(Here at Sovereign King Church we are committed to the unity of the church even while disagreeing on the timing and mode of baptism. This commitment to charity in the midst of disagreement has allowed for sweet fellowship in this church. With this charity still in mind, I wanted to share something from the pen of Cotton Mather. He was a New England Puritan and one of the most prolific American writers. In this excerpt from his work entitled "A Family Well-ordered", Mather speaks to parents of baptized children. He impressed upon them the duty of evangelizing their children, which he calls improving their baptism. His words here are an encouragement to those who have baptized their children and yet should also encourage those who do not hold to infant baptism to be about training their children in the fear of the Lord.)
Cotton Matthers on Improving our children's baptisms:
Consider the Condition of your Children; and the Loud Cry of their Condition unto you, to Endeavour their Salvation! Know you not, That your Children have precious and Immortal Souls within them? They are not all Flesh. You that are the Parents of their Flesh, must know, That your Children have Spirits also, whereof you are told, in Heb. 12.9. God is the Father of them; and in Eccles. 12.7. God is the Giver of them. The Souls of your Children, must survive their Bodies, and are transcendentally Better and Higher & Nobler Things than their Bodies. Are you solicitous that their Bodies may be Fed? You should be more solicitous that their Souls may not be Starved, or go without the Bread of Life. Are you solicitous that their Bodies may be Clothed: You should be more solicitous, that their Souls may not be Naked, or go without the Garments of Righteousness. Are you Loathe to have their Bodies Laboring under Infirmities, or Deformities? You should be much more Loathe to have their Souls pining away in their Iniquities. Man, Are thy Children, but the Children of Swine? If thou art Regardless of their Souls, truly thou dost call them so! One of the Ancients, namely Cyprian, hath a pungent comparison for this matter;
"Pray, Consider, He that minds his Child's Body more than his Soul, is like one, that if his Child and his Dog were like to be drowned, should be solicitous to save his Dog, but let the Child perish in the water."
How deaf art thou, that thou dost not hear a loud cry from the Souls of thy Children in thine Ears, O my Father, my Mother, Look after me!
But more than so; Don't you know, That your Children, are the Children of Death, and the Children of Hell, and the Children of Wrath, by Nature: And that from you, this Nature is derived and conveyed unto them! You must know, Parents, that your Children are by your means Born under the dreadful Wrath of God: And if they are not New-Born before they Die, it had been Good for them, that they never had been Born at all. The law of equity was, in Exod. 21.19. If one man wound another, he shall cause him to be thoroughly healed. Your Children are born with deadly wounds of Sin upon their Souls; and they may Thank you for those wounds: Unjust men, will you now do nothing for their Healing? Man, thy Children are dying of an horrid poison, in their Bowels; and it was thou that poisoned 'em. What! wilt thou do nothing for their Succor! Thy Children are thrown into a Devouring Fire; and it is from thee that the Fiery Vengeance of God ha's taken Hold of them. What! wilt thou do nothing to Help them out! There is a Corrupt Nature in thy Children, which is a Fountain of all Wickedness and Confusion.
What shall I Say? I may say, The Time would fail me to mention a thousandth part of what might be said. But, in short: Is it not a sad Thing to be The Father of a Fool? Alas, man, till thy Children become Regenerate, Thou art the Father of a Fool; Thy Children are but the Wild Asses Colt! I add; would it not Break thy Heart, if thy Children, were in Slavery to Turks, or Moors, or Indians? Devils are worse than Indians, and Infidels: Till thy Children are brought home to God, they are the slaves of Devils. In a word; Can thy Heart Endure, that thy Children, should be Banished from the Lord Jesus Christ, and Languishing under the Torments of Sin among Devils, in outer Darkness throughout Eternal Ages? Don't call thy self a Parent; Thou art an Ostrich!
Improve the Baptism of your Children, as an Obligation, and an Encouragement unto you, Parents, to Endeavour the Salvation of your Baptised Little Ones. Of your Children, you may say, with Jacob, in Gen. 33.5. These are the Children, that God hath graciously given to me. Now, Will not you Heartily give back those Children to God again: Their Baptism is to be the Sign and Seal of your doing so. You generally bring your Infant Children unto the Baptism of the Lord: I suppose, 'tis because you are satisfied, That the Children of Believers were in Covenant with God, in the Days of the Old Testament; and, That the Children of Believers then had a Right unto the Seal of the Covenant; and, That in the days of the New Testament, they have not Lost this privilege. Well, But when you bring your Children to the Sacred Baptism, what is it for? Oh, Let it not be done, as an Empty Formality; as if the Baptism of your Children, were for nothing, but only a Formal and a Pompous putting of a Name upon them. No, but let the serious Language of your Souls, in this Action, be that of Hannah, in 1 Sam 1.28. I have given this Child unto the Lord, as long as he Lives he shall be given unto the Lord.
When you have done thus, for your Children, you have a singular Advantage to plead for the Fulfilment of that word upon them, in Isa. 44.3. I will pour my Spirit upon thy Seed, and my Blessing upon thy Offspring. You may go before the Lord, and plead, Lord, Was not the Baptismal Water poured by thy Command upon my Children! Oh, Do thou now pour upon them the Heavenly Grace, which that Baptismal Water Signified. And now, no sooner let those Children become able to understand it, than you shall make them understand, what the Design of their Baptism was. Parents, I am to tell you, That if you Let your Children grow up, without ever telling them, That, and, Why, they were Baptized into the Name of the Lord, you are fearfully Guilty of Taking the Name of the Lord in vain.
Let them know, That in Baptism, they were Dedicated unto Him. Show them, That when they were Baptized, they were Listed among the Servants and Soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that if they Live in Rebellion against Him, Wo unto them! Show them, from, Mat. 28.19, 20. That since they are Baptized, into the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, they must observe all Things, whatsoever the Lord Jesus Christ has Commanded them. Show them, from Rom. 6.4. That since they are Baptized, they are Buried with Christ in Baptism, and must Live no longer in Sin, but be Dead unto all the Vanities of the World. Show them from Gal. 3.27. That since they are Baptized, they have put on Christ, and must follow His Example, and be as He was in the World. Show them from 1 Pet. 3 21. That being Baptized, they must now make the Answer of a Good Conscience, to all the proposals of the New-Covenant: and God propounding to them, Shall my Christ be thine, and wilt thou be His? they must conscientiously answer, Lord, with all my Heart! Put this very solemnly unto your Children; My Child, Shall God the Father, be thy Father? Shall God the Son, be thy Saviour! Shall God the Spirit, be thy Sanctifier; And art thou willing to be the Servant of that one God, who is, Father, Son, and Spirit? Leave them not, until their little Hearts are conquered unto That for which they have been Baptized. It has been the Judgment of some Judicious men; That if Infant Baptism were more Improved, it would be less Disputed.
Yesterday I posted on facebook a quote from a puritan named William Gouge. In his exposition of Ephesians 6 he made this observation: "when parents are too indulgent over their children, God does punish the sin both of parent and child, by shortening the child's days."
He was observing that just as the scripture contains a promise of long life and prosperity to those who obey their parents, so does it warn those who disobey their parents that they deserve death. Many people took issue with this statement by Gouge. Even one "pastor" said he showed people at his church and mocked it. He should know better and I am saddened by that response.
I still affirm this quote by Gouge and I believe that is faithful to biblical teaching. One theme that kept popping up in the pushback from other commentators was the idea of exceptions to the rule. People asked about those who die young and were obedient or those who were faithful parents and had children who rebelled. What about the exceptions?
First of all, we don’t sacrifice the normal on the alter of the abnormal nor the general on the alter of the exception. The Bible has a lot of general promises that we would do well to believe and hold. For example, the general promise is that if you raise up your child in the way he should go when he is old, he will not depart from it. What a wonderful promise to parents that they should treasure. This, however, does not mean though that God in his good will and pleasure may not allow something else to happen. God may allow the child to go astray like the prodigal son. This exception to the promise does not invalidate the promise but shows that God is God and he does what is right. As the book of Romans says, God will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy. In the cases where God allows these things, he has a good purpose and we can trust that even the rebellion of our children will be a part of all the things that God works together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes.
Furthermore, the promise to long life that attends the commandment to obey your parents is also a general promise. God in his good pleasure may determine that there is something better for the obedient child than long life. He may decide to take the life of a young man who was and is honoring his father in order to protect that young man from something else or to use that young man in a mighty display of the gospel. Again, this exception to the promise does not invalidate the promise. It shows that God may give above and beyond what he promises. William Gouge said: “God does never simply deprive his Saints of that which is promised, but only instead of it gives a better: as in taking away wealth, he gives the more store of grace: in restraining liberty of body, he gives freedom of conscience: with affliction he gives patience: by taking away this temporal life, he gives eternal life. God herein deals, as if one who having promised so much iron, should instead thereof give as much silver: or for silver give gold: and so for one pound give the worth of hundreds or thousands."
In these cases, we must trust God above all. He is a good father who gives good gifts to his children. He is also a just judge which is why he warns those who dishonor their parents that they are walking a dangerous path. Those who dishonor their parents and disobey should tread lightly. They may find that their life is ended short. If it is not ended short, it may be prolonged so that they may face earthly consequences for their disobedience or so that they may store up wrath for themselves when they do die.
Christian parents should keep all of this in mind. They should know that they have an awesome responsibility to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. They should pray for and long for the salvation of their children. They should believe the promises of God for their children and they should fear the warnings of God for their children. In doing so, they will not abrogate their responsibility and over indulge their children. They will see that to do so is to harm their children and is a grave sin against God and their children. They will instead strive to teach their children faith and obedience to Christ.
The following are some scripture texts to meditate on and are foundational for this post:
2 Timothy 3:1-5 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
Sunday 10:30 AM