What is meant by the utmost of my power? (cont.)
In our previous essay we began to consider that which is meant by the utmost of our power. The degree of power we have is determined by many things. We mentioned two elements that must be considered. The one is our natural aptitude for teaching and the other is our spiritual strength, including our knowledge of the Scriptures and the doctrine of the church where we have a name and a place. For us this means the doctrine of the Protestant Reformed Churches.
Another element we would have you consider with us is the distance from your home to a Christian school and your church together with the means such as bus, street car, etc. to enable you and your children to attend these regularly. Let us remember that the baptism form declares, “Whether you promise and intend to see this child, when come to years of discretion instructed and brought up in the aforesaid doctrine, or help or cause it to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your power?” Note well the “help or cause it to be instructed therein.” The situation today is not as it was in the Old Testament dispensation. Then the believing fathers could take their sons with them into the field or wherever their work carried them and could teach them the fear of the Lord in the course of the day’s work. Today the situation is far different. The state demands that each child shall attend a school and receive a basic training in specific branches. The parent then as a rule leaves home for work early in the morning before his children are out of bed. At night he returns tired and in no mood for instructing his children. He must read his paper, and this or that calls him away from home after his evening meal. He is perhaps a consistory member. He must attend Consistory meeting or a Society or meet as a member of a certain committee. As a result he has little time for instructing his child, and even the little time he would have at the end of the day’s work is not the best time for the child to be receiving this important instruction. He also is ready for bed, weary of his play and psychologically unprepared for more instruction.
The parent must still keep his covenant vow which he gave at the baptism of his child. He must do this by hiring someone to teach his child the fear of the Lord while he is receiving that basic training which the state requires. Since he cannot do it himself, and since he has promised, not that he will do so himself exclusively, but that he will do all in his power to see to it that his child will receive such a bringing up, he must hire someone to do so for him. The state demands that someone else teach his child. God demands that he teach him the fear of the Lord or see to it to the utmost of his power that the child receives it from someone else. The only alternative for the believing parent is that he hire a Christian school teacher to do this for him. He may not send his child to the world for his instruction unless before God he really can say that this is all that he can do and he has no way or means to send his child to a Christian school.
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 cannot 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 them 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 the utmost of our power in the doctrine contained in the Old and New Testament and that is taught in the Protestant Reformed Churches. We must use all our financial power to build and maintain schools which train the child in the fear of the Lord by teaching them that doctrine which God has entrusted to our care and which we believe is the truth of the Word of God. How we can escape that conclusion is impossible to be seen. We have promised that we would do this. We have not promised that we will do the utmost that we can to see that certain heresies are 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.
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 Ref. 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.
The same thing can be and ought to be said about the catechism attendance. Only too soon do parents say that they cannot send their children. First they move out to such a locality without any investigation or consideration of this matter, and sometimes they will do so even though they realize that they will prevent their children from regular catechism attendance if not from all attendance. Surely such a move is not doing all in our power to help or cause our children to be brought up in the fear of the Lord. By such a practice we deprive our children of that which we ought to supply them. We would never think of bringing our children to a community where they will be able to get food only now and then. We would investigate a thing like that before we move. Our calling likewise is to investigate whether our children will be able to get the spiritual food in the abundance that they need it in the new locality where we plan to settle.
We are aware of the fact that you can get just so many 160 acre farms in a given locality and that all the children on all these farms will not and cannot be near the church. To buy a farm near the church and Christian school may be an impossibility. Then, too, today the housing shortage makes it impossible for some to live near to church and school. You simply have to take what you can get, and the result is that you and your children are miles and miles away from church and school. Or one may be convinced that the church to which he belongs does not preach the truth and knows of a church which does preach the truth but which is a great distance away. He must join that church that is farther away even though it does make it more difficult to send his children to catechism. Many of our people find themselves in that predicament today. They left their former church and row travel great distances for the truth’s sake. They have done the right thing, for this also is helping or causing their children to the utmost of their power to be brought up in the fear of the Lord. One hundred percent attendance to a catechism class or school where the truth is not taught will not bring up the child in the fear of the Lord.
However, when these conditions exist, these parents are obliged to keep their vow and to do the utmost they can to improve these conditions. They ought to work together and provide transportation to catechism, the one family this week, the other the next. We would also be surprised to find how much this can be done if we want to see it done. Parents often cannot find the time to take their children because of their work, but when it is a picnic or party or program, or some such event they either find the time or call up a neighbor, or as sometimes happens they let the child walk when otherwise they claim that it is expecting too much of their children to walk so far. And if the opportunity to buy a home or farm nearer the church and school arises, they ought also to do so for the sake of God’s kingdom and not for the sake of some material advantages or disadvantages they can see. The point is as our theme expresses that we must do the utmost that is in our power. This means then also that we do the utmost to see to it that our children are in catechism as often as is absolutely possible. They must be there every time unless it is absolutely impossible for them to be there, and that impossibility must be one which is recognized and accepted by God.
On the other hand, the Consistory and the Congregation that has demanded this vow of the parents must do all in its power to arrange catechism classes on Sunday or in the Christian school so that those who before God have such a good excuse for not sending them to the regular classes may bring their children for instruction in the doctrine of the church Where they belong.
There are other elements also that enter in to determine what the utmost of our power is. The health of the parent, especially the mother upon whom the brunt of the work of supervising the learning of catechism lessons falls, the health of such a mother will determine to a great degree her power to supervise this phase of the child’s training. The financial ability of the parents to send their child to a Christian school or to pay the bus fare for the ride to school and catechism also determines his power to have or help his children to be brought up in the doctrine of his church. However, the parents still have the power to ask the deacons for help in this matter. It may be humiliating to do so, but the question is not whether it is humiliating or not. The question is whether we are doing everything we can, leaving no stone unturned in our effort to provide for the training of our children in the doctrine God has led us to believe to be the truth of His Word.
Then too, there are many little incidents that happen in the home, on the way to church or somewhere else when parent and child are together which lend themselves beautifully to pointing out to the child God’s virtues and praises. In these things the parent has a wonderful opportunity to stress a truth and bring it to the mind of his child so that he will fear the Lord. The parent must make use of those incidents and opportunities as much as he possibly can. He certainly may not let the child; misinterpret these things, nor must he be the occasion for the child’s faulty and sinful thinking. Of this we hope to write in the next installment.