In reply to a sister who has desired our views on the text: “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
The proverbs of Solomon are short sentences of wisdom, which, while proverbially true in their literal application, as a general thing, are more immediately designed for the spiritual instruction of the children of wisdom. Hence Wisdom is personified as giving divine instruction to her children; by whom she is ever justified. In many parts of the book of Proverbs, the address is made to “My son,” “My children,” etc. And in chapter seven, Wisdom is the speaker. “Doth not wisdom cry? And doth not understanding put forth her voice?” Our Lord Jesus Christ is of God made unto us, (his saints) wisdom and righteousness; sanctification and redemption. For in him is found all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. To them who are called, both Jews and Greeks, he is the wisdom of God, and the power of God. Admitting then, as we must, that these proverbs are given by divine inspiration, we are to receive them as addressed to us by our divine Instructor, the Lord Jesus Christ, who says, “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly.” And of whom God’s voice, in the cloud of transfiguration, said “Hear ye him.” In liberalizing the proverb now under consideration, its beauty and truth does not appear; for there is no human wisdom so perfect as to secure infallibly the result which is contemplated in our text. In Solomon’s own case, there was an apparent failure. His father, according to the flesh, was David, the man after God’s own heart; and Solomon himself says, “I was my father’s son; tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thy heart retain my words; and keep my commandments and live.” And certainly Solomon was as brilliant an example of good breeding as we can find, yet we are told that when he became old, “nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin (Nehemiah 13.26).” In his old age he was led into idolatry by his strange wives. And in our day we have many sad examples of the kind. How many anxious parents have taken all the pains of their power in the discipline and education of their children, and yet those children have in many instances departed from all the wholesome instructions and judicious counsels which had been lavished upon them in early life, while instances have not been infrequent wherein children who have in childhood and youth been exposed to the most unwholesome instructions, and most pernicious examples, have risen to eminence, and in old age been found among the best citizens in the world. Although the course suggested by the proverb commends itself to the wise, it does not give assurance that human care and prudence shall always be successful.
Many experiments have been tried by the wise and prudent of this world, to improve the condition of mankind, and much discussion has been had on the question: “In what way should a child be trained?” The ancient Pharisees boasted their superior advantages, having the law and the covenants with them, of training their children; but we are told they made their pupils two-fold more the children of hell than themselves were. And our modern Pharisees, by Sabbath Schools, infant and Bible classes, and Theological seminaries, have succeeded no better. The present generation has been raised and educated and trained under the full power of all this humanly invented religious machinery, thoroughly drilled in Sunday Schools; we have often been told that when they become old they would be pious Christians, and good citizens. But what do we see as the result of all this kind of training? A more wicked, murderous, heaven-defying generation probably has never been upon the earth since the deluge. “He that sitteth in the heavens has laughed, and God has had them in derision (Psalm 2:4).” According to his unerring word, “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse; deceiving, and being deceived.”
But, as we object to the use or abuse to which our text is and has been prostituted by ancient and modern Pharisees, we will give our esteemed sister, and our readers generally, such light as we have upon its true and spiritual meaning. Understanding Christ as head over all things to his church, as personified by Wisdom, and as such set up from everlasting, or ever the earth was, as the head of his spiritual family, and Husband of his church, or his Jerusalem which is above, which is free, and which is the mother of all the legitimate children of wisdom, we shall regard the admonition and instruction of our text as addressed by him to the church, the Lamb’s wife, the spiritual mother of the family, directing her to “train up” her children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. None can successfully dispute that this application of our text most fully and beautifully expresses the instruction of Christ to his church, in regard to the discipline of his household. The church of God is under a most solemn charge from him whom his soul loveth, to train up her sons and daughters in the fear of the Lord. She is solemnly charged to see to it that all his laws and ordinances, precepts and examples, doctrine and order, be faithfully taught, and constantly observed by all her children. And who has ever known a heaven-born son or daughter of the church of the living God, who has been trained from the infancy of their spiritual experience under the faithful administration of the word of truth, well instructed in the doctrine of Christ, and constantly habituated to take the scriptures as the man of their counsel, standard of their faith, and rule of their conduct from their first connection with the church until their heads have whitened with age, that has not become well established in word and doctrine?
In the nature of the figure, it is the peculiar office of the wife to instruct her household to honor and obey their father and their mother in all things. And as a mother, her children are placed under her peculiar care and instruction; they are directed to look to her for succor, instruction and consolation. She is an help meet for him who is the “Everlasting Father,” of all her children. He bids her, “Train them in the way they should go.” To train is to exercise, to instruct, to keep them in the practice, to drill, and accustom them to the constant practice of that in which they are to be trained.
Practically, the church of Christ, walking in all the order of the house of God, sees that sin is not suffered to rest unrebuked on any of her children. She has maternal charge as well as love for them all. She receives to her bosom the “newborn babe,” as soon as it is born, feeds it with the sincere milk of the word, which flows from the breasts of her consolation. She attends to their numerous wants, hears and understands their cries for bread; or feeds them on milk, as she knows their condition and age can bear; teaches them to talk, and turns to them a pure language, that they may not speak in a mongrel, or half Ashdod dialect; instructs them how to spell and pronounce Shibboleth, and every other pass-word or countersign required of those who are of the household of God. She sees that not a morsel of food from the pulpit, or elsewhere, goes into the mouth, that is unwholesome; she examines well that there be no wild gourds served up by young and inexperienced prophets; that there be no “death in the pot” from which they are to feed. She has a charge to see that their clothing is in good order, white and clean, unspotted from the world, undefiled and unpolluted. Her husband has stored the wardrobe well. The garments of salvation, the robe of righteousness, garments of praise, and raiment of fine needlework are there; she is to see to it that they are seasonably put on, carefully protected from pollution, and duly appreciated. She has a special charge in training them, to keep them out of bad company; for her Husband, in one of his proverbs of wisdom, has told her that “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” She must not allow them to go after strange women, (professed churches). She must teach them to beware of the flattering words of the strange woman (anti-christ), and thoroughly warn them against her subtle snares, and tell them plainly that “her house is the way to hell, leading down to the chambers of death; lest they should let their heart decline to her ways, for she hath truly cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Such are her fascinating charms and seductive devices, that many shall follow her pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. She must therefore faithfully warn them to beware of dogs, to beware of evil workers, and to beware of the concision. She has a solemn charge to see that the discipline of the house of God is faithfully observed in all cases, and see that the little children love one another. She must in training them see that they are well instructed in all the doctrine of God their Savior, and that they perfectly understand and walk in all the order and ordinances of his house, blamelessly and unrebukably until his coming.
Now, my dear sister, do you think a child of God, a son of the church, brought up strictly according to the laws of Christ, and duly instructed to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded, from early infancy to old age, will, when old, depart from the doctrine, order or ordinances of his kingdom? Did you ever know such an instance?
But even the children of God who are left, like the few Jews in Jerusalem while the tribes were carried into Babylonish captivity, may forsake the law of the Lord, inter-marry with the children of Ashdod, become corrupted, and their very language become confused and incoherent, so that they spake neither language correctly; but a mongrel jargon which betrays their lack of wholesome training. The children of God require the care and counsels of their mother; or they are liable to become as children tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.
In conclusion, esteemed sister, although you are located somewhat remote from your mother, as to the privileges of frequent social privileges in the church, and but seldom can hear the preaching of the word in truth and faithfulness, yet as God has graciously trained you himself; weaned you from the vanities of the Gentiles; led you about and instructed you; and kept you as the apple of his eye; surely there is no good thing that he will now withhold from you. Where you formerly sought a home, when you asked for bread, they gave you a stone; when hunger compelled you to ask for a fish, they gave you a serpent, and for an egg, they gave you a scorpion. But the Lord has heard your groaning, and came down and delivered you; he brought you out of the house of bondage with a high hand, and an outstretched arm, and he has brought you to his banqueting house, and over your defenseless head has he spread the banner of his love. Now we address to you the inspired admonition, which has already been brought home by the Spirit to your heart, “Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear: forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house: so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty; for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him (Psalm 45:10,11).”
October 15, 1865.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 253 - 257