A Word to Parents
(The following is an excerpt from "The Rod and the Word, A Treatise on Afflictions" by Thomas Case, 1653)
4. The fourth and last branch of exhortation, is to PARENTS—to exhort them in the education of their children to imitate God, and that in three things:
a.) Afford your children due CORRECTION.
It is the counsel of the Holy Spirit, "Chasten your son while there is hope, and let not your soul spare for his crying" (Proverbs 19:18). Behold, God counsels you who are parents to do with your children as he does with his—wisely to use the discipline of the rod, before vicious dispositions grow into habits, and folly is so deeply rooted that the rod of correction will not drive it out.
"Error and folly," says one very well, "are the cords of Satan with which he ties sinners to the stake to be burnt in Hell!" These cords are easiest cut early. If you make the child bleed in the cutting of them, let it not cause you to withdraw your hand; for so it follows, "Chasten your son, and let not your soul spare for his crying." It is not only foolish, but cruel pity to forbear correction for a few childish tears; to cause your child to wail in Hell for sin, rather than to shed a few tears for the preventing of it. Foolish fathers and mothers call this love, but the Father of Spirits calls it hatred: "He who spares the rod, hates his son!" (Proverbs 13:24). Surely there is nothing so ill-spared, as that whereby the child is bettered. Such sparing is hatred; and because you hate your children in not correcting them—they may come afterwards to hate you for not correcting them.
But this is not all. The parent's leniency in disciplining, makes way for God's severity. Pity to the child's flesh—is cruelty to the child's soul. So the Hebrew may be rendered, "Spare not to his destruction, or to cause him to die"—that is, to occasion his destruction. The foolish indulgence of the parent may be, and often is, the death of the child—eternal death. Parents spare their children in their folly—to the destruction both of body and soul!
And this may help us to expound that other parallel text, "Withhold not correction from the child, for if you beat him with the rod he shall not die." (Proverbs 23:13). The meaning may be either that correction will not kill him—the rod will break no bones. This reproves the silly and sinful soft-heartedness of parents, who think if they would correct their children, they would presently die of it. They are as afraid to use the rod, as if it were a sword. Nay, but says the Holy Spirit, fear not correction, for behold, the strokes of the rod are not the strokes of death. It is but a rod—it is not a serpent. It may hurt—but it will not give a poisonous sting. To obviate the fear of parents in this case, God himself gives his word for it, "He shall not die."
This may be the meaning, which I rather conceive—the words may be a motive drawn from the fruit of correction, "Withhold not correction from the child." Why? "He shall not die"—in other words discipline may be, and (through divine blessing accompanying it) is often a means to prevent death. It may prevent the first and second death, to which the child is exposed by the sinful indulgence of the parent.
The word used in this place, says one, seems to note an immortality; so that "He shall not die"—is all one as if the Holy Spirit had said, 'He shall live forever,' the rod on the flesh shall be a means to save the soul in the day of the Lord Jesus. "We are chastened that we should not be condemned with the world" (1 Corinthians 11:32). "Such smitings," as David says in another case, "shall be a kindness" (Psalm 141:5). And such rebukes are so far from breaking the head, that they shall be an excellent oil which shall cure, and give life. Even the philosopher could say, "Correction is a kind of medicine for children."
Alas, our children are sick, and cruel is that mercy which will allow them to die—yes eternally—rather than heal their palates with a little bitter medicine! They are monsters in the form of fathers and mothers—who thus hug their little ones to death! They are infanticides rather than parents; of whom we may say, as once the Roman emperor said of Herod, when he heard that he had murdered his own son among the rest of the infants in Bethlehem, so that he might be sure to destroy the King of the Jews, "Surely it is better to be such people's swine, than their sons!"
O hateful indulgence and merciless pity—to damn a child for lack of correction! Such parents throw both the rod and the child into the fire at once! They throw the rod into the fire of the chimney—and the child into the fire of Hell.
This is not done like God, for "whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives" (Hebrews 12:6)—and so does every wise loving parent! "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him chastens him early" (Proverbs 13:24).
As moths are beaten out of a garment with a rod—so must vices be beaten out of children's hearts. For lack of this disciplinary love—how have some children accused their parents on their death-bed, yes at the gallows! And how many do and will curse their parents in Hell—as Cyprian supposes some to do: "The wicked fondness of our parents has brought us into these torments! Our fathers and mothers have been our murderers! Those who gave us our natural life, have deprived us of eternal life! Those who would not correct us with the rod, have occasioned us now to be tormented with scorpions."
Yes, even in this life, how do many godly parents smart for their indulgent fondness, because they will not make their children smart for their folly. Eli and David would not so much as rebuke their sons—and God gave them rebukes in their sons. It is said of Eli, "His sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not" (1 Samuel 3:13). The Hebrew has it, "He did not frown upon them." How sad—for lack of a frown, to destroy a soul!
I am much afraid, this unchristian, yes wicked indulgence of parents, is the fountain of all that confusion under which England at this time reels and staggers like a drunken man. And for this very sin (at least for this among others, yes, and for this above others) God is visiting all the families of the land, from the throne to the poorest cottage. Such indulgent parents have laid the foundation of . . .
their own sorrows,
their children's ruin, and
the destruction of the nation,
in withholding proper discipline from their children!
Therefore God crosses us in our righteous desires; we have walked, even in this point, exceedingly contrary to God and to his discipline; and therefore God is walking contrary to us, and is punishing us seven times more for this iniquity. And therefore O that parents would at length awaken themselves, to follow both the pattern and precept of their heavenly Father, who, as "he corrects those whom he loves," so he commands them to lovingly correct their children. "Withhold not correction from the child; for if you correct him with the rod he shall not die" (Proverbs 23:13).
And it is further worth observation, that the same word in the original, which is translated "withhold", signifies also "to forbid"; meeting with another distemper in parents, who as they will not correct their children themselves, so also they forbid others to correct them, under whose tuition they put them. It is as if they were afraid their children would not have sin enough here, nor Hell enough hereafter—they lay in caveats against the means which God has sanctified for their reclaiming. Parents, take heed that when you commit your children to others' hands, you do not in the meanwhile hold their hands.
If you judge them unwise, why do you choose them? If you choose them, why do you not trust them? Well then, if the rod is in your own hand, withhold it not; if in your friend's hand, forbid it not.
Certainly there is great need of this duty, which the Spirit of God frequently inculcates all through the Proverbs.
b.) And secondly, if you would have your children blessed, add INSTRUCTION to correction.Imitate God in this part of paternal discipline also. Let chastisement and instruction go together—it is what the Holy Spirit urges upon you, "Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).
There are two words relating to both of these parental duties; in the "nurture" or correction; and it is added, "of the Lord". That is, the chastisement which the Lord commands earthly parents to exercise towards their children—this is the first duty, of which we have already addressed. And then there is another word, which holds forth the end and design of parental correction—that is the "admonition" or instruction of the Lord—counsels and instructions taken out of the Word of God, or such as are approved of by God. The sum is this, that while we chasten the flesh—we should labor to inform and form the mind and spirit, by infusing right principles, pressing and urging upon their tender hearts counsel, reproof, and instruction as the matter requires.
This is the duty of parents, to imitate God, to let instruction expound correction; and with a rod in the hand, and a word in the mouth—to train up their children to life eternal.
A silent rod is but a brutish discipline, and will certainly leave them more brutish than it found them. Chastisement without teaching—may sooner break the bones than the heart. Chastisement alone may mortify the flesh, but not corruption. Chastisement alone may control nature, but never beget grace. But the rod and reproof give wisdom. As instruction added to correction makes excellent Christians—so also it makes good children.
There are parents who are severe and crusty enough to their children—they spare for no blows. Instead of breaking them of their wills by a wise and moderate correction—they are ready to break their bones, and their necks too sometimes, in their angry passions! But they never mind the other branch of paternal discipline—instruction and admonition.
Of such parents I suppose the apostle speaks, "We have had fathers of our flesh, who corrected and chastened us after their own pleasure" (Hebrews 12:9-10). He is not speaking of all parents, but his meaning is, there are such men and women in the world who are most unlike to God, and in smiting their children rather please themselves, than profit their children. God disciplines for our profit—but they discipline to give vent to their passion, and satisfy their vindictive rage and fury. And when is that?
Truly when the rod and reproof do not go together, it is an argument that there is more passion than wisdom, and more cruelty than love, in such chastisements. Such parents do rather betray their own folly, than take a course to make their children wise.
The rod and reproof give wisdom—neither alone will do it. The rod without reproof, will harden the heart and teach children sooner to hate their parents than to hate sin. While reproof without the rod, will oftentimes leave no impression. It is divine truth alone, which must be the instrument which works saving grace in the heart, "Sanctify them with your truth—your word is truth" (John 17:17). It is the commendation of Timothy's mother, that from his very infancy, she instructed him in the Scriptures, "which were able to make him wise to salvation" (2 Timothy 3:15). When the instruction of the Word in in the mouth of the rod—it brings wisdom and life with it.
And therefore, O that parents would imitate the Father of Spirits in this blessed are of paternal discipline, join the word of instruction to the rod of correction—and teach as well as chastise "Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine" (2 Timothy 4:2). O that every child might have cause to give their parents that commendation which once Augustine gave his mother, "My mother labored with my everlasting salvation with more tenderness and sorrow, than ever she did with my first birth."
O that natural parents could speak of the fruit of their loins, as Paul speaks of his Galatians, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you" (Galatians 4:19); so that they might rejoice in the second, more than they ever did in the first birth.
Beloved, this is done by the Word and the rod. "Correct your son and he shall give you rest, yes he shall give delight unto your soul" (Proverbs 29:17). What greater delight than to see your children walking in truth, and to think thus with yourselves: that so many children God has given you, so many children you have brought up for God, and so many heirs for the kingdom of Heaven! Well, chastise and teach them out of the Word of God, and your children shall be blessed.
Take one short caution more, and that is:
c.) Add PRAYER to instruction. As teaching should accompany chastisement—so prayer should accompany teaching. Paul may plant, and Apollos may water—but God must give the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6). In the same way with us, the father may correct, the mother may instruct, both may do both—but God must give the blessing.
So therefore Christian parents, while they add instruction to correction—should add prayer to instruction. The means are ours—the success is God's. Therefore let us put the rod into the hand of instruction—and instruction into the hand of prayer—and all into the hand of God.
Pray and teach your children to pray—that God would so bless correction and instruction, that both may make you and your children blessed. Amen.