Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Duties of Parents

www.WholesomeWords.org edition 2006

The Duties of Parents

by J. C. Ryle

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is

old, he will not depart from it." Prov. 22:6

I suppose that most professing Christians are acquainted

with the text at the head of this page. The sound of it is

probably familiar to your ears, like an old tune. It is likely

you have heard it, or read it, talked of it, or quoted it,

many a time. Is it not so?

But, after all, how little is the substance of this text

regarded! The doctrine it contains appears scarcely known,

the duty it puts before us seems fearfully seldom practised.

Reader, do I not speak the truth?

It cannot be said that the subject is a new one. The world is

old, and we have the experience of nearly six thousand

years to help us. We live in days when there is a mighty

zeal for education in every quarter. We hear of new schools

rising on all sides. We are told of new systems, and new

books for the young, of every sort and description. And still

for all this, the vast majority of children are manifestly not

trained in the way they should go, for when they grow up

to man's estate, they do not walk with God.

Now how shall we account for this state of things? The plain

truth is, the Lord's commandment in our text is not

regarded; and therefore the Lord's promise in our text is

not fulfilled.

Reader, these things may well give rise to great searchings

of heart. Suffer then a word of exhortation from a minister,

about the right training of children. Believe me, the subject

is one that should come home to every conscience, and

make every one ask himself the question, "Am I in this

matter doing what I can?"

It is a subject that concerns almost all. There is hardly a

household that it does not touch. Parents, nurses, teachers,

godfathers, godmothers, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, —

all have an interest in it. Few can be found, I think, who

might not influence some parent in the management of his

family, or affect the training of some child by suggestion or

advice. All of us, I suspect, can do something here, either

directly or indirectly, and I wish to stir up all to bear this in


It is a subject, too, on which all concerned are in great

danger of coming short of their duty. This is pre-eminently

a point in which men can see the faults of their neighbours

more clearly than their own. They will often bring up their

children in the very path which they have denounced to

their friends as unsafe. They will see motes in other men's

families, and overlook beams in their own. They will be

quick-sighted as eagles in detecting mistakes abroad, and

yet blind as bats to fatal errors which are daily going on at

home. They will be wise about their brother's house, but

foolish about their own flesh and blood. Here, if anywhere,

we have need to suspect our own judgment. This, too, you

will do well to bear in mind. [Note: As a minister, I cannot

help remarking that there is hardly any subject about which

people seem so tenacious as they are about their children. I

have sometimes been perfectly astonished at the slowness

of sensible Christian parents to allow that their own children

are in fault, or deserve blame. There are not a few persons

to whom I would far rather speak about their own sins, than

tell them their children had done anything wrong.]

Come now, and let me place before you a few hints about

right training. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy

Ghost bless them, and make them words in season to you

all. Reject them not because they are blunt and simple;

despise them not because they contain nothing new. Be

very sure, if you would train children for heaven, they are

hints that ought not to be lightly set aside.

1. First, then, if you would train your children rightly,

train them in the way they should go, and not in the

way that they would.

Remember children are born with a decided bias towards

evil, and therefore if you let them choose for themselves,

they are certain to choose wrong.

The mother cannot tell what her tender infant may grow up

to be, — tall or short, weak or strong, wise or foolish: he

may be any of these things or not, — it is all uncertain. But

one thing the mother can say with certainty: he will have a

corrupt and sinful heart. It is natural to us to do wrong.

"Foolishness," says Solomon, "is bound in the heart of a

child" (Prov. 22:15). "A child left to himself bringeth his

mother to shame" (Prov. 29:15). Our hearts are like the

earth on which we tread; let it alone, and it is sure to bear


If, then, you would deal wisely with your child, you must

not leave him to the guidance of his own will. Think for him,

judge for him, act for him, just as you would for one weak

and blind; but for pity's sake, give him not up to his own

wayward tastes and inclinations. It must not be his likings

and wishes that are consulted. He knows not yet what is

good for his mind and soul, any more than what is good for

his body. You do not let him decide what he shall eat, and

what he shall drink, and how he shall be clothed. Be

consistent, and deal with his mind in like manner. Train him

in the way that is scriptural and right, and not in the way

that he fancies.

If you cannot make up your mind to this first principle of

Christian training, it is useless for you to read any further.

Self-will is almost the first thing that appears in a child's

mind; and it must be your first step to resist it.

2. Train up your child with all tenderness, affection,

and patience.

I do not mean that you are to spoil him, but I do mean that

you should let him see that you love him.

Love should be the silver thread that runs through all your

conduct. Kindness, gentleness, long-suffering, forbearance,

patience, sympathy, a willingness to enter into childish

troubles, a readiness to take part in childish joys, — these

are the cords by which a child may be led most easily, —

these are the clues you must follow if you would find the

way to his heart.

Few are to be found, even among grown-up people, who

are not more easy to draw than to drive. There is that in all

our minds which rises in arms against compulsion; we set

up our backs and stiffen our necks at the very idea of a

forced obedience. We are like young horses in the hand of a

breaker: handle them kindly, and make much of them, and

by and by you may guide them with thread; use them

roughly and violently, and it will be many a month before

you get the mastery of them at all.

Now children's minds are cast in much the same mould as

our own. Sternness and severity of manner chill them and

throw them back. It shuts up their hearts, and you will

weary yourself to find the door. But let them only see that

you have an affectionate feeling towards them, — that you

are really desirous to make them happy, and do them good,

— that if you punish them, it is intended for their profit, and

that, like the pelican, you would give your heart's blood to

nourish their souls; let them see this, I say, and they will

soon be all your own. But they must be wooed with

kindness, if their attention is ever to be won.

And surely reason itself might teach us this lesson. Children

are weak and tender creatures, and, as such, they need

patient and considerate treatment. We must handle them

delicately, like frail machines, lest by rough fingering we do

more harm than good. They are like young plants, and need

gentle watering, — often, but little at a time.

We must not expect all things at once. We must remember

what children are, and teach them as they are able to bear.

Their minds are like a lump of metal — not to be forged and

made useful at once, but only by a succession of little

blows. Their understandings are like narrow-necked

vessels: we must pour in the wine of knowledge gradually,

or much of it will be spilled and lost. "Line upon line, and

precept upon precept, here a little and there a little," must

be our rule. The whetstone does its work slowly, but

frequent rubbing will bring the scythe to a fine edge. Truly

there is need of patience in training a child, but without it

nothing can be done.

Nothing will compensate for the absence of this tenderness

and love. A minister may speak the truth as it is in Jesus,

clearly, forcibly, unanswerably; but if he does not speak it

in love, few souls will be won. Just so you must set before

your children their duty, — command, threaten, punish,

reason, — but if affection be wanting in your treatment,

your labour will be all in vain.

Love is one grand secret of successful training. Anger and

harshness may frighten, but they will not persuade the child

that you are right; and if he sees you often out of temper,

you will soon cease to have his respect. A father who

speaks to his son as Saul did to Jonathan (1 Sam. 20:30),

need not expect to retain his influence over that son's mind.

Try hard to keep up a hold on your child's affections. It is a

dangerous thing to make your children afraid of you.

Anything is almost better than reserve and constraint

between your child and yourself; and this will come in with

fear. Fear puts an end to openness of manner; — fear leads

to concealment; — fear sows the seed of much hypocrisy,

and leads to many a lie. There is a mine of truth in the

Apostle's words to the Colossians: "Fathers, provoke not

your children to anger, lest they be discouraged" (Col.

3:21). Let not the advice it contains be overlooked.

3. Train your children with an abiding persuasion on

your mind that much depends upon you.

Grace is the strongest of all principles. See what a

revolution grace effects when it comes into the heart of an

old sinner, — how it overturns the strongholds of Satan, —

how it casts down mountains, fills up valleys, — makes

crooked things straight, — and new creates the whole man.

Truly nothing is impossible to grace.

Nature, too, is very strong. See how it struggles against the

things of the kingdom of God, — how it fights against every

attempt to be more holy, — how it keeps up an unceasing

warfare within us to the last hour of life. Nature indeed is


But after nature and grace, undoubtedly, there is nothing

more powerful than education. Early habits (if I may so

speak) are everything with us, under God. We are made

what we are by training. Our character takes the form of

that mould into which our first years are cast. [Note: "He

has seen but little of life who does not discern everywhere

the effect of education on men's opinions and habits of

thinking. The children bring out of the nursery that which

displays itself throughout their lives." — Cecil.]

We depend, in a vast measure, on those who bring us up.

We get from them a colour, a taste, a bias which cling to us

more or less all our lives. We catch the language of our

nurses and mothers, and learn to speak it almost insensibly,

and unquestionably we catch something of their manners,

ways, and mind at the same time. Time only will show, I

suspect, how much we all owe to early impressions, and

how many things in us may be traced up to seeds sown in

the days of our very infancy, by those who were about us.

A very learned Englishman, Mr. Locke, has gone so far as to

say: "That of all the men we meet with, nine parts out of

ten are what they are, good or bad, useful or not, according

to their education."

And all this is one of God's merciful arrangements. He gives

your children a mind that will receive impressions like moist

clay. He gives them a disposition at the starting-point of life

to believe what you tell them, and to take for granted what

you advise them, and to trust your word rather than a

stranger's. He gives you, in short, a golden opportunity of

doing them good. See that the opportunity be not

neglected, and thrown away. Once let slip, it is gone for


Beware of that miserable delusion into which some have

fallen, — that parents can do nothing for their children, that

you must leave them alone, wait for grace, and sit still.

These persons have wishes for their children in Balaam's

fashion, — they would like them to die the death of the

righteous man, but they do nothing to make them live his

life. They desire much, and have nothing. And the devil

rejoices to see such reasoning, just as he always does over

anything which seems to excuse indolence, or to encourage

neglect of means.

I know that you cannot convert your child. I know well that

they who are born again are born, not of the will of man,

but of God. But I know also that God says expressly, "Train

up a child in the way he should go," and that He never laid

a command on man which He would not give man grace to

perform. And I know, too, that our duty is not to stand still

and dispute, but to go forward and obey. It is just in the

going forward that God will meet us. The path of obedience

is the way in which He gives the blessing. We have only to

do as the servants were commanded at the marriage feast

in Cana, to fill the water-pots with water, and we may

safely leave it to the Lord to turn that water into wine.

4. Train with this thought continually before your

eyes — that the soul of your child is the first thing to

be considered.

Precious, no doubt, are these little ones in your eyes; but if

you love them, think often of their souls. No interest should

weigh with you so much as their eternal interests. No part

of them should be so dear to you as that part which will

never die. The world, with all its glory, shall pass away; the

hills shall melt; the heavens shall be wrapped together as a

scroll; the sun shall cease to shine. But the spirit which

dwells in those little creatures, whom you love so well, shall

outlive them all, and whether in happiness or misery (to

speak as a man) will depend on you.

This is the thought that should be uppermost on your mind

in all you do for your children. In every step you take about

them, in every plan, and scheme, and arrangement that

concerns them, do not leave out that mighty question, "How

will this affect their souls?"

Soul love is the soul of all love. To pet and pamper and

indulge your child, as if this world was all he had to look to,

and this life the only season for happiness — to do this is

not true love, but cruelty. It is treating him like some beast

of the earth, which has but one world to look to, and

nothing after death. It is hiding from him that grand truth,

which he ought to be made to learn from his very infancy,

— that the chief end of his life is the salvation of his soul.

A true Christian must be no slave to fashion, if he would

train his child for heaven. He must not be content to do

things merely because they are the custom of the world; to

teach them and instruct them in certain ways, merely

because it is usual; to allow them to read books of a

questionable sort, merely because everybody else reads

them; to let them form habits of a doubtful tendency,

merely because they are the habits of the day. He must

train with an eye to his children's souls. He must not be

ashamed to hear his training called singular and strange.

What if it is? The time is short, — the fashion of this world

passeth away. He that has trained his children for heaven,

rather than for earth, — for God, rather than for man, — he

is the parent that will be called wise at last.

5. Train your child to a knowledge of the Bible.

You cannot make your children love the Bible, I allow. None

but the Holy Ghost can give us a heart to delight in the

Word. But you can make your children acquainted with the

Bible; and be sure they cannot be acquainted with that

blessed book too soon, or too well.

A thorough knowledge of the Bible is the foundation of all

clear views of religion. He that is well-grounded in it will not

generally be found a waverer, and carried about by every

wind of new doctrine. Any system of training which does not

make a knowledge of Scripture the first thing is unsafe and


You have need to be careful on this point just now, for the

devil is abroad, and error abounds. Some are to be found

amongst us who give the Church the honour due to Jesus

Christ. Some are to be found who make the sacraments

saviours and passports to eternal life. And some are to be

found in like manner who honour a catechism more than

the Bible, or fill the minds of their children with miserable

little story-books, instead of the Scripture of truth. But if

you love your children, let the simple Bible be everything in

the training of their souls; and let all other books go down

and take the second place.

Care not so much for their being mighty in the catechism,

as for their being mighty in the Scriptures. This is the

training, believe me, that God will honour. The Psalmist

says of Him, "Thou hast magnified Thy Word above all Thy

name" (Ps. 138:2); and I think that He gives an especial

blessing to all who try to magnify it among men.

See that your children read the Bible reverently. Train them

to look on it, not as the word of men, but as it is in truth,

the Word of God, written by the Holy Ghost Himself, — all

true, all profitable, and able to make us wise unto salvation,

through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

See that they read it regularly. Train them to regard it as

their soul's daily food, — as a thing essential to their soul's

daily health. I know well you can not make this anything

more than a form; but there is no telling the amount of sin

which a mere form may indirectly restrain.

See that they read it all. You need not shrink from bringing

any doctrine before them. You need not fancy that the

leading doctrines of Christianity are things which children

cannot understand. Children understand far more of the

Bible than we are apt to suppose.

Tell them of sin, its guilt, its consequences, its power, its

vileness: you will find they can comprehend something of


Tell them of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His work for our

salvation, — the atonement, the cross, the blood, the

sacrifice, the intercession: you will discover there is

something not beyond them in all this.

Tell them of the work of the Holy Spirit in man's heart, how

He changes, and renews, and sanctifies, and purifies: you

will soon see they can go along with you in some measure

in this. In short, I suspect we have no idea how much a

little child can take in of the length and breadth of the

glorious gospel. They see far more of these things than we

suppose. [Note: As to the age when the religious instruction

of a child should begin, no general rule can be laid down.

The mind seems to open in some children much more

quickly than in others. We seldom begin too early. There

are wonderful examples on record of what a child can attain

to, even at three years old.]

Fill their minds with Scripture. Let the Word dwell in them

richly. Give them the Bible, the whole Bible, even while they

are young.

6. Train them to a habit of prayer.

Prayer is the very life-breath of true religion. It is one of

the first evidences that a man is born again. "Behold," said

the Lord of Saul, in the day he sent Ananias to him,

"Behold, he prayeth" (Acts 9:11). He had begun to pray,

and that was proof enough.

Prayer was the distinguishing mark of the Lord's people in

the day that there began to be a separation between them

and the world. "Then began men to call upon the name of

the LORD" (Gen. 4:26).

Prayer is the peculiarity of all real Christians now. They

pray, — for they tell God their wants, their feelings, their

desires, their fears; and mean what they say. The nominal

Christian may repeat prayers, and good prayers too, but he

goes no further.

Prayer is the turning-point in a man's soul. Our ministry is

unprofitable, and our labour is vain, till you are brought to

your knees. Till then, we have no hope about you.

Prayer is one great secret of spiritual prosperity. When

there is much private communion with God, your soul will

grow like the grass after rain; when there is little, all will be

at a standstill, you will barely keep your soul alive. Show

me a growing Christian, a going forward Christian, a strong

Christian, a flourishing Christian, and sure am I, he is one

that speaks often with his Lord. He asks much, and he has

much. He tells Jesus everything, and so he always knows

how to act.

Prayer is the mightiest engine God has placed in our hands.

It is the best weapon to use in every difficulty, and the

surest remedy in every trouble. It is the key that unlocks

the treasury of promises, and the hand that draws forth

grace and help in time of need. It is the silver trumpet God

commands us to sound in all our necessity, and it is the cry

He has promised always to attend to, even as a loving

mother to the voice of her child.

Prayer is the simplest means that man can use in coming to

God. It is within reach of all, — the sick, the aged, the

infirm, the paralytic, the blind, the poor, the unlearned, —

all can pray. It avails you nothing to plead want of memory,

and want of learning, and want of books, and want of

scholarship in this matter. So long as you have a tongue to

tell your soul's state, you may and ought to pray. Those

words, "Ye have not, because ye ask not" (James 4:2), will

be a fearful condemnation to many in the day of judgment.

Parents, if you love your children, do all that lies in your

power to train them up to a habit of prayer. Show them

how to begin. Tell them what to say. Encourage them to

persevere. Remind them if they become careless and slack

about it. Let it not be your fault, at any rate, if they never

call on the name of the Lord.

This, remember, is the first step in religion which a child is

able to take. Long before he can read, you can teach him to

kneel by his mother's side, and repeat the simple words of

prayer and praise which she puts in his mouth. And as the

first steps in any undertaking are always the most

important, so is the manner in which your children's prayers

are prayed, a point which deserves your closest attention.

Few seem to know how much depends on this. You must

beware lest they get into a way of saying them in a hasty,

careless, and irreverent manner. You must beware of giving

up the oversight of this matter to servants and nurses, or of

trusting too much to your children doing it when left to

themselves. I cannot praise that mother who never looks

after this most important part of her child's daily life herself.

Surely if there be any habit which your own hand and eye

should help in forming, it is the habit of prayer. Believe me,

if you never hear your children pray yourself, you are much

to blame. You are little wiser than the bird described in Job,

"which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in

the dust, and forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or

that the wild beast may break them. She is hardened

against her young ones, as though they were not hers: her

labour is in vain without fear" (Job 39:14-16).

Prayer is, of all habits, the one which we recollect the

longest. Many a grey-headed man could tell you how his

mother used to make him pray in the days of his childhood.

Other things have passed away from his mind perhaps. The

church where he was taken to worship, the minister whom

he heard preach, the companions who used to play with

him, — all these, it may be, have passed from his memory,

and left no mark behind. But you will often find it is far

different with his first prayers. He will often be able to tell

you where he knelt, and what he was taught to say, and

even how his mother looked all the while. It will come up as

fresh before his mind's eye as if it was but yesterday.

Reader, if you love your children, I charge you, do not let

the seed-time of a prayerful habit pass away unimproved. If

you train your children to anything, train them, at least, to

a habit of prayer.

7. Train them to habits of diligence, and regularity

about public means of grace.

Tell them of the duty and privilege of going to the house of

God, and joining in the prayers of the congregation. Tell

them that wherever the Lord's people are gathered

together, there the Lord Jesus is present in an especial

manner, and that those who absent themselves must

expect, like the Apostle Thomas, to miss a blessing. Tell

them of the importance of hearing the Word preached, and

that it is God's ordinance for converting, sanctifying, and

building up the souls of men. Tell them how the Apostle

Paul enjoins us not to forsake "the assembling of ourselves

together, as the manner of some is" (Heb. 10:25); but to

exhort one another, to stir one another up to it, and so

much the more as we see the day approaching.

I call it a sad sight in a church when nobody comes up to

the Lord's table but the elderly people, and the young men

and the young women all turn away. But I call it a sadder

sight still when no children are to be seen in a church,

excepting those who come to the Sunday School, and are

obliged to attend. Let none of this guilt lie at your doors.

There are many boys and girls in every parish, besides

those who come to school, and you who are their parents

and friends should see to it that they come with you to


Do not allow them to grow up with a habit of making vain

excuses for not coming. Give them plainly to understand,

that so long as they are under your roof it is the rule of

your house for every one in health to honour the Lord's

house upon the Lord's day, and that you reckon the

Sabbath-breaker to be a murderer of his own soul.

See to it too, if it can be so arranged, that your children go

with you to church, and sit near you when they are there.

To go to church is one thing, but to behave well at church is

quite another. And believe me, there is no security for good

behaviour like that of having them under your own eye.

The minds of young people are easily drawn aside, and their

attention lost, and every possible means should be used to

counteract this. I do not like to see them coming to church

by themselves, — they often get into bad company by the

way, and so learn more evil on the Lord's day than in all the

rest of the week. Neither do I like to see what I call "a

young people's corner" in a church. They often catch habits

of inattention and irreverence there, which it takes years to

unlearn, if ever they are unlearned at all. What I like to see

is a whole family sitting together, old and young, side by

side, — men, women, and children, serving God according

to their households.

But there are some who say that it is useless to urge

children to attend ... because they cannot understand...

I would not have you listen to such reasoning. I find no

such doctrine in the Old Testament. When Moses goes

before Pharaoh (Ex. 10:9), I observe he says, "We will go

with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our

daughters ... for we must hold a feast unto the LORD."

When Joshua read the law (Josh. 8:35), I observe, "There

was not a word ... which Joshua read not before all the

congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones,

and the strangers that were conversant among them."

"Thrice in the year," says Exodus 34:23, "shall all your men

children appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel."

And when I turn to the New Testament, I find children

mentioned there as partaking in public acts of religion as

well as in the Old. When Paul was leaving the disciples at

Tyre for the last time, I find it said (Acts 21:5), "They all

brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were

out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and


Samuel, in the days of his childhood, appears to have

ministered unto the Lord some time before he really knew

Him. "Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the

word of the LORD yet revealed unto him" (1 Sam. 3:7). The

Apostles themselves do not seem to have understood all

that our Lord said at the time that it was spoken: "These

things understood not His disciples at the first: but when

Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these

things were written of Him" (John 12:16).

Parents, comfort your minds with these examples. Be not

cast down because your children see not the full value of

the means of grace now. Only train them up to a habit of

regular attendance. Set it before their minds as a high,

holy, and solemn duty, and believe me, the day will very

likely come when they will bless you for your deed.

8. Train them to a habit of faith.

I mean by this, you should train them up to believe what

you say. You should try to make them feel confidence in

your judgment, and respect your opinions, as better than

their own. You should accustom them to think that, when

you say a thing is bad for them, it must be bad, and when

you say it is good for them, it must be good; that your

knowledge, in short, is better than their own, and that they

may rely implicitly on your word. Teach them to feel that

what they know not now, they will probably know hereafter,

and to be satisfied there is a reason and a needs-be for

everything you require them to do.

Who indeed can describe the blessedness of a real spirit of

faith? Or rather, who can tell the misery that unbelief has

brought upon the world? Unbelief made Eve eat the

forbidden fruit, — she doubted the truth of God's word: "Ye

shall surely die." Unbelief made the old world reject Noah's

warning, and so perish in sin. Unbelief kept Israel in the

wilderness, — it was the bar that kept them from entering

the promised land. Unbelief made the Jews crucify the Lord

of glory, — they believed not the voice of Moses and the

prophets, though read to them every day. And unbelief is

the reigning sin of man's heart down to this very hour, —

unbelief in God's promises, — unbelief in God's

threatenings, — unbelief in our own sinfulness, — unbelief in

our own danger, — unbelief in everything that runs counter

to the pride and worldliness of our evil hearts. Reader, you

train your children to little purpose if you do not train them

to a habit of implicit faith, — faith in their parents' word,

confidence that what their parents say must be right.

I have heard it said by some, that you should require

nothing of children which they cannot understand: that you

should explain and give a reason for everything you desire

them to do. I warn you solemnly against such a notion. I

tell you plainly, I think it an unsound and rotten principle.

No doubt it is absurd to make a mystery of everything you

do, and there are many things which it is well to explain to

children, in order that they may see that they are

reasonable and wise. But to bring them up with the idea

that they must take nothing on trust, that they, with their

weak and imperfect understandings, must have the "why"

and the "wherefore" made clear to them at every step they

take, — this is indeed a fearful mistake, and likely to have

the worst effect on their minds.

Reason with your child if you are so disposed, at certain

times, but never forget to keep him in mind (if you really

love him) that he is but a child after all, — that he thinks as

a child, he understands as a child, and therefore must not

expect to know the reason of everything at once.

Set before him the example of Isaac, in the day when

Abraham took him to offer him on Mount Moriah (Gen. 22).

He asked his father that single question, "Where is the lamb

for a burnt-offering?" and he got no answer but this, "God

will provide Himself a lamb." How, or where, or whence, or

in what manner, or by what means, — all this Isaac was not

told; but the answer was enough. He believed that it would

be well, because his father said so, and he was content. Tell

your children, too, that we must all be learners in our

beginnings, that there is an alphabet to be mastered in

every kind of knowledge, — that the best horse in the world

had need once to be broken, — that a day will come when

they will see the wisdom of all your training. But in the

meantime if you say a thing is right, it must be enough for

them, — they must believe you, and be content.

Parents, if any point in training is important, it is this. I

charge you by the affection you have to your children, use

every means to train them up to a habit of faith.

9. Train them to a habit of obedience.

This is an object which it is worth any labour to attain. No

habit, I suspect, has such an influence over our lives as

this. Parents, determine to make your children obey you,

though it may cost you much trouble, and cost them many

tears. Let there be no questioning, and reasoning, and

disputing, and delaying, and answering again. When you

give them a command, let them see plainly that you will

have it done.

Obedience is the only reality. It is faith visible, faith acting,

and faith incarnate. It is the test of real discipleship among

the Lord's people. "Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I

command you" (John 15:14). It ought to be the mark of

well-trained children, that they do whatsoever their parents

command them. Where, indeed, is the honour which the

fifth commandment enjoins, if fathers and mothers are not

obeyed cheerfully, willingly, and at once?

Early obedience has all Scripture on its side. It is in

Abraham's praise, not merely he will train his family, but

"he will command his children and his household after him"

(Genesis 18:19). It is said of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself,

that when He was young He was subject to Mary and

Joseph (Luke 2:51). Observe how implicitly Joseph obeyed

the order of his father Jacob (Gen. 37:13). See how Isaiah

speaks of it as an evil thing, when "the child shall behave

himself proudly against the ancient" (Isaiah 3:5). Mark how

the Apostle Paul names disobedience to parents as one of

the bad signs of the latter days (2 Tim. 3:2). Mark how he

singles out this grace of requiring obedience as one that

should adorn a Christian minister: a bishop must be "one

that ruleth well his own house, having his children in

subjection with all gravity." And again, Let the deacons rule

"their children and their own houses well" (1 Tim. 3:4,12).

And again, an elder must be one "having faithful children

not accused of riot or unruly" (Titus 1:6).

Parents, do you wish to see your children happy? Take

care, then, that you train them to obey when they are

spoken to, — to do as they are bid. Believe me, we are not

made for entire independence, — we are not fit for it. Even

Christ's freemen have a yoke to wear, they "serve the Lord

Christ" (Col. 3:24). Children cannot learn too soon that this

is a world in which we are not all intended to rule, and that

we are never in our right place until we know how to obey

our betters. Teach them to obey while young, or else they

will be fretting against God all their lives long, and wear

themselves out with the vain idea of being independent of

His control.

Reader, this hint is only too much needed. You will see

many in this day who allow their children to choose and

think for themselves long before they are able, and even

make excuses for their disobedience, as if it were a thing

not to be blamed. To my eyes, a parent always yielding,

and a child always having its own way, are a most painful

sight; — painful, because I see God's appointed order of

things inverted and turned upside down; — painful, because

I feel sure the consequence to that child's character in the

end will be self-will, pride, and self-conceit. You must not

wonder that men refuse to obey their Father which is in

heaven, if you allow them, when children, to disobey their

father who is upon earth.

Parents, if you love your children, let obedience be a motto

and a watchword continually before their eyes.

10. Train them to a habit of always speaking the


Truth-speaking is far less common in the world than at first

sight we are disposed to think. The whole truth, and nothing

but the truth, is a golden rule which many would do well to

bear in mind. Lying and prevarication are old sins. The devil

was the father of them, — he deceived Eve by a bold lie,

and ever since the fall it is a sin against which all the

children of Eve have need to be on their guard.

Only think how much falsehood and deceit there is in the

world! How much exaggeration! How many additions are

made to a simple story! How many things left out, if it does

not serve the speaker's interest to tell them! How few there

are about us of whom we can say, we put unhesitating trust

in their word! Verily the ancient Persians were wise in their

generation: it was a leading point with them in educating

their children, that they should learn to speak the truth.

What an awful proof it is of man's natural sinfulness, that it

should be needful to name such a point at all!

Reader, I would have you remark how often God is spoken

of in the Old Testament as the God of truth. Truth seems to

be especially set before us as a leading feature in the

character of Him with whom we have to do. He never

swerves from the straight line. He abhors lying and

hypocrisy. Try to keep this continually before your children's

minds. Press upon them at all times, that less than the

truth is a lie; that evasion, excuse-making, and

exaggeration are all halfway houses towards what is false,

and ought to be avoided. Encourage them in any

circumstances to be straightforward, and, whatever it may

cost them, to speak the truth.

I press this subject on your attention, not merely for the

sake of your children's character in the world, — though I

might dwell much on this, — I urge it rather for your own

comfort and assistance in all your dealings with them. You

will find it a mighty help indeed, to be able always to trust

their word. It will go far to prevent that habit of

concealment, which so unhappily prevails sometimes among

children. Openness and straightforwardness depend much

upon a parent's treatment of this matter in the days of our


11. Train them to a habit of always redeeming the


Idleness is the devil's best friend. It is the surest way to

give him an opportunity of doing us harm. An idle mind is

like an open door, and if Satan does not enter in himself by

it, it is certain he will throw in something to raise bad

thoughts in our souls.

No created being was ever meant to be idle. Service and

work is the appointed portion of every creature of God. The

angels in heaven work, — they are the Lord's ministering

servants, ever doing His will. Adam, in Paradise, had work,

— he was appointed to dress the garden of Eden, and to

keep it. The redeemed saints in glory will have work, "They

rest not day and night singing praise and glory to Him who

bought them." And man, weak, sinful man, must have

something to do, or else his soul will soon get into an

unhealthy state. We must have our hands filled, and our

minds occupied with something, or else our imaginations

will soon ferment and breed mischief.

And what is true of us, is true of our children too. Alas,

indeed, for the man that has nothing to do! The Jews

thought idleness a positive sin: it was a law of theirs that

every man should bring up his son to some useful trade, —

and they were right. They knew the heart of man better

than some of us appear to do.

Idleness made Sodom what she was. "This was the iniquity

of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance

of idleness was in her" (Ezekiel 16:49). Idleness had much

to do with David's awful sin with the wife of Uriah. — I see

in 2 Samuel 11:1 that Joab went out to war against

Ammon, "but David tarried still at Jerusalem." Was not that

idle? And then it was that he saw Bathsheba, — and the

next step we read of is his tremendous and miserable fall.

Verily, I believe that idleness has led to more sin than

almost any other habit that could be named. I suspect it is

the mother of many a work of the flesh, — the mother of

adultery, fornication, drunkenness, and many other deeds

of darkness that I have not time to name. Let your own

conscience say whether I do not speak the truth. You were

idle, and at once the devil knocked at the door and came in.

And indeed I do not wonder; — everything in the world

around us seems to teach the same lesson. It is the still

water which becomes stagnant and impure: the running,

moving streams are always clear. If you have steam

machinery, you must work it, or it soon gets out of order. If

you have a horse, you must exercise him; he is never so

well as when he has regular work. If you would have good

bodily health yourself, you must take exercise. If you

always sit still, your body is sure at length to complain. And

just so is it with the soul. The active moving mind is a hard

mark for the devil to shoot at. Try to be always full of

useful employment, and thus your enemy will find it difficult

to get room to sow tares.

Reader, I ask you to set these things before the minds of

your children. Teach them the value of time, and try to

make them learn the habit of using it well. It pains me to

see children idling over what they have in hand, whatever it

may be. I love to see them active and industrious, and

giving their whole heart to all they do; giving their whole

heart to lessons, when they have to learn; — giving their

whole heart even to their amusements, when they go to


But if you love them well, let idleness be counted a sin in

your family.

12. Train them with a constant fear of overindulgence.

This is the one point of all on which you have most need to

be on your guard. It is natural to be tender and affectionate

towards your own flesh and blood, and it is the excess of

this very tenderness and affection which you have to fear.

Take heed that it does not make you blind to your

children's faults, and deaf to all advice about them. Take

heed lest it make you overlook bad conduct, rather than

have the pain of inflicting punishment and correction.

I know well that punishment and correction are

disagreeable things. Nothing is more unpleasant than giving

pain to those we love, and calling forth their tears. But so

long as hearts are what hearts are, it is vain to suppose, as

a general rule, that children can ever be brought up without


Spoiling is a very expressive word, and sadly full of

meaning. Now it is the shortest way to spoil children to let

them have their own way, — to allow them to do wrong and

not to punish them for it. Believe me, you must not do it,

whatever pain it may cost you unless you wish to ruin your

children's souls.

You cannot say that Scripture does not speak expressly on

this subject: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he

that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Prov. 13:24).

"Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul

spare for his crying" (Prov. 19:18). "Foolishness is bound in

the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it

from him" (Prov. 22:15). "Withhold not correction from the

child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul

from hell" (Prov. 23:13,14). "The rod and reproof give

wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to

shame." "Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea,

he shall give delight unto thy soul" (Prov. 29:15,17).

How strong and forcible are these texts! How melancholy is

the fact, that in many Christian families they seem almost

unknown! Their children need reproof, but it is hardly ever

given; they need correction, but it is hardly ever employed.

And yet this book of Proverbs is not obsolete and unfit for

Christians. It is given by inspiration of God, and profitable.

It is given for our learning, even as the Epistles to the

Romans and Ephesians. Surely the believer who brings up

his children without attention to its counsel is making

himself wise above that which is written, and greatly errs.

Fathers and mothers, I tell you plainly, if you never punish

your children when they are in fault, you are doing them a

grievous wrong. I warn you, this is the rock on which the

saints of God, in every age, have only too frequently made

shipwreck. I would fain persuade you to be wise in time,

and keep clear of it. See it in Eli's case. His sons Hophni

and Phinehas "made themselves vile, and he restrained

them not." He gave them no more than a tame and

lukewarm reproof, when he ought to have rebuked them

sharply. In one word, he honoured his sons above God. And

what was the end of these things? He lived to hear of the

death of both his sons in battle, and his own grey hairs

were brought down with sorrow to the grave (1 Sam. 2:22-

29, 3:13).

See, too, the case of David. Who can read without pain the

history of his children, and their sins? Amnon's incest, —

Absalom's murder and proud rebellion, — Adonijah's

scheming ambition: truly these were grievous wounds for

the man after God's own heart to receive from his own

house. But was there no fault on his side? I fear there can

be no doubt there was. I find a clue to it all in the account

of Adonijah in 1 Kings 1:6: "His father had not displeased

him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?" There

was the foundation of all the mischief. David was an overindulgent

father, — a father who let his children have their

own way, — and he reaped according as he had sown.

Parents, I beseech you, for your children's sake, beware of

over-indulgence. I call on you to remember, it is your first

duty to consult their real interests, and not their fancies and

likings; — to train them, not to humour them — to profit,

not merely to please.

You must not give way to every wish and caprice of your

child's mind, however much you may love him. You must

not let him suppose his will is to be everything, and that he

has only to desire a thing and it will be done. Do not, I pray

you, make your children idols, lest God should take them

away, and break your idol, just to convince you of your


Learn to say "No" to your children. Show them that you are

able to refuse whatever you think is not fit for them. Show

them that you are ready to punish disobedience, and that

when you speak of punishment, you are not only ready to

threaten, but also to perform. Do not threaten too much.

[Note: Some parents and nurses have a way of saying,

"Naughty child," to a boy or girl on every slight occasion,

and often without good cause. It is a very foolish habit.

Words of blame should never be used without real reason.]

Threatened folks, and threatened faults, live long. Punish

seldom, but really and in good earnest, — frequent and

slight punishment is a wretched system indeed. [Note: As

to the best way of punishing a child, no general rule can be

laid down. The characters of children are so exceedingly

different, that what would be a severe punishment to one

child, would be no punishment at all to another. I only beg

to enter my decided protest against the modern notion that

no child ought ever to be whipped. Doubtless some parents

use bodily correction far too much, and far too violently;

but many others, I fear, use it far too little.]

Beware of letting small faults pass unnoticed under the idea

"it is a little one." There are no little things in training

children; all are important. Little weeds need plucking up as

much as any. Leave them alone, and they will soon be


Reader, if there be any point which deserves your attention,

believe me, it is this one. It is one that will give you trouble,

I know. But if you do not take trouble with your children

when they are young, they will give you trouble when they

are old. Choose which you prefer.

13. Train them remembering continually how God

trains His children.

The Bible tells us that God has an elect people, — a family

in this world. All poor sinners who have been convinced of

sin, and fled to Jesus for peace, make up that family. All of

us who really believe on Christ for salvation are its


Now God the Father is ever training the members of this

family for their everlasting abode with Him in heaven. He

acts as a husbandman pruning his vines, that they may

bear more fruit. He knows the character of each of us, —

our besetting sins, — our weaknesses, — our peculiar

infirmities, — our special wants. He knows our works and

where we dwell, who are our companions in life, and what

are our trials, what our temptations, and what are our

privileges. He knows all these things, and is ever ordering

all for our good. He allots to each of us, in His providence,

the very things we need, in order to bear the most fruit, —

as much of sunshine as we can stand, and as much of rain,

— as much of bitter things as we can bear, and as much of

sweet. Reader, if you would train your children wisely, mark

well how God the Father trains His. He doeth all things well;

the plan which He adopts must be right.

See, then, how many things there are which God withholds

from His children. Few could be found, I suspect, among

them who have not had desires which He has never been

pleased to fulfil. There has often been some one thing they

wanted to attain, and yet there has always been some

barrier to prevent attainment. It has been just as if God

was placing it above our reach, and saying, "This is not

good for you; this must not be." Moses desired exceedingly

to cross over Jordan, and see the goodly land of promise;

but you will remember his desire was never granted.

See, too, how often God leads His people by ways which

seem dark and mysterious to our eyes. We cannot see the

meaning of all His dealings with us; we cannot see the

reasonableness of the path in which our feet are treading.

Sometimes so many trials have assailed us, — so many

difficulties encompassed us, — that we have not been able

to discover the needs-be of it all. It has been just as if our

Father was taking us by the hand into a dark place and

saying, "Ask no questions, but follow Me." There was a

direct road from Egypt to Canaan, yet Israel was not led

into it; but round, through the wilderness. And this seemed

hard at the time. "The soul of the people," we are told,

"was much discouraged because of the way" (Exodus

13:17-18; Num. 21:4).

See, also, how often God chastens His people with trial and

affliction. He sends them crosses and disappointments; He

lays them low with sickness; He strips them of property and

friends; He changes them from one position to another; He

visits them with things most hard to flesh and blood; and

some of us have well-nigh fainted under the burdens laid

upon us. We have felt pressed beyond strength, and have

been almost ready to murmur at the hand which chastened

us. Paul the Apostle had a thorn in the flesh appointed him,

some bitter bodily trial, no doubt, though we know not

exactly what it was. But this we know, — he besought the

Lord thrice that it might be removed; yet it was not taken

away (2 Cor. 12:8,9).

Now, reader, notwithstanding all these things, did you ever

hear of a single child of God who thought his Father did not

treat him wisely? No, I am sure you never did. God's

children would always tell you, in the long run, it was a

blessed thing they did not have their own way, and that

God had done far better for them than they could have done

for themselves. Yes! And they could tell you, too, that God's

dealings had provided more happiness for them than they

ever would have obtained themselves, and that His way,

however dark at times, was the way of pleasantness and

the path of peace.

I ask you to lay to heart the lesson which God's dealings

with His people is meant to teach you. Fear not to withhold

from your child anything you think will do him harm,

whatever his own wishes may be. This is God's plan.

Hesitate not to lay on him commands, of which he may not

at present see the wisdom, and to guide him in ways which

may not now seem reasonable to his mind. This is God's


Shrink not from chastising and correcting him whenever you

see his soul's health requires it, however painful it may be

to your feelings; and remember medicines for the mind

must not be rejected because they are bitter. This is God's


And be not afraid, above all, that such a plan of training will

make your child unhappy. I warn you against this delusion.

Depend on it, there is no surer road to unhappiness than

always having our own way. To have our wills checked and

denied is a blessed thing for us; it makes us value

enjoyments when they come. To be indulged perpetually is

the way to be made selfish; and selfish people and spoiled

children, believe me, are seldom happy.

Reader, be not wiser than God; — train your children as He

trains His.

14. Train them remembering continually the influence

of your own example.

Instruction, and advice, and commands will profit little,

unless they are backed up by the pattern of your own life.

Your children will never believe you are in earnest, and

really wish them to obey you, so long as your actions

contradict your counsel. Archbishop Tillotson made a wise

remark when he said, "To give children good instruction,

and a bad example, is but beckoning to them with the head

to show them the way to heaven, while we take them by

the hand and lead them in the way to hell."

We little know the force and power of example. No one of

us can live to himself in this world; we are always

influencing those around us, in one way or another, either

for good or for evil, either for God or for sin. — They see our

ways, they mark our conduct, they observe our behaviour,

and what they see us practise, that they may fairly suppose

we think right. And never, I believe, does example tell so

powerfully as it does in the case of parents and children.

Fathers and mothers, do not forget that children learn more

by the eye than they do by the ear. No school will make

such deep marks on character as home. The best of

schoolmasters will not imprint on their minds as much as

they will pick up at your fireside. Imitation is a far stronger

principle with children than memory. What they see has a

much stronger effect on their minds than what they are


Take care, then, what you do before a child. It is a true

proverb, "Who sins before a child, sins double." Strive

rather to be a living epistle of Christ, such as your families

can read, and that plainly too. Be an example of reverence

for the Word of God, reverence in prayer, reverence for

means of grace, reverence for the Lord's day. — Be an

example in words, in temper, in diligence, in temperance, in

faith, in charity, in kindness, in humility. Think not your

children will practise what they do not see you do. You are

their model picture, and they will copy what you are. Your

reasoning and your lecturing, your wise commands and your

good advice; all this they may not understand, but they can

understand your life.

Children are very quick observers; very quick in seeing

through some kinds of hypocrisy, very quick in finding out

what you really think and feel, very quick in adopting all

your ways and opinions. You will often find as the father is,

so is the son.

Remember the word that the conqueror Caesar always used

to his soldiers in a battle. He did not say "Go forward," but

"Come." So it must be with you in training your children.

They will seldom learn habits which they see you despise, or

walk in paths in which you do not walk yourself. He that

preaches to his children what he does not practise, is

working a work that never goes forward. It is like the fabled

web of Penelope of old, who wove all day, and unwove all

night. Even so, the parent who tries to train without setting

a good example is building with one hand, and pulling down

with the other.

15. Train them remembering continually the power of


I name this shortly, in order to guard you against

unscriptural expectations.

You must not expect to find your children's minds a sheet of

pure white paper, and to have no trouble if you only use

right means. I warn you plainly you will find no such thing.

It is painful to see how much corruption and evil there is in

a young child's heart, and how soon it begins to bear fruit.

Violent tempers, self-will, pride, envy, sullenness, passion,

idleness, selfishness, deceit, cunning, falsehood, hypocrisy,

a terrible aptness to learn what is bad, a painful slowness

to learn what is good, a readiness to pretend anything in

order to gain their own ends, — all these things, or some of

them, you must be prepared to see, even in your own flesh

and blood. In little ways they will creep out at a very early

age; it is almost startling to observe how naturally they

seem to spring up. Children require no schooling to learn to


But you must not be discouraged and cast down by what

you see. You must not think it a strange and unusual thing,

that little hearts can be so full of sin. It is the only portion

which our father Adam left us; it is that fallen nature with

which we come into the world; it is that inheritance which

belongs to us all. Let it rather make you more diligent in

using every means which seem most likely, by God's

blessing, to counteract the mischief. Let it make you more

and more careful, so far as in you lies, to keep your children

out of the way of temptation.

Never listen to those who tell you your children are good,

and well brought up, and can be trusted. Think rather that

their hearts are always inflammable as tinder. At their very

best, they only want a spark to set their corruptions alight.

Parents are seldom too cautious. Remember the natural

depravity of your children, and take care.

16. Train them 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 a child in the way he should go: and when he is

old he will 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


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. Reader,

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 not spring from it, long after you

are dead and gone. It is not God's way to give everything at

once. "Afterwards" 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" (Eccles. 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 labour 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.

17. Train them, lastly, with continual prayer for a

blessing on all you do.

Without the blessing of the Lord, your best endeavours 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 my sons, whom God hath

given me" (Gen. 48:9). Count them with the Psalmist to be

an heritage and reward from the LORD (Ps. 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, "O 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?" (Judges 13:12). Observe how

tenderly Job cared for his children's souls, He "offered burnt

offerings according to the number of them all: for Job 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


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 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 is the place where the

foundations of character are laid; — home gives the bias to

our tastes, and likings, and opinions. See then, I pray you,

that there be careful training at home. Happy indeed is the

man who can say, as Bolton did upon his dying bed, to his

children, "I do believe not one of you will dare to meet me

before the tribunal of Christ in an unregenerate state."

Fathers and mothers, I charge you solemnly before God and

the Lord Jesus Christ, take every pains 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


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 betimes, train them while

young in the right way.

And as for me, I will conclude by putting up my prayer to

God for all who read this paper, that you may all be taught

of God to feel the value of your own souls ... 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...

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.

First published in The Upper Room: Being Truths for the

Times by J. C. Ryle. London: William Hunt & Co., 1888.