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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
From The Baptist Pulpit of the United States, Joseph Belcher, D.D., Ed., 1853
Parents, the obligations by which you are bound to seek the present and everlasting welfare of your children, are firm and solemn. God has said, "Train up a child in the way he should go;" but what is that way?
Should he go to the tents of wickedness, or to the house of God? Is it the disgrace, or honor—the defilement, or purity—the ruin, or felicity of thy child that thou art commanded to make thy aim? An answer need not be given; but we must affirm, that that parent deplorably neglects his duty, who does not train up his children in the habit of attending the worship of Jehovah.
Often, when the Saviour appears in his courts, the eyes of the young are opened, that they may behold his beauty, and their tongues are loosened, that they may sing hosannas to his praise. Often, at a period much earlier than expected, a course of piety and virtue commences, for which the world and the church, the subject himself, and the happy parent, have ten thousand reasons to be thankful.
And even in those rare instances, in which a virtuous education is followed with a life devoted to profligacy, the remembrance of parental instruction, and of the instructions received in the house of God, will always check, will often reform, and will sometimes, through divine grace, effectually reclaim the prodigal.
First impressions are always deepest, death will soon take us from our children: it becomes us, therefore, to endeavor that such sentiments may be rooted in their tender minds, as may be serviceable to them, and to our children's children, when we are sleeping with our fathers; that, when led by dutiful remembrance to visit the hillock that rises over our dust, the tears of affection and gratitude may flow together.
Many parents, it is to be feared, by the indulgence of a sin, because an unwise and injurious fondness, suffer their children to continue in it at home, or to pursue almost any other course which puerile caprice may fancy.
Very differently did the Psalmist train up young Solomon. He has recorded the circumstance among his proverbs, to the immortal memory of his parent. "I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, let thine heart retain my words"- Prov. 4:3, 4.
O, beware, lest your indulgence indirectly prove the damnation of your children. By how much they are dear, very dear to your hearts, by so much the more be concerned to instruct them. Say with the Psalmist, "Come, ye children, hearken unto me, I will show you the fear of the Lord."
Complain not that you cannot compel your family to attend the temple of the Lord. God has clothed you with authority; he has commanded your children to honor you, and of this they are easily made conscious. Let but your righteous injunctions be early, affectionately and perseveringly imposed, and you may hope for continual obedience. If, however, after such deportment, a child should prove rebellious, you will be able to derive consolation from reflecting that your record is on high and your witness is in heaven.
Children are ever imitating and cleaving to those whom they love. If you are but door-keepers in the house of God, your little ones will take hold of the skirts of your garments; and if you enter the dwellings of sin, doubt not but they will follow you.
Paul argues, in his epistle to the Romans, that “a teacher of babes" should be a consistent character. “Thou, therefore, that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery?" Admonition unenforced by example, will be unavailable. Conduct at night will unravel the texture that precept wove through the day.
Perhaps there are parents who never admonish their children—who forbid them from attending God's house, or if not, leave them to the operation of that native depravity, which will of itself prefer Sabbath-breaking to devotion. Alas, what thousands of young children are there who are walking in the wicked ways of their fathers! How often are they heard practising articulation with oaths, and with all the impurities of the tongue! O parents! Where is your natural affection? Instruments of the earthly existence of your babes, will you be the means of their destruction? O have pity, have pity upon them!
Ahaz led his son to be burned to an idol in the valley of Hinnom, but you are leading your children to a more fearful flame. If you will not train them up virtuously for their sakes, do it for your own. Think how degraded is your condition, when, if a child would obey God, he must be disobedient to you; when, if he would enter into heaven, he must look with horror on the behavior, and fly from the resorts of him that begat, and of her that bare him.
Without staying to portray the wretchedness of your offspring in future life, or the remorse which you will probably feel in the hour of death, suffer me to lift up the curtains of the invisible world. I cannot but believe that there are degrees in the happiness of heaven. I cannot but conclude that the joys of pious parents will be heightened, when they witness in glory the triumphant arrival of those children, whom on earth they had so often led to the sanctuary, and commended to God in fervent prayer. I must believe also, that there are degrees in the anguish of hell.
The rich man feared lest his five brethren should come to his place of torment, because he knew their miseries would increase his own. The parents that are now "drinking down iniquity," are on their way to the pit; but, O, how will their pains be increased, when they behold their children descend after them into the same hopeless regions. Bunyan, in his Progress, brings his pilgrims to a mountain, on the side of which was an opening into hell. Mercy is instructed to hearken; she hearkened, and heard one saying, "Cursed be my father, for holding back my feet from the way of life and peace."
Much of the misery of futurity will, probably, consist in reproach. Some, says Daniel, will awake to shame and everlasting contempt. Tormented with the devil and his angels, how will your heart endure to hear the cries of your children forever lost?
"O cruel father, O unfeeling mother, you never taught us the way to heaven—we lisped no prayers in our childhood—a holy hymn we never learned—you never offered a petition for us in the closet, or in the family—the Bible you never read to us, nor caused us to read it—you never led us to the house of God; but made a mock alike at sin and at religion. We saw you enter the tabernacles of transgression; unsuspectingly we followed: you handed to us the poisonous potion, and our corruptions relished it. We saw you draw iniquity with cords of vanity—we applied our hands also to the rope, and, as the fruit of those sins to which you have been accessory, we are, by a righteous God, tormented in this flame!"
I will not enlarge. Permit me to appeal to you all, to-day, whether king David be not justifiable in asserting, he had rather be a door-keeper in the house of his God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.