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Those Juniors, Part 18 - Pursuing the Practical, # 2

by Eric B. Hare

Last week: If you want to have the greatest amount of power through influencing (or tempting) your children/students to do good and be good, you must pursue the practical.

Give Them Good Books and Good Papers to Read
In the light of the arresting and repelling of contrary ideas, read this statement: “Furthermore, a large share of the periodicals and books that, like the frogs of Egypt, are overspreading 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. Let the mind be directed to high and holy ideals, let the life have a noble aim, an absorbing purpose, and evil finds little foothold.”1

Sometimes young people come to me and say, “What can we do so that we can enjoy reading the Bible more?” They say, “We read and our minds wander, and sometimes we read a whole chapter and don’t even know what we have read.”

Do you wonder that I reply, “Stop reading the funnies and novels and magazine stories”?

“But how did you know we read them?” they ask, surprised.

Anyone with any brains at all can see that there is poison at work somewhere, and it isn’t hard to guess just what it is. Here are two of the very many statements to be found in Messages to Young People on this point:

“The readers of fiction are indulging an evil that destroys spirituality, eclipsing the beauty of the sacred page. It creates an unhealthful excitement, fevers the imagination, unfits the mind for usefulness, weans the soul from prayer, and disqualifies it for any spiritual exercise.”2

“Dear youth, cease to read the magazines containing stories. Put away every novel. . . . We would do well to clear our houses of all the story magazines and the publications containing ridiculous pictures—representations originated by satanic agencies.”3

Indeed, I have seen the results of the wrong kind of literature so much that I have declared war on it as I have on the devil himself. I feel about funny papers and these trashy magazines as the old Scotch lady felt about Satan. Clenching her fist, she said to her minister, “Oh, if I could only get hold of the devil, I’d bury him, and I’d bury him head downward, so the harder he scratched to get out the farther he’d go down.”

It is not sufficient only “to clear our houses” of the cheap, trashy literature that repels the good; we must deliberately give our boys and girls an abundance of the very best literature, our own periodicals—Our Little Friend, The Youth’s Instructor—the various reading course books, and books of biography, of missionary experience, and of nature. An abundance of interesting, thrilling, clean, true literature will combat the overexciting, filthy, untrue pulp that threatens our children.

The Standard Publishing Company, of Cincinnati, Ohio, has produced a story of Christ told in continuous pictures, The Visualized Life of Christ. The pictures in this set of three paper-covered books are beautiful, and wise parents will discover in them a definite aid in helping little folks to get over the habit of reading the “funnies.”

I wish we had more of this type of literature.

Study to Eliminate Negative Correction as Much as Possible
Try to say “do” instead of “don’t.” Do you know it is even better to ignore some things than it is to emphasize them and strengthen them by saying, “Don’t,” “Don’t.” Especially is this true in early childhood when so many new words and actions are only the passing fad of a day.

Well do I remember my first fond ambition. I was born in Melbourne, Australia, and at that time the city had cable cars whose conductors were decorated with white, red, green, and yellow tickets. As they collected the fares they punched the two penny ticket or the four penny ticket, or whatever it was, with a punch that rang a little bell—ting—ting. Ah, that’s what I wanted to be; and in the back yard at home I played streetcars with boxes. I had pieces of colored paper pinned on the front of my jacket and collected imaginary fares from imaginary passengers, punched holes in my colored paper and said, “Ting, ting.” And my dear wise mother saw me, but never did I hear her say, “What! My son going to be a streetcar conductor!” Never did I hear her say, “Now you just stop that useless kind of play, for I’ll never, never let you be a streetcar conductor.”

But what do you think I did hear her say? I was nearly five years old, and I was being taught my first prayers at mother’s knee. Every morning and evening I prayed after her, phrase by phrase: “And when I grow up”—”And when I grow up”; “may I be a missionary”—”may I be a missionary”; “at the four corners of the earth”—”at the four corners of the earth”; “preaching the gospel”—”preaching the gospel.”

In the daytime I played streetcar conductor; morning and evening I prayed “missionary” after mother. I don’t remember when I stopped playing streetcars, but I do remember that I prayed missionary every day, every day, and when I grew up and went to college that prayer was part of me and I still prayed it morning and night. And when at last I was through school, out to the four corners of the earth I went and preached the gospel there for twenty years.

Pray for Children as Future Men and Women
Occasionally we hear someone say, “There are 55,000 young people in our Sabbath schools who are lost.” Of course we know what they mean; they mean there are 55,000 attending Sabbath school who are not baptized yet and who are not church members yet. At first it may seem that the only difference is that the first expression is pessimistic while the second expression is optimistic, but if you put yourself in the place of the children the first expression is hopeless and discouraging while the second expression is hopeful and stimulating.

How hard it is sometimes to see Christian men and women, future workers and missionaries, in the effervescence of our juniors. Yet unconsciously this vision will color our words and our prayers. It is said that General Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, instructed his workers, who went into the slums of the great city to salvage souls, to survey the faces of the hearers and imagine them redeemed and purified; then in the glory of that vision to preach the gospel of Christ to them.4  Indeed, it does make a difference. Therefore, let us study our juniors, discover their talents, their possible vocations. Stimulate their imagination by asking them what they would do “if” they were missionaries in Tibet or doctors in Africa or teachers in South America.

In morning and evening worship and in classroom prayers, pray for them as though you expect them to grow up into church membership. Pray for them as the men and women of tomorrow. By introspection put yourself in Bill’s place and in Tom’s place as their teacher prays the prayer, “Dear Father, how happy and thankful we are to be here today. The days and weeks and years go by so quickly and in just a few more years these boys will be in college, and then soon we shall be waving good-by as they cross the ocean to keep the light shining in the dark places of the earth. How we thank Thee, Father, for the talents Thou hast given them, and, Lord, how happy I am to be their teacher. Lord, bless in the study of the lesson today. Help us to find in it something that will help us in our work tomorrow. O Lord, bless Bill and Joe. How glad we are that they have been baptized and have determined to go with Thee all the way. Grant that they may be so true and faithful that others will want to serve Thee, too. Bless Tom, dear Lord. He is getting old enough to be baptized also. May the Spirit of God speak to his heart and tell him what to do.” You are right, that prayer has a pull, and juniors feel it.

(Next week: “Pursuing the Practical, Part 3.”)

1. Education, p. 190.
2. Messages to Young People, p. 272.
3. Ibid., p. 286.
4. Edward A. Annett, Psychology for Bible Teachers, p. 43.

Copyright © 1973 by Eric B. Hare. Used by permission.

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