Psalm 78:4

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 4. We will not hide them from their children. Our negligent silence shall not deprive our own and our father's offspring of the precious truth of God, it would be shameful indeed if we did so.

Shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord. We will look forward to future generations, and endeavour to provide for their godly education. It is the duty of the church of God to maintain, in fullest vigour, every agency intended for the religious education of the young; to them we must look for the church of the future, and as we sow towards them so shall we reap. Children are to be taught to magnify the Lord; they ought to be well informed as to his wonderful doings in ages past, and should be made to know his strength and his wonderful works that he hath done. The best education is education in the best things. The first lesson for a child should be concerning his mother's God. Teach him what you will, if he learn not the fear of the Lord, he will perish for lack of knowledge. Grammar is poor food for the soul if it be not flavoured with grace. Every satchel should have a Bible in it. The world may teach secular knowledge alone, it is all she has a heart to know, but the church must not deal so with her offspring; she should look well to every Timothy, and see to it that from a child he knows the Holy Scriptures. Around the fireside fathers should repeat not only the Bible records, but the deeds of the martyrs and reformers, and moreover the dealings of the Lord with themselves both in providence and grace. We dare not follow the vain and vicious traditions of the apostate church of Rome, neither would we compare the fallible record of the best human memories with the infallible written word, yet would we fain see oral tradition practised by every Christian in his family, and children taught cheerfully by word of mouth by their own mothers and fathers, as well as by the printed pages of what they too often regard as dull, dry task books. What happy hours and pleasant evenings have children had at their parents knees as they have listened to some "sweet story of old." Reader, if you have children, mind you do not fail in this duty.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 4. We will not hide from their children, etc. Thou must not only praise God thyself, but endeavour to transmit the memorial of his goodness to posterity. Children are their parent's heirs; it were unnatural for a father, before he dies, to bury up his treasure in the earth where his children should not find or enjoy it; now the mercies of God are not the least part of a good man's treasure, nor the least of his children's inheritance, being both helps to their faith, matter for their praise, and spurs to their obedience. "Our fathers have told us what works thou didst in their days, how thou didst drive out the heathen" etc., Ps 44:1-2; from this they ground their confidence, Psalms 44:4 , "Thou art my King, O God; command deliverances for Jacob," and excite their thankfulness, Psalms 44:8 , "In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever." Indeed, as children are their parents heirs, so they become in justice liable to pay their parents' debts: now the great debt which the saint at death stands charged with, is that which he owes to God for his mercies, and, therefore, it is but reason he should tie his posterity to the payment thereof. Thus mayest thou be praising God in heaven and earth at the same time. William Gurnall.

Verse 4-6. The cloth that is dyed in the wool will keep colour best. Disciples in youth will prove angels in age. Use and experience strengthen and confirm in any art or science. The longer thy child hath been brought up in Christ's school, the more able he will be to find out Satan's wiles and fallacies, and to avoid them. The longer he hath been at the trade the more skill and delight will he have in worshipping and enjoying the blessed God. The tree when it is old stands strongly against the wind, just as it was set when it was young.

The children of Merindal so answered one another in the matters of religion, before the persecuting Bishop of Cavailon, that a bystander said unto the bishop, I must needs confess I have often been at the disputations of the doctors in the Sorbonne, but I never learned so much as by these children. Seven children at one time suffered martyrdom with Symphrosia, a godly matron, their mother. Such a blessing doth often accompany religious breeding; therefore Julian the apostate, to hinder the growth and increase of Christianity, would not suffer children to be taught either human or divine learning.

Philip was glad that Alexander was born whilst Aristotle lived, that he might be instructed by Aristotle in philosophy. It is no mean mercy that thy children are born in the days of the gospel, and in a valley of vision, a land of light, where they may be instructed in Christianity. Oh, do not fail, therefore, to acquaint thy children with the nature of God, the natures and offices of Christ, their own natural sinfulness and misery, the way and means of their recovery, the end and errand for which they were sent into the world, the necessity of regeneration and a holy life, if ever they would escape eternal death! Alas! how is it possible they should ever arrive at heaven if they know not the way thither?

The inhabitants of Mitylene, sometime the lords of the seas, if any of their neighbours revolted, did inflict this punishment, -- they forbade them to instruct their children, esteeming this a sufficient revenge. -- (Aelian.) Reader, if thou art careless of this duty, I would ask thee what wrong thy children have done thee that thou shouldest revenge thyself by denying them that which is their due. I mean pious instruction.

The Jewish rabbis speak of a very strict custom and method for the instruction of their children, according to their age and capacity. At five years old they were filii legis, sons of the law, to read it. At thirteen they were filli praecepti, sons of the precept, to understand the law. At fifteen they were Talmudistae, and went to deeper points of the law, even to Talmudic doubts. As thy children grow up, so do thou go on to instruct them in God's will. They are "born like the wild ass's colt," Job 11:12 -- that is, unruly, foolish, and ignorant. We often call a fool an ass, but here it is a "wild ass's colt," which is most rude, unruly, and foolish. How, then, shall thy ignorant children come to know God or themselves without instruction?

Thy duty is to acquaint thy children with the works of God. Teach them his doings as well as his sayings. "Take heed to thyself, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons," Deuteronomy 4:9 . God's wonders should be had in everlasting remembrance. "He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered," Psalms 109:4 . Now, one special way to do this is by writing them in our children's memories, hereby they are transmitted to posterity. This was the godly practice of the patriarchs, to instruct their children concerning the creation of the world, transgression of man, destruction of the old world, God's providence, the Messiah to be revealed, and the like. The parents' mouths were large books, in which their children did read the noble acts of the Lord. The precept is here urged ( Psalms 78:2-7 ) upon a double ground, partly for God's praise, in the perpetuity of his worthy deeds: his words are of great weight, and therefore, as curious pictures or precious jewels, must in memory of him be bequeathed from father to son whilst the world continueth. If they are written on paper or parchment they may perish (and is it not a thousand pities that such excellent records should be lost?); but if they be written by fathers successfully on their children's hearts, no time shall blot or wear them out, Ex 12:26-27. Therefore, as the rabbis observe, the night before the passover the Jews (to keep God's mercies in memory to his honour) were wont to confer with their children on this wise. The child said, Why is it called the passover? The father said, Because the angel passed over us when it slew the Egyptians, and destroyed us not. The child said, Why do we eat unleavened bread? The father answered, Because we were forced to hasten out of Egypt. The child said, Why do we eat bitter herbs? The father answered, To mind us of our afflictions in Egypt.

But the duty is also urged, partly for their own profit, Psalms 78:7 , That they might set their hope in God, etc. Acquaintance with God's favour will encourage their faith; knowledge of his power will help them to believe his promise. Reader, obedience to this precept may tend much to thy own and thy children's profit. By teaching thy children God's actions, thou wilt fix them the faster, and they will make the greater impression, upon thy own spirit. A frequent mention of things is the best art of memory: what the mouth preacheth often the mind will ponder much. Besides, it may work for thy children's weal; the more they be acquainted with the goodness, wisdom, power, and faithfulness of God which appear in his works, the more they will fear, love, and trust him. George Swinnock.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 4. A good resolution, and a blessed result. C. D.

Verse 4.

  1. What is to be made known? The praises of the Lord;
    his strength and his wonderful works.
  2. To whom are they to be made known? To the
    generations to come.
  3. By whom? Parents -- one generation to another.
  4. How made known?
    1. By hiding nothing.
    2. By declaring everything God has done. G. R.