In the seventeenth chapter of First Kings we have recorded the story of the miracle of the widow's cruse of oil and barrel of meal. In the 17th verse we read that "it came to pass after these things" that the son of the woman died. The 19th verse tells us that Elijah carried him up into the loft where he abode and laid him upon his own bed,. and the 21st verse says, "And he stretched [margin, measured] himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray Thee, let this child's soul come into him again." And the child revived. Then in the 24th verse of this same chapter, "The woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the Word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth."
It seems remarkable that notwithstanding the miracles of the never-failing cruse of oil and barrel of flour through the days of the famine, that the final proof of Elijah's being a man of God lay for that widow woman in the fact that he restored her son to life.
I come to you this morning with a burden on my heart for the young people who must withstand the temptations, and bear the responsibilities, of the last days. I come with a heart burdened for parents who must answer the question, "Where is thy flock, thy beautiful flock?" I come with a heart burdened for fellow ministers and workers to whom God has given the command, "Feed My lambs," and to whom He has said, "And whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." Matt. 18: 5, 6. And my prayer is that God will bless our study together till we shall rise up and stretch ourselves to the limit of our ability and measure ourselves with the needs of the boys and girls and the young people, so that those who are dead in trespasses and sins, and those who are cold in indifference, and those who are being snared by the deceitfulness of sin may some way, through our ministry, feel new life throbbing again through their hearts and souls.'
"I am forced to the conclusion that training must commence before our children go to school."
In Prov. 22: 6 we read: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." What an excellent precept! What a wonderful promise! What a startling challenge! But let us consider for a moment to whom this precept was given. I have been at our colleges and training schools, and have spoken with hundreds and hundreds of young people, but I find that the majority of them have already been baptized and have already decided whether they intend to be doctors or teachers or missionaries or business men. I have gone to our high schools and academies, and I have spoken to the young men and young women who are beset by the greatest temptations, but I find that here also the decisions for right or wrong have all largely been made. I have been to the intermediate schools and the primary schools, but even in the first grade the teachers tell me that the little folks are already good or bad, and I am forced to the conclusion that training must commence before our children go to school.
The Spirit of prophecy tells us very definitely just where this training must commence. I wish that in your leisure moments you could study the chapters in "Education," pages 275 to 286. You would here find the burden very definitely laid upon the parents. On page 276, after commenting on the visit of the angel to Manoah to give instruction concerning Samson who was to be born, this word is given: "This work of education the Infinite One has counted so important that messengers from His throne have been sent to a mother that was to be, to answer the question, 'How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?' and to instruct a father concerning the education of a promised son."
"Never will education accomplish all that it might and should accomplish until the importance of the parents' work is fully recognized, and they receive a training for its sacred responsibilities." As parents and teachers we are to train our children for eternity, and it is very evident that in the eyes of God the only object of education and training is the building of character, for in the day of judgment we shall be tested not by what we know but by what we are.
For a few moments I would like to review with you two fundamental laws of the mind. You have no doubt studied these in school and in your various training and psychology courses, but it does us good to review them occasionally.
The field of conscious understanding in the mind may be likened somewhat to the field of vision. As we look in front of us we see a circle of various objects—this is called the field of vision. But in this field of vision not everything is seen with equal distinctness and clearness. In the centre of this field, called the focus of vision, one object is seen in more distinct detail than the other nearby things, so that as we read, we see each word that we read more distinctly than the whole page. While we can change the focus of our vision from one object to another with great rapidity, yet it is true that only one thing can occupy the focus of vision at a time and all other things recede to the margin of vision.
It is even so in the field of conscious understanding. Ideas are brought into our minds through the five channels—the eye, the ear, the nose, the mouth, and the feeling, and although our minds are filled with all kinds.of ideas, only one idea at a time can stay enthroned in the focus of the understanding, and as it does, the other ideas recede to the margin or the threshold of consciousness.
There are many kinds of ideas that fill our minds. Some are active and persistent and have the ability to force themselves on to the throne of our thoughts the moment it is left vacant. Other ideas remain in the background until they are brought by the will or by association or by suggestion or by some other means into the centre of thought. These ideas are known as active and passive ideas, and one of the fundamental laws of the mind to which I wish to direct your attention is, that passive ideas can be recalled and enthroned in the focus of the mind through the eyes, through the ears, through the nose, through the mouth, and through the feeling until not only do these passive ideas become active, but with them there is created an irresistible inclination to imitate.
This is no mere theory. Mrs. Hare and I have lived with a daily proof of it for over ten years, and we know that this is very, very true. I think most of you know that eleven years ago we discovered that our little girl, Verna May, was deaf. After doing all we could to make sure that the diagnosis was correct, and that there was no hope medically or surgically for her hearing to improve, we settled down to teach her lip reading. We followed care- fully the directions given to us in our correspondence course from the Wright Oral School of New York, and I want you to follow closely how we taught our little girlie to speak. She was only two years old. Her ability to focus her thoughts was limited to a minute or two. One of the first words we were to teach her was the word "yellow," and the first lesson was to procure a number of small skeins of different coloured wool and just make her wool conscious by placing these skeins of wool in her 'hands as often as we could all through the first day. At first she played with them with some interest, but soon tired of them and threw them away. In a little while we would patiently pick them up and put them back into her hands. In a minute or two she would throw them away again, but we kept on picking up these skeins of wool and putting them into her little hands all day long. The second day after placing the skeins of wool in her lap, we selected the yellow skein and put that in her hand, and all day long we kept putting that yellow skein of wool in her hands. The next day we put the skeihs of wool in her lap, selected the yellow skein, and then matched it with other yellow objects in the room. We let her do this also. We played with this as often as we could all of that day. The next day, after placing the yellow skein of wool in her hands, we lifted her little face so that her eyes could' watch our lips as we said, "yellow," "yellow," "yellow." We did this all of that day, and the next day after placing the skein of yellow wool in her hand we stood together in the front of a large mirror, with our mouths as close to her little face as possible so that she could feel the expulsion of our breath, and the vibrations of our words, against her little face at the same time that she could see the lip movements in the mirror. We had not repeated this exercise more than ten or twelve times before that 'little two-year-old deaf girl began to say “Yellow" "yellow," "yellow," clearly and distinctly. And in that way, and in that exact process we taught her to say one hundred and fifty words. We then put her in an oral school, and following along these same fundamental principles she has been taught to speak, and those of you who have seen her and talked with her all say, "It is wonderful! It is wonderful!"
It is wonderful. And it is simply the working out of this fundamental law of the mind. You see exactly what we did. We brought in that idea of yellow through the hands, through the eyes, through the vibrations on her little face, and that passive idea of yellowness not only became an active idea, but with it there developed an irresistible inclination to imitate it, and this is the principle by which she has been taught to speak.
Now, my dear fellow workers, can you not see a little more clearly why it is that our boys and girls want to smoke, paint themselves with lipstick, and ape the fashions of the world? It is because they see these things on the bill-boards, they hear them on the radio, they associate with them on the trams and trains. The shop windows are full of them, and sad to say the magazines that often find their way into our homes are filled with them, too. Years ago a poet wrote:—
"Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
That to be hated, needs but to be seen,
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace."
And how true that is! Satan has learned to use this principle of the mind in all of his temptations, and we know only too well how he is succeeding.
It is interesting to note the following definition of the word "temptation" from
"Temptation—Lat. temptare—Touch, feel, try, test, attempt.”
"To try, to test, put to the test or proof in a venturesome way. Act presumptuously toward, risk provoking.”
"To try, attempt, make an attempt, upon, incite, assail with enticements. Affect with a strong inclination or render strongly disposed to."
"I feel thrilled with the thought, dear brethren, that you and I can actually stretch ourselves and learn how to tempt our boys and girls and our young people to do good and not evil."
And I feel thrilled with the thought, dear brethren, that you and I can actually stretch ourselves and learn how to tempt our boys and girls and our young people to do good and not evil. There is a way that this can be done, and we read it in Phil. 4: 8: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Let us not only think these things, brethren, but let us fill our homes with them. Let us put these good things, these clean, virtuous, praiseworthy things on our tables, on our pianos, in our libraries, on the walls of our homes. Let us fill our schools with them, and I know that we will reap the results.
There is one more law of the mind that I want to deal with. Ideas are built up and developed in several ways.
First by the fusing of similar ideas. For instance, we speak of "a tall man," and the conscious mind immediately pictures a tall man. We speak of "a dark man," and the mind immediately pictures a dark man, and because these ideas are similar we can fuse them together and at the same moment we can conceive the idea of a ‘tall dark man.” In the same way we can picture "resting," also "blessing" and "hallowing." And because these conditions are somewhat similar we have no difficulty at all in combining these ideas and understanding perfectly, at the same moment, the idea of the holy Sabbath day which God created by resting, blessing, and sanctifying it.
Secondly, ideas can be developed by the combination of disparate ideas. That is where two ideas altogether different, can still be combined and built into one idea. For instance, "Nebo" is a mountain. "Moses" is a man, but because Moses died on Nebo we have no difficulty at all in fixing the mind at the same moment on Moses and Mount Nebo. Similarly we can think of "John the Baptist" in the wilderness or in the River Jordan baptizing. Or we can think of Jesus of Nazareth without any difficulty at all.
"By doing good and thinking good we can cast out evil, and, brethren, this is the only way that it can be done. You cannot cast a wrong thought out of the mind with another wrong thought. It is only a contrary idea that can arrest another."
Thirdly, however, we find certain ideas which though they are very similar in some ways are definitely contrary, and they will not mix. They will not combine. As the mind tries to grasp one, the other is arrested or excluded. Now just to illustrate this class of contrary ideas. Close your eyes for a moment and think of the colour red. How easy it is! Now try to think green at identically the same moment, and you will find to your astonishment that it cannot be done. You can think of green, but as you do red is forced from the centre of the mind's focus and recedes to the margin of thought. You can focus your mind alternately in very rapid succession from red to green, but these ideas although similar, in that they are colours, are antagonistic and opposite and contrary, and cannot combine to build up one bigger idea. This is why you cannot think Christ and Satan at the same moment. This is why you cannot think light and darkness at the same moment. This is why no person can keep both Sabbath and Sunday for any length of time. This is why we cannot think right and wrong at the same time. This is why Paul tells us in Rom. 12: 21, "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. This is why in Eph. 3:5, Paul says, “But fornication, and all uncleaness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints." This is why in 2 Cor. 3: 18 we read: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord." By beholding we are changed. By doing good and thinking good we can cast out evil, and, brethren, this is the only way that it can be done. You cannot cast a wrong thought out of the mind with another wrong thought. It is only a contrary idea that can arrest another.
We do not here have time to study into the bad effects of some evil practices, but as you have time to think about it and talk about it in your homes, study through in the light of this second fundamental law of the mind, "the evil habit of negative correction." You will see immediately that every time we mention the sin, even with a "don't" before it, we are actually strengthening the perception of that sin. Think through the horrible habits of nagging and criticism, and see the conclusion to which we are forced. Brethren, I believe that it is time for us to talk less of evil and more of good. It is time for us to speak less of Satan and his temptations and more of the power of God. I greatly fear the illustrations that we might use in which sin and depravity are magnified. I greatly fear the wholesale broadcasting of confession of sin. There is a better way for us to attack our problems, and this is by saturating our lives and our words and our thoughts and our homes with those things that are good and honest and pure and true. Notice what the Spirit of prophecy has to say in "Testimonies," Volume V, page 545: "Little do parents consider that injurious impressions are far more readily received by the young than are divine impressions. . . . If they hear the principles of religion slurred, and our faith belittled; if sly objections to the truth are dropped in their hearing, these things will fasten in their minds, and mould their characters. . . . Let the youth be placed in the most favourable circumstances possible; for the company they keep, the principles they adopt, the habits they form, will settle the question of their usefulness here, and of their future, eternal interests, with a certainty that is infallible."
Let me read more from "Testimonies," Volume VI, page 193: "Do our children receive from the teachers in the public schools ideas that are in harmony with the Word of God? Is sin presented as an offence against God? Is obedience to all the commandments of God taught as the beginning of all wisdom?"
"Counsels to Teachers," page 166, says: "Parents and teachers do not estimate the magnitude of the work given them in training the young. The experience of the children of Israel was written for us `upon whom the ends of the world are come.' As in their day, so now the Lord would have the children gathered out from those schools where worldly influences prevail, and placed in our own schools, where the Word of God is made the foundation of education. . . . Only the power of God can save our children from being swept away by the tide of evil. The responsibility resting upon parents, teachers, and church members, to do their part in co-operation with God, is greater than words can express."
Brethren, I thank God for our church schools, and I feel that we must stretch ourselves and measure ourselves to make them better and better. You will be interested to know that the lip-reading school where our little deaf girl attended was a public school, and for six years our little girl attended this public school. It was the only thing we could do, and yet we noticed that each year we had a major problem with her. It was shows, or dancing, or something else. And the last year we were astonished beyond description one day when she told us that when she grew up she wanted to be a Catholic so that she could go to shows and dances. She had figured it out in her little mind that we would not permit her to do these things because we were Seventh-day Adventists. She wanted to go to the confessional with Dorothy, one of her little chums, and then she could go to shows and everything else just as Dorothy did. We checked up on the public school, and found to our amazement that all of the teachers were Catholic and that 80 per cent of the children were Catholic, and we decided that whether she could learn any more or not that we could not afford to keep her in the public school for another year. Just then, the term of my service in Northern California being up, we were transferred to Southern California, and we experimented for one year by putting little Verna May into one of our own church schools, and we are thrilled to be able to tell you that she held her own with thirty or forty normal children that year. But we are more thrilled to be able to tell you this: One day we found a piece of paper on the table. We picked it up and found that it was an unfinished letter to her little Catholic friend Dorothy. She had forgotten all about it, but I will keep that letter amongst my treasures always. For it said: "Dear Dorothy: How are you? I am fine. I love you. I did not tell a lie to you. I won't do it any more. I don't believe the Catholic, I believe Seventh-day Adventists. Please tell Eleanor I am sorry for my sin to you."
It is quite evident that in her childish way she had told the girls that she was going to be a Catholic when she grew up, and you can only imagine how happy and joyful Mrs. Hare and I were to read this little letter. The Spirit of prophecy has indeed told the truth when it says, "The responsibility resting upon parents, teachers, and church members, to do their part in co-operation with God, is greater than words can express."
I believe, dear brethren, that it is time for the Spirit of God to turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and to turn the hearts of the children to their parents. Mal. 4: 6. Don't you? But how can we pray, "Lead us not into, temptation," and then keep on indifferently, scolding, criticizing, and filling our homes with things that depict evil? "Education," page 190, says: "Furthermore, a large share of the periodicals and books that, like the frogs of Egypt, are over-spreading the land, are not merely commonplace, idle, and enervating, but unclean and degrading. Their effect is not merely to intoxicate and ruin the mind, but to corrupt and destroy the soul. The mind, the heart, that is indolent, aimless, falls an easy prey to evil. It is on diseased, lifeless organisms that fungus roots. It is the idle mind that is Satan's workshop." I am determined that I shall measure myself to the task in my home with all my heart and soul and strength.
I have seen boys and girls lose their taste for shows and funny papers when they get interested in the Progressive work and the Vocational studies of the Missionary Volunteer department. Why not procure a Junior Handbook and acquaint ourselves more with this wealth of possibility in the right direction? Surely it takes time and energy. It will require that we stretch and measure ourselves to the limit, but there is a fascination in things that are right and true if only we will pay the price and show the way; and the results are more than worth it. Let me read the lament of a mother— a lament that came too late:—
"Have you seen anywhere a tall little lad,
And a winsome wee lass of four?
It was only today, bare-footed and brown,
That they played by my kitchen door.
It was only today, (or maybe a year;
It could not be TWENTY, I know!)
They were shouting for me to help in their game,
But I was too busy to go,
Too busy with sweeping and dusting to
And now they have silently wandered
"If by chance you hear of a little slim lad
And a small winsome lass of four,
I pray you tell me! To find them again
I would journey the wide world o'er.
Somewhere, I am sure, they'll be playing
And should they be calling for me
To come out and help, oh, tell them,
I beg, I'm coming as fast as can be!
For there's never a house might hold me today
Could I hear them call me to share in their play."
—Minnie Case Hopkins.
In closing you will pardon my referring to another personal experience, but I am glad that my mother is here today and can hear me say it. The first thing that I can remember in my early childhood days is kneeling at my mother's knee while she taught me to pray after her this little prayer —"And when I grow up, please Jesus help me to be a missionary at the four corners of the earth." Day after day, month after month, year after year I prayed that prayer at my mother's knee. But the first thing I wanted to be in this old world was a tram conductor. You remember the cable trams in Melbourne, and how the conductors had tickets pinned all over them and a little punch that rang a bell every time he punched a ticket. Oh, yes, I knew when I was five years old that that was the finest job in all the world, and I wanted to be a tram conductor; and my mother did not say I couldn't.. She didn't tell me what a good-for-nothing I was for daring to think of such a thing. My mother did not say anything about the tram conductor. She watched me play in the back yard with my tickets and my passengers, but ignored the tram conductor and kept talking about when I was going to be a missionary; and sure enough, when I, grew up I became a missionary, and I am still a missionary, and am on my way to Burma for the fourth journey. Friends say to me, "Aren't you afraid to go? Is not there danger ahead?" There may be danger, but how could I be afraid to go!
May God give every mother and father a new vision of their responsibility in the home, and every teacher a new vision of the golden opportunities around him, and every preacher a new vision of the lambs of His flock and their needs. Then let us all determine by the grace of God to measure ourselves with the need of these last days, and stretch ourselves to tempt our young people to good, that at last we might stand triumphant, is my prayer.