Are You a Student in Abraham’s School?

As a stone, hurled from some mountain peak, crashes its way toward the valley beneath, gaining velocity with each foot of descent, until, wrapped within it, lies a power of destruction unmeasured, so man, turning from the gate of Paradise, began a downward career which in intensity and rapidity can be measured only by the height from which he started. Before the strong will of men of the first ten centuries, few forces could stand. As the plane to which it was possible for him to attain was perfection, so the level to which he descended was confusion itself. Men’s lives, instead of being narrowed by the brief span of threescore years and ten, were measured by centuries; and intellects, mighty by birth, had time as well as power to expand. Adam lived to see his children to the eighth generation; and when we think that from his own lips Enoch learned the story of the Fall, of the glories of the Eden home; when we bear in mind that Enoch probably saw this same ancestor laid in the earth, there to molder to dust, we better understand the relation he desired to sustain to his God. After a life of three hundred years, in which the Sacred Record says, he “walked with God”, earth’s attraction grew so slight that he himself was taken into heaven. This was less than sixty years after the death of Adam. This was the beautiful result of the education received by Enoch.

Two Distinct Classes

Passing beyond the gate of Eden, two classes of minds developed. Clear and distinct as light from darkness was the difference between the two. Cain, by exalting his own reasoning powers, accepted the logic of Satan. Admitting the physical plane to be the proper basis for living, he lost all appreciation of spiritual things and depended wholly upon feeling. True, for a time he adhered to the form of worship, coming week by week to the gate of Eden to offer sacrifices; but his eye of faith was blind. When he saw his brother’s sacrifice accepted, a feeling of hatred sprang up in his breast, and, raising his hand, he took that brother’s life.

Men are startled at the rapidity of the descent from Edenic purity to a condition where murder was easy, but it was the natural result of the educational system chosen by Cain. Reason exalted above faith, makes man like an engine without the governor.

Murder, however, was but one result of the decision made by Cain. He fled from the presence of God, and with his descendants, built the cities of the East. Physical needs predominated so that the whole attention of this people was turned to the gratification of fleshly desires. Pride increased, love of wealth was a ruling passion; the artificial took, more and more, the place once occupied by the natural. In the place of God-worship was self worship, or paganism. This was the religious aspect; and here are to be found the first worshipers of the sun, the human progenitors of the modern papacy.

As there was a change in religion, so there was a change in government.

There could no longer be a theocracy, with the father of the family being the high priest unto God; for God had been lost sight of, and His place was filled by man himself. Hence, these descendants of Cain flocked together into cities where the strong bore rule over the weak, and thus developed an absolute monarchy.

The education which upheld paganism in religion, and monarchy in government, was the same as that which in later days controlled Greece and is known by us today as Platoism. It is but another name for an education which exalts the mind of man above God and places human philosophy ahead of divine philosophy.

Pagan Education

We think, perhaps, that there were schools then; but that is a mistake. “The training of youth in those days was after the same order as children are being educated and trained in this age,…to love excitement, to glorify themselves, to follow the imaginations of their own evil hearts.” Special Testimonies on Education, 92. Their keen minds laid hold of the sciences; they delved into the mysteries of nature. They made wonderful progress in inventions and all material pursuits. But the imaginations of their hearts were only evil continually.

Children educated in the cities had their evil tendencies exaggerated. The philosophical teaching of the age blotted out all faith; and when Noah, a teacher of righteousness, raised his voice against the popular education and proclaimed his message of faith, even the little children scoffed at him.

So polluted were the cities, that Enoch chose to spend much time in retired places where he could commune with God and where he would be in touch with nature. At times he entered the cities, proclaiming to the inhabitants the truth given him by God. Some listened, and occasionally small companies sought him in his places of retirement, to listen to his words of warning. But the influence of early training, the pressure brought to bear by society, and the philosophy of the schools, exerted a power too strong to resist. They turned from the pleadings of conscience to the old life.

Scoffers and Critics

As Noah told of the coming flood, and as he and his sons continued to build the ark, men and children derided. “Water from heaven! Ah, Noah, you may talk of your spiritual insight, but who ever heard of water coming out of the sky? The thing is an impossibility: it is contrary to all reason, to all scientific truth, and to all earth’s experience. You may think such things were revealed to you; but since the days of our father Adam, no such thing ever happened.” Such statements seemed true. Generation after generation had looked into a sky undarkened by storm clouds. Night after night dew watered the growing plants. Why should they believe otherwise? They could see no reason for it. To those antediluvians, the possibility of a flood seemed as absurd as does it’s recital as a matter of history to the modern, higher critic. It was out of harmony with men’s senses, hence an impossibility.

Before the Flood, no peal of thunder had ever resounded among the hills, no lightning had ever played through the heavens. Such a thing had never been seen before. “How unshapely,” say they. “How absurd to think of water standing over the earth until that will float!” but in the ears of the faithful whispered the still, small voice of God; and the work went steadily on.

The controversy was an educational problem. Christian education was almost wiped from the earth. Worldly wisdom seemed about to triumph. In point of numbers, its adherents vastly exceeded those in the schools of the Christians. Was this seeming triumph of evil over good a sign that evil was stronger than truth? By no means. Only in the matter of scheming and deceiving does the devil have the advantage; for God can work only in a straightforward manner.

The tree of life was taken to heaven before the Flood, thus symbolizing the departure of true wisdom from the earth. The Flood came. Deep rumblings of thunder shook the very earth. Man and beast fled terrified from the flashes of lightning. The heavens opened; the rain fell, at first in great drops. The earth reeled and cracked open; the fountains of the great deep were broken up; water came from beneath. A cry went up to heaven, as parents clasped their children in the agony of death; but the Spirit of the Lifegiver was withdrawn. Man, satisfied with schooling his senses, with depending upon his own reasoning powers, closed, one by one, every avenue through with the Spirit of God could work; and nature, responding to the loss, was broken to her very heart and wept a flood of tears.

From the beginning to the end it was a matter of education. Christians today exalt the material to the neglect of the spiritual, as surely as did men before the Flood. Shall we not look for similar results, since similar principles are at work?

The Fall Continues

The ease with which men fall into evil habits is illustrated in the history of the world after the Flood. Upon leaving the ark, for families who had known God, and it had been committed to them the peopling of the earth, but evil tendencies, the result of years of acquaintance with the iniquity of the antediluvian world, gained the ascendancy; and the sons of Noah. Failing to carry out the principles of true education in their homes, saw their children drifting away from God. Not more than a single century had elapsed since the Flood had destroyed all things. The change was a rapid one.

The successive steps in degeneration are readily traced. They chose an education of the senses rather than one of faith; they left country and congregated in cities; a monarchy arose. Schools sprang up which perpetuated these ideas; paganism took the place of the worship of God. The tower was a monument to the sun; idols filled the niches in their structures. Men offered their children as sacrifices.

The slaying of infants and children is but carrying out in the extreme what is always done mentally and spiritually when children are taught false philosophy. That man might not bring upon himself immediate destruction, the language was confused and education in false philosophy thus rendered more difficult.

Abraham Is Called by God

It was from this influence, as found in the city of Ur of the Chaldees, that Abraham was called. Although the family of Terah knew the true God and His worship was maintained in the home, it was impossible for him to counteract the influence of the city with it’s idolatrous practices; so God called Abraham into the country.

He was obliged to go forth by faith. The removal meant the severing of every earthly tie. Wealth and ease were exchanged for a wandering life. How he could make a living Abraham did not know. How he could educate his children he did not understand. But he went forth. Terah, his father, and Lot, his nephew, went with him. They halted at Haran, a smaller city, and remained there until the father’s death. Then came the command to go forward. Out into a new country he went, a pilgrim and a stranger.

Power is synonymous with life; there is no power without life, and a teacher has power in proportion as he lives what he wishes to teach. Abraham was to be a teacher of nations, hence he must have power. Power could come only as the result of a life of faith, so his whole life was one continual lesson of faith. Each experience made him a more powerful teacher.

The Father of Nations

His faith grew by trial and grew only as he mounted round by round the ladder which spanned the gulf twixt heaven and earth, which seemed to lengthen with each successive generation. A period of not less than twenty-five years—years filled with doubt, fear and anxiety—was necessary to bring him to the place where the name Abraham—the father of nations—could be rightly claimed by him. Another quarter of a century rolled over his head, years in which he watched the growth of the child of promise; then the voice of God called him to raise his hand to take the life of that same son. He who had said that in Isaac should all nations of the earth be blessed, now demanded the sacrifice of that life at the father’s hand. But He, the Lifegiver in the event of the child’s birth, was now believed to be the Lifegiver should death rob him of his child, and the father faltered not.

These fifty years, with God and angels as teachers, reveal for us, as no other period does, the results of true education, and merit careful attention. If the workings of the Spirit ever wrought changes in the human heart, those changes came to Abraham. It is not strange that when God called the first, time, the voice seemed far away had but partially awoke the slumbering soul. As if in a dream, he, his father, his nephew, and his wife, broke away from earthly ties and from the beautiful Chaldean plains, where luxury and learning were daily things of life, and journeyed toward the hill country.

In Ur, God said, “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee and will make thy name great.” Genesis 12:2. Years passed, age crept on, and still there was no heir. Could he have mistaken the voice which bade him turn his face toward Canaan?

Ninety-nine years passed over the patriarch’s head, and still the voice of heaven’s messenger was greeted with a laugh when the promise was repeated. Sarah turned within the tent door when the angel guest, whom they had fed, repeated to Abraham the promise concerning his wife. But she bare to Abraham a son whom God named Isaac, in whom the nations of the earth were blessed. Joy untold filled the heart of the mother and father as they beheld the babe.

This was the joy of sight. Twenty-five years before, the thing was just as true and Abraham might lawfully have worked upon the basis of its truth; but the stubborn human heart requires many lessons.

Abraham’s School

Those who wished to worship the true God gathered about the tents of Abraham and became pupils in his school. God’s word was the basis of all instruction. This word was the basis for the study of political science, and Abraham’s “methods of government” were carried out in the households over which the [his students] should preside. The equality of all men was a lesson first learned in the home. “Abraham’s affection for his children and his household led him…to impart to them a knowledge of the divine statutes, as the most precious legacy he could transmit to them, and through them to the world. All were taught that they were under the rule of the God of heaven. There was to be no oppression on the part of parents, and no disobedience on the part of children.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 142. His was not a school where theory alone was taught, but the practical was emphasized. In studying political science, they found the nucleus of a divine government; in the study of finances, they actually made and raised the flocks which brought recognition from the surrounding nations. “The unswerving integrity, the benevolence and unselfish courtesy, which won the admiration of kings, were displayed in the home.” Ibid.

God’s Plan For Education Today

The influence of country life and direct contact with nature, in contrast with the enervating influence of the city with its idolatrous teaching and artificial methods, developed a hardy race, a people of faith whom God could use to lay the foundation for the Israelite nation. We see then, that when God founds a nation, he lays that foundation in a school. The nation, of which Abraham and his followers formed the beginning, prefigured the earth redeemed, where Christ will reign as King of kings. The education of the school of Abraham symbolized Christian education.

As faith was the method employed in teaching in the days of the patriarch, so in the schools of today faith must be the motive for work, the avenue to the fountain of wisdom. There are today those who can not harmonize their feelings and their ideas of education with the plan which God committed to His people. Likewise, in the days of Abraham, there was at least one family which withdrew from the influence of the school.

The Road To Destruction

Lot had felt the effects of the teaching of Abraham; but through the influence of his wife, “a selfish, irreligious woman,” he left the altar where they once worshipped together and moved into the city of Sodom. “The marriage of Lot, and his choice of Sodom for a home, where the first links in a chain of events fraught with evil to the world for many generations.” Ibid., 174. Had he alone suffered, we would not need to follow the history; but the choice of a new home threw his children into the schools of the heathen; pride and love of display were fostered; marriage with Sodomites was a natural; final destruction in the burning city was the terrible but inevitable result. “When Lot entered Sodom, he fully intended to keep himself free from iniquity, and to command his household after him. But he signally failed. The corrupting influences about him had an effect upon his own faith, and his children’s connection with the inhabitants of Sodom bound up his interests in a measure with theirs.” Ibid., 168

The injunction to “remember Lot’s wife,” should serve as a warning to Christians against flocking into the cities to give children an education. The words of Spalding are true. “Live not in a great city, for a great city is a mill which grinds all grain to flour. Go there to get money or to preach repentance, but go not there to make thyself a nobler man.” As Quoted by E.A. Sutherland in Living Fountains or Broken Cisterns, 66.

The Results Of Two Types Of Education

The two systems of education are nowhere more vividly portrayed than in the experiences of Abraham and Lot. Education in the tents of Abraham, under the guidance of the Spirit of Jehovah, brought eternal life. Education in the schools of Sodom brought eternal death. This was not an unnatural thing. You can not find here any arbitrary work on the part of God. To partake of the fruit of the tree of life, imparts life. But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil it has been said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

The system of education revealed to Abraham, would, if fully carried out, have placed Israel on a plane of existence above the nations of the world. It was a spiritual education, reaching the soul by a direct appeal to faith, and would have placed the people of God as teachers of nations. Not only a few were intended to teach, but the nation as a whole was to teach other nations. The second Israel will occupy a similar position, and they will be brought to that position by means of Christian education.

The End