Thursday, July 30, 2015

Charles Spurgeon on Religion and Small Children

Children Reading Beside a Country Land-- AllPosters.com

I enjoy reading Charles Spurgeon's sermons, and his daily devotional, Morning and Evening. Spurgeon lived in 19th-century England, and was a very popular preacher in his day. Today I was reading from a selection of his Farm Sermons, sermons having to do with farming and agricultural life. His text is Proverbs 24:30-32: "I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction."

He first points out that we can take instruction from even things that we do not like. Solomon, the author of Proverbs, was able to learn from a lazy person's overgrown weed field, as much as he was from a well-managed and fruitful vineyard. "Many are stung by nettles," Spurgeon says, "but few are taught by them. Do not fret therefore over thorns, but get good out of them. ... Trials and troubles, worries and turmoils, little frets and little disappointments, may all help you if you will."

He then examines many aspects of slothfulness (that is, laziness) in the Christian life, and but the part that leaps out at me was how the Christian parent's laziness in spiritually parenting his own children, will produce a fine harvest of weeds and thorns when the child is grown:

Have you never heard of one who said he did not teach his children the ways of God because he thought they were so young that it was very wrong to prejudice them, and he had rather leave them to choose their own religion when they grew older? One of his boys broke his arm, and while the surgeon was setting it the boy was swearing all the time. "Ah," said the good doctor, "I told you that would happen. You were afraid to prejudice your boy in the right way, but the devil had no such qualms; he has prejudiced him the other way, and pretty strongly too." 

He then goes on to discuss a common weakness in public schools, which in Spurgeon's time were institutes of religion:

The boys were stowed away on Sunday in a lofty gallery at the far end of a church, where they could scarcely hear a word that the clergyman said, but simply sat imprisoned in a place that was dreadfully hot in summer and cold in winter. On Sundays there were prayers, and prayers and prayers, but nothing that ever touched their hearts; until he was so sick of prayers that he vowed if once got out of the school he would have done with religion.

Although many churches have thriving children's ministries full of loving people who take God's Word seriously, an hour-and-a-half of Sunday School, plus a once-weekly youth meeting, will not suffice to shape a child's heart and inclinations toward the Lord and prepare him or her to face a culture desperately lacking instruction in the ways of God. Parents make a mistake when they choose to leave this kind of discipleship to Christian school or Sunday School teachers, however good are the intentions of all involved. God's Word instructs us on the sweet antidote: taking seriously your children's spiritual upbringing at home. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is older, he will not depart from it." Prov. 22:6. "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Eph. 6:4. Building on this constant theme from Scripture, Spurgeon closes by advising:

May fathers and mothers set such an example of cheerful piety that sons and daughters shall say, "Let us tread in our father's footsteps, for he was a happy and holy man. Let us follow our mother's ways, for she was sweetness itself."

"Would that a country have good sons? Let it have good mothers." -- Napoleon