Clarence Darrow, defending attorney for John T. Scopes in the Scopes “Monkey” Trial, once commented: “The first half of our lives are ruined by our parents, the second half by our children.” Darrow’s father prided himself as a religious freethinker and was known as the “village infidel.” Darrow himself had only one child with his first wife. His second marriage was childless. He died a materialist, believing man to be a clod, a helpless organism continually “condemned for getting out of step with the crowd, not for doing evil.”
There are countless people in the world who would share Darrow’s sentiments regarding children as well as the rest of humanity. The outworking of this belief system can be seen every day in the news and on the internet as people travel both mindlessly and mindfully down the broad road leading to destruction.
The Duties of Parents
What a beautiful contrast a Christian parent makes agains this backdrop. Our heart’s desire to see our children live lives that are pleasing to God, lives that honor and glorify Him, cause us to keep pressing on in the hard work of training, disciplining, instructing, and encouraging. As a help for this holy calling, I’ve been reading J. C. Ryle’s The Duties of Parents: Raising Children with Christ. It’s a short book—only 60 pages—but packed with biblical encouragement for every Christian parent (and grandparent).
Ryle guides us in the spiritual upbringing of our children with the following biblical duties:
1. Train them in the way they should go and not in the way that they would
2. Train up your child with all tenderness, affection, and patience.
3. Train your children with an abiding persuasion on your mind that much depends upon you (God uses means).
4. Train with this thought continually before your eyes—that the soul of your child is the first thing to be considered.
5. Train your child with a knowledge of the Bible.
6. Train them with a habit of prayer.
7. Train them with habits of diligence and regularity concerning public means of grace.
8. Train them to a habit of faith (in you as a parent).
9. Train them with a habit of obedience.
10. Train them to always speak the truth.
11. Train them to always redeem the time.
12. Train them to fear over-indulgence.
13. Train them remembering continually how God trains His children.
14. Train them, remembering continually the influence of your own example.
15. Train them, remembering continually the power of sin.
16. Train them, remembering continually the promises of Scripture.
17. Train them with continual prayer for a blessing on all you do.
Presently, the church is seeking answers to the ever-growing exodus of young people from its ranks. In a recent study that examined the worldview of practicing Christians, these troubling findings were brought to light.
61% agree with ideas rooted in New Spirituality
54% resonate with postmodernist views
36% accept ideas associated with Marxism
29% believe ideas based on secularism
Absorbed into the stream, Millennials and Gen-Xers are up to eight times more likely to hold these views than Boomers and Elders. Does this trouble you? We are deeply concerned and earnestly praying that God would bring about family reformation so that we would take seriously the high calling of shepherding our children when we rise up, when we lie down, and when we walk along the way. We need to train them for this life and for the life to come—for Christ and for eternity.
Parenting is hard and thankless work at times, but it is also joyful labor as we see our children growing spiritually on cultivated ground. We need consistency and perseverance for the long haul, remembering that a child’s Christian education is primarily the responsibility of parents. Calvin emphasized this in his own day. “It is the duty of parents to apply themselves diligently to the work of communicating what they have learned from the Lord to their children.”
Husbands, pray for your wives in their work of mothering. Wives, pray for your husbands in their work of fathering. Grandparents, pray for your children as well as your grandchildren. “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
bgw & nrw