What course of religious instruction do you recommend should be given to children?

This is a very wide question, far beyond our opportunity to answer fully. Still we will point out a few leading truths which it is important should be impressed upon the children's minds as early as they will be able to comprehend them. Much that is said here we shall have occasion to refer to again and amplify as we proceed, and much of equal importance will be afterwards added.

(1.) Children should be made to know something about the existence and character of God and the relations in which He stands to them and to everybody and everything about them. They can be made very early to understand much concerning the power and wisdom of God by referring them to the wonderful things in creation. They can be readily shown that He made the world with all that it contains-the sun, moon, and stars, and all else that can be seen, and children will very soon and very easily be deeply impressed by the mighty power they will see to be necessary not only to make all these wonderful things, but to 'keep everything in its proper place, and to feed all the people, and animals, and birds, and living things the world contains.

(2.) The goodness and love of God should be explained to children very early in life.

It will not be found a very difficult task to make the little children perceive how good their Heavenly Father is; how He loves all the creatures He has made; and how He loves little children among the rest. Tell them how Christ loved them when He was on the earth, and took them in His arms and blessed them, and that He is the same to-day, yesterday, and for ever; and that if they want Him to love them, and will strive to be good and obedient, He will not only take them in His arms but let them live there on earth, and for ever in Heaven.

(3.) Nevertheless, children should be made carefully to understand the difference there is between the feelings God has towards those who are GOOD, and the feelings He entertains towards those who are WICKED. Show them that while He loves bad children and bad people with a love of pity, desiring to save them by making them good; yet, on the other hand, He loves good children and good people with approbation and delight. Explain what this means by showing the difference between your feelings towards them when they are good and when they are naughty, and they will soon be able to distinguish between' the pitying love of God for the sinner, and His hatred of his sins.

Multitudes entertain the notion that the only feelings entertained by God towards children are those of sweetness and love. They tell their children plainly that God's feelings are very similar towards both the just and the unjust, the evil and the good. Now children interpret all this talk to mean that God is just as well pleased with them when they are naughty as when they are good. The parents may not intend to convey this meaning, but that is how it strikes the little ones. A young child of an acquaintance of ours once said, when remonstrated with for disobedience, "Oh, but Ma says God loves me as much when I am naughty as when I am good." Such teaching of course is calculated to blot out of the child's mind the distinction between good and evil, and tends to make him believe that God puts no difference between the righteous and the wicked-a notion which He must abominate, for He tells us again and again that sin is of the devil and abhorrent to Him.

You ought to make your children feel that although God loves them tenderly, nevertheless He is angry with them when they do wrong; and that unless they repent and get His forgiveness, He must punish them. If you undermine and destroy those instinctive feelings of fear in'-connexion with sin which lie dormant in the very constitution of your children's minds, you will do them an incalculable and eternal injury, which will in all probability lead them to destruction.

If this is the way you deal with your children, it you are so foolish as to pet and spoil and caress them when they disobey you and set at naught your commands, by all that is sacred, do not make them believe that God is as foolish and blind and partial as you are. If you want your children to grow up good and to fight their way unhurt through the temptations which make the path they have to tread so slippery, for Christ's sake strengthen their power to resist evil by making them understand that the face of God is against them when they do WRONG, and that His nature and His word bind Him to hate and punish evil wherever it may be, or by whomsoever it may be enacted. He is a God who cannot "look upon iniquity," who must bring "tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil," as well as "glory, honour and peace to every man that worketh good" (Rom. ii. 9. 10). So shall your children fear to do wrong, because they know, not only that His eye is quick to mark, but that His hand is swift and sworn to punish wrong-doing if persevered in.

On the other hand, we would say, with equal emphasis, fill the hearts of your little children with the assurance that He is merciful, and that all the loving tenderness of His heart will flow out of them, and does flow out of them, when they are good and obedient, or when they repent of wrongdoing and come to Him for pardon.

If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the word for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.--Is. i. 19, 20.

The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life.-- Rom. vi. 23.

(4.) Make the children understand the true nature of sin as consisting in wrongdoing, and that all unrighteousness-everything not right--is sin. Show them that the reason why sin is so hateful to God is because it is not right.

(5.) Teach your children very early the principal events of Scripture history. Especially make them familiar with the history and teaching of the Saviour. Such books as the II Peep of Day " series are useful; but after all, nothing got from books is of so great service as explanations and illustrations made by parents themselves. Such illustrations may be very inferior, but there is a life and meaning and force in words spoken directly from a prayerful heart superior to anything that can be got out of a book.

(6.) The little ones should NOT be taught that they are children of the devil, because it is not true, and because no Christian parents really believe it is so.

No! No! Teach the children that they belong to Jesus Christ; that He has bought them; that His Spirit is working in them; that He wants to destroy everything that is naughty out of their hearts; and that He will do this if they will let Him. While you thus teach, the light will grow stronger, and it may be any moment the faith that takes hold of Jesus as a present Saviour will spring up in their souls, and the Holy Spirit will witness within them that their sins axe forgiven, and that they are received as children into the family of God. Thus shall they be made little Saints and little Soldiers for the King. And you shall have the joy of nurturing the Divine life, thus commenced within them, into perfect manhood and womanhood.

(7.) If your children have reached years of responsibility and have not been converted, they should be made to understand as follows:-

1. That God is not only willing but anxious, for Christ's sake, to pardon their sins, and become at once, as a natural consequence, their Father and Friend.

2. That God not only wants to subdue and destroy power of evil out of their nature, but to make and keep them holy-that is, free from sin.

3. That He wants to make them His Servants and Soldiers, and to use them in instructing and leading their brothers, sisters, schoolfellows, playmates, and others to the Saviour.

4. That it is their privilege, and may be their glory, to lead lives of self-sacrifice and hardship, in order to, win souls for Christ.

In view of all this, children should be urged on all opportunities, just as pressingly as we urge grown-up people, to give themselves to Jesus, to renounce all their evil ways, and devote themselves and all their lives to the service of God.

(8.) Children should be made to understand, as far as they are able, that true religion consists in A PURE SPIRIT OF LOVE IN THE SOUL created and sustained by God Himself. Show them that this is the only religion acceptable to God and profitable to man; that if it be real, it will be the spirit of purity, and truth, and goodness; that it is the very nature of it to be pure, and true, and good, and affectionate, and that if it is so, it must manifest itself in love to God and love to man, according to the Saviour's own description. When He was asked, "Which is the great commandment in the law? " He said,

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.- Matt. xxii. 37-40.

Love is the fulfilling of the law.-Rom. xiii. 10.

In other words, religion in its nature is like God, and God is love."

By thus explaining to the children what the very essence and nature of real religion is, you will be able to make them perceive the character of some of the imitations, of which there are so many, and so lessen the danger of their being carried away by them in the future.

With respect to the false representations of religion, you will be able to make them see that: -

1. True religion does not consist in any SET OF OPINIONS merely. People can hold, or what they call "believe," a great many things that are true about God and Salvation, and they may believe all that is said in the Bible from beginning to end; in short, their creed or opinions about God and religion may be all but perfed, and yet they may have No REAL RELIGION, because their hearts have not been subdued and mastered and filled with this spirit of love.

2. True religion does not consist in any FORMS OR CEREMONIES, or in any outward performances whatever, such as attending church, going to religious meetings, singing hymns, saying prayers, receiving the sacrament, or any other outward ordinances, whether they be ordinances of the denominations, of The Salvation Army, or anything else.

3. True religion does not consist in any nice and GOOD FEELINGS merely. People may have nice feelings about Heaven, and have strong desires to go there, but this does not prove that they have got the religion of God. Show children how possible it is for them to think about Heaven as a place of rest from pain and hard work, and being naughty; where they can always be playing and amusing themselves, and having music, and parties, and other enjoyments, and they will be quite delighted with the thought of going there when they cannot stop here any longer; or they might even want to go there right off, in the same way as they would want to go to any earthly place of entertainment or enjoyment. But this would not prove that they had any real religion, which means love to God and man.

Show your children, again, that their grieving and weeping when you tell them the story of the Cross are no proof that they possess true religion. There are many stories about human suffering and anguish that would make them weep. You might tell them of the sufferings of missionaries, or of martyrs, or of other people who have suffered in connexion with religion, till they cried as if their hearts would break; but this would not prove that their hearts have been changed, or that they are under the influence of the spirit of Divine love.

Real religion is something beyond all this. It is the spirit of love to God and those about them, feeling as God feels and acting, in consequence, as God acts; it is love that is ready to prove itself in any form of self-denying sacrifice that the Loving Saviour may unfold, and which is of the same kind as that which brought Him from the joys of Heaven to earth, not to please Himself," but to seek and to save that which was lost. Now this may seem a hard lesson for children, but you must make it simple, and go over and over again with it. It will pay you well to be at the trouble, Read to them when old enough to understand it, 1 Corinthians xiii., and explain it as you go on. They will soon take it in and get from it a clearer view of real religion than from many ordinary books, lectures, and sermons.

Here, as on all other questions, you may very profitably use illustrations to explain what you mean. You might show them what a tree would be without any sap in it; what an animal would be without any life; what a body would be without any soul. And so they will be brought to see how powerless and odious and rotten all religious professions and practices and notions and feelings are without this Divine sap, this Heavenly life, this Divine love which dwells in the soul of every true Saint, constituting his power for endurance and service, and which at the gates of Heaven will make him meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the Saints in light.

(9.) But you must be very careful to make the children perceive, that this spirit of love will always manifest itself, wherever it has any existence, in APPROPRIATE WORKS. A good heart always produces a good life.

Make them understand that true religion, or in other words, rightness of heart and life, means having the heart made right, and being brought under the influence of aright spirit, and given up to doing right continually. This always means practising kindness, speaking and acting the truth, being obedient to parents and superiors, and honourably and steadily doing such duties as fall to them in their lot in life. Explain that the purpose of God in all His dealings with them is to make them GOOD. Make them feel that it is a noble thing for a child, for a woman, or for a man to do their duty in every relation of life, whether as child or parent, master or servant; not for reward or admiration, or even the approbation of those who are around them, but for its own sake, and above all, TO PLEASE GOD. Show the children that He has taught us that we are not to do any part of our duty with eye-service, that is, to please those who are looking on, or for any pay they may give; but whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, we are to do all to the glory of God, that is, to please Him. Thus the child is to learn its lessons, the servant is to do his master's bidding, and the master is to plan his work and his profits, not for an earthly reward or earthly approbation, but as much to please God as he reads his Bible, offers prayer, or speaks in the Barracks.

(10.) If your children are carefully instructed as to the nature of true godliness, they will be able to distinguish between those who serve God and those who serve Him not. They will soon be able to judge between those who are the real. Soldiers of Salvation and those who have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof, having neither part nor lot in the matter.

It will not be difficult for children to understand that every tree is known by its fruit-that a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a bad tree bring forth good fruit. Just so, the children will find no difficulty in perceiving that if a man is right in his heart his conversation and actions will be right also, while, on the other hand, if a man's conversation and actions are wrong it will be a proof that his heart is wrong. If this is made clear to the children, and they are taught by the Spirit of God, their own instincts will lead them to form quite as correct judgments of character as the grown-up people round about them. Nay, the children will be more likely to be correct, sometimes, than are grown-up people, because they are more simple and sincere, and so are less likely to be influenced by those feelings of self -interest or false benevolence which so often influence the judgment of older people.

It may be objected to the giving of such instruction to children that it is setting them up to form a judgment of their elders for which their age and inexperience altogether unfit them; and it may be objected also that the forming of such judgment is calculated to make them forward, conceited, and censorious.

To such charges it can be replied:--

1. That if the children know and care anything at all about religion they will reckon up everybody about them in relation to it, whether you wish them to do so or not.

2. That it is therefore much the best for you to supply them with such information on the subject as will enable them to come to a correct conclusion; especially is it so, seeing that you can with this information show them that all their judgments must be formed in a charitable spirit, and that it is not their place to give opinions unless asked for, or necessary.

3. That at the same time it must always be remembered that the exhaustless stores of kindness, which are laid up in the hearts of most children, will, as a rule, lead them to form kind judgments of the conduct and character of their relatives and friends and acquaintances.

(11.) Children should be taught that there is an inseparable connexion between goodness and happiness. Teach them that no matter how or when or where they seek for happiness, they will never find it without goodness. Show them the difference between happiness and pleasure. Tell them that they may have their hearts stirred with transitory feelings of delight; that they may be agreeably excited by a thousand different objects, but that there will be no lasting satisfying gladness of heart without goodness. Let them understand that there is no power in company or wealth or honour or music or any other earthly thing, permanently to feed and satisfy and gladden the human heart apart from goodness. If they have all things apart from being good they will be restless and miserable. If they have none of these things and yet have the testimony of a good conscience, and walk in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, they will have a peace compared with which all the pleasures of the world are as dung and dross, a peace which will endure unto everlasting life. Write it upon their hearts, fasten it ineffaceably on their memories-that if they are to be happy they must be good.

(12.) Children should be given, as soon as they are able to understand, the true explanation of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. A plain path for infidelity has been prepared, and thousands of infidels have been made, by false and unscriptural views of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Children should be shown by language and illustrations adapted to their capacity that it was not the death of Jesus Christ that made God willing to save them, but that it was the Father's love for the world and His desire to save it, that made Him give His Son to suffer and die. Show them that when the Great Father saw us all condemned to everlasting death He wanted very much to forgive and make us good and happy again, but that He had to consider the welfare of others and the honour of the law we had broken. If He bad forgiven us without the sacrifice of His Son the inhabitants of other worlds and the angels of Heaven might have said, "Oh, it does not matter about breaking God's laws; we have only to say we are sorry and He will make things right." And so the holy laws of God would have been thought little of; and to meet this difficulty Jesus Christ, though the only Son of the Father, came and suffered as a sacrifice for us, and magnified the importance of the law man had broken,. and at the same time made a way for full deliverance from its penalty.

(13.) As soon as old enough, teach your children that the Holy Spirit is already in their hearts helping them to be good and to get the victory over all the evil that is in them, and over everything that is evil about them, and that if they will obey this Spirit He will stay with them for ever.

(14.) Make your children understand that Salvation, from first to last, is the FREE GIFT OF GOD; that they can do nothing to merit the mercy of God; that there is nothing meritorious required on their part; that the Saviour's life and death have opened a way by which all the mercy they need for the past, and all the grace they require for the present and the future can flow out into their hearts and lives and homes in abundant measure; that they can have all they want of pardon and purity and peace and power,-nay, more than they can either ask or think, to enable them to live happy, holy, and useful lives, pleasing to God and profitable to men.

(15.) Teach your children plainly that Salvation is only received and retained on the conditions of repentance and faith. Make them understand that notwithstanding God is so willing and anxious to make them happy and good that He may truly be said to be standing at the door of their hearts, if they are not already saved, knocking and praying to come in, still they can only be saved by submitting themselves to God and by trusting in Jesus Christ. Show them that they may weep and pray and go through religious performances for ever, but that if they will not come to His terms and comply with His conditions they cannot have His presence or the blessedness which always accompanies it. (See chapter "Saving the children," further on in this book.)

(16.) You must very early implant in the children's minds clear views of their individual responsibility for their own character, conduct, and condition, both here and hereafter. Make them understand that both on earth and in heaven they will be just such persons, and have just such a condition of happiness or misery, as they make for themselves. That their destiny is in their own hands; that the bed they lie upon, both for this world and the next, will be of their own making, and instead of their circumstances and surroundings being allowed to control an master them, as is the case with multitudes of people, it is their place to master and control their circumstances and surroundings. Show them that this is true with regard to their earthly prospects, which it will be very easy for you to do. Explain to them that if they work hard, deny themselves, do their lessons at school) or are diligent in learning a trade or other earthly duties, they will reap the advantage of being good scholars, or good workmen, or reliable business men, with all the rewards that follow in the future. But if they are lazy and careless, and prefer the pleasure of the present moment to their future good, they will be ignorant and helpless, unfitted for the work of life, and probably left to shame, disgrace, and poverty. Go over and over and over again with this lesson. Then show them how equally true it is of their moral and spiritual character and condition-their standing before God, and their everlasting destiny.

The strong instinct in the breast of all children which bears witness to their own responsibility for their character and condition, may be so strengthened and so instructed that they shall, all the way through life, blame themselves when they do wrong or when they refuse to do right. This will help to make them hardy moral characters, robust and enduring in all the storms and difficulties of their coming career.

(17.) Your children must be taught in the most clear and definite manner possible, that God is the absolute owner of the world in general, and of them in particular. That whatever they may possess, or hereafter become possessed of, in the way of talents, attainments, influence, or possessions, are from God; that they are only lent them for a season and are to be used, not for their own gratification, but for the good of others and for the glory of God. In short, that they are stewards entrusted with these things for the honour of their Great Proprietor, and that they will have to give an account of the way they have discharged their stewardship.

Nay; more than this, explain to them how you have pledged them to all you teach. That they are therefore not their own; that you have recognized God's claims and given them away to Him; and lay upon their hearts what a solemn responsibility it will be if they take themselves off the altar on which you have in so solemn a manner placed them.

These important truths should be explained to them again and again. There should be line upon line, with ever varying forms of illustration, until they understand and believe them, and are prepared to carry them out in their everyday practice, or suffer unending reproach from their consciences for neglecting to do so.

(18.) Children should be trained up in the expectation of the great final judgment, when the wicked people will be sent away into everlasting punishment and the righteous into life eternal!





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