The True Principle of Education
Genesis 18:19
For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD…

I. Now, you should observe THE PECULIARITY OF THE EXPRESSION, "I KNOW HIM THAT HE WILL COMMAND HIS CHILDREN AND HIS HOUSEHOLD AFTER HIM." Such an expression seems to imply that there is no tendency in children to walk in the right way. They have to be dealt with in the way of command — as though, if left to themselves, the almost certainty is that they will walk in the wrong. And this is a great though melancholy truth never to be lost sight of, in our reasonings upon man and religion. And the moment it is proved that children are given into our keeping with a tendency to evil, we are bound to consider that it rests with ourselves to counteract evil tendencies, just as though it were wholly dependent on us whether they should grow up into the righteous or the unrighteous. Let us learn from every instance of stubbornness in children, from every outbreak of passion, from every spiteful action, from every petty quarrel, that we are in boyhood the very miniatures of what we should all be in manhood, if it were not for the grace of God, and that therefore, in dealing with a child, we have not to deal with unoccupied soil, but with soil already impregnated with the seeds of moral evil; and, oh! let this knowledge persuade us of the importance of the duty, and also of the difficulty of thoroughly following the example of Abraham, of whom God could say — "I know him that he will command his children and his household after him. But here we come to a most important question, as to the manner in which the example may most efficiently be copied. We have a thorough belief that the great secret of training lies in the always regarding the child as immortal. The moment that this is kept out of sight we scheme and arrange as though the child had to live only upon earth, and then our plans not being commensurate with the vastness of their object will necessarily be inadequate to the securing its good. Educate on the principle that you educate for eternity, otherwise it is impossible to produce a beneficial result. If it be a sound maxim, and sound it must be, for Christ Himself delivered it, that the direct way of obtaining such things as are good for us upon earth is to " seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," what is it but the carrying this maxim into the business of education to count that the best mode of improving the mind, of forming the manners, and of fitting for a profession, is never to suffer the present world to keep the next out of sight, to draw every motive from eternity, and to make every pursuit terminate in God? Only remember, that in carrying out any theory of religious education, far more will depend on example than on precept.

II. But we come now to consider THE PROMISE WHICH IS CONTAINED IN OUR TEXT, AND WHICH MAY SERVE TO ENCOURAGE US IN OUR ENDEAVOURS TO COPY THE PATRIARCH'S EXAMPLE. "They shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment." But do children who have been rightly trained always turn out well? When you come to think on what right training is, a system of example as well as of precept, you must assuredly see how likely it is that the best training has been defective — that even parents who have taken most pains have failed in thoroughly educating their children for God; and of course it is vain to urge that the Divine promise has not been accomplished, so long as there could be doubt as to whether the condition on which it is made has been rigidly complied with. But having delivered this caution, we may proceed to state our thorough conviction, that when parents have done their best to bring up their children in the fear of the Lord, the almost invariable result is, that, sooner or later, these children become what they have wished them to be. It is not that children will walk from the first without any deviation in the course which the parent anxiously prescribes; there is no promise to this effect in Scripture; Solomon only says of the child trained in the right way, that "when he is old he will not depart from it"; and the word rendered "old" does not mark youth or manhood, as distinguished from infancy or child-hood — it belongs strictly to the decline of life, to the season of decrepitude and grey hairs. It is the word used, for example, of Isaac, when it is said — "And it came to pass, when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim." Our text, as we have already said, by the using the words "after him" seems equally to be looking on to some distant day, as if God would throw parents altogether on their faith, and emphatically warn them against thinking labour lost, because as yet they can discern none of its fruits. In place of despairing, ought not the stubbornness of the soil to be but an argument for increased diligence in all the arts of moral husbandry — seeing that it is on "patient continuance in well-doing" that a recompense is promised by the word of our God? We find, then, the greatest material for consolation in such a passage as our text. We would not ask a stronger encouragement. The emphatic remonstrance of a parent with a dissolute child is not necessarily thrown away because the child persists in his dissoluteness; it may come up with all the touching tones of the remembered voice when the parent has long lain in the grave, and work remorse and contrition in the prodigal.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

WEB: For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of Yahweh, to do righteousness and justice; to the end that Yahweh may bring on Abraham that which he has spoken of him."

The Parental Empire
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