by John Bunyan
If thou art a parent, a father or a mother, then thou art to consider thy calling under this relation. Thy children have souls, and they must be begotten of God as well as of thee, or they perish. And know also, that unless thou be very circumspect in thy behaviour to and before them, they may perish through thee: the thoughts of which should provoke thee, both to instruct, and also to correct them.
First, To instruct them:
First, To instruct them as the scripture saith, and to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord;” and to do this diligently “when thou sittest in thine house, when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Eph. 6:4; Deut. 6:7.)
Now to do this to purpose:
1. Do it in terms and words easy to be understood: affect not high expressions, they will drown your children. Thus God spake to his children (Hos. 12:10), and Paul to his. (1 Cor. 3:2.)
2. Take heed of filling their heads with whimsies and unprofitable notions, for this will sooner learn them to be malapert (impudent) and proud, than sober and humble. Open therefore to them the state of man by nature; discourse with them of sin, of death, and hell; of a crucified Saviour, and the promise of life through faith: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6)
3. There must be much gentleness and patience in all thy instructions, “lest they be discouraged.” (Col. 3:21) And,
4. Labour to convince them by a conversation answerable, that the things of which thou instructest them are not fables, but realities; yea, and realities so far above what can be here enjoyed, that all things, were they a thousand times better than they are, are not worthy to be compared with the glory and worthiness of these things.
Isaac was so holy before his children, that when Jacob remembered God, he remembered that he was the Fear of his father Isaac. (Gen. 31:53)
Ah! when children can think of their parents, and bless God for that instruction and good they have received from them, this is not only profitable for children, but honourable and comfortable to parents: “The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.” (Prov. 23:24, 25).
Second, The duty of correction:
1. See if fair words will win them from evil. This is God’s way with his children. (Jer. 25:4, 5)
2. Let those words you speak to them in your reproof be both sober, few, and pertinent, adding always some suitable sentence of the scripture therewith: as, if they lie, then such as Rev. 21:8, 27; if they refuse to hear the word, such as 2 Chron. 25:14-16.
3. Look to them, that they be not companions with those that are rude and ungodly; showing with soberness a continual dislike of their naughtiness; often crying out to them, as God did of old unto his, “Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.” (Jer. 44:4)
4. Let all this be mixed with such love, pity, and compunction of spirit (pricking of conscience or heart), that if possible they may be convinced you dislike not their persons, but their sins. This is God’s way. (Psa. 99:8)
5. Be often endeavouring to fasten on their consciences the day of their death, and judgment to come. Thus also God deals with his. (Deut. 32:29)
6. If thou art driven to the rod, then strike advisedly in cool blood, and soberly show them, (1) their fault; (2) how much it is against thy heart thus to deal with them; (3) and that what thou dost, thou dost in conscience to God and love to their souls; (4) and tell them that if fair means would have done, none of this severity should have been. This, I have proved it, will be a means to afflict their hearts as well as their bodies; and it being the way that God deals with his, it is the most likely to accomplish its end.
7. Follow all this with prayer to God for them, and leave the issue to him: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” (Prov. 22:15)
Lastly, Observe these cautions:
1. Take heed that the misdeeds for which thou correctest thy children be not learned them by thee. Many children learn that wickedness of their parents for which they beat and chastise them.
2. Take heed thou smile not upon them, to encourage them in small faults, lest that thy carriage to them be an encouragement to them to commit greater.
3. Take heed thou use not unsavoury and unseemly words in thy chastising of them, as railing, miscalling, and the like: this is devilish.
4. Take heed thou do not use them to many chiding words and threatenings, mixed with lightness and laughter; this will harden. Speak not much, nor often, but pertinent to them with all gravity.