The members of a Mr. and Mrs. Society in our churches, I understand, are husbands and wives whose combined ages total no more than seventy or seventy-five years. That being the case, I have before me tonight parents of teenagers, or of children below that age, who soon will be teenagers. And let me point out to you, then, that you are in the most important period of your married lives. For this is the time for you to train your children in the Fear of God’s name. From childhood until your marriage you were in the period of preparation. Now you are in the period of sowing the seed, watering the plants, weeding and cultivating. Soon the time will be here for you to observe the fruits of your labors and see you children go through the same experiences that are yours today.
There is a difference, however. Your lot in this most important period in your lives as parents is more difficult than it was for your parents. It will be even more difficult for your children, as the world continues to develop in sin; and we approach those days of which Jesus said, “Shall the Son of man find faith on the earth?”
The Board of your league did wisely in choosing the subject of this speech. Parents who are in this most important period of their lives as parents, and find themselves in the awfully carnal age in which we live, must have and do have deep concern. They know the power of the enemy. They know their own weaknesses. And the period when there are teenagers in the home to be trained often is a trying one, and one full of disappointments, even in the covenant home. A few words may then fittingly be said about that which increasingly grieves many parents: The imitation of the world, the open embracing of the ways of the world, by covenant youth. The Board asked me to say something about this; and I have agreed to speak on the subject: Training our Youth in Covenant Distinctiveness. I wish to call your attention to Our Unique Youth; to Our Distinctive Training; and to Our Assurance of Success.
I. Our Unique Youth
The first child born to Adam and Eve, and thus to be born in this world, was an unbeliever, a child of darkness. The first of the twins born to Isaac and Rebekah was likewise an unbeliever, a child of darkness. But let us understand clearly that the second child that Adam and Eve brought forth, and that second twin son of Isaac and Rebekah also were unbelievers, children of darkness. What we bring forth is always a sinner, a rebel, an enemy of God. It is not so that believing parents sometimes bring forth unbelieving children. They always do, every single time.
David said that in Psalm 51:5, “Behold I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Paul, speaking of his flesh which his parents brought forth says in Romans 7:18, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” And. again, speaking of the mind that we receive by the first birth which our parents give to us, he says inRomans 8:7, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
Our Reformed Confessions say the same thing. The Heidelberg Catechism says that we are conceived and born in sin. The Netherlands Confession speaks of an hereditary disease wherewith infants are infected in their mother’s wombs and which produceth all sorts of sin. And the Canons speak of a corrupt stock producing a corrupt offspring with a vicious nature.
The result is that we bring forth children exactly like the children of the world. And this explains why our children enjoy all that which the children of the world enjoy, why they have the same delights and ambitions, love the same sins, and often walk in them. The rock and roll music of the world gives them a thrill; the Beatles and. Monkees, and what have you, “send them” just as surely as the children of the world are thrilled and “sent” by these. The heroes of the world are their heroes. The immoral, adulterous movie “stars” are their idols as well as the children of the world’s The banquettings and revellings, the wild and worldly parties are their preferred way of life as well as it is the youth’s in the world.
And whatever the generation in the age in which they live produces, they accept and seek. And this is not, we must understand, simply because they do not want to be out of step. It is not simply that they do not have the spiritual courage to live the covenant life before those who live the covenant-breaking life. It is not simply that they want to avoid ridicule and want to be accepted by the youth of their own generation in the world. How then would you explain that often they marry these unbelievers? No, they wear mini, skirts as short as the world—and maybe shorter than many in the world—wear hippy and yippy symbols and copy their hairdos, which should be hair don’ts. And they do this because they like these. Their flesh craves all this. Of course they do. That is why they too skip their Catechism classes—and this is not imitating the world—commit fornication, rush after worldly pleasures, have not time for spiritual matters, use filthy language, curse and swear. Am I saying too much? If all this is not true, then what about adults, such as David, show their fleshly lusts, who also show the power that the world has upon them?
Yet, thanks be to God, we may say something else about our children. They are at the same time a distinctive, a different, a peculiar people. Because we have twice-born children. What we bring forth is a sinner; but God is pleased to cause to be born in these children, already in infancy, a saint. All that which we give them is their physical life and a depraved nature. But God, through the Spirit of Christ, gives them spiritual life and a holy nature. Listen once to that beautiful text in I John 3:9, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” John is speaking of that other life which our children receive as begotten of God. This life cannot sin, never does sin, always seeks God’s glory and knows Him in love. That is why, in the text we already quoted, Paul says, “For I know that in me (that is in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing; for (and now note) to will is present; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” By his first birth he is evil, a child of darkness, a sinner. But there is in him the will to do good because he was twice-born, and by this second birth he had received that life which is from above. He was born of God; and because of this there was present in him the will to do good.
That exactly explains also the conflict in Paul’s life and in the lives of our children. There is that constant tension between the old and new man of Romans 7:14-24. The new man says… “Lord what. wilt Thou have me do?” The old says, “Don’t tell me what to do!” The new man says, “Sheak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.” The old man says, with Pharaoh, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” The one says, “Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” The other says, “O, how love I Thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” And these two lives our covenant children have usually from infancy. For it pleases God as a rule to give them this second birth in their infancy. The first birth gives them a powerful life of hatred against God. The new life gives them but a small beginning of this new obedience. But it is there; tid although they do not always tell us, they, too, experience the agony of which Paul speaks when he cries, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” They may not experience it as deeply and strongly as we do; but it is there by virtue of the fact that both lives are there.
And because of the presence of that other, new, different, diametrically opposed life of the second birth we can train our children in covenant distinctiveness. I say, We can train them. The world can never do that for us; and if we want to train them in covenant distinctiveness, we had better send them to a distinctive school that loves our Covenant God. That, surely, is part of covenant training. For we train our children to despise covenant instruction when it is available and we do not use it.
Then too, train them. You cannot train the youth of the world to live this distinctive life of God’s covenant anymore than you can ‘train an earthworm to fly. It just does not even have the equipment. And the children of the world with only one life, and that being one of enmity against God, cannot be trained to walk in love before Him. They could be trained to perform a few hypocritical external actions; but they cannot be trained to walk in love before God. No more than you can train a child that is born without legs to walk, or the child born blind to count the stars and find the “big dipper” in the sky, can you train one with the life from below to walk in the distinctiveness of the life which is from above. You can train your children in covenant distinctiveness because they are covenant children with the life of God’s covenant in them.
And they do need to be trained. They neither come into this world with the knowledge of God, nor with the skill to walk in love before Him. Adam was created knowing God and skilled in serving Him. Eve was created the same way. But a child that is born needs to be taught. A child that is twice-born needs to be taught as well. Gradually more and more knowledge of God can be instilled in his mind. Gradually as well he can be trained to walk in love to God. And this training is far more difficult than the imparting of knowledge because of that first birth with its depraved heart and mind. You can impart knowledge of God into the mind of the flesh-born children of the world. (Satan, himself, has a very detailed knowledge of God and of the doctrines of Scripture.) But to train the child of God to walk the distinctive life of a child of God requires much work and dedication, because of that old man of sin that he still has. That child has two feet that want to go in the way of sin, ten fingers that want to take hold of this world for the sake of the flesh, in fact, a complete body together with its soul that wants to see, hear, taste, smell and touch all the evil that is in the world. And it is all these members and faculties that the new man must not only use but first wrest from the control of the old man. For this reason we must train our children. That new life wants to go only in God’s way. Understand that well. You do not need to make it want to live a distinctive Christian life—which is the same as covenant distinctiveness. God has made it want to do this. But because of that presence and opposition of the old nature we have to teach it and train it to go in that direction. The athlete may want ever so much to succeed, but because he has been doing things wrong, using a technique that hampers and hinders rather than helps, he must be trained to do things differently. So it is with our children who, because of that new life are different and want to be different. They must be taught and trained in that which is distinctively Christian.
(To be continued)