Train up a child in the way he should go: and even when he is old he will not depart from it.- Prov. 22:6.
And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord.- Eph. 6:4
Every father should realize the great obligation resting upon him in the training of the immortal soul that has been given into his keeping. The soul of his child is of more value than all else in this world and to nurture it is his highest privilege. Man had been endowed with the ability to achieve great things. He has built the pyramids and the Parthenon; he has tunneled the Alps and made a way for trains under the East River; he has dug the Suez and Panama Canals; he has erected great cities and accomplished many wonderful works- but the greatest of all his endowments is the ability to work with God in training a human soul in the way of eternal life. It is a task big enough to call fourth the best effort of the greatest men of this or any other time. Great men of all ages have realized this obligation.
What part of your life-work and energy are you giving to the eternal things? How much time are you fathers giving to strengthen the eternal spirits of your children? The Creator has implanted in the bosom of every human being a longing for God and immorality. Sabatier says: “Man is an incurably religious animal.” You may harden your conscience; you may neglect your duty to your God and your family; you may destroy your own soul and ruin the souls of your children- but you can not entirely get rid of the feeling within you that you were designed to be a child of God, an heir of heaven. You may live in the cellar of your being; you may give your life to gross materialism of your day; you may freeze your soul in selfishness, until it becomes becomes as hard as the gold and silver you are seeking- but you will never be entirely satisfied with these things.
What is the greatest inheritance you can leave to your children? Is it wealth? This they can misuse and destroy. Is it fame? This they can mar and abuse. Is it opportunity? This they can ignore or despise. Is it a good name? This they can tarnish or disgrace. The greatest inheritance you can leave is training in righteousness.
It is sad to see men to-day trifling with life’s serious problems and giving their best thought and attention to the fleeting things of this world. They dismiss their conscience with a laugh; they kill their capacity for worship by neglect; they destroy their inheritance of spiritual life through pleasured gratification of self; they see nothing in religion. Why should they? They never put forth a single effort to develop the religious part of their natures. The landscape artist, Turner, was once painting a sunset from nature. A lout of fellow was watching him as he painted. As the watcher looked at the sunset and then as the picture he said to the artist, “I do not see anything so wonderful about a sunset.” “No,” said the artist; “don’t you wish you could?” How can one who is dead in trespasses and sin see anything in religion? To a blind man there is no light. To a deaf man there is no sound. To a blasphemer there is no God. To a materialist there is nothing spiritual. It is more easy to commit soul suicide than suicide of the body. Use the means for spiritual growth God has given and you will see Him. Train your child as you should and he will behold God and His glory.
The three truly great things in one’s life are heredity, environment and will. Every father deals largely with the first two. Heredity is the unseen hand stretched from the lives of our forefathers over our own lives. We hand down to our children our tendencies to physical and mental diseases. Some one asked how early to begin the education of a child. The answer was, “With his grandfather.” I have known children who have had to fight temptations and passions all their lives on account of the sins of their fathers. What is true of the physical is just as true of the moral and spiritual. Environment is the total of the surrounding things that influence our lives- things which we touch and which touch us in daily business of living. What kind of an environment are you endeavoring to throw about your children?
-Adapted from “Father’s Day Sermon by George A. Miller,” Special Sermons for Special Occasions: Restoration Reprint Library, E.W. Thornton, el.