IV. Train with this thought continually before your eyes – that the soul of your child is the first thing to be considered.
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; and the sun shall cease to shine; but the spirit which dells 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 in 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.
“Do it for the children!” That is the banner under which almost every conceivable social agenda is advanced today. Of course, this presupposes that it is important to do things for our children. And parents today believe this with a vengeance. Our children simply must have every possible experience and advantage – sports, drama, music, the best education, cell phones, cars, computers. We wouldn’t want our poor little Johnny to grow up deprived, because we all know that this leads to delinquency, drug use, low self-esteem, and who knows what else.
Of course, I am being facetious here. But it is rather ironic that in our society parents just assume that their children must have these things, while at the same time they do next to nothing for their children’s souls. Actually, our children don’t need a computer in their room and a car when they turn 16. But they do need godly character and wisdom. They don’t need the latest and greatest trendy education, but they do need the discipline and instruction of the Lord. This is precisely what Ryle goes on to talk about next.
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 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 the last.
So if you want to be considered a wise parent when both you and your children stand before God, consider well whether you are training them for eternity. Yes, it is good and proper to equip your children with the skills needed in this life. But do not let our society dictate to you what your children must learn and how they must be taught. I believe this is why so many parents are afraid of things like home schooling. They feel the pressure that society puts on them to conform.
But we must never forget that as Christians, we have a much different goal than our society, and hence we have a different agenda. We are not here to produce nice little citizens for the state who will be productive consumers. Our goal is to produce followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let's always keep this end in mind.
Part 3, Part 4, Part 5