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
SAVING THE CHILDREN.
1. What other important form of training is necessary in order to secure the Salvation of the children?
They must be led to so yield themselves to God that He shall receive and make them His real children and true servants and soldiers. Nothing must satisfy you short of leading them into the realization and actual enjoyment of all the blessedness concerning which you have already instructed them; in other words, get them CONVERTED, and then give God all the glory for what has been accomplished.
2. How is this to be brought about, or what measures can a parent adopt in order to secure the Salvation of his children?
(1.) Set yourselves to do it. Make it the main purpose of your dealings with the children. Keep it in view early and late. Sacrifice everything that seems to stand in your way. Count everything gain that will help you, and God will certainly give you the desire of your heart.
(2.) Take the children by the hand and lead them with you into the Presence of God. Show them how to converse with Him. Tell the Lord aloud, while they kneel by, all about them, and then encourage them to tell the Lord all about themselves. In this way draw out their hearts in actual personal dealing with the Saviour.
(3.) Do not be influenced for a moment by the notion held by some people that children are not to pray until they are converted. Men and women, and children too, are to pray anywhere and everywhere, under all circumstances, if they want mercy or anything else at the hands of the Lord. Surely the decree has not gone forth that publicans and little children are not to smite upon their breasts and cry to God to have mercy upon them, because they are sinners. We always thought that was just the reason why they should pray. Therefore, instead of refusing your children the privilege of prayer, urge them to repent and confess their sins to God and ask forgiveness. Make them look into their hearts and lives, and help them to call up to memory their naughty words and ways, and they will go on to remember also naughty feelings and thoughts of which you have no knowledge, and as they look at their sins the Holy Spirit will help them to see how bad they are. Then they will accuse and condemn themselves, and cry for mercy on their own account. Hold them to this. Beware of plastering them with untempered mortar, and crying "Peace! Peace! " when there is no peace.
(4.) When you feel that they truly repent, show them how to trust the Saviour for a present Salvation. Here you will have little difficulty; children as a rule are simple and sincere, and hopeful. They will readily believe all the truth about their Saviour's love, and easily be led to trust in His glorious person. And when they do so trust Him, He will appear to them as their own Saviour, and they will go into the Kingdom with joy and thanksgiving.
(5.) Help them to persevere. The difficulty with children, as with grown-up people, is not to get them started, but to keep them going forward in the way of life. Observe here that the perseverance of the children will depend much-
1. On the sort of influences by which they are surrounded, and on the example set before them in their own homes.
2. On their being supplied with wise and judicious teaching.
3. In their having the helps and encouragements which come only from association with adults and children who, like themselves, are saved with a full Salvation.
If the children are thus privileged we have no fear for the result. But they must be nursed for God and Heaven spiritually, as you have nursed them bodily, or there is little hope. Let the parents and guardians of children stop and think a little here. Multitudes of children, we have no question, are brought into the Kingdom of Divine grace at a great cost of toil, and tears, and prayer, and then are allowed to float out again, for want of NURSING.
They perish because those who have appointed themselves, or been appointed by the Church, to be nursing fathers and mothers, have not done their duty. We assert, fearless of contradiction, that it is just as important that suitable helps, instructions, and occupations should be provided to keep children marching heavenward, as it is in the first instance to induce them to start in that direction; and it is just as irrational to expect them to be kept going forward in the heavenly way without means being employed to help them, as it would be to expect them in the first instance to be converted without measures adapted to that end.
3. May not children grow up into Salvation without knowing the exact moment of conversion?
Yes, it may be so; and in the future we trust this will be the usual way in which children will be brought into the Kingdom.
When the conditions named in the first pages of this volume are complied with-when the parents are godly, and the children are surrounded by holy influences and examples from their birth - and trained up in the spirit of their early dedication-they will doubtless come to know and love and trust their Saviour in the ordinary course of things.
The Holy Ghost will take possession of them from the first. Mothers and fathers will, as it were, put them into the Saviour's arms in their swaddling clothes, and He will take them, and bless them, and sanctify them from the very womb, and make them His own, without their knowing the hour or the place when they pass from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light. In fact with such little ones it shall never be very dark, for their natural birth shall be, as it were, in the spiritual twilight, which begins with the dim dawn, and increases gradually until the noonday brightness is reached; so answering to the prophetic description, " The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." (Prov. iv. 18.)
4. How can parents best help to keep their children stedfast?
(1.) When the child professes to be converted, and you have no reason to doubt such profession, at once acknowledge it, and encourage him to confess definitely and boldly what the Lord has done for him. This will commit him to a life of separation from evil, and help him to persevere. You must remember that a very general unbelief prevails as to the possibility of children having an assurance of any kind as to their being the subjects of the Kingdom of God. If this unbelief is in your heart the children will very soon discover it, and you can easily see what a difficult task it will be for them to hold on in the face of the so-called " judgment " (which may be neither more nor less than the unbelief) of those whom they are likely to consider so much better informed than themselves about such matters.
(2.) Take the children apart as regularly as you have opportunity, and pray with them, encouraging them to pray aloud for themselves and everyone about them.
(3.) Encourage them to persevere. Children are very much influenced by their feelings. Nothing, we all know, is more uncertain than feeling, and when, from varied reasons, the children get sad and low-spirited, they will be tempted to think they are not converted after all, and be tempted to cast away their confidence, give way to unbelief, and so lose hope. At such times, and, indeed, at all times, it will be necessary for you to assure them that while they have the inward witness that their hearts are really set on pleasing their Saviour, and while they feel and know that they are obeying Him they should continue to believe that they are accepted and approved by Him. You must insist upon it, that they are perfectly right and safe in keeping on believing it, however dark or hard they may feel.
Children need encouraging even more than grown-up people, just because they are ignorant and inexperienced and naturally forgetful, and therefore so easily led off and carried away by the passing amusements and excitements of the hour. But you must not doubt their conversion, or be led away to pronounce it all a mistake, because they display faults, or are occasionally naughty, or disobedient, or irritable, or bad-tempered; that is to say, if they are occasionally overtaken and overcome by their besetting sins.
A beautiful illustration of my meaning came out the other day in the confession of a Little Soldier who had been absent from the meeting, and was visited by her Sergeant. When asked the reason of her absence, she answered in a most dejected tone, " Oh, I've lost it! " meaning her sense of Salvation; "I lost it through slapping the baby." The Sergeant., who was a grown-up Soldier, thought how possible it would be for an adult to lose it if compelled to tug about with a burden, and possibly a fractious one, twice as heavy as her strength was equal to. The Sergeant, however, did not excuse the fault, but rejoiced in the tenderness of conscience which the Holy Spirit had evidently begotten in this poor little girl. She encouraged her to come back to the Saviour confessing her fault, and assured her that Jesus could, and would-if she trusted Him-give her the victory over her temper in future.
Oh, that all parents and guardians and Officers placed in authority over the children would deal with them as wisely-nay, as much in the compassionate spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ-as did this Little Soldiers' Sergeant! If they did, they would have their reward in the perseverance of the little Saints whom it is their privilege to watch over. If they do not, let them not be surprised if the goodness of the children is only as the morning cloud and the early dew-no doubt an unquestioned reality while it lasts, but only of short duration, for want of care on the part of those whose business it is to nurse and care for them, and on whose shoulders, therefore, the responsibility of failure rests.
When they are led astray, urge them to come again for forgiveness, and that at once. Always remember that children are not capable of disguising their feelings like men and women, but act them out with the greatest simplicity, and consequently you must have all manner of patience with them.
While the main purpose and prevailing spirit of their lives is to please God and do their duty, you are never to be weary in persuading the children to go forward.
(4.) Encourage the children to tell you the difficulties they have to meet with, and to confess to you when they get wrong, or fall into sin. Be sure you never refuse to hear or advise with them on such matters. On the contrary, bear with them most patiently. Advise them how to resist their temptations and surmount their difficulties, and encourage them again and again with the most positive assurances of success if they will persevere. Cultivate the greatest freedom in speaking with them on spiritual matters, until the natural diffidence of their hearts to talk about spiritual things is broken down and destroyed for ever. By pursuing this course it will soon become just as natural for them to talk to you about their spiritual, as it is about their temporal interests. It is usually pride, or shame, or satanic influence, or unbelief which prevents people from conversing on spiritual things, and you should take every means to destroy these fatal influences out of the hearts of your children. NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT to the spiritual welfare of children than keeping the freest possible intercourse open between them and their godly parents.
As we have travelled about the country we have observed in many families the greatest diffidence and awkwardness in conversing about spiritual matters. People will talk to each other about their church or chapel, or about religion in a general sort of way, but the interests of their own souls are never alluded to in a straightforward manner. Indeed, so far as any personal dealing or direct conversation goes, about individual Salvation, the daily intercourse of many families would be just about the same had they not got any souls at all-as if they had not to go up together to the judgment seat of Christ, and afterwards live for ever in Heaven or Hell.
We have known fathers and mothers-professors of religion of years' standing, sometimes high officials in churches-who could not by any means screw up their courage to speak directly to their own children, or even to each other, on the subject of personal Salvation. We have seen these people, when the great questions of Salvation and damnation have been pressed home upon their attention by the powerful influences of great religious awakenings, compelled to write letters to their sons and daughters, setting forth the importance of their coming out for God and getting right with Him!!! They feel they must do something-very proper they should-and we suppose they had better do it in this way than not at all.
But what an unnatural, stiff, stand-off, unscriptural, un-Christlike sort of religious atmosphere is this for parents and children to have grown up together in! Can this be supposed for a moment to be the right kind of family religion? "Is this the NURTURE and ADMONITION of the Lord?" Never! It looks much more like the nurture of the ostrich or the cuckoo, which are said to leave the nursing of their young to the tender mercy of chance, and far more akin to professional indifference than to the warm, happy freedom wherewith Christ makes His people free.
The mother can talk to her child, and the father to his son, on all the range of worldly topics with the greatest ease and pleasure, and that from their earliest days. And the topic of Salvation should certainly be more frequently and fully dealt with than any other. When it is thus, no such wall of separation as we have been describing can possibly grow up between parents and children, or between brothers and sisters, on divine and eternal themes.
(5.) Read the Bible with your children regularly. So soon as they can comprehend, explain to them that God has Him self caused this Book to be written, to teach and guide them. Create for it in their hearts the greatest respect and reverence.
Read a short portion at a time. When they can read themselves it is wise to let them read aloud with you, verse by verse. In doing so, strive to keep their attention. Always remember how easily their minds are taken off by passing thoughts, so that you should be continually watching to find out whether they are attending to what is being read.
Carefully explain the meaning of what you read: better read one verse, or half a one, and make the children understand it, than twenty without. Never take for granted that, children understand a thing because it has been explained to them before, or because they don't tell you at the time they do not understand it, or because they ought to understand it, or because you understood it at their age. Always bear in mind how forgetful children are, and how busy the devil is to steal away the good seed that has been already sown: and go on patiently repeating and repeating yourself until they do remember and do understand.
Always make what you read interesting, because if you do not, you might as well save your labour and keep the Bible away from the children. No greater injury can be done to them than to so read and teach the Bible as to surfeit them with it, and make it a distasteful book. It is a question whether it would not be better not to teach it at all, and let them grow up totally ignorant of its sublime facts and principles than to so bore them with it that they shall be made to hate and avoid it afterwards, which we are afraid is the case with very much Bible teaching.
Always apply what you read to their own personal experience and condition so far as their experience and condition are known to you, and to the facts of everyday life around them. We fancy the Bible is very often so presented to children as to make them grow up with the notion that it was once a very important book, having in it a number of statements, sentiments, and doctrines, that were very applicable to a people who lived a long time ago; but that it has very little relation to them so far as their everyday joys and sorrows are concerned: in short, that it is an old-fashioned book, altogether out of date now-a-days. Now you should explain and apply the Bible, showing how the people of ancient times were men and women such as you are; that the child-life then was just the same sort of life, having just the same trials and difficulties, as child-life has to-day. Show them that God is no respecter of persons, and that the same conduct now, as then, will bring with it the same blessing or the same curse. To so read the Bible to your children as to make them feel that it is their book, intended by God to be the guide of their youth, is a very important and necessary duty.
This course should be taken with all your children, whether you have reason to hope that they are converted or not.
(6.) See that the children regularly attend religious meetings adapted to their age and intelligence, where such are within their reach.
As a rule, the regular services of ordinary Churches and Chapels are above their comprehension, and inspire them with very little interest. They are consequently altogether outside their sympathies, and the children neither understand nor care for them; their minds, not being able to take in the meaning of the discourse, or to feel any interest in the ceremonial, wander off to their toys, and games, and lessons, and all the other little interests of their daily life. It is perfectly natural that it should be so. The services are not in any shape or form intended for children. They are meant to meet the need of people of thought, intelligence, and experience in all the difficulties of religious life and all the controversies of the day, about which the little ones know nothing, and, if it were possible, care still less.
If we were asked to advise parents how they should act in such a case, we should feel somewhat at a loss to answer. In our own family, before we knew The Salvation Army, we may say we always supplemented the regular adult service with a meeting held with the children themselves, in which hymns, and prayers, and scriptural explanations were given adapted to their age, experience, and intelligence. This meeting was usually conducted by their mother, the children being encouraged to take an active part themselves. (See answer to Question 11 in preceding chapter.)
Salvationists, for whom these directions are more specially written, have great advantages in this respect as to public meetings. The Army services are usually within the capacity and interest of children, because the prayers, songs, addresses, and scriptural explanations are so uniformly spoken to the heart, and measured and adapted to the intelligence of ordinary working people. All the exercises are made short, lively, and simple, and beyond all this, they are usually attended with those influences of the Holy Spirit to which children's hearts are specially susceptible. Little Soldiers' meetings, where properly and effectively conducted, are better still.
5. Is there not sometimes a difficulty in forming a correct judgment as to whether children are really converted, even when they profess to be?
Yes, undoubtedly there is; but unless the conduct of the children unmistakeably contradict such a profession, we should always interpret it in the most hopeful manner. Great care is required in this direction, as we have already intimated. It is perfectly natural to suppose that Satan should attack children after the same fashion as he does grown-up people, and one of his common devices is to seek to create doubts as to the reality of the change which has been experienced.
You must beware of allowing the devil in any shape or form to make you his ally in leading your children into doubt and fear on the question. Beware also of making your experience, or the experience of older people, the standard for the children. If there is any ground to hope that God has operated, and is still operating on their hearts, by all means give them the benefit of that hope, and rely upon the teaching and Power of the Holy Spirit to rectify what seems to you to be wrong and wanting in them, and to lead them into all needed truth and Salvation.
6. What should be done with children who, after making a profession of Salvation, backslide and fall into sin?
What do you do with children who, after being washed and dressed and sent out for a walk, slip and fall on the dirty, muddy road? You answer, "We help them up again, wash them, and put a plaster on the sore place if one has been made by the fall." Well, we say, act just after the same fashion when your children have the misfortune to stumble and dirty themselves spiritually by falling into sin, and so come again under the power of the devil. Run after them; pity and pray for them; help them up again; lead them to the cleansing Blood, and encourage them to hope that the same calamity shall never happen again. Do this just as often in one case as you would in the other, and if you persevere the child will get right again, and in a little time grow stronger and learn to go out even on to slippery places and not fall; nay, in a little season he shall run and not be weary, walk, and not faint.
But when your children slip and come to grief, little or nothing is gained by upbraiding or scolding them, and still less by telling them that you expected it would be so. We cannot conceive of any method much more likely to serve the interests of the devil and drive your children to despair, than letting them see that you have no faith in their being able to persevere.
Surely the beautiful parable of the Saviour with regard to the wandering sheep is applicable to parents and worthy of their imitation with respect to their own children, if it is applicable to any Christian shepherds at all. If father or mother has a lamb that leaves the fold and wanders, in heart, away on to the mountains, they ought to act on the counsels laid down, follow it into the wilderness, and with pity, and tenderness, and rejoicing bring it in their arms into the fold again.
7. Is it surprising that of the small number of children who make any profession of religion, so few endure to the end?
Not in the least, seeing that the children have very great difficulties in their way.
(1.) Children, in common with adults, have to fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil.
(2.) Children have to contend with the depressing influences arising from the common unbelief of adult Christians as to whether young people can be converted, or whether they are converted when they profess to be.
(3.) There are literally no arrangements in ordinary churches or family organisations to help the children in the hard fight they have to make against their enemies.
(4.) Children are so inexperienced as to the nature of evil that they are continually being taken by surprise, falling into traps and snares concerning which they have never had the opportunity of hearing anything.
(5.) Children, being so naturally light-hearted, are easily led away into folly and frivolity, by which they grieve the Holy Spirit and bring themselves into condemnation.
(6.) Children are so affectionate and so anxious to please those whom they love, that they are often induced to do things that are doubtful from sheer kindness of heart.
(7.) Children, as a rule, are so sincere that it is not only distasteful, but almost impossible, for them to play a part. The moment they come to feel they have done wrong they throw up the profession of religion, go away into unbelief and despair, and accept the notion everywhere prevalent that real godliness is impossible to little children.
If you want to keep your children, watch them and condescend to be at some trouble to understand them and the difficulties that strew the pathway their little feet have to tread in order to reach the heavenly shore. Many parents carry their heads so high that they forget the slippery paths of their own youth, neither considering the danger of their own darlings nor helping them to escape it.
Be assured, however, that not only can your children be saved, but they can be kept-if you will be at the trouble.
8. But do not these counsels go on the assumption that the Salvation of the children is very much a human affair?
We do not wish it to be thought so. On the contrary, we wish it to be understood all the way through that the Salvation of children, as of grown-up people, is only accomplished by the Power of the Holy Ghost through the precious Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If the children are ever saved, or kept saved, whether for a day only, or for ever, it will only be by the Power or God. At the same time we do wish it to be understood that Salvation is conditional. If the children repent and believe, they will be converted; that is, if they are old enough to understand what repentance and faith are, or to practise them, understood or not. And if their parents use suitable means, and pray and believe and watch over them, they will not only be saved, but kept by the Power of God unto everlasting life.
It is in the kingdom of grace as in the kingdom of nature--the kingdoms are but one-if you plough and sow and harrow you shall reap, but your seed will quicken and grow and ripen all the same by the Power of God.
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