“When a child is born, there is a candle lighted that must burn to eternity, either in heaven or hell.” –Matthew Henry, ‘Christ’s Favour to Little Children’-
|Picture sourced from here|
Since becoming a mother, I have become immeasurably more aware of the weight of eternity. When BigMan was only a few months old, we heard a sermon that will stay with me forever. The preacher’s words were like a sword. They cut right to what my heart and mind knew to be the truth from the time we knew we were to be parents:
If you are not prepared to crawl over burning coals to get your child into heaven, then you do not deserve them.
Around the same time, my dad gave us a copy of what has become a well-thumbed text in our home: ‘Family Religion: Principles for raising a godly family’ by Matthew Henry.
Now, as a good child of the Reformed traditions, I know that my salvation, and the salvation of those I hold dearest, is NOT works based, however there is no way I’m going to rest easy hoping that my children will come to see the depravity of their own selves and their need for the Saviour Jesus through some form of osmosis. I pray God that my husband and I never fall into that trap of apathy and complacency and forget that just because our children have been born to Christian parents does not in any way ‘inoculate’ them against the sin that poisons them. “Every child you have has a precious and immortal soul, that must be forever either in heaven or hell… will it not be very sad, if through your carelessness and neglect, your children should learn the ways of sin, and perish eternally in those ways?” (M. Henry, A Church in the House).
What ought our response be? Matthew Henry (a man born in 1662 whose writings on this matter are some of the most eloquent and valuable I have found) goes to great lengths to stress that as homes in the Old Testament were dedicated to God, so should our homes be. He believes that “even little families, jointly and entirely given up to God… become churches… It is a good thing when a man has a house of his own, thus to convert it into a church, by dedicating it to the service and honour of God.” And to do this, he proposes that both mothers and fathers “must be as prophets, priests and kings in their own families; and as such they must keep up family doctrine, family worship and family discipline.”
I find the greatest joy in hearing BigMan talk to us about the Bible stories that he knows. It warms my heart to hear him sing “Ohhhhh yes, Jesus loves me!” and “Do you want a pilot? Signal [unto] Jesus!” and “Build on the Rock! The Rock that ever stands!”. Such times are to me are the essence of joy. And I wait, and pray, for the day when our children recognise the burden of their sin and trust in the Risen Saviour to release them from it. What joy!
And so I continue to pray for God to guide our little family, our own private ‘Bethel’ (House of God). I thank God for his faithfulness and for the godly heritage that our children have inherited from their grand-parents and great-grand-parents. And we pray, “Let me and mine be only, wholly, and forever his.”
“For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:5
So now I’m asking you: what do you do you/did you do in your homes to make them ‘little Churches’? What do you remember from your own childhood? (Come on Dad, I know you'll have something to say about this!)