THE DUTIES OF PARENTS FOR THEIR CHILDREN II

From: Baxter’s Practical Works, Vol. 1, A Christian Directory,
on Christian Economics, Chap. X., pp. 449-454 Directives VI-X

Direct. VI. In all your speeches of God and of Jesus Christ, and of the holy Scripture, or the life to come, or of any holy duty, speak always with gravity, seriousness, and reverence, as of the most great and dreadful and most Sacred things: for before children come to have any distinct understanding of particulars, it is a hopeful beginning to have their hearts possessed with a general reverence and high esteem of holy matters; for that will continually awe their consciences, and help their judgments, and settle them against prejudice and profane contempt, and be as a seed of holiness in them. For the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, Psal. 111:10; Prov. 9:10; 1:7. And the very manner of the parents’ speech and carriage, expressing great reverence to the things of God, hath a very great power to leave the like impression on a child: most children of godly parents that ever came to good, I am persuaded, can tell you this by experience, (if their parents did their duty in this point,) that the first good that ever they felt upon their hearts, was a reverence to holy things, which the speech and carriage of their parents taught them.Direct.

VII. Speak always before them with great honour and praise of holy ministers and people, and with dispraise and loathing of every sin, and of ungodly men. [2] For this also is a thing that children will quickly and easily receive from their parents. Before they can understand particular doctrines., they can learn in general what kind of persons are most happy or most miserable, and they are very apt to receive such a liking or disliking from their parents’ judgment, which hath a great hand in all the following good or evil of their lives. If you possess them with good and honourable thoughts of them that fear God, they will ever after be inclined to think well of them, and to dislike those that speak evil of them and to hear such preachers, and to wish themselves such christians; so that in this and the foregoing point it is that the first stirrings of grace in children are ordinarily felt. And therefore on the other side, it is a most pernicious thing to children, when they hear their parents speak contemptuously or lightly of holy things and persons, and irreverently talk of God, and Scripture, and the life to come, or speak dispraisingly or scornfully of godly ministers or people, or make a jest of the particular duties of a religious life: these children are like to receive that prejudice or profane contempt into their hearts betimes, which may bolt the doors against the love of God and holiness, and make their salvation a work of much greater difficulty, and much smaller hope. And therefore still I say, that wicked parents are the most notable servants of the devil in all the world, and the bloodiest enemies to their children’s souls. More souls are damned by ungodly parents (and next them by ungodly ministers and magistrates) than by any instruments in the world besides. And hence it is also, that whole nations are so generally carried away with enmity against the ways of God; the heathen nations against the true God, and the infidel nations against Christ, and the papist nations against reformation and spiritual worshippers: because the parents speak evil to the children of all that they themselves dislike; and so possess them with the same dislike from generation to generation. “Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter,” Isa. 5:20.

Direct. VIII. Let it be the principal part of your care and labour in all their education, to make holiness appear to them the most necessary, honourable, gainful, pleasant, delightful, amiable state of life; and to keep them from apprehending it either as needless, dishonourable, hurtful, or uncomfortable. Especially draw them to the love of it, by representing it as lovely. And therefore begin with that which is easiest and most grateful to them (as the history of the Scripture, and the lives of the martyrs, and other good men, and some short, familiar lessons). For though in restraining them from sin, you must go to the highest step at first, and not think to draw them from it by allowing them the least degree; (for every degree disposeth to more, and none is to be allowed, and a general reformation is the easiest as well as absolutely necessary;) yet in putting them upon the practice of religious duties, you must carry them on by degrees, and put them at first upon no more than they can bear; either upon the learning of doctrines too high and spiritual for them, or upon such duty for quality or quantity as is over-burdensome to them; for if you once turn their hearts against religion, and make it seem a slavery and a tedious life to them, you take the course to harden them against it. And therefore all children must not be used alike; as all stomachs must not be forced to eat alike. If you force some to take so much as to become a surfeit, they will loathe that sort of meat as long as they live. I know that nature itself, as corrupt, hath already an enmity to holiness, and I know that this enmity is not to be indulged in children at all; but withal I know that misrepresentations of religion, and imprudent education, is the way to increase it, and that the enmity being in the heart, it is the change of the mind and love that is the overcoming of it, and not any such constraint as tendeth not to reconcile the mind by love. The whole skill of parents for the holy education of their children, doth consist in this, to make them conceive of holiness as the most amiable and desirable life; which is by representing it to them in words and practice, not only as most necessary, but also as most profitable, honourable, and delightful. Prov. 3:17, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace,” &c.

Direct. IX. Speak often to them of the brutish baseness and sinfulness of flesh-pleasing sensuality, and of the greater excellency of the pleasures of the mind, which consist in wisdom, and in doing good. For your chiefest care must be to save them from flesh-pleasing; which is not only in general the sum of all iniquity whatsoever, but that which in special children are most prone to. For their flesh and sense is as quick as others; and they want not only faith, but clear reason to resist it; and so (besides their natural pravity) the custom of obeying sense (which is in strength) without reason (which is in infancy and almost useless) doth much increase this pernicious sin. And therefore still labour to imprint in their minds an odious conceit of a fleshpleasing life; speak bitterly to them against gluttony, and drunkenness, and excess of sport; and let them often hear or read the parable of the glutton and Lazarus in the sixteenth of Luke; and let them learn without book, Rom. 8:1, 5-9, 13; 13:13, 14, and oft repeat them.

Direct. X. To this end, and also for the health of their bodies, keep a strict guard upon their appetites (which they are not able to guard themselves): keep them as exactly as you can to the rules of reason, both in the quantity and quality of their food. Yet tell them the reason of your restraint, or else they will secretly strive the more to break their bounds. Most parents that ever I knew, or had any good account of in that point, are guilty of the great hurt and danger of their children’s health and souls, by pleasing and glutting them with meat and drink. If I should call them devils and murderers to their own children, they would think I spake too harshly; but I would not have them give so great occasion for it, as by destroying (as far as lieth in them) the souls and bodies of their children. They destroy their souls by accustoming them to gluttony, and to be ruled by their appetites; which all the teaching in the world will hardly ever after overcome, without the special grace of God. What is all the vice and villany in the world, but the pleasing of the desires of the flesh? And when they are habituated to this, they are rooted in their sin and misery. And they destroy their bodies, by suffering them to please their appetites, with raw fruits and other hurtful things; but especially by drowning and overwhelming nature by excess; and all this is through that beastly ignorance, joined with self-conceitedness, which maketh them also overthrow themselves. They think that their appetite is the measure of their eating and drinking, and that if they drink but when they are thirsty, (as some drunkards are continually,) and eat but when they are hungry, it is no excess; and because they are not presently sick, or vomit it not up again, the beasts think it doth them no harm, but good. You shall hear them like mad people say, I warrant them, it will do them no harm to eat and drink when they have list, it will make them strong and healthful; I see not that those that are dieted so strictly are any healthfuller than others. Whenas all this while they are burdening nature, and destroying digestion, and vitiating all the humours of the body, and turning them into a dunghill of phlegm and filth; which is the fuel that breedeth and feedeth almost all the diseases that after seize upon them while they live; and usually bringeth them to an untimely end (us I have fullier opened before, part i. in the directions against gluttony). If therefore you love either the souls or bodies of your children, use them to temperance from their infancy, and let not their appetites or craving wills, but your own reason, be the chooser and the measure of their diet. Use them to eat sparingly, and (so it moderately please their appetite, or be not such as nature loatheth) let it be rather of the coarser than the finer sort of diet; see it measured to them yourselves, and suffer no servant to give them more, nor to let them eat or drink between meals and out of season; and so you will help to overcome their sensual inclinations, and give reason the mastery of their lives; and you will, under God, do as much as any one thing can do to help them to a healthful temper of body, which will be a very great mercy to them, and fit them for their duty all their lives. 

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