The Impact of True Education

(originally printed as ‘Helpful Writings on Christian Education’, in the Review and Herald, 10 January 1946)

As Adventists, we have something of a love-hate relationship with the fact that our church is closely linked with the Spirit of Prophecy. Some feel that the prophetic gift is the best thing since sliced bread. Others feel that it leaves a bad mark on us, transfering to us its stigma. 

Sometimes there is a fear that in following this unique gift of prophecy, we will become too strange and peculiar in the eyes of the world. The purpose of this reprint is to show that the prophetic gift is not something to be ashamed of. On the contrary, it is something that the world has looked at us in awe for, and I believe, should we follow it once again, the world would see that we have something different–something better.

In the development of our system of Christian education—from church school to academy and college and seminary and medical college—a system that has been a blessing to Seventh-day Adventists—all our people should understand that the constant instruction in early years and to this day by the writings of the Spirit of prophecy has been a great factor. Our education leaders would be the foremost to say so.

Yet these counsels by pen and voice have come by the exercise of the Spirit through an agent who was called to special service in her girlhood and never had the privilege of fulfilling her early ambition of going through college. This very experience made it all the more apparent that Mrs. E.G. White’s service for education was through the gift of the Spirit of prophecy rather than by any personal educational preparation in the schools. 

Perhaps the space of this article may permit reference to only one of Mrs. White’s volumes, the book Education

Years ago I was walking with a fellow worker along the streets of one of the great cities of Australia. “Yonder,” he said to me, “is the leading teachers’ college of this city and province. The head of that school said to one of our men: ‘Every graduate of this school is presented by me with a copy of the best work on education in the English language. It is the book Education, by Mrs. E. G. White.’”

Rather remarkable, is it not? A woman who never had a college education writes a book of which an educational leader speaks like that! It was written to help our own educational work, the teachers of our more than a hundred thousand youth who are in our schools getting ready to act a part in this advent movement. But through this ministry of a spiritual gift our educational forces have derived advantages that some educators of the world freely acknowledge.

In a State teachers’ educational convention in our Northwest some years ago, the guest speaker was the president of a State teachers’ college in a more southernly State. He devoted the last quarter of an hour of his address, I was told by one who was there, to our educational system, saying:

“The Seventh-day Adventists are a small people, but they have something that we need in order to make our system a success.”

All who have spent years in this advent movement know how the instruction came, line upon line, year after year, from this gift of the Spirit of prophecy.

A Scottish Librarian

A few years ago I was talking in Nashville, Tennessee, with a fellow worker who had done evangelistic and conference administrative service in Britain. He told me of an interesting incident that I have asked him to repeat in writing. S. G. Haughey, under date of October 22, 1945, gave me this account:

“We were living in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1907-08. One day I was in the city library, on the south side of the Clyde River, which runs through Glasgow as the Thames does through London. After looking up some items I was talking with the librarian, who was at his desk. I asked about some historical works and publications, and then the conversation turned to educational matters. That question was a live issue in Britain just then. The librarian said:

‘We have a fine line of valuable works on education in the library. But there is one in particular that I think is the finest work on the whole question of education that I have seen. It deals with the subject from the right point of view. It is the best book on the subject that I have ever read.’

‘I should like to see it,’ I replied.

He went to the library shelf rooms and presently came back handing me the book Education, by Ellen G. White, saying, as he handed it to me, ‘To my mind, this is the best book on education that we have in the city library.’

I told him I myself had a copy of that very book and greatly appreciated it. I have often thought of the conversation we had that day.”

A nurse in one of our health institutions in New England was invited by a wealthy woman patient to spend a few weeks at her seaside cottage. The nurse took with her this book Education, of which we have been speaking.

The lady, a woman of education, read the book. “The author of this book,” said she, “must have been a woman of exceptional education.”

“No, not at all,” replied our nurse, and explained something of the author’s call as a young girl to religious work.

“Then she must have written by inspiration,” said the patient.

The Book in a Catholic Land

One more story we may tell of this book. After the first World War, we were told, the faculty of a Yugoslav seminary appointed one of their number to prepare a book on the moral education to be used in the Slavic languages. When the book came out—published by the seminary authority, Orthodox Greek Catholic in religion—one of our workers found many things in it that had a familiar sound to an Adventist reader. He compared it with Mrs. White’s book Education and found that it was very largely a translation from that book. 

I spoke of this in a series of talks on the Spirit of prophecy at a conference in Vienna, Austria, shortly before this second World War. After my study a young man came to me, one of our own teachers from Yugoslavia. “I have checked that book through,” he told me, “and it was my opinion that eighty per cent of the book is Mrs. White’s writing.”

Writing later, Secretary W. R. Beach, of our Southern European Division, reported:

“This book was used in the Servian Orthodox Catholic seminaries as a textbook for priests in the study of educational problems. It appeared first in the columns of the seminary paper and later in book form. The author . . . has substituted the word ‘Sunday’ for the word ‘Sabbath,’ and the expression ‘Croatian and Serbian people’ for the expression ‘Advent people.’”

When the compiler’s attention was called to these facts by our Elder Mocnik, of Yugoslavia, he acknowledged that he had used Mrs. White’s book in his compilation.

“He said,” Elder Beach continued, “that he had translated the book because he felt that nothing he could write would have been as profitable for his country.”

This book was advertised as the best book on moral education in the Slavic language.

Let critics who disparage the work of the agent so long among us in the exercise of the New Testament gift of the Spirit of prophecy explain how a woman who had not had the higher education of worldly schools, came to be writing this book and several others on education—as Christian Education, Counsels to Parents and Teachers, Fundamentals of Christian Education—books that educational men of the world regard as valuable helps to the educational cause. We know that the true explanation is that given by Mrs. White herself:

“I have written many books, and they have been given a wide circulation. Of myself I could not have brought out the truth in these books, but the Lord has given me the help of His Holy Spirit.” –Review and Herald, July 26, 1906.

That is how these volumes came to our schoolmen and to all of us. And besides all these, who of us has ever tried to estimate the page upon page of educational counsels that have come through the Testimonies for the Church and our papers, never included in the special volumes?

What a School Inspector Saw

In 1918 I was visiting one of our schools centers in the far west of Australia. It was in a rural section. Teachers and students were working together in classrooms and in orchards and on the land in a way that was good to watch. Secretary A. H. Piper, of the Australasian Union, was my guide on the trip. I think he had formerly been principal of the school. He told me this story of early days: 

“The government inspector of schools came to visit and survey our school in the regular way of his official duties. He was impressed with the industrial departments, and especially with the uniform spirit of cooperation in the student body.

‘How do you get such results?’ he asked me.

‘We have four books on educational methods that are a great help to us,’ I replied.

‘I would very much like to look through them,’ he said.

“So I gave him the four books by Mrs. E. G. White. He took them home with him, When next he came on his rounds he returned the books, saying, ‘I see it now. No wonder you get results. That book Education is [a] masterpiece. With us, if a young man keeps getting out of line, we say, ‘Straighten up, or out you go!’ But you follow the counsels of these books that tell your teachers how to get close to the young man and how to pray with him and work with him to win out in the problem.’”

In the writings of this gift set in the church one finds the years-long urge and inspiration that have helped our army of educational men and women to struggle ever toward the ideals of Christian education. Not one of them would say that the full ideal has been achieved. But one often hears from educational men of the world that they see something different and good in the progress our workers have made.

At a conference in the Northwest the business manager of one of our colleges told a story of the visit of a commission from the state university, appointed to inspect private schools. After a visit to various departments of industries one member of the commission said to his associates, “Well here is one college that is doing the thing that all of us say should be done, but which we do not do.”

Well do we know what a help that gift set in the advent movement from the very beginning has been to this people. One more article should mention other books by the same pen, on more general topics, books of which men of the world bear their testimony. It is right to refer to this topic when some religious editors of the opposition represent the writings in question as something childish. The writings of this gift of the Spirit of prophecy bear their own credentials for soundness and stability and power for righteousness.

William A. Spicer

(President of the General Conference from 1922-1930)

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