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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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.