All heaven unite in praising God. Let us learn the song of the angels now, that we may sing it when we join their shining ranks. Let us say with the psalmist: “While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.” “Let the people praise Thee, O God; let all the people praise Thee.”
Chap. 36 – Parental Responsibility
Parents are in a great degree responsible for the mold given to the characters of their children. They should aim at symmetry and proportion. There are few well-balanced minds, because parents are wickedly negligent of their duty to stimulate weak traits and repress wrong ones. They do not remember that they are under the most solemn obligation to watch the tendencies of each child, that it is their duty to train their children to right habits and right ways of thinking.
Sometimes parents wait for the Lord to do the very work that He has given them to do. Instead of restraining and controlling their children as they should, they pet and indulge them, and gratify their whims and desires. When these children go out from their early homes, it is with characters deformed by selfishness, with ungoverned appetites, with strong self-will; they are destitute of courtesy or respect for their parents, and do not love religious truth or the worship of God. They have grown up with traits that are a lifelong curse to themselves and to others. Home is made anything but happy if the evil weeds of dissension, selfishness, envy, passion, and sullen stubbornness are left to flourish in the neglected garden of the soul.
Parents should show no partiality, but should treat all their children with tenderness, remembering that they are the purchase of Christ’s blood. Children imitate their parents; hence great care should be taken to give them correct models.
Parents who are kind and polite at home, while at the same time they are firm and decided, will see the same traits manifested in their children. If they are upright, honest, and honorable, their children will be quite likely to resemble them in these particulars. If they reverence and worship God, their children, trained in the same way, will not forget to serve Him also.
It is often the case that parents are not careful to surround their children with right influences. In choosing a home they think more of their worldly interests than of the moral and social atmosphere, and the children form associations that are unfavorable to the development of piety and the formation of right characters. Then parents allow the world to engross their time, strength, and thought; and when the Sabbath comes, it finds them so utterly exhausted that they have nought to render to God on His holy day, no sweet piety to grace the home and make the Sabbath a delight to their children. They are seldom visited by a minister, for they have placed themselves out of reach of religious privileges. An apathy steals over the soul. The children are contaminated by evil communications, and the tenderness of soul that they once felt dies away and is forgotten.
Parents who denounce the Canaanites for offering their children to Moloch, what are you doing? You are making a most costly offering to your mammon god; and then, when your children grow up unloved and unlovely in character, when they show decided impiety and a tendency to infidelity, you blame the faith you profess because it was unable to save them. You are reaping that which you have sown–the result of your selfish love of the world and neglect of the means of grace. You moved your families into places of temptation, and the ark of God, your glory and defense, you did not consider essential; and the Lord has not worked a miracle to deliver your children from temptation.
You who profess to love God, take Jesus with you wherever you go; and, like the patriarchs of old, erect an altar to the Lord wherever you pitch your tent. A reformation in this respect is needed, a reformation that shall be deep and broad. Parents need to reform; ministers need to reform. They need God in their households. They need to build the waste places of Zion, to set up her gates and make strong her walls for a defense of the people.
There is earnest work to be done in this age, and parents should educate their children to share in it. The words of Mordecai to Esther may apply to the men and youth of today: “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Young men should be gaining solidity of character, that they may be fitted for usefulness. Daniel and Joseph were youth of firm principle, whom God could use to carry out His purposes. Mark their history, and see how God wrought for them. Joseph met with a variety of experiences, experiences that tested his courage and uprightness to the fullest extent. After being sold into Egypt he was at first favored and entrusted with great responsibilities; but suddenly, without any fault on his part, he was unjustly accused and cast into prison. But he is not discouraged. He trusts in God; and the purpose of his heart, the purity of his motive, is made manifest. The eye of God is upon him, a divine hand leads him, and soon we see him come forth from prison to share the throne of Egypt.
Joseph’s checkered life was not an accident; it was ordered of Providence. But how was he enabled to make such a record of firmness of character, uprightness, and wisdom? It was the result of careful training in his early years. He had consulted duty rather than inclination; and the purity and simple trust of the boy bore fruit in the deeds of the man. The most brilliant talents are of no value unless they are improved; industrious habits and force of character must be gained by cultivation. A high moral character and fine mental qualities are not the result of accident. God gives opportunities; success depends upon the use made of them. The openings of Providence must be quickly discerned and eagerly seized upon.
Young men, if you would be strong, if you would have the integrity and wisdom of a Joseph or a Daniel, study the Scriptures. Parents, if you would educate your children to serve God and do good in the world, make the Bible your textbook. It exposes the wiles of Satan. It is the great elevator of the race, the reprover and corrector of moral evils, the detector which enables us to distinguish between the true and the false. Whatever else is taught in the home or at school, the Bible, as the great educator, should stand first. If it is given this place, God is honored, and He will work for you in the conversion of your children. There is a rich mine of truth and beauty in this Holy Book, and parents have themselves to blame if they do not make it intensely interesting to their children.
To many, education means a knowledge of books; but “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The true object of education is to restore the image of God in the soul. The first and most precious knowledge is the knowledge of Christ; and wise parents will keep this fact ever before the minds of their children. Should a limb be broken or fractured, parents will try every means that love or wisdom can suggest to restore the affected member to comeliness and soundness. This is right; it is their duty. But the Lord requires that still greater tact, patience, and persevering effort be employed to remedy blemishes of the soul. That father is unworthy of the name who is not to his children a Christian teacher, ruler, and friend, binding them to his heart by the strong ties of sanctified love–a love which has its foundation in duty faithfully performed.
Parents have a great and responsible work to do, and they may well inquire: “Who is sufficient for these things?” But God has promised to give wisdom to those that ask in faith, and He will do just as He said He would. He is pleased with the faith that takes Him at His word. The mother of Augustine prayed for her son’s conversion. She saw no evidence that the Spirit of God was impressing his heart, but she was not discouraged. She laid her finger upon the texts, presenting before God His own words, and pleaded as only a mother can.
Her deep humiliation, her earnest importunities, her unwavering faith, prevailed, and the Lord gave her the desire of her heart. Today He is just as ready to listen to the petitions of His people. His “hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear;” and if Christian parents seek Him earnestly, He will fill their mouths with arguments, and for His name’s sake will work mightily in their behalf in the conversion of their children.
Chap. 37 – The Training of Children
Dear Brother and Sister G:
I am troubled in reference to your case. I see dangers that you seem never to have realized. Have you thoughtfully and prayerfully considered your duty to the children you have taken the responsibility of bringing into the world? Have you thought whether these children are receiving from you an education and discipline that will lead them to honor their Creator in the days of their youth? Have you considered that if you fail to teach them to respect you, their father and mother, and to yield to your authority, you are educating them to dishonor God? Every time you allow them to trample on your authority, and their will to control yours, you are fostering a defect which will be carried with them into all their experience should they become religiously inclined, and will teach them to disregard and trample upon divine authority.
The question to be settled by you is: “Am I raising a family of children to strengthen the influence and swell the ranks of the powers of darkness, or am I bringing up children for Christ?” If you do not govern your children and mold their characters to meet the requirements of God, then the fewer children there are to suffer from your defective training the better it will be for you, their parents, and the better it will be for society. Unless children can be trained and disciplined from their babyhood by a wise and judicious mother, who is conscientious and intelligent, and who rules her household in the fear of the Lord, molding and shaping their characters to meet the standard of righteousness, it is a sin to increase your family. God has given you reason, and He requires you to use it.
You should feel under obligation, by patient, painstaking effort and by earnest, fervent prayer, to so form the characters of your children as to make them a blessing in the home, a blessing in the church, and a blessing in society. You will receive no credit for your work if you allow your children to be controlled by the enemy of all righteousness; the reward is promised for conscientiously forming their characters after the divine Pattern. If you neglect this work, which is so far-reaching in its results, because for the present it is more agreeable for you to do so, and your children grow up morally deformed, their feet in the broad road to death, can God pronounce your work well done? Those who cannot inform themselves, and work intelligently with all their powers to bring their children to Jesus, should decide not to take upon themselves the responsibility of becoming parents.
Mothers must be willing and even anxious to qualify themselves for their important work of developing the characters of their children, guiding, instructing, and restraining their tender charge. Fathers and mothers should be united in this work. Weakness in requiring obedience, and false love and sympathy–the false notion that to indulge and not to restrain is wisdom–constitute a system of training that grieves angels; but it delights Satan, for it brings hundreds and thousands of children into his ranks. This is why he blinds the eyes of parents, benumbs their sensibilities, and confuses their minds. They see that their sons and daughters are not pleasant, lovely, obedient, and care-taking; yet children accumulate in their homes, to poison their lives, fill their hearts with grief, and add to the number whom Satan is using to allure souls to destruction.
Oh! when will parents be wise? When will they see and realize the character of their work in neglecting to require obedience and respect according to the instructions of God’s word? The results of this lax training are seen in the children as they go out into the world and take their place at the head of families of their own. They perpetuate the mistakes of their parents. Their defective traits have full scope; and they transmit to others the wrong tastes, habits, and tempers that were permitted to develop in their own characters. Thus they become a curse instead of a blessing to society.
Because men and women do not obey God, but choose their own way and follow their own perverted imagination, Satan is permitted to set up his hellish banner in their families and make his power felt through babes, children, and youth. His voice and will are expressed in the unsubdued will and warped characters of the children, and through them he exerts a controlling power and carries out his plans. God is dishonored by the exhibition of perverse tempers, which exclude reverence for Him and induce obedience to Satan’s suggestions. The sin committed by parents in thus permitting Satan to bear sway is beyond conception. They are sowing seed which will produce briers and thorns, and choke out every plant of heavenly growth; and the harvest that will be gathered the judgment alone will reveal. But how sad is the thought that when life and its mistakes are viewed in the light of eternity, it will be too late for this aftersight to be of any avail.
The utter neglect of training children for God has perpetuated evil and thrown into the ranks of the enemy many who with judicious care might have been co-laborers with Christ. False ideas and a foolish, misdirected affection have nurtured traits which have made the children unlovely and unhappy, have embittered the lives of the parents, and have extended their baleful influence from generation to generation. Any child that is permitted to have his own way will dishonor God and bring his father and mother to shame. Light has been shining from the word of God and the testimonies of His Spirit so that none need err in regard to their duty. God requires parents to bring up their children to know Him and to respect His claims; they are to train their little ones, as the younger members of the Lord’s family, to have beautiful characters and lovely tempers, that they may be fitted to shine in the heavenly courts. By neglecting their duty and indulging their children in wrong, parents close to them the gates of the city of God.
These facts must be pressed home upon parents; they must arouse, and take up their long-neglected work. Parents who profess to love God are not doing His will. Because they do not properly restrain and direct their children, thousands are coming up with deformed characters, with lax morals, and with little education in the practical duties of life. They are left to do as they please with their impulses, their time, and their mental powers. The loss to the cause of God in these neglected talents lies at the door of fathers and mothers; and what excuse will they render to Him whose stewards they are, entrusted with the sacred duty of fitting the souls under their charge to improve all their powers to the glory of their Creator?
My dear brother and sister, may the Lord open your eyes and quicken your minds, that you may see and redeem your failures. You are neither of you living with an eye single to the glory of God. You show but little power to stand up for Jesus and in defense of the faith once delivered to the saints. You have neglected your duty in the family and have proved that youth entrusted to your care are not safe. Thus God looks upon your work in the home; thus it stands registered in the books of heaven. You might have brought many to Jesus; but your want of moral courage has made you unfaithful in every position.
The errors in your lax system of family government are revealed in the characters of your children. You have not educated yourselves to follow the instructions given in the word of God. The evils resulting from your failures in duty are becoming serious and deep. Sister G does not have the right influence. She has yielded to the strong wills of her wrong-minded children, and has indulged them to their hurt.
Both of you should have taught your children from their very babyhood that they could not control you, but that your will was to be obeyed. Had Sister G received the proper training in her childhood, had she been disciplined and educated according to the word of God, she would have a different mold of character herself and would better understand the duties that devolve upon her. She would know how to train her children so as to make their ways pleasing to God. But the defects that have resulted from her own wrong training are reproduced in her children, and what will be the nature of their work should they ever stand at the head of families of their own? The oldest may have some knowledge of domestic duties; but, further than this, she is a mere novice.
With wise, firm government these children might have been useful members of society; as it is, they are a curse, a reproach to our faith. They are vain, frivolous, willful, extravagant. They have but little reverence for their parents, and their consciences are far from sensitive. They have had their own way, and their wishes have governed their parents, until it is almost impossible to arouse their moral sensibilities. The natural tendencies of the parents, particularly those that are objectionable, are strongly developed in the children. The whole family, parents and children, are under divine censure; and none of them can hope to enter the peaceful abodes of bliss unless they will take up their long-neglected duties and, in the spirit of Christ, build up characters that God can approve.
Parents are responsible for the work coming from their hands. They should have wisdom and firmness to do their work faithfully and in the right spirit. They are to train their children for usefulness by developing their God-given talents. A failure to do this should not be winked at, but should be made a matter of church discipline, for it will bring the curse of God on the parents and a reproach and grievous trials and difficulties on the church. A moral leprosy that is contagious, polluting the bodies and souls of the youth, often results from a failure to discipline and restrain the young; and it is time that something was done to check its ravages.
The Bible gives explicit directions concerning the important work of educating children: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart.” The parents are themselves to be connected with God; they are to have His fear before them and to have a knowledge of His will. Then comes their work: “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”
The Lord commanded Israel not to make marriages with the idolatrous nations around them. “Thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following Me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.” “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers.”
Here are positive directions that reach down to our time. God is speaking to us in these last days, and He will be understood and obeyed. God spoke to Israel through His servants: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5 pp. 319-328