Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

March 13, 1894

Family Government Is to Be Maintained

By Mrs. E. G. White

Watch, pray, work! To be in a position of watching, working, praying, and waiting, is to be in the proper position. We are to act as wise stewards, as faithful servants doing the work of the Master. I am particularly exercised over the mismanagement in the training of families. The father is to be the houseband of the family. This is his position, and if he is a Christian, he will maintain family government. In every respect his authority is to be recognized. In many families the father's authority is never fully acknowledged, and a series of excuses are offered for the disobedience of the children. In many families the daily life is one of variance, full of the counterworking of the father against the mother and the mother against the father. The mother thinks the father unnecessarily severe and exacting. Why?—Because the children do not acknowledge and reverence the father, who, if he is a Christian, represents the divine authority of God, whose vicegerent he is. The father is to carry out the gracious designs of God, and establish his family in upright principles, that they may have virtuous and well-balanced characters.

If fathers and mothers are at variance, one working against the other to counteract each other's influence, the family will be in a demoralized condition, and neither the father nor the mother will receive the respect and confidence that are essential to a well-governed family. The mother will leave the impression upon the minds of the children that the father is too severe or is needlessly particular. Children are quick to discern anything that will cast a reflection upon the rules and regulations of a household, especially those regulations that restrict their actions. Would that parents would work in harmony, guiding their children in the fear of God, and remembering that they are his agents. The family is a divine institution, and parents should be wise, judicious teachers of their little ones. Children are to be patiently instructed, line upon line, and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. They should be trained, educated, and disciplined until they become obedient to their parents, giving respect to their authority. In this way respect for divine authority will be implanted in their hearts, and the family training will be like a preparatory training for the family in heaven. The training of childhood and youth should be of such a character that children will be prepared to take up their religious duties, and thus become fitted to enter into the courts above.

Let parents consider the fact that they are in place of God to their children. The weakness and inexperience of the children are to be supplied by the practice and precepts of the parents. From the earliest age a wise education in Christ's lines is to be begun and carried forward. When the children's hearts are impressible, they are to be taught concerning eternal realities. Parents should remember that they are living, speaking, and acting in the presence of God. The heavenly intelligences are witnesses to their words and deeds. They know how they are dealing with the younger members of the Lord's family; for the children are the purchase of the only begotten Son of God. The angels look with intense interest upon every family, to see how the children are treated by parents, guardians, or friends. What strange mismanagement they witness in a family where father and mother are at variance! The tones of the voice of father and mother, their looks, their words,—all make it manifest that they are not united in the management of their children. The father casts reflections upon the mother, and leads the children to hold in disrespect the mother's tenderness and affection for the little ones. The mother thinks she is compelled to give large affection to the children, to gratify and indulge them, because she thinks the father is harsh and impatient, and she must work to counteract the influence of his severity.

O how God is dishonored in a family where there is no true understanding as to what constitutes family discipline, and children are confused as to what is discipline and government. It is true that too harsh discipline, too much criticism, unrequired laws and regulations, lead to disrespect of authority, and, to the disregarding finally of those regulations that Christ would have fulfilled. The lack of family government leads to the destruction of confidence in wise regulations in the family economy. Parents should themselves be converted, and know what it is to be in submission to God's will, as little children, bringing into captivity their thoughts to the will of Jesus Christ, before they can rightly represent the government that God designed should exist in the family.

In the family, fathers and mothers should ever present before their children the example they wish to be imitated. They should manifest one to the other a tender respect in word, and look, and action. They should make it manifest that the Holy Spirit is controlling them, by representing to their children the character of Jesus Christ. The powers of imitation are strong, and in childhood and youth, when this faculty is most active, a perfect pattern should be set before the young. Children should have confidence in their parents, and thus take in the lessons they would inculcate. Parents should make manifest in their daily life what it is to love God supremely and their neighbor as themselves. Where religion is a practical thing in the home, great good is accomplished. Religion will lead the parents to do the very work God designed should be done in the home. Children will be brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

Children are not to be trained to be the devotees of society. They are not to be sacrificed to Moloch; but they are to become members of the Lord's family. Parents are to be filled with the compassion of Christ, that they may work for the salvation of the souls that are placed under their influence. They are not to have their minds all engrossed in the fashions and practices of the world. They are not to educate their children to attend parties and concerts and dances, to have and attend feasts; because after this manner the Gentiles walk. Eternal vigilance must be exercised, that the children may be led in the paths of righteousness. Satan begins his work upon them from earliest childhood, and creates desires for that which God has forbidden. The safety of children depends largely upon the vigilance, watchfulness, and care of the parents over them. Parents must work in the fear of the Lord, preoccupying the garden of the heart, by sowing good seed. They must instill the right spirit, plant correct habits, and teach the children that the love and fear of God are the foundation of all wisdom. Obedience to parental authority should be inculcated in babyhood and cultivated in youth. The will of the parents must first be under discipline to Christ, molded and controlled by the Holy Spirit, and then parents must have control of the child.

Parents who exercise a spirit of dominion and authority, transmitted to them from their own parents, which leads them to be exacting in their discipline and instruction, will not train their children aright. By their severity in dealing with their errors, they stir up the worst passions of the human heart, and leave their children with a sense of injustice and wrong. They meet in their children the very disposition that they themselves have imparted to them. Such parents drive their children away from God, by talking to them on religious subjects; for the Christian religion is made unattractive and even repulsive by this misrepresentation of truth. Children will say, “Well, if that is religion, I do not want anything of it.” It is thus that enmity is often created in the heart against religion; and because of an arbitrary enforcement of authority, children are led to despise the law and the government of heaven. Parents have fixed the eternal destiny of their children by their own misrule. They have placed their children in the ranks of the enemy, to serve the prince of darkness rather than the Prince of Light. Parents will have a fearful reckoning to meet in the day of judgment. The Lord will inquire, What have you done with my heritage in the children I gave into your trust? Where is my revenue, my inheritance? Then the mismanagement will appear with terrible distinctness before the parents, who have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Their neglect to cultivate their children in righteous ways will not only be the ruin of their own families, but the wrong principles they inculcated in them, bear fruit in other lives, and are transmitted from parent to child to the third and fourth generation. There will be a harvest to be gathered that will be hard to be reaped. The irreligious practices of the children produced effects in their own characters and in the characters of others, and instead of being a blessing in the world, they became a curse.

The family circle is to be an educating circle. Father and mother are to be teachers, and unitedly, under the rule of Jesus Christ, they are to bear their responsibility. They cannot give their time to visiting, to the cultivation of worldly habits, to the entertainment of such visitors as will cause them to neglect their children. They are to devote their time to teaching children how to be useful, how to be a blessing to others. Where this is neglected, Satan early takes the children into his school, and teaches them his hellish arts. Jesus spoke of the synagogue of Satan. He has a religion that he teaches, and those who learn in his school soon reveal the fact that he is their teacher. Satan is watching to catch the children through the neglect of their parents. One disobedient child will do great harm to those with whom he associates; for he will fashion other children after his own pattern.

Parents lose much by being half-converted. Of Abraham it was said by the Lord Jesus Christ, “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.” By the combined influence of love and authority, Abraham ruled his house. He was to walk before his household without hypocrisy or any deception, and there was no betrayal of sacred trust on his part. With living faith in God he combined works, and met the standard that is erected for masters, servants, and children,—the great moral standard of righteousness. O how few bring religion into their home life! Parents, what course are you pursuing? Are you acting upon the idea that in religious matters your children should be left free of all restraint? Are you leaving them without counsel or admonition through childhood and youth? Are you leaving them to do as they please? If so, you are neglecting your God-given responsibilities.

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