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Parent and Child | Jacob W. Byers

Duty to Instruct

We are very liable to fail at this point in thinking the child is too young, but we must bear in mind that we are quite ignorant of the great effect and extent of our influence upon our precious little treasure. As soon as it begins to look so wonderingly into our eyes and makes every possible effort to give expression to its little thoughts, we can begin to communicate with it. We can impart to it impressions that will bear upon its nature for good or evil. Who knows how much good it brought into our individual life when our loving mother pressed us to her heart, and invoked heaven’s blessing upon her infant babe, or as we grew older and began to understand the meaning of words, we were held in the arms of our dear parents while kneeling around the family altar, and their prayers were sent up to the throne of grace for their dear little one.

The very first recollection of my life and the earliest impression of my memory is my mother kneeling in prayer by a chair and myself lying on the floor with my head in her lap looking up into her face. This impression will follow me through life, and I have often thanked God for such a sacred beginning in life’s memory, which must have been about the age of three years. The influence of those prayers and instructions of my tender years can never be known this side of eternity, but unquestionably they did much toward my eternal good.

In the days of Israel, God laid this duty heavily upon His people. “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons; Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.”* (Deuteronomy 4:9-10) “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”* (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)

In the margin the word teach reads “whet” or “sharpen,” which signifies a vigorous, keen application of the Word of God upon the minds of the children. They should be sharp and bright in the Word. In other words, the teaching must be so thorough that the child is perfectly familiar with the Word of God. The Psalmist says, “We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.”* (Psalm 78:4-8)

How plainly we can see the object of teaching and instructing our children in the Word of God, and how thoroughly it must be taught. It must became part of their life. Daily study must be as much of a necessity as eating and drinking. Neglect will incur a loss. They must become a partaker of the Word so that line upon line and precept upon precept has so impressed the memory with indelible truth that the Spirit of God can illuminate to the soul any part of His Word that will produce the needed result in the development of the future man and woman of God. With such a training of the mind in early life, the Word of God truly becomes engraved upon the doorposts of the soul. Dear parents, we must became more diligent in these things. In this busy age we well know how easy it is for us to drift into negligence of our own spiritual welfare. Even though possessed of experience and judgment, we become disposed to let the cares of life and many other things hinder us from our daily devotions that are so necessary to our victory and spiritual growth. Our children need the same care on these lines that we do, and in some respects much more. They are much more susceptible to the evil influences around them than we are, and their lack of judgment appeals to us for help. They naturally would at times feel that their daily instructions and devotions are tiresome and would rather neglect them; but it is our duty to see to it that no such negligence takes place; that this is part of their life’s necessities; that they may reach the design that God has had in the beginning—a faithful, obedient soul.

Oh, how much our children need to know and remember the “praises of the Lord and his strength and his wonderful works,”* (Psalm 78:4) “that they might set their hope in God”* (Psalm 78:7)! Everything in this world of sin will draw our minds and hearts away from God if permitted to do so. Men set their hope in everything else but God; therefore we can see the need of the mind of the child being instructed constantly in the praises, strength, and wonderful works of God. Everything else is a failure but Him, and what a blessed inheritance we can leave our child in this manner, one that will prove in all future years and eternally a blessing and joy!

Think of it, parents, our child growing up in life and starting out in all these stern responsibilities with his or her hope set in God, with a heart right and a spirit steadfast with God. Can you comprehend a more beautiful picture than a young man or woman pure and clean from every defilement of sin and all its destructive effects upon the spiritual, moral, and physical being? There never was a jewel nor treasure of earth worthy to be compared with this. There never was anything in all the beautiful works of God in nature, nor any of the skillful works of art, that could draw from our admiration such feelings as this. All the achievements of honor, wealth, and influence of man cannot bring such comfort and satisfaction to the heart of a parent as this. And yet, dear ones, our merciful and loving heavenly Parent has placed this possibility in our hands and expects, yes, requires you and me to produce just such noble men and women to grace this old earth, with which to glorify Himself. Brother and sister, that little darling in your arms possesses every ability and resource for one of the most beautiful creatures of earth, and by the grace of God you posses every power to develop it. Let us humbly look to God and obtain wisdom and knowledge from His store that will enable us to fill our responsibility.

We see that God has enjoined upon His people the careful and daily instructions out of His Word to our children. This must be the foundation for all instruction, and a careful system in this respect vigorously applied, will prove an eternal benediction to parent and child. With this also there is great need of instruction relative to the physical nature. The sacred Word tells us much about our body, and the child must have knowledge that will enable it to comprehend the design of God in all the different parts of these wonderful earthly temples. As its powers of comprehension expand, we must carefully keep pace with such knowledge that is absolutely necessary for the protection and purity of the child. Physical and moral development have their indispensable place side by side with the spiritual of a properly instructed child.

The safeguard to the moral nature is the properly instructed and intelligent spiritual nature, which, of course, includes the regenerating grace of God in the soul, without which there can be no true spiritual life. All instruction of a spiritual nature must lead to and sustain an experience of salvation in the child, which anchors the soul in God; and by careful vigilance on the part of the parent over the child equal to that necessary for ourselves, it can be kept in the love of God. This condition is the foundation for the entire structure of the noble being whose welfare God has entrusted to our charge. But there evidently is something of vast importance in the proper enlightenment of the mind pertaining to the physical and moral part of our being that will prove to be a valuable factor in the protection of the spiritual. Our three-fold nature needs proper and equal attention, so that each part may he able to contribute to the other that which Cod has designed, to enable us to enjoy life in its true sense. One may be spiritually developed and enjoying the precious grace of God in the soul, hut through lack of knowledge of his physical and moral welfare, be greatly impaired in usefulness and true happiness. Also, such lack of knowledge may often give Satan an advantage over us, and cause us to lose the spiritual. Many a saint of God has sustained losses in a greater or less degree in this respect; and as we who are living in more advanced years realize these things, we must see to it that our children obtain such knowledge as contributes to their highest good. In the light that God has given us, we cannot be clear in His sight and withhold such knowledge.

There has been a great lack in the past on our part as Christian parents. God has had to reprove us in different ways; but the time is here when we must clear our souls of this responsibility, and shake off the false modesty that Satan has tried to hold down upon us, and begin more intelligently to instruct ourselves, then in the fear of God and with true parental love instruct our children in these things.

God has planted in the child the desire for such knowledge. Its very being demands it, as in its innocency it begins to look up into our eyes with all the earnestness of its little soul and asks such plain questions. How many of us have been really honest with our dear little one, and have not in some way given it a wrong impression that has in later years been misleading and actually a snare to the precious treasure that God has given us to protect? Many a parent has thus been guilty and will have to repent of such dishonesty, and may have been the cause of the ultimate downfall of some poor boy or girl. Also, many a one who is the God-intended teacher of the child evades the question of the innocent little pupil at the parent’s knee, and for fear of saying something that might be immodest, or for fear the mind of the little one might become tainted, or with the thought that the child is not yet old enough to know, the parent puts it off and then neglects altogether to attend to this, one of the most important duties in the home circle.

Dear parents, there are many ruined and blasted lives today dragging out a miserable existence in haunts of wickedness that might have been pure and noble specimens of humanity, had they known what their innocent little hearts at one time desired to know from their own parents. When the child fails to obtain this knowledge from the pure parental source, it soon comes in contact with playmates and schoolmates that have also been deprived of their God-intended inheritance from their parents and through some impure and malicious source have obtained knowledge poisoned by the venom of hell, and your own pure little darling innocently partakes of that which at once begins to enkindle a flame in its nature, and which only awaits development to break out and burn out all that is good, pure, and noble in your child.

Who is to blame? It is that father and mother who feel too timid to answer a pure, innocent question of a pure, innocent child; that father who tells his boy from four to ten years not to talk about such things and not to ask such questions, and fails to give the instructions which the moral well-being of that child absolutely needs at this especially important period in life. Then when he reaches the critical period of his teens, the father still remains silent. The poor boy sinks deeper and deeper into the mire of pollution and vice until his life spiritually, morally, and physically is wrecked. It is that mother who could not dare to shock the modesty of her little girl by telling her about her little self that which she needs to know at that certain period when she asks her innocent questions, and later on fails to keep her gracious daughter instructed in the nature of her being as she step by step grows towards womanhood; and the longer the mother waits, the more immodest it seems to her to talk to her daughter, until some unfortunate day the awful fact is forced upon the parent that her once innocent and pure girl has become spotted by sin, and many a one has fallen a victim to shame and disgrace.

In thousands of instances it is such parents who are to blame, who with regret and sorrow are compelled to look upon blasted hopes and disappointed prospects in their children. The little lambs of our fold are exposed to prowling wolves that are lying in wait to kill and devour. The watch-care of these lambs is given to us. It is our business to keep on the lookout for the destroyer, who will not likely make his attacks upon the morals of our children at any such time we are expecting; but when we are absorbed in other duties and responsibilities that cause us to neglect these of greater importance, when we least expect, the wolf creeps in and destroys the purity and innocence of these dear treasures of our home.

Ah, dear parent, if you do not teach your child, someone else will—but how? Your instructions are to be pure and holy, but those of someone else will almost invariably be just the opposite. Let us arise, and with holy jealousy defy the powers of evil by so thoroughly imparting to our children such knowledge as their years require that they will be forewarned and forearmed for the contact with evil, which they must necessarily encounter as they move out into the busy throng of life. Together with our careful vigilance, they will understand how to apply the law of self-protection, and thus defeat every power that seeks to destroy and ruin. We are commanded to train up these tender lives into strength of pure manhood and womanhood. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”* (Proverbs 22:6) The word train here signifies “catechise,” which means thorough teaching. As a teacher applies the instructions over and over until the pupil has unquestionably obtained the required knowledge, so the parent must apply these important precepts until they are thoroughly instilled into the very life of the child. “Train u” means to bring them up to mature age; not simple a short lesson for a short time in the life of the child, but it must be begun with its very existence and continued until it is able to stand, a strong, full-grown, well-developed man or woman. “Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,”* (Ephesians 6:4) is the New Testament command. Bring them clear up to the desired place, in the desired manner—“the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

Nurture them up as a tender little vine is nursed and protected and encouraged to grow by every possible means available, until its little tendrils begin to fasten to the trellis that has been carefully constructed for its protection and beauty. By and by it will be strong and so completely grown to and interwoven with its support that it cannot be torn loose. At first it had to be bound up until it began to take hold for itself. Now we need have no fear; it holds fast by its own strength, a beautiful, well-trained vine. At first it was not disposed to take hold, but it was compelled to do so. It wanted to grow down and creep out on the ground and take hold of everything else but what you desired it to. It would have been down and tangled up and trampled on and soiled, a real dissatisfaction and disappointment. But you designed it otherwise, and now it pleases you well. We also are very careful to see that our little trees grow straight. If they are disposed to lean or grow crooked, we bend them up and bind them to a stake and compel them to grow as we desire. They yield to our desire in this manner, and bring satisfaction to us for our pains. Just so it will be with our dear little one if we give it the proper training.

Someone has objected to such training because of its compulsory appearance, and has gravely said, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.” Well, the reason why you cannot make him drink is that he is not thirsty. If you are careful not to let him drink anywhere else, he will get thirsty in a very little while and will drink with relish. You must not let him drink at places where he will get water that is impure, but keep him at the pure fountain. He must drink somewhere, and you will soon be pleased to see him drink the pure water.

Your child must thus be protected from impure things by actual compulsion. Then it will become hungry for something; and by your careful judgment, it will learn to relish the pure, the good, and the holy, and grow up with a grateful heart to its loving parents, who so carefully protected it in those years when its own judgment was incapable of knowing what was clean or unclean.

Pure parents, a pure home, pure associates, pure literature, and pure influences in every respect, are a heritage belonging to every child born into the world.