Thursday, April 26, 2007

How Should a Child Be Trained? (Part 16)

We are nearing the end of this series of posts on child training. I trust they have been helpful for you. Since it has been a few months since I began this series, I thought it might be helpful to repost an excerpt from the introduction.

One of my goals for High Country Baptist Church is to “present everyone mature in Christ” (Col 1:28). To that end, our Sunday sermons focus on the direct exposition and application of Scripture. Yet we obviously cannot cover everything about applying the Scriptures to our lives in one or two sermons a week. On this blog, then, I try to bring up various topics that we can think through biblically.
I would like to do a series of posts over the next several weeks interacting with a pithy little work on child training written over 160 years ago by J. C. Ryle entitled How Should a Child Be Trained? I picked up this booklet at a little Amish bookstore and have found it to be challenging and helpful. Many of our church members are at the beginning of child-rearing years, so this is directly applicable to us. But even for those who are not currently rearing children, I believe this will be worthwhile for two reasons. First, nearly everyone impacts the life of some child at least indirectly. You might be a grandparent, an uncle or aunt, a teacher, or just a fellow church member. In any case, you can be a Christian influence in the life of a child. Second, child training requires rigorous and skillful application of biblical truth to life. Christianity lives as it is applied, and in no other way. Observing the real life applications of Scripture to child training will provide you will a model for applying Scripture to many other areas of life.

And now for the next installment of How Should a Child Be Trained.

XIV. Train them, remembering continually the influence of your own example.

Instruction, and advice, and commands, will profit little, unless they are backed by the pattern of your own life. Your children will never believe you are in earnest, and really wish them to obey you, so long as your actions contradict your counsel. Archbishop Tillotson made a wise remark when he said, “To give children good instruction, and a bad example, is but beckoning to them with the head to show them the way to heaven, while we take them by the hand, and lead them in the way to hell.”

We little know the force and power of example. No one of us can live to himself in this world; we are influencing those around us, in one way or another, either for good or for evil, either for God or for sin. They see our ways, they mark our conduct, they observe our behavior; and what they see us practice, that they may fairly suppose we think right. And never, I believe, does example tell so powerfully as it does in the case of parents and children.

Fathers and mothers, do not forget that children learn more by the eye than they do by the ear. The best of school masters will not imprint on their minds as much as they will pick up at your fireside. Imitation is a far stronger principle with children than memory. What they see has a much stronger effect on their minds than what they are told.

Take care, then, what you do before a child. It is a true proverb, “Who sins before a child, sins double.” Strive rather to be a living epistle of Christ, such as your families can read, and that plainly, too. Be an example of reverence for the Word of God, reverence in prayer, reverence for means of grace, reverence for the Lord’s day. Be an example in words, in temper, in diligence, in temperance, in faith, in charity, in kindness, in humility. Think not your children will practice what they do not see you do. You are their model picture, and they will copy what you are. Your reasoning and your lecturing, your wise commands, and your good advice – all this they may not understand, but they can understand your life.

Children are very quick observers, very quick in seeing through kinds of hypocrisy, very quick in finding out what you really think and feel, very quick in adopting all your ways and opinions; and you will generally find, as the father is, so is the son.

Remember the word that the conqueror Caesar always used to his soldiers in a battle. He did not say, “Go forward,” but “Come.” So it must be with you in training your children. They will seldom learn habits which they see you despise, or walk in paths in which you do not walk yourself. He that preaches to his children what he does not practice, is working a work that never goes forward. It is like the fabled web of Penelope of old, who wove all day and unwove all night. Even so the parent who tries to train without setting a good example, is building with one hand and pulling down with the other.

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