Hope Well for Your Children

The title of this post is taken from Matthew Henry’s excellent book on childrearing entitled “Family Religion.” Amongst other things, in this portion of the book Mr. Henry seeks to comfort, assure and rightly instruct those who children have turned against the Lord (under the heading “Should They Rebel”). I post his counsel below in an effort to help those who may be dealing with this situation. 

What may we have to comfort and encourage us if our children should prove wicked and vile; if they should forsake their God, and the God of their fathers, and walk in the paths of the destroyer, notwithstanding our utmost endeavours to engage them for Christ? It is very often a case in fact; we cannot deny it; it is possible that the best parents may have the worst children; yet if we should suppose a falling from grace and holiness adherent, which, through the divine condescension and compassion, might have availed to the salvation of such as die in infancy, that will not infer a falling from grace and holiness inherent: what Christ does herein, we know not now, but we shall know hereafter (John 13:7).

But disputes in this case are cold comforts to the poor parents whose hearts bleed and break to see the destructive courses which their children take, whom they thought they had lodged safe in the hands of the Mediator, for whom they have prayed many a prayer, and shed many a tear. They thought Christ had taken them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them, but it does not prove so. What shall we say to comfort such?

It may be some satisfaction to them, that however it goes with their children, Christ will be glorified; if they do not give honour to him, he will get him honour upon them. And if God be sanctified, we ought to be satisfied, and with reverence to behold both the goodness and severity of God; on them which fall, severity; but towards them who stand, goodness, if they continue in his goodness (Rom. 11: 22).

But it will be yet more satisfaction to them, if they have the testimony of their consciences for them that they have done their duty; which they did, with a resolution to leave the event with God. They knew they could not give grace to their children; but their hearts can witness for them, that to the best of their power, they digged about these barren trees, and dunged them, as the dresser of the vineyard did (Luke 13: 8-9); and if they bring forth fruit well, they shall have the comfort, and God the glory; but if not, they must be content to see them cut down, and though they cannot have comfort in that, yet God will have glory, and they acquiesce.

But the greatest comfort of all in such a case is, that the unbelief and disobedience of their children shall not make void God’s promise to them, and therefore ought not to make void their comfort in God. ‘Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious’ (Isa. 49: 5). Abraham is happy in heaven, though there be those in hell who can call Abraham father. It was the comfort of holy David, though he saw a great deal of sin and trouble in his family: Although my house be not so with God as I could wish it, yet I am sure of this, he has made with me an everlasting covenant, which is well ordered in all things and sure, and that is all my salvation, and therefore shall be all my desire (2 Sam. 23:5).

I will only add one more point which is this: we must never stop praying for our children for while they are alive there is still hope for “now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). It appears that the prodigal’s father never gave up hope as he saw his son afar off: he looked for him day after day and did not see him, until, one day, he did and then ran to meet him. And who knows? They may even come to faith after we have died and gone to be with the Lord. May God grant us rest in these things. 

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