Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

November 10, 1881

The Father's Duty

By Mrs. E. G. White

The history of Samuel, the pure, noble-hearted prophet, and of Moses, the holiest of men, the most illustrious of leaders, shows how great is the mother's power to mold the character of her child, even in its earliest years. During this period her influence is paramount to all other. Even the infant in her arms will catch her spirit, and copy her deportment. It is important that mothers understand their duty, and that they seek wisdom and grace from God to perform their sacred work to his acceptance.

But great as is the work of the mother, it should never be forgotten that the father also has a part to act in the education and training of his children, and that he is under the most solemn obligation to perform that work with fidelity. Especially as the children advance in years is the father's influence needed, in union with that of the mother, to restrain, control, and guide. Parents little realize the harm done by withholding from their children needed and wholesome restraint, and allowing them to grow up with uncontrolled passions, and selfish, debasing habits.

The course of Eli—his sinful indulgence as a father, and his criminal neglect as a priest of God—presents a striking and painful contrast to the firmness and self-denial of the faithful Hannah. Eli was acquainted with the divine will. He knew what characters God could accept, and what he would condemn. Yet he suffered his children to grow up with unbridled passions, perverted appetites, and corrupt morals.

Eli had instructed his children in the law of God, and had given them a good example in his own life; but this was not his whole duty. God required him, both as a father and as a priest, to restrain them from following their own perverse will. This he had failed to do. His sons were impatient of control, and he weakly resigned the reins to them, and suffered them to pursue their evil ways at pleasure. The fond father overlooked the faults and sins of their childhood, flattering himself that after a time they would outgrow these evil tendencies. He did not regard his children as a sacred trust which God had committed to his care, to be returned with interest; but he looked upon them as his own. Hence, instead of seeking guidance and help from God, and following the instructions given in his word, Eli chose his own way of management, that most agreeable to his ease-loving disposition. Had he taught his sons to obey their father, they would have learned to obey God; but by permitting them to disregard his commands, he taught them to disregard the commands of their heavenly Father. Thus their evil habits strengthened with their years, and when they reached manhood, they were ready to defy all authority, both human and divine.

God requires every parent not only to give his children right instruction and a good example, but with promptness and decision to restrain their inclination to do evil. The fact that Eli stood in holy office, cause his lax discipline, and the selfish, irreverent, licentious course of his wicked sons, to exert a corrupting influence upon the whole nation. All parents should strive to make their families patterns of good works, perfect Christian households. But in a pre-eminent degree is this the duty of those who minister in sacred things, and to whom the people look for instruction and guidance. The ministers of Christ are to be examples to the flock. He who fails to direct wisely his own household, is not qualified to guide the church of God.

Christian parents, if you desire to work for the Lord, begin with your little ones at home. If you manifest tact and wisdom and the fear of God in the management of your children, you may be intrusted with greater responsibilities. True Christian effort will begin at home, and go out from the center to embrace wider fields. A soul saved in your own family circle or in your own neighborhood, by your patient, painstaking labor, will bring as much honor to the name of Christ, and will shine as brightly in your crown as if you had found that soul in China or India.

The Lord will not pass unpunished the neglect of parents to train their children for his service. By kind and judicious management, fathers as well as mothers should bind their children to them by the strong ties of reverence, gratitude, and love, and should kindle in their young hearts an earnest longing for righteousness and truth. While the mother seeks to implant good principles, the father should see that the precious seed is not choked by the growth of evil. His sterner discipline is needed that his children may learn firmness and self-control amid the allurements to sin which must be on every hand.

Let parents beware how they undervalue or neglect their work. Great is the reward of fidelity, terrible the penalty of unfaithfulness. One child wisely educated—trained to love and practice the right because it is right, may impart to thousands the blessings which he has received. Through his influence and example, the lessons of uprightness, purity, and devotion that shaped his own character, are permitted to shed their precious light far and wide.

How many faithful and honored workers for God and humanity have been given to the world as the fruit of a godly training in childhood. It was said of Timothy, the beloved co-laborer with Paul, that he knew the holy Scriptures from a child, and that the faith which dwelt in his mother and grandmother, was revealed also in him. The influence of faithful Christian parents can never lose its power. A young man when about to be ordained as a Christian minister, stated that at one time he had been well-nigh led to adopt the principles of infidelity. “But,” he added, “there was one argument in favor of Christianity which I could never forget, and that was the consistent conduct of my own father. Through that I was at length won to the Saviour.”

By neglect of duty, parents exert a far-reaching influence for evil. One ungodly, disobedient son, may lead many souls in the path of iniquity. Each of these will corrupt others; the evil traits cherished will be transmitted to posterity; and thus iniquity is constantly increasing and multiplying, and all because parents choose the way which is easiest at the moment, the way of gratification and indulgence, and look not to the misery in store for themselves, their children, and their children's children.

The solemn warnings contained in the word of God, the judgments visited upon the indulgent father, and his rebellious sons, should arouse parents from their stupor, and lead them to see and feel their duty to give to their children, by right education and discipline, correct habits and sound principles. Christian father, labor kindly, patiently, for the welfare of your children. Seek to turn their hearts to the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness. Teach them by precept and example, that the spirit of Christ is the spirit of doing good.

To every father and mother is committed a little plot of ground before their own door. It is their work to clear it from noxious weeds, and to mellow the soil that the precious seed may take root and flourish there. To do their work faithfully will be far more pleasing to God than to go on a mission to some foreign land, leaving the home field neglected. The work of Christian ministers and parents, should begin with their own children. Present to the church and to the world a well-disciplined family, and you present one of the strongest arguments in favor of Christianity.

If parents who are following Eli's example of neglect could see the result of the education they are giving their children, they would feel that the curse which fell on Eli would assuredly fall on them. The sin of rebellion against parental authority, lies at the very foundation of the misery and crime in the world today. In his holy law God himself speaks to children: “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Again, by the pen of an apostle he commands them, “Children, obey your parents.” The Old and the New Testament alike teach respect and obedience to parents, and also admonish all to reverence and honor the aged, to tenderly protect and cherish those whose heads are white, and whose steps are feeble. If children were trained according to the teachings of God's word, they would manifest a deference for superiors, a propriety of deportment, and a beauty of character that would make them beloved by their associates, and beloved of God.

There is a cause for the spirit of insubordination that exists in the family and the State, and that threatens to overthrow the very foundations of government. It is to be found in the growing disregard for the law of God. In ancient times parents were commanded to diligently teach its sacred precepts to their children, that they might thus become acquainted with the character of God, and his claims upon them. But men have become wiser, in their own conceit, than their Maker. Many have set aside the law of God, and have followed their own judgment in preference to his revealed will. How terrible have been the results of this teaching upon the youth! Self-indulgence, dissipation, profanity, and even greater crimes prevail to an extent that is frightful to contemplate.

The Lord holds parents and guardians responsible for the children under their care. He has not left us in uncertainty concerning the characters that he will accept. Nothing less than purity in thought, word, and deed, will meet the divine standard. The word of God sets forth in unmistakable language the duties of parents. If they will faithfully perform these duties, his Spirit will crown their efforts with success. Those words of holy writ are as true now as when first uttered by the wise man, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

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