Ellen G. White Writings

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Sabbath-School Worker

October 1, 1885

To Superintendents and Teachers

There is earnest work to be done in our Sabbath-schools, and those who have the management of these schools should seek to move with wisdom and tact. It is a nice and important work to deal with minds, to leave a right impression, to give the right mold to character. It is a wise educator who seeks to call out the ability and powers of the student, instead of constantly endeavoring to impart instruction.

At different time I have received letters of inquiry in regard to the duties of the Sabbath-school superintendent. One who felt grieved because he could not awaken a deeper interest on the part of teachers and scholars, said that he took much time in talking with them, explaining everything he thought essential for them to understand, and yet there seemed to be a great lack of interest. They were not moved religiously. I would here say to this honest brother, and to any others who may laboring under similar difficulties, Examine to see if you are not responsible, in a great degree, for this lack of religious interest. Many try to do too much, and fail to encourage their teachers and students to do what they can. They need great simplicity and religious earnestness. They make long, dry speeches in the Sabbath-school and the teachers’ meeting, thus wearying the minds of both teachers and students. Such remarks are greatly out of place. They do not adapt their instruction to the real wants of the school, and they fail to draw hearts to them, for their own hearts are not full of spiritual sympathy. They do not realize that by their long, tedious talks they are killing the interest in, and love for, the school.

The same course is frequently pursued in the Sabbath meetings. When there is no preacher present, the one who is appointed to lead the meeting feels it his duty to try to supply the lack as best he can, and starts out with a long, prosy talk that kills the meeting on the start. And yet he is often distressed because there is so little interest manifested by those who attend these meetings. He sees that the interest is waning, and he begins to inquire what he shall do. To such I would say, Cease your efforts to sermonize. Many love to talk; but their speeches are long and dry; there is none of the heavenly moisture in them. I can but sympathize with the listeners when such a one has charge of the meeting. He thinks that so much talking ought to do a great amount of good, but it is a positive injury. A man may be logical; he may be sound in doctrine; his instruction may contain nothing but that which, if followed, will do good; and still his labors may be useless; they lack the holy fire. Such a one will never see the results he desires, either in the church or in the Sabbath-school, till he changes his manner of teaching. When the hearts of the workers are brought into sympathy with Christ, when he abides in them by living faith, they will not talk one-half as long, nor manifest one-half the smartness, that some do now; but what they say in love and simplicity will reach the heart, and they will be brought in close sympathy with teachers, scholars, and church-members.

A true educator will carry the minds of his hearers with him. His words will be few but earnest. Coming from the heart, they will be full of sympathy, and warm with the love for precious souls. His educational advantages may have been limited, and he may have but little natural ability, but a love for the work and a willingness to labor in humility will enable him to awaken a deep interest in both teachers and scholars. The hearts of the young will be drawn to him. His work will not be a mere form. He may have the ability to draw out from both teachers and students precious gems of spiritual and intellectual truths, and thus, while educating others, he will be educated himself. The scholars are not awed by his display of profound knowledge, and in simple language they tell what impression the lesson has made upon their minds. The result is a deep and living interest in the school. Through the simplicity of the gospel of Christ, he has reached them where they are. Their hearts are melted, and now he can mold them into the image of his Master.

A keen, sharp intellect may be an advantage, but the power of the educator is in his heart connection with the Light and Life of the world. He will love humanity and ever seek to bring it to a higher level. He will not always be blaming others, but his heart will be filled with pity. He will not be great in his own estimation, neither will he seek constantly to bolster up and strengthen his own dignity; but the humility of Jesus will be personified in his life. He will feel the truth of the words of Christ, “Without me ye can do nothing.” Such teachers as these are greatly needed. God will work with them. “Learn of me,” says Christ, “for I am meek and lowly of heart.” Many who are engaged in the Sabbath-school work need divine enlightenment. They lack spiritual insight to enable them to apprehend the wants of those for whom they are laboring.

The Sabbath-school, if rightly conducted, is one of God's great instrumentalities to bring souls to a knowledge of the truth. It is not the best plan for teachers to do all the talking, but they should draw out the class to tell what they know. Then let the teacher, with a few brief, pointed remarks or illustrations, impress the lesson upon their minds. Under no circumstances should teachers go through the lesson mechanically, and then sit down, leaving the children to stare about, or whisper and play, as we have seen them do. Such teaching is not beneficial; it is often injurious. If the teacher is properly prepared, every moment can be used to profit. The active minds of the children should be kept constantly employed. Their ideas should be drawn out and corrected, or approved, as the case may require. But never should the teacher sit down, saying, I am through. There is no such thing as getting through with the lesson.

Superintendents, never scold nor complain before your teachers or scholars. If you wish to influence the school for good, put away the whip, and exert a heaven-inspiring influence which will carry the minds of all with you. In making plans and regulations for the school, let them represent, as nearly as possible, the voice of the school. In some schools there is a sharp, critical spirit. Much is made of forms and rules, while the weightier matters, mercy and the love of God, are neglected. Let all be cheerful. If any have clouds encompassing their souls, let them work out into the sunlight before they enter the Sabbath-school. A mother who is constantly relating her discouragements, and complaining to her children of their lack of appreciation, cannot have proper control of them. So will it be with you, teachers and superintendents. If you see a lack in this respect, do not lessen your influence by speaking of it; but in a quiet way set influences to work that will correct the evil. Plan, study, how to secure a well-organized, well-disciplined school.

All in the school should feel themselves learners. We are to become daily learners if we would be true educators. It is a noble thing to teach; it is a blessed thing to learn. Knowledge is a precious possession, and the more we obtain of it, the better work will we do if we make a right use of it. As workers for God, we want more of Jesus and less of self. We should have more of a burden for souls, and should pray daily that strength and wisdom may be given us for the Sabbath. Teachers, meet with your classes. Pray with them, and teach them how to pray. Let the heart be softened, and the petitions short and simple, but earnest. Let your words be few and well chosen; and let them learn from your lips and your example that the truth of God must be rooted in their hearts or they cannot stand the test of temptation. We want to see whole classes of young people being converted to God, and growing up useful members of the church.

E. G. White.

October 1, 1885

Our Sabbath-Schools

Teachers, Officers, and the Young

I feel deeply interested in the education of children in the Sabbath-school. There is not that carefulness in the selection of officers and teachers which there should be. It is a most solemn work to so mold the minds of youth that they shall not be satisfied with the form, or to be mere machines. God has given them intelligence, and this needs to be cultivated, especially in the younger members of the Sabbath-school. Special efforts should be made to draw out the minds of the children, not merely upon the subject of the lesson, but in the direction of religious life and Christian experience. The teachers, if they are what God would have them, will have precious lessons for the children, not found in the lesson-books,—lessons drawn from a living experience with Christ. The children need to be taught briefly but lovingly in regard to what constitutes a true religious life. They should be made to understand that religion is not something that is to be attended to on special occasions and in certain places, but that it is a matter of every-day experience. Every day there will be the necessity of practicing self-denial, of making strong and decided efforts to overcome self, pride, and vanity.

But few children, even of those who profess to be religious, obey the fifth commandment. This is the commandment of promise, and it is trampled upon and disobeyed almost as much as the fourth commandment. The promise of eternal life is only to those who do the Father's commandments; and many children and youth who have professed to be Christians will be subjects of the last plagues, because they will not obey these commandments. The angel with the writer's ink-horn by his side will not put the seal of God upon any child who is irreverent, disobedient, and dishonors his parents. The destroying angel is commissioned to slay utterly old and young, both men and women and little children. If children are insubordinate and disobedient to their parents, they will be the same to God.

Among our youth, many desire to engage in the “missionary work” who have not had an education in home missionary labor. They cannot see the little duties, the patient, humble labor they may do to make home happy, and thus be a light in it. By thus faithfully acting their part at home and helping to bear the daily burden of duties, they may obtain an experience which will fit them to become missionaries on a broader scale. This home missionary work, done cheerfully by youth and children, is precious in the sight of God.

I have had recently brought to my knowledge, circumstances in regard to a class of youth, who, though professed Christians, seemed leagued together to help one another to be not only irreligious, but immoral. Letters were written to each other filled with slang; the contents were concerning the parties and dances they attended, the young men they kept company with; and language the most low and debasing was freely used. The truth and those who advocated it were reviled. Some of these were learning the dress-maker's trade, and some the millinery business; and they gloried in their aptitude to deceive their parents, their employers, and the church, and in the thought that their base conduct was kept a secret among themselves. The mothers of some of these girls were not entirely unaware of their course; but the children had broken away from all restraint, and refused to obey or respect the wishes of their parents.

Young people of this class have attended the colleges, have been associated with others in day-school and Sabbath-school, and so have exerted an influence over the other pupils, who did not know all the vileness of their course. If forced to obey rules and regulations, they become insubordinate, and manufacture lies against the teachers in the schools, just in accordance with their own vile imaginings. We might suppose these could have no influence, yet they have had a decided one. We cannot feel that the mothers are inexcusable in these matters; for if they had managed their children after the rules laid down in the word of God, they would not have taken such a course.

I mention these things that the conductors of our Sabbath-schools will not feel that, though the children have a knowledge of forms, and can act like well-regulated machines, the work is a success. You must go deeper. Every teacher should, by precept and example, be able to show the plain and upward path to purity, to holiness, and the paradise of God.

There is much false religion even among children. Many who profess to be followers of Christ are in the broad road to perdition; and this is one of the signs of the last days. “In the last days, perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,...having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” And many youth will choose these immoral, low minded ones as their companions, thus showing that their own minds have been cast in the same inferior mold. There is work to be done, earnest, loving work, to elevate the minds of the young, and bring them up to the Bible standard. Its sacred truths must be the rule and guide of our life. Coming from God, it admits of no mistakes. It is the sure word of prophecy.

Missionary work needs to be done around our own firesides. Many overlook their home duties in religious matters, and take up burdens away from home, to save other souls. God help the workers to commence right, and labor in accordance with God's written word! I know what I say when I tell you that not one-twentieth part is being done in S. S. effort in our large and smaller churches that might be done. The workers in Battle Creek are too prosy. They do not drink deep draughts from the well of salvation. There is form enough, like soldiers on parade, but the deep, inward working is wanting. There is constant danger of forsaking the great fountain of living waters, and drinking at little turbid streams which contain poison and produce spiritual death.

Every branch of the work needs to feel the purifying, sanctifying, ennobling influence of the truth of the Bible as it is in Jesus. Oh for the power to come right to hearts, with the old, sweet story of the cross! The teacher, imbued with the love of Christ, and softened, subdued, and contrite before God, can use his talents in devising ways and means to reach the hearts of the inattentive and impenitent. Would that everyone whose name is registered on the church book might cleanse the heart, the soul temple, and open the door that Jesus may come in and make him a channel of light, so that he can have a compelling power through Jesus Christ to bring souls to Christ.

When Jesus possesses the heart, there will be no prevarication, no secret iniquity practiced, no hidden sins covered; all will be as transparent as the sunlight. Care must be taken that the youth who walk secretly in the paths of dishonesty and corruption be not accepted as teachers or officers in the Sabbath-schools. The course of some that are teachers is such that God abhors them. Falsehood, fraud, dissembling, and immorality is written against them in the books of heaven. The standard must be elevated, and sins and corruptions must not be permitted to exist in our midst. While the guilty ones are honored with positions of trust, where they educate and give lessons to the youth, how can God bless the work? How can those with unholy, unsanctified hearts, that have never known the religion of Jesus, feel competent to be teachers and superintendents in our Sabbath-schools? How can they elevate and purify by their example?

Let those who undertake to act a part in God's cause and in his holy work, be men and women of pure lives and character,—men and women of sterling integrity, who make the word of God their standard of duty. With meekness, and reverence for God, combine these three: “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” One is our master, even Christ, and to him we are responsible for doing the work he has committed to our trust with pureness, with knowledge, with love unfeigned. God will not intrust sacred interests to be managed by unclean hands and unholy hearts. We must have greater spiritual eye-sight. We must ourselves be learners in Christ's school before we can be teachers. We are to stand as representatives of Jesus Christ, to ward off as far as possible all influences that are pernicious and tend to corrupt those under our care. The value of the souls of youth demands this of all. If one in the church or serving in the Sabbath-school be dishonest and unreliable, it is the work of faithful men to see that his influence does not spread, and that souls are not misguided by him, and deluded into sin. Unless this work is done, you are charged with guilt by the Lord for conniving at deception and hiding sin. God help the workers to elevate the standard!

Saith the Lord, “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay-tree. Yet he passed away, and lo, he was not; yea, I sought him, and he could not be found. Mark the perfect man and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.” Will the fathers and mothers uphold their children in iniquity? will they seek to lessen the sin which the Lord abhors? Will men in responsible positions see who is intrusted with sacred trusts? Will we elevate the standard, that the sin of Achan be not chargeable to God's people, and they put to shame?

“Thou hast a few names,” said the angel to John, “even in Sardis, who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy.” These held fast their integrity as did Joseph and Daniel; and they secured the characters which God represents as more precious than the gold of Ophir. Such characters will let their light shine. They have been led by the light and love of Jesus, which constrains them to improve every opportunity for promoting the cause of Christ in the earth, devoting their God-given powers in making men purer, elevating and sanctifying them for heaven. What a work is this to stand registered in the books above,—a work of which we shall not be ashamed, but which will live through eternal ages!

E. G. White.

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