Instructing our children in harmony with the truths of our confession is not an optional matter. It is a most solemn duty imposed upon us by God and, involving a grave responsibility. This responsibility is voluntarily assumed by us, the parents, in the baptism of our children; and its application is not limited to any given sphere of our or our children’s lives. It embraces the church, the home and the school. God Himself defines the limitation of this duty when He commands us in His Word:
“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest in the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.” (Deut. 6:6-8)
In our last article we emphasized the necessity of thorough Protestant Reformed education for our children throughout all the years of their training in the school. This, of course, must supplement identical training they are to receive in the home and may never substitute it; for the school is only an aid or extension of the home. Inseparably related to all this instruction stands the church, for it is “according to the doctrines therein taught” that the training of the child in every sphere is to be gauged. All of this for us can only mean a deep-felt responsibility to inculcate into our. children the Protestant Reformed world and life view, and success in this venture necessitates the diligent application of the same to our own practices as parents. Consistency between life and doctrine is mandatory, for the Old Testament Scriptures are replete with warnings and examples of those who outwardly confessed the truth but failed to live it. (See also I Corinthians 10:1-12) In every instance of such inconsistencies the fruits were most bitter. We, as parents, must not only promise fidelity to the instruction of the covenant seed “to the utmost of our power” but we must also manifest a constant readiness to expend ourselves in the fulfillment of this vow. Without this we can find no reason to expect positive fruit but will assuredly witness degeneration and experience the disfavor of the Lord our God upon us.
Rev. H. Veldman, in a speech delivered to the Protestant Reformed minister’s conference, made the statement: “In 1924 the Three Points were officially adopted by the Christian Reformed Churches. In 1926 our protest was officially rejected by those churches in their synodical gathering held at Englewood, Chicago. In 1926, therefore, we stood officially on our own. May God give us the grace that we also stand on our own as far as the instruction of our children is concerned. Then we may be assured of the continued blessing of the God of our salvation and the continued realization of His Covenant also with the children whom the Lord has given us.”¹
This is indeed true. “To the utmost of our power” we must stand on our own in the instruction of our children. We certainly cannot let the atheistic State perform this task for us. Neither can we consistently confess the truth and permit those who officially and in practice corrupt that confession do this for us. We have no choice but to stand on our own “to the utmost of our power,” which power, we remember, is not of us but of God. The provisions for the accomplishing of the task are made by Him, and He “requires in stewards that they be found faithful.” (I Cor. 4:2) Let us beware lest we “despise the day of small things.” (Zech. 4:10)
The importance of this aspect of our calling cannot be over-emphasized. Because of this I am going to conclude this matter by quoting rather extensively from the writing of Rev. J. Heys on the same subject in theStandard Bearer in 1946. Explaining the meaning of the phrase “to the utmost of your power” he wrote:
“The power to bring up one’s children in the fear of the Lord varies in different individuals. That is to be expected. ‘To the utmost of your power’ implies this very thing. We are not demanded to state how much we will teach our children. There is no prescribed amount of effort in this direction that is demanded. What is demanded is that we do so to the utmost of the power we have received of God. If it be great, we must use it all. If it be little, we must use it all.
“There are so many things that enter in when we discuss and consider what this power is. The one parent may have a far greater ability to teach in the sense that he has the talent of being able to explain clearly what he has in mind and of being able to apply the principles of God’s Word to that which he teaches. Some mothers are just born teachers and of others you would almost say that they know not the first things about teaching. Some have little patience even with their own flesh and blood, while others manifest a patience that amazes. Then again you have parents who are very strong spiritually and others who are very weak spiritually. Some have a vast store of Scripture knowledge and knowledge of doctrine. Others are very ignorant in regard to these things and are spiritually careless. There are parents that are extremely pious and strict in all their own walk of life, while others are very lax and show little interest either in Divine worship upon the Sabbath or in the study of God’s Word in Society. Let us not forget that our own walk of life and the example that we set has a tremendous bearing upon the training of our children! We are not bringing them up in the fear of the Lord to the utmost of our power by a careless, earthly-minded walk.”²
From here Rev. Heys continues to explain the importance of young people selecting Protestant Reformed husbands and wives in order that togetherthey may bring up their children in “the aforesaid doctrine.” Mixed marriages not only create many problems and difficulties but they are a detriment when it comes to the matter of bringing up children in a specific doctrine or way of life. The fundamental requirement in the execution of this task is a spiritual one as is brought out in the following:
“To instruct our children in the fear of the Lord we do not need to get a normal training in some college, but we do need to know the doctrine of the Old and New Testament. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Israelites were very unschooled in the modern sense of the word, but they knew the doctrine of God’s Word, and Abraham was also spiritual enough to tell his servant that Isaac must have an help meet for him as the promised seed of the Covenant. Isaac must have a wife who will not be a detriment but an asset to Isaac in teaching the fear of the Lord. There is one interesting point here somewhat outside the sphere of our subject but worth noting. The salvation of the child will not depend on our power and our ability. Esau had the same mother and father as Jacob. Yet the fact remains that God calls us to instruct our children to the utmost of our power in His fear. Who then would dare to say that before one becomes married he must not exercise the power he has to see to it that his power will not be lessened by the step he has taken for life?”³
Concerning the practical problem in communities where there are no Protestant Reformed Christian Schools, Rev. Heys has the following to say:
“There are communities where no Christian schools exist. There are parents who live great distances from such a school. Only too often, however, these parents overlook the fact that they may not be doing the utmost in their power to bring up their children in the fear of the Lord. They are not unless they have really made an honest and strenuous attempt to establish such a Christian school in their community or near enough. to that community that their children can be taken there or reach it by bus. The financial power to realize the establishment and maintenance of such a school is seldom the reason why it can not be accomplished. The trouble is that we do not want to exercise the UTMOST of our financial power in that direction. If that financial power is used to build beautiful homes and new automobiles and the necessary funds to build and maintain a Christian school cannot be raised, those who use their financial power in that way may be sure that they are not keeping their baptism vow. They are not seeing to it and helping or causing to the utmost of their power that their children are brought: up in the fear of the Lord. If we leave one stone unturned in our effort to provide instruction in the fear of the Lord for our children, we are not helping or causing (hem to be brought up in the fear of the Lord TO THE UTMOST OF OUR POWER.
“This ought to be brought closer home,’ without a doubt. We as Protestant Reformed people have promised that we would bring up our children to not taught our children. We have promised that in as far as we possibly can, physically, mentally, financially, and morally, we will help our children and cause them to be instructed in a definite doctrine.”4
Indeed, this shall be the aim and goal of; all Protestant Reformed people. Toward this objective we shall strive with all our might. In this venture we may not hesitate. From it we may not retreat. In this direction lies the blessing of God. Of this we are assured. We continue the quotation:
“If you are opposed to any such movement of building and maintaining schools of our own, do not find fault with these lines. You are finding fault with the Baptism Form our forefathers have been led to compose and which our churches have been led to accept. That vow’ plainly states that we will instruct our children to the utmost of our power in the doctrine as it is taught in the church where we belong. If now you do not agree with this, you must go to your Consistory and ask that Consistory to come to Classis with an overture to Synod that the Protestant Reformed Churches scratch out that phrase in the baptism vow which says: ‘which is taught here in this Christian church.’ You might just as well, while you are at it, also request that the expression, ‘to the utmost of your power’ be changed to read ‘in as far as it is convenient for me and does not put me out too much.’ Still more, if you cannot agree with what we have said, you are only finding fault with yourself. YOU promised at one time that you would do this. If now you do not think so, you differ with yourself. You have changed, and we urge you to change once more to come back to the stand you took when you answered, ‘Yes,’ to the three questions in the baptism vow.
“If now after all efforts to establish a school of our own fail in our community, we still have a power left which we can exercise. We can move to a locality where such a school does exist or else take our children there per automobile.’ Families in a given community can combine their power thus and accomplish what the one alone might not be able to do. If this avenue is open and a Christian school is near enough for this to be made possible, the utmost of our power demands this. Not to do so is failing to keep our vow.”5
A big responsibility!
A most serious calling!
To do or not to do has far reaching consequences for us and our children. We cannot view these matters with indifference. We may not stumble over self placed obstacles and excuse our duty. We must rise up to the task at hand, each one shouldering a share of the burden, and laboring in unity of purpose to “the utmost of our power,” and so we will be assured that God will “establish the work of our hands.”
(1) Vol. 22, pg. 67, Standard Bearer
(2) Vol. 22, pg. 331, Standard Bearer
(3) Vol. 22, pg. 332, Standard Bearer
(4) Vol. 22, pg. 354, Standard Bearer
(5) Vol. 22, pg. 355, Standard Bearer