Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

September 25, 1883

The Bible a Means of Both Mental and Moral Culture

By Mrs. E. G. White

“The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” The word of God presents the most potent means of education, as well as the most valuable source of knowledge, within the reach of man. The understanding adapts itself to the dimensions of the subjects with which it is required to deal. If occupied with trivial, common-place matters only, never summoned to earnest effort to comprehend great and eternal truths, it becomes dwarfed and enfeebled. Hence the value of the Scriptures, as a means of intellectual culture. Their perusal, in a reverent and teachable spirit, will expand and strengthen the mind as no other study can. They lead directly to the contemplation of the most exalted, the most ennobling, and the most stupendous truths that are presented to the mind of man. They direct our thoughts to the infinite Author of all things. We see revealed the character of the Eternal, and listen to his voice as he communes with patriarchs and prophets. We see explained the mysteries of his providence, the great problems which have engaged the attention of every thoughtful mind, but which, without the aid of revelation, human intellect seeks in vain to solve. They open to our understanding a simple yet sublime system of theology, presenting truths which a child may grasp, but which are yet so far-reaching as to baffle the powers of the strongest mind.

The more closely God's word is searched, and the better understood, the more vividly will the student realize that there is, beyond, infinite wisdom, knowledge; and power. Those who seek to find out God as he is revealed in the pages of inspiration, will learn the hard but useful lesson, that human intellect is not omnipotent; that without divine help, human strength and wisdom are but weakness and folly.

But when controlled by the love and fear of God, and devoted to his service, intellectual culture is a blessing. It is true that the world's men of learning are not easily reached by the practical truths of God's word. The reason is, they trust to human wisdom, and pride themselves upon their intellectual superiority, and are unwilling to become humble learners in the school of Christ. Our Saviour did not ignore learning or despise education; yet he chose unlearned fishermen for the work of the gospel, because they had not been schooled in the false customs and traditions of the world. They were men of good natural ability and of a humble, teachable spirit; men whom he could educate for his great work. In the ordinary walks of life there is many a man patiently treading the round of daily toil, all unconscious that he possesses powers which, if called into action, would raise him to an equality with the world's most honored men. The touch of a skillful hand is needed to arouse and develop those dormant faculties. It was such men whom Jesus connected with himself; and he gave them the advantages of three years training under his own care. No course of study in the schools of the rabbis or the halls of philosophy could have equaled this in value. The Son of God was the greatest educator the world ever knew.

The learned lawyers, priests, and scribes scorned to be taught by Christ. They desired to teach him, and frequently made the attempt, only to be defeated by the wisdom that laid bare their ignorance, and rebuked their folly. In their pride and bigotry, they would not accept the words of Christ, yet they were surprised at the wisdom with which he spake. They knew that he had not learned in the schools of the prophets, and they could not discern the divine excellence of his character beneath the lowly disguise of the Man of Nazareth. But the words and deeds of the humble Teacher, recorded by the unlettered companions of his daily life, have exerted a living power upon the minds of men from that day to the present. Not merely the ignorant and humble, but men of education, intellect, and genius, reverently exclaim, with the wondering and delighted listeners of old, “Never man spake like this man.”

The light and understanding which God's word imparts is not designed merely, or chiefly, to promote intellectual culture. For an object higher than any earthly or temporal good were the holy oracles committed unto men. We see therein revealed the great plan of human redemption, the means devised to free mankind from the power of Satan. We see Christ, the Captain of our salvation, meeting the prince of darkness in open battle, and, single-handed, obtaining the victory in our behalf. We learn, too, that by this victory, was opened to us a door of hope, a source of strength, and that we may, as faithful soldiers, fight our own battles with the wily foe, and conquer in the name of Jesus. The powers of darkness must be met by every soul. The young, as well as the old, will be assailed, and all should understand the nature of the great controversy between Christ and Satan, and should realize that it concerns themselves. All are actors in the scene, sharers in the conflict. To be armed for the battle, all need “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

In the Scriptures are presented truths that relate especially to our own time. To the period just prior to the appearing of the Son of man, the prophecies of Scripture point, and here their warnings and threatenings pre-eminently apply. The prophetic periods of Daniel, extending to the very eve of the great consummation, throw a flood of light upon events then to transpire. The book of Revelation is also replete with warning and instruction for the last generation. The beloved John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, portrays the fearful and thrilling scenes connected with the close of earth's history, and presents the duties and dangers of God's people. None need remain in ignorance, none need be unprepared for the coming of the day of God.

It is not enough to have an intellectual knowledge of the truth. This alone cannot give the light and understanding essential to salvation. There must be an entrance of the word into the heart. It must be set home by the power of the Holy Spirit. The will must be brought into harmony with its requirements. Not only the intellect but the heart and conscience must concur in the acceptance of the truth.

The entrance of God's word gives understanding to the simple,—those who are untaught in the wisdom of the world. The Holy Spirit brings the saving truths of the Scriptures within the comprehension of all who desire to know and do the will of God. Uneducated minds are enabled to grasp the most sublime and soul-stirring themes that can engage the attention of men,—themes that will be the study and the song of the redeemed through all eternity.

It is the knowledge which God's word supplies, and which can be found nowhere else, that we need above every other. We want to know what to do in this our day, to escape the snares of Satan and to win the crown of glory. If at any time we do not clearly understand the testimony of the Scriptures concerning any duty, we are bidden to go to the great Teacher. Whenever we lack wisdom, it is our privilege and our duty to ask of God. If we come in humility and faith, we shall not be sent empty away.

But when one sees clearly the claims of duty, let him not presume to go to God with the prayer that he may be excused from obedience because it involves a cross. Let him go, rather, with a humble, submissive spirit, asking for divine strength and wisdom, to accept and to practice the truth. “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Thus the “simple” may, by making God's word their rule of life, discharge its duties with true wisdom, being a living exemplification of the psalmist's words, “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.”

If the youth will but learn of the heavenly Teacher, as did Daniel, they will know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Having thus laid a sure foundation, they may, like Daniel, turn every privilege and opportunity, to the very best account. They may rise to any height in intellectual attainments. Those who consecrate themselves to God, and who have the protection of his grace and the quickening influence of his Spirit, will manifest keener intellectual power than the mere worldling. They will be able to reach the highest, noblest exercise of every faculty.

The study of the Scriptures would give to the world men of stronger and more active intellect than will the closest application to all the subjects which human philosophy embraces. Those especially who have the ministry in view should give diligent study to the word of God. In so doing, they may secure mental discipline, and at the same time gain such a knowledge of its rich stores that they can draw from the treasure-house things new and old.

There is a wide difference between what God has given men capacity to become, and the degree of excellence to which they actually attain. If it were considered a duty to cultivate all our powers to the fullest extent, they would be continually increasing. The Bible teaches men to act from principle, and whenever we successfully resist evil influence, we are strengthening that principle which has been assailed. The mere possession of talent is no guarantee of usefulness or happiness in life. Right principles are the only basis of true success.

It is necessary to think rightly, in order to act with wisdom. To form a well-balanced character, we must give attention to physical, mental, and moral culture; and for each of these, the Bible contains the most valuable instruction.

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