The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 58: The Schools of the Prophets
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The Lord Himself directed the education of Israel. His care
was not restricted to their religious interests; whatever
affected their mental or physical well-being was also the subject
of divine providence, and came within the sphere of divine law.
God had commanded the Hebrews to teach their children
His requirements and to make them acquainted with all His
dealings with their fathers. This was one of the special duties of
every parent—one that was not to be delegated to another. In
the place of stranger lips the loving hearts of the father and
mother were to give instruction to their children. Thoughts of
God were to be associated with all the events of daily life. The
mighty works of God in the deliverance of His people and the
promises of the Redeemer to come were to be often recounted
in the homes of Israel; and the use of figures and symbols caused
the lessons given to be more firmly fixed in the memory. The
great truths of God's providence and of the future life were
impressed on the young mind. It was trained to see God alike in
the scenes of nature and the words of revelation. The stars of
heaven, the trees and flowers of the field, the lofty mountains,
the rippling brooks—all spoke of the Creator. The solemn service
of sacrifice and worship at the sanctuary and the utterances
of the prophets were a revelation of God.
Such was the training of Moses in the lowly cabin home in
Goshen; of Samuel, by the faithful Hannah; of David, in the hill
dwelling at Bethlehem; of Daniel, before the scenes of the
captivity separated him from the home of his fathers. Such, too, was
the early life of Christ at Nazareth; such the training by which
the child Timothy learned from the lips of his grandmother Lois,
and his mother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15), the truths of Holy
Writ. [p. 593]
Further provision was made for the instruction of the young,
by the establishment of the schools of the prophets. If a youth
desired to search deeper into the truths of the word of God and
to seek wisdom from above, that he might become a teacher in
Israel, these schools were open to him. The schools of the prophets
were founded by Samuel to serve as a barrier against the
widespread corruption, to provide for the moral and spiritual
welfare of the youth, and to promote the future prosperity of the
nation by furnishing it with men qualified to act in the fear of
God as leaders and counselors. In the accomplishment of this
object Samuel gathered companies of young men who were pious,
intelligent, and studious. These were called the sons of the
prophets. As they communed with God and studied His word and
His works, wisdom from above was added to their natural
endowments. The instructors were men not only well versed in
divine truth, but those who had themselves enjoyed communion
with God and had received the special endowment of His Spirit.
They enjoyed the respect and confidence of the people, both for
learning and piety.
In Samuel's day there were two of these schools—one at
Ramah, the home of the prophet, and the other at Kirjath-jearim,
where the ark then was. Others were established in later times.
The pupils of these schools sustained themselves by their own
labor in tilling the soil or in some mechanical employment. In
Israel this was not thought strange or degrading; indeed, it was
regarded a crime to allow children to grow up in ignorance of
useful labor. By the command of God every child was taught
some trade, even though he was to be educated for holy office.
Many of the religious teachers supported themselves by manual
labor. Even so late as the time of the apostles, Paul and Aquila
were no less honored because they earned a livelihood by their
trade of tentmaking.
The chief subjects of study in these schools were the law of
God, with the instructions given to Moses, sacred history, sacred
music, and poetry. The manner of instruction was far different
from that in the theological schools of the present day, from
which many students graduate with less real knowledge of God
and religious truth than when they entered. In those schools of
the olden time it was the grand object of all study to learn the [p. 594] will of God and man's duty toward Him. In the records of sacred
history were traced the footsteps of Jehovah. The great truths
set forth by the types were brought to view, and faith grasped
the central object of all that system—the Lamb of God that was
to take away the sin of the world.
A spirit of devotion was cherished. Not only were students
taught the duty of prayer, but they were taught how to pray, how
to approach their Creator, how to exercise faith in Him, and how
to understand and obey the teachings of His Spirit. Sanctified
intellects brought forth from the treasure house of God things
new and old, and the Spirit of God was manifested in prophecy
and sacred song.
Music was made to serve a holy purpose, to lift the thoughts
to that which is pure, noble, and elevating, and to awaken in the
soul devotion and gratitude to God. What a contrast between
the ancient custom and the uses to which music is now too often
devoted! How many employ this gift to exalt self, instead of
using it to Glorify God! A love for music leads the unwary to
unite with world lovers in pleasure gatherings where God has
forbidden His children to go. Thus that which is a great blessing
when rightly used, becomes one of the most successful agencies
by which Satan allures the mind from duty and from the contemplation
of eternal things.
Music forms a part of God's worship in the courts above, and
we should endeavor, in our songs of praise, to approach as nearly
as possible to the harmony of the heavenly choirs. The proper
training of the voice is an important feature in education and
should not be neglected. Singing, as a part of religious service,
is as much an act of worship as is prayer. The heart must feel
the spirit of the song to give it right expression.
How wide the difference between those schools taught by
the prophets of God and our modern institutions of learning!
How few schools are to be found that are not governed by the
maxims and customs of the world! There is a deplorable lack
of proper restraint and judicious discipline. The existing
ignorance of God's word among a people professedly Christian
is alarming. Superficial talk, mere sentimentalism, passes for
instruction in morals and religion. The justice and mercy of God,
the beauty of holiness and the sure reward of rightdoing, the
heinous character of sin and the certainty of its terrible results, [p. 595] are not impressed upon the minds of the young. Evil associates
are instructing the youth in the ways of crime, dissipation, and
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