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 of control.

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 must obey.

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 teacher.

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 were destroyed.

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.