And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart:…
I. WHEN THE FAMILY HAS BEEN CONSTITUTED IN ACCORDANCE WITH GOD'S NATURAL LAWS, PARENTS MAY HAVE ENCOURAGEMENT THAT ALL THE LAWS OF NATURE ARE WORKING IN THEIR FAVOUR. Like produces like. This tendency may be modified, and in extreme cases overruled, by antagonistic laws; nevertheless, this is the course that is provided for. And, with a single exception here and there, children, comprehensively regarded, tend to become what their parents were, and their parents. They represent their ancestry. And this is as true morally as in feature, in intellect, or in any ordinary disposition. Nothing shows more strikingly the power of blood and this great law than the recuperative power of different kinds of men when they have fallen into evil. Anybody can fall into evil. The difference between one man and another is not in their slipping into the river, but in their extricating themselves when they have once slipped in. Everybody's child may fall into temptation through inexperience; but, after having fallen into temptation, it is not everybody's child that can recover himself. The child of parents that have the resiliency of a moral constitution will be apt to recover himself; whereas, the child of parents that have no such resiliency will be apt to go from bad to worse, clear down to the desolating end.
II. While this general tendency should encourage us, IT MAY ALSO INSPIRE HOPEFULNESS, in special cases and difficulties.
1. Many of the infelicities of our children spring more from our ignorance than from any evil that is in them. Your child has in many respects just the same tendencies that you have. Yet we treat our children almost as if we were not to bear their burdens, to be conscious of their tastes of mind, and to administer according to their wants.
2. Many dangerous traits in childhood, that would be exceedingly discouraging if they were to hold on, will disappear in later life, and that too by the force of natural causes. Children, you know, have to run through certain diseases of the body. So they do of the mind. There are times when children will lie. There are periods when children will steal. There seems to be mumps of obstinacy, and rash of irritability, and measles of lying — and there are no measles half so bad as those. And many parents, seeing these early indications, reason upon them in this way: "How could this child do that thing? Why, as far back as I can remember, I did not do it." How is it with your husband? Suppose he says: "Though I never consciously told a lie, my child lies inveterately; and what will become of it?" I will tell you what will become of it. If the child has a tendency to this perversion, it will require all your care, both of personal instruction and institutional training, to keep his childhood from developing into a manhood of deceit. But if you are careful to train the child aright, just as quick as the whole of its nature is developed, one part will take care of other parts, and help other parts.
3. Many of the deficiencies of children, and of the difficulties of managing them, arise from the fact that the stimulating nature of society and civilisation in our day develop the child prematurely, and that he cannot be held properly until the forces of life are concentrated upon him. If you want your children to behave, you must give them something to do. Society is the training ground of the human race. It is a school of practice, where God means that men shall be disciplined. Your child must go into that society and that life; and if you have brought him up right, he may now and then swerve from the right course, but the probabilities are that he will come out right in the end.
4. Many of the faults of children are only the rude forms of excellences that are not yet ripened. I should be very sorry to have a man judge of my Duchess pears by tasting them now, in July. I should hate to have a man judge of my Delaware grapes by tasting them now. They are sour enough. But a great many parents taste their children's qualities when they are children; and, because they do not taste good, they are very much alarmed. There are many things to be done before a man is ripened. There is much juice to be changed and elaborated in the child before it can be brought to its normal rendition.
5. Let me speak of one or two of those qualities which secure our children, and which are very few and very simple.
(1) Bring up your children in the habit of openness of conduct and truthfulness.
(2) The next element is self-respect, or the habit of acting, not from what others may think, nor from what may be the consequences to yourself of profit or loss; but from a sense of what is befitting to you — in other words, making a man's own self more important to him than all external considerations.
(3) The other element is conscience. Truthfulness, honour, and conscience — train for these three qualities. Talk with your children about them. Interpret them to them by your conduct. Now, if you bring your children up with these three traits, you have the soil, and you can raise anything you please on that soil.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: