THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST.
Keeping the Covenant.
'I have known Abraham, to the end that ho may command his household and his children after him, that they may keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; to the end that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him.'—Gen. xviii. 19.
FAITH without works is dead. Saving faith is an energy, the power of a new life, manifesting itself in conduct and action. In true faith the soul becomes united to God, and seeks to enter into the Divine will, as the surest way of becoming one with Himself. As faith grows clearer and stronger, it always sympathizes more fully with God's plans; it understands Him better, and becomes more conformed to His likeness. This is true not only of individual but also of parental faith. The higher the faith of the parent rises, the more the family will come under its power, and be permeated by the spirit of godliness. Parental faith
iu God's promise will always be known by parental faithfulness to God's wilL
Abraham is a remarkable illustration of this. As distinctly as God's Word speaks of his faith, it tells, too, of his faithfulness as a father. In assigning the reason why God's purpose in regard to Sodom should not be kept secret from him, God grounds it upon this part of his character. Not as an eminent believer, not even as the father of the promised seed, but as one called to be the faithful leader of his children and household in the ways of the Lord, God confers on him the high distinction of having His secret counsel revealed to him. Faithfulness in his household gave him access to God's secrets and to God's presence as intercessor for Sodom. Let us try to understand what this means, and why God puts such honour upon parental faithfulness. Let us look to its need, its character, its blessing, its power.
Think what need there is of it. Without it the blessing offered to parental faith is lost, and the purpose of God made void. Were God by direct interposition, or by special agents, to seek the salvation of the little ones, there would be no reason for the part the parent is allowed to take in the covenant. God's object in thus honouring him is distinctly that he, to whose influence the helpless babe is committed, should train it for God. God seeks a people on earth. The family is the great institution for this object; a believing and God-devoted fatherhood one of the mightiest means of grace. God's covenant and the parent's faith are but preliminary steps; it is by the godly upbringing by the parents that the children are led really to enter upon and possess the blessings secured in the covenant. They must learn to know, and choose, and love the God who has given Himself to them. The most precious promises on God's part will not avail unless the child is brought up, in the course of patient and loving training, to desire and accept the proffered friendship of the Holy One, to obey Him and keep His commandments. God establishes His covenant with parents not only for their comfort, to assure them of what He will do, but also to strengthen them for what they must do, whom He makes His fellow-workers in securing the children for Him. The sure covenant does not dispense with, the better it is understood, the more it reveals the indispensable need of, parental faithfulness.
What God says of Abraham further gives us an insight into the true character of this grace: 'I have known Abraham to the end he may command his children and his household after him.' The spirit of modern so-called liberty has penetrated even into our family life; and there are parents who, some from a mistaken view of duty, some from want of thought as to their sacred calling, some from love of ease, have no place for such a word as 'command,' which God here uses, in their family religion. They have seen nought of the heavenly harmony between authority and love, between obedience and liberty. Parents are more than friends and advisers: they have been clothed by God with a holy authority, to be exercised in leading their children in the way of the Lord. There is an age when the will of the child is to a great extent in their hands, and when the quiet, loving exercise of that authority will have mighty influence. We speak here not so much of commanding in the sense of specific injunctions; we speak of what we see in the heavenly Father; the tenderness of affection combined with an authority not to be despised. It is the silent influence of example and life which also exercises its commanding power, which makes the child often unconsciously bow to the stronger will, and makes it happy in doing so.
The blessing of such parental faithfulness is sure and large. God says: 'That the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken concerning him.' It was in the way of a godly education that the blessings of the covenant were to come true. God's faithfulness and man's in the covenant are linked by indissoluble ties. If Abraham was to be blessed, and his seed with him, and all nations again in his seed, it was only thus—he must, as a faithful parent, pass on to others what he knew himself of God. It is only as the children become partakers of the parent's spirit that they can share his blessing. The child is to be identified with the parent, not merely in an imputation in which God looks on it for the parent's sake, but in a similarity of disposition and conduct; so, and not otherwise, would God bring upon Abraham what He had spoken. As it is written: 'Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect, and he was called the friend of God.' In a way that passes all comprehension, but that fills us with adoring wonder at the place given to His servants in the fulfilling of His counsel, the faithfulness of God and man, each in his performance of the covenant obligation, are inseparably and eternally interwoven.
The solemn responsibility may well make us tremble. But God's word meets us with Divine comfort. The power is provided in the purpose of God. The words of the text are most remarkable: 'I have known Abraham, to the end that he may command his children and his home.' It was with this very purpose that God had chosen him and revealed Himself; God Himself was the security that His own purposes should be carried out. It was because God had known, and he truly known God, that he could do it. And so every believing parent has, in the very fact of his being taken into this relation with God, the guarantee that God will give the grace of faithfulness to prepare for the blessing, as well as the reward upon it. In the covenant we have not to trust our God for every other blessing, but look to ourselves for the faithfulness that receives it; no, as for every other, so for this, most of all, we may count upon Him: 'I have known Abraham, to the end that he may command his household and his children.'
It is part of God's covenant that He will first teach man to keep it, and then reward that keeping (Jer. xxxii. 40). A covenant-keeping God and a covenant - keeping parent, — in these the children must be blessed. 'The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear, and His righteousness to children's children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those that remember His precepts to do them.'
Believing parent! see here the two sides of a parent's calling. Be very full of faith, be very faithful. Very full of faith: let faith in the living God, in His covenant with thee and thy seed, in His promises for thy children, in His faithfulness, fill thy soul. Take God's word as the only measure of thy faith. And then, be very faithful: take God's word as the only measure of thy life, especially in the family. Be a parent such as God would have thee be. Let it be thy one desire so to live thyself, so to rule thy home, so to command thy household and thy children, that they may walk in the ways of the Lord, that so the Lord may bring upon thee that which He hath spoken concerning thee. Thou mayest depend upon it that the blessing will be large and full. In the blessing for thine own Christian life, which comes from that selfdiscipline and exercise of faith which parental faithfulness involve, in the blessing on thy home life and thy children, in the influence which will come to thee on those around thee (1 Tim. iii. 5, 6), in the power given thee, like Abraham, to enter into God's secrets, and to plead with Him as intercessor for the perishing, God will prove to thee that believing, faithful parentage is one of the highest privileges to which man can be admitted. Study Abraham in his fatherhood as chosen of God, faithful to God, blessed of God, and find in him the type, the law, the promise of what thy fatherhood may be.
O my God! hast Thou indeed taken me too into this wonderful covenant, in which Thou art the God of the seed of Thy saints, and makest them the ministers of Thy grace to their children? Open my eyes, I pray Thee, to see the full glory of this Thy covenant, that my faith may know all that Thou hast prepared for me to bestow, and may do all Thou hast prepared for me to perform.
0 my God! may Thy covenant-keeping faithfulness be the life and the strength of my faith. May this faith make me faithful in keeping the covenant.
And teach me to realize fully what this parental faithfulness is which Thou dost ask of me. I would make this the one object of my home life, to train a seed to serve Thee. By my life, by my words, by my prayers, by gentleness and love, by authority and command, I would lead them in the way of the Lord. O God! be Thou my helper.
Teach me, above all, that, as Thou hast appointed this parental training for the fulfilment of Thy purpose, I may be assured that Thou hast made provision for the grace to enable me to perform. Let my faith see Thee undertake for me and all
1 have to do, and an ever growing faith so be the root of an ever-growing faithfulness. I ask it in the name of Thy Son. Amen.