As the twig is bent the tree will grow.
Our children come into this world bent away from the upright position wherein God created man in the beginning.
Carefully and continually therefore must we train them to look up and to face upward in their thinking and willing to serve the God in heaven as His royal priesthood.
And consistency is the jewel of such covenant twig bending. Consistency is requisite for any kind of training. Consistency is so vitally necessary in the training of the covenant seed. It is so vital that it almost seems unnecessary that we call attention to it. Yet here again, consistent and persistent sounding of that which is in His fear is so essential for writing a department of In His Fear.
To train up a child in the way that he should go certainly requires of us first of all knowledge of that way in which he should go, and that we know it better than he does. The teacher must go ahead of his pupils and not walk beside them, learning with them and faltering with them. To teach you have to know you subject thoroughly. For the child will not learn it beyond the point that his teacher knows it. Whereas parents are not all born teachers and have neither the time nor ability to teach all the subjects, the parents place their children in the hands of the school teacher. They expect that this teacher knows his subject. They hire him because he claims to have the qualifications; and the board has put him on the payroll according to specific requirements of training and learning.
But what about knowing that subject spiritually?
When we are dealing with covenant children we may not avoid that question. Teaching the mere fact may not be Evolution, but it surely is Atheism. Evolution is but a phase of Atheism. And we live in one big atheistic world. “God is not in all their thoughts” may be said of some. But of others we certainly have to say that God is in none of their thoughts. Look about you in the schools and universities of the day. All things are explained without God as well as in a denial of God. Evolution is that Atheism that denies the work of God in the work of creation; but there are so many fields and departments of life in which He is also ruled out by silence.
In history the God, Whose counsel determines all things and plans them in inscrutable wisdom, is not even mentioned. The wisdom of the living God is not broached in the teaching of the sciences in the amazing construction of the human body, of the bodies of the animals, of the marvels of the plant world, and of the analysis of the chemicals that form a particular substance. Mathematics is nothing more than a system convenient for man and cleverly devised by that speck of dust, but does not reveal the justice, the holiness and the wisdom of God.
All this is nothing more than Atheism. It may not be an open denial that there is a God. It may not oppose the thought that He is and that all this is His work, but it surely does not render the praise to Him and robs Him of what is due His name while ascribing that glory to an actual creature or a mythical Fate. And it certainly is not bending the twig and training the child in the way his thinking and acting should go. Send your children to the world to be trained, and you send them to atheists. Send them to unbelievers and you give these atheists the opportunity and right to unbend them from that upright position wherein they should stand and wherein the church has been striving to hold them. And really, when they should stand upright facing God with all their being, does it make any difference whether they bend over to the right or to the left? The question is not, in what direction do they bend away from the way in which they should go? The question is, In what direction should they go? And therefore the question also is, And how can I best serve bending them in that direction? Refusal to use the name of God and to render Him the praise due to His name is to leave the twig bent in its native position; or if it be a covenant child, it is to untie the cord that the parents and church have tied to train that twig to grow upright and, it is to let the twig go back to its normal position.
This is a serious matter and a danger that covenant parents ought to avoid as much as they can. James says that a double minded man is unstable in all his ways. A child torn between two teachings becomes a double minded man and is unstable in all his ways instead of being a twig bent in the way it ought to grow. Inconsistent training will make an inconsistent child. And the end result of that wavering is that the twig is going to assume its original position. Water follows the line of least resistance. The soul of the child, when restraints are removed and the tie used in bending the twig is let go by worldly teachers—even when they do not openly deny God and man’s calling before Him—will droop down with the prevailing winds to be bent away from God and His covenant.
Of course patience must be used in training the child. But using patience is not the same as letting the restraining pressure off for a time. It is not letting that twig snap back to its normal position for a moment to give it a breather, a recess, a time to express its own wishes and to say in what way it wants to go. Patience in Scripture is endurance. Literally the word means “to remain under,” and the idea is that when the billows sweep upon us, they sweep over us, but we remain firm under all those onslaughts. And James tells us that the trying of our faith works this endurance, that is, it hardens us to be able to withstand stronger and stronger attacks of the enemy. The parent, or teacher, who is to train that child and to bend the twig must himself have that patience of endurance. How sad a picture when the parent gives in before the child does and becomes weary in well doing. To be sure, keeping that restraint on the child does require exertion on our part and produces a weariness. Especially is this true when we are already weary in the physical sense because of the toils of the day and after we have reached the prime of our life, and the aches and pains of approaching old age begin to manifest themselves. The all-wise God of our salvation has His good purpose in giving us children in the stronger days of our life. One of the manifestations of that fact that old age is creeping up upon us is that we become tired sooner and take longer to recuperate. But one of the signs also is that because of this physical weariness we become weary of well doing sooner and more often. That our youngest or younger child is “spoiled” and gets away with what the older children could not pull off without impunity is not simply due to the fact that it is the last child. Very often it is exactly that we have become weary in well doing and want a little more time for our own comfort, when the burdens of life seem harder to bear. O, indeed! we need patience in the sense of endurance for the strenuous task of bringing up our children in His fear.
The cost of Christian school tuition is constantly rising,and, rather than enduring, we are inclined to begin to argue with ourselves that it is not so important and that because of all the weaknesses and faults in the present system, we do better for our children to let the world teach them. Then, so we argue, the lie is so blunt that they will be shocked and not inclined to accept it, surely not as readily as the subtle departure that leads by little steps to the same blunt end. And it takes patience, endurance to resist such arguments of the flesh. For arguments of the flesh they surely are, even though we come to them when deeply concerned for our children spiritual wellbeing. Paul says, “Come ye out from among them.” He asks, What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness, what communion hath light with darkness, what concord Christ with Belial, what part he that believeth with an infidel? in II Corinthians 6:14, 15. There is a measure of contact that we must maintain with departing believers; but the Word of God demands a complete break with the infidel. For it is plain that he will not at all, at any time, to any degree seek to bend your precious “twig” in His fear. And although the ten tribes were a departing kingdom, steeped in idolatry, God still sent such mighty prophets to them—in love and grace—as Elijah and Elisha. For in a departing kingdom and departing church He still has His elect, still sends His Spirit and blesses the truth when it is taught to the child. That Spirit is not at all, at any time in the communion of the unbelievers. Where Christ is not taught He does not come with His Spirit to apply the teaching. That is exactly why He calls OUT of the church at Laodicea His elect people, so that He may again sup with them. Where Atheism and Evolutionism are taught, there is nothing for the Spirit to apply and bless to the hearts of the hearers. And though a departing church may teach these to a degree, there still is that truth which can be and will be blessed. When the church becomes completely false, we shall have no fellowship whatsoever but stand outside and call to repentance.
But there is another word in Scripture that is translated as patience. And it means “to be long of breath.” It is our usual word for patience. When we have it we are not “swift to speak” and retaliate. We are swift to hear what God has to say to us in the situation. And here again, as far as bending that “twig” is concerned, as we said, it does not mean that we look the other way when the “twig” begins to droop away from that upright position in which we have been trying to hold it by our teachings and discipline. It does not mean that we have pity for that child to see him so tightly laced. It is a rather dangerous and foolish thing when you see someone faint to have a “pity” that at once wants to make him stand up on his feet and holds him in an upright position. He must, in order to recover, lie down. It. is dangerous and foolish, when the child is being trained to stand upright in his life facing God with all his being, to pity him in such a way that you let him face the flesh and the world for a time. As the twig is bent, means, surely, as it is kept bent, not as it once in awhile is held.
Patience, in this instance, means that we are consistent. It means that we do not let go the restraints. But we hold our breath. It means that WE suffer in silence the anguish which our flesh experiences when we see our children’s rebellion against the restraints. For their good, that they may endure and become steadfast in the way in which they ought to go, we do not open our mouths to spoil all our work by venting our flesh’s venom; and we do not beat them with the rod of our fleshly displeasure. It simply comes down again to the simple fact that to bend them in His fear we must do so in His fear. It means that we stand upright next to the twig which we want to train to stand upright. The vine that you want to grow up on an upright post instead of crawl along the ground requires an upright pole. You say, “Of course.” We say, “Go and do thou likewise with those who are to be trained in His fear.”
But do not stop there1 Do your utmost in your area to establish a school wherein church, home and school all agree as to how the twig is to be bent, and agree that it is to be bent into the upright position revealed to us in the Word of God.