ADDRESS TO PARENTS.
"Oh that there were such an heart In them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commanments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever." Deuteronomy 5: 29.
I want to call your attention to Deuteronomy 5: 29. "Oh that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all iny commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever." And also the 6th chapter and 7th verse: "And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." I used to think, when I was superintendent on the North
Side, when I was laboring among the children and trying to get the parents interested to save their children, that if I ever did become a preacher I would have but one text and one sermon, and that should be addressed to parents; because when we get them interested, their interest will be apparent in the children. We used to say, if we get the lambs in, the old sheep will follow; but I didn't find that to be the case. When we got the children interested on one Sunday, the parents would be sometimes pulling the other way all the week, and before Sunday came again the impression that had been made would be gone; and I came to the conclusion that, unless we can get the parents interested, or could get some kind Christian to look after those children, it would almost be a sin to bring them to Christ. If there is no one to nurse them, to care for them and just to water the seed, why they are liable to be drawn away, and when they grow up, to be far more difficult to reach. I wish to say to-night that I am as strong as ever upon sudden conversion, and there are a great many ministers, a great many parents, who scoff and laugh when they hear of children who have been brought unto Christ at these meetings. Now, in many of the churches the sermons go over their heads; they don't do the young any good; they don't understand the preaching; and if they are impressed here, we ought not to discourage them. My friends, the best thing we can do is to bring them early to Christ. These earliest impressions never, never leave them; and I do not know why they should not grow up in the service of Christ. I contend that those who are converted early are the best Christians. Take the man who is converted at fifty. He has continually to fight against his old habits; but take a young man or a young girl, and they get a character to form and a whole long life to give to Christ. An old man unconverted got up in an inquiry meeting recently, and said he thought we were very hard-hearted down in the Tabernacle; we went right by when we saw some young person. He thought, as he was old, he might be snatched away before these young people; but with us it seemed -as if Christ was of more importance to the young than the old. I confess truly that I have that feeling. If a young man is converted, he perhaps has a long life of fifty years to devote to Christ; but an old man is not worth much, Of course, hu soul is worth much; but he is not worth much for labor.
While down at a convention in Illinois, an old man got up, past seventy years; he said he remembered but one thing about his father, and that one thing followed him all through life, lie could not remember his death, he had no recollection of his funeral; but he recollected his father one winter night, taking a little chip, and with his pocket-knife whittling out a cross, and with the tears in his eyes he held up that cross and told how God in his infinite love sent his Son down here to redeem us, how he had died on the cross for us. The
story of the cross followed him through life; and I tell you, if vou teach these children truths, they will follow them through life. We have got so much unbelief among us, like those disciples when they rebuked the people for bringing the children to Christ; but he said": "Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." I heard of a Sunday-school concert at which a little child of eight was going to recite. Her mother had taught her, and when the night came the little thing was trembling so she could hardly speak. She commenced, " Jesus said," and completely broke down. Again she tried it, "Jesus said, suffer," but she stopped once more. A third attempt was made by her, "Suffer little children—and don't anybody stop them, for he wants them all to come;" and that is the truth. There is not a child who has parents in the Tabernacle but He wants, and if you bring them in the arms of your faith, and ask the Son of God to bless them and train them in the knowledge of God, and teach them as you walk your way, as you lie down at night, as you rise up in the morning, they will be blessed. But I can imagine some skeptic in yonder gallery saying, "That's well enough, but it is all talk. Why I have known children of ministers and Christian people who have turned out worse than others. I've heard that all my life; but I tell you that is one of the devil's lies. I will admit I've heard of many Christian people having bad children, but they are not the worst children. That was tested once. A whole territory was taken in which fathers and mothers were Christians, and it was found that two-thirds of the children were members of churches; but they took a portion of country where all the fathers and mothers were not Christians, and it was found that not one in twelve of the children attended churches. That was the proportion. Look at a good man who has had a bad son. Do you want to know the reason? In the first place, children do not inherit grace. Because fathers and mothers are good, that is no reason why their children should be good. Children are not born good. Men may talk of natural goodness, but I don't find it. Goodness must come down from the Father of Light. To have a good nature, a man must be born of God. There is another reason—a father may be a very good man, but the mother may be pulling in another way. She may be ambitious, and may want her children to occupy a high worldly position. She has some high ambition, and trains the child for the world. Again, it maybe the reverse—a holy, pious mother and a worldly father; and it is pretty hard when father and mother do not pull together. Another reason is, and you will excuse me the expression, but a great many people have got very little sense about bringing up children. Now, I've known mothers punish their children by making them read the Bible. Do not be guilty of such a thing. If you want children not to hate the Bible, do not punish them by making them raad it. It is the most attraot
ive book in the world. But that is the way to spoil its attractiveness, and make them hate it with a perfect hate. There is another reason. A great many people are engaged in looking after other people's children and neglecting their own. No father or mother has a right to do this, whatever may be the position they hold in the world. The father may be a statesman, or a great business man; but he is responsible for his children. If they do not look after their children, they will have to answer for it some day. There will b« a blight in their paths, and their last days will be very bitter.
There are a great many reasons which I might bring forward, if I had time, why good people's children turn out bad; but let me say one word about bringing up these children, how to train them in Christian ways. The Word is very plain, "Teach them diligently." In the street cars, as we go about our business night and morning, talk of Christ and heavenly things. It seems to me as if these things were the last things many of us think about, and as if Christ wia banished from our homes. A great many people have a good name as Christians. They talk about ministers and Sunday-schools, and will come down and give a dinner to the bootblacks, and seem to be strong patrons of the cause of Christ; but when it comes to talking to children personally about Christ, that is another thing. The Word is very plain, "Teach them diligently;" and if we want them to grow up a blessing to the Church of God and to the world, we must teach them. I can imagine some of you saying: "It may be very well for Mr. Moody to lay down theories, but there are a great many difficulties in the way." I heard of a minister who said he had the grandest theory upon the bringing up of children. God gave him seven children, and he found that his theory was all wrong. They were all differently constituted. I will admit that this is one difficulty; but if our heart is set upon this one thing—to have our children in glory—God will give us all the light we need. He is not going to leave us in darkness. If that is not the aim of your heart, make it this very night. I would rather, if I went to-night, leave my children in the hope of Christ than leave them millions of money. It seems to me as if we were too ambitious to have them make m name, instead of to train them up for the life they are to lead forever. And another thing about government. Never teach them revenge. If a baby falls down on the floor, don't give it a book with which to strike the floor. They have enough of revenge in them without being taught it. Then don't teach them to lie. You don't like that; but how many parents have told their children to go to the door, when they did not want to see the visitor, and say, "Mother is not in." That is a lie. Children are very keen to detect. They very soon see those lies, and this lays the foundation for a good deal of trouble afterward. "Ah," some of you say, " I neve/do this." Well, suppose some person comes in that you don't want to see. You give him a welcome, and when he goes you entreat him to stay; but the moment he is out of the door you say, "What a bore!" The children wonder at first; but they very soon begin to imitate the father and mother. Children are very good imitators. A father and mother never ought do a thing that they don't want their children to do. If you don't want them to smoke, don't you smoke; if you don't want them to chew, don't you chew; if you don't want them to play billiards, don't you play billiards; if you don't want them to drink, don't you drink, because- children are grand imitators. A lady once told me that she was in her pantry on one occasion, and she was surprised by the ringing of the bell. Aa she whirled round to see who it was, she broke a tumbler. Her little child was standing there, and she thought her mother was doing » very correct thing, and the moment the lady left the pantry, the child commenced to break all the tumblers she could get hold of. You may laugh, but children are very good imitators. If you don't, want them to break the Sabbath day, keep it holy yourself; if you want them to go to church, go to church yourself. It is very often by imitation that they utter their first oath, that they tell their first lie, and then this act grows upon them; and when they try to quit the habit it has grown so strong upon them that they cannot do it. "Ah," some say, "we do not believe in children being converted. Let them grow up to manhood and womanhood, and then talk of converting them." They forget that in the meantime their characters are formed, and perhaps they have commenced to enter the dens of infamy; and when they have arrived at manhood and' womanhood, we find it is too late to alter their character. How unfaithful we are. "Teach them diligently." How many parents in this vast assembly know where their sons are. Their sons may be in the halls of vice. Where does your son spend his evenings? You don't care enough for him to ascertain what kind of company he keeps, what kind of books he reads; you don't care whether he is reading those miserable, trashy novels or not, and getting false ideas of life. You don't know till it is too late. Oh, may God wake us up and teach us the responsibility devolving upon us in training our children. While in London, an officer in the Indian army, hearing of us being over there, said: "Lord, now is the time for my son to be saved." He got a furlough and left India, and came to London. When he came there lor that purpose, of course God was not going to let him ^o away without the blessing. How many men are interested in their sons enough to do as this man did? How many men are sufficiently interested in them to bring them here? How many parents stand in the way of the salvation of their children? I don't know anything that discouraged me more, when I was superintendent on the North Side, than when, after begging with parents to allow their children to come to Sunday-school-—and how few of them came—whenever spring arrived those parents would take those children from the school, and lead them into those German gardens. And now a great many are reaping the consequences. I remember one mother who heard that her boy was impressed at our meeting. She said her son was a good enough boy, and he didn't need to be converted. I pleaded with that mother, but all my pleading was of no account.
I tried my influence with the boy; but while I was pulling one way she was pulling the other. Her influence prevailed. Naturally it would. Well, .to make a long story short, some time after I happened to be in the County Jail, and I saw him there. "How did you come here?" I asked; "does your mother know where you are?"
II No, don't tell her; I came here under an assumed name, and I am going to Joliet for four years. Do not let my mother know of this," he pleaded; "she thinks I am in the army.'' I used to call on that mother, but I had promised her boy I would not tell her, and for four years she mourned over that boy. She thought he had died on the battle-field, or in a Southern hospital. What a blessing he might have been to that mother, if she had only helped us to bring him to Christ. But that mother is only a specimen of hundreds and thousands of parents in Chicago. If we would have more family altars in our homes and train them to follow Christ, why the Son of God would lead them into "green pastures;" and instead of having sons who curse the mothers who gave them birth, they would bless their fathers and mothers. In the Indiana Penitentary, I was told of a man who had come there under an assumed name. His mother heard where he'was. She was too poor to ride there, and she footed it. Upon her arrival at the prison, she at first did not recognize her son in his prison suit and snort hair; but when she did see who it was, that mother threw her arms around that boy and said: '• J am to blame for this; if I had only taught you to obey God and keep the Sabbath, you would not have been here." Hew many mothers, if they were honest, could attribute the ruination of their children to their early training. God has said, if we don't teach them those blessed commandments he will destroy us; and the lawof God never changes. It does not only apply to those callous men who make no profession of religion, but to those who stand high in the church, if they make the same mistake. Look at that high priest Eli. He was a good man and a kind one, but one thing he neglected to do—to train his children for God. The Lord gave him warning, and at last destruction came upon his house. Look at that old man ninetyeight years old, with his white hair, like some of the men on the platform, sitting in the town of Shiloh, waiting to hear the result of the battle. The people of Israel came into the town and took out the ark of God, and when it came into the camp a great shout went up to heaven, for they had the ark of their God among them. They thought they were going to succeed; but they had disobeyed God. When the battle came on they fought manfully, but no less than 30,000 of the Israelites fell by the swords of their enemies; and a messenger came running from the field through the streets of Shiloh to where Eli was, crying: "Israel is defeated, the ark is taken, and Hophni and Phineas have been slain in battle." And the old priest, when he heard it, fell backward by the side of the gate, and his neck broke and he died. Oh, what a sad ending to that man; and when his daughter-in-law heard the news, there was another death in that family recorded. In that house destruction was complete. My friends, God is true; and if we do not obey him in this respect, he will punish us. It is only a question of time. Look at king David. See him waiting for the tidings of the battle. He had been driven from his throne by his own son, whom he loved; but when the news came that he was slain, see how he cried: "0 my son Absalom! would to God I had died for thee!" It was worse than death to him; but God had to punish him, because he did not train his son to love the Lord. My friends, if he punished Eli and David, he will punish you and me. May God forgive us for the past, and may we commence a new record to-night. My friends, if you have not a family altar, erect one to-night. Let us labor that our children may be brought to glory. Don't say children are too young. Mothers and fathers, if you hear your children have been impressed with religion, don't stand in the way of their conversion, but encourage them all you can.
While I was attending a meeting in a certain city some time ago, a lady came to me and said: "I want you to go home with me; I have something to say to you." When we reached her home, there were some friends there. After they had retired, she put her arms on the table, and tears began to come into her eyes, but with an effort she repressed her emotion. After a struggle, she went on to say that she was going to tell me something which she had never told any other living person. I should not tell it now, but she has gone to another world. She said she had a son in Chicago, and she was very anxious about him. When he was young, he got interested in religion at the rooms of the Young Men's Christian Association. He used to go out in the street and circulate tracts. He was her only son, and she was very ambitious he should make a name in the world, and wanted to get him into the very highest circles. Oh, what a mistake people make about these highest circles. Society is false; it is a sham. She was deceived, like a good many more votaries of fashion and hunters after wealth at the present time. She thought it was beneath her son to go down and associate with those young men who hadn't much money. She tried to get him away from them, but they had more influence than she had; and, finally, to break off this old association, she packed him off to a boardingschool. He went soon to Yale College, and she supposed he got
into one of those miserable secret societies there that have ruined so many young men; and the next thing she heard was that the boy had gone astray. She began to write letters urging him to come into the kingdom of God; but she heard that he tore the letters up without reading them. She went to him, to try and regain whatever influence she possessed over him; but her efforts were useless, and she came home with a broken heart. He left New Haven, and for two years they heard nothing of him. At last they heard he was in Chicago; and his father found him, and gave him thirty thousand dollars to start in business. They thought it would change him; but it didn't. They asked me when I went back to Chicago, to try and use my influence with him. I got a friend to invite him to his house one night, where I intended to meet him; but he heard I was to be there, and did not come near. Like a good many other young men, who seem to be afraid of me, I tried many times to reach him, but could not. While I was traveling one day on the New Haven railroad, I bought a New York paper, and in it I saw a dispatch saying he had been drowned in Lake Michigan. His father came on to find his body, and after considerable searching, he discovered it. All the clothes and his body were covered with sand. The body was taken home to that broken-hearted mother. She said, "If I thought he was in heaven, I would have peace." Her disobedience of God's law came back upon her. So, my friends, if you have a boy impressed with the gospel, help him to come to Christ. Bring him in the arms of your faith, and he will unite you closer to him. Let us have faith in him, and let us pray day and night that our children may be born of the Spirit .