Parental Duties: Richard Adams (1626-1698)

From a sermon on “What are the duties of parents and children?”


Colossians 3: 20, 21

20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

Parental Instruction

This is a timely instilling of conscientious principles, and seeds of religion, into children, taking them apart, and engaging them to receive the most necessary points, as it were, drop by drop, “here a little, and there a little,” (Isa 28:10,) according to their narrow capacities, in a free and familiar conference; by putting questions to them, and teaching them how to give answers, and by putting them upon asking questions, and returning short and clear answers there­unto, not only concerning the word, but works of God, whose Spirit alone makes all efficacious. The Lord hath most strictly enjoined this by Moses, charging parents to keep their souls diligently, and not to let the things God hath done to slip-out of their hearts all their days; but teach their sons and their [son’s] sons, (Deut 6:9,) who in after-time did thankfully acknowledge the benefit of this instruction : “We have heard with our ears, 0 God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old.” (Ps 44:1, 2.)

And for the words and ordinances of God, they are commanded [not] only to have them in their own hearts, but to teach them diligently unto their children, (as one who whets and sharpens a thing that is blunt,) by talking to them, when they sit down in their house, when they walk by the way, when they lie down, and when they rise up, and elsewhere; (Deut 6:6, 7; 11:19; Eccl 10:10; Ps 78:5-7; Prov 22:6, 20, 21 ) nor only so, but by rites, and setting-up visible and extraordinary monuments, whereby children might take occasion to ask the meaning of them, and so parents might acquaint them with the ordinances of God (Exod 12:26 ; 13:14 ; Josh 6:6, 7, 21 ; Deut 6:20, 21).

No doubt but religious parents have been careful to observe this, for the transmitting of pure religion. Adam had taught his sons to sacrifice, as well as trained them up to business, though one of them did not worship God in an acceptable manner. (Gen 4:3—6; Heb 11:4.) He had acquainted them, it seems, with the fundamental promise concerning remission of sin, which the apostle saith could not be “without shedding of blood,” (Heb 9:22,) represented in the instituted sacrifice, which Cain wanted [lacked] faith to offer acceptably, as Abel did, giving credit to the divine institution, and behaving himself sincerely in this solemn worship, as he was instructed. Noah also taught his children, though one of them did not observe the instructions. (Gen. 9:8, 22.) But we have Abraham, the father of the faithful, expressly commended with a special approbation of God for effectually instructing, that is, training or catechising, his children and servants after his example to ” keep the way of the Lord.” (Gen 18:19; 14:14.) And therefore they are called his “initiated ones,” whom, the Rabbins say, he did no less instruct in the divine precepts and their observation, than train up to war.

Other memorable instances we have: Of David, who seems kindly to call children apart, to teach them the fear of the Lord, which Obadiah learned from his youth (Prov 4:3, 4; Ps 72 title; 34:11; 1 Ki 18:12). So of his wife Bathsheba, and those good women in the New Testament, Lois and Eunice (Prov 31:19; 2 Tim 1:5). And other persons there were, who did “catechise in all good things” (Gal 6:6,) that is, the rudiments of the gospel; wherein the most excellent Theophilus was catechised or instructed, as the Jewish children had been catechised in the law (Luke 1:4 ; Rom 2:18).

But this part of education, namely catechising, being handled at this exercise in another distinct query by one well-versed in the practical part of this necessary duty, may fairly give me, who have so much on mine hands, a hesitancy from enlarging now upon it. Only let it be remembered, that since “man is born like a wild ass’s colt,” and “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” parents are [to be] concerned to be industrious, and not [to] be discouraged from teaching their offspring the words and terms of goodness, in confidence [that] they will afterwards comprehend the sense and practically “hold fast the form of sound words, (the little Bibles, as Luther used to call orthodox catechisms) gathered up from the holy scripture, which, it seems, Timothy had known “from a child,” “a little one,” indeed; yea, and we have some late considerable examples of such little ones (Job 11:12; Prov 1:7; Psalm 109:10; 2 Tim 1:13; 3:15). And therefore, parents themselves, according to their different calls and abilities, taking in convenient help, and all to forward the pastor’s work, should not, through humour, indisposition, laziness, or an over-eager minding of worldly business, neglect this affair of so great importance to the welfare of their children; but be solicitous to get the seeds sown in their tender hearts, before the weeds of the world grow up therein, and canker the soil. Even according to nature’s dictates, Diotima timely instilled such notions of prudence into Socrates, which rendered him famous. And Cato, though he kept a tutor for his son, yet was frequent himself in teaching and examining of him in learning and natural religion. Much more should Christians; as Theodosius the Great, who was diligent in catechising his sons Arcadius and Honorius, with the assistance of Arsenius. A notable means was catechising to propagate the Reformed religion (notwithstanding the contagion of Popery, as Sir Edwin Sandys well observed of and it will be so), to preserve it; especially if instruction be followed with a second particular in education, and that is:

Watchfulness or Inspection

– which is a daily putting children on exercise, to practise the things wherein they have been instructed, by a prudent oversight of their behaviour. This domestic episcopacy, or family discipline, is of singular use for the edification of children. Governors [parents] especially should “watch in all things” (2 Tim 4:5). This is the most proper means to preserve the good seed which is sown from being stolen away, and to guard it, lest the enemy come slyly, and sow tares amongst the wheat; which he lays wait to do, if he can take parents asleep or inobservant, when they should be awake in this good government, and intent upon it in their household; taking special care that in practice their children be found faithful, and not chargeable with riot and unruliness (Matt 13:25; 1 Tim 3:4; Ps 101:6, 7; Titus 1:6).

It is not enough to teach children the rudiments of faith, worship, and obedience, but to bring them where the ark is, to the acts of solemn worship, both in the family and congregation. Our Saviour’s parents brought him, though he was born without sin, and had not need upon that account, as others have: (Luke 2:41, 42, 48, 49) much more should others, who now are not required to go so far, bring theirs to worship God, according to his appointment; see to their reverent deportment there, examine them afterward, and observe their proficiency; carry a jealous eye and hand over them, as Job did over his (Job 1:5); and take care there be no connivance at palpable faults, but a seasonable discountenancing of every sin, in the dearest of them ; no allowance of any practice dissonant to that which is right, but a solicitous care that they do not decline and apostatize, or be not seduced from the pure worship of the holy God, and the good ways they have acquainted them with (Gen 49:6 ; Deut 33:9; Deut 13:6; Exod 32:28; Zech 13:6; Josh 22:27—30; Gen 24:6, 7).  We know, Abraham, that father of blessed memory, commanded his children, as was noted before; (Gen 18:19 😉 and there was a positive law after to command children, upon their lives, to observe and do what God enjoined (Deut 32:46, 47).