In April, 1900, a holiday was appointed at the Avondale school for Christian workers. The programme for the day provided for a meeting in the chapel in the morning, at which I and others addressed the students, calling their attention to what God had wrought in the building up of this school, and to their privilege and opportunities as students.
After the meeting, the remainder of the day was spent by the students in various games and sports, some of which were frivolous, rude, and grotesque.
During the following night, I seemed to be witnessing the performances of the afternoon. The scene was clearly laid out before me, and I was given a message for the manager and teachers of the school.
I was shown that in the amusements carried on on the school grounds that afternoon, the enemy gained a victory, and teachers were weighed in the balances and found wanting. I was greatly distressed and burdened to think that those standing in responsible positions should open the door and, as it were, invite the enemy in; for this they did in permitting the exhibitions that took place. As teachers,
they should have stood firm against giving place to the enemy in any such line. But what they permitted, they marred their record, and grieved the Spirit of God. The students were encouraged in a course the effects of which were not easily effaced. There is no end to the path of vain amusements, and every step taken in it is a step in a path which Christ has not travelled.
This introduction of wrong plans was the very thing that should have been jealously guarded against. The Avondale school was established, not to be like the schools of the world, but, as God revealed, to be a pattern school. And since it was to be a pattern school, those in charge of it should have perfected everything after God's plan, discarding all that was not in harmony with His will. Had their eyes been anointed with the heavenly eyesalve, they would have realised that they could not permit the exhibition that took place that afternoon, without dishonouring God.
On Wednesday morning when I spoke to the students and to the others who had assembled, the words that the Lord gave me to speak, I did not know anything of what was to take place afterward; for no intimation of it had come to me. How could those at the head of the school harmonise with the words spoken, the proceedings that followed, which were of a character to make of no effect the instruction that had just come to them from God? If their perceptions had not been greatly beclouded, they would have understood this instruction as rebuking all such proceedings.
I felt deeply the importance of the words that the Lord gave me at this time for teachers and students. This instruction presented before the students duties of the highest order; and to efface by the amusements afterward entered into, the good impressions made, was virtually saying, We want not Thy way,
O God; we want our own way; we want to follow our own wisdom.
In the night season I was a witness to the performance that was carried on on the school grounds. The students who engaged in the grotesque mimicry that was seen, acted out the mind of the enemy, some in a very unbecoming manner. A view of things was presented before me in which the students were playing games of tennis and cricket. Then I was given instruction regarding the character of these amusements. They were presented to me as a species of idolatry, like the idols of the nations.
There were more than visible spectators on the ground. Satan and his angels were there, making impressions on human minds. Angels of God, who minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation, were also present, not to approve, but to disapprove. They were ashamed that such an exhibition should be given by the professing children of God. The forces of the enemy gained a decided victory, and God was dishonoured. He who gave His life to refine, ennoble, and sanctify human beings was grieved at the performance.
Hearing a voice, I turned to see who spoke to me. Then with dignity and solemnity One said, Is this the celebration for the anniversary of the opening of the school? Is this the gratitude offering you present to God for the blessings He has given you? The world could render as acceptable an offering on this memorial occasion. The teachers are making the same mistake that has been made over and over again. They should learn wisdom from the experiences of the past. The careless, godless world can offer an abundance of such offerings as these, in a much more acceptable manner.
Turning to the teachers, He said, You have made a mistake the effects of which it will be hard to efface. The Lord God of Israel is not glorified in
the school. If at this time the Lord should permit your life to end, many would be lost, eternally separated from God and the righteous.
The Consequence of One Departure from Right
These things are a repetition of the course of Aaron, when at the foot of Sinai he allowed the first beginning of wrong by permitting a spirit of revelling and commonness to come into the camp of Israel. Moses was in the mount with God and Aaron had been left in charge. He showed his weakness by not standing firmly against the propositions of the people. He could have exercised his authority to hold the congregation back from wrong-doing, but just as in his home he failed with his children, so he showed the same defective administration in his management of Israel. His weakness as a general was seen in his desire to please the people, even at the sacrifice of principle. He lost his power of command at the very first permission that he gave, which allowed them to go contrary to God's commands in the least particular. And as a result, the spirit of idolatry came in, and the current set in motion could not be stayed until stern and decisive measures had been taken.
It took time and a vast amount of labour and sorrow to wipe out the influence of the proceedings at the Avondale school on that Wednesday afternoon. But the experience was a lesson that helped those in charge of the school to realise the tendency of such amusements.
What an exhibition was this to be reported by the students to their distant friends and acquaintances! It was a witness that showed, not what God had accomplished in the school, but what Satan had accomplished. Serious is the consequence of even one such departure from the instruction that God has given concerning our schools. Once the barriers
are broken down, the advance of the enemy will be marked, unless the Lord shall humble hearts, and convert minds.
The effort to regain that which was lost by the proceedings of that afternoon cost the teachers much labour. They were severely tried. With the students there was seen a desire for further pleasure, and less regard for the instruction of God's word. The Lord of heaven was thus dishonoured, and the indulgence of the desires of the human heart in sin and love of pleasure, was the education received.
Let those who are educating the youth govern themselves according to the high and holy principles that Christ has given in His word. Let them remember that, as far as possible, they are to recover the ground that has been lost, that they may bring into our schools the spirituality that was seen in the schools of the prophets.
The Bible as a Counsellor
Teachers need an intimate acquaintance with the word of God. The Bible, and the Bible alone, should be their counsellor. The word of God is as the leaves of the tree of life. Here is met every want of those who love its teachings and bring them into the practical life. Many of the students who come to our schools are unconverted, though they may have been baptised. They do not know what it means to be sanctified through a belief of the truth. They should be taught to search and understand the Bible, to receive its truths into the heart and carry them out in the daily life. Thus they will become strong in the Lord; for spiritual sinew and muscle are nourished by the bread of life.
The Lord desires His stewards to discharge their duties faithfully, in His name and in His strength. By believing His word and acting upon its teachings, they may go on conquering and to conquer.
But when men depart from the principles of righteousness, they conceive a high opinion of their own goodness and abilities, and unconsciously they exalt themselves. The Lord allows such ones to walk alone, to follow their own way. Thus He gives them opportunity to see themselves as they are, and to manifest to others their weakness. He is seeking to teach them that the Lord's way is always to be closely followed, that His word is to be taken as it reads, and that men are not to devise and plan according to their own judgement, irrespective of His counsel.
Our schools are to be as the schools of the prophets. In them the truths of the Bible are to be earnestly studied. If rightly brought before the mind, and thoughtfully dwelt upon, these truths will give the students a desire for that which is infinitely higher than worldly amusement. As they draw near to God, becoming partakers of the divine nature, earth-born amusements will sink into nothingness.
The minds of the students will take a higher turn, and beholding the character of Jesus, they will strive to be like Him.
Useful Employment Versus Selfish Pleasure
Students are sent to our schools to receive an education that will enable them to go forth as workers in God's cause. Satan would lead them to believe that amusements are necessary to physical health, but the Lord has declared that the better way is for them to get physical exercise through manual training, and by letting useful employment take the place of selfish pleasure. The desire for amusement, if indulged, soon develops a dislike for useful, healthful exercise of body and mind, such as will make students efficient in helping themselves and others. In the place of providing diversions that merely amuse, arrangements should be made for exercises that will be productive of good.
God bestows talents upon men, not that these talents may lie unused or be employed in self-gratification, but that they may be used to bless others. God grants men the gift of time for the purpose of promoting His glory. When this time is used in selfish pleasure, the hours thus spent are lost for all eternity.
The Lord calls upon all who claim to have received Christ as their personal Saviour, to obey the words, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." "We are labourers together with God; ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building." "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light."