Long years ago, when you were young, on my way to work I used to pass a poor wreck of a house. It was empty as long as I knew it, and as the years passed the sight became increasingly sad. It was a large, square, red-brick house, standing alone in what once has been nice grounds. It looked homelike and comfortable in the days when I first knew it, even though it was empty. But the picture of it that come back to my mind, as I last saw it, is very different. The fence was broken down, the verandah fallen to pieces, the windows gone, the doors and outhouses broken, -a sad, sad ruin.
But the saddest part of all was the fact that this house has once been the old family homestead of a wealthy, prosperous, prominent Christian businessman. Everybody has known him as a Christian man; and now this was the sad monument to the world by which he was remembered.
The family was an even sadder wreck than the home; too sad for m e to try and tell the story.
You may guess that many a time as I passed that house the question would come to my mind, if not to my lips, “How is it that a family, known as a Christian family, can come to this?” And some of you, as I looked tremblingly at the years ahead, would lie heavily on my heart.
I turned to my Bible, the dear old Book that always gives comfort in sorrow, peace in anxiety, and instruction for our ignorance. I found in that Book a vast amount of teaching on that unspeakably important subject. I do not suggest that I even began to dig deeply in the mine of wealth at our hand, nor did I follow (as I earnestly wish I had) the teachings I found there. These teachings are presented in a variety of ways, by example, by warning, by precept.
Now, my dear ones, you are no longer “the little ones” you then were: but instead you have “little ones” of your own, to train up for your Lord and Master. Will you allow the grandfather of these “little ones” to pass on to their parents something of what he had gleaned while meditating on the joys and sorrows of the parents we find set before us in the Scriptures?
As you know, he does not write because of any eminent success he has had in bringing up his own children, rather must he plead, with David, “Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although He make it not to grow.” (II Samuel 23:5). But in spite of all his failure, he can bear witness to the great Grace of God and His unfailing patience, even in this heavy responsibility.
I suppose any God-fearing parent must be deeply solemnized as he ponders such stories as Adam, whose eldest son was a murderer; Noah, some of whose posterity still lie under a curse; Abraham, whose eldest son has ever been, and still is, an implacable enemy, and a source of sorrow and distress, to the people of God; Moses, whose grandson was probably one of the first, if not the very first, idolatrous priest in Israel; David, and his family sorrows: and as we consider Josiah’s family, it is enough to break any parent’s heart.
So our hearts cry out for an answer to the question that will arise, “Why should such good men have such wicked offspring?” We cannot but ask in our hearts, even if our lips refuse to frame the question; “Is there any way I may be sure that my family does not follow in this sad, sad pathway?”
These questions have often been in the heart of the writer, and perhaps you also have been troubled with similar thoughts. He would therefore seek, by God’s grace and help, to point out some of the answers that the Word of God seems to give to these questions. And as that question again echoes back to us, “Why should such honored servants of the Lord have such evil children?” The Word of God seems to echo back another questions (as it so often does) in answer to our own, “Is there not a cause?”
Is there not always a cause for a wicked child to a godly parent? The Scriptures seem to tell us that there is such a cause. These sad stories are not recorded in the Bible to weaken the hands of Christian parents today, but rather as warnings to tell us of lurking dangers in our own family life; and if we will take heed to these warnings, we will be forever thankful to the One who gave them. Sad, sad indeed is the Lord’s complaint of some: “To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the Word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.” (Jeremiah 6:10) And what is the remedy if we fell that such is our condition? I suppose we find the remedy in Jeremiah 4:4 “Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart,” I suppose that the exhortation to “Circumcise ourselves to the Lord” means to cut off those “lusts of the flesh” which so easily ensnare us. Ad we care for ourselves; for our children’s sake, even if not for the higher motive, for the Lord’s sake, we dare not go on without heeding this exhortation; we dare not risk letting our ears become heavy so that these most solemn warnings are not heard. Oh, my children, let me plead with you, at any cost, to hearken and to heed these warnings from our Heavenly Father’s Word: for my heart trembles, if you should not, that the day may come when with broken heart you would give all you possess to have this opportunity once again, but it is passed, and does not return. I have seen the anguish of a broken-hearted parent gazing in agony on a wayward child, knowing full well that the cause was his own careless walk, perhaps in a path trodden years before. But “whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap”, is a saying that is most awfully true between ourselves, and our children.