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The Signs of the Times, vol. 13

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    October 6, 1887

    “The Fifth Commandment. No. 2” The Signs of the Times 13, 39, pp. 615, 616.

    “AND, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath; but bring the up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4. Nurture signifies, “The act of nourishing or nursing, tender care, education, instruction.” Admonition signifies, “Gentile or friendship reproof; counsel against a fault or error; instruction in duties.”SITI October 6, 1887, page 615.1

    This shows that the Lord has given directions for the training, the bringing up, of children. This is only to be expected, because God has given one of the ten commandments especially to children, and whenever the Lord has given commandment, he has also given directions how to fulfill the requirements of it. But, as shown last week, the first duty toward the fulfillment of the fifth commandment devolves upon the parents. The above text shows the same thing. But this is evidently true from the very nature of the case, because it is the duty of ever responsible being to honor God above all. But for a considerable length of time the child is irresponsible and incapable of knowing God, or of knowing of him. If, therefore, the child is to know of God, and his one obligation and relationship to him, it is evident that he must be taught. But there is no one to teach him but his parents. Consequently the first steps taken by a child toward the fulfillment of his duty toward God, or his duty toward man in obedience to God, must be taken under the guidance of his parents. In other words, the parents must stand virtually in the place of God to the child until he reaches the age of responsibility himself. And it is the duty of the parents to see that when the child reaches the age of responsibility, he shall be prepared to fulfill the obligations that devolve upon him, in the fear of God.SITI October 6, 1887, page 615.2

    This is what is involved in the words, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it;” and also in the text which stands at the head of this article, “Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The way in which he should go is in the way of the commandments of God; for saith the Lord: “Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go. O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.” Isaiah 48:17, 18. The way of the commandments of God is the way of peace, for, “Great peace have they that love thy law; and nothing shall offend them.” Psalm 119:165. And, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26:3. Therefore it is certain that “the way” in which the child is to be trained up so that he may not depart from it when he is old, is the way of the commandments of God; the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” in which the parents are to bring up the children, is that which is found in following the directions of the word of God. What these directions are, we shall now endeavor to set forth.SITI October 6, 1887, page 615.3

    There is given us in the Scripture a notable instance in illustration of the point which we here wish to develop. Paul wrote to Timothy: “I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” Now unfeigned faith is one of the very graces that is connected with the great aim of the law of God. For, “Now the end [the purpose] of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” 1 Timothy 1:5. And here we find this great grace in a straight line to the third generation, and that too in a country and in an age that was as corrupt as any since the flood, and his father a Gentile too. How did it ever come about that this unfeigned faith was found in Timothy? It was not born in him, that is certain, for says the Scripture, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child.” Proverbs 22:15. How then happened it. Here is how: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:15. There is the whole secret revealed. “From a child he had known the Scriptures.” He had been trained up in the way that he should go. He had been brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.SITI October 6, 1887, page 615.4

    What then says the Scripture about this? If we can find the course that was followed by which Timothy was brought to the grace of unfeigned faith, we may know what to do with our children that theirs may be the same happy experience. “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life; but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons; specially the day that thou stoodest before the Lord thy God in Horeb, when the Lord said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.” Deuteronomy 4:9, 10. Of all the times, therefore, which that people were to remember, they were specially to remember the day that they stood before Sinai and heard the words of God. And of all the things which they were diligently to remember, and to teach their children, they were specially to remember and teach the words which they heard from the voice of God, the day when they stood before Sinai. And those words which above all were to be specially remembered and taught, were the ten commandments. These were the specialty therefore in Timothy’s instruction.SITI October 6, 1887, page 615.5

    Further, the instructions are: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and 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 6:5-7. “Thou shalt teach them diligently.” The margin reads, Hebrew, “Thou shalt whet or sharpen them diligently,” etc. On this word Dr. Clarke remarks that it signifies “to repeat, iterate, or do a thing again and again; hence to whet or sharpen any instrument, which is done by reiterated friction or grinding.” There is the secret of the successful teaching of the commandments of God. To do it over and over, again and again. Not however in the way of having the child learn them by rote, and then stop at that. A parrot can be taught that much, and a child may be taught these things in such a way that he will learn them in about such a way as a parrot would, and with not much more of an intelligent understanding than a parrot might have to repeat them. But that is not the idea of these directions. It is, by constant instruction and watching to instill the principles of the law of God into the mind of the child and cause them to become a part of the very texture of his being and conduct; that his conduct even though a child may be regulated by these principles in the fear of God.SITI October 6, 1887, page 615.6

    Of course this will not be accomplished by only a word now and then, nor by an hour’s exercise in Sabbath-school on the Sabbath. No man thinks of sharpening a dull axe by a few turns of the grindstone once a week, but, as many a boy can testify, that is a task that is accomplished by steady and persistent application until the angle of the axe edge is so evenly drawn that a few circles of the whetstone will refine the edge to an almost perfect keenness. Now this is precisely what the Lord directs that the parents shall do to the minds and hearts of their children by the application of the words and principles of the commandments of God. It is that the minds of the children shall be so keenly sharpened by the application of the principles of the word of God that they shall be able instantly to discern, to choose, and to do the right. But thousands of fathers will take more pains to sharpen an old rusty axe than they will to sharpen the minds of their own children to know and do the right.SITI October 6, 1887, page 615.7

    Nor is this so hard a thing to do as is often imagined, if only it be done in the right way. That which makes it so hard for many is that they attempt to do it by set tasks rather than by making it a part of life itself. They attempt to do the teaching by set lessons apart from the regular conduct of life, rather than by making the lessons and the principles a part of the practical conduct of the daily life itself. Many a mother will teach her little daughter the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” and the child can learn it by rote in a few minutes, and by repeating it a few days can recollect it at any time; and then just as likely as not while the child is repeating the commandment, the mother is dressing her up in all the frills and ruffles and ribbons that the latest and loudest demands of fashion may demand, and just because it is the fashion. At the very moment when the child is repeating the commandment the mother perhaps is preparing to pierce the child’s ears like an Ishmaelite, or “bang” her hair like a savage, and all because it is fashionable and because everybody else does so. That is to say, the child is taught to say, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” and at the same time is taught to do as the world does, and to seek to please the world, to do as others do, because they do it, to make and keep fast friendship with the world. But all such teaching of the commandments of God is vain. “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4. To teach the child to say, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” and then teach the child to do the ways of the world and to seek to please the world, is only to teach him to put “the god of this world” above the true God; to obey the god of this world instead of the God of Heaven; and to seek to please the god of this world rather than the God of love, of truth, and of righteousness.SITI October 6, 1887, page 616.1

    Such a way of doing is not by any means to teach the commandments of God diligently unto the children; it is not to train up the children in the way they should go; nor is it to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. When the children are taught to say the commandments of God, it is equally the parents’ duty to teach them to do the commandments which they have been taught. But to do this successfully the principle of obedience to God, and the love of his commandments, must be woven into the texture of the daily life of the parents. The fear of God must be before the parents, and his honor that which they shall seek above all and endeavor to promote. If our teaching shall not be sustained by our daily practice, we cannot expect that our teaching shall be sustained by the practice of our children. “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, ... and ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.... That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.” Deuteronomy 11:13-21.SITI October 6, 1887, page 616.2