Training Children for God
by Ellen White
THAT our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as
corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace." Psalm 144:12.
It should be the object of every parent to secure to his children a well-balanced,
symmetrical character. This is a work of no small magnitude and importance. It requires
earnest thought and prayer, no less than patient, persevering effort. A right foundation
must be laid, a framework, strong and firm, erected, and then day by day the work of
building, polishing, perfecting, must go forward.
The early training of children is a subject that all should carefully study. We need to
make the education of our children a business; for their salvation depends largely upon
the education given them in childhood. Parents and guardians must themselves maintain
purity of heart and life, if they desire their children to be pure. As fathers and
mothers, we should train and discipline ourselves. Then as teachers in the home, we can
train our children, preparing them for the immortal inheritance.
At an early age the minds of children are very susceptible to impressions of good or of
evil. Even in infancy a child is affected by a sorrowful expression on the mother's face.
In a home where harsh, fretful, scolding words are spoken, a child cries much, and upon
its tender sensibilities are impressed the marks of unhappiness and discord. Then,
mothers, let your countenance be full of sunshine. Smile, if you can, and the infant's
mind and heart will reflect the light of your countenance, as the polished plate of an
artist portrays the human features. Be sure, mothers, to have an indwelling Christ, so
that on your child's plastic mind may be impressed the divine likeness.
Mothers, have you neglected your God-given responsibility of multiplying agencies for
the service of Christ? Children are the younger members of the Lord's family. Parents
should not allow them to be hindrances. They should be led to consecrate themselves wholly
to God, whose they are by Creation and by redemption. With their parents, children are to
share spiritual as well as temporal burdens. They should be trained to be helpful. Thus
they will be taught to serve the Saviour.
Opportunities of inestimable worth, interests infinitely precious, are committed to
every mother. During the first three years of the life of Samuel the prophet, his mother
carefully taught him to distinguish between good and evil. By every familiar object
surrounding him, she sought to lead his thoughts up to the Creator. In fulfilment of her
vow to give her son to the Lord, with great self-denial she placed him under the care of
Eli the high priest, to be trained for service in the house of God. Though Samuel's youth
was passed at the tabernacle devoted to the worship of God, he was not free from evil
influences or sinful example. The sons of Eli feared not God, nor honoured their father;
but Samuel did not seek their company nor follow their evil ways. His early training led
him to choose to maintain his Christian integrity. What a reward was Hannah's, and what an
encouragement to faithfulness is her example!
The father should be the faithful high priest of the home, the house band of the
family. He should not be so absorbed in business life or in the study of books that he
cannot take time to study the nature and the necessities of his children. He should devise
ways by which they may be kept busy in useful labour agreeable to their individual
dispositions. It is a great mistake to allow young men to grow up without learning some
trade. To the parents of ancient Israel God gave a positive command that every child
should learn a trade. The carelessness of parents in neglecting to furnish employment to
their children has resulted in untold evil, imperilling the lives of many youth, and sadly
crippling their usefulness.
God desires both parents and teachers to train children in the practical duties of
everyday life. Encourage industry. Girls--and even boys who do not have outdoor
work--should learn how to help the mother. From childhood, boys and girls should be taught
to bear heavier and still heavier burdens, intelligently helping in the work of the family
firm. Mothers, patiently show your children how to use their hands. Let them understand
that their hands are to be used as skilfully as are yours in the household work. Often a
fretful infant or a sick child keeps the mother awake night after night. At such times how
much better it is for the children to draw upon their strength than to allow the already
overtaxed mother to be burdened with work that they should do. Too often the mother
succumbs to disease, sometimes lying upon her deathbed before her children realise that by
sharing the home burdens, they could have lessened her cares, and spared her much
suffering and affliction.
Prayerfully, unitedly, the father and the mother should bear the grave responsibility
of guiding their children aright. Whatever else they neglect, they should never leave
their children free to wander in paths of sin. Many parents allow children to go and do as
they please, amusing themselves, and choosing evil associates. In the judgement such
parents will learn that their children have lost heaven because they have not been kept
under home restraint. Parents should awake to their solemn responsibility, realising that
they are to teach their children to walk in the narrow way, that at last, a united family,
they may enter the heavenly kingdom.
Children left in the hands of Satan are gladly taken by him and used in his service.
Fathers and mothers, Satan is seeking to seize every one of your children. Come up to the
help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty powers of darkness.
Consecrate your household to God.
Evening and morning join with your children in God's worship, reading His Word and
singing His praise. Teach them to repeat God's law. Concerning the commandments the
Israelites were instructed: "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 6:7. Accordingly, Moses
directed the Israelites to set the words of the law to music. While the older children
played on instruments, the younger ones marched, singing in concert the song of God's
commandments. In later years they retained in their minds the words of the law which they
learned during childhood.
If it was essential for Moses to embody the commandments in sacred song, so that as
they marched in the wilderness, the children could learn to sing the law verse by verse,
how essential it is at this time to teach our children God's Word! Let us come up to the
help of the Lord, instructing our children to keep the commandments to the letter. Let us
do everything in our power to make music in our homes, that God may come in. Banish the
discord of scolding and fretting. Never exhibit passion. Christian parents will put away
every objectionable trait of character, daily learning from the Great Teacher to train
their children wisely, bringing them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
Parents, your own home is the first field in which you are called to labour. The
precious plants in the home garden demand your first care. To you it is appointed to watch
for souls as they that must give an account. Carefully consider your work, its nature, its
bearing, and its results. Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a
little, you must instruct, warn, and counsel, ever remembering that your looks, words, and
actions have a direct bearing upon the future of your dear ones. Your work is not to form
beauty upon canvas, nor to chisel it from marble, but to impress upon a human soul the
image of the Divine.
For Christ's sake, for the sake of your children, seek to conform your own life to the
divine standard. Let nothing come between you and your God. Be earnest, patient, and
persevering; be instant in season and out of season. Give your children intellectual
culture and moral training. Fortify their young hearts with firm, pure principles. While
you have opportunity, lay the foundation for a noble manhood and womanhood. Your labour
will be rewarded a thousandfold.
The highest duty of parents is to give their children a religious training. To allow a
child to follow his natural impulses is to allow him to deteriorate and to become
proficient in evil. The results of wrong training begin to be revealed in childhood. In
early youth a selfish temper is developed and as the youth grows to manhood he grows in
sin. A continual testimony against parental neglect is borne by children who have been
permitted to follow a course of their own choosing. Such a downward course can be
prevented only by surrounding them with influences that will counteract evil. From infancy
to youth and from youth to manhood, a child should be under influences for good.
In the home school--the first grade--the very best talent should be utilised.
Instruction should be given as God has directed. Patiently, carefully, diligently,
mercifully, children should be trained. Upon all parents rests the obligation of giving
their children physical, mental, and spiritual instruction. It is essential ever to keep
before children the claims of God.
Physical training, the development of the body, is far more easily given than spiritual
training. The nursery, the playground, the workshop, the sowing of seed and the
ingathering of the harvest--all these give physical training. Under ordinarily favourable
circumstances a child naturally gains healthful vigour and a proper development of the
bodily organs. Yet even in physical lines the child should be carefully trained.
Soul culture, which gives purity and elevation to the thoughts and fragrance to word
and act, requires more painstaking effort. It takes patience to keep every evil motive
weeded from the garden of the heart.
The spiritual training should in no case be neglected. Let us teach our children the
beautiful lessons of God's Word, that through these they may gain a knowledge of Him. Let
them understand that they should do nothing which is not right. Teach them to do justice
and judgement. Tell them that you cannot permit them to take a wrong course. In the name
of the Lord Jesus Christ present them to God at the throne of grace. Let them know that
Jesus lives to make intercession for them. Encourage them to form characters fashioned
after the divine similitude.
The prudent mother keeps the door of her lips, that she may not utter one hasty,
fretful word. Fathers and mothers, never scold. Consecrate to God the talent of speech.
Tell your children exactly what you require of them. Then let them understand that your
word is law, and must be obeyed. Thus you are training them to respect the commandments of
God, which plainly declare "Thou shalt," and "Thou shalt not." It is
far better for your boy to obey from principle than from compulsion. If as teachers in the
home the father and the mother allow children to take the lines of control into their own
hands and to become wayward, they are held responsible for what their children might
otherwise have been. From babyhood the child should be taught that the mother is master.
Never is the mother to do anything that would give Satan opportunity to arouse or
strengthen the disagreeable passions of her child. She should not use the rod, if it be
possible to avoid doing so. But if milder measures prove insufficient, punishment that
will bring the child to its senses should in love be administered. Frequently one such
correction will be enough for a lifetime to show a child that he does not hold the lines
Few parents begin early enough to teach their children to obey. The child is usually
allowed to get two or three years the start of its parents, who forbear to discipline it,
thinking it too young to learn to obey. But all this time self is growing strong in the
little being, and every day makes harder the parent's task of gaining control. At a very
early age children can comprehend what is plainly and simply told them, and by kind and
judicious management can be taught to obey.
In the school, as well as in the home, the question of discipline should be understood.
We should hope that in the schoolroom there would never be occasion to use the rod. But if
in a school there are those who stubbornly resist all counsel and entreaty, all prayers
and burden of soul in their behalf, then it is necessary to make them understand that they
Some teachers do not think it best to enforce obedience. They think that their duty is
merely to educate. True, they should educate. But what does the education of children
amount to, if, when they disregard the principles placed before them, the teacher does not
feel that he has a right to exercise authority?
I know that many parents do not co-operate with the teacher by fostering in the home
the good influence exerted in the school. Instead of carrying out in the home the
principles of obedience taught in the school, they allow their children to do as they
please, to go hither and thither without restraint. And if the teacher exercises authority
in requiring obedience, the children carry to their parents an exaggerated, distorted
account of the way in which they have been "misused." The teacher may have done
only that which it was his painful duty to do; but the parents sympathise with their
children, even though they are in the wrong.
Those parents who themselves rule in passion are the most unreasonable when their
children are restrained and disciplined in school. Parents, when the church-school teacher
tries so to train and discipline your children that they may gain eternal life, do not in
their presence criticise his actions, even though you may think him too severe. If you
desire them to give their hearts to Jesus, co-operate with the teacher's efforts for their
salvation. How much better it is for children, instead of hearing criticism, to hear from
the lips of their mother sweet and tender and loving words commending the work of the
teacher. Such words make lasting impressions, and influence children to respect the
The teachers in our schools need the keen perception of the Spirit of God, that they
may know how to deal with the youth in their care. Those who conduct church schools and
larger schools should regard it as their privilege, not only to teach in the school, but
to bring into the church with which they are connected the same talents that are used in
the school. Talk to the parents along educational and medical missionary lines. Show them
the privilege they have of using their God-given capabilities in training their children,
thus co-operating with the teacher.
We are approaching the day of final reckoning. Christ told His disciples that prior to
His second coming the world would be as it was in the days of Noah, when "they were
eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, . . and knew not until the flood
came, and took them all away." Matthew 24:38-39. Those who believed when Noah began
to build the ark, lost their faith through association with unbelievers who aroused all
the old passion for amusement and display. For one hundred and twenty years the
antediluvians were on probation, free to choose to obey the voice of God and find refuge
in the ark, or to refuse to hear His voice, and be destroyed. They chose to disobey, and
In those days "the earth was filled with violence." Genesis 6:11. Is not
violence now in the land? How much is human life worth, if man's way is crossed, man's
passion excited? If the picture of the present state of the world is not sufficiently
startling to arouse parents to do their duty in bringing up their children in the nurture
and admonition of the Lord, what will bring them to a right understanding?
Satan is marshalling his hosts. Are you prepared for the conflict just before us? Are
you preparing your children for the crisis? Are your children forming habits of decision,
that they may be firm to principle? Parental duty has been sadly neglected. Will you not
now repent, and take up your God-given lifework? There is no time to lose. Redeem the
time, because the days are evil. Pray that your spiritual perceptions may be quickened.
Strive to realise the importance of living in obedience to the Holy Spirit. When you do
this, the heavenly angels will minister to you as teachers in the home, training you for
the work of teaching your children.
When you stand before the great white throne, then your work will appear as it is. The
books are opened, the record of every life is made known. Many in that vast company are
unprepared for the revelations made. Upon the ears of some, the words will fall with
startling distinctness, "Weighed in the balances, and found wanting." See Daniel
5:27. To many parents the Judge will say in that day, "You had my Word, plainly
setting forth your duty. Why have you not obeyed its teachings? Knew you not that it was
the voice of God? Did I not bid you search the Scriptures, that you might not go astray?
Not only have you ruined your own souls, but by your pretensions to godliness, you have
misled many others. You have no part with me. Depart, Depart!"
Another class stand pale and trembling, trusting in Christ, and yet oppressed with a
sense of their own unworthiness. They hear with tears of joy and gratitude the Master's
commendation. The days of incessant toil, of burden-bearing, of fear and anguish, are
forgotten as that voice, sweeter than the music of angel harps, pronounces the words,
"Well done, good and faithful servant, enter ye into the joy of your Lord." See
Matthew 25:21. There stand the host of the redeemed, the palm branch of victory in their
hand, the crown upon their head. These are the ones who by faithful, earnest labour have
obtained a fitness for heaven. The lifework performed on earth is acknowledged in the
heavenly courts as a work well done.
With joy unutterable parents see the crown, the robe, the harp, given to their
children. The days of hope and fear are ended. The seed sown in tears and prayers may have
seemed to be sown in vain, but their harvest is reaped with joy at last. Their children
have been redeemed.
Fathers, mothers, shall the voices of your children swell the song of gladness
in that day?
Review and Herald, September 8, 15, 1904.