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Fundamentals of Christian Education

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    Chapter 52—Manual Training

    Life is not given to us to be spent in idleness or self-pleasing; but great possibilities have been placed before every one who will develop his God-given capabilities. For this reason the training of the young is a matter of the highest importance. Every child born into the home is a sacred trust. God says to the parents, Take this child, and bring it up for Me, that it may be an honor to My name, and a channel through which My blessings shall flow to the world. To fit the child for such a life, something more is called for than a partial, one-sided education, which shall develop the mental at the expense of the physical powers. All the faculties of mind and body need to be developed; and this is the work which parents, aided by the teacher, are to do for the children and youth placed under their care.FE 416.1

    The first lessons are of great importance. It is customary to send very young children to school. They are required to study from books things that tax their young minds, and often they are taught music. Frequently the parents have but limited means, and an expense is incurred which they can ill afford; but everything must be made to bend to this artificial line of education. This course is not wise. A nervous child should not be overtaxed in any direction, and should not learn music until he is physically well developed.FE 416.2

    The mother should be the teacher, and home the school where every child receives his first lessons; and these lessons should include habits of industry. Mothers, let the little ones play in the open air; let them listen to the songs of the birds, and learn the love of God as expressed in His beautiful works. Teach them simple lessons from the book of nature and the things about them; and as their minds expand, lessons from books may be added, and firmly fixed in the memory. But let them also learn, even in their earliest years, to be useful. Train them to think that, as members of the household, they are to act an interested, helpful part in sharing the domestic burdens, and to seek healthful exercise in the performance of necessary home duties.FE 416.3

    It is essential for parents to find useful employment for their children, which will involve the bearing of responsibilities as their age and strength will permit. The children should be given something to do that will not only keep them busy, but interest them. The active hands and brains must be employed from the earliest years. If parents neglect to turn their children's energies into useful channels, they do them great injury; for Satan is ready to find them something to do. Shall not the doing be chosen for them, the parents being the instructors?FE 417.1

    When the child is old enough to be sent to school, the teacher should co-operate with the parents, and manual training should be continued as a part of his school duties. There are many students who object to this kind of work in the schools. They think useful employments, like learning a trade, degrading; but such persons have an incorrect idea of what constitutes true dignity. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who is one with the Father, the Commander in the heavenly courts, was the personal instructor and guide of the children of Israel; and among them it was required that every youth should learn how to work. All were to be educated in some business line, that they might possess a knowledge of practical life, and be not only self-sustaining, but useful. This was the instruction which God gave to His people.FE 417.2

    In His earth-life, Christ was an example to all the human family, and He was obedient and helpful in the home. He learned the carpenter's trade, and worked with His own hands in the little shop at Nazareth. He had lived amid the glories of heaven; but He clothed His divinity with humanity, that He might associate with humanity, and reach hearts through the common avenue of sympathy. When found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and worked for the recovery of the human soul by adapting Himself to the situation in which He found humanity.FE 417.3

    The Bible says of Jesus, “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him.” As He worked in childhood and youth, mind and body were developed. He did not use his physical powers recklessly, but gave them such exercise as would keep them in health, that He might do the best work in every line. He was not willing to be defective, even in the handling of tools. He was perfect as a workman, as He was perfect in character. By precept and example, Christ has dignified useful labor.FE 418.1

    The time spent in physical exercise is not lost. The student who is continually poring over his books, while he takes but little exercise in the open air, does himself an injury. A proportionate exercise of all the organs and faculties of the body is essential to the best work of each. When the brain is constantly taxed while the other organs of the living machinery are inactive, there is a loss of strength, physical and mental. The physical system is robbed of its healthful tone, the mind loses its freshness and vigor, and a morbid excitability is the result.FE 418.2

    The greatest benefit is not gained from exercise that is taken as play or exercise merely. There is some benefit derived from being in the fresh air, and also from the exercise of the muscles; but let the same amount of energy be given to the performance of helpful duties, and the benefit will be greater, and a feeling of satisfaction will be realized; for such exercise carries with it the sense of helpfulness and the approval of conscience for duty well done.FE 418.3

    In the children and youth an ambition should be awakened to take their exercise in doing something that will be beneficial to themselves and helpful to others. The exercise that develops mind and character, that teaches the hands to be useful, and trains the young to bear their share of life's burdens, is that which gives physical strength, and quickens every faculty. And there is a reward in virtuous industry, in the cultivation of the habit of living to do good.FE 418.4

    The children of the wealthy should not be deprived of the great blessing of having something to do to increase the strength of brain and muscle. Work is not a curse, but a blessing. God gave sinless Adam and Eve a beautiful garden to tend. This was pleasant work, and none but pleasant work would have entered our world, had not the first pair transgressed God's commandments. Delicate idleness and selfish gratification make invalids; they can make the life empty and barren in every way. God has not given human beings reason, and crowned their lives with His goodness, that they may be cursed with the sure results of idleness. The wealthy are not to be deprived of the privilege and blessing of a place among the world's workers. They should realize that they are responsible for the use they make of their intrusted possessions; that their strength, their time, and their money, are to be used wisely, and not for selfish purposes.FE 419.1

    The Christian religion is practical. It does not incapacitate one for the faithful discharge of any of life's essential duties. When the lawyer asked Jesus, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus turned the question back upon himself, saying, “What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” Jesus said to him, “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” Luke 10:25-28. It is not a religion of inaction that is here sketched, but one that requires the energetic use of all the mental and physical powers.FE 419.2

    Mere indolent musing, idle contemplation, is not religion. God requires us to appreciate our varied endowments, and to multiply them by constant, practical use. His people are to be models of correctness in all the relations of life. To every one of us He has given a work to do, according to our ability; and it is our privilege to enjoy His blessing while devoting strength of body and mind to its faithful performance, with His name's glory in view.FE 419.3

    The approval of God rests with loving assurance upon the children who cheerfully take their part in the duties of domestic life, sharing the burdens of father and mother. They will be rewarded with health of body and peace of mind; and they will enjoy the pleasure of seeing their parents take their share of social enjoyment and healthful recreation, thus prolonging their lives. Children trained to the practical duties of life, will go out from the home to be useful members of society. Their education is far superior to that gained by close confinement in the schoolroom at an early age, when neither the mind nor the body is strong enough to endure the strain.FE 420.1

    The children and youth should have the lesson continually before them, at home and in the school, by precept and example, to be truthful, unselfish, and industrious. They should not be allowed to spend their time in idleness; their hands should not be folded in inaction. Parents and teachers should work for the accomplishment of this object,—the development of all the powers, and a formation of a right character; but when parents realize their responsibilities, there will be far less left for teachers to do in the training of their children.FE 420.2

    Heaven is interested in this work in behalf of the young. The parents and teachers who by wise instruction, in a calm, decided manner, accustom them to think of and care for others, will help them to overcome their selfishness, and will close the door against many temptations. Angels of God will co-operate with these faithful instructors. Angels are not commissioned to do this work themselves; but they will give strength and efficiency to those who, in the fear of God, seek to train the young to a life of usefulness.—Special Testimonies On Education, May 11, 1896.FE 420.3

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