THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST.
A Consecrated Home.
'As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.'—Josn. xxiv. 15.
IN God's dealings with Noah and Abraham, with Israel in the Passover and at Mount Sinai, we have repeatedly noticed the deep meaning of the united mention of father and children in His commands and promises. 'Thou and thy house,' 'thou and thy seed,' 'ye and your children,' 'thou and thy son.' Such is ever the language of the Covenant God. In the words of Joshua we have the response from earth, 'as for me and my house.' The principle of the Divine dealing is accepted; the parent boldly vouches for his family as well as himself; the covenant engagement of the Father in heaven is met by the covenant obligation of the father on earth. Joshua is to us here the very model of a godly parent, and in him we can see what parental religion ought to be.
Let it be a personal religion. 'As for me and my house': he began with himself. We cannot too strongly press the truth that for a godly education the first and the most essential requisite is personal consecration. It is good to reflect on our responsibility, to study our duties and the best way of fulfilling them, to speak with our children, and to pray much for them,—but all these may be called accessories. The first thing on the part of the parent is a life devoted to God and His service. It is this that creates the spiritual atmosphere the children are to breathe. It is this gives our performance of duty and our dealings with our children their spiritual influence. It is this gives our praying and our working its value with God. 'As for me' there must be no hesitation or half-heartedness in the consciousness or the confession of devotion to God's service. As often as the prayer for God's blessing on the children comes up, it must be in the spirit of David: 'Thou, Lord God! knowest Thy servant. Therefore now let it please Thee to bless the house of Thy servant.' With God and men, in the home and out of it, as well as in the hearts of parents themselves, it must be a settled thing: 'As for me, I will serve the Lord.'
But let yours be as distinctly a family religion. Take your stand for all who belong to you: 'As for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord.' There are pious parents who do not understand that this is their duty and their privilege. They know not what God has put in their power. They imagine they honour God by thinking that the religion of their children is dependent on God's will apart from their instrumentality. They are so occupied, either with the engagements of their calling in this life, or it may even be with religious work, that they cannot find the time for speaking out and acting out the grand decision: 'As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.' Or, perhaps, the father leaves the religion of the children to the care of the mother, and the mother thinks that the father as head is more responsible; they hesitate or neglect to come to a clear and definite understanding, and the religious education of the children does not take the prominent place it ought to in the intercourse of parents with each other. Let each believing parent take Joshua's words, first, in the depth of his own soul, then in fellowship with partner and children. The more we speak it out in prayer and conversation,—our house is and must be holy to the Lord, our children must be trained first of all for God and His service,—the more mightily will the power of the principle assert itself, and help us so to guide the house, that it too serves the Lord.
The words of Joshua teach us more. Let yours, like his, be a practical religion: 'we will serve the Lord.' There are many parents with whom the whole of religion consists in salvation, not in service. They pray most earnestly that all their children may be saved; they comfort themselves, if they see them spend their lives in the service of the world, that they will yet be brought in before they die. 'No wonder that their education for this life has been a failure: they never understood the truth, and never trained their children under its guiding influence, that salvation is subservient to service, that to train for God's service secures the fullest salvation. Did we not hear God say of Abraham,'I have known him, to the end he may command his children and household after him, that they may keep the way of the Lord; to the end that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him?' Do we not remember in connection with Israel's deliverance from Egypt the words of God, 'Let My people go that they may serve Me;' and of Pharaoh,'Go ye, serve the Lord; let your little ones also go with you.' Hath not the Holy Ghost spoken, 'How much more shall the blood of Christ purge your conscience to serve the living God'? All redemption is for service. God wills not that He should be worshipped without being served. The glory of heaven will be that ' His servants shall serve Him.' Let our lives and our homes be consecrated to serving God: let obedience to His will, the carrying out of His commands, the doing His work, devotion to the interests of His kingdom, give family life its nobility.
And then let yours be a confessed religion. It was in presence of tens of thousands of the children of Israel, with the first symptoms of the falling away that came after his death already beginning to show themselves, that Joshua witnessed this good confession, 'Choose ye this day whom ye will serve; as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.' His was not to be the religion of the nation or the religion of neighbours: all might reject God, and he be left alone; still the Lord Jehovah would be his God. As with Abraham leaving his father's house, and Israel leaving Egypt, his too was to be a religion of decision and confession; a coming out and being separate—one of a peculiar people unto the Lord. This is the religion we want in our family life, where not the example or authority of pious people, not inclination or pleasure, but God's own holy and blessed will, revealed in the leading of the Holy Spirit, is sought after as the law of the house. Oh! how often one hears it said: It can be no harm to dance, or tp play cards, there are so many religious people, there are such earnest ministers, in whose houses it is done. How often parents, where early married life was marked by decision and earnestness, have
afterwards become conscious of declension and coldness, because they gave in to the desire to gratify their children or their friends. Oh! let us believe that though at first sight it may appear hard to be peculiar, yet, if we trust God for His guidance, and yield ourselves to His personal friendship and love to walk with Him, the blessing of separation will be unspeakable to ourselves and our children too.
If this page be read by a father or a mother, or by father and mother together, who are conscious that their own and their house's service of God has not been as marked and clear as God and they would have it, let me venture a word of advice. Speak with each other of it. Say it out what you have often felt, but each has kept to himself, that it is your united desire to live as entirely for God as grace can enable you to do. If your children are old enough, gather them too, and ask if they will not join in the holy covenant, 'We will serve the Lord.' Let that covenant from time to time be renewed in a distinct act of consecration, that the conviction may be confirmed: We do want to be a holy family, a house where God doth dwell and is well pleased. Ours must be a home wholly consecrated to God. And be not afraid that strength will not be given to keep the vow. It is not we who have to do the work, and then bring it to God. It is with the Father in heaven, calling and helping and tenderly working both to will and to do in us, that we have to work. We may count upon Him as the inspirer, to accept and confirm, and Himself carry out the purpose of our heart, 'As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.'
O Lord my God! I thank Thee for what I have seen this day, Thy servant Joshua, the leader of Thy people Israel into Canaan, in his faithfulness to Thee as father in his own home. I humbly ask Thee to give me grace to say as distinctly and as publicly as he did, 'As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.'
Lord! may mine be a personal religion. O my Father! let Thy love to me, and my love to Thee, be its inspiration and its joy. May my children see that it is with my whole heart I serve Thee, that it has become a delight and my very nature.
And may mine be a family religion, exercising its influence on my home, gaining and training all to walk with me. Lord! remove every inconsistency and all weakness that might hinder any one from being wholly Thine. May mine be a truly consecrated home.
May mine, too, be a practical religion, serving Thee day and night. Let the knowing and the doing of God's will, the working for His kingdom, the seeking His glory, be the one desire of our hearts.
May thus our home be a blessing to others in encouraging them to take a stand for Thee. Lord God! let Thy Spirit work mightily in the homes of Thy people, that everywhere this confession may be heard ringing out: 'As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.' Amen.