These words I am commanding you today are to be upon your hearts.
A matter much insisted on in these addresses (cf. Deuteronomy 11:18-22). We learn -
I. THAT THE RELIGIOUS EDUCATION OF CHILDREN IS GOD'S WAY OF PERPETUATING VITAL RELIGION. Without this, religion would soon die out; with it, a holy seed will be kept up in times of greatest declension.
II. THAT THE RELIGIOUS EDUCATION OF CHILDREN DEVOLVES PRIMARILY ON THE PARENT. The Church, Sunday schools, etc., may assist, but nothing can relieve the parent from this duty, or compensate for his neglect of it (Ephesians 6:4; 2 Timothy 1:5).
III. THAT THE RELIGIOUS EDUCATION OF CHILDREN IS TO BE CONDUCTED WITH GREAT CARE AND FAITHFULNESS.
1. Very diligently (ver. 7). It is to be gone about most painstakingly and systematically. "In thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." There is need for specific teaching at regular times, but the text indicates a broader view of this part of parental duty. An element pervading the whole life, blending with all occupation, insinuating its pleasant influence in all our intercourse with our children.
2. Very particularly (vers. 21-25). A specimen is given of the careful instruction parents are to study to impart.
3. Taking advantage of a child's natural curiosity (ver. 21). The principle of curiosity is strong in children. It early manifests itself in reference to religion. The Bible, with its delightful variety of story, parable, proverb, etc., is peculiarly adapted for the instruction of the young. - J.O.
1. The style of the Book of Deuteronomy is unlike that of the preceding books of the Pentateuch, and this may be accounted for by the fact that the contents are very different. The language of Deuteronomy is in the main hortatory.
I. RELIGION CLAIMS TO TAKE A FOREMOST PLACE IN HUMAN AFFAIRS. The law is to be everywhere set forth clear and conspicuous. As the ancient Egyptians are said to have worn jewels on the forehead and arm inscribed with sacred words and amulets, and as the Mohammedans now paint over their doors sentences from the Koran, such as "God is the Creator," "God is one, and Mahomet is His prophet," so the Jews carried on their bodies, and wrote upon their houses, some of the most important passages of their law. Such a practice was liable to the abuse of ostentatious vanity. But are not we in danger of falling into the opposite fault through the intense reserve in which we hide our religious life? When we do recognise the right of religion to take its true place in the world, what shall we dare to set before it? This right is based on two grounds:
These words...shall be in thine heart.I. THE WORDS CONCERNING WHICH THE COMMAND IS GIVEN, THEIR NATURE AND IMPORTANCE.
1. Their supernatural origin.
2. The extraordinary manner in which God has sanctioned them, in the signs and wonders performed by those who spoke or wrote the things declared in them.
3. The evident excellence and useful tendency of their contents, "to make us wise unto salvation."
II. THE COMMAND GIVEN CONCERNING THESE THINGS.
1. We must not be indifferent, but deeply impressed with, and concerned about, these things; that is, about Divine revelation in general, its truth, its importance, its contents; and about that religion set forth in this passage, as above explained, consisting in the knowledge and love of God.
2. We must see that this is religion, and this alone; and that if we rest short of this, we rest short of religion.
3. We must be concerned to have proper views of, to experience, and to practise this religion.
III. THE OBLIGATIONS WHICH LIE UPON US TO OBEY THIS COMMAND.
1. Gratitude; for this book lays us under great, yea, infinite obligations. Consider what would have been our condition had we not had the Bible — how ignorant, sinful, and miserable!
2. The express command of God, who gave us the Scriptures, lays us under an indispensable obligation: He is our Creator, Benefactor, Redeemer, Lawgiver, and Judge. He solemnly enjoins us to have these things in our hearts.
3. The example of our Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles, etc., who all made these things the subjects of their chief study and discourse from day to day.
4. Compassion for and love to our children — mortal and immortal beings; to whom, under God, we have given being, and who are committed to our care by Him, the great proprietor and governor of all, who says, "All souls are Mine."
5. Our own interest should influence us; and that for time and for eternity. For if we have not God's Word in general, and the knowledge and love of God in particular, in our own hearts, we shall be miserable here, and perish everlastingly hereafter. And if we do not inculcate these things on our children and dependants, and those on whom we might inculcate them, and they perish, God will require "their blood," their souls, at our hands.
1. The essential value of the subjects treated by it.
2. The authority which it carries. Our religion must not be a mere matter of taste, of sentiment, and of philosophic speculation. It must be regarded as obedience to the will of our supreme Lord and Master.
II. RELIGION NEEDS TO BE CONSTANTLY IMPRESSED UPON US. We do not have to set up maxims about our streets urging us to make haste to get rich, nor in our houses to prevent us from forgetting our daily meals. But the spiritual appetite is less keen, and requires to be whetted by constant teaching, by "line upon line" and "precept upon precept."
III. RELIGION MUST BEGIN IN THE HEART. It is impossible to have religion in the outer life unless it grow from within. Nothing is easier than to put on the show of it. Anyone can hang texts about his house. But to infuse real religion into the home is impossible except it grow out of inward spiritual devotion. The fruit cannot grow without a root. To be in the heart the Divine Word must be —(1) In the understanding, not merely heard of in meaningless words, nor practised in mechanical acts, but intelligently realised.(2) In the memory, not read for a moment and forgotten as soon as the book is closed, but carried in the mind, its sacred truths haunting the thoughts.(3) In the affections, not coldly contemplated, but lovingly cherished. To this end we must seek the aid of God's Holy Spirit to enable us to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest His truth.
IV. RELIGION SHOULD GROW OUT INTO EVERY BRANCH OF LIFE. Though it begins in the heart it cannot contain itself there forever; if the fountain is ever bubbling up it must issue in the flowing stream. When there is life in the root it is impossible to prevent the tree from breaking out into leaves, sooner or later. Like the sunlight pervading hill and plain, like the fragrant odour of incense penetrating to the inmost recess of the sanctuary, true religion must spread itself abroad, and reach down to the minutest details of life.
(W. F. Adeney, M. A.)
2. The lawgiver is seen in this book to be full of zeal for God, and of earnest desire for the well-being of the people. His exhortations to obedience have been truly said to be "deeply fraught with holy and patriotic feeling."
3. There is something of a valedictory tone throughout these pages. The forty years' wanderings are almost concluded, and the death of Moses is near at hand. Moses, giving injunctions to Israel before his departure, is typical to the final commands of Jesus Christ before His Ascension.
I. THE WORDS WERE TO BE IN THEIR HEART.
1. What words? The commandments of God, as summed up in the verses which precede the text. Having first asserted the truth that "God is a Spirit," for the people were reminded, when the Lord spake unto them out of the midst of the fire, that they "heard a voice, but saw no similitude" (Deuteronomy 4:12); so now, the Unity of the Godhead is clearly revealed: "The Lord our God is one Lord." Further, Moses drew from the doctrine of the Divine Unity that God must be the sole Object of Israel's love and obedience — of a devotion which claimed "all" the heart and soul and might for its rightful exercise.
2. These words were to be in their heart, or "upon" their heart, as something written and engraven upon the memory. This faculty was to be the treasure house of the Law of God. Constantly in Holy Scripture exhortations and institutions had for their object the prevention of forgetfulness of the Divine Law and Divine mercies: "My son, forget not My Law," (Proverbs 3:1). The Sabbath was a reminder of Creation; the Passover, of the deliverance from Egypt; and twelve stones were set up for a memorial of the passing over Jordan. To remember the presence of God and the commandments of God and His goodness was a stringent duty, for these were to form the guide of life and the stimulus of devotion.
3. To forget God was a sin in itself. "Beware lest thou forget the Lord," the prophet continues, especially in days of affluence and prosperity in Canaan. It was Moses' reproach — almost his dying reproach: "Of the Rock that begat thee, thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee" (Deuteronomy 32:18). And forgetfulness of God leads to all sin.
II. "THOU SHALT TEACH THEM DILIGENTLY UNTO THY CHILDREN."
1. There never was a time when this Divine command needed more to be accentuated than at present. Secular education is only partial education; it omits to train the moral and spiritual, the higher elements of our being. It has been wisely said by a French statesman, "Strong, definite, religious convictions constitute the real strength of any country." He might have added, "of any soul."
2. Religious instruction of the young is necessary, because God commanded it. That is a clear and definite ground to go upon, for all who believe the Scriptures. Further, it stands to reason that if religion is to be our guide in the midst of a sinful world, we want that guide for all ages. Childhood as well as maturity belongs to God, and must be sanctified by God. The image of the Child Christ, with the words, "Hear ye Him," placed by Dean Colet over the master's chair in St. Paul's Grammar School, was his way of showing the importance of religious education, and of teaching children that they should follow Christ and be made like unto Him, if they would become true men and women.
3. Moreover, youth is the time when powers are fresh, and the truths which God has revealed can be best taken in and assimilated. "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth" (Ecclesiastes 12:1). It is the time for acquiring deep convictions and of forming habits (Proverbs 22:6).
4. Youth is an age when we are more liable to be led astray by passion and the first taste of the world; and therefore the restraining and blessed influences of religion are the more necessary.
1. To strive to remember the Divine commands and the presence of God.
2. "In the heart." Not merely an intellectual action, as "learning by heart," though this is important; but by loving obedience to God, and devotion to Him.
3. To teach religion to thy children. A ground for forcing the importance of religious instruction in our schools, and that definite. The text says, "these words."
4. But further, a lesson for parents, upon whom the task devolves, that in the home, as well as at the school, the children should be instructed in the truths of Christianity, as the most momentous of parental duties.
(Canon Hutchings, M. A.)
1. Love to God is the first and great duty of every moral being. Without this there can be good neither in the individual nor in his life and actions.
2. The Word of God should be the object of constant and unremitting study. This is a work for life.
3. The Word of God should dwell in the heart of the believer richly; and at all times, and in all places, it ought to be the chief employment of his mind. This leads to saving knowledge of God and of His will; and this, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, will make the believer "wise unto salvation," and, by the blessing of the Holy Spirit, will do so likewise unto his children.
4. We should make the Word of God known to others — such as our friends, our associates, our neighbours, and that, too, as extensively as possible. Thus the believer is kept constantly in communion with God by love, and by the Scriptures; and thus he becomes more and more conformed to God's image every day.
5. But the believer should make known the Word of God to the world as far as possible, by recommending it, and by circulating it, as far as possible, amongst his necessitous fellow creatures.
II. THE PRIVILEGES OF PIOUS PERSONS.
1. They are great gainers themselves; for, by "loving the Lord their God with all their heart," they have the experience of heaven begun in their soul: all is life, power, readiness, willingness, and ability to do the whole will of God — and heaven just consists of this in perfection. This gives satisfaction; this gives "joy and peace in believing."
2. They are great gainers, because their whole intellectual powers are satisfied with Divine influences: their understanding is satisfied with knowledge of the Divine nature, the Divine perfections, the Divine persons, the Divine will, the Divine promises, the Divine blessings, and the Divine word.
3. They are great gainers, because the whole man, soul and body, with the members, powers, and faculties, are dedicated to God, and are employed in His service and enjoyment. This is employment for the real Christian both in this world and the next.All Christians should daily be thus occupied, for this is answering the end of their creation.
1. But another unspeakable privilege is comprehended in our text, and that is, "These words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart." This is to be conformed to the Divine image; this is to be like the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Another unspeakable privilege is comprehended in our text, and that is, the instruction and edification of children.
3. This privilege is extensive, and may embrace not only the children, but also the servants, and all others connected with the family, by consanguinity, friendship, or otherwise.
4. The believer's privilege extends to all men, as far as in his power. Thus, the circle extends from the point — self — round the circumference of the globe! How exalted the consideration of being instrumental in the hand of God, of being so extensively useful in increasing the Church on earth, and the Church in heaven — of profiting the souls and bodies of men — of promoting the glory of God both in time and through eternity!
(James Kidd, D. D.)
Homilist.I. THE WORDS OF GOD ARE THE TREASURE OF THE HEART. Wherever they be, if they are not in the heart they fail to answer the Divine intention. They are made for the heart, and the heart is made for them. Let them be there first, and it will follow that they will be everywhere else where they are needed.
II. THE WORDS OF GOD ARE THE THEME OF THE CONVERSATION. There is a picturesque completeness in the enumeration of the occasions upon which these words are to be talked of — at home, abroad, evening, and morning. Though His words in origin, they are our words in use.
III. THE WORDS OF GOD ARE THE ORNAMENT OF THE LIFE. The Jews adorned their persons with texts of Scripture, written upon papyrus or parchment, and enclosed within little boxes or cylinders, which were worn upon the hand or the brow: an emblem of their intimacy and familiarity with Divine truth, and to us a reminder that our life, our politics, our literature, our art, should all be governed by the principles and motives presented in revelation.
IV. THE WORDS OF GOD ARE THE LAW OF THE HOME AND HOUSEHOLD. Scraps of Scripture were suspended by the threshold of the house surely to intimate that in a sense every Israelite's home was a temple sacred unto the Lord. Our households are protected, and guided, and hallowed, when the Divine Word is their supreme authority.
V. THE WORDS OF GOD ARE THE INHERITANCE OF OUR CHILDREN. Whatever parents fail to do for their offspring, to bequeath to them, let them, above all things, hand down to them the precious and sacred deposit of truth, teaching diligently unto their children what they themselves have received from those who have gone before them.
Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy childrenI. TO MENTION SOME OF THOSE THINGS WHICH PARENTS ARE COMMANDED TO TEACH THEIR CHILDREN.
1. In the first place, then, inculcate upon them an early reverence for God. Teach them this duty even before they can understand who and what He is; and let them see it exemplified in yourselves, by your seriousness in speaking of Him, and by your humility in every act of Divine worship.
2. Teach them also an early value for the Scriptures. Let them know that the Bible is the Word of God; that it is the best book in the world; that it is more to be desired than gold; and that, if it were not for the discoveries, instructions, and promises contained in it, they and you, and all mankind, would be ignorant and wretched beyond imagination.
3. Let them also acquire an early sense of a future state, blest children are giddy and thoughtless. The trifling engagements of the present hour are all that they regard; and it often happens that the world with its baubles strikes so strongly upon their imaginations, and fixes such an early and rooted prejudice in its favour as is not easily eradicated. You should, therefore, endeavour to convince them, as soon as possible, that the present state is only a passage to another.
4. Forget not to inculcate upon them an early love to our Lord Jesus Christ. Take the first opportunity to inform them of their obligations to Him; and let them know that if they have any comfort in this world, or any hopes as to a future, they owe it all to the kindness of the blessed Redeemer.
5. Habituate your children to the early practice of prayer.
II. To suggest SOME DIRECTIONS TO PARENTS IN THIS IMPORTANT AND DIFFICULT WORK.
1. Take care, then, to he well instructed yourselves.
2. Begin with them very early.
3. Continue your instructions with diligence and perseverance.
4. It is also of great importance that you maintain a proper authority.
5. I would further advise you to accommodate yourselves to their tempers and capacities.
6. Be concerned especially to set them a good example; walk before them in the way in which you would have them go; and show them, by your practice, that you by no means require impossibilities. Let them see in you the amiableness and advantages of self-government and universal piety.
7. Sanctify all by your prayers.
III. THE ENCOURAGEMENTS WHICH PARENTS HAVE TO TEACH THEIR CHILDREN DILIGENTLY. Nature and grace, reason and religion urge this strongly.
1. It will be a good evidence of your own sincerity.
2. It is also the best proof of love to your children. It should encourage you in the discharge of this duty to consider that it is the best means of promoting the glory of God and the revival of decaying religion.
3. These pious efforts will also comfort you on the death of your children.
4. That an attention to the spiritual welfare of your children will afford you unspeakable consolation in the hour of your death.
IV. TO OBVIATE SOME OF THE MOST COMMON AND MATERIAL OBJECTIONS AGAINST THIS IMPORTANT AND NECESSARY DUTY. Various are the excuses that are made; but they are generally dictated by indolence, rather than by real conviction. Some object their want of ability. "We would gladly instruct our children," you say, "but we are ignorant ourselves. Ministers are the fittest persons to undertake it, for it is a part of their office." If your ignorance be real and not merely a pretence to silence conscience, if you really do not know the plain principles of religion, it is high time for you to learn. Had you your own souls only to attend to, it were a shame to continue unacquainted with the glad tidings of salvation. But if you only mean that you know not how to communicate that little knowledge which you have to your children; that you cannot talk to them so pertinently and fluently as others; I answer that not strength of genius, but a willing mind is required; and if you once undertake it, you will find your abilities increase by exercise. Others object their want of time. But while you have sabbaths you surely cannot plead want of time for the neglect of your duty. Remember that you must all find time to die. Let me beseech you to attend to this duty, which will contribute greatly to make your deathbed easy. Others, again, object their want of success. But do you expect to pass through the world without difficulties and discouragements? You have met with disappointments in your worldly business, and yet yon did not presently give it up in despair. It is more than probable that your want of success may be traced to some guilty defect in yourselves. But if you have been never so diligent and faithful, and with little apparent success, persevere notwithstanding. The last thing you say to them may reach their hearts. The last effort which you make may be successful. You will, at least, "deliver your own souls"; and you will have the testimony of a good conscience.
(M. H. Seymour, M. A.)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.)
1. That they might have occasion much to think of the things that are so much and commonly urged.
2. That if any extremity should come, they might have certain seeds of comfort and direction to guide and support them.
3. That their condemnation might be more just, if having these so much in their mouths, they should not get something of them into their hearts.
(J. Trapp.)I. IN WHAT THE YOUNG SHOULD BE INSTRUCTED.
1. It is the duty of parents to teach them to form just sentiments of the Deity. Just views of the perfections and character of God are necessary to all acceptable worship; they elevate the intellectual and moral faculties, and excite in the heart many pleasing emotions.
2. The young should be instructed in the statements of Scripture respecting the fall and the ruin of man.
3. The young must be instructed in the mission and character of the Redeemer, and in the regards which they owe to Him.
4. There are certain qualities which you ought to cultivate in the young, by setting before them their necessity and their importance. Teach them reverence for things sacred. The name of God demands their fear. Teach them to venerate the Word of God. Show them how "He hath magnified it above all His name," by the bright impressions of a Divine origin which He hath impressed on it, by the important purposes which He accomplishes by it, and by appointing it to be the rule of judgment when the quick and the dead shall be summoned to meet the Lord in the clouds. Children should be taught to respect the worship of God. Suffer them not to be absent from your family devotions without a real necessity; and beware of performing these in that hurried, careless, or languid manner which will induce them to think lightly of domestic worship. Children should also be taught to venerate the wise and the good, and to consider the Christian virtues as constituting the noblest respectability. The saints may be depressed by poverty, and scorned by those whose respect is attracted only by the titles and the wealth of this world, but they are the excellent of the earth. Inculcate the reverence which is due to the Divine government of the world, and which will maintain faith and patience till calamitous times are past, and preserve from that wantonness and insolence in prosperity by which the goodness of God is so often abused. Mercy is another quality which you should labour to cultivate in the hearts of the young. To impress the lessons of mercy on the heart, some have wisely recommended it to parents, to make children their instruments in dealing their alms to the poor, and in giving instruction to the neglected. The books which you put into the hands of your children, should be such as are adapted to cherish benevolence. Sobriety is another quality which you ought to cultivate in the young. I mean not to intimate that you should labour to repress the sprightliness of childhood and the vivacity of youth, or to recommend a mean, sordid, and gloomy temper. There are gaieties in which they should be indulged, and to debar them from these is to make them detest religion, and count a father's house, where all is morose and cheerless, no better than a prison. But while you allow them to rejoice in their youth, check all merriment that is unseasonable, unbecoming their characters, or excessive in degree. They must be taught to keep their appetites and passions under the control of reason, and to shun every pleasure which may be dangerous to innocence. Justice is another quality which must be cultivated in the young. Children often discover an impatient desire to possess whatever strikes their fancy: but in this they ought not to be gratified. Children must also be taught to maintain a strict regard for truth. Lying, in children, often arises from vanity and envy, from a wish to aggrandise themselves, and to depreciate the merits of others. To guard them against this practice they should be told how disgraceful it is deemed by men, and how odious it is in the sight of God; that what is gained by lying is but a poor compensation for the dread of detection, and for the infamy which it brings; that the liar forfeits all the confidence of the world; that this is the character of the devil, that he is the father of lies; and that none who love or make falsehoods shall be permitted to enter the heavenly city.
5. Children must be taught to look up to the Holy Spirit for light, grace, and comfort. There are many things mysterious both in the nature and manner of the Spirit's operations; but you can find statements in Scripture sufficiently plain to enable you to teach them what they may derive from Him. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the doctrines of Christ; and you must assure them that it is He alone who can exhibit Divine truth in its glory and power, and that without His illumination no instructions of yours, or of the holiest and wisest teachers, can impart to them saving knowledge. He is also a Spirit of Holiness; and you must teach them that the qualities which they ought to cultivate must be implanted by Him, and that whatever semblances of these may be exhibited by unrenewed men, are produced by no sound principle, influenced by no proper motive, and are devoid of all stability. You must likewise explain to them that He is the Comforter whom Christ sends to cheer His disciples amidst all their sorrows; and that by His influence martyrs have gloried in tribulation, and the righteous hope in their death. To Him they must look for support in every afflicting incident; and you may assure them that the pious heart shall find Him ready to relieve, when other comforters are silent, and other friends are no more.
6. The young should be led to serious views of death, judgment, and eternity. Lead their views to the heavenly world, where the good are forever happy in their Father's house, and in a land where sin, and sorrow, and death are unknown; where they are employed in the everlasting celebration of their Redeemer's love; where His image sheds over them the perfection of beauty; where there is social intercourse without jealousy or rivalship, perpetual worship without languor, and pleasures that never lose their relish.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THAT INSTRUCTION SHOULD BE COMMUNICATED AND ENFORCED.
1. The instructions which you communicate must flow from the heart. Unless you feel a love of the truth, and a zealous concern to impart it, your lessons will be delivered in a manner so cold that your children will hear them with no interest. They easily discern, when you speak from conviction and feeling. Instructions which are marked by parental affection and pious solicitude will awe the giddiest into attention, and soften the most stubborn.
2. The lessons of religion and morality should be taught with diligence. Much attention will be requisite to find out the evil principles which are most likely to influence your children, and the quarter in which they are most vulnerable by temptation; and when you are aware of these, you must labour to mortify their corrupt propensities, and to guard what is most exposed to danger.
3. The young must be instructed frequently. In walking with them on the highway or through the fields there are many objects which call your attention to these lessons; and in teaching them to contemplate the scenes of nature in the spirit of devotion, you will cherish in them a relish for the purest pleasures, and open to them a source of unfailing entertainment during the whole of life. Your duty requires many of you to leave your dwellings early in the morning, yet go not forth till you have given, if it is possible, a serious counsel to the young. It may work in their minds during your absence, and will probably suggest such a thought as this, "My father's heart must be strongly set on my being wise and good, since he can never leave me without urging me to it." In the evening, ere you retire to rest, forget not to ask how they have spent the day, and what improvement they have made since you left them. The idea of such an inquiry will be a powerful incitement to the diligence of your children. On the morning of the Lord's day your instructions should commence as early as possible. Improve every incident that happens in the family, or in the neighbourhood, to enforce religious instruction. I shall only state further on this topic this short maxim, "Let instruction be your daily task, and it will be your daily pleasure."
4. Instruction should be communicated in a familiar manner. Your ideas must be expressed in simple language, and illustrated from objects with which they are acquainted.
5. Your instructions must be enforced by a suitable example. Piety appears most venerable in a father's devotion, and love to Christ most delightful in a mother's praise. Nowhere does integrity seem so noble as in a father's abhorrence of all that is base and deceitful; nor charity so lovely as in a mother's sympathy with the mourner. Nowhere does patience appear more amiable than in their silence while in agony; nor faith more triumphant than in the support which it gives them in their last struggle, and in their last farewell.
6. Prayer to God must accompany all your instructions. You must pray that your children may be enlightened by the spirit of wisdom; that their tempers may be softened by the grace of meekness; that their hearts may be sanctified by the washing of regeneration; that their education may be blessed by the care of heaven, and their lives adorned with the fruits of holiness. Let these prayers be sometimes put up before them. In such a situation the young will be led to such reflections as these, "Can I continue an enemy to that God whose mercy a parent is now imploring for me? Can I cherish these evil propensities, the destruction of which he now supplicates? Shall I despise those graces which he entreats the Father of goodness to work in me? or turn away my ear from that law which he wishes may be written on my heart?"
III. SOME MOTIVES.
1. Let parents consider that the vows of God are upon them. When your children were baptized you acknowledged that it was your duty to train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and solemnly engaged before God and His Church to perform it. And can your conscience permit you to be inattentive to the best interests of the children of your vows?
3. Consider how much the success and the happiness of your children in life depend on your early care. Nothing is so likely to secure success in any business or profession, as industry and sobriety, justice and truth. And you know how much happiness depends on the state of the mind, and on the nature of the habits. Evil passions will make the heart wretched in the midst of honours and abundance, while piety and contentment will keep the soul in peace in every affliction. Habits of fickleness and indolence, precipitance and indecision, will involve men in perplexities, losses, and disgrace. By the counsels of religion, you secure for them a companion and a monitor, who will abide with them when you depart to the Father, and who will talk with them when you are silent in the grave.
4. I appeal to your regard to the Church, and to your country. Can you bear the thought that the institutions which you delighted to support will be deserted by your children?
5. I may plead with you from the regard which you feel for your own credit and happiness. Impious, profligate, and thriftless children will be the bitterest of your sorrows. On the other hand, virtuous children are the honour of their parents. There is no friend on whom the old man can lean with such pleasure as on the son in whom the kind affections are strengthened by Christian principle; and nowhere is the aching head so easy as on the pillow which filial piety has smoothed.
6. The common neglect of this duty should excite you to perform it.
7. Think on the efforts which are now made to corrupt the rising generation. If the lessons of religion are not taught, vice and folly will seize on the unoccupied mind, and acquire an influence there which no future exertions may be able to subdue.
8. Consider what comfort the discharge of your duty will yield you in the death of children.
IV. REFLECTIONS AND EXHORTATIONS.
1. What a blessing, to the young has the Bible been! Happy are the families which dwell under its shadow.
2. Let parents lay up in their memories the counsels and motives which they have heard. Listen to no suggestions that would detach you from your duty.
3. Let little children be thankful to God if they have parents who teach them the good ways of the Lord. Endeavour, by your meekness and docility, to render their duty more and more pleasing.
4. Let the young, whose parents are still continued with them, beware of imagining, that because they are now near to manhood they are above their counsels. Solicit their advice in your perplexities, and open your hearts to them in your sorrows. Give them the satisfaction of seeing in your temper and conduct the fruit of their early toils; and let them have reason to say that, so far from disappointing them, you are wiser and better than they hoped.
(C. A. Bartol.)I. To discourse of THE CLUSTER OF ADMONITIONS CONTAINED IN THE WORDS OF MY TEXT.
1. These admonitions are addressed to the children of Israel and to everyone who professes to be an Israelite indeed.
2. That little children must be instructed with patience and perseverance.
3. That the statutes and judgments of the Lord should habitually be the conversation of His people, in the presence of their children and domestics.
4. That the statutes and commandments of the Lord should be constantly kept in view, habitually read and remembered.
5. That the doctrines of Divine revelation and the laws of heaven are to be perpetually practised.
II. To specify SOME OF THE REASONS WHY GREAT ATTENTION IS TO BE PAID TO THE DUTY RECOMMENDED IN MY TEXT.
1. The authority of heaven binds you to this duty.
2. The love of God and of Christ should constrain you to the discharge of these duties.
3. The near relation in which you stand to them, and the engagements under which you have come for them, should excite you to the discharge of this duty.
4. You are obliged to discharge this duty, that the entail of religion may not be cut off from your family.
5. The consideration that this is the way to be a blessing both on the rising Church and the rising State, should excite you to the discharge of this duty.Lessons:
1. From what has been said, let such as have been negligent in teaching their children and the rising generation in the knowledge of the statutes of the Lord, be convicted and reclaimed.
2. Learn to begin this pleasant and important task as soon as you possibly can.
3. Consider that this is the leading duty which you ought to discharge towards your children and the rising generation.
4. Learn from this subject to expect difficulties and discouragements when instructing your children in the ways of the Lord.
5. That you must not think of rolling the burden of the religious instruction of your children from off your own shoulders.
(John Jardine.)I. THE COMMAND.
1. It emanated from the highest authority, the Lord Jehovah.
2. Fraught with the utmost importance; extending both to the cultivation of personal religion and to the furtherance of youthful piety by the special inculcation of Scripture truth.
3. Demands implicit obedience.
II. TO WHOM GIVEN. To Moses, as the temporal head, legislator, and judge of Israel, was confided the solemn and important charge of carrying into execution the commands of Jehovah. Thus, as a wise and faithful legislator, he "spake unto the people all that the Lord God had spoken unto him" (ver. 27, etc.); to the intent "that they should make them known to their children, that they might set their hopes in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments" (Psalm 78:5-7).
III. HOW FAR THE CONDUCT OF MOSES IS WORTHY OF OUR IMITATION. Although the Divine command delivered to Moses was intended for the Israel of God collectively, he regarded it as having reference to them also individually; and consequently, as obligatory upon himself, and intended, like every other Divine command, for the real happiness of man. Oh, ever let us receive the Word and command of God first for our own individual instruction; for it behoveth us, amid all our anxiety to impart, by personal exertions or by pecuniary supplies, the Word of God to others, to take good heed that we ourselves have "received that Word with pure affection" into our own hearts. Thus received, it will be the grand stimulus to personal holiness and to individual activity in the service of God. And besides, being brought through grace to "hope in God's Word," it is also a source of unspeakable comfort; and it furnishes the believer's plea with God — "Remember the Word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope." And when his hope is beclouded, or his faith is "faint and sickly" in the hour of languishing and depression, the believer can say, "This is my comfort in my affliction: Thy Word hath quickened me; Thy statutes have been my song in the house of my pilgrimage." Nay, more, he can say, with the written Word of God in his heart — with Christ, the Eternal Word, formed therein "the hope of glory," "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee" (Psalm 73:25). This gracious and happy state of mind, we shall do well to imitate the conduct of Moses, in regarding the command as specially obligatory upon ourselves. But is not the conduct of Moses in his social or domestic character also highly worthy of our imitation? Parents, do you love your children? I know that you do. Availing himself, therefore, of the period of childhood and youth (when the mind is most impressible, and impressions, good or bad, most permanent), the Christian parent seizes upon every opportunity for the inculcation of those principles which will best regulate the affections of the heart and guard against temptations to outward sin; nay, more — "which are able to make wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." But what was worthy of imitation in the judicial and legislative conduct of Moses? All should respect the authority of God as revealed in His Word — the one grand standing statute book of the King of heaven, which ought to be the basis of every law enacted by the kings of the earth. The perfection of human law is the measure of the approximation of its principle to the Divine. The real prosperity and happiness of a nation will, therefore, always be in exact ratio with its practical knowledge of the Word of God. Lawgivers, and all who are entrusted with the administration of the law — magistrates, and all who bear office under them — would do well to imitate the zeal and fidelity of Moses, in enforcing by precept and example the inculcation of the Word of God as a national concern.
(M. Seaman, D. D.)I. WHAT NEED THERE IS OF THE EARLIEST INSTRUCTIONS, WITH THE MOST CONSTANT CARE AFTERWARDS TO REINFORCE THEM, IN ORDER TO MAKE AND KEEP MEN WISE, VIRTUOUS, AND RELIGIOUS. To express this to us by similitudes both just and beautiful, some philosophers compare a human soul to an empty cabinet of inexpressible value for the matter and workmanship, and particularly for the wonderful contrivance of it, as having all imaginable conveniences within for treasuring up jewels and curiosities of every kind. But, then, we ourselves must collect and sort them, and we shall ill deserve such a present from the Maker if we keep it empty or fill it with trifles; nay, if we do not, as we have opportunity, furnish and enrich it with whatsoever is of use or worth in art or nature. This ought indeed to he the main business of our lives. Others, with equal truth and justice, have likened the minds of children to a rasa tabula, or white paper, whereon we may imprint or write what characters we please, which will prove so lasting as not to be effaced without injuring or destroying the beauty of the whole; even as experience shows, and the son of Sirach advises, "My son, gather instruction from thy youth up" so shalt thou find wisdom till thine old age" (Ecclus. 6:18). These first characters therefore ought to be deeply and beautifully struck, and the learning they express should be of great price. And this, if timely care be taken, may be done with ease, because the mind is then soft and tender, and because truth and right are by the nature of things as pleasant to the soul as light and proportion to the eye or as sweet as honey to the taste (Proverbs 11:10; Proverbs 24:13, 14).
II. WHAT ADVANTAGES ARE LIKELY TO FOLLOW FROM SUCH INSTRUCTIONS AND SUCH CARE, AS WELL TO THE PERSONS WHO ARE OBJECTS OF THEM AS TO THE COMMUNITIES WHEREIN THEY LIVE.
1. As to persons themselves. Without a good education the best natural parts would profit little, and could never exert and show themselves to advantage. Men would be raised thereby no higher than savages in knowledge or virtue, and might degenerate into that ignorance and brutality which travellers relate of Hottentots. Good natural parts are indeed like jewels, which in their natural state show little of their worth and few of their inherent beauties, till the skill and labour of the artist have taken off their roughness, decked them with light, discovered their different waters and colours, and spread through every part an amazing brightness and glory. Education, after like manner, if it have its perfect work upon a human soul, will throw out to view and give a lustre to every latent virtue and perfection which otherwise might never have made an appearance, much less a figure, in the world. Thus, likewise, to speak in vegetable metaphors, the choicest seeds will prove of no value if we sow or plant them in bad ground where they will decay or die; and if they fall into good, they will be overrun and choked with weeds, which are ever most rank in the richest soils, unless constant care be taken to root them out. They certainly can never grow and flourish in any soil so as to bring their natural fruit to perfection, without cultivating, manuring, watering, pruning, and all the other arts of skilful management that the best of gardeners or husbandmen can exercise.
2. Without having any view to the good and happiness of private persons, a religious and wise education of children is of so great concern to the communities wherein they live, that in all the best ordered governments of old time, public care was taken of it; and in some of them it was thought right and necessary to take them wholly out of the hands of bad, ill judging, or over-fond parents, and to place them in public schools and seminaries. And though the natural claim of parents may, all things considered, be the best, yet we shall see great reason for the other practice if we consider too that religion and virtue is the only true cement of all society; that the principles of both must be conveyed by education; and that (as private vices spread their poison through the whole community) most of the disorders, mischiefs, and confusions which disturb and harass any state, or the members of it, may be justly charged upon the want of it.
(John Donne, D. D.)
(D. L. Moody.)
(Philip de Mornay.)
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
Write them upon the posts of thy house.1. At the time this command was given there were few written copies of the whole law, and the people had it read to them only at the Feast of Tabernacles. God, therefore, seemed to have appointed, at least for the present, that some select sentences of the law should literally be written upon their gates and walls, or on slips of parchment to be worn about their wrists or bound upon their foreheads.
2. The spirit of the command, however, and the chief thing intended, undoubtedly was that they should give all diligence, and use all means to keep God's laws always in remembrance; as men frequently bind something upon their hands or put something before their eyes to prevent forgetfulness of a thing that they much desire to remember. But the Jews, forgetting the spirit and design of this precept, used these things as superstitious people do amulets or charms. They used also to put these slips of parchment into a piece of cane or other hollow wood, and fasten that to the door of their houses, and of each particular door in them, and as often as they go in and out they make it a part of their devotion to touch the parchment and kiss it.
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