Whenever there is a center there is also an off-center. As in our own lives there is the danger of hiving off-center, so our Christian instruction is often in danger of being off-center. That is, something else than God, His Covenant and the Man of God receives the emphasis.
Sometimes the tendency is to the right, sometimes to the left of center.
The question is therefore not, what place can we procure for our children in this world or how can we educate them so that they may take that place which we assign to them.
God assigns them their place in this world.
The place assigned them is defined by the Covenant in which they were baptized. And in order that they may take that place their instruction must root in the fear of God, be God-centered and covenant directed.
Instruction by Covenant Assignment.
When the Baptism Form makes mention of the covenant assignment, namely, that these children daily follow Him, bear their cross, live in all righteousness, etc., it precedes this with the mention of a pious and religious instruction. Scripture also speaks of instruction in righteousness as the requisite for the man of God, thoroughly furnished.
Hence, the covenant assigns the place which our children must take in this world, and the God of the Covenant gives us Christian instruction, in the home, in the church, but also in the day school to the end that our children may be able to take this place and thus the covenant continue from generation to generation.
There is the danger among us, in home and school as well as in the church, that we ignore or lose sight of this covenant assignment and consequently administer instruction at random. Behind all our instruction must lie covenant consciousness, but we are always in danger of departing therefrom and giving education as if there were no covenant and we were free to assign as we please. That is a very real danger. Instruction in the public schools follows this line. We have precious few text-books (if any) that embrace this aim. Oft times we ourselves are so little covenant conscious, and the result is that we lose sight of the covenant.
Then there is the danger of going off on a tangent and making assignments of our own. Perhaps we have a little of the dictator spirit when we administer instruction. It might be that we conceive of the place our children ought to hold as that of being good citizens of this country, perhaps we think of them as future rebuilders of a wrecked world order, or it is possible we think of them as future business men and women, whose place in this world is to be a success, and even perhaps we assign them a place of national or civic importance. Each time we are thinking in terms of the place our children ought to take in this world. And each time we give them instruction according to that assignment. There lies a very real danger.
But we must remember that as soon as we dictate an assignment we tread on very dangerous ground. God assigns them their very own place in this world. Failing to instruct them according thereto is bound to have disastrous results. Suppose the government assigned a young man to the quartermaster division, but suppose that the training personnel ignored this and instead gave the young man training in Para trooping; the poor man will be ill prepared when the time comes that he must be called into action, and the government will surely punish the trainers for their presumptuous conduct. It is quite that same way in the matter of instruction, as far as our duty in this matter is concerned.
After the days of Joshua, we read, “There arose another generation after them that knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel”. It was a generation assigned to the task of warring the Lord’s warfare in the land of Canaan, but when the time came for warfare this generation was totally unfit.
Again we read, inof the children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows (they had the equipment at least) but they turned back in the day of battle.
We believe that the God Who establishes His Covenant and makes assignment, also fits our children to assume that place. Indeed! But God has given us the means of Christian instruction and calls upon us to use that means. If we are serious, we will use that means and use it unto the end which God has designated. We must trust in God, we may not tempt Him.
The Assigned Place.
But what then is the place unto which God assigns our children?
In the main their place in this world is this: to reveal themselves as members of God’s Party. Their place is not to adjust themselves to certain existing conditions, nor adapt themselves to certain popular notions.
Reveal themselves as of God’s Party.
Their place is not to serve the benefit of this or that cause, this or that nation, this or that party. Their place is first and last to reveal themselves as Party of the Living God. It is not a question of what the world would like to see us become,, or what any part of that world would like us to be, it is a matter of covenant assignment. From the Ephrates to the Nile, from the lion’s dens to the court of Ahasuerus, God wanted the world to see Israel as a peculiar people. Abraham journeyed from Haran to Canaan and from Canaan to Egypt, along Sodom and Gomorrah, and everywhere the world had to see him as the Party of the Living God. So it is with the assignment which we and our children have. Wherever they eventually have their legitimate calling of business, there they have their place and there they must confess the Lord and reveal themselves as His property.
Strangers in the world.
Their place, moreover, is to be strangers in this world. Which does not mean that they must follow the anabaptistic error of world-flight, but which does mean that the things they seek must be heavenly and not earthy. So urgent is this calling that Jesus one time told a man to let the dead bury the dead. Even if the dead therefore have to be left unburied, that were better than that we did not follow the Lord through this world. We are strangers here and pilgrims, wherefore the world knoweth us not. She cannot understand us when we refuse to fix our attention upon the mundane things as she does. We cannot make common cause with the world. They settle down and claim that they have found or will find what they seek, we on the other hand assert that we have here no abiding city but seek one to come.
Abide in Him.
Scripture exhorts us, saying, “Abide ye in Him”. Ah, that is our place. In the world, indeed, but In CHRIST in the world. Elsewhere this same thing is defined thus, “walk in the light”. Our place and the place of our children is, in Christ, in the light. What place must they take in this world ? This place, “in Christ”. That is to confess the truth as we have it in Scripture, never to forsake it but to follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. Their place is in the light, always in the light, always there where, if the Word of God shines upon them and their works, it is evident that they belong just there. , They may be in business, they may pursue a gainful calling, they may enter a profession, but all this while they walk in the light. Wherefore they must avoid darkness. They must fight against sin, Satan and his whole dominion. They must yield their place in business rather than their place in Christ. In spite of stress or duress, in spite of popular opinion they must abide in Christ. If their place in Christ makes their place in the world too small, even then to be faithful. That is their assigned place.
Peter speaks of the Christians as servants of God. That is our place. Not servants of greed or lust, of labor or capital, of nations, parties or movements, but first and last servants of God. If Peter speaks of Christians as servants of God, certainly the Christian school must instruct them in this service.
As Servants of God.
As servants of God they shall be subject to the authorities, wives be subject to their husbands, husbands be subject unto Christ; servants subject to their masters, and masters mindful of their Master. Doing the will of God from the heart and seeking the welfare of God’s cause throughout their days in this world.
We repeat once more, if such is their covenant assigned place is it not very evident that the instruction which we give our children in home and the school, must serve to prepare them to take that place. They have no other place. If they grow up in the covenant but are unfit for the place the covenant assigns them, they are complete misfits and they do damage to the cause.
Paul said one time, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith”.
May our covenant instruction be such that we and our children after us may repeat these words of Paul and we and our house serve the Lord.
(to be continued)