Thursday, February 03, 2011
In part of his discussion of "the titled of honor bestowed" upon peacemakers in The Beatitudes (i.e., "they shall be called children of God"), Watson offers an aside on Christian parenting (that I did not include in my message last Sunday). Those who are God's children should desrie to see their children become God's children. He notes, in particular, the spiritual responsibilties of parents to train and catechize their children:
How Christians should bring up their children
There are two reasons why a godly parent will endeavour to bring his child into the heavenly kindred:
(i) Out of conscience. A good parent sees the injury he has done to his child. He has conveyed the plague of sin to him, and in conscience he will endeavour to make some recompense. In the old law, he that had smitten and wounded another was bound to see him healed and pay for his cure. Parents have given their children a wound in their souls and therefore must do what in them lies by admonition, prayers, tears, to see the wound healed.
(ii) Out of flaming zeal to the honour of God. He who has tasted God’s love in adoption looks upon himself as engaged to bring God all the glory he can. If he has a child or acquaintance that are strangers to God he would gladly promote the work of grace in their hearts. It is a glory to Christ when multitudes are born to him.
How far are they from being God's children who have no care to bring others into the family of God! To blame are those masters who mind more their servants' work than their souls. To blame are those parents who are regardless of their children. They do not drop in principles of knowledge into them, but suffer them to have their head. They will let them lie and swear, but not ask blessing; read play-books but not Scripture.
But, say some, to catechise and teach our children is to take God's name in vain.
Is the fulfilling God’s command taking his name in vain? 'These words which I command thee this day, thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children' (Deuteronomy 6: 6, 7). 'Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it' (Proverbs 22: 6). 'Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord’ (Ephesians 6: 4). This threefold cord of Scripture is not easily broken.
The saints of old were continually grafting principles of holy knowledge in their children. 'I know that Abraham will command his children, and they shall keep the way of the Lord’ (Genesis 18: 19). 'And thou Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy father and serve him with a perfect heart’ (1 Chronicles 28:9). Sure Abraham and David did not take God's name in vain! What need is there of instilling holy instructions to overtop the poisonful weeds of sin that grow! As husband-men, when they have planted young trees, they set stays to them to keep them from bending. Children are young plants. The heavenly precepts of their parents are like stays set about them, to keep them from bending to error and profaneness. When can there be a fitter season to disseminate and infuse knowledge into children than in their minority? Now is a time to give them the breast and let them suck in the 'sincere milk of the word’ (1 Peter 2: 2).
But some may object that it is to no purpose to teach our children the knowledge of God. They have no sense of spiritual things, nor are they the better for our instructions. I answer:
We read in Scripture of children who by virtue of instruction have had their tender years sanctified. Timothy’s mother and grandmother taught him the Scriptures from his cradle: 'And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures’ (2 Timothy 3: 15). Timothy sucked in religion as it were with his milk. We read of young children who cried 'Hosanna’ to Christ and trumpeted forth his praises (Matthew 21: 15). And sure those children of Tyre had some seeds of good wrought in them in that they showed their love to Paul and would help him on his way to the seashore. 'They all brought us on our way with wives and children’ (Acts 21: 5). Saint Paul had a convoy of young saints to bring him to take ship.
And again, suppose our counsel and instruction does not at present prevail with our children, it may afterwards take effect. The seed a man sows in his ground does not presently spring up, but in its season it brings forth a crop. He that plants a wood does not see the full growth till many years after. If we must not instruct our children because at present they do not reap the benefit, by the same reason we should not baptise our children, because at present they do not have the sense of baptism. Nay, by the same reason ministers should not preach the Word, because at present many of their hearers have no benefit.
Again, if our counsels and admonitions do not prevail with our children, yet 'we have delivered our own souls'. There is comfort in the discharge of conscience. We must let alone issues and events. Duty is our work; success is God's.
All which considered, should make parents whet holy instructions upon their children. They who are of the family of God and whom he has adopted for children, will endeavour that their children may be more God's children than theirs. They will 'travail in birth till Christ be formed in them’. A true saint is a loadstone that will be still drawing others to God. Let this suffice to have spoken of the signs of adoption. I proceed.