'Having been reminded of the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice.' 2 Tim. 1: 5. 'Abide in the things which thou hast learned, and been assured of; knowing that from a babe thou hast known the sacred writings, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.' 2 Tim. 3: 14, 15.
If we connect these two passages, we find in them the true relation in which children and Scripture ought to stand to each other. Between the unfeigned faith of the mother and grandmother, and the faith of Timothy, Scripture had been the connecting link. Scripture needs the believing parent as its messenger. The believing parent needs Scripture as the vehicle for the communication of his faith. A parent's faith teaching the word of faith may count upon the child's faith as the fruit of his labors.
God has so ordered it that it is mostly through the Holy Spirit dwelling in His saints that the word is brought to sinners in the power of the Spirit. It is one Spirit dwelling in the word and in the child of God; in the combined action of the two the word is made a blessing to others. It is one of the highest honors God has for the believing parent, that He has made him the minister of His holy Word to his children. It is the unfeigned faith of father or mother, a faith which lives on and according to the word, and speaks of it in the power of personal testimony and experience, that will be used of God to awaken a child's faith. In real living faith there is something contagious; the life of the Spirit breathes in it, and makes its words a blessing. This truth suggests some very precious lessons a parent should seek to learn.
Teach your child to believe the Word of God. Of old God sought above everything to train His saints to be men of faith. There is nothing more pleasing to Him than faith. Faith is the soul's surrender to God, to hear what He says, to take what He gives, to receive what He works, to be entirely at His disposal. Faith in God begins with faith in His word, and there is no habit a parent can cultivate in a child of deeper importance than that of a trustful acceptance of all that God has said. In an age of doubt and questioning, teach it to accept what it cannot understand, even what appears mysterious and contrary to reason, because God who is wise and great has said it. Teach it to believe in His love, in the gift of His Son, and in the life through Him, as realities which come true to us as our faith simply trusts the word and is assured of what it says. Teach it day by day to look upon every promise, every truth in the word, as the food of faith, meant to make our faith, and through it our life, stronger. Parents! a child is naturally trustful; guide its young trust to that word which never fails. The child wants to trust; the word wants to be trusted; let your unfeigned faith bring them into contact.
To the end teach your child to know the Word of God. Faith depends upon knowledge. Timothy had known the sacred writings as able to make him wise unto salvation. If the grace of God is to save us, it must teach us; it is a wisdom from above; we must love God with the mind as well as the heart. Let the parent seek to give the child a clear and intelligent apprehension of the great truths of salvation God has revealed. He may not entrust this work to school or church; it is astonishing how vague the knowledge thus obtained often is. Let family worship be so ordered as to be really helpful in the knowledge of God's Word. Try always to make it clear at what stage in the history of the kingdom and in the progress of revelation it was that the word you read was given. Take trouble to lodge in the mind not only the truths and the history of the Bible, but especially to store the memory with some of God's own words. Be not content with the child's learning and saying his text at fixed times; it is often forgotten as soon as said. But seek to have some of these words, by frequent repetition, so rooted in the mind that nothing can efface them. Teach the child to know the book itself too; to be at home in it, to feel at home and more at ease in it; to be taught by unfeigned faith thus to know the sacred writings is an inestimable blessing.
Teach your child to love God's Word. This is more difficult than to teach it to believe and to know it. There is often the assent of faith, and an interest in the knowledge of Scripture, with very little of real love to it. To teach this is no easy task. Its first requisite is, of course, that we love it ourselves. `Oh, how love I Thy law,' is an expression of piety which many an earnest believer will be afraid to utter. Love and joy ever go together: what I love I rejoice to possess. Reverence and respect for God's Word, the earnest study of it, and the desire to be guided by it — these are good — but they do not necessarily breathe that bright spirit of delight which says to God, `Oh, how love I Thy law.' And yet it is love of which a child's heart is especially susceptible. Childhood is the age of feeling and impression; the child can be won before it can give a reason of its hope. And a parent's holy, tender love to the Word of God will be the surest means of inspiring the child's love. Let this be a distinct matter of desire and prayer, and of careful study too, so to guide the child in his dealing with the Bible, that he may not only not dislike it, not only like it for its stories and its study, but truly and heartily love it as the Father's word. This will indeed be the token of Divine grace, and the preparation for all blessing.
And then, teach your child to obey the Word of God. God connects all believing, knowing, loving, with doing; obedience is God's test of uprightness and reality. Teach the child to make what the Father has said the standard of conduct. Let him see and hear that you do so. In our ordinary Christianity, children are educated into the belief that God's commandments are grievous; the idea of obedience to Him, whole-hearted and unceasing obedience, being simply happiness, is never thought of. And yet this is the only religion that really will be mighty to plant itself in the hearts of our children. The Bible must not be as a law continually holding us in check, keeping us from what we would like, and demanding what is difficult. No! with our children we must take up an entirely different position. As the Father's redeemed ones, the children of His covenant and kingdom, we must say, with the only-begotten Son, `I delight to do thy will, O God; yea, Thy law is within my heart.' It is His covenant promise to work this in us and our children. If in Christ Jesus we enter into the blessed life of the liberty of God's children, our children will learn from us how impossible it is to us to read the Father's Word and not do it. Our study of it with them will all have this as its one purpose: we want to know and do the will of God.
The custom of family worship is to be found in almost every Christian family. Every day a portion of God's holy Word is read there. But alas! in that reading there is often little power or blessing. Many an earnest Christian parent looks more to his private reading for profit and nourishment. And yet the daily gathering of the family round the Word of God might become such a season of spiritual refreshment and nourishment! If the same care we take to have a properly prepared meal placed on the breakfast table, and each child served with just what he needs, were only taken to see that the children really receive and enjoy the feeding with the Divine Word. Let parents make a study of it to have their family worship so ordered, as indeed to lead the children into the holy place, to be presented before the Lord, to be fed with the bread each one requires, and to receive the Father's blessing for the day. Let them prepare for reading the Word with the family. Let the reading be as of God's Word, in His presence, and waiting on His Spirit. Beware of the hurry which just gives time enough for the hasty reading of a chapter. Family worship becomes a dead and deadening form, hardening children into a habit of careless dealing with the Word and with God Himself. A few moments devoted to a quiet, loving, calling of the attention to what God says, and to making the personal application, encouraging the children to take and keep the word, may be the beginning of great blessing.
Parents! God's Word is your child's heritage from the Father in heaven. And you are commissioned to lead him into the knowledge and the love and the possession of its treasures. Make it a matter of earnest prayer that you may wisely and rightly do it. Let that word dwell richly in you in all wisdom. In giving His promises, Jesus said, 'If ye abide in my word; if my words abide in you.' Let your life be one of unfeigned faith, that lives and delights in doing God's word, such faith will pass on into your children. The quiet confidence that comes from God's word is a power that makes itself felt with our children. And if you often feel that you know not how to bring the word aright to them, or see in them what hinders its reception, be still of good cheer, you have God to do the work, to make the word effectual. Pray and believe for the Holy Spirit's working; He will make the word, which you speak and live in unfeigned faith, the seed of faith to your children also.
Gracious God! we ask You to give us a very deep sense of the blessedness of this part of our work as parents, to bring Your holy Word to them. May the privilege Timothy had be that of our children: from earliest youth to have the unfeigned faith of a loving parent as the interpreter of holy Scripture. May a deep, full, and very joyous faith in Your blessed Word be the power in which all our Scripture teaching comes to them. Give us to see clearly how their hearts are claimed by You, to be filled with Your words, that these may be in them the seeds of all holy thoughts and dispositions.
We ask of You the grace of wisdom, and faith, and patient faithfulness, to bring Your word day by day to our children. May our family worship every day be a holy season of communion with You, the Unseen One, in which we lead our children into Your presence to hear Your voice speak, and to receive Your teaching. O our God, we yield ourselves to the supremacy and the power of Your Holy Word; let it so abide in us, that our life may be the shining forth of its holy light. Let us be so full of faith and love and obedience to the word, that our dear children learn from their youth to love and believe and obey it too.
Father! forgive us that this has been too little so. Will You not by Your mighty power make it so now? Amen.