Their children have gloried in their freedom to do as they pleased. They have been released from home responsibilities and have despised restraint. A life of usefulness appears to them like a life of drudgery. Lax government at home has unfitted them for any position, and as a natural consequence they have rebelled against school discipline. Their complaints have been received and credited by their parents, who, in sympathizing with their imaginary troubles, have encouraged their children in wrong-doing. These parents have in many instances believed positive untruths that have been palmed off upon them by their deceiving children. A few such cases of unruly and dissembling children would do much toward breaking down all authority in the school and demoralizing the young people of our church.
There is perfect order in heaven, perfect concord and agreement. If parents so neglect to bring their children under proper authority here, how can they hope that they will be considered fit companions for the holy angels in a world of peace and harmony? Indulgent parents, who justify their children in their wrongdoing, are thereby creating an element that will bring discord into society and subvert the authority of both school and church.
Children need watchful care and guidance as never before; for Satan is striving to gain the control of their minds and hearts, and to drive out the Spirit of God. The fearful state of the youth of this age constitutes one of the strongest signs that we are living in the last days, but the ruin of many may be traced directly to the wrong management of the parents. The spirit of murmuring against reproof has been taking root and is bearing its fruit of insubordination. While the parents are not pleased with the characters their children are developing, they fail to see the errors that make them what they are.
Eli remonstrated with his sons, but did not act promptly in restraining them. The ease-loving, affectionate father was warned of God that retribution would follow his neglect, but even then he did not feel the importance of at once putting the disgusting evil away from Israel. He should have taken prompt measures himself; but instead of this he said, with remarkable submission: “It is the Lord: let Him do what seemeth Him good.” If he had been aroused to the full guilt of his neglect, Israel might have been saved from the humiliation of defeat, and the ark of God would not have fallen into the enemy’s hands.
God condemns the negligence that dallies with sin and crime, and the insensibility that is slow to detect its baleful presence in the families of professed Christians. He holds parents accountable in a great degree for the faults and follies of their offspring. God visited with His curse not only the sons of Eli, but Eli himself, and this fearful example should be a warning to the parents of this time.
As I looked upon the perilous situation of our youth, and was shown how indifferent the parents are to their welfare, my heart was sick and faint; angels were troubled and wept with grief. The youth are passing into the world, and into the hands of Satan. They are becoming less susceptible to the sweet influences of the grace of God, bolder and more defiant, and manifest increasing disregard of eternal interests. I saw Satan planting his banner in the households of those who profess to be God’s chosen ones, but those who are walking in the light should be able to discern the difference between the black banner of the adversary and the bloodstained standard of Christ.
Children should be taught by precept and example. Parents should meet their grave responsibilities with fear and trembling. Fervent prayers should be offered for divine strength and guidance in this task. In many families the seeds of vanity and selfishness are sown in the hearts of the children almost during babyhood. Their cunning little sayings and doings are commented upon and praised in their presence, and repeated with exaggerations to others. The little ones take note of this and swell with self-importance; they presume to interrupt conversations, and become forward and impudent. Flattery and indulgence foster their vanity and willfulness, until the youngest not unfrequently rules the whole family, father and mother included.
The disposition formed by this sort of training cannot be laid aside as the child matures to riper judgment. It grows with his growth, and what might have appeared cunning in the baby becomes contemptible and wicked in the man or woman. They seek to rule over their associates, and if any refuse to yield to their wishes they consider themselves aggrieved and insulted. This is because they have been indulged to their injury in youth, instead of being taught the self-denial necessary to bear the hardships and toils of life.
Parents frequently pet and indulge their young children because it appears easier to manage them in that way. It is smoother work to let them have their own way than to check the unruly inclinations that rise so strongly in their breasts. Yet this course is cowardly. It is a wicked thing thus to shirk responsibility; for the time will come when these children, whose unchecked inclinations have strengthened into absolute vices, will bring reproach and disgrace upon themselves and their families. They go out into busy life unprepared for its temptations, not strong enough to endure perplexities and troubles; passionate, overbearing, undisciplined, they seek to bend others to their will, and, failing in this, consider themselves ill-used by the world and turn against it.
The lessons of childhood, good or bad, are not learned in vain. Character is developed in youth for good or evil. At home there may be praise and false flattery; in the world each stands on his own merits. The pampered ones, to whom all home authority has yielded, are there daily subjected to mortification by being obliged to yield to others. Many are even then taught their true place by these practical lessons of life. Through rebuffs, disappointments, and plain language from their superiors they often find their true level and are humbled to understand and accept their proper place. But this is a severe and unnecessary ordeal for them to pass through, and could have been prevented by proper training in their youth.
The majority of these ill-disciplined ones go through life at cross-purposes with the world, making a failure where they should have succeeded. They grow to feel that the world owes them a grudge because it does not flatter and caress them, and they take revenge by holding a grudge against the world and bidding it defiance. Circumstances sometimes oblige them to affect a humility they do not feel; but it does not fit them with a natural grace, and their true characters are sure to be exposed sooner or later.
If such persons have families of their own, they become arbitrary rulers at home and display there the selfish and unreasonable disposition they are forced to partially conceal from the outside world. Their dependents feel to the utmost all the faults of their early training. Why will parents educate their children in such a manner that they will be at war with those who are brought in contact with them?
Their religious experience is molded by the education received in childhood. The sad trials, which prove so dangerous to the prosperity of a church, and which cause the unbelieving to stumble and turn away with doubt and dissatisfaction, usually arise from an unsubdued and rebellious spirit, the offspring of parental indulgence in early youth. How many lives are wrecked, how many crimes are committed, under the influence of a quick-rising passion that might have been checked in childhood, when the mind was impressible, when the heart was easily influenced for right, and was subject to a fond mother’s will. Inefficient training of children lies at the foundation of a vast amount of moral wretchedness.
Children who are allowed to have their own way are not happy. The unsubdued heart has not within itself the elements of rest and contentment. The mind and heart must be disciplined and brought under proper restraint in order for the character to harmonize with the wise laws that govern our being. Restlessness and discontent are the fruits of indulgence and selfishness. The soil of the heart, like that of a garden, will produce weeds and brambles unless the seeds of precious flowers are planted there and receive care and cultivation. As in visible nature, so is it with the human soul.
The youth of —– are in a startling condition. While some in the church have been burdened in regard to those occupying responsible positions, and have been finding fault and murmuring against reproof, insinuating their doubts, and gossiping of the affairs of others, their own souls have been enshrouded in darkness, and their children have been leavened with the spirit that was working upon their parents. This disposition is calculated to break down all restraint and authority. God holds these parents responsible for the malice and rebellion of the youth under their care.
Satan has succeeded wonderfully in his plans. Men of experience, fathers of families, who manifest a headstrong defiance when their track is crossed, show plainly that they cannot or do not control themselves. Then how can they succeed in controlling their children, who follow in their steps and rebel against their authority and all other restraint, even as they themselves rebel against the authority of the church and the institutions with which they are connected? Some of these professed Christians have yielded themselves into the hands of Satan and have become his instruments. They influence souls against the truth by exhibiting their insubordination and restless discontent. While professing righteousness, they are flying in the face of the Almighty, and before they are aware of the enormity of their sin they have accomplished the object of the adversary. The impression has been made, the shadow of darkness has been cast, the arrows of Satan have found their mark. Verily, a little leaven has leavened the entire lump. Unbelief creeps in and fastens its grasp upon minds that would have wholly accepted the truth.
Meanwhile, these spasmodic workers for Satan look innocently upon those who have drifted into skepticism, and who stand unmoved under reproof or entreaty. While those persons who have been thus influenced have gone farther in unbelief than even they themselves had dared to venture, they flatter themselves that in comparison with them, they are virtuous and righteous. They fail to understand that those sad cases are the result of their own unbridled tongues and wicked rebellion, that the tempted ones have fallen through their evil influence. They started the difficulty; they sowed the seeds of anarchy and unbelief.
No family is justified in bringing children to —– who are not under the control of their parents. If their parents have disregarded the word of God in the matter of instructing and training their children, —– is no place for them. They will only be the means of demoralizing the young people of that place and bringing discord where peace and prosperity should reign. Let such parents take up the neglected work of restraining and disciplining their children before they venture to impose them upon the church at —–.
Many are as guilty of neglect toward their children as was Eli, and the punishment of God will as surely rest upon them as upon him. The case of Brother E was a marked one. God’s hand was stretched out in the wrath of His retribution, not only over his children, but over himself also. The word of God was plain, but its admonitions had been trampled underfoot; warnings had been given him, reproofs administered, but all were unheeded, and the curse fell upon him. It is a terrible thing to neglect the education of children. Not only will they be lost in consequence, but the parents themselves, who have so far departed from God as to lose all sense of their sacred responsibility, stand in a very perilous position as regards eternal life.
Fond and indulgent parents, let me present for your instruction the directions given in the Bible for dealing with a rebellious son: “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them; then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; and they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die; so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”
Both the young and the old who are connected with the office should be looked after closely, lest their influence should be such as to work directly against the object designed by the office. If any are employed whose influence is of a character to lead away from God and the truth, there should not be a moment’s question as to the disposal of their cases. They should be separated from the office at once, for they are scattering from Christ instead of gathering with Him. They are virtually servants of Satan.
If there are young people connected with the office who do not respect the authority of parents, and are ungovernable at home, despising counsel and restraint, the curse of God will fall upon them; and it will not only rest upon them, but upon the office, should their services be retained and they be given further opportunity to pervert the young with whom they are there brought in contact. Those who occupy responsible positions in the office are accountable for the prevailing influence there, and if they are indifferent to the course of the insubordinate and impenitent in their employ they become partakers of their sin.
There has been a covering up of iniquity in—–. God calls for a different order of things. The youth connected with His work should be select, those who will be improved, refined, and ennobled by being associated with the cause of God. Faithful minutemen are needed at every post of duty, especially at the great heart of the work. Like sleepless sentinels, those who profess the truth should guard the interests of the cause at the office; they should sacredly guard themselves and one another from spiritual contamination.
Those who have imbibed the spirit of independence, and come to—–as students in our school, thinking to do as they please in all matters, should be quickly undeceived and brought under proper discipline. But especially should the youth residing at—–be brought under the strictest rules, to guard their integrity and morality. If they refuse to submit to these regulations they should be expelled from the school and cut off from association with those whom they are demoralizing by their wrong example.
Parents living at a distance send their children to—– to be educated, feeling perfect confidence that they will there receive the proper moral training and not be exposed to wrong influences. It is due these patrons of our school that the moral atmosphere there be purified. A lack of propriety and a disregard of strict virtue has been developing among a certain class of young men and women in—–. Some of these are low in the scale of morality and are influencing the young students who have been sent there from a distance and have not the advantages of parental advice and protection. This should be attended to at once, for it is a matter of grave importance.
The influence of some youth in—–is demoralizing. They seem to think it praiseworthy to appear independent and to show disrespect to the authority of their parents. Paul gives a faithful description of this class of youth in these words: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.”
The influence of this class upon the youth of—–is doing much harm. Their conversation and example are contemptibly low. The young whose morals are established, and whose minds are of an elevated character, would find no attraction in their society and would therefore be beyond the reach of their influence. But there are young men and women who find pleasure in the company of just such persons. Satan has marked success in benumbing the spiritual sensibilities of certain persons who have believed the truth, and in clouding their minds with false ideas until they are unable to discern right from wrong. Then suggestions are made to undermine their confidence in the chosen servants of God, and they are led into positive unbelief.
If the young would choose the company of those whose lives are an honor to their profession, they would escape many serious dangers. Satan is constantly seeking the ruin of those who are ignorant concerning his devices, yet feel no special need of the prayers and counsel of experienced and godly friends. Many of the youth who come to—–with good resolutions to live Christian lives fall in with a class of young people who take them by the hand and, under the guise of friendship, lead them directly into Satan’s snare. The enemy does not always come as a roaring lion; he frequently appears as an angel of light, assuming friendly airs, presenting peculiar temptations which it is difficult for the inexperienced to withstand. Sometimes he accomplishes his purpose of deluding the unwary by exciting the pity of their sympathetic natures, and presenting himself before them as a righteous being who has been persecuted without a cause.
Satan finds willing instruments to do his work. He exercises a skill in this direction that has been perfected by years of experience. He uses the accumulated knowledge of ages in executing his malicious designs. Ignorant youth play themselves into the hands of Satan for him to use as instruments to lead souls to ruin. Those who yield to Satan’s power gain no happiness thereby. They are never contented or at rest. They are dissatisfied, querulous and irritable, unthankful and rebellious. Such a one is the young man now under review. But God will have mercy upon him if he sincerely repents and becomes converted. His sins may be washed away by the atoning blood of Jesus.
The Saviour of the world offers to the erring the gift of eternal life. He watches for a response to His offers of love and forgiveness with a more tender compassion than that which moves the heart of an earthly parent to forgive a wayward, repenting, suffering son. He cries after the wanderer: Return unto Me, and I will return unto you.” If the sinner still refuses to heed the voice of mercy which calls after him with tender, pitying love, his soul will be left in darkness. If he neglects the opportunity presented him, and goes on in his evil course, the wrath of God will, in an unexpected moment, break forth upon him. “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” This young man has made light of his father’s authority, and despised restraint. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It lies at the foundation of a proper education. Those who, having a favorable opportunity, have failed to learn this first great lesson, are not only disqualified for service in the cause of God, but are a positive injury to the community in which they live.
Solomon exhorts the youth: “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: for they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck. My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. . . . Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at My reproof: behold, I will pour out My Spirit unto you, I will make known My words unto you.
“Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out My hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all My counsel, and would none of My reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon Me, but I will not answer; they shall seek Me early, but they shall not find Me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: they would none of My counsel: they despised all My reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4 pp. 199-208