Chapter 6—Educational Influence of Surroundings
In the selection of a home, parents should not be governed by temporal considerations merely. It is not altogether a question of the place where they can make the most money, or where they will have the most pleasant surroundings, or the greatest social advantages. The influences that will surround their children, and sway them for good or evil, are of more consequence than any of these considerations. A most solemn responsibility rests upon parents in choosing a place of residence. As far as possible they are to place their families in the channel of light, where their affections will be kept pure, and their love to God and to one another active. The same principle applies to the location of our schools, where the youth will be gathered, and families will be attracted for the sake of the educational advantages.
No pains should be spared to select places for our schools where the moral atmosphere will be as healthful as possible; for the influences that prevail will leave a deep impress on young and forming characters. For this reason a retired locality is best. The great cities, the centers of business and learning, may seem to present some advantages; but these advantages are outweighed by other considerations.
Society at the present time is corrupt, as it was in the days of Noah. To the long-lived antediluvian race, only a step from paradise, God gave rich gifts, and they possessed a strength of body and mind of which men now have but a faint idea; but they used his bounties, and the strength and skill he gave them, for selfish purposes, to minister to unlawful appetites, and to gratify pride. They expelled God from their thoughts; they despised his law; trampled his standard of character in the dust. They reveled in sinful pleasure, corrupting their ways before God, and corrupting one another. Violence and crime filled the earth. Neither the marriage relation nor the rights of property were respected; and the cries of the oppressed entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. By beholding evil, men became changed into its image, until God could bear with their wickedness no longer, and they were swept away by the flood.
The youth educated in large cities are surrounded by influences similar to those that prevailed before the flood. The same principles of disregard for God and his law; the same love of pleasure of selfish gratification, and of pride and vanity are at work at the present time. The world is given up to pleasure; immorality prevails; the rights of the weak and helpless are disregarded; and, the world over, the large cities are fast becoming hotbeds of iniquity.
The love of pleasure is one of the most dangerous, because it is one of the most subtle, of the many temptations that assail the children and youth in the cities. Holidays are numerous; games and horse-racing draw thousands, and the whirl of excitement and pleasure attracts them away from the sober duties of life. Money that should have been saved for better uses—in many cases the scanty earnings of the poor—is frittered away for amusements.
The continual craving for pleasurable amusements reveals the deep longings of the soul. But those who drink at this fountain of worldly pleasure, will find their soul-thirst still unsatisfied. They are deceived; they mistake mirth for happiness; and when the excitement ceases, many sink down into the depths of despondency and despair. O what madness, what folly to forsake the “Fountain of living waters” for the “broken cisterns” of worldly pleasure! We feel to the depth of the soul the peril that surrounds the youth in these last days; and shall not those who come to us for an education, and the families that are attracted to our schools, be withdrawn, as far as possible, from these seductive and demoralizing influences.
In choosing retired localities for our schools, we do not for a moment suppose that we are placing the youth beyond the reach of temptation. Satan is a very diligent worker, and is untiring in devising ways to corrupt every mind that is open to his suggestions. He meets families and individuals on their own ground, adapting his temptations to their inclinations and weaknesses. But in the large cities his power over minds is greater, and his nets for the entanglement of unwary feet are more numerous. In connection with our schools, ample grounds should be provided. There are some students who have never learned to economize, and have always spent every shilling they could get. These should not be cut off from the means of gaining an education. Employment should be furnished them, and with their study of books should be mingled a training in industrious, frugal habits. Let them learn to appreciate the necessity of helping themselves.
There should be work for all students, whether they are able to pay their way or not; the physical and mental powers should receive proportionate attention. Students should learn to cultivate the land; for this will bring them into close contact with nature.
There is a refining, subduing influence in nature that should be taken into account in selecting the locality for a school. God has regarded this principle in training men for his work. Moses spent forty years in the wilds of Midian. John the Baptist was not fitted for his high calling as the forerunner of Christ by association with the great men of the nation in the schools at Jerusalem. He went out into the wilderness, where the customs and doctrines of men could not mold his mind, and where he could hold unobstructed communion with God.
When the persecutors of John, the beloved disciple, sought to still his voice and destroy his influence among the people, they exiled him to the Isle of Patmos. But they could not separate him from the Divine Teacher. On lonely Patmos, John could study the things that God had created. In the rugged rocks, in the waters that surrounded the island, he could see the greatness and majesty of God. And while he was communing with God, and studying the book of nature, he heard a voice speaking to him, the voice of the Son of God. Jesus was John’s teacher upon the Isle of Patmos, and he there unfolded to his servant wonderful things that were to take place in time to come.
God would have us appreciate his blessings in his created works. How many children there are in the crowded cities that have not even a spot of green grass to set their feet upon. If they could be educated in the country, amid the beauty, peace, and purity of nature, it would seem to them the spot nearest heaven. In retired places, where we are farthest from the corrupting maxims, customs, and excitements of the world, and nearest to the heart of nature, Christ makes his presence real to us, and speaks to our souls of his peace and love.