God is awakening in many hearts the longing to live a truly consecrated life, to be and do all that He would have of us. No sooner has the surrender to such a life taken place, but the desire comes to have all who belong to us partake of the blessing, specially to have our home life, with all its affections, its intercourse, its duties, sanctified too. Many a parent finds this a hard, almost a hopeless task. In the days when their own Christian life was half-hearted and feeble, the spirit of the world was allowed to come in and get possession. With a partner or children who do not entirely sympathize, where the help and hearty response of spiritual fellowship is wanting, the consecrated one finds it difficult to maintain the personal life. How much more to influence the whole circle, and lift them up to the more blessed life that has been entered on!

To parents who are in this position, to all parents who long to have their homes truly consecrated by God’s presence and service, God’s Word has a message of comfort and strength. It is this: that God is willing to be the God of their house, and with His Divine power to do for it more than they can ask and think. If they will but open their hearts in faith to rest in the promise and the power of God, He will prove Himself to be for their house what He has been to themselves. The one thing needful is that they should know and believe what He has undertaken to be and to do as the God of their seed. They will find that the lesson they learnt in entering upon a life of entire consecration is just what is needed here again. There all was comprehended in the one word, surrender — the surrender of faith and obedience. They surrendered themselves to expect and accept all God had promised, and to do all that He commanded. This surrender of faith must take place definitely with regard to the family. As a parent I put myself and my children into God’s hands, believing that He will fulfil His promise, yea, that He does at once accept and take charge. I confess the sins by which I have prevented God from working through me as He would for my home. I yield myself to be His humble, holy witness — His loving, obedient servant, and humbly but trustingly I say, `O when wilt Thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.’

A parent’s faith needs just what the faith of every believer does — to understand, to get an insight into what God has undertaken to do. ‘By faith we understand.’ When faith has seen God planning and undertaking, it is a simple thing for it to rest and trust, to praise and act. I trust that this little book may help believing parents to meditate on God’s revelation of His purpose with the family, and to see what abundant ground there is for their expecting Him to fulfil their desire to have their house holy to the Lord. It is as we get into the mind and plan of God, that faith will grow, and its power be manifest both in ourselves and those for whom we are believing.

In a note at the close of this volume, on the Church’s duty to parents, I have explained the origin and the object of the book. I send it forth with the prayer that it may be blessed to make our glorious God better known, as He would fain be known and honored, as the God of the families of Israel, and that this knowledge may strengthen many a parent’s heart to a larger faith and a more entire consecration of home life to their God.

A. M.

First Day – The Family as God created it

`God created man in His own image: in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them; and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.’ Gen. 1: 27, 28.

God’s purpose in the creation of man was to show forth and make visible to the universe His own unseen glory and perfection. He was not only to have single points of resemblance to God; in all he was and did upon earth he was to prove that he was indeed created in God’s image and after His likeness.

The traits of that likeness were very varied and most wonderful. In the dominion he was to have over the earth, he was to exhibit the power of God as King and Ruler of the universe. In the wondrous mental powers with which he was endowed, fitting him for this work, there was to be seen the image of God as the All-wise. In his moral powers there was to be some reflection of the light that is inaccessible and full of glory: God’s righteousness and holiness were to be revealed.

But then there still remained one trait of the Divine perfection, the very highest, to be set forth. God is love. As Infinite Love He lives not for Himself alone, but finds all His blessing in imparting His own life. In His bosom He has the Son of His love, begotten of the Father from eternity. In the Son He has peopled the universe with living beings, that upon them the fulness of His love might flow out. As the Loving One He is the fountain of life; as the Living One He is the fountain of love. It was that in this, too, man might bear the image of God, that his whole life might be a life of love, and that in loving he might give life to those on whom his love might flow forth, that God created man in His image, male and female. In the home on earth, in the love of husband and wife, of parent and child, were to be reflected the love and the blessedness of the Father’s home in heaven, were to be imaged forth the deepest secrets of the life of Godhead in the fellowship of the Father and the Son by the Holy Spirit.

It is to this last and highest trait of the image of Divine perfection — man’s creation, to shadow forth the mystery and to enjoy the blessedness of a life in love — that we want specially to draw attention. In undertaking the study of God’s Word for the sake of discovering what it teaches us of the parental relation, we must ascend the true Mount of Sources, and follow up the stream of Divine truth to those hills of Paradise whence they all take their rise. We will find the sure foundation of the family constitution, its purpose, its law, and its glory in the teaching of God’s word: `God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.’

Let us think of it for a moment. In God’s love, and the fatherhood which sprang from that love, we have at once the highest glory and the deepest mystery of Godhead. Because God is love, He must needs have some worthy object on whom His love can rest, in whose fellowship His love can find its blessedness. Because He is God, the only and all-perfect One, that Son must be the only One, the Father’s image, and the Heir of all things. Before the world began, from eternity, God was in Him the Most Blessed One. In God’s Fatherhood of Christ is His perfection and His blessedness.

Man was created after that image of God which was seen in Christ. When man had fallen, Christ came to take us up into fellowship with Himself, to give us a share in His Sonship and Heirship, to make us too the children of God. In Him, and His life given us in regeneration, we too become the sons of God. God’s Fatherhood of believers is the deepest mystery, the highest glory, the perfect blessedness of redemption. The Fatherhood of God is the summing up of the incomprehensible mystery and glory of the Divine Being.

And of this Fatherhood the father of the family on earth is to be the image and the likeness. In the life he imparts to his child, in the image he sees reflected, in the unity of which he is conscious, in the loving care he exercises, in the obedience and the trust he sees rendered to himself, in the love in which family life finds its happiness, the home and the fatherhood of earth are the image of the heavenly.

What a solemn and what a blessed view this truth gives us of the parental relation! What a sanctifying influence the right apprehension of it would have upon its privileges and its duties! How much better, in the light of this Divine origin and purpose of the family, we can understand and value our relation to our children. And how, on the other hand, all our intercourse with them would strengthen our obedience and our confidence towards the Father in heaven! We should see how the action of the heavenly and the earthly home on each other is reciprocal. Every deeper insight into the Father’s love and the Father’s home would elevate the intercourse in the home on earth, and enlarge our expectations as to the blessing the God who appointed it will certainly bestow upon it. And every experience of what the love and blessing of a home on earth can be would again be a ladder by which to rise up and get nearer the great Father-heart in heaven. `In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth: ‘the two in correspondence with each other — the home in heaven, with the Father there, the original of the home on earth, and the father there.

How terrible the curse and the power of sin! Fatherhood in the likeness of God, the communication to another being of a life that was to be immortal and ever blessed, and the establishment of a home of love like that in heaven, was to have been the high privilege of man, as God created him. But alas! sin came in, and wrought a fearful ruin. The father makes the child partaker of a sinful nature; the father feels himself too sinful to be a blessing to his child; and the home, alas! is too often the path not to heaven, but to hell. But, blessed be God! what sin destroyed grace restores. And as in these meditations we follow God’s revelation in regard to the family, we will find that all the purpose and provision of God’s grace point back to the restoration of what at creation was intended — the fatherhood and the motherhood of earth, with its love and its home, its care and its training of the children, the reflection and the fellowship of the home and the love of the Father in heaven.

Let every parent who feels conscious of his own shortcoming, and longs for wisdom and grace to do aright the work entrusted him, look back in faith and hope to the heavenly origin of family life. The God who created it has redeemed it too, and creates it anew. He watches over it with tender interest, and meets with His own Father-love and blessing every parent who desires to be the minister of His holy purpose. Would you truly be this, begin by making God’s thought your thought; the fatherhood and the family on earth the image and the likeness of a heavenly original. Look to God as the Author of your family life; count upon Him to give all that is needed to make it what it should be. Let His Father-heart and His Father-love be your study and your stay; as you know and trust it in adoring love, the assurance will grow that He will fit you for making your home, in ever-increasing measure, the bright reflection of His own.

O Thou great and holy Creator of men! Thou hast placed me, too, in the wondrous relation of parent with a child owing its life to me. Thou wouldst give me, too, the happiness of living a life of love, the Divine joy of loving and being loved. Thou hast placed me, too, in a home to be the image of the home in heaven, where the Father and the Son dwell in everlasting love.

O my God! I humbly confess that I utter these words with shame. How little have the perfect love and joy, the purity and brightness of heaven, been reflected in the home given to my charge! How little I have even understood my calling, or truly aimed at the high ideal Thou hast set before me! Father, Forgive us, for Jesus’ sake!

And hear me, when I beseech Thee to guide my meditations, and to help me in the study of Thy Holy Word, that I may learn more fully to realize, what Thy purpose is with the fatherhood and the motherhood of this earth, and with what interest and love Thou lookest on each home given up to Thy protection and guidance. Teach me to know Thee in Thy infinite Fatherliness, that the study and the experience of that Divine Original, after which the parent’s heart was created, may fit me to be a true parent to my child. And let a Father’s love and blessing rest on our home. Amen.

Second Day – The Family as Sin made it

`In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made He him. And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth.’ Gen. 5: 1, 3. ‘Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.’ Gen. 4: 8.

God created man in His own likeness; Adam, the fallen, begat sons in his own likeness, after his image. As in the former expression, telling us of man’s high origin and destiny, we have the key to the mystery of the incarnation, and redemption to eternal glory; so in the latter we have the light that shows us whence sin has such fearful and universal power. It was one of the wonderful traits of God’s likeness that man had the power to give life to others. When sin got the mastery, that likeness was not extinguished, but terribly defaced; he still had the power to bring forth, alas! in his own likeness. By one fell blow sin, in conquering Adam, had conquered the race. If ever the race is again to be delivered from the power of sin, it will doubtless be by this power of man’s bringing forth in his own likeness being regained and renewed to be the power for re-establishing God’s kingdom. The parental relation has become the strength of sin; when God restores it, it will be the strength of grace.

If we want to realize the full significance of this word, `Adam begat a son in his own likeness, after his image,’ we have only to study the story of his family at the gates of Paradise. It will teach us lessons of the deepest importance in regard to the family as sin has made it.

Let us mark how the father’s sin reappears and ripens in that of the child. `Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself.’ In these two great commandments we have the sum of God’s will concerning us. Adam had transgressed the first, and in sinning had cast off the love of God. His firstborn refuses subjection to the second, and becomes the hater and the murderer of his brother. Had Adam continued in the love of God, Cain had certainly loved his brother. With Adam’s sin his nature had become corrupted; that nature had been imparted to the son in his likeness. The child’s sin was the fruit of the father’s.

This first picture of family life God gives us in His Word, what a somber light it casts on our homes! How often parents can trace in the sins and evil tempers of their children their own shortcomings and transgressions! How the remembrance that their children have inherited their evil natures from themselves ought to humble them, make them very patient and gentle, as well as very earnest and wise, in dealing with the offenders, and lead them to seek what alone can cure and conquer this evil power — the grace and the life that comes from above! Let parents not be afraid of realizing fully that God visits the sins of the fathers on the children; it will urge and encourage them to believe that He will no less remember the mercy to the fathers, and make the children partakers of that too.

Let us note further how in that first child’s sin we have the root and type of all children’s sins. The family had been destined of God to be the image of the bliss of heaven, the mirror of the life of love that reigns there. Sin enters, and the first family, instead of being the emblem and the gate of heaven, becomes the type and the portal of hell. Instead of the love and help and happiness for which God had appointed our social relation, envy and anger and hatred and murder render it a scene of terrible desolation.

The root of all sin is selfishness — separating first from God and then from man. How early in the little ones in the nursery does it manifest itself! How continually does it come up in the intercourse with companions in school or play! How often it rises even against the parent, and refuses the love or obedience that is due! Let believing parents study with care what Holy Scripture reveals of love as the new and great commandment, as the fulfilling of the whole law, as the way to our dwelling in God and God in us, and seek for nothing so earnestly as this: the reign of love in their home. Let them watch over every manifestation of a selfish or unloving spirit, as a seed of the tree that bore such bitter fruit in Cain, and count no care or prayer too great to have it banished. Let them not be content, as long as there are no striking outbreaks of the evil; let them fear and root out the seeds which often ripen so terribly in after life. Let nothing less content them than to make it their aim that grace should restore their family life to what God created it to be — a mirror and a foretaste of the love of heaven.

Let us not in this too forget the influence of the parent’s life, as set before us here: ‘In his own image, after his likeness.’ These words refer not only to a blessing lost in Paradise, and to a curse that came with sin, but as much to a grace that comes with redemption. Not, it is true, by natural birth in the flesh can a believer beget a child in his likeness, now renewed again after the image of God. But what nature cannot accomplish, the prayer and the life of faith can obtain, in virtue of the promise and the power of God. As we proceed in our inquiries into the teaching of Holy Scripture concerning the family life, we shall find nothing come out more clearly than the blessed truth that to believing parents the promise is given that their child may be begotten again after their likeness, and that God will to this end use them as the instruments of His grace. To the prayer of faith, manifesting itself in the godly training of the child, the blessing has been secured in covenant — `I will be a God to thee and to thy seed.’ As faith and prayer claim the promise and the power of God, the influence of the daily intercourse will make itself felt, and there will go forth from the consecrated lives of father and mother a secret but mighty power to mold the lives of the children, either preparing them as vessels of grace, or establishing and perfecting them in it.

And so we come to the blessed but solemn truth: Let parents be what they want their children to be. If they would keep them from the sin of Cain, who loved not his brother, let them beware of the sin of Adam, who loved not the commandment of his God. Let father and mother lead a life marked by love to God and man; this is the atmosphere in which loving children can be trained. Let all the dealings with the children be in holy love. Cross words, sharp reproof, impatient answers, are infectious. Love demands and fears not self-sacrifice; it needs time and thoughtful attention and patient perseverance to train our children aright. In all our children hear us speak of others, of friends or enemies, of the low, the vulgar, the wicked, let the impression they receive be, the love of Christ we seek to show. In all the intercourse of father and mother with each other, let mutual esteem and respect, tender considerateness and willing self-forgetfulness, prove to the children that love is possible and blessed.

Above all, let us remember that it is the love of God that is the secret of a loving home on earth. It is where parents love the Lord their God with all their heart and strength that the human love will be strengthened and sanctified. It is only parents who are willing to live really consecrated lives, entirely given up to God, to whom the promise and the blessing can come fully true. To make our home the nursery and the type and the foretaste of heaven, the ordinary half-hearted religion will not suffice. The love of God shed abroad in the heart and the home and the life by the Holy Ghost — it is this, this alone, will transplant our home from the gates of Paradise Lost, where Adam dwelt with Cain, to within the Paradise Regained, where even amid the weakness of earth the image of the heavenly is seen, and the home on earth is in the likeness of the home above.

Blessed Lord God! we bow before Thee in deep humility. We desire to feel more deeply the terrible power of sin in ourselves and our children, and the danger to which it exposes our beloved home. We come to confess how far as parents we have come short in that pure and holy love which Thou didst mean to be the beauty and the blessedness of family life. In our intercourse with Thee, and each other, and our children, and fellow-men — O God, forgive us the lack of love! And oh! let not our children suffer through us, as they grow up in our likeness. Deliver us, we pray Thee, from the power of selfishness, and shed, oh! shed abroad Thy love in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.

And, O God! bless our children with the Spirit of love. Give us so to walk before them in love, that Thy Spirit may use our example and our likeness to form them to Thy Holy Likeness. Give us a deep sense of our holy calling to train their immortal spirits for Thee and Thy glory. Inspire us with faith, with patience, with wisdom to train them aright. Oh that our home on earth might be to them the pathway, and the gate, to the Father’s home in heaven!

Blessed Father! let us and our children be Thine wholly and forever. Amen.

Third Day – The Family as Grace Restores it

`And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou, and all thy house, into the ark: for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.’ Gen. 7: 1.

`By faith Noah prepared an ark for the saving of his house,’ and was made a witness to future ages that the faith of a believing, righteous parent obtains a blessing, not for himself only, but for his children too. The New Testament teaching, `By faith he saved his house,’ is in perfect accordance with what is recorded in the Old Testament history: `I have seen thee righteous before me: come thou, and all thy house, into the ark.’ Even Ham, who, as far as his personal character was concerned, manifestly deserved to perish with the ungodly world, was saved from the flood for his father’s sake and by his father’s faith. It is the proof that in God’s sight the family is regarded as a unity, with the father as head and representative; that parents and children are one, and that in the dispensation of grace, even as in the ministration of condemnation, it is on this principle that God will deal with the families of His people.

We know how it was this fact, of parents and children being one, that had given sin its terrible power in the world. Or was it not in virtue of this that, when Adam had sinned, his whole posterity had been made subject at one blow, as it were to sin and death? Was not the flood, as well as the fall, a proof of it? We see the children of Seth sunk as deep as the children of Cain, because Seth too was a son whom Adam had begotten in his likeness, with a sinful nature to be handed to his children too. Was it not this that gave sin such universal empire to thousand generations? The family was sin’s greatest stronghold; children inherited the evil from their parents. The unity of parents and children was the strength of sin.

Noah’s deliverance from the flood was to be the introduction of a new dispensation — the first great act of God’s redeeming grace on behalf of a sinful world. In it God manifested what the great principles of the economy of grace were to be. These were life through death; faith as the means of deliverance, the one channel through which the blessing comes. And further, it was now to be revealed whether the family was to be one of the means of grace. There was every reason to expect it would be. It had been sin’s mightiest ally, the chief instrument through which it had acquired such universal dominion. This principle was now to be rescued from the power of sin, to be adopted into the covenant of grace, to be consecrated and made subservient to the establishment of God’s kingdom. How otherwise could the declaration be verified, ‘Where sin abounded, there did grace much more abound,’ if sin alone had the power through the parents to secure dominion over the children? Nay, in this very thing we are to have one of the brightest displays of redeeming grace — that the relation of parents and children, which had become the great means for the transmission and establishing the power of sin, was much more to become the vehicle for the extension of the kingdom of God’s grace. And though many ages would have to pass ere the promised Seed of the woman should be born, yet in anticipation of that holy birth the seed of God’s people were to share in the blessing of their parents. It was on the strength of this hope that the children of righteous Noah were blessed with their father.

Let believing parents understand and remember this. The man who is righteous in God’s sight is not dealt with only as an individual, but in his relation as parent. When God blesses He loves to bless abundantly; the blessing must overflow the house of His servant. It is not only for this temporal life, and the supply of its many needs, that the father must regard himself as the appointed channel through whom the blessings of nature and providence must reach the child, and that he may count upon God’s help. The parental relation has a nobler destiny: for the eternal life too, with its blessings, the believing father is to regard himself as the appointed channel and steward of the grace of God.

When once we understand this blessed truth, and in its fullness of promise by faith accept God’s word, ‘Thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation,’ we shall know to value the word that follows: ‘Go thou, and thy whole house, into the ark.’ The seed of the righteous shall be blessed; the house of His servant God will bless. God gives the assurance that the ark in which the parent is to be saved is meant for his children too; for his sake, it is for them as much as for him; the ark is to be the house of the family.

And as the blessing is to come for his sake, so through his instrumentality too. It is not only a promise, but a command: ‘Go thou, and thy house, into the ark,’ It is to him the charge is given to see to it that just as, and when, he enters in, they too. God will not deal with the house separate and apart from him; the parent has to bring the children into the ark.

And if the question comes up as to the power of a parent thus to lead his children into the ark as certainly as he himself goes in, the answer is simple and clear: `By faith Noah prepared an ark for the saving of his house.’ Let us believe that God always gives grace proportioned to the duty He imposes. Let the believing parent live, and act, and pray with and for his children, as one to whom the ark and its salvation is indeed the one aim and joy of life, and who is assured that his children are meant of God to be there with him. Let him confidently trust God for the salvation of every child. Let him in that spirit instruct and inspire his children. Let them grow up under the consciousness that to be with the father is to be with one who is in the ark — the blessing cannot be missed. This it is that baptism — the figure of the ark with its resurrection out of the waters of the deluge — seals to us in the blood of Jesus.

Beloved parents! listen to the blessed tidings of which Noah is God’s messenger to you: there is room for your child in the ark; the God who saves you expects you to bring your child with you. Oh, let it no longer be enough to pray and hope that your child may be saved, but accept in faith the assurance that he can be, and act out in obedience the command that you are to bring him in! And to each question as to how, let the answer be taken deeper to heart, `Go thou, and thy house.’ Go in and live in the ark; bring up and train thy little children there, as one wholly separated from the world and dwelling there; God’s blessing will use your training for their salvation. Abide in Christ, and let the child feel that to be near you is to be near Christ; live in the power of the love and the redemption and the life of Christ; your house will be to the child the ark where Christ is known and found. Oh, if you have indeed heard that most blessed word, `I have seen thee righteous,’ let it teach you in the obedience of a joyous faith to fulfil the precept, `Come thou, and all thy house, into the ark.’

`Thou, and all thy house ‘ — may the word live in the heart of each believing parent!

O Lord my God! I have heard your message, telling me that, since You have accepted me as righteous in Your Son, You will have my children saved too. I have heard Your voice of grace, `Come thou into the ark, and thy house.’ Blessed be Your name for the assurance of the salvation of his children it offers a parent’s heart!

Lord! do You Yourself open my eyes to see what Your Word sets before me. Let me see in Noah the picture of a believing parent — walking with You, believing Your word, obedient to Your command. Let me see in the ark the type of my blessed Lord Jesus, a sure and a safe hiding-place for me and my child. Let me see in the saving of Noah’s house the sure pledge of what will be given to every parent who trusts You for his children, and obeys Your voice to bring them in.

Fourth Day – The Child of the Covenant

‘And, behold, the word of the Lord came to Abraham, saying, He that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness.’ Gen. 15: 4, 6. `Ye are the children of the covenant.’ Acts 3: 25.

Three times had God already given to Abraham the promise that He would make of him at great nation, as the sand of the seashore in multitude. When God appeared to him the fourth time, Abraham poured out his complaint before God: `Behold, I go childless. Behold, to me Thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is my heir.’ In answer the word of the Lord came to him, saying, `Lo, this shall not be thine heir; but he that cometh forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.’ And then follow the memorable words, ‘Abraham believed God, and He counted it to him for righteousness.’

The great truth which this narrative sets before us is this — that the longing and asking for, the promise and the gift on God’s part, and on our part the reception and the birth of our children, is a matter of faith; a matter in which God takes the deepest interest; in which He holds communion with men; and in which faith must operate and will assuredly be blest. It is especially as a parent, and in reference to the promise of a child, that Abraham’s faith is exercised and found well pleasing to God. In the power of faith the natural longing for a child becomes the channel of most wonderful fellowship with God, and the natural seed becomes the heir of God’s promise and the spiritual blessing.

The reason and meaning of all this is easily found. In Noah God had begun to acknowledge the validity of the oneness of parents and children in the dealings of grace.

But it had been of little avail. Immediately after the flood Ham’s wickedness burst out, and it was not many years before the whole world had sunk into idolatry. It is ever God’s way by degrees and gradually to reveal the ways and the purposes of His grace, and so He resolves to deal differently with Abraham. The children of Noah had been born after the flesh. Before their birth God had not entered into covenant on their behalf. In character they had become independent men ere God made them partakers of Noah’s blessing. With Abraham He will deal otherwise; His way of dealing in covenant with His servants is to be advanced a distinct stage forward. The child, who was to be taken up into the covenant, was from before his birth to be the object of God’s care and the parent’s faith. The very birth of the child God takes charge of, to watch over and to sanctify by His word and by faith. Everything connected with Isaac’s birth is to be a matter of God’s revelation and man’s faith. Against nature and against hope God Himself by His promise awakens the faith and expectation of a child. For twenty-five years this faith is tried and purified, until Abraham’s whole soul is filled with believing expectancy, that so the child may in truth be the child of faith and prayer; a gift of God received by faith. Before the birth Abraham is circumcised, once again sealed for God in the covenant of circumcision, that so full and clear proof may be given that the birth of the seed of His people is holy in His sight, a matter to Him of special interest, the object of His promises and His blessing. In all this God would teach us that it is not only in their individual capacity, but especially as parents, and that from before the first hope of having children, that His saints are taken into covenant with Him, are called to exercise Abraham’s faith, and to receive their children from His hands. Not only are the children when grown up, but even from the birth, to be partakers of the covenant. Yea, from before the birth, in the very first rising of hope, would God, by the power of His promises given to faith by His Spirit, begin the great work of redeeming love. He would thus reveal to us how that wondrous power with which He had endowed man, of bringing forth and giving life to a child after his own image, and which by sin had become the great strength of Satan’s kingdom, was again to be consecrated, and under God’s own eye to be rendered subservient to the extension of His kingdom and glory.

Hence it is that the Bible is so full of what cannot otherwise be understood — of Divine promise and interposition, of human activity and expectation, connected with the birth of children. Everything concentrates on that one great lesson, the fatherhood and the childhood of this earth has a Divine and heavenly promise, and everything connected with it must with us be a matter of faith, a religious service holy to the Lord and well pleasing in His sight. I must not only believe for myself; if I would fully honor God, my faith must reach forth and embrace my children, grasping the promises of God for them too. If I would magnify the riches of God’s grace, if I would with my whole nature and all my powers be consecrated to God’s service, and if I would accomplish the utmost possible within my reach for the advancement of His kingdom, it is especially as parent that I must believe and labor.

And what I see in Abraham, that God thought so long a time needful for the strengthening and ripening of faith before he might receive the promised child, teaches me that this grace is a gift of high value, and cannot be attained but by a close walk with God, and wholehearted surrender to His teachings and leadings. The faith which was sufficient to justify Abraham was not sufficient to receive the blessing for his seed; it had to be further strengthened and purified: faith must ever be in proportion to the extent of the promise. And believing parents will experience that there is nothing that so mightily quickens the growth of their faith as the reaching out after this blessing for their children. They will feel in it the mightiest stimulus to a life of entire devotion and unmixed faith, that they may have not only enough for themselves, but to impart to children, in harmony with that law of the kingdom: `According to your faith be it unto you.’

But with this solemn lesson Abraham’s story gives us the comforting assurance that God will give the grace to attain what we need. With what patience and longsuffering did He lead Abraham and Sarah until they were fitted to accomplish His purposes, and it could be said of them, `Abraham believed that he might become the father of many nations;’ and, ‘through faith Sarah received strength to conceive seed and was delivered of a child.’ Even now still will that God, who has undertaken to sanctify His people soul and body, and to fill them with His Spirit, Himself train them for the holy calling of believing parents. He will teach us how the birth of our children can become the highest exercise of a faith that gives glory to God, and the truest means of advancing our spiritual life and the interests of His kingdom.

With us, too, the promise of God and the power of faith are the wondrous links by which the natural seed becomes the heir of the spiritual blessing, and the parental relationship one of the best schools for the life of faith. It is especially in a believing fatherhood that we can become conformed to the image not only of faithful Abraham, but of the Father in heaven Himself.

O our blessed God and Father! what thanks shall we render to You for the wondrous revelation of Your will in Your servants Abraham and Sarah. The fatherhood and motherhood of earth You took into Your covenant charge and keeping, You sanctify and bless, that the seed of Your people might indeed be holy to the Lord. Where sin had abounded, and manifested its terrible power, You make grace much more to abound; and Abraham’s child, the heir of sin and misery, You make the heir of the promise and its blessing. Blessed be Your name Gracious God! Open the eyes of Your servants to see how, through the birth of Your own Isaac, Your dear Son Jesus Christ, in our flesh, the birth of our children has indeed been redeemed from the power of sin, and Your promise comes to us larger and fuller than ever Abraham could understand. Teach us, teach all Christian parents, to realize that if there is one thing in which You have an interest, in which You give abundant grace, in which You ask and aid faith, it is for a believing fatherhood, for our receiving our children from You and for You. O God! enlighten and sanctify our hearts to realize it: the fruit of our body is to be the heir of Your promise. And let our parentage, like Abraham, be what binds us to You in worship and in faith. Amen.

Fifth Day – The Promise of the Covenant

‘And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.’ Gen. 17: 7. `The children of the flesh, they are not the children of God, but the children of the promise.’ Rom. 9: 8.

We have here the first full revelation of the terms of God’s covenant, of God’s dealing in grace, with Abraham, the father of all who believe; the great foundation promise of what God calls an ‘everlasting covenant.’ God had already revealed Himself to Abraham as his God, and the God who would give him a child. The thing that is new and remarkable here is the assurance that the covenant now to be established was to be with his seed as much as with himself: `a God unto thee, and thy seed after thee.’ It is this promise that has invested these words, through all the generations of God’s Church, with an imperishable interest. Let us see how entirely the same the promise is for the child as for the parent.

The matter of the promise is the same in each case: `I will establish My covenant;’ `I will be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.’ It is God’s purpose to stand in the same relation to the child as the father; the believing parent and the unconscious child are to have the same place before Him. God longs to take possession of the children ere sin gets its mastery; from the birth, yea, from before the birth, He would secure them as His own, and have the parent’s heart and the parent’s love sanctified and guided and strengthened by the thought that the child is His. `A God unto thee, and to thy seed.’

The certainty of the promise is the same. It rests on God’s free mercy, on His almighty power, His covenant faithfulness. The election of the seed is as free as of the parent himself, or rather, is even more manifestly of free grace alone, for here at all events there is no possibility of either merit or worthiness. God’s faithfulness to His purpose is in either case the ground on which the promise rests, and its fulfilment may be expected.

The condition of the promise is in each case the same. In its twofold blessing it is offered to the faith of the parent, and has to he accepted by faith alone. If the promise that comes to a sinner in the gospel, `I will be thy God,’ be not believed, that unbelief makes the promise of none effect. God is true, His promise faithful, His offer of mercy real, but it finds no entrance through unbelief, and the blessing is lost. Not otherwise with the other half, `a God to thy seed; if the parent’s faith accept this for his child, God will see to it that his faith is not disappointed.

The recipient of the promise is the same. It is not as if the first half of the promise is given to the father, the second half to the child. No, but it is the same person to whom the two parts of the promise come. In the one half the individual accepts it for himself, in the other half as a father for his child, but it is one act. The promise is not held in abeyance to wait for the child’s faith; but is given to the father’s faith in the assurance that the child’s faith will follow. With Abraham, as with each believing parent, the same faith accepts the personal and the parental blessing. The blessing is in either case equally sure, if faith equally holds it fast.

But here a difficulty arises with many persons. They see that God’s promises of mercy to sinners are free and sure, and have found, in believing them, that they have come true; they know that they have been accepted. But it is as if the promise with regard to the children is not equally simple and certain. They cannot well understand how one can so confidently believe for another. They know that the only sure ground for faith is God’s word; but they have not yet been able to realize that the word of God really means this, that they are definitely to believe that He is the God of their seed. Their impressions are in accordance with views that are ordinarily held, and that may be expressed thus: `God has established a general connection between seedtime and harvest, between faithful parental training and the salvation of the children. In neither case, the seedtime, nor the training, is absolute certainty of success secured, or God’s sovereignty excluded. It is enough that the promise expresses the tendency and ordinary result of proper training, though not what is to be the issue in every particular case.’ It is evident that such a general principle, with its possible exceptions, cannot give the rest of faith the parent longs for. Faith needs the assurance that God’s purpose and promise are clear and unmistakable; then alone can it venture all upon His faithfulness.

Such was the promise given to Abraham; such is the promise to every believing parent. It is not in the general law of seedtime and harvest that I am to find the parallel for my ground of hope on behalf of my child, but in that other very distinct and definite promise with which God himself has linked it. The first half, `I will be a God unto thee,’ is the Divine pattern and pledge of the second, `a God to thy seed.’ When as a struggling sinner I first sought for mercy, it was not to some general principle that seeking is generally followed by finding that I trusted, but to the very definite Divine assurance, `Everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth.’ I believed the promise; I came and was accepted; I found the promise true: `I will be thy God.’ So the promise is now brought that He is willing to be the God of my seed too. Wherever God comes with a promise, He expects faith to accept it at once. The promise was not conditional on Isaac’s believing, it was intended to be its source and security. And so, as I stand in covenant with God as my God, and see how He offers to be the God of His people’s seed, I have the right in faith to claim this promise, and to be assured of my child’s salvation as firmly as my own, through faith in the God of truth. The analogy between the two halves of the promise is complete. In the first it was the question, Could I trust the love and power and faithfulness of God to accept and renew and keep such a sinner as I am? Faith gave the answer, and secured the blessing. And now with the other question, Can I trust the love and the power and faithfulness of God to accept and renew and keep my child? Faith can again give the answer, and this blessing too is secured.

And if the thought still come up, as it has come and troubled many, How about election? how can I be sure that my child is one of the elect? the first half of the promise again gives the solution. When I believed to the saving of my own soul, it was not the secret things which belong to the Lord our God that I had to do with, but the things revealed in His Word, His invitation, and promise. I was sure the election and the promise of God never could be at variance with each other. Even so with my child. No believer in God’s promise ever had to complain that God’s sovereignty had hindered its fulfilment. `They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God, but the children of the promise.’ Not the fleshly descent from a believer can secure grace for the child, but only this, but this most certainly, that God’s free promise, given for the seed of His people, had been claimed and held in faith. The promise is definite, `a God unto thee and to thy seed.’ Oh, let us, like Abraham, not stagger at the promise through unbelief, but be strong in faith, giving glory to God, and be confident that what He has spoken He is able and faithful to perform. Let us look upon our children, let us love them and train them as children of the covenant and children of the promise — these are the children of God.

O my God! how shall I sufficiently adore You for the grace You have revealed in the promise of the covenant? As if it was not enough to take such unworthy sinners and make them Your children, You offer to provide for their children too, and make the house of Your servants the home of Your favor and blessing. You meet them with the sure promise once given to Your servant Abraham: `I will be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.’ Blessed be Your Holy Name!

And now, Lord! I beseech You, give me grace to take this promise and trust it with my whole heart. I desire to believe that as sure as is the confidence I have that You have accepted me and are my God, so confident may I be that You are the God of my seed. As I yielded myself all sinful to You, and You took me as Your own, I give them, all sinful too, to You, and believe You take them as Your own. As I accepted Your promise for myself, I accept it for them. Give me grace now to look upon them as You look; as children of the promise. May this be what gives me courage and hope for their training on earth and their portion in heaven. They are the children of the covenant, children of the promise. Faithful is He who has promised, who also will do it. Amen.

Sixth Day – The Seal of the Covenant

`Ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised, every man child in your generations.’ Gen. 17: 11, 12.

`He received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of faith.’ Such was according to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, the meaning of the ordinance of circumcision given to Abraham. And yet there are many who speak of it as if it were only the initiatory rite into the temporal privileges of the Jewish people. As if it could be meant as one thing to him, something deeply spiritual and sacred, and another to his descendants! As if the whole argument of the Epistle to the Romans did not reprove the Jews for looking at it in so carnal a light, and degrading it from what it originally was — the holy sacrament of friendship and fellowship with God, the seal of the righteousness of faith, the emblem of the covenant of the spirit in which God would circumcise the heart, the sure sign of God’s faithfulness to him and to his seed. It is only this spiritual aspect of circumcision which justifies the Church in grounding upon it the baptism of the infants of believers. But in this light it is the glorious type of the later ordinance, and its best exposition, when we understand how there was no need in the New Testament for repeating in express words the truth so deeply inwrought into the life of God’s people, that their children were as truly in the covenant, and had as sure a right to its sign, as they themselves. May the Holy Spirit lead us to know the mind of our God.

We are taught that circumcision was a seal of the righteousness of faith. A seal is the confirmation of something that has been settled and transacted, the securing of privileges that have already been secured. Abraham had believed, God had counted his faith to him for righteousness, and had taken him into a covenant of friendship. Circumcision was to him a Divine seal and assurance of this. But it was also a sign, and that no arbitrary one, but with a spiritual meaning. It was a sign of that purity and holiness which was to be the mark of God’s people. The most remarkable feature of the covenant was its passing on the blessing from generation to generation, its taking possession for the service of God’s kingdom of the very power of generation. Of this power sin had taken possession; the very first sign of sin with Adam and Eve was that they knew that they were naked and were ashamed. The very fountain of life was defiled, and had to be cleansed. And so, when the little child of eight days old had to suffer the taking away of the foreskin of his flesh, it was in token of the defilement there is in our natural birth, a foreshadowing of that Holy One who should be begotten of the Holy Ghost, and of that second birth in Him, not of the will of the flesh, but of God, which was to be the blessing of the new covenant. It was a type of the circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ, being buried with Him in baptism. The seal of the righteousness of faith under the Old Testament was the sign of the need of regeneration, a sign for the quickening and instruction of Abraham’s faith, and the setting him apart as a father for the service of God.

Circumcision could not be to the infant Isaac essentially different from what it was to Abraham. It was to him too a seal of his participation in that spiritual covenant of which God’s promise and man’s faith were the two marks. All unknowing, he had been taken, with his father, and for his father’s faith; into the favor and covenant of God. It was to him, as to Abraham, a seal of faith — faith already existing and accepted. Not his own, but his father’s; for Abraham’s sake the blessing came on him. We find this distinctly stated later on (Gen. 26: 3, 5): ‘I will bless thee, because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, and my statutes, and my laws.’ And again (ver. 24): `I am the God of Abraham thy father; fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, for my servant Abraham’s sake.’ Abraham had not believed for himself alone, but for his child; the faith that was counted for righteousness had entirely reference to God’s promise about his child; as a father he had believed and received the child in faith from God; the sign of circumcision in the child was the seal to the child of the father’s faith. God dealt with father and child as one; the father believed for himself and his child as one; the child had the same place in the covenant, and the same claim on the seal of the covenant, as the father. And as he grew up it would be to him a seal not only of the faith his father had, but of God’s promise waiting for his faith too, the remembrancer of the one thing required by God, the one thing counted righteousness by Him, the one thing well-pleasing to Him, and by which he in turn could pass the blessing on to his seed again.

What circumcision was to Abraham and Isaac, baptism is still to believers and their children. It, too, is a sign, only far clearer and brighter. If circumcision spoke of the shedding of blood and the purifying of the very fountain of life, the water in baptism witnesses of the blood that has been shed and the Spirit that has been given, with their cleansing and renewing. `There are three who bear witness: the Spirit; and the water, and the blood.’ Of all these blessings it is a sign, and also a seal — a seal from God of the righteousness of faith, that faith in His promise is well-pleasing to Him, and is counted as righteousness.

And baptism is all this, not only to the believing adult, but to his infant too. It were indeed strange if Abraham and every father of his race should, under the Old Testament, have had the privilege of knowing, My child has the same place in the covenant as I have; and of having this sealed to him by the child’s receiving the sign of the covenant, and the Jew, on becoming a Christian, should at once have forfeited the privilege. It need not for a moment surprise us that our Lord, in giving the command to baptize, said nothing of the little ones. So deep had this foundation truth, ‘My covenant with thee and thy seed,’ and therefore the sign of the covenant for the father and the child too, been laid in the very first establishment of the covenant, and so completely had it become inwrought during two thousand years in the life of God’s people, that only the very express revocation of the principle could lead us to believe that the New Testament sign of the covenant is for the adult only. No; in this dispensation of larger love and more abounding grace, this beautiful provision of the everlasting covenant shines with new glory, the covenant and the sign of the covenant for parents and children alike.

But then, let us remember, almost more than in the old, in this dispensation of the Spirit, the one condition of blessing, without which the covenant and its sign are of no value, is faith. It is on this that the blessing of infant baptism depends. The parent must meet God as Abraham did, as a believer. It is faith and faith alone that can enter into the covenant, that pleases God, that obtains the reward. He must believe for himself in that Christ who is the surety of the covenant, who is Himself the covenant. He must believe for his child. `Thy God and the God of thy seed;’ these are the unchangeable terms of an everlasting covenant. The faith that claims the first may claim the second too. It has the same warrant — God’s word. It has the same hope — God’s faithfulness. It obtains the same blessing of free grace — the salvation of my child as surely as my own. And it has the same sign as its seal — baptism for the infant as well as the adult.

O my God! we thank You for the condescension to our weakness, manifested in giving us, in visible sign, a Divine seal of spiritual and unseen blessings. You know our frame, and remember that we are dust. You are the Creator of our bodies, not less the Father of our spirits; You have redeemed them to be the temple of Your Holy Spirit. In the body You set the seal of Your acceptance of us and Your right over us. Lord, teach us to understand this; and let holy baptism, the seal of the New Testament faith and life, be indeed to Your people the sign that they are baptized into the death of Christ.

And grant, most gracious God! that where Your people cannot yet see eye to eye in the dispensation of this ordinance, it may still be, not the symbol of division, but the bond of unity in the Spirit of love.

And teach us, who believe that You Yourself have meant this seal of the covenant for our children too, to recognize its deep spiritual meaning, and to live ourselves as baptized into the death of Christ, and circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands. Teach us in faith to claim the full spiritual blessing for our children too, and to train them for it. And so fulfil to us, O our God! in full measure the promise of the covenant: `A God unto thee, and to thy seed.’ Amen.

Seventh Day – Keeping the Covenant

`I have known Abraham, to the end that he may command his household and his children after him, that they may keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; to the end that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him.’ Gen. 18: 19.

Faith without works is dead. Saving faith is an energy, the power of a new life, manifesting itself in conduct and action. In true faith the soul becomes united to God, and seeks to enter into the Divine will, as the surest way of becoming one with Himself. As faith grows clearer and stronger, it always sympathizes more fully with God’s plans; it understands Him better, and becomes more conformed to His likeness. This is true not only of individual but also of parental faith. The higher the faith of the parent rises, the more the family will come under its power, and be permeated by the spirit of godliness. Parental faith in God’s promise will always be known by parental faithfulness to God’s will

Abraham is a remarkable illustration of this. As distinctly as God’s Word speaks of his faith, it tells, too, of his faithfulness as a father. In assigning the reason why God’s purpose in regard to Sodom should not be kept secret from him, God grounds it upon this part of his character. Not as an eminent believer, not even as the father of the promised seed, but as one called to be the faithful leader of his children and household in the ways of the Lord, God confers on him the high distinction of having His secret counsel revealed to him. Faithfulness in his household gave him access to God’s secrets and to God’s presence as intercessor for Sodom. Let us try to understand what this means, and why God puts such honor upon parental faithfulness. Let us look to its need, its character, its blessing, its power.

Think what need there is of it. Without it the blessing offered to parental faith is lost, and the purpose of God made void. Were God by direct interposition, or by special agents, to seek the salvation of the little ones, there would be no reason for the part the parent is allowed to take in the covenant. God’s object in thus honoring him is distinctly that he, to whose influence the helpless babe is committed, should train it for God. God seeks a people on earth. The family is the great institution for this object; a believing and God-devoted fatherhood one of the mightiest means of grace. God’s covenant and the parent’s faith are but preliminary steps; it is by the godly upbringing by the parents that the children are led really to enter upon and possess the blessings secured in the covenant. They must learn to know, and choose, and love the God who has given Himself to them. The most precious promises on God’s part will not avail unless the child is brought up, in the course of patient and loving training, to desire and accept the proffered friendship of the Holy One, to obey Him and keep His commandments. God establishes His covenant with parents not only for their comfort, to assure them of what He will do, but also to strengthen them for what they must do, whom He makes His fellow-workers in securing the children for Him. The sure covenant does not dispense with, the better it is understood, the more it reveals the indispensable need of, parental faithfulness.

What God says of Abraham further gives us an insight into the true character of this grace: `I have known Abraham to the end he may command his children and his household after him.’ The spirit of modern so-called liberty has penetrated even into our family life; and there are parents who, some from a mistaken view of duty, some from want of thought as to their sacred calling, some from love of ease, have no place for such a word as `command,’ which God here uses, in their family religion. They have seen nought of the heavenly harmony between authority and love, between obedience and liberty. Parents are more than friends and advisers: they have been clothed by God with a holy authority, to be exercised in leading their children in the way of the Lord. There is an age when the will of the child is to a great extent in their hands, and when the quiet, loving exercise of that authority will have mighty influence. We speak here not so much of commanding in the sense of specific injunctions; we speak of what we see in the heavenly Father; the tenderness of affection combined with an authority not to be despised. It is the silent influence of example and life which also exercises its commanding power, which makes the child often unconsciously bow to the stronger will, and makes it happy in doing so.

The blessing of such parental faithfulness is sure and large. God says: ‘That the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken concerning him.’ It was in the way of a godly education that the blessings of the covenant were to come true. God’s faithfulness and man’s in the covenant are linked by indissoluble ties. If Abraham was to be blessed, and his seed with him, and all nations again in his seed, it was only thus — he must, as a faithful parent, pass on to others what he knew himself of God. It is only as the children become partakers of the parent’s spirit that they can share his blessing. The child is to be identified with the parent, not merely in an imputation in which God looks on it for the parent’s sake, but in a similarity of disposition and conduct; so, and not otherwise, would God bring upon Abraham what He had spoken. As it is written: `Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect, and he was called the friend of God.’ In a way that passes all comprehension, but that fills us with adoring wonder at the place given to His servants in the fulfilling of His counsel, the faithfulness of God and man, each in his performance of the covenant obligation, are inseparably and eternally interwoven.

The solemn responsibility may well make us tremble. But God’s word meets us with Divine comfort. The power is provided in the purpose of God. The words of the text are most remarkable: `I have known Abraham, to the end that he may command his children and his home.’ It was with this very purpose that God had chosen him and revealed Himself; God Himself was the security that His own purposes should be carried out. It was because God had known, and he truly known God, that he could do it. And so every believing parent has, in the very fact of his being taken into this relation with God, the guarantee that God will give the grace of faithfulness to prepare for the blessing, as well as the reward upon it. In the covenant we have not to trust our God for every other blessing, but look to ourselves for the faithfulness that receives it; no, as for every other, so for this, most of all, we may count upon Him: `I have known Abraham, to the end that he may command his household and his children.’

It is part of God’s covenant that He will first teach man to keep it, and then reward that keeping (Jer. 32: 40). A covenant-keeping God and a covenant-keeping parent — in these the children must be blessed. `The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those that remember His precepts to do them.’

Believing parent! see here the two sides of a parent’s calling. Be very full of faith, be very faithful. Very full of faith: let faith in the living God, in His covenant with you and your seed, in His promises for your children, in His faithfulness, fill your soul. Take God’s word as the only measure of your faith. And then, be very faithful: take God’s word as the only measure of your life, especially in the family. Be a parent such as God would have you be. Let it be your one desire so to live yourself, so to rule your home, so to command your household and your children, that they may walk in the ways of the Lord, that so the Lord may bring upon you that which He has spoken concerning you. You may depend upon it that the blessing will be large and full. In the blessing for your own Christian life, which comes from that self-discipline and exercise of faith which parental faithfulness involve, in the blessing on your home life and your children, in the influence which will come to you on those around you (1 Tim. 3: 5, 6), in the power given you, like Abraham, to enter into God’s secrets, and to plead with Him as intercessor for the perishing, God will prove to you that believing, faithful parentage is one of the highest privileges to which man can be admitted. Study Abraham in his fatherhood as chosen of God, faithful to God, blessed of God, and find in him the type, the law, the promise of what your fatherhood may be.

O my God! have You indeed taken me too into this wonderful covenant, in which You are the God of the seed of Your saints, and make them the ministers of Your grace to their children? Open my eyes, I pray You, to see the full glory of this Your covenant, that my faith may know all that You have prepared for me to bestow, and may do all You have prepared for me to perform. O my God! may Your covenant-keeping faithfulness be the life and the strength of my faith. May this faith make me faithful in keeping the covenant.

And teach me to realize fully what this parental faithfulness is which You do ask of me. I would make this the one object of my home life, to train a seed to serve You. By my life, by my words, by my prayers, by gentleness and love, by authority and command, I would lead them in the way of the Lord. O God! be You my helper.

Teach me, above all, that, as You have appointed this parental training for the fulfilment of Your purpose, I may be assured that You have made provision for the grace to enable me to perform. Let my faith see You undertake for me and all I have to do, and an ever-growing faith so be the root of an ever-growing faithfulness. I ask it in the name of Your Son. Amen.

Eighth Day – The Child’s Surety

‘And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me; I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him.’ Gen. 43: 8, 9.

These are the words of Judah, when he sought to persuade his father to send Benjamin with him. And that he realized what his surety-ship for the child meant, and was ready at any sacrifice to fulfil its duties, is evident from his pleadings before Joseph, when he said, `Thy servant is become surety for the child with his father,’ and offered himself as slave in his brother’s place. In this he was not only the type of his own descendant, the great Surety of His people, who gave Himself in their stead; but also, because the spirit of self-sacrifice passes from the head to the body, of every parent to whom God commits the care of a child amid the dangers of the journey through life. The language and conduct of Judah will teach us some most suggestive lessons as to the little ones who have been entrusted to our charge.

Consider first the meaning of the engagement made. What else is our language, as in baptism we undertake to train a child for God, but this: `Send the child with me; I will be surety for him.’ In answer to the questions, How can that little one receive the mark of the covenant, and then be sent forth into a sinful world? Were it not better that it were removed at once from a world of sin to the Father’s home? Or else left without that sign of the covenant which has so often been but an empty form? The answer has been, `Send it with me; I will be surety for it.’ Most distinctly the question has often again been put to the trembling parents when the little one was threatened with sickness or death, Shall the child live or die? and the answer was heard again: Spare it, leave it, even though it be a world of danger; I will be surety for the child; of my hand shall You require it; send it with me. Solemn thought! Amidst all the dangers down in Egypt, and so many seen perishing, as parent I take charge of the child, and the great God may hold me responsible if I bring him not back to his father’s home in safety. With Judah I have spoken: ‘If I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame forever!’

Consider, too, the duties of such a suretyship, as illustrated in Judah. He was thoroughly in earnest with the engagement he had undertaken. When the governor of Egypt had commanded that Benjamin should be kept as a slave, he at once came forward as a substitute. Not for a moment does he think of his own home and children, of Egyptian slavery and its hardships; everything gives way to the thought, My father entrusted him to me, and I am surety for the lad. With the most touching earnestness he pleads to be accepted in the youth’s stead: `Thy servant is become surety for the lad with his father. How shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? Now, therefore, let thy servant abide instead of the lad as bondman to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brethren.’

Would God that Christian parents realized, as Judah did, what it means that they are surety for their child! Alas! how often, when our children are in danger from the prince of this world, when the temptations of the flesh or the world threaten to make them prisoners and slaves, to hold them back from ever reaching the Father’s home — how often are we found careless or unwilling to sacrifice our ease and comfort in seeking to rescue them from their danger! How often the spiritual interests of the child are considered subordinate to worldly prospects or position or profit, and the solemn covenant forgotten in which we undertook to make it our first care that the child should not be lost to the Father in heaven! How feebly we realize that it is only in a life of pure and wholehearted devotion, in which the selfishness and worldly-mindedness of the world are crucified, and our life is lived for God, that we can really train children for heaven! And how little we have learnt, when danger threatens, and our children appear to be growing up unconverted, to bow at the foot of the throne, until we see that our plea, `I am surety for the child,’ has touched the heart of the King, and we have His word to set him free. Oh, that the ruling principle of parental life and love might be, Without the child I will not see my Father’s face.

Consider now, too, the encouragement Judah’s example gives. It sets before us the abundant reward the faithful surety will reap. In pleading with the ruler of Egypt, Judah thought he had to do with a stranger, a despot, and an enemy. Little did he know that his pleadings were entering the ears of one who was his own and Benjamin’s brother. He never dared to hope that it would exercise such a mighty influence, or call forth that wondrous revelation of the ruler falling weeping on Benjamin’s neck, with his, `I am Joseph.’ Wonderful picture of the power and the reward of a surety’s supplication!

And yet not more wonderful than the parent-surety may expect. Did we but more feel the sinfulness of our children’s nature, and the dangers surrounding them, with what fervency we should plead with the great King and Savior of the world for their salvation. It is there, not less than to Judah, that the blessing would come to us. It might be that at the first, as it was with him, we had no conception of the tender relation in which He stands to us and our children as a Brother: as we plead for the child, and show ourselves ready to make any sacrifice so he may be saved, we should have our reward in the blessed revelation of what Jesus is to us, as well as in the blessing on the child. The blessing to the pleading surety would be no less rich than to his charge. In Jairus, and the father of the lunatic, and the Syrophenician woman, and in the experience of ten thousand parents, we have proof that, while they only thought of obtaining what their children needed, their prayer led to experiences of the power and love of the Savior, to such closer and more intimate fellowship with Him, to such personal blessing as they never had found in only praying for themselves. They saw Him with whom they were pleading on the throne descend and say, I am Jesus; they saw Him embrace the beloved one they pleaded for and kiss him; Jesus was never so gloriously revealed as when they were pleading as parents and sureties for their children.

And just as Judah then learnt to understand how Joseph was the true surety, who in the path of suffering had won the throne and their deliverance from famine and death, so parents will learn, the more they seek to fulfil their duties as sureties, to know and rejoice in Jesus as their Surety. He has not only undertaken their own personal salvation: He has secured and vouchsafes the grace they need to fulfil their duties; He is the Surety for their suretyship, too, because theirs is grounded in His. The vicarious principle on which redemption rests, and in virtue of which He died, `One for all,’ runs through the whole of its economy; most specially does it appear in the family, that image of humanity as a whole. There the father is head, is priest, is king, even as Christ, over his own house; the father is, in limited sense, but most really, surety for the child. And now it is, as he, the surety on earth, under the burden of his charge, draws nigh to the King, and discovers in Him the Great Surety, that the revelation will give him new confidence and strength and joy in the work he has undertaken. In the light of the redemption and love and friendship of Jesus, the thought, `I am surety for the child,’ will gain new brightness, devotion to the training of the children will become more earnest, the readiness to make any sacrifice to save them from the world will be more spontaneous, and the pleading of faith more confident and triumphant. And it will be found now what richest blessings for parents and their family open out in the words, ` I am surety for the child.’

Blessed Father, most earnestly do we beseech You to open the eyes of the parents of Your Church to see and know their holy and most blessed calling. May they understand and realize that You say to them at the birth of each little one entrusted to their care, At your hands will I require it. May they understand and realize, too, that with each little one they brought and gave to You in baptism, they accepted the solemn charge, and gave the answer, `Of my hand You will require him; I am surety for the child.’

O God, show us what the dangers are that surround our children, and how impotent we are. Give us the true surety spirit, the willingness to sacrifice all rather than be unfaithful to our charge. As we see the power of sin and of the world threatening them, may we plead as for our own life, yea, with the offer of our life, that the children be now saved from sin and Satan. As Your eye sees us day by day with our children, may this be the one desire, of our parental love. You find, that they may be wholly Yours. Be this our one aim in prayer, and education, and intercourse.

And do, O blessed Lord Jesus, King, Surety, Brother, on the throne, reveal Yourself as our Helper and our Joy.

O Lord Jesus, teach us and the parents of Your Church that, as You are our Surety, we are the surety of our family. O You who are the faithful Surety, make us faithful too. Amen.

Ninth Day – Faith Hiding the Child

`And when she saw that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.’ Exod. 2: 2. ‘By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months by his parents, because they saw he was a goodly child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.’ Heb. 11: 23.

The story of Moses will lead us a step further in the study of the way in which the faith of parents will manifest itself in dealing with their children. It was faith that saw the goodliness of the child; it was faith that feared not the king’s wrath; it was faith that hid the child and saved its life. In each child born of believing parents, faith sees the same goodliness, meets the same danger, and finds the same path of safety.

It was by faith Moses’ parents saw he was a goodly child. The natural love of a parent’s heart doubtless made the child a beautiful one in the mother’s eye; but faith saw more than nature could. God opened the eyes, and there was the consciousness of something special, of a spiritual beauty, that made their babe doubly precious. And so the eye of faith sees in each little one a Divine goodliness. Is it not a being created in God’s image, with the faint light of a Divine glory, of an immortal life, shining from it? Is it not an object of the great redemption; destined to be a partaker of the precious blood and the Holy Spirit of Jesus, to be the object of the joy of angels and God’s everlasting love and pleasure? a child, whose worth exceeds that of the whole world? a child, that even in this life can be a brother of Jesus, a servant of God, a blessing for the immortal spirits of fellow-men? Surely faith may call the little one unspeakably fair, for it sees it shining as a jewel in the crown of the Lamb – His joy and His glory. We have indeed a surer hope than ever Moses’ parents had, and a brighter light in which the heavenly beauty of our little ones is reflected. O Father, open the eyes of all Your people that, with each little babe You give them, their faith may see that it is a goodly child.

It is faith that sees, but fears not the danger. Our children are still exposed to the same danger. Pharaoh had commanded that the children of God’s people should all be destroyed. He knew that if the children were cut off, the people would soon die out. There would be no need of the trouble and danger of war; by a slow and silent but sure process the nation would be cut off. The Prince of this world still pursues the same policy. When parents take a decided stand for God, the world may despise or hate them; it soon learns that it is of little use to attempt to conquer them. But it knows a surer way. The spirit of the world claims possession of the children: if these are won, all are won. And too often, alas! Christian parents give their children a prey to the world. Children are allowed to grow up in comparative ignorance about the blessed Savior, are entrusted to the care of irreligious or worldly teachers, are allowed to associate with those whose spirit and influence is altogether worldly. And in many a Christian home, where at one time, when the children were still young, all was earnest and decided; as they grew up, the tone became changed, and the power of religion was far less to be seen. And the Church, alas! is often too faithless or feeble to warn against it. How little it has realized that in the parental relation, and in baptism, it has a mighty hold on the Church of the future, and given to the instruction and encouragement of parents the prominent place its importance demands. To what a large extent the education of the young has been left to the State, and the secular school, and the spirit of the age, until the youthful heart has lost the simplicity and tenderness of which the Master spoke when He said, ‘Of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ Oh! what thousands on thousands of the children of the kingdom are thus drowned in the mighty Nile of this world — the fruitful stream of its pleasures and profits. Would God that the eyes of His people might be opened to the danger which threatens His Church! It is not infidelity or superstition, it is the spirit of worldliness in the homes of our Christian people, sacrificing the children to the ambition or society, to the riches or the friendship of the world, that is the greatest danger of Christ’s Church. Were every home once won for Christ, a training-school for His service, we should find in this a secret of spiritual strength not less than all that ordinary preaching can accomplish.

It is faith that still finds the same path of safety. ‘By faith Moses was hid by his parents.’ They trusted God on behalf of this goodly child, one of the children of His covenant. ‘By faith Moses was hid by his parents,’ — these simple words tell us our duty, what our faith must do. Christian parent! hide your child. And where? Oh, hide it in that safest refuge — `the shadow of the Almighty,’ `the secret of God’s countenance.’ Lay your child from its birth daily there in faith, and let your soul be filled with the consciousness that He has indeed taken charge of it. Let the mighty rock of God’s strength and the tender covering of His feathers be its ark, while still it is all unconscious of temptation or danger. Let with the first dawn of reason, the clefts of the rock and the love of Jesus be the place of safety to which you guide its youthful feet. Hide it in the quiet of home life from the excitements of the world without, from the influence of a civilization and culture which is of the earth. In that hiding, where the enemy cannot find, we have one of faith’s highest duties. And when the time comes that it must come into contact with the world, oh! you can still entrust it to Him who is the Keeper of Israel — let it be a settled thing with your heart that He has accepted your trust, has taken charge, and cannot disappoint your faith. Commit your child boldly to the waters in the ark of the covenant of your God. Fear not the inexorable law which is continually being proclaimed — `The children cannot be kept separate from the world the children must go with the stream.’ No, let faith hold it fast that yours are the children of a peculiar people, separated unto God; they must be kept separate for Him.

The reward of the faith of Moses’ parents will be ours. Not only was Moses saved, he became the savior of his people. Thy child, too, will not only be blessed, but also be made a blessing. Each child has not the calling of a Moses. But in His kingdom God needs not only a Moses, but a Moses’ mother and a Moses’ sister, for the fulfilment of His purposes. Let your faith but, like Moses’ mother, do its work: God Himself will see to it that our labor is not in vain. The education Moses’ mother gave her son during the years of his childhood was such as all the years of his training at Pharaoh’s court could not obliterate. His parent’s faith bore fruit in his faith, when he, at every cost, chose suffering with the people of God, and was not afraid of the wrath of the king, because he saw Him who is invisible. Let faith hide the child in the ark of God’s love. Let faith, when God entrusts the child to its care, train the child for God and His people, and when the time comes that it must go into the world, were it even to live at Pharaoh’s court, it will be safe in the power of faith and of God’s keeping. A child of faith will not only receive a blessing for itself, but be a blessing to those around.

God grant that the Church may indeed become a ` Moses’ mother,’ the faithful nurse of the children He entrusts to her care, `hiding’ them and keeping them separate from the world and its influence. He will give a wonderful fulfilment of the promise, wherever He finds the fulfilment of the duty: `Take this child, nurse it for me: I will give thee thy wages.’

Gracious God! with my whole heart I thank You for the teaching of Your Word, by which You prepare me to fulfil aright my holy calling as parent. I thank You for the example of Moses’ parents, and pray that the grace that taught them in faith to save their child may be given to me too.

I acknowledge, Lord, that I do not sufficiently realize the value of my children, nor the danger to which they are exposed from the Prince and the Spirit of the world. Lord! teach me fully to recognize the danger and yet never to fear the commandment of the king. Open my eyes to see in the light of heaven that each little one is a goodly child, entrusted to my keeping and training for Your work and kingdom. Help me in the humility and watchfulness and boldness of faith to keep them sheltered, to hide them from the power of the world and of sin. May my own life be the life of faith, hid with Christ in God, that my child may know no other dwelling-place.

And grant all this also to all Your people, O my God. Let Your Church awake to know her place in this world, and her calling to go out to the land to which God has called her. Let, in the training of the children, the mighty power of faith be seen, the difference between them that fear You and them that fear You not. O give us grace to rear our children for You. Amen.