Forty-Eighth Day – The Nurture of the Lord

`Ye fathers, nurture your children in the discipline and admonition of the Lord.’ Eph. 6: 4.

We know of what great importance it is to attend to the distinction between instruction and education, between teaching and training. The former is the communication of knowledge, secular or religious; the latter is the development of the faculties, both intellectual and moral, helping the child really to do and to be what the teaching has set before him. The two words the apostle uses correspond exactly to our expressions: we might translate, ‘Nurture them in the training and teaching of the Lord.’ [Note: It is difficult to understand why the Revised Version should have translated the first of the two words by chastening. The Greek word ‘paideia’ is the exact equivalent of our education, and is only translated chastening where the context evidently requires it as being a part of education.]

Let us first note the spirit which must pervade the upbringing of our children: `Nurture them in the discipline and admonition of the Lord.’ Our children are the Lord’s; their whole education must be animated by this thought; we train them for Him, according to His will and in His spirit: it is the Lord’s own training of which we are to be His ministers to them. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as our Lord and Master, with His personal presence, His love and rule in heart and home, must be our aim; we must educate our children as `unto the Lord.’ That they may know and love Him, that they may be fitted to obey His will and to serve Him, must be what all our education strives after. And it can only be this, as we very earnestly study His will, and the rules He has laid down in His Word for parental duty, as we wait for His Spirit to guide and to sanctify us for our work. Our whole nurture is to be the nurture of the Lord.

In it the two parts God has joined together may not for a moment be separated. In the life of the child its emotional nature, with all its sensitiveness and impressionability, is first developed. For the due regulation of this, the Creator has endowed it with two great powers, that of willing and knowing. Training seeks to influence the will, as the power which really makes a man; teaching supplies the knowing by which the willing is to be guided and strengthened. The nurture of the Lord is to bring up the child that he may be a vessel meet for the Master’s use, with every faculty of spirit, soul, and body prepared for doing His will. The training and teaching must work in harmony for securing this blessed object. All instruction and admonition has the forming of the will, of character as a completely fashioned will, of the perfect man as its purpose.

The word education is so much used of what is merely instruction, that I have used the word discipline to give the idea the apostle intended. The foundation of a useful and happy life will be found in the habit of order and self-control, the ready submission to law and obedience to duty. When not impulse or circumstance, not our likes or dislikes, but the steady purpose and power of knowing and doing right rule the life, one of the chief objects of education has been attained. Discipline uses the means, and exercises the power needed for securing this result. The discipline of the Lord has not only reference to what may be considered more directly religious, but to the child’s whole being, spirit, soul, and body. Whatever contributes to the healthy development of the powers God has bestowed on us, is included in the nurture of the Lord. There are what may be called physical virtues, at the foundation of which is order. `Order is heaven’s first law’ throughout the immeasurable spaces of the universe, and in the minutest atoms that the mind can conceive there reigns a Divine order; everything owns submission to law. How little it avails that a child or a man is converted, if the power of self-control, the power of at once doing what is seen to be the right in its time and place, has not been cultivated. Conversion will not give this: the parent has to prepare the home in which the Spirit of God is to dwell, and to find its servants. The habit of order cultivated in a little child in external things can pass on into his intellectual training, and become a mighty power in his moral and spiritual life. And it leads to that other foundation — virtue, decision of character, firmness of purpose; strength of will. In submitting to order in the external, the child learns that for everything there is an ought and a must, and that his welfare will be found in entering at once and heartily into that ought and what it requires. Let every parent seek, in nurturing a child for the Lord, to discipline into a fixed habit the innate sense of the rightness of order and decision. They will become ruling principles, in the wake of which other natural virtues will easily find their place.

Then come what may be called the legal virtues — those distinctly commanded in God’s law. Such are obedience, truthfulness, justice, and love. Parents cannot too often or too earnestly remind themselves of the power of single acts often repeated to become habits, and the power of habit to aid in giving ascendency to the principles that underlie the acts. Our moral, no less than our bodily powers, are strengthened by exercise. Conscience may in early life be so disciplined as, by the Divine blessing, to become habitually tender and ready to act. The innate sense of right and wrong, the feeling of guilt and shame following on sin, the authority of God’s Word — all these the discipline of a wise training appeals to in nurturing for the Lord.

And then there are the virtues that belong more distinctly to the New Testament, and the great redemption it reveals. These are the faith and love of Jesus, the indwelling and leading of the Holy Spirit, the self-denial and holiness and humility of a Christlike life. All this is not to be only matter of teaching in the faith of the promise of the Spirit, working all unconsciously in the children; they are to be trained into it. To be temples of God through the Holy Spirit, to bear the image and be fit for the service of the Lord Jesus must, from the outset, be the aim of the Divine nurture in which we seek to bring up our children.

For such training to be successful, it is absolutely necessary that there be authority; the nurture must be in the discipline of the Lord. To this end it is not enough that the parent as the superior assert the right God has given him; the authority derived from God must become a personal possession by the influence the parent acquires over the child. The parent must prove himself worthy of his place; his ascendency will depend upon the weight of his moral character. To acquire such influence must be a matter of study and effort and prayer. All who wish to govern children not by force, but by influence, not against their will, but by means of it, not in virtue of a position in which they have been placed, but in the power of a life that proves them worthy of that position, and that secures an instinctive acknowledgment of their authority, must make not only their own duty, but especially the nature and the needs of childhood, their careful study. Only then can the education of our children become, instead of being a series of experiments and failures, that teach us wisdom when it is too late to benefit by them, the wise and well ordered commanding of our household that they may keep the way of the Lord.

Of such influence, in which true authority has its root and strength, the secret is, a life in which we exhibit ourselves what we ask of our children. A life of childlike trust in the Father’s love, of submission to His authority, and surrender to His training, will make itself felt through the home. It will awaken our sympathy for their childlike needs and failings. It will awaken their sympathy with our teachableness of spirit and our quiet restfulness in the Divine rule. And the nurture of our children will be to ourselves and to them truly the Lord’s nurture — God’s nurturing us by means of them, that He may nurture them by means of us.

Blessed God and Father! who has appointed us Your servants to bring up our child in a training and teaching which is to be Your own, we come again with the prayer for wisdom and grace to perform our task aright. We ask of You to show us the difficulty and the sacredness of our task, to show us, too, the nearness and sufficiency of Your help. We want especially to realize that it is as we yield ourselves to Your training and teaching, and walk with You as loving, obedient children, that we shall have power to nurture them aright.

We ask for grace rightly to combine the admonition that points out the way, with the discipline that trains to walk in it. We would form our children’s character to that order and self-restraint, to that submission to law and authority, in which is the secret of happiness.