Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
—Prov. XXII. 6.
Train them to a habit of obedience. This is an object which it is worth any labour to attain. No habit, I suspect, has such an influence over our lives as this. Parents, determine to make your children obey you, though it may cost you much trouble, and cost them many tears. Let there be no questioning, and reasoning, and disputing, and delaying, and answering again. When you give them a command, let them see plainly that you will have it done.
Obedience is the only reality. It is faith visible, faith acting, and faith incarnate. It is the test of real discipleship among the Lord’s people. “Ye are My friends if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John xv. 14). It ought to be the mark of well-trained children, that they do whatsoever their parents command them. Where, in deed, is the honour which the fifth commandment enjoins, if fathers and mothers are not obeyed cheerfully, willingly, and at once?
Early obedience has all Scripture on its side. It is in Abraham’s praise, not merely he will train his family, but “he will command his children, and his household after him” (Gen. xviii. 19). It is said of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, that when “He was young He was subject to Mary and Joseph” (Luke ii. 51). Observe how implicitly Joseph obeyed the order of his father Jacob (Gen. xxxvii. 13). See how Isaiah speaks of it as an evil thing, when “the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient” (Isa. iii. 5). Mark how the Apostle Paul names disobedience to parents as one of the bad signs of the latter days (2 Tim. iii. 2). Mark how he singles out this grace of requiring obedience as one that should adorn a Christian minister: “a bishop must be one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity.” And again, “Let the deacons rule their children and their own houses well ” (1 Tim. iii. 4, 12). And again, an elder must be one “having faithful children, children not accused of riot, or unruly” (Tit. 1. 6).
Parents, do you wish to see your children happy? Take care, then, that you train them to obey when they are spoken to,—to do as they are bid. Believe me, we are not made for entire independence,—we are not fit for it. Even Christ’s freemen have a yoke to wear, they “serve the Lord Christ” (Col. iii. 24). Children cannot learn too soon that this is a world in which we are not all intended to rule, and that we are never in our right place until we know how to obey our betters. Teach them to obey while young, or else they will be fretting against God all their lives long, and wear themselves out with the vain idea of being independent of His control.
Reader, this hint is only too much needed. You will see many in this day who allow their children to choose and think for themselves long before they are able, and even make excuses for their disobedience, as if it were a thing not to be blamed. To my eyes, a parent always yielding, and a child always having its own way, are a most painful sight ; — painful, because I see God’s appointed order of things inverted and turned upside down;—painful, because I feel sure the consequence to that child’s character in the end will be self-will, pride, and self-conceit. You must not wonder that men refuse to obey their Father which is in heaven, if you allow them, when children, to disobey their father who is upon earth.
Parents, if you love your children, let obedience be a motto and a watchword continually before their eyes.
The Duties of Parents, Chapter IX.
John Charles Ryle of Liverpool 1816-1900
Read “Duties of Parents”