Digest of a sermon by R. M. McCheyne
“For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” Genesis 18:19
There are two things very remarkable in these words.
- That Abraham used parental authority in governing his family:
“I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him .”
He did not think it enough to pray for them, or to teach them, but he used the authority which God had given him, he commanded them.
- His success:
They will “keep the way of the Lord.”
It is often said that the children of good men turn out ill. Well, here is a good man, and a good man doing his duty by his children, and here is the result; His son Isaac was probably a child of God from his earliest years. There is every mark of it in his life.
It is the duty of all believers to rule their houses well.
I. SPRINGS OF THIS DUTY
- Love to souls
As long as a man does not care for his own soul, he does not care for the souls of others. He can see his wife and children living in sin, going down to hell, he does not care. He does not care for missions, gives nothing to support missionaries. But the moment a man’s eyes are opened to the value of his own soul, that moment does he begin to care for the souls of others. From that moment does he love the missionary cause. He willingly spares a little to send the Gospel to the Jew and the perishing Hindus. Again, he begins to care for the Church at home, for his neighbors, all living in sin. Like the maniac at Decapolis, he publishes the name of Jesus wherever he goes. And now he begins to care for his own house. He commands his children and his household after him. How is it with you? Do you rule well your own house? Do you worship God morning and evening in your family? Do you deal with your children touching their conversion? If not, you do not love their souls. And the reason is, you do not love your own. You may make what outward profession you please; you may sit down at sacraments, and talk about your feelings, etc., but if you do not labor for the conversion of your children, it is all a lie. If you but felt the preciousness of Christ, you could not look upon their faces without a heart-breaking desire that they might be saved. Thus Rahab, Joshua 2:13.
- Desire to use all talents for Christ
When a man comes to Christ, he feels he is not his own. (I Corinthians 6:19) He hears Christ say, “Occupy till I come.” If he be a rich man, he uses all for Christ, like Gaius. If a learned man, spends all for Christ, like Paul. Now, parental authority is one talent, the authority of a father is a talent, for the use of which men will be judged. He uses this also for Christ. He commands his children and his household after him. How is it with you? Do you use this talent for Christ? If not, you have never given yourself away to him, you are not his.
II. THE MANNER OF IT
1. Worship God in your family
If you do not worship God in your family, you are living in positive sin. Also, you may be quite sure you do not care for the souls of your family. If you neglect to spread a meal for your children to eat, would it not be said that you did not care for their bodies? And if you do not lead your children to the green pastures of God’s Word, and to seek the living water, how plain is it that you do not care for their souls! Do it regularly, morning and evening. It is more needful than your daily food, more needful than your work. How vain and silly all your excuses will appear, when you look back from hell! Do it fully. Some clip off the psalm, and some the reading of the Word; and so the worship of God is reduced to a mockery. Do it in a spiritual, lively manner. Go to it as to a well of salvation. There is, perhaps, no means of grace more blessed. Let all your family be present without fail, let none be awanting.
- Command, use parental authority
How awfully did God avenge it upon Eli, “because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not!” Eli was a good man, and a holy man; and often he spoke to his two wicked sons, but they heeded not. But herein he failed, he did not use his parental authority, he did not restrain them. Remember Eli. It is not enough to pray for your children, and to pray with them, and to warn them; but you must restrain them. Restrain them with the cords of love. From wicked books, from wicked companions, from wicked amusements, from untimely hours, restrain them.
3. Deal with each as to the coversion of his soul
I have known many dear Christian parents who have been singularly neglectful in this particular. They worship God in the family, and pray earnestly in secret for their children and yet never deal with them as to their conversion. Satan spreads a kind of false modesty among parents, that they will not inquire of their little ones, “Have you found the Lord, or no?” Ah! how sinful and foolish this will appear in eternity. If you should see some or your children in hell, all because you did not speak to them in private, how will you look? Begin tonight. Take them aside and ask, What has God done for your soul?
4. Lead a holy life before them
If all your religion is on your tongue, your children will soon find out your hypocrisy.
IV. THE BLESSING
- You will avoid the curse
You will avoid Eli’s curse. Eli was a child of God, and yet he suffered much on account of his unfaithfulness. He lost his two sons in one day. If you would avoid Eli’s curse, avoid Eli’s sin. “Pour out thy fury on the families that have not called on thy name.” (Jeremiah 10:25) If you do not worship God in your house, a curse is written over your door. If I could mark the dwellings in this town where there is no family prayer, these are the spots where the curse of God is ready to fall. These houses are built over hell.
2. Your children will be saved
So it was with Abraham. His dear son Isaac was saved. What became of Ishmael I do not know. Only I remember his fervent cry: “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” Such is the promise: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Ah! who can tell the blessedness of being the saved father of a saved family? Dear believers, be wise. Surely if anything could mar the joy of heaven, it would be to see your children lost through your neglect. Dear unconverted souls, if one pang can be more bitter than another in hell, it will be to hear your children say: “Father, mother, you brought me here.”