Thou and Thy House
That we are to bring our children up for the Lord, is
plainly the teaching of this word, "But bring them up in the nurture and
admonition of the Lord". To do this rightly, we must ourselves be daily
walking, before our children, in the practical exhibition of His character, and
counting much on the sympathies and grace of His heart: remembering that He
says to us, "Without me ye can do nothing".It is also our duty to teach our
children, in due time, some useful occupation for "necessary uses". "And let
ours also learn to maintain good works (or, profess honest trades, margin), for
necessary uses". Compare Ephesians 6: 4; Titus 3: 14. These are the points
which do severely test our practical Christianity. If the first and
all-important duty has not been faithfully discharged, before it is needful to
press the second, deep trial must come in, and who can tell how long we may
have to endure it, before the Lord Himself appears for our help? May the "God
of all grace" lead us all to know more fully, and value more highly, our
blessed privileges, and be more faithful to our great responsibilities as His
servants in connection with our families at home.
There are two houses which occupy a very prominent place on the page of inspiration, and these are, the house of God, and the house of God's servant.
God attaches immense importance to His house; and justly so, because it is His.
His truth, His honour, His character, His glory, are all involved in the character of His house; and hence it is His desire that the impress of what He is should plainly appear on that which belongs to Him.
If God has a house, it assuredly should be a godly house, a holy house, a spiritual house, an elevated house, a pure and heavenly house.
It should be all this, not merely in abstract position and principle, but practically and characteristically.
Its abstract position is founded upon what God has made it, and where He has set it; but its practical character is founded upon the actual walk of those who form its constituent parts down here upon this earth. Now, while many minds may be prepared to enter into the truth and importance of all the principles connected with God's house, there may be but few, comparatively, who are disposed to give a due measure of attention to those connected with the house of God's servant; although, if one were asked the question, What house stands next in order to the house of God? he should, undoubtedly, reply, The house of His servant.
However, as there is nothing like bringing the holy authority of God's word to bear upon the conscience, I shall quote a few passages of scripture, which will tend to show, in a clear and forcible point of view, what are God's thoughts about the house of one holding connection with Him.
When the iniquity of the antediluvian world had risen to a head, and the end of all flesh had come before a righteous God, who was about to roll the heavy tide of judgement over the corrupted scene, these sweet words fell upon Noah's ear,
"Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation", Genesis 7: 1.
Now, it will be said, that Noah was a type of Christ the righteous head of a saved family saved in virtue of their association with him. All this is fully granted: but Noah's typical character does not, in any wise, interfere with the principle which I seek to deduce from this and kindred passages which principle, I shall here, at the outset, distinctly lay down: it is this the house of every servant of God is, in virtue of its connection with him, brought into a position of privilege and consequent responsibility.
The reader will not, I trust, imagine that the necessity for the work of the Holy Ghost, in the regeneration of the children of Christian parents, is denied or interfered with. God forbid. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God". This is as true of a Christian's child as of every one else. Grace is not hereditary.The sum of what I would press upon Christian parents is, that scripture inseparably links a man with his house, and that the Christian parent is warranted in counting upon God for his children, and responsible to train his children for God. Let any one who denies this interpret Ephesians 6: 4.
That this is a principle involving vast practical consequences, we shall, with God's blessing and grace, see, ere we close this paper; but we must first seek to establish its truth from the word of God.
Were we merely left to argue from analogy, our thesis might be easily proved; for it could never be supposed, by any mind at all acquainted with the character and ways of God, that He would attach such unspeakable importance to His own house, and attach none at all, or almost none, to that of His servant.
This were impossible; it would be utterly unlike God; and God must always act like Himself. But we are not left to analogy on this most important and deeply practical question; and the passage just quoted forms one of the first of a series of direct and positive proofs.
In it we find those immensely significant words, "Thou and thy house," inseparably linked together.
God did not reveal a salvation for Noah which was of no avail to Noah's house. He never contemplated such a thing. The same ark that lay open to him lay open to them also. Why? Was it because they had faith? No; but because he had, and they were connected with him.
God gave him a blank cheque for himself and his family, and it devolved upon him to fill it up by bringing them in along with him.
I repeat it, this does not in the least interfere with Noah's typical character. I look at him typically; but I look at him personally also. Nor can I, under any circumstances separate a man from his house.
The house of God is brought into blessing and responsibility because of its connection with Him; and the house of the servant of God is brought into blessing and responsibility because of its connection with him. This is our thesis.
The next passage to which I shall refer occurs in the life of Abraham.
"And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgement; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him", Genesis 18: 17-19.
Here it is not a question of salvation, but of communion with the mind and purposes of God; and let the Christian parent note and solemnly ponder the fact, that when God was seeking out a man to whom He could disclose His secret counsels, He selected one possessing the simple characteristic of "commanding his children and his household". This, to a tender conscience, cannot fail to prove a most pungent principle.
If there is one point above another in which Christians have failed, it is in this very point of commanding their children and household.
They surely have not set God before them in this particular; for, if I look at the entire record of God's dealings with His house, I find them invariably characterised by the exercise of power on the principle of righteousness.
He has firmly established and unflinchingly carried out His holy authority. It matters not what the outward aspect or character of His house may be, the essential principle of His dealing with it is immutable.
"Thy testimonies are very sure, holiness becometh thy house, O Lord, for ever".
Now, the servant must ever take his Master as his model; and if God rules His house with power exercised in righteousness, so must I; for if I am, in any one particular of my conduct, different from Him, I must, in that particular, be wrong. This is plain. But not only does God so rule His house: He likewise loves, approves of, and treats with His marked and honoured confidence, those who do the same.
In the above passage, we find Him saying, "I cannot hide my purposes from Abraham". Why? Is it because of his personal grace or faith? No; but simply because "he will command his children and his household".
A man who knows how to command his house is worthy of God's confidence. This is a stupendous truth, the edge of which should pierce the conscience of many a Christian parent.
Many of us, alas! with our eye resting on Genesis 18: 19, may well prostrate ourselves before the One who uttered and penned that word, and cry out Failure! failure! shameful, humiliating failure!
And why is this? Why have we failed to meet the solemn responsibility devolving upon us in reference to the due command of our households? I believe there is but one reply, viz., because we have failed to realise, by faith, the privilege conferred upon those households, in virtue of their association with us.
It is remarkable that our two earliest proofs should present to our view, with such accuracy, the two grand divisions of our question, namely, privilege and responsibility.
In Noah's case, the word was, "Thou and thy house" in the place of salvation.
In Abraham's case, it was "Thou and thy house," in the place of moral government.
The connection is at once marked and beautiful, and the man who fails in faith to appropriate the privilege will fail in moral power to answer the responsibility.
God looks upon a man's house as part of himself, and he cannot, in the smallest degree, whether in principle or practice, disregard the connection without suffering serious damage, and also marring the testimony. Now, the question for the Christian parent's conscience really is, "am I counting upon God for my house, and ruling my house for God?"
A solemn question, surely; yet, it is to be feared, very few feel its magnitude and power. And here, perhaps, my reader may feel disposed to demand fuller scripture proof than has yet been adduced, as to our warrant for counting upon God for our houses.
I shall, therefore, proceed with the scripture quotations. I give one from the history of Jacob. "And God said to Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel".
This would seem to have been addressed to Jacob personally; but he never thought, for a moment, of disconnecting himself from his family, either as to privilege or responsibility; wherefore it is immediately added:
"Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments; and let us arise, and go up to Bethel", Genesis. 35; 1-3.
Here we see that a call to Jacob put Jacob's house under responsibility. He was called to go up to God's house, and the question immediately suggested itself to his conscience whether his own house were it a fit condition to respond to such a call.
We now turn to the opening chapters of the book of Exodus, where we find that one of Pharaoh's four objections to the full deliverance and separation of Israel, had specific reference to "the little ones".
"And Moses and Aaron were brought again unto Pharaoh; and he said unto them, Go, serve the Lord your God; but who are they that shall go?
"And Moses said, We will go with our young, and with our old, with our sons, and with our daughters, with our flocks, and with our herds will we go; for we must hold a feast unto the Lord", Exodus 10: 8-9. The reason why they should take the little ones and all with them, was because they were going to hold a feast unto the Lord.
Nature might say, Oh! what can these little creatures know about a feast unto the Lord? Are you not afraid of making them formalists?
The reply of Moses is simple and decisive, "we will go with our young for we must hold a feast unto the Lord". They had no idea of seeking one thing for themselves, and another for their children. They dreamed not of Canaan for themselves and Egypt for their children.
How could they taste the manna of the wilderness, or the old corn of the land, while their children were feeding upon the leeks, the onions, and the garlic of Egypt? Impossible.
Moses and Aaron understood not such acting. They felt that God's call to them was a call to their little ones; and, moreover, were it not fully carried out, they would no sooner have gone forth from Egypt by one road than their children would draw them back by another.
That such would have been the case, Satan was but too well aware, and hence appears the reason of the objection, "Not so, go now, ye that are men".
This is the very thing which so many professing Christians are doing or attempting rather to do at this present time. They profess to go forth themselves to serve the Lord, but their little ones are in Egypt. They profess to have taken "three days' journey into the wilderness;" in other words, they profess to have left the world, they profess to be dead to it, and risen with Christ, as the possessors of a heavenly life, and the heirs and expectants of a heavenly glory; but they leave their little ones behind, in the hands of Pharaoh, or rather of Satan.
It will be said that there cannot be any analogy between the actual removal of people from one country to another, and the training of our children. I reply, the analogy only applies in principle. It is perfectly evident that we cannot take our children to heaven, in the sense in which the Israelites took theirs to Canaan. God alone can fit our children for heaven, by implanting in them the life of His own Son; and He alone can bring them to heaven, in His own time.But, then, although we can neither fit our children for, nor bring them to, heaven, we can, nevertheless, by faith, train them for it; and it is not merely our duty a poor, cold, and unworthy expression but our high and holy privilege so to do. Hence, therefore, if the principle on which, and the object with which, we train our children are manifestly worldly, we do, virtually, and so far as in us lies, leave them in the world.And, on the other hand, if our principle and object are, unequivocally, heavenly, then do we, so far as in us lies, train them for heaven. This, my beloved reader, is all that is meant, in this tract, by leaving our children in Egypt or taking them to Canaan. We are responsible to train our children, though we cannot convert them; and God will assuredly bless the faithful training of those whom He has graciously given us.
They have given up the world for themselves, but they cannot do so for their children.
Hence, on Lord's-day, the professed position of strangers and pilgrims is taken; hymns are sung, prayers uttered, and principles taught, which bespeak a people far advanced in the heavenly life, and just on the borders of Canaan, in actual experience in spirit, of course, they are already there but alas! on Monday morning, every act, every habit, every pursuit, every object, contradicts all this.
The little ones are trained for the world. The scope, aim, object, and entire character of their education is worldly, in the truest and strictest sense of the word.
Moses and Aaron would not have understood such actings; and neither indeed should any morally honest heart, or upright mind, understand them.
I should have no other principle, portion, or prospect, for my children, but what I have for myself; nor should I train them with a view to any other.
If Christ and heavenly glory are sufficient for me, they are sufficient for them likewise; but then the proof that they are really sufficient for me, should be unequivocal.
The tone of the parent's character should be such as to afford not a shadow of a doubt as to the real deep-seated purpose and object of his soul. But what shall my child say to me, if I tell him that I am earnestly seeking Christ and heaven for him while, at the same time, I am educating him for the world?
Which will he believe? Which will exert the more powerful practical influence on his heart and life my words, or my acts? Let conscience reply; and oh! let it be an honest reply, a reply emanating from its deepest depths, a reply which will unanswerably demonstrate that the question is understood in all its pungency and power.
I verily believe the time is come for plain dealing with one another's conscience.
It must be apparent to every prayerful and attentive observer of the Christianity of the present day, that it wears a most sickly aspect; that the tone is miserably low; and, in a word, that there must be something radically wrong.
As to testimony for the Son of God, it is rarely alas, how rarely! thought of. Personal salvation seems to form the very highest object with ninety-nine out of every hundred professing Christians, as if we were left here to be saved; and not, as saved ones, to glorify Christ. Now, I would affectionately, yet faithfully, suggest the question, whether much of the failure in practical testimony for Christ is not justly traceable to the neglect of the principle involved in the expression, "Thou and thy house".
I cannot but think it has much to do with it. One thing is certain, that a quantity of worldliness, confusion, and moral evil has crept in amongst us, through our little ones having been left in Egypt.
We see many who, it may be, ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago, took a prominent place in testimony and service, and seemed to have their hearts much in the work, are now gone back lamentably, not having power to keep their own heads above water, much less to help any one else.
All this utters a warning voice for Christian parents having rising families; and the utterance is, "Beware of leaving your little ones in Egypt".
Many a heart-broken father, at the present moment, is left to weep and groan over his fatal mistake, in reference to his household.
He left them in Egypt, in an evil hour, and under a gross delusion, and now when he ventures, it may he in real faithfulness and earnest affection, to drop a word into the ear of those who have grown up around him, they meet it with a deaf ear, and an indifferent heart, while they cling with vigour and decision to that Egypt in which he faithlessly and inconsistently left them.
This is a stern fact, the statement of which may send a pang to many a heart; but truth must be told, in order that, though it wounds some, it may prove a salutary warning to others. But I must proceed with the proofs.
There is, I should say, a very serious error involved in a Christian parent's committing the training of his children to unconverted persons, or even to those whose hearts are not one with him as to separation from the world. It is natural that a child should look up to, and follow the example of, one who has the training and management of him. Now, what can a teacher make of a child, save what he is himself? Whither can he lead him but to where he is himself? What principles can he instil save those which govern his own mind, and form the basis of his own character?Well, if I see a man governed by worldly principles if I see plainly, from his whole course and character, that he is an unconverted persons shall I commit to him the training or instruction of my children, or the formation of their characters? It would be the height of folly and inconsistency so to do. As well might a man who desired to make an oval-shaped bullet cast the melted lead into a circular mould.The same principle applies to the reading of books. A book is decidedly a silent teacher and former of the mind and character; and if I am called to look well to the character and principles of the living teacher, I am equally so to look to those of a silent teacher. I am quite convinced that, in reference both to books and teachers, we need to have our consciences stirred and instructed.
In the book of Numbers "the little ones" are again introduced to our notice. We have just seen that the real purpose of a soul in communion with God was to go up with the little ones out of Egypt.
They must be brought forth from thence at all cost; but neither faith nor faithfulness will rest here.
We must not only count upon God to bring them up out of Egypt, but also to bring them on into Canaan. Here Israel signally failed.
After the return of the spies, the congregation, on hearing their discouraging report, gave utterance to these fatal accents, "Wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? Were it not better for us to return into Egypt?", Numbers 14.
This was terrible. It was, in reality, so far as in them lay, verifying Pharaoh's wily prediction in reference to these very little ones, "Look to it now, for evil is before you".
Unbelief always justifies Satan, and makes God a liar, while faith always justifies God, and proves Satan a liar; and as it is invariably true, that according to your faith so shall it be unto you; so we find, on the other hand, that unbelief reaps as it sows. Thus it was with unhappy, because unbelieving, Israel.
"As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you. Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, doubtless ye shall not come into the land concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. "But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised. But as for you, your carcasses, they shall fall in the wilderness", Verses 28-32.
"They limited the Holy One of Israel," as to their little ones. This was a grievous sin, and it has been recorded for our admonition.
How constantly does the heart of the Christian parent reason, in reference to the mode of dealing with children, instead of simply taking God's ground about them.
It may be said, We cannot make Christians of our children. This is not the question. We are not called to "make" anything of them. This is God's work, and His only; but if He says, "Bring your little ones with you," shall we refuse?
I would not make a formalist of my child, and I could not make him a real Christian; but if God, in infinite grace, says to me, "I look upon your house as part of yourself, and, in blessing you, I bless it", shall I, in gross unbelief of heart, refuse this blessing, lest I should minister to formalism, or because I cannot impart reality? God forbid.
Yea, rather, let me rejoice with deep unfeigned joy, that God has blessed me with a blessing so divinely rich and full that it extends not only to me, but also to all who belong to me; and, seeing that grace has given me the blessing, let faith take it up and appropriate it.
Very many content themselves with the assurance that, at some time or other, their children will be converted. But this is not taking God's ground with them now. If we have the assurance that they are within the range of God's purpose, why do we not act upon that assurance? If we are waiting to see certain evidences of conversion in them, before we act as Scripture directs, it is plain that we are looking at something besides God's promise. This is not faith.The Christian parent is privileged to look upon his child now, as one to be trained for the Lord. He is bound to take this ground, in faith, and train Him thus, looking to God, in the fullest assurance, for the result. If I wait to see fruits, this is not faith.
Besides the question arises, what are my children now? They may be going about like idle, wilful vagrants, bringing sad dishonour on the name and truth of Christ, and yet, all the while, I satisfy myself by saying. I know they will be converted yet. This will never do. My children should be now a testimony for God; and they can only be this by my taking God's ground with them, and going on with Him about them.
But, let us remember, that the way to prove our entrance into the blessing is by fulfilling the responsibility.
To say that I am counting upon God to bring my children to Canaan, and yet, all the while, educating them for Egypt, is a deadly delusion.
My conduct proves my profession to be a lie, and I am not to wonder if, in the righteous dealings of God, I am allowed to be filled with the fruit of my own doings.
Conduct will ever prove the reality of our convictions; and, in this, as in everything else, that word of the Lord is most solemnly true, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine".
We often want to know the doctrine before we do the will, and the consequence is, we are left in the most profound ignorance.
Now, to do the will of God in reference to our children, is to treat them as He does, by regarding them as part of ourselves, and training them accordingly.
It is not merely by hoping they may ultimately prove to be the children of God, but by regarding them as those who are already brought into a place of privilege, and dealing with them upon this ground in reference to everything.
According to the thoughts and acting's of many parents, it would seem as though they regarded their children in the light of heathens, who had no present interest in Christ, or relationship to God at all. This is, assuredly, falling grievously short of the divine mark.
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