Originally "Christian Behavior" of The Head of the Family, Husbands, Wives, Parents, and Children
From the year 1674 By John Bunyan [1628-1688]
All Scripture quotations are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (C) 1978
I urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that while you live here on this earth, that you be vessels of honor, and fit for the master's use, and prepared to do good works [1 Timothy 6:18]. Study, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ." [Philippians 1:10] Desire communion with God: "Eagerly desire the greater gifts" of service in the Church [1 Corinthians 12:31]
We that are redeemed from among men, and that rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, waiting for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, consider what kind of people we ought to be? We ought to live holy and godly lives. [Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 3:11]
I want you to take an honest and frank look at the responsibilities and works, to which God has commanded you in His word, according to your assigned places in life, your callings, and your relationships in this world.
DUTIES OF THE HEAD OF A FAMILY
If you are the head of a family, then you are to consider the several relationships you have; and you should know, that in each one of them God has a special work for you to do, and that He expects your faithful behavior.
DUTY TO THE FAMILY IN GENERAL
He that is the head of a family, has a work to do for God; to rightly govern his own family. And his work is twofold. First, concerning the spiritual state of the family, and secondly, their outward state.
1. First, concerning the spiritual state of his family; he ought to be very diligent and cautious, doing his utmost both to increase faith where it is begun, and to begin it where it is not. Therefore, he must diligently and frequently bring before his family the things of God, from His Holy Word, in accordance with what is suitable for each person. And let no man question his authority from the Word of God for such a practice; for the Apostle Paul strongly advises us that "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things," in other words, be sure to do them. [Philippians 4:8]
To be continually practicing this godly leadership and direction in our family, is very much worthy of praise, and very befitting for all Christians. This is one of the things for which God so highly commended his servant Abraham, saying, "I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD. " [Genesis 18:19] This was also Joshua's practice as long as he lived, as evidenced by his statement, "As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." [Joshua 24:15]
Furthermore, we find in the New Testament, that if any man was not faithful in leading his family in a godly walk, then he was looked upon as a Christian of an inferior rank; yes, so inferior as not fit to be chosen to any office in the church of Living God. The Word of God mandated that leaders of the Church "Must manage their own families well and see that their children obey them with proper respect. For, "if anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?" [1 Timothy 3:4-5] It continues by stating, that the deacon must also "Be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well." [1 Timothy 3:12]
Note well, that the apostle seems to make this point very clear, that a man that governs his family well, has met one of the qualifications for a pastor or deacon in the church, for he that does not know how to manage his own family, cannot take care of God's church." These truths from God's Word about the qualifications of a pastor gives us some insight into the responsibilities of the head of a family, as it relates to the governing of his house. Note, the relationships:
1. A pastor must be sound and honest in his doctrine; and indeed so must the head of a family [Titus 1:9; Ephesians 6:4].
2. A pastor should be able to teach, to reprove, and to exhort; and so should the head of a family [1 Timothy 3:2; Deuteronomy 6:7].
3. A pastor must be an example of faith and holiness; and so also should the head of a family [1 Timothy 3:2-4; 4:12]. "I" said David, "will be careful to lead a blameless life; I will walk in," or before, "my house with a blameless heart. [Psalm 101:2]
4. The pastor is responsible to gather the church together; and when they come together, then to pray among them, and to preach to them. This is also commendable in Christian heads of families.
But someone may object, saying, "But my family is ungodly and unruly, opposing all that is good. What shall I do?"
I provide the following answers:
1. Though this may be true, yet you must rule them, and not let them rule you! You are set over them by God, and you are to use the authority which God has given you, both to rebuke their wickedness, and to show them the evil of their rebelling against the Lord. This is what Eli did, though not enough; and likewise did David [1 Samuel 2:24, 25; 1 Chronicles 28:9]. Also, you must tell them how sad your state was when you were in their condition, and so labor to rescue them out of the snare of the devil [Mark 5:19].
2. You must also work to encourage them to go with you God's public worship, so that, God may possibly convert their souls. Jacob said to his household, and to all that were around him, "Let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress." [Genesis 35:3] Indeed a soul being rightly lead by the Spirit, will labor to draw, not only their families, but a whole city after Jesus Christ [John 4:28-30].
3. If they are obstinate, and will not go to church with you, then get godly and sound men to come to your house, and there let the word of God be preached, when you have, as Cornelius, gathered your family and friends together [Acts 10]. You know that the jailer, Lydia, Crispus, Gaius, Stephanus, and others, were themselves and their families, made gracious by the word preached, and that some of them, if not all, by the word preached in their houses [Acts 16:14-34; 18:7, 8; 1 Corinthians 1:16]. And this might be one reason among many, why the apostles taught in their day, not only publicly, but from house to house. It is possible that these godly men might, if possible, bring to salvation some members of a family, which were previously unconverted, and in their sins [Acts 10:24; 20:20, 21]. Some of you know how common it was in the day of Christ, for people to invite Jesus to their houses, especially if they had any afflicted, that either would not or could not come to him [Luke 7:2, 3; 8:41]. If this was the case with those that have outward diseases in their families, how much more then, where there are souls that have need of Christ, to save them from death and eternal damnation!
4. Be careful that you do not neglect family duties among them; such as, reading the Word and prayer; if you have someone in your family that is saved and gracious, be encouraged; and if you are all alone, then know that you have both the liberty to go to God through Christ for their souls, and also are able to have the whole church join with you in prayer for all those in your family that need to be saved.
5. Be careful that you do not allow any ungodly, profane, or heretical books, or evil conversation in your house. Remember, "Bad company corrupts good character." [1 Corinthians 15:33] Profane or heretical books, either tend to cause one to live a wicked life, or at least to oppose the fundamentals of the gospel. I know that Christians must be allowed their liberty when it comes to things not defined in the Word; but for those things that strike either at faith or holiness, they ought to be abandoned by all Christians, and especially by the pastors of churches, and heads of families. We see examples of this in Jacob's commanding his household, and all that was with him, to get rid the foreign gods from among them [Genesis 35:2]. Likewise, those in the Book of Acts set a good example for this too, by taking their scrolls of sorcery and burning them publicly, though they were worth fifty thousand pieces of silver [Acts 19:18, 19]. Failure to rid the house of the evil books and conversation has caused the ruin of many families, both among children and wives. It is easier for vain talkers, and their deceptions, to subvert whole households, than many are aware of [Titus 1:10, 11]. Thus they are capable of destroying the spiritual state of your family.
Second, in regards to the outward state of your family, you are to consider
these three things.
1. That it depends entirely on you to care for them and see that they have a suitable living. "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." [1 Timothy 5:8]
But note this, when the Bible says, you are to provide for your relatives, it gives you no license to be ungracious in your provision; nor to sit back and ignore the needs of your family while you pursue the pleasures of the world for yourself. Rather, you are to provide for them, that they may have food and clothing; and if either they or you are not content with that, then you have failed to obey God commands [1 Timothy 6:8; Matthew 6:34]. This is the work assigned to you, and failure to do this is unbelief in God's Word, which says, "That God feeds ravens, cares for sparrows, and clothes the grass;" in which all three, to feed, clothe, and care for, is what the heart of a caring father and or husband must do from the heart. [Luke 12:6-28].
2. Therefore though you should provide for your family; yet be sure that your efforts at this provision are done with gentleness and kindness; for the Bible says, "Let your gentleness be evident to all." [Philippians 4:5] Be careful of driving so hard after this world, as to hinder yourself and family from those duties towards God, which you are by grace obliged to perform; such as private prayer, reading the Scriptures, and Christian conversations and discussions. It is a wicked thing for men to lead their families into worldly pursuits, thereby leading themselves and them away from the worship of God.
Christians, "The time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away." [1 Corinthians 7:29-31]
Many Christians live and work in this world, as if their Christianity was a low priority in life, and this world and its pleasures were all important; when indeed the things of this world are fleeting and Christianity is the one thing we need most [Luke 10:40-42].
3. If you want to be a godly head of a family, you must ensure that there is Christian harmony among those under you, appropriate for a house where the leader fears God.
(1.) You must see that your children are subject to the Word of God; for though only God can rule the heart, yet He expects that you should rule their outward behavior; which if you do not, God may in a short time take their lives. [1 Sam 3:11-14] See, therefore, that you keep them self-restrained in all things, in the way they dress, in the language they use, and that they are not gluttons, nor drunkards; nor are they to behave foolishly towards each other.
(2.) Learn to distinguish between those offenses that in your family are done to you, and those which are done to God; and though you must be very zealous for the Lord, and bear nothing that is open sin against Him; yet have the wisdom, to ignore personal injuries, and to bury them in oblivion, always remembering that, "Love covers over a multitude of sins." Do not be like those that will rage and stare like madmen, when they are injured; rather either laugh, or at least do not give a harsh rebuke, but by all means seriously warn them, when they dishonor God. Remember the words of 1 Timothy, "Manage your own family well and see that your children obey you with proper respect." [1 Timothy 3:4]
DUTY IN RELATION TO YOUR WIFE
Do you have a wife? You must consider how you ought to behave in that relationship: and to do this right, you must consider the condition of your wife, whether she is a believer or not. First, if she is a Christian, then,
1. You must thank and bless God for her: "For she is worth far more than rubies, and she is a gift from God to you." [Proverbs 12:4; 31:10]. "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." [Proverbs 31:30]
2. You ought to love her for two important reasons: (1.) Because she is your flesh and bone: "No one ever hated his own body." [Ephesians 5:29] (2.) Because together you are both heirs of the gracious gift of life." [1 Peter 3:7] This should cause you to love her with Christian love; to love her, knowing and believing that you both are dearly loved by God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and will assuredly be together with Him in eternal happiness.
3. You ought to so behave and act before her, as Christ does to and before His church; as revealed in the Bible, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." [Ephesians 5:25] When husbands behave like Christ would, then they will not only be husbands, but a living sermon to the wife, preaching to her the attitude of Christ. There is a sweet aroma wrapped up in the relationship of husbands and wives, that are believers in Christ; the wife signifies the church, and the husband the head and Savior, "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. [Ephesians 5:23]
This is one of God's chief purposes in instituting marriage, that Christ and his church, would be pictured, wherever there is a married couple that believe through grace. Therefore, that husband that behaves improperly towards his wife, does not only behave contrary to the law of God, but also causes his wife to lose the benefit of such a rule, and frustrates the intended beauty and joy of this relationship.
Therefore, I say, "Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church." [Ephesians 5:28-29] Christ laid down His life for His church, covered her sins, communicates to her His wisdom, protects her, and helps her in her endeavors in this world; and so men ought to do the same for their wives. Therefore bear with the weaknesses of your wife, help her overcome her sins, and honor her as the weaker partner, both spiritually and physically. [1 Peter 3:7].
In a word, be the kind of husband to your believing wife, that she may say, "God has not only given me a husband, but the kind of a husband who preaches and witnesses to me every day the attitude of Christ to His church.
Secondly, if your wife is an unbeliever, then you also have a duty lying before you, which you are obligated to perform for two reasons: (1.) Because she is under the continual judgment of eternal damnation. (2.) Because she is your wife and in an evil state.
Oh! how little some husbands understand in their hearts the value of a living souls; as is obvious by their unchristian attitude to and before their wives! Now, to equip you with the right attitude towards her, then,
1. Work seriously to understand her miserable lost state, that your heart may long to help her soul.
2. Beware that you do not give her any reason to continue in sin, due to any improper conduct of yours. And here you have need to double your diligence, for she lives in such an intimate relationship with you, and therefore is capable of seeing your smallest fault.
3. If she behaves herself in an unseemly and unruly manner, as she is subject to do, being without Christ and without saving grace, then work to overcome her evil with your goodness, her arrogance with your patience and meekness. It would be shameful for you, who is indwelled with the Holy Spirit, to respond with evil for evil.
4. Take appropriate opportunities to convince her. Observe her disposition, and when she is most likely to listen, then speak to her very heart.
5. When you speak, speak with a purpose. It does not matter the number of words, provided they are pertinent. Job in a few words answers his wife, and stops her foolish talking: "You are talking," he said, "like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" [Job 2:10]
6. Let everything be done without bitterness, or the least appearance of anger: doing what the Scriptures say, "Those who oppose [you], [you] must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." [2 Timothy 2:25-26] "How do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?" [1 Corinthians 7:16]
THE DUTY OF WIVES TO THEIR HUSBANDS
The wife is bound by the law of God to her husband, so long as her husband is alive [Romans 7:2]. She has her own specific tasks and responsibilities in the family. Now there are certain attitudes the wife must have towards her husband, which she must faithfully live by.
First, that she look upon him as her head and lord, "The head of the woman is man." [1 Corinthians 11:3] And so the wife should be "like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master." [1 Peter 3:6]
Secondly, she should therefore be subject to him, as is fitting in the Lord. The apostle said, "Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord." [Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1; Ephesians 5:22] I told you before, that if the husband walks in a godly way before his wife, then he will be such an example of God to her, besides the relationship of a husband, that will preach to her the attitude of Christ to his church. And now I also say, that the wife, if she lives with her husband in a graceful and submissive manner, she will preach the obedience of the church to her husband, just as it is written in the Scriptures, "Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything." [Ephesians 5:24]
Now, wives, in order for you to accomplish this, you must first shun the following evils:
1. The evil of a wandering and a gossiping spirit; this is evil in the church, and is evil also in a wife, who is to be the living model of a church. Christ loves to have His spouse stay at home; that is, to be with Him in the faith and practice of His things, not wandering and meddling with the things of Satan; wives should not be given to wander and gossip everywhere. You know that Proverbs 7:11 says that the unfaithful wife, "Is loud and defiant, her feet never stay at home." Wives should be about their own husbands' business at home; as the apostle said, let them "to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." [Titus 2:5]
2. Be careful of a silly, quarrelsome, or talkative tongue. This also is repulsive in wives, to be like parrots, not bridling their tongue; whereas the wife should know, as I said before, that her husband is her lord, and is over her, as Christ is over the church. Do you think it is appropriate for the church to rattle on with foolish talk against her husband? Is she not to be silent before him, and to study to be obedient to His laws, rather than her own fantasies? The apostle Paul said, "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." [1 Timothy 2:11-12]
It is improper to see a woman trying to usurp her husband's authority; she must in everything be in subjection to him, and to do all she does, as having her justification, permission, and authority from him. And indeed here is her glory, even to be under him, as the church is under Christ: "She is to speak with wisdom, and with faithful instruction is on her tongue. [Proverbs 31:26]
3. Be careful not to wear immodest clothes, or to walk in a lustful manner; this will be evil both outside and inside the home; outside, it will not only give a bad example, but also tend to tempt others to lust and immorality; and at home it will give an offense to a godly husband, and will infect and lead astray ungodly children. Therefore, be obedient to the Word of God which says, "I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes," [1 Timothy 2:9] And, that "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands." [1 Peter 3:3-5]
But yet, do not think that by the subjection I have just mentioned, that I intend that women should be their husbands' slaves. Women are their husbands' partners and companions, their flesh and bones; and there is not a man that hates his own body, or that is cruel to it [Ephesians 5:29]. Therefore, let every man "love his wife as he loves himself, and [let every] wife respect her husband." [Ephesians 5:33] The wife is the deputy master of the home, and is to rule everything in his absence; And when her husband is present then she is to manage the household, to bring up the children, and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. [1 Timothy 5:10-14]
"A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies." "A kindhearted woman gains respect," and conduct her matters with justice. [Proverbs 31:10; 11:16]
But someone may object, saying, "But my husband is an unbeliever; what should I do?
I provide the following answers:
If your husband is an unbeliever, then the instructions that I have just given are absolutely necessary for your situation.
(1.) Because your husband, as an unbeliever, will be watchful to take your slips and weaknesses, and throw them as dirt in the face of God and your Savior.
(2.) He will most likely make the worst of every one of your words, attitudes, and appearances. And all this does tend to make his heart be filled with more hardness, prejudice, and opposition to his own salvation; therefore it is critical to obey the clear commands in the Word of God, "Wives, be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives." [1 Peter 3:1-2] Your husband's salvation or damnation depends a lot on your conduct and behavior before him; therefore, if you fear God, and love your husband, seek to have an attitude full of meekness, modesty, and holiness, and a humble behavior before him, and by doing this, you just might, "save your husband?" [1 Corinthians 7:16]
But someone may further object, saying, "But my husband is not only an unbeliever, but one who is very arrogant, disagreeable, and irritable, and I don't know how to speak to him, or behave before him."
I provide the following answers:
Indeed there are some wives in great slavery because of their ungodly husbands; and as such should be pitied, and prayed for; so they will be more watchful and cautious in all their ways.
1. Therefore you must be very faithful to him in all the things of this life.
2. Bear with patience his unruly and unconverted behavior; you are alive, he is dead; your life is grounded in grace, his is grounded in sin. Now, then, seeing grace is stronger than sin, and virtue than vice; do not be overcome with his vileness, but overcome that with your virtues [Romans 12:21]. It is a shame for those that are gracious to speak as those that lack true grace: "A patient [woman] has great understanding, but a quick-tempered [woman] displays folly. [Proverbs 14:29]
3. If at any time you have a desire to speak to your husband for his conviction, concerning anything, either good or evil, then have the wisdom to observe the appropriate times and seasons: There is "a time to be silent and a time to speak." [Ecclesiastes 3:7] Now for the right timing of your intentions, bear the following in mind:
(1.) Consider his disposition; and talk to him when he is farthest away from those filthy passions that annoy you. Abigail would not speak a word to her rude husband until he was no longer drunk with wine, and he was sober [1 Sam 25:36, 37]. Many wives ignore this and rattle on and speak a lot of words, but see very little response.
(2.) Speak with him at those times when he has his heart taken with you, and when he shows tokens of love and delight in you. This is what Esther did with her husband the king, and prevailed. [Ester 5:3, 6; 7:1, 2]
(3.) Observe when convictions seize his conscience, and then follow them with sound and solemn Scripture verses. Somewhat like the way Manoah's wife dwelt with her husband. [Judges 13:22, 23] Yet even then,
[a] Let your words be few.
[b] And none of them with a hint of lording it over him; but speak as you would to your lord and master, by way of appeal and urging.
[c] And that in such a spirit of sympathy, and heartfelt affection seeking only his good, that your manner of speech and behavior may be to him an argument that you speak in love, as being aware of his misery, and inflamed in your soul with a desire for his conversion.
[d] And follow your words and behavior with prayers to God for his soul.
[e] Still keeping yourself in a holy, chaste, and humble behavior before him.
But someone may further object, saying, "But my husband is a drunkard, a fool, and one that does not have enough common sense to go to work.
I provide the following answers:
1. Though all this is true, yet you must know that he is your head, your lord, and your husband.
2. Therefore you must be careful of desiring to usurp his authority. He was not made for you; that is, for you to have dominion over him, but to be your husband, and to rule over you [1 Tim 2:12; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 8].
3. It may be a fact that you may have more discretion than he, yet you ought to know that everything you have and are, is to be subject to your husband's lordship; yes, "everything." [Ephesians 5:24].
Be careful therefore, that what you do is not done in your name, but his; not to your exaltation, but his; carrying on all things so, by your skill and prudence, that not one of your husband's weaknesses be discovered by others as a result of anything you do or not do. "A wife of noble character is her husband's crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life." [Proverbs 12:4; 31:12]
4. Therefore act, and do as being under the power and authority of your husband.
DUTY OF PARENTS TO CHILDREN
Now concerning your responsibilities to your children. You are a parent and so you ought to lower yourself. And besides, seeing that the believing woman is a picture of the church, she ought, as the church, to nourish and instruct her children. The fact that the wife is always at home is a great advantage to accomplishing her assigned tasks, and the Lord will prosper her endeavors.
If you are a parent, a father, or a mother, then you are to consider your calling in this relationship.
Your children have souls, and they must be born again by God, or they will perish. And also understand, that unless you are very prudent in your behavior to and before them, they may perish because of you: the thoughts of which should provoke you, both to instruct, and also to correct them.
First, to instruct them as the Scripture says, "bringing them up in the training and instruction of the Lord;" "Impress [the truths of the Word of God] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." [Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 6:7]
Now in order to do this you must:
1. Do it in terms and words easy to be understood: do not use lofty expressions, they will drown your children.
2. Be careful of filling their heads with odd or fanciful ideas, and idle notions, for this will soon teach them to be impudent and proud, rather than sober and humble. Therefore expose them to the state of man's true nature; talk with them about sin, death, and hell; talk with them about the crucified Savior, and the promise of life through faith: remember, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." [Proverbs 22:6]
3. Therefore there must be much gentleness and patience in all your instructions, for the Bible commands us, "Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged." [Colossians 3:21]
4. Work to convince your children, using honest conversation, that the heavenly things which you instruct them in are not fables, but realities; yes, and realities so far above what can be enjoyed here on earth, that if the earthly realities were a thousand times better than they are, they still would not be worthy in comparison to the glory and value of these divine things.
Isaac was so holy before his children, that when Jacob remembered God, he remembered that God was "the Fear of his father Isaac." [Genesis 31:53]. My friends, when children can think of their parents, and bless God for the instruction and the good they have received from them, this is not only profitable for children, but honorable, and pleasing to parents. The Scriptures declare, "The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him. May your father and mother be glad; may she who gave you birth rejoice!" [Proverbs 23:25]
Secondly, The parent's duty of correction.
1. First, see if frank and honest words will win them from evil. This is God's way with his children [Jeremiah 25:4, 5].
2. Let the words of reproof that you speak to your children, be both sober, few, and pertinent, always adding some appropriate verse from the Scriptures; for example, if they sin by lying, then remind them of the doom of all liars as recorded in the Book of Revelation [21:8, 27]. If they refuse to listen to the Bible, then remind them of the judgments of God on His people that refused His counsel [2 Chronicles 25:14-16].
3. See that they are not companions with those that are rude and ungodly; show your children your serious and continual dislike of their misconduct; often crying out to them, as God did in the Old Testament to His children, saying, "Do not do this detestable thing that I hate!" [Jeremiah 44:4]
4. Let all this be mixed with such love, pity, and sympathy of spirit, that if possible they may be convinced that you do not dislike them as persons, but detest their sins. This is God's way. [Psalm 99:8]
5. Often attempt to impress on your children's consciences the day of their death, and of judgment to come. God reminds us of this need by stating, "If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be!" [Deuteronomy 32:29]
6. If you need to use the rod of discipline, then be careful not to strike them in anger, but seriously show them,
(1.) Their fault.
(2.) How much it hurts your heart to have to deal with them in this manner.
(3.) That what you do, you do as a duty to God, and love to their souls.
(4.) Tell them, that if they would have been obedient, none of this severity would have occurred.
This, I have experienced, will be a means to afflict their hearts as well as their bodies; and it is the way that God deals with His children, and it will most likely accomplish its purpose.
7. Follow-up all these steps of corrections with prayer to God for them, and leave the issue with Him, for He declares: "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him." [Proverbs 22:15]
Lastly, Observe these cautions,
1. Be careful that the misbehavior for which you correct your children for, was not learned by them from observing you. Many children learn their wickedness from their parents and then are beaten and chastised by them.
2. Be careful that you do not smile and make a joke out of their small faults, because that joking attitude about their "little sins" could be an encouragement to them to commit greater ones.
3. Be watchful that you do not use offensive and improper words in your chastising of them, because it is devilish to be bitter, and to call them names.
4. Be careful that you do not use scolding and threatening words, mixed with lightness and laughter, as this will harden their hearts. Do not speak too much, nor too often, but only words that are fitting to them with all seriousness.
DUTIES OF CHILDREN TO PARENTS
There is also a duty children have to their parents, which they are bound both by the law of God and nature to conscientiously observe: The Bible says, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." [Ephesians 6:1] And also, "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord." [Colossians 3:20]
Now let me list some things which children ought to do that would show the honor that is due to their parents from them.
First, They should always consider their parents as being better than themselves.
I observe a vile spirit among some children, and that is, they are apt to have contemptuous and scornful thoughts of their parents. This is worse than the unbelievers; such a person has the heart of a dog or a beast, that will bite those that feeds them, and who brought them into the world.
But someone may object, saying, "But my father, is now poor, and I am rich, and it will be a degrading, or at least a hindrance to me, to show respect to him."
I provide the following answer:
I tell you that you argue like an atheist and a beast, and stand in this full opposition against the Son of God. [Mark 7:9-13] Must the blessing of wealth, and a little of the glory of the butterfly, make you feel so important that you will not honor your father and mother? Remember God's Word, "A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother." [Proverbs 15:20]
Though your parents are in abject poverty, and you yourself are extremely rich, yet he is your father, and she your mother, and you must hold them in the highest esteem: The Bible says, "The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures. [Proverbs 30:17]
Second, children you ought to show your honor to your parents, by a willingness to help them with such necessities and accommodations which they need. The Apostle Paul said, "Children or grandchildren . . . . should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God." [1 Timothy 5:4] And this rule Joseph observed to his poor father, though he himself was second only to the king of Egypt in a position of power, note what the Bible reveals, "Joseph also provided his father and his brothers and all his father's household with food, according to the number of their children." [Genesis 47:12; 41:39-44].
But remember what Paul said, about "repaying their parents." There are three things for which, as long as you live, you will be a debtor to your parents:
1. For your being in this world. They are the ones from whom, by the sovereign will of God, you receive your earthly life.
2. For their care to preserve you when you were helpless, and could not care for yourself.
3. For the pains they have taken with you to raise you. Until you have children of your own, you will not be aware of the pains, fears, sorrows, and hardships, that they have under gone to raise you; and when you do discover it, you will realize that you have not even come close to repay them for their love and support to you. How often have they fed you when you were hungry, and clothed your nakedness? What care have they taken that you might have resources to live and do well when they were dead and gone? They possibly have given up their own food and needed clothes for themselves for you, and have also made themselves poor, that you might live like a man, for "'What is the child but a piece of the parents wrapped up in another skin." (Flavel) All these things ought to be carefully considered by you; and you ought to take special care of your parents to repay them. The Scripture says so, reason says so, and only those who think like dogs and beasts will deny it. It is the duty of parents to sacrifice for their children; and the duty of children to repay their parents.
Third, therefore show, with a humble heart of a grateful child, that you do to this very day, with all your heart, remember the love of your parents. This can best be displayed by obedience to parents.
Again, if your parents are godly, and you are wicked, because you have not been born again by God, then you are to consider, that you need to more than ever respect and honor your parents, not only as a father in the flesh, but as godly parents; your father and mother were given from God to be your teachers and instructors in the way of righteousness. Wherefore, to allude to that of Solomon, "My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck." [Proverbs 6:20-21]
Now, to help you be obedient, then consider the following:
1. That this has always been the practice of those that are and have been obedient children; yes, even of Christ himself to Joseph and Mary, though He himself was God blessed forever. [Luke 2:51]
2. You also have the severe judgments of God upon those that have been disobedient, to cause you to fear disobedience. For example,
(1.) Ishmael, because of his mocking attitude towards his father and mother, was both thrust out of his father's inheritance and the kingdom of heaven. [Genesis 21:9-14; Galatians 4:30].
(2.) Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, for refusing the needed rebuke of their father, provoked the Almighty God to be their enemy: "His sons did not listen to their father's rebuke, for it was the LORD'S will to put them to death." [1 Samuel 2:23-25]
(3.) King David's son Absalom was hanged, as I may say, by God himself, for rebelling against his father. [2 Samuel 18:9]
Besides, how little do you realize how heart wrenching it is to your parents, when they realize that you may very well be damned to Hell! How many prayers, sighs, and tears, are there wrung from their hearts because of this? Every sin of yours goes to their heart, for fear God should take the opportunity to forever harden your heart. Oh how Abraham groaned for Ishmael. He said, to God, "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!" [Genesis 17:18] Oh how Isaac and Rebecca grieved for the sins of Esau. [Genesis 26:34, 35]. And how bitterly David mourned for his son, who died in his wickedness? [2 Samuel 18:32, 33]
Lastly, can you imagine, the remembrance of the loving concern of your godly parents for your soul, will only increase your torments in hell, if you die in your sins?
Again, if your parents and you, are godly, how happy a thing this is. How you will rejoice, that the same faith should live both in your parents and you? Your conversion, possibly, is the fruits of your parents' groans and prayers for your soul; and they cannot help but rejoice; be sure that you rejoice with them. It is true, in the salvation of a natural son, which is mentioned in the parable of the Prodigal Son: "This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate." [Luke 15:24] Consider this, that your parents have received saving grace, as well as you, therefore purpose in your heart so much the more to honor, reverence, and obey them.
You are better able now to consider the pains and care that your parents have been through, both for your body and soul; therefore strive to repay them. You have strength and resources to answer in some measure the command of the Lord to care for your parents and grandparents, therefore do not neglect it. It is a double sin in a gracious son not to remember the commandment, yes, the first commandment with promise [Ephesians 6:1, 2]. Be careful of giving your sweet parents one cross word, or to display an inappropriate attitude towards them. Love them because they are your parents, because they are godly, and because you must be glorify the Lord with them.
Again, if you are godly, and your parents are wicked, as often is the case; then,
1. Let your heart ache for them; it is your parents that are going to hell!
2. As I said before to the wife, in regards to her unbelieving husband, so now I say to you, be careful of a sinful tongue: speak to them wisely, meekly, and humbly; do everything for them faithfully without complaining; and bear, with child-like modesty, their reproaches, their bitterness, and evil speaking. Watch for suitable opportunities to lay their condition before them. Oh, how happy a thing would it be, if God should use a child to bring his father to the faith! Then indeed might the father say, With the fruit of my own body God has converted my soul. May the Lord, if it is His will, convert our poor parents, that they, with us, may be the children of God.
Thus I have, in few words, written to you, before I die, a word to provoke you to faith and holiness, because I desire that you may have the life that is laid up for all them that believe in the Lord Jesus, and love one another. After my death I will rest from my labors, and be in paradise, because of the grace of God. However, I can do you no good from heaven, for it is only while I am on earth that I must do you good. Therefore, not knowing how many days are left of my earthly life, nor of my abilities and opportunities, in the remaining time, to serve my God and you, I have taken this opportunity to present these few lines to you for your edification.
Consider what has been said; and the Lord give you understanding in all things. Amen.