The GOSPEL TRUTH
THE TRAINING OF CHILDREN ....OR,
HOW TO MAKE THE CHILDREN INTO
SAINTS AND SOLDIERS OF JESUS CHRIST
GENERAL OF THE SALVATION ARMY
1888 - SECOND EDITION
1. Is there anything further of importance to be said on this subject?
Oh, yes, a great deal-we have scarcely made a beginning. The most important part of the topic has yet to be dealt with. Many parents, we fear, go very little further than we have gone, so far, and hence the miserable failures they make, which are only too evident in every direction.
It is immensely important that the children should be instructed-should have the way of duty explained to them, and should be made to understand things so far as their capacity will admit. But when parents stop here, they only discharge half their duty, and a very poor half, too-they must go on to train them as well.
2. Is there a difference, then, between TEACHING and TRAINING?
Yes, a most important one indeed-a difference which should be carefully noted by all parents. In teaching the children we more especially influence their minds; in training them we specially deal with their wills-that is, with their hearts. When we teach them we show them what they ought to do; when we train them we accustom them to do it. In teaching the children we show them how to do their duty and why it should be done, but in training we create in them the habit of doing it.
You know how to train a tree so that it shall take a desired direction, and be a different shape to what it would be if left to itself. You prune and straighten and take hold of its branches, and point them in a certain direction, and fasten them there until it grows and shapes itself after the fashion you wish, of its own accord.
You know how to train an animal; you make it do certain things and act in a certain way differently to what it would otherwise have done, and you make it do it so over and over again, until it does the same things of its own choice. Just so with your children; you want them to take a certain course in their feelings, thoughts, and acts, contrary to what they would otherwise pursue. Therefore you must take hold of them in an appropriate way, as you do of the tree and the animal, and give them the bent and direction you want them to take. And having begun to make them go in your way (which will be the right way) you must keep on making them go forward in that direction, until it becomes as natural and easy for them to go forward doing right-which is acting as you like-as it was before for them to do as they liked, which was just the opposite.
3. Is it common for parents to train their children in this way for the service of God?
Oh, dear, no! quite otherwise. There is nothing more common than to find children with their heads full of notions about religion, knowing Bible stories off by heart, all about the love of God, and the death of His Son, and how His servants suffered and fought and died in keeping His commands in the days of old. But when you ask them about their own Salvation, they are as ignorant and feelingless as young savages. They will keep you by the hour showing you Bible pictures and story books, reciting texts learnt at Sunday school and at home, but as to any experimental, practical religion of their own they have nothing to say. They neither know nor feel anything about it, and that just because they have never been trained to personal dealing with God, to the real surrender of themselves to Jesus Christ, and the personal reception of the Spirit of God which would have made religion an actual life and power to them.
If you want your children to walk with God and serve Him, you will have to make them do it. You will have to take them by the hand, as we propose showing you in the following pages, and lead them on step by step. Just in the same way as you teach them to walk physically, letting them find their feet at first, then showing and encouraging them to stand alone, and then to take the first step, and so on, with all patience and perseverance, until they can walk and run and leap alone. In this way you will show them how to run the way of God's commandments. After this fashion many parents teach the theory of religion. Go and do likewise with the practice of it! And the doing of this is a very important part of what we term training.
4. Then it is very important that parents and others who have the charge of children, should carefully observe the distinction between TEACHING and TRAINING?
Yes; from forgetting this great difference, as we have already said, come many of the disappointments that parents suffer in the miserable manner their children turn out. They think that when they have taught them good lessons about the love of God, the Bible, and duty, or employed someone else to do this, they have done all that is required of them, and all that is necessary to lead them in the paths of righteousness. Perhaps all the time, however, the instruction imparted has only added to the dislike already felt by the children for doing what they already knew.
5. But does not this training of children, of which you are speaking, call for great exertion and self-denial on the part of the parents?
Yes, we have already remarked this, and shall have occasion to do so again and again as we go forward; but if parents desire that their children shall be saved, and grow up to be of service to the Master, they must not grudge the pains and efforts and self -denial that the work may cost them. Moreover, in the long run, it will be found by far the easier course to the parent. That is, those who bend themselves to the task, sparing no amount of labour in the beginning, will find the task become easier and easier as the days go by, and on the whole will find far less wear and tear of both mind and heart in making Saints and Soldiers of their children than they would by indolently allowing them to have their own way and grow up in self-indulgence and sin.
No more insane course could be taken with children than that followed by many parents, who, so far as training goes, do little more than allow them to drift and take their luck. Alas, alas! if the parent does not train them in goodness, somebody is training them for evil all the time! If parents will sleep in idleness, ease, and self-gratification, there are plenty of industrious devils and industrious people of both sexes, too, as far as that goes, to sow the poisonous tares, and then there is often an awful waking up of the sleepers, who wring their hands and tear their hair on finding that the rank and poisonous seed has taken root too deeply for them to extract it. With their own eyes they only too often see the bitter harvest. Here and there other hearts and hands make up for the parents' neglect, and here and there, as though by miracle, God interferes and prevents the natural results. But as a rule, if a parent sows to his own fleshly gratification, and neglects to care for the little ones, he shall reap corruption-that is, he shall have sorrow and loss for himself and for his offspring also.
Back to Training of Children Index Page