The Duties Of Parents (Part 6)
By J. C. Ryle
Train your children remembering continually the promises of Scripture. I name this also shortly, in order to guard you against discouragement.
You have a plain promise on your side, "Train up your child in the way he should go, and when he is old he shall not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6). Think what it is to have a promise like this. Promises were the only lamp of hope which cheered the hearts of the patriarchs before the Bible was written. Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph – all lived on a few promises, and prospered in their souls. Promises are the cordials which in every age have supported and strengthened the believer. He that has got a plain text upon his side need never be cast down. Fathers and mothers, when your hearts are failing, and ready to halt, look at the word of this text, and take comfort.
Think who it is that promises. It is not the word of a man, who may lie or repent; it is the word of the King of kings, who never changes. Hath He said a thing, and shall He not do it? Or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good? Neither is anything too hard for Him to perform. The things that are impossible with men are possible with God. If we get not the benefit of the promise we are dwelling upon, the fault is not in Him, but in ourselves.
Think, too, what the promise contains, before you refuse to take comfort from it. It speaks of a certain time when good training shall especially bear fruit, "when a child is old." Surely there is comfort in this. You may not see with your own eyes the result of careful training, but you know not what blessed fruits may spring from it, long after you are dead and gone. It is not God’s way to give everything at once. "Afterward" is the time when He often chooses to work, both in the things of nature and in the things of grace. "Afterward" is the season when affliction bears the peaceable fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:11). "Afterward" was the time when the son who refused to work in his father’s vineyard repented and went (Matt. 21:29). And "afterward" is the time to which parents must look forward if they see not success at once – you must sow in hope and plant in hope.
"Cast thy bread upon the waters," saith the Spirit, "for thou shalt find it after many days" (Eccl. 11:1). Many children, I doubt not, shall rise up in the day of judgment, and bless their parents for good training, who never gave any signs of having profited by it during their parents’ lives. Go forward then in faith, and be sure that your labor shall not be altogether thrown away. Three times did Elijah stretch himself upon the widow’s child before it revived. Take example from him, and persevere.
Train them, lastly, with continual prayer for a blessing on all you do.
Without the blessing of the Lord, your best endeavors will do no good. He has the hearts of all men in His hands, and except He touch the hearts of your children by His Spirit, you will weary yourself to no purpose. Water, therefore, the seed you sow on their minds with unceasing prayer. The Lord is far more willing to hear than we to pray; far more ready to give blessings than we to ask them; but He loves to be entreated for them. And I set this matter of prayer before you, as the top-stone and seal of all you do. I suspect the child of many prayers is seldom cast away.
Look upon your children as Jacob did on his; he tells Esau they are "the children which God hath graciously given thy servant" (Gen. 33:5). Look on them as Joseph did on his; he told his father, "They are the sons whom God hath given me" (Gen. 48:9). Count them with the psalmist to be an heritage and reward from the Lord (Psa. 127:3). And then ask the Lord, with a holy boldness, to be gracious and merciful to His own gifts. Mark how Abraham intercedes for Ishmael, because he loved him, "Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee" (Gen. 17:18). See how Manoah speaks to the angel about Samson, "How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?" (Judg. 13:12). Observe how tenderly Job cared for his children’s souls, "He offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all, for he said, It may be my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually" (Job 1:5). Parents, if you love your children, go and do likewise. You cannot name their names before the mercy-seat too often.
And now, reader, in conclusion, let me once more press upon you the necessity and importance of using every single means in your power, if you would train children for heaven.
I know well that God is a sovereign God, and doeth all things according to the counsel of His own will. I know that Rehoboam was the son of Solomon, and Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, and that you do not always see godly parents having a godly seed. But I know also that God is a God who works by means, and sure am I, if you make light of such means as I have mentioned, your children are not likely to turn out well.
Fathers and mothers, you may take your children to be baptized, and have them enrolled in the ranks of Christ’s church; you may get godly sponsors to answer for them, and help you by their prayers; you may send them to the best of schools, and give them Bibles and Prayer Books, and fill them with head knowledge; but if all this time there is no regular training at home, I tell you plainly, I fear it will go hard in the end with your children’s souls. Home is the place where habits are formed; home gives the bias to our tastes, and likings, and opinions. See then, I pray you, that there be careful training at home.
Fathers and mothers, I charge you solemnly before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, take every pain to train your children in the way they should go. I charge you not merely for the sake of your children’s souls; I charge you for the sake of your own future comfort and peace. Truly it is your interest so to do. Truly your own happiness in great measure depends on it. Children have ever been the bow from which the sharpest arrows have pierced man’s heart. Children have mixed the bitterest cups that man has ever had to drink. Children have caused the saddest tears that man has ever had to shed. Adam could tell you so; Jacob could tell you so; David could tell you so. There are no sorrows on earth like those which children have brought upon their parents. Oh! take heed, lest your own neglect should lay up misery for you in your old age. Take heed, lest you weep under the ill-treatment of a thankless child, in the days when your eye is dim and your natural force abated.
If ever you wish your children to be the restorers of your life, and the nourishers of your old age, if you would have them blessings and not curses, joys and not sorrows, Judahs and not Reubens, Ruths and not Orpahs, if you would not, like Noah, be ashamed of their deeds, and, like Rebekah, be made weary of your life by them: if this be your wish, remember my advice, train them while young in the right way.
And as for me, I will conclude by putting up my prayer to God that you may all be taught of God to feel the value of your own souls. This is one reason why baptism is too often a mere form, and Christian training despised and disregarded. Too often parents feel not for themselves, and so they feel not for their children. They do not realize the tremendous difference between a state of nature and a state of grace, and therefore they are content to let them alone.
Now the Lord teach you all that sin is that abominable thing which God hateth. Then, I know you will mourn over the sins of your children, and strive to pluck them out as brands from the fire.
The Lord teach you all how precious Christ is, and what a mighty and complete work He hath done for our salvation. Then, I feel confident you will use every means to bring your children to Jesus, that they may live through Him.
The Lord teach you all your need of the Holy Spirit, to renew, sanctify, and quicken your souls. Then, I feel confident you will urge your children to pray for Him without ceasing, and never rest till He has come down into their hearts with power, and made them new creatures.
The Lord grant this, and then I have a good hope that you will indeed train up your children well – train well for this life, and train well for the life to come; train well for earth, and train well for heaven; train them for God, for Christ, and for eternity.