Is theirs! -- with what a kingly power their love
Might rule the fountains of the new-born mind!
Warn them to wake at early dawn, and sow
Good seed before the world has sown its tares."
From the potent influence and moral stewardship of the Christian home, we may infer its responsibility. The former is the argument for the latter. The extent of the one is the measure of the other. "To whom much is given, of them much will be required." Our responsibilities are thus commensurate with our abilities. If the latter are properly devoted, we have our reward; if not, our curse. God will hold us accountable for the achievements we make by the abilities he has given us. If he gives us a field to cultivate, seed to sow, plants to train up, then we are responsible for the harvest, just in proportion to our agency in its production. If there is not a harvest of the right kind, because we neglected to cultivate the soil, to sow the proper seed, and to train up the plants, then He will hold, us accountable, and "we shall not come out thence till we have paid the uttermost farthing."
This is an evident gospel principle. Who will doubt its application to the Christian home? The family is such a field; the seed of good or evil the parents can sow therein; their children are young and tender plants, entrusted to their care; their mission from God is to "bring them up in his nurture" and to "train them in his ways." And where God gives the command, he also gives the power to obey.
If, then, by their neglect, these tender plants are blighted, grow up in the crooked ways of folly and iniquity, and the leprosy of sin spread its dreadful infection over all the posterity of home; if, as a consequence of their unfaithfulness, the family becomes a moral desolation, and the anathemas of unnumbered souls in perdition, rise up in the day of judgment against them; or if, on the other hand, as the fruit of their faithful stewardship, blessings and testimonials of gratitude are now pouring forth from the sainted loved ones in glory, is it not plain that a responsibility rests upon the Christian home, commensurate with, those abilities which God has given her, and with those interests he has entrusted to her care?
Let us look at the objective force of this. The family is responsible for the kind of influence she exerts upon her members Look at this in its practical light. There is a family. God has given children to the parents. How fondly they cling to them, and look up to them for support and direction. They inherit from their parents a predisposition to evil or to good; they imitate them as their example, in all things, take their word as the law of life, and follow in their footsteps as the sure path to happiness. These parents are members of the church, and, as such, have dedicated their children to the Lord at the altar of baptism, and there in the presence of God and a witnessing assembly, they vowed to bring them up in the nurture of their divine Master, and to minister in spiritual things to their souls.
Yet in this home, no prayer is offered up, no bible instructions given, no holy example set, no Christian government and discipline instituted, no religious interests promoted. But on the other hand, sin is overlooked, winked at, and the world alone sought. These children behold their parents toil day after day to provide for their natural life; they notice the interest they take in their health and education, and the self-denial with which they seek to secure for them a temporal competency. And from all this they quickly and very justly infer that their parents love their bodies and value this world, and by the force of filial imitation they soon learn to do the same, and with their parents, neglect their souls and kneel at the altars of Mammon rather than bow in prayer before God. And thus they go on from one step in departure from God to another, until they die without hope and without salvation.
Tell me now, will not God hold these parents responsible for the ruin of their children? Will not the "blood of their destruction rest upon them?" Will not the "voice of that blood" cry out from their family against them? If, as a consequence of their negligence and of the unholy influence they exerted upon them, they become desperadoes in crime and villainy, and at last drench their hands in a brother's blood; and expiate their guilt upon the gibbet, and from there go down to the grave of infamy and to the hell of the murderer, will not their blood, "cry unto them," and will not the woes and anathemas of Almighty God come in upon them like a flood?
Home-responsibility may be inferred from the relation of the family to God as a stewardship. We have seen that parents are stewards of God in their household, and that as such they are placed over their children, invested with delegated authority. God entrusts them to the care of their parents. Their nature is pliable, fit for any impression, exposed to sin and ruin, entering upon a course of life which must terminate in eternal happiness or misery, with bodies to develop, minds to educate, hearts to mould, volitions to direct, habits to form, energies to rule, pursuits to follow, interests to secure, temptations to resist, trials to endure, souls to save! Oh, how the parental heart must swell with emotions too big for utterance, when they contemplate these features of their important trust. What a mission this, to superintend the character and shape the destiny of such a being! Such is the plastic power you exert upon it, that upon your guidance will hinge its weal or its woe; and yours, therefore, will be the lasting benefit or the lasting shame. What you are now doing for your children is incorporated with their very being, and will be as imperishable as their undying souls. As the stewards of God, your provision for them will be "either a savor of life unto life or a savor of death unto death."
We have seen that God has given to you the ability and means of making them subservient to his glory; and hence from you he will require them as entrusted talents. If you have been unfaithful to them, your punishment will be in proportion to the wretchedness entailed upon your children. If, instead of the bread from heaven, you feed their souls with the husks of life, and lead them on by the opiates of bastard joys; if, "when they ask of you bread, you give them a stone, or for a fish, you give them a serpent," will it not be "more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for you?"
Thus, therefore, you see, christian parents, how your responsibility is measured, by the magnitude of those interests committed to your care, by the kind of influence you exert over them, and by the enormity of that guilt and wo which are consequent upon your unfaithfulness. Let this be an incentive to parental integrity. The day is rapidly approaching when you must give an account of your stewardship. Oh, what, if in that day you behold your children "fit for the eternal burning," and remember that that fitness is but the impress of a parent's hand!
Though it is painful to lose a child here; bitter tears are shed; pungent agonies are felt; there are heart-burnings kindled over the grave of buried love. But oh, how much more agonizing it is to bend over the dying bed of an impenitent, ruined child! And especially if, in that terrible moment, he turns his eyes, wild with despair and ominous of curses, upon the parents, and ascribes his ruin to their neglect! Let me ask you, would not this part of that sad drama add to your cup of bitterness, give a fearful emphasis to all your sighs, and burnings to your flooding tears? God would also speak to you, and say as he did to Cain, "the voice of thy" children's "blood crieth unto me!" "And now thou art cursed from the earth which hath opened her mouth to receive thy" children's "blood from thy hand."
But the scene would not close at the death-bed of your child; the second act would open at the bar of God. The maledictions of that ruined one would there be poured out with increased fury upon you. Parents of my home on earth! I am lost -- lost forever! Soon I shall go where "the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." Had you, in the home of my childhood, but instructed me, and been as faithful to my soul as you were to my body, I might stand here with a palm of victory in my hand, a crown of glory on my head, the joy of the redeemed in my heart, and with hosannas of praise upon my lips, rise upward to the untold felicities of God's eternal throne! But you did not! You fed my body, but you starved my soul, and left it to perish forever! Cursed, be the day in which you begat me, and the paps that gave me suck! Cursed be the years that I lived under your roof, -- cursed be you! Oh, parents, such rebuke would leave an undying worm in your souls; and would cry unto you from the very depths of hell.
This is no over-wrought picture. It is but the scripture prospectus of that terrible scene which shall be enacted "in the terrible and notable day of the Lord," when every Christian home shall be called to give an "account of her stewardship," and be dealt with "according to the deeds done in the body."
And let me say too, that a similar and corresponding responsibility rests upon those children who enjoy the benefits of a faithful Christian home. They must answer to God for every blessing there enjoyed. If they turn a deaf ear and a cold heart to all the entreaties of their parents, and resist those saving influences which are brought to bear upon them, and as a consequence, become outcasts from society and from heaven, then let me warn them that, every prayer they heard at the family altar, every lesson given, every admonition delivered, and every holy example set them, by their pious parents, will be ingredients in that bitter cup which it will take eternity for them to exhaust! Oh, children of the Christian home! think of this, and remember the responsibility of enjoying the precious benefits of a pious, faithful parent. They will be your weal or your woe, -- your lasting glory or your lasting shame!
And, ye parents, be faithful to those little ones that are growing up "like olive plants around your table," so that in the day of judgment, you may say with joy, in the full assurance of reward, "Here are we, Lord, and the children whom thou hast given us!" And your reward shall be, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant! Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!"