By John Angell James
The station occupied by Christian parents, is exceedingly important, and therefore very responsible. We naturally look to the families of professing Christians for the materials with which the "spiritual house" is to be repaired amid the spoliations of sin and death. A large proportion of our members are the children of the godly, and our churches would be still more enriched with the fruits of domestic piety, if that piety itself were more ardent and more exemplary. It is impossible to urge in terms too strong, the sacred duties of Christian parents. Their influence on the prosperity of the church is greater than is generally conceived, or can be fully stated.
The DUTIES of Christian parents primarily relate to their CHILDREN. It is the command of God to train them up in the fear, and nurture, and admonition of the Lord. Let your first, and deepest, and most lasting solicitude be for the formation of their religious character, and the salvation of their souls. Let this regulate all your conduct towards them. Let it impel you to adopt a system of instruction and discipline, which shall have a close and constant bearing on their moral and religious habits. Let it guide you in the choice of schools where they are to be educated, the families into which they are to be apprenticed. Act so, as that they may clearly discern, that your most ardent prayer, your most anxious concern, is, that they may be truly godly. They should see this interwoven with all your conduct towards them; and behold a uniform, consistent, constant effort to accomplish this object. Let them hear it expressed in your advice and prayers, and see it manifested in all your arrangements.
Alas! alas! how many children of church members are there, who, if they were asked the question, "What is your father and mother's chief concern for you?" would be obliged to reply, "That I might excel in fashionable accomplishments, and make a figure in the drawing room." There appears to me to be, at the present moment, a most criminal neglect, on the part of Christian parents, of the pious education of their children. Everything is sacrificed to the lighter and more frivolous accomplishments of the female character, and to the literary and scientific acquisitions of boys. Godliness is a secondary matter. But ought it to be so? Ought it not rather to be the one thing needful for our children, as well as for ourselves?
That Christian who would carry on a system of religious education with success, should enforce it with all the commanding influence of a holy example. Let your children see all the "beauties of holiness," reflected from your character, and the grand outline of Christian morality filled up with all the delicate touches and varied coloring of the Christian temper. The heathens had their little shrines of their gods, which they kept in their own habitation, to remind them of the objects of their religious veneration and trust. Instead of these household gods, you are to be to your families--lovely images of the great Jehovah! Let your children have this conviction in their hearts, "If there be but two real Christians in the world, my father is one, and my mother is the other." It is dreadful--but not uncommon for children to employ themselves in contrasting the appearance which their parents make at the Lord's table and at their own; in the house of God, and at home.
FAMILY PRAYER should be performed with great punctuality, constancy and seriousness. It is of course presumed that every Christian does pray with his household. It should not be performed so late in the evening that the family are more fit for sleep than devotion, nor so late in the morning, as for business to interrupt it. It should ever be conducted with the most solemn devotion, and never rendered tedious by extreme length. It should be very simple, and have special reference to the case of the children. That it might be performed with regularity, parents should rarely sup away from home. It is a disgrace for a Christian parent to be often seen in the streets at eleven o'clock at night.
Christian parents should resist the entrance of worldly conformity into their families. Expensive entertainments, mirthful parties, vain and frivolous amusements, showy modes of dress, should be most cautiously avoided. True religion will not dwell amid such scenes; her refined and spiritual taste is soon offended, and she retires. A Christian's habits should be simple and spiritual. If it be his aim to approach as nearly as possible to the manners of the world without actually being numbered with its votaries, his children will be restrained with difficulty, on the godly side of the line of demarcation, and be perpetually longing and trying to push onward towards worldliness. The miserable efforts, made by some professing Christians, to be thought people of taste and fashion; to live half way between the tradesman and the gentleman, show how badly they bear the Christian yoke, and how nearly they are resolved to cast it away as an encumbrance. We should despise these things wherever we see them, if they did not demand claims upon our pity, still stronger than those upon our scorn. When a worldly temper has crept into the circle of a Christian family, piety retires before it, and the spirit of error soon enters to take possession of the desolate home!