are but weakness and ignorance.

But that which, above all other considerations, should lead us to prize the Bible, is that in it is revealed to men the will of God. Here we learn the object of our creation, and the means by which that object may be attained. We learn how to improve wisely the present life, and how to secure the future life. No other book can satisfy the questionings of the mind or the cravings of the heart. By obtaining a knowledge of God's word, and giving heed thereto, men may rise from the lowest depths of degradation to become the sons of God, and the associates of sinless angels.

In the varied scenes of nature also are lessons of divine wisdom for all who have learned to commune with God. The pages that opened in undimmed brightness to the gaze of the first pair in Eden, bear now a shadow. A blight has fallen upon the fair creation. And yet, wherever we turn are traces of the primal loveliness. Wherever we may turn, we hear the voice of God, and behold his handiwork.

From the solemn roll of the deep-toned thunder and old ocean's ceaseless roar, to the glad songs that make the forests vocal with melody, Nature's ten thousand voices speak his praise. In earth, and air, and sky, with their marvelous tint and color, varying in gorgeous contrast or softly blended in harmony, we behold his glory. The everlasting hills tell us of his power. The trees wave their green banners in the sunlight, and point us upward to their Creator. The flowers that gem the earth with their beauty, whisper to us of Eden, and fill us with longings for its unfading loveliness. The living green that carpets the brown earth, tells us of God's care for the humblest of his creatures. The caves of the sea and the depths of the earth reveal his treasures. He who placed the pearls in the ocean and the amethyst and chrysolite among the rocks, is a lover of the beautiful. The sun rising in the heavens is the representative of Him who is the life and light of all that he has made. All the brightness and beauty that adorns the earth and lights up the heavens, speaks of God.

Shall we, in the enjoyment of the gifts, forget the Giver? Let them rather lead us to contemplate his goodness and his love. Let all that is beautiful in our earthly home remind us of the crystal river and green fields, the waving trees and the living fountains, the shining city and the white-robed singers, of our heavenly home,—that world of beauty which no artist can picture, no mortal tongue describe. “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.”

To dwell forever in this home of the blest, to bear in soul, body, and spirit, not the dark traces of sin and the curse, but the perfect likeness of our Creator, and through ceaseless ages to advance in wisdom, in knowledge and holiness, ever exploring new fields of thought, ever finding new wonders and new glories, ever increasing in capacity to know and to enjoy and to love, and knowing that there is still beyond us joy and love and wisdom infinite,—such is the object to which the Christian hope is pointing, for which Christian education is preparing. To secure this education, and to aid others to secure it, should be the object of the Christian's life.

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