18 November 2007

Teach Your Children Well

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "The Form of Sound Words," a message delivered Sunday morning, 11 May 1856, at the New Park Street Chapel, Southwark. The entire sermon is filled with insight, as usual. But Spurgeon's remark in the penultimate paragraph of this excerpt is an especially fitting analysis for our times—perhaps more true today than when he first spoke it.

f you want to hold fast the truth, seek to get an understanding of it. A man cannot hold a thing fast, unless he has a good understanding of it. I never want you to have the faith of the collier who was asked what he believed; he said he believed what the Church believed. "Well, but what does the Church believe?" He said the Church believed what he believed, and he believed what the Church believed, and so it went all the way round.

We do not want you to have that faith. It may be a very pertinacious faith, a very obstinate faith, but it is a very foolish faith. We want you to understand things, to get a true knowledge of them.

The reason why men forsake truth for error is, that they have not really understood that truth, in nine cases out of ten they have not embraced it with enlightened minds.

Let me exhort you, parents as much as lieth in you, to give your children sound instruction in the great doctrines of the gospel of Christ. I believe that what Irving once said is a great truth. He said, "In these modern times you boast and glory, and you think yourselves to be in a high and noble condition, because you have your Sabbath-schools and British-schools, and all kinds of schools for teaching youth. I tell you," he said, "that philanthropic and great as these are they are the ensigns of your disgrace; they show that your land is not a land where parents teach their children at home. They show you there is a want of parental instruction; and though they be blessed things, these Sabbath-schools, they are indications of something wrong, for if we all taught our children there would be no need of strangers to say to our children 'Know the Lord.'"

I trust you will never give up that excellent puritanical habit of catechising your children at home. Any father or mother who entirely gives up a child to the teaching of another has made a mistake. There is no teacher who wishes to absolve a parent from what he ought to do himself! He is an assistant, but he was never intended to be a substitute. Teach your children; bring up your old catechisms again, for they are after all blessed means of instruction, and the next generation shall outstrip those that have gone before it, for the reason why many of you are weak in the faith is this, you did not receive instruction in your youth in the great things of the gospel of Christ. If you had, you would have been so grounded, and settled, and firm in the faith, that nothing could by any means have moved you.

I beseech you, then, understand truth, and then you will be more likely to hold fast by it.
C. H. Spurgeon


candy said...

This is a good article to share with the principal where I work. He desires to have an outstanding school steeped in biblical truth and standards. Sometimes it is like swimming upstream, because some of the parents don't desire God in their lives. They are more attracted by the world and what it has to offer. They count on the teachers to instruct their children in academics and spiritual instruction.

Saint and Sinner said...

I wish I had a dime for everytime I've begun, and not finished, trying to start a catechicsm series with my kids... Ouch. Thanks for the reminder that its STILL my responsbility.

Carla Rolfe said...

What an encouraging post! Thank you so much for this.

James Scott Bell said...

Was teaching about this just this morning, in Sunday School, specifically the failure of Manoah and what that meant for the life of his son. (Judges 13) How far a "little failure" stretches.

Matt said...

That is very insightful of Spurgeon. The only problem is that most parents nowadays were themselves brought up without adequate instruction of Christian doctrine. The task of teaching what one does not know him/herself is indeed a difficult one.

Hadassah said...

Our pastor gave us a booklet of catechism for young children. My preschooler already knows many of them by heart. Once when she asked me a question about if God and Jesus were the same, I asked her what the answer to her catechism question was and she was able to figure out the answer to her own question. My point is that they are never too young to start, and very young children are able to understand much more than is generally given them credit for.

Evers said...

I've found Starr Meade's Teaching Children, Training Hearts to be a valuable companion to catechizing my 2 older sons (ages 5 & 3). It walks through a single question (and answer) each week, and provides daily readings related to the question being taught.

In the past, I've simply tried to teach each question, as much as I could, without much investigation. But the pace & related readings have made consistent daily catechizing MUCH MUCH more tenable. Previous efforts lasted about a week. So far we (yes, WE, not just they) have managed to memorize the first 8 questions of the shorter catechism!

Evers said...

Oops, the above book name should've been Training Hearts, Teaching Minds. You get the idea. =-)

Theophilus said...

Teaching kids has 2 parts, instruction and example.

My kids (6 and 3) surprise me at how much sound doctrine they know, because of daily family scripture reading, plus the creed & Lord's prayer.

My elder son sometimes contends for the truth with his playmates.
(Warms a dad's heart.)

I haven't yet started formally with a catechism, but we will likely start within a few months.

Stefan Ewing said...

I've said it once before, but I'll say it again: Victorian London—the capital of a quarter of the earth—must have been on the social and intellectual cutting edge of secular modernism, seeing as how Spurgeon, in his lifetime, had to address so many surprisingly contemporary-sounding issues.

Via Crusis said...

Just make sure it's a good catechism.

Is the faith of our Fathers the same faith as the reformers?

In the case of Luther I would grant him more credit for Sola Scriptura "Scriptures Alone". As a priest, he sought to reform the roman church. It had indeed reached a new high of indulgence which Luther opposed. Luther stood against the Magisterium of the church over scripture, but did he believe in Sola Fide "faith alone", how did he define faith?

Note how Luther himself defines faith in the following excerpt from his larger catechism:

The Large Catechism by Martin Luther
Translated by F. Bente and W.H.T. Dau
Published in:Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church
(St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921)pp. 565-773

XIII. Part Fourth Of Baptism

(Para. 17)

"But as our would-be wise, new spirits assert that faith alone saves, and that works and external things avail nothing, we answer: It is true, indeed, that nothing in us is of any avail but faith, as we shall hear still further. But these blind guides are unwilling to see this, namely, that faith must have something which it believes, that is, of which it takes hold, and upon which it stands and rests. Thus faith clings to the water, and believes that it is Baptism, in which there is pure salvation and life; not through the water (as we have sufficiently stated), but through the fact that it is embodied in the Word and institution of God, and the name of God inheres in it. Now, if I believe this, what else is it than believing in God as in Him who has given and planted His Word into this ordinance, and proposes to us this external thing wherein we may apprehend such a treasure?" (Red emphasis added)

Luther seems to suggest faith is in us, is it then a gift of God? All faith requires an object. In Christianity the object of our faith is a person, the person of Christ: God, the Son. Luther seems content in asserting "as we have sufficiently stated" against the critics of his day, the "would-be wise, new spirits," that he is not saying water alone saves. Luthers' version of "faith" is brought about by a divine mixing or "clinging" of faith and water. This according to Luther is baptism which results in salvation. This would seem an ordinance of man, not God: baptismal regeneration. Not even scriptural baptism saves. Baptism is an outward sign of an inward transformation.

Salvation is by Grace Alone, Through Faith Alone, In Christ Alone.

I'll be content to be called by Luther a: "would-be wise, new spirit."

Brotherhank said...

Amen. Now if I only had me some little ones to catechize....