by Gordon H. Hayhoe
These meditations were originally the result of an exercise on the part of the writer for his own instruction as a father, in bringing up his children. As they grow older, he has sought special wisdom from the Lord in the matter, so that they might, as John says, "walk in truth." 3 John 4.
In looking to the Lord about it, the family of God—as found in John's epistles—and the way in which God our Father has made Himself known to us as His children, came before me as the PERFECT PATTERN for family life. What wonderful instruction is found there for us! And while acknowledging my own failure as a father (and more so after writing this!) yet I believe I can say it has been for blessing. Now I would seek to pass it on to others, adding a little word for mothers too, at the end.
May the Lord be pleased to use this little booklet for His own glory and praise, and for the blessing of the fathers and mothers of many growing families in these difficult days.
The Family: A Word to Fathers
Undoubtedly every Christian father feels the difficulty of bringing up a family for the Lord in days like this. Nor can we expect it to become easier as the Lord's coming draws nearer, for the darkness is increasing. The enemy seems to be doubling his efforts. Mightier and more deadly weapons are being used in the world's warfare, and it seems as though Satan is doing the same thing against the Christian in his warfare. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Ephesians 6:12. How much we need the whole armour of God! How much we need the light and wisdom of the Word of God, and strength from above, "because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world." 1 John 4:4. We have no strength or wisdom of our own.
If we look about us, watching the families of many godly men, we are sure to be disappointed too, for alas, the enemy has often succeeded in his efforts there. Our brother G. C. Willis has shown in his very helpful book, "To the Parents of My Grandchildren," that family after family of those whose names are recorded in the Word of God wandered far away from the Lord, and dishonoured His name in a terrible way. Is it all hopeless? Is there not a perfect pattern for us? Have we only the examples of failing men to follow, or perhaps the advice of those who have failed, as the writer owns he often has. No indeed! God has given us the perfect pattern in His Word. Just as the love of Christ for His Church is the pattern for the husband in his love to his wife, so I believe we could say that the way in which God our Father has dealt with us as His children is the perfect pattern for us as fathers with our children. (See Hebrews 12:5-10.)
This brings us in a particular way to the epistles of John, and one would like to look at them with this in mind. Let us begin with the first epistle, looking to the Lord to apply its precious lessons to our hearts. Here we have the family of God brought before us, and the wonderful truth of how God our Father has made Himself known to us. His character as light and love is brought out in such a blessed way, and now, as possessing eternal life, this character is to be manifested in us as His children. Could there be any more perfect pattern for us as fathers than this? Surely not.
The father's place in the home is a very important one, yet one that we are prone to take all too lightly. The writer being himself a father, with a little family, feels much exercised as to it, that we, as fathers, are responsible to bring love and character, with all their proper instruction, before our children. The mother, as a true helpmeet to her husband—for she is his complement or fullness—will then, or should, enjoy her husband's love and affection, and manifest true love, being an example before the children too. But let us, as fathers, be exercised now as to our responsibility, for it comes first.
Let us begin with the precious promise, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." Acts 16:31. If faith has really appropriated this promise, it will be manifested in the way we bring up our children. It is an empty thing indeed to say that we believe the promise, and then bring them up for the world, or perhaps be altogether careless about their training. We are dealing with precious souls that are going to spend eternity in either heaven or hell, and how can we treat our responsibility lightly? Yet we must not forget that in God's order, faith comes first—then works. This alone gives a quiet peace in the soul, as we seek to bring up our children for Him. Have we, as fathers appropriated His promise for our children in living faith? This is the first question.
Training Our Children—Our Conduct & Character Displayed Before Them
As to the teaching, correcting, warning, and even chastising of our children—when necessary—we get the wisdom of God for this in the book of Proverbs. It is very important that we should read this book carefully and prayerfully, so that we do not follow the ideas of men in this matter. Many dear children of God are following the ideas of the so-called wise men of the world, and sometimes even those of other Christians, instead of acting upon the wisdom of God as given us in His Word. Dear Christian father, you and I cannot be wiser than God, and we are only safe as we follow His instructions for us. If we sin against the wisdom He has given, we will wrong our own souls, and surely suffer in the government of God for our folly. (Proverbs 8:36).
However, I believe there are two sides to the training of our children. Proverbs gives us the one side, and then, I believe, we find the other in John's epistles. We are all so inclined to be one-sided: in fact most of us fail in this way. But the Word of God never makes us one-sided: it is our own wills! The book of Proverbs brings before us more particularly the training of our children: the epistles of John bring out the pattern for our own conduct with them, and the character we display before them. How important this is! In fact it seems to me that it is the most important part of their training, for it is our own conduct that gives weight to what we say to them. If we break down in this, our instructions are liable to fall on deaf ears. Needless to say, we all fail, and the writer is conscious of much failure, which he freely owns, but if others can profit by these meditations, he will rejoice indeed—and may he profit too, for God's glory!
Let us turn, then, to John's first epistle and see how it begins. It begins with knowing the Father. Yes, God our Father wants us to know Him. He sent His own Son, the blessed Lord Jesus Christ, into this world to reveal Himself to us. The disciples looked upon and handled "that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us." 1 John 1:2. The Son fully revealed the Father so that He could say, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." John 14:9. How marvelous! Our hearts are bowed in worship at this stupendous truth! The very thought of how God our Father has told out what is in His heart, to us as His children, has won our love and confidence, and "We love Him, because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19.
What an example, I say, for us, and let us apply it to ourselves as fathers. I believe we have something very needful here— the very first point—and one would seek to take it in. It is knowing the father. Do our children really know us? A wise father will see to it, from the very beginning of his children's lives, that they know him. He will handle them and encourage their sweet intimacy and confidence, even as babes. just as John who wrote this epistle leaned on Jesus' bosom and learned the Father's heart. If we fail in this intimacy with our children, we are off to a wrong start. I believe there are many children who do not really know their fathers as they should, because of failure in this.
The next thing is that God our Father desires to have fellowship, or community of thought, with us as His children. He wants to share His thoughts with us—and what thoughts are His! They all center in His Son, and we, as His children, are blessed in association with Him—how precious! And so we ought to seek to share our thoughts with our children. All that is dear to us, we want to share with them, and we would have our children know this. And is there anything more dear to us than the knowledge of Christ as our Saviour? This they must learn first. Then too, as they grow older, we ought to share with them all our interests in life. We ought to bring them, as much as possible, into all our joys, so that they may enter into them with us. If we do not, then they will seek their interests and happiness elsewhere, outside of the home.
And so we read here, "These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." 1 John 1:4. God our Father wants our joy to be full, and moreover, He wants us to know that this is His desire for us, and that He has made full provision for it. We ought to see to it that our children know that we always seek their true joy and happiness in life. Even our correction and chastisement should have this end in view. Anything that would be for their ultimate good, and add to their true happiness, we should try to give them too, providing of course, (as we will see in what follows) it would not be inconsistent with God's character as light; for these two things, light and love, ought to characterize a Christian home. Sometimes, as fathers, we might take everything away from our children, and give nothing in return. This is not really seeking their joy and happiness. Let us see to it, if we must take something from them for God's glory, that we assure them it is for their own good and blessing. Let us try to make it up to them in other ways. Home ought to be a happy place to them—the happiest spot of their childhood.
What instruction this is for us as fathers! First that our children should know us; second that they should enter into our thoughts, and then, third that they should know we seek their fullest joy and happiness. I believe these three things are of all importance if we would make a right start with our families. It is not all "do's and don'ts." Love is the mainspring, and nothing will be right if it is not. All obedience for the Christian is founded upon love. The Lord Jesus said, "If ye love Me, keep My commandments." John 14:15. And all true obedience in the Christian home—on the part of the children—should be founded upon love too.
We now come to God our Father's character as Light. "God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." 1 John 1:5-6. God our Father wants us to know His character, for if we would have fellowship with Him, which He desires, it must be according to His holiness. We cannot have fellowship with Him in any other way.
And this is a most important thing with our own children, and in its right order too. After they have learned the first three things we have mentioned—and they can learn them very young—then they must learn that there is a certain character suited to our homes as Christian homes. There must be obedience and holiness. Sin and happiness cannot go on together in our lives, nor can they go on together in our homes. Unless our children are brought to see this, we cannot have true fellowship and happiness with them. They must realize that they cannot enjoy our company as long as they walk in self-will and disobedience. The godly character of our homes should be carefully maintained—always. Many Christian parents have reaped in sorrow for lowering the standards of Christian conduct for their children, and have allowed things that are contrary to the Word to go on in their homes. God our Father never lowers the standard for His family. May He help us to guard this in our homes!
This brings us to the next point. God wants reality. He says that pretending to be what one is not, is really lying, and that those who walk in darkness cannot have fellowship with Him. Some parents will say that if we make the standard of godliness too high, then our children will do the forbidden things secretly. God has therefore brought this point before us, for it is His pattern and not our own thoughts we are to follow. If our children really know our hearts, they will want our fellowship above everything else. They will feel that they just cannot hide, or pretend to be what they are not in our presence. And so here, although the light of God our Father's presence manifests sin, yet we can be in His presence, hiding nothing. Why? Because His perfect love has found a way—"The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." 1 John 1:7. How marvelous! What confidence this gives us!
After this, provision is made for our failure as children of God. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9. And so in our homes, where light and love have their right place, all is brought out, and then dealt with in light and love. When our children acknowledge that they have done wrong, then we are to forgive them, as God our Father forgives us. Forgiveness is in our hearts all the time, but governmentally we cannot show it, until they confess their sin.
This, then, is the second group of three important things in connection with the family of God which one would like to apply as a pattern for the Christian home.
We have noticed the first group of three previously. They are:
Knowing the Father,
Having fellowship with the Father,
And knowing that God our Father seeks our fullest joy.
The second group of three is:
Knowing the holy character of God our Father,
Knowing that we must be real and hide nothing
And then knowing that full provision has been made for our failure, forgiveness being shown when we acknowledge it.
This makes six points, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the center and completion of it all. Just as with the seven branched candlestick in the tabernacle (Exodus 25:32), there was one in the center and three branches on either side, so it is here. Christ is the center. He must have the pre-eminence. He is the "all in all" (1 Corinthians 10:28) of Christianity, and unless he is the center of all our home training, it will break down, sooner or later. Six is man's number (Revelation 13:18).—seven is the perfect number.
I believe we could also compare these things to the seven pillars of wisdom spoken of in Proverbs 9:1. There we read, "Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars." In the first seven chapters of Proverbs we have the instruction of a father to his son, and then, in the eighth chapter, we have Christ brought before us as Wisdom. Then the ninth chapter begins with these seven pillars, and a feast of good things. How important are these pillars in our home life, and how beautifully they are brought out here in John's epistle as we have just noticed! What follows in the remaining part of the epistle is the practical application of these things to our everyday life. John gives us the pattern—as we have remarked—and it has to do with the family of God, but what lessons for us as fathers, when applied to our families and our conduct with them!
In the second chapter then, we have the Lord Jesus, the blessed eternal Son of God, brought before us as the perfect example of our walk. And so we read, "He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk even as He walked." 1 John 2:6. He was, and is perfect, and ever showed out the character of God His Father. He was the only begotten Son in whom the Father found His fullest delight, and now He is the perfect example for us. How lovely then, not to set ourselves, or other children, as examples before our families, but God's beloved Son. What a mistake has often been made by setting up other children as a pattern, and then our little ones have been led astray. The Son of God alone is the PERFECT example for our children—and for ourselves too! How good to know that, as children of God, we have the very life of Christ, and so it can be said here, "which thing is true in Him and in you."1 John 2:8. The believer has a life which cannot sin. (1 John 3:9). Why lower the standard then, when this is the life that the believer has? May we display more of this new life before our children day by day!
Next we read of the children having love one to another. How often John speaks of this, and how important that parents do not allow bitter and envious feelings to exist between the children in the family. Let us nip them in the bud. Envy ruined the first family in the world and caused Cain to murder his brother. As one sees the bitter feelings in some families, and some not even speaking to one another, much of it can be traced to a neglect on the part of the father to promote love among the children while they were young. Some grown-ups will be heard to say, "There was no love shown in our home." Dear fathers, may this never be said of our homes! May the Lord help us to make them a sanctuary of light and love so that our children will feel better understood and loved there, than any other place on earth. Let us not allow anything to hinder love one to another in our families!
The next thing brought before us is a special word to the babes, young men, and fathers in the family of God. This is a very important consideration for us in family life. John addressed the babes as well as the fathers, and I believe there are two important lessons here. The first is that we must never ignore any member of the family—not even the youngest. Sometimes when older ones are present the father forgets about his children, and we should not do this. Some fathers are so taken up with other "fathers"—those of their own age—that the little ones are left out. Let us be watchful that this does not happen. The little ones appreciate a look of love, or to be spoken to by their father, and we ought to remember this. The saying that "children should be seen and not heard" is not in the Bible, and while it is not fitting for children to be talking a great deal in front of older ones (1 Peter 5:5, Job 32:4), yet their presence should not be ignored. Some children have the feeling that their parents have no time for them, and this is liable to turn them elsewhere for attention. We can be sure, too, that the devil has plenty of time for them in these days, if we, as fathers, do not. He has all kinds of attractions for their young hearts, and the unsaved neighbors will gladly entertain them with worldly things if we do not have time to spend with them ourselves. Let us be watchful of this, even when we have Christian company in the home!
The next lesson here, is, that we ought to remember that each of our children are different. We should bear this in mind; and above all, that they are of different ages. We ought to know what to expect from them according to their age. It says of the little ones here, that they "have known the Father." How lovely! A look of love, a kiss, a kind word means so much to a little child's heart. Let us, as fathers, know how to give it! In what a marvelous way God our Father has won our hearts by His love!
Then the young men are mentioned next as those who "are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one." 1 John 2;14. Wouldn't it be grand if this could be said of all the dear young men brought up in the meetings of those gathered to the precious Name of the Lord Jesus? Dear Christian fathers, what a challenge to us! We are all concerned about the physical health and strength of our maturing children, but what about their spiritual strength? Do we talk to them much about the importance of a firm clear stand for Christ as they grow older? Do we fill their minds with the truth of God so that they are fortified against the infidelity and atheism of the schools, and against the moral corruption on every hand? Have we warned them, too, of the dangers of earthly success, reminding them often that our home is in heaven? We do not need to tell them of all the evil of the world, but we ought so to fill their minds with the Word of God that they are fortified against it. (Romans 16:19). By this they will overcome the world, as it says here.
I often wonder if we realize sufficiently the importance of this instruction to our children, as they grow older. The world looks so bright to their young hearts, and the desire for what it offers to satisfy their lusts is liable to develop as they grow older. Oh, may we spend plenty of time with them, so that they may be kept through these difficult years of youth, and grow up for the Lord. The world is dressed up of Satan to deceive them, and it looks so attractive. In deciding what is right or wrong for them to do, it is not a question of "what is the harm?" but, "Is it of the Father, or of the world?" That is the only proper way to decide. How many years can be wasted, and are wasted, with many of our dear young people, in seeking the world and its vanities, and then finding out that it is all empty dross. May we as fathers warn our dear children at this important, decisive age of their lives, that only what is done for Christ in obedience to His Word will abide. Oh, let us be in earnest—in real earnest. Our verse speaks of young men, but the young women are included, and a little word here about them might be helpful. While the place of public ministry is committed to men, nevertheless one would not minimize the woman's place. If a little more time were spent upon our daughters, bringing before them the importance of living godly lives, in separation from the world, its fashions, its dress, and its foolishness, the results would be felt by all. The influence of a godly young girl in the home, and even in the assembly, and later on, if married, in her own home, is tremendous. Let us bring up our daughters so that they will fill the noble place of so many women whose names and service to the Lord are recorded throughout the Scripture, and also with the fine moral characteristics of the one spoken of in the last chapter of Proverbs. "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever." 1 John 2:17.
Then there is a word for the fathers here, and it is a very important one. It says, "Ye have known Him that is from the beginning." 1 John 2:14. Let us watch against the enemy's attacks in getting us occupied with "divers and strange doctrines." Hebrews 13:9. Soundness in the faith ought to characterize the fathers, and yet how often we have seen a dear Christian father swept off his feet with some division or trouble in the assembly,—just at the age when his children needed him most—just at the time when he should have been most steadfast for the truth. May the Lord keep our feet for His own glory, and for the sake of our families too!
The remainder of the chapter tells us of the importance of walking in communion by the Spirit, taking a firm stand for the truth of God, particularly as regards the person of Christ. If we are not firm for the truth, what a loss will be ours, and perhaps both we and our families will be turned aside. Then, as the apostle says, we shall be "ashamed before Him at His coming." 1 John 2:28. John longed that his spiritual children might abide in Christ, and said that this would be manifested at the judgment seat of Christ. Let us not forget that the way we bring up our families will be manifested there too. What a searching thought!
The third chapter begins with "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not." 1 John 3:1. We are reminded here, that, as children of God, we will be unknown in the world, as Christ the blessed Son of God was unknown. Many of us have experienced this. The world does not want our Saviour, and they will not want us if we walk in any measure as He did. But it is the Father's love known and enjoyed in our souls that makes us content to be misunderstood. And so in our families. It is as they know their father's love—freely bestowed upon them in a Christian home, that they are content to be misunderstood too. How often children feel this misunderstanding at school, and yet they will be content to endure it, if they find deep love and affection in the home. It will be, as we have remarked before, their sanctuary. Everyone in the world desires satisfied affections, and many, many children do not know what is the matter in their lives—there is "something" lacking—and it is that their hearts have not been filled. It is love they want, and although Christ ALONE can fully satisfy the longings of their hearts, yet, if our homes are patterned as they should be after the divine pattern, they will, in their childhood, find LOVE "in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18) in the home. If they see, too, that we are satisfied and happy in the knowledge of God our Father's love, they will want to be like us. They will soon discover the true source of love—the heart of God the Father.
Then, too, there is a blessed hope for every Christian home: we are looking for the Lord to come and take us to be with and like Him forever. "When He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." 1 John 3:2. In many homes about us they have some hope before them; perhaps a new car, a new home, a long trip, or something else in the future, and for this hope they deny themselves. They do without things in order to save up for it. We have the best hope of all, have we not? There is none better! The Lord is coming for us. How often the pleasures we look for here, either do not come at all, or are a disappointment when they do come; but our hope is sure and certain. May the Lord make this hope very real in every Christian home, so that neither we, nor our children, set our hearts upon the things of earth. Plans have their place, if we seek the Lord's mind in making them, but we and our children must learn that nothing is sure or abiding here. This makes our true hope still more blessed!
It is a purifying hope too, keeping us from things that are displeasing to the Lord, and so many of us have this motto hanging upon our walls—
"DO NOTHING that you would not like to be doing when Jesus comes,
GO TO NO PLACE where you would not like to be found when Jesus comes,
SAY NOTHING that you would not like to be saying when Jesus comes."
Indeed the more the character of God our Father is seen in our homes the more the world will hate us. We have all experienced this in some measure. Of course if we will go a little way with them, they will not think we are too odd; but if we refuse all compromise, if we take our place apart from all their worldly activities and pleasures, we will find ourselves and our children cut off altogether. This will, as we notice in our chapter, lead us to a different circle of friends, for our children should not form close friendships with the unbelieving children on the street. If they do, they will soon be led away. Our friends should be those who love the Lord—those who are, by their conduct, marked out as children of God. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death." 1 John 3:14. Let us cultivate true Christian friendship, encouraging our children to talk about the Lord to others. This habit of talking about Him is too often lacking in Christian homes.
Then our children need occupation, and this is brought before us here too. "But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" 1 John 3:17. Let us seek to occupy them with deeds of kindness to those in need. There is so much selfishness in these days, and we ought to teach our children to show the love of God in a practical way, not to be always looking for it in others. The Son of God laid down His life for us and "we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." 1 John 3:16. Do our children see that we are willing to put ourselves out, even when tired, yes, to wear ourselves out in love for our brethren? And in our own family life do we show them, by example, our deep love and willingness to put ourselves out for them? This is a word for fathers here, for God our Father gave His Son to die for us. Mothers are usually willing to sacrifice for their children, but I fear that we, as fathers, often fail in this. John is very practical here, for he says, "Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth." 1 John 3:18. Talk is easy—there is plenty of that—but let us show more love to our children and to our brethren, encouraging our children to do the same.
What follows here is confidence in prayer. "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God." 1 John 3:21. And so, there will only be confidence in prayer as there is consistency in walk. Thus, while we seek to encourage, as far as we can, our children's confidence, and often do for them more than they deserve (as God our Father surely does for us!) yet in reality they will only have confidence in our love, as they are obedient. How often disobedient children miss the blessings that might be theirs! How often they misunderstand their parents, and become unhappy, yet blaming everyone but themselves. Nevertheless it is the Father's heart that we are speaking of, and God our Father's love never changes in spite of our failure, nor should ours to our children.
In the fourth chapter we have warnings to be watchful against those who come, posing as friends, but bringing bad doctrines. We are to refuse such. Our children need to be warned too, for how often we have seen young people led away by those who professed to be Christians, but their lives did not show it. Of course the subject here is wicked doctrine about the person of Christ, but the principle remains that we must be careful about those with whom we make friendships. The truth of God, held in communion in the soul, enables us to overcome the false profession around. It is not enough that one says he is a Christian—there must be reality. Our children need to be warned about these things, as God our Father warns us.
Then there is "dwelling in love." 1 John 4:16. If our homes are a place of light and love, then the children learn to live in that atmosphere. How wonderful it is to dwell in love—enjoying God our Father's love. And wouldn't it be grand if our homes had an atmosphere like that! There would not be so many nervous troubles if this were true, for "perfect love casteth out fear." 1 John 4:18. It is our Father's perfect love that has cast out our fears, and so the thought of coming judgment does not trouble us because "as He is, so are we in this world." 1 John 4:17. Our standing is perfect in Christ. Oh, may this love fill our hearts and our homes more! And so we read here, "We love Him, because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19. That is, knowing and believing God's love, we now have a life that enables us to love, no matter how unworthy the object may seem to be. God our Father loved us when there was nothing in us to draw out His love. May this love be manifested more in us, as fathers. It would be the solution to so many problems in home life.
Once again, in the last chapter, we have overcoming the world. It is a continual struggle, but when we realize that this world murdered the Son of God, its true character is stamped upon it by that act. We cannot go on with it any longer, when faith realizes this. "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God." 1 John 5:5. How would we, as fathers, feel toward someone who had murdered our son? Could we have any friendship with those who did it, or had any part in it? And so when we realize that this world in which we live murdered God our Father's Son, it ends our friendship with them. Let us bring this often before our children and in this way they too will overcome the world. It is not a question as to whether the people are likeable or not, but what they did to the Son of God. And the world has not changed since they crucified Him, for they do not want us to even mention His blessed Name, as we soon find out when we speak of Him before them.
We are impressed, in the end of the book, by seeing that God our Father wants to remove all our doubts. One of the predominant words in the epistle, and especially in the last half, is, "know". And so as wise fathers we should do all we can to remove every doubt from our children's hearts and minds. Love leads to confidence, and we ought always to be careful to keep our children's confidence. When we lose that, we have lost everything. The link is gone. Oh how careful we have to be about this, particularly in our own conduct, and in our attitude towards them.
Then there is the sin unto death. While there is provision made for failure, as we have noticed, there is such a thing as a believer going on in a way that the Lord has to take him away in death. Applying it to the family, I believe it is a serious lesson. To try to maintain fellowship with one of the family who has openly dishonoured the Lord, will break down the testimony of the home entirely. It is a deep sorrow, but better to see the one set aside from the Lord's table, or even taken away by the Lord in death, than to lower the whole character of the home. There is still love—unaltered love—toward the erring one, but fellowship is broken until he is restored, and to maintain it in the same way as before would be wrong. God's glory must come FIRST in the home, as everywhere else.
The second epistle is addressed directly to the mother in the home. The apostle rejoiced greatly that he found of her children walking in truth. Yet we can never "rest upon our oars" and say that all is well. We need continual watchfulness. The mother has the most to do in connection with who comes into the home, and so she is warned here not to allow any evil teachers, denying the deity of Christ, to enter. In principle it would also show us the importance of being careful about the influences which we allow to enter our homes. Alas many homes once had a bright Christian testimony, but as the children grew older, things were allowed, friendships developed with those who had no love for Christ, and the home soon came down to the level of the world. This epistle, as one has remarked, is addressed to the mother, and so one would commend it to all Christian mothers as "keepers of the home." (1 Timothy 5:14; Titus 2:5).
John's last epistle is addressed to the father of a family. His children are found walking in the truth and the aged apostle had no greater joy than to see this. But what was the special occasion that called for this epistle? We notice that there was an unhappy state in the assembly, and John knew how this would have a tendency to discourage both the father and the children. He therefore encouraged the father to continue keeping his home open to those who faithfully served the Lord, and not to be discouraged by the state of things in the assembly. He exhorted him not to be occupied with the difficulty, for he says, "Beloved, follow not that which is evil but that which is good." 3 John 11. One feels how very important this epistle is for us as fathers. When we go to the meetings with our children and things are not as they should be—perhaps the Spirit of Christ is not shown there—we are so liable to feel like staying home, to become cold, and to excuse our children for not wanting to go. What a mistake! Let us go on, still walking in the truth, ever following that which is good, and, as John exhorted Gaius here, KEEPING OUR HOMES FOR THE LORD JUST THE SAME. The Lord will take care of the unhappy situation in the assembly, as John said He would here, but we must patiently wait His time in such cases.
As one writes these lines, it has led to deep searching of heart! How often I have failed, but yet the Lord is faithful, and He has put these things in His Word for our profit. His coming is near, the struggle will soon be over, and then His "well done" will fully repay all our efforts. In the meantime, as we await His coming, He would desire to make our Christian homes a place where we can enjoy "the days of heaven upon earth," as He promised His people Israel long ago. (Deuteronomy 11:18-21.) May He grant it for His Name's sake!
Happy the home where Christ abides,
Where all in Him do trust.
Where it is well whate'er betides,
For He brings peace and rest.
Happy the home where prayer is heard,
Where thanks to God is given;
And where is read His precious Word,
There dwells the joy of heaven.
Happy the home where Jesus' Name
Is sweet to every ear.
Parents and children know His love,
And wait His coming near.
Help us to do Thy will today,
Help us to live for Thee—
Thus may we walk along life's way,
Leaning our Lord, on Thee.
A Word to Mothers
"Wisdom hath buildeth her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars." Proverbs 9:1.
"Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands." Proverbs 14:1.
This booklet has been written primarily to fathers, but I feel sure the mothers will bear with a few words also at this time. I know that you, Christian mother, are deeply concerned over those dear children God has given to you. You are interested, as much or more than your husband, in God's pattern for home life, for the home is your particular sphere. You are the guide in it. (1 Timothy 5:14). If it were a new house being built for the family, how carefully you and your husband would study the plans together, thinking of how you would enjoy it with your children. And how much more important is the plan God has given us, not for a beautiful house of wood, brick or stone, which may be spoiled by the broken hearts behind its grand walls, but for a home of light and love. In a word, it is the character of the home that makes it what it really is, be it humble or grand in appearance.
We have already spoken of the seven pillars (Proverbs 9:1) of the home which wisdom has hewn out for us, and we read in the verses that follow of the wonderful feast held there. This we all desire. Every Christian father and mother wants a happy home with its joy and peace—but oh it takes so little to pluck it down!
And you, dear Christian mother, can be your husband's true helpmeet in building this home of light and love, or you can pluck it down. You can encourage and uphold him in his love and correction of the children, or you can oppose and hinder him. This is very important. You wield a tremendous influence in the home, in many ways far greater than your husband's. You are with the children more than he is, and they look to you. You can do more than he to make or break the home. Remember how Eve ruined the first home in the world when she acted independently of God and her husband. She did not turn to him, but took the lead herself and listened to the voice of Satan instead. God had made her to be a helpmeet to Adam, but she hindered him, bringing plenty of sorrow upon herself too. God's pattern is always the best and we can only expect His blessing as we seek grace to follow His Word.
There are also two external things which God has given to mark out the woman's place: her long hair, and her apparel. I believe we should mention these here, for they are important enough for God to mention them in His Word in a very definite way. Long hair is a sign of submission (1 Corinthians 11:3-15) and is in keeping with a godly home. Then too there is modest apparel, clothes pertaining to a man being mentioned for such would be unbecoming to a woman who is in her God-given place. (1 Timothy 2:9; Deuteronomy 22:5). In these days when the fashions are altogether otherwise, there needs to be a single eye to please the Lord, and not others, in these matters, especially before our children.
Dear Christian mother, "Cease...to hear the instruction that causeth thee to err from the words of knowledge." Proverbs 19:27. Do not listen to the advice of the world, nor even to that of some Christians who "reject the counsel of God against themselves" (Luke 7:30) because it condemns them. It is your wisdom to seek grace to fulfill the place of a helpmeet (not of the head) which God has given you in the home. It is a wonderful place. Even if your husband should fail in fulfilling his place as head, ask the Lord for grace to fulfill yours. His failure does not change your place or responsibility, nor does it change his. He needs your help and prayers. Alas, we all fail as husbands, but fault finding and blaming one another will not straighten matters out, nor help to build up the home, but it will surely help to "pluck it down". How much we need the grace and strength which comes from above, especially when difficulties arise in the home, but let us not depart from the divine pattern.
There may be some who read these lines who have unbelieving husbands and I know that the Lord will give you grace in these things, if you look to Him, that, as Peter says, "If any obey not the Word, they may also, without the Word be won by the conversation of the wives." 1 Peter 3:1.
How thankful we can be for all of this precious instruction in the Word of God, and that God has not left us to our own thoughts in these matters. He has marked out the Pattern: not to rob us of happiness, but for our good as fathers and mothers—that our joy may be full. Let us each take up the Scriptures and search these things out. Let us see what God's Word says, and then let us ask Him for grace to carry it out.
I speak these words humbly, I trust, and in love; knowing that God has planned that our days in the home should be "as the days of heaven upon earth" (Deuteronomy 11:21). If we follow His wisdom, they will be!
Ponder these things well, dear Christian mother, and may God bless you and your dear children. By acting upon God's Word you can prove the blessedness of walking in His ways, and your husband and children will say of you what is said of the wife and mother described in Proverbs 31:28-29, "Her children arise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all".
May this be said of you, not only while the children are small, but above all as they grow older, for the more they love the Lord, the more they will love you! Your work will then be rewarded even here, and the latter years of life will be happy ones for you and your husband, should the Lord leave us here a little longer. There is no greater joy than when our children walk in the truth, and sometimes I think there is no greater sorrow than when they do not!
"Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded." 2 Chronicles 15:7.
G. H. H.
Copied from The Family: A Word to Parents by Gordon Hayhoe. [Canada: s.n., no date].