Duties of Parents Hint 8: A Habit of Faith

Train them to a habit of faith.

I mean by this, you should train them up to believe what you say. You should try to make them feel confidence in your judgment, and respect your opinions, as better than their own. You should accustom them to think that, when you say a thing is bad for them, it must be bad, and when you say it is good for them, it must be good; that your knowledge, in short, is better than their own, and that they may rely implicitly on your word. Teach them to feel that what they know not now, they will probably know hereafter, and to be satisfied there is a reason and a needs-be for everything you require them to do.

Who indeed can describe the blessedness of a real spirit of faith? Or rather, who can tell the misery that unbelief has brought upon the world? Unbelief made Eve eat the forbidden fruit, — she doubted the truth of God’s word: “Ye shall surely die.” Unbelief made the old world reject Noah’s warning, and so perish in sin. Unbelief kept Israel in the wilderness, — it was the bar that kept them from entering the promised land. Unbelief made the Jews crucify the Lord of glory, — they believed not the voice of Moses and the prophets, though read to them every day. And unbelief is the reigning sin of man’s heart down to this very hour, — unbelief in God’s promises, — unbelief in God’s threatenings, — unbelief in our own sinfulness, — unbelief in our own danger, — unbelief in everything that runs counter to the pride and worldliness of our evil hearts. Reader, you train your children to little purpose if you do not train them to a habit of implicit faith, — faith in their parents’ word, confidence that what their parents say must be right.

I have heard it said by some, that you should require nothing of children which they cannot understand that you should explain and give a reason for everything you desire them to do. I warn you solemnly against such a notion. I tell you plainly, I think it an unsound and rotten principle. No doubt it is absurd to make a mystery of everything you do, and there are many things which it is well to explain to children, in order that they may see that they are reasonable and wise. But to bring them up with the idea that they must take nothing on trust, that they, with their weak and imperfect understandings, must have the “why” and the “wherefore” made clear to them at every step they take, — this is indeed a fearful mistake, and likely to have the worst effect on their minds.

Reason with your child if you are so disposed, at certain times, but never forget to keep him in mind (if you really love him) that he is but a child after all, — that he thinks as a child, he understands as a child, and therefore must not expect to know the reason of everything at once.

Set before him the example of Isaac, in the day when Abraham took him to offer him on Mount Moriah (Gen. 22). He asked his father that single question, “Where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?” and he got no answer but this, “God will provide Himself a lamb.” How, or where, or whence, or in what manner, or by what means, — all this Isaac was not told; but
the answer was enough. He believed that it would be well, because his father said so, and he was content. Tell your children, too, that we must all be learners in our beginnings, that there is an alphabet to be mastered in every kind of knowledge, — that the best horse in the world had need once to be broken, — that a day will come when they will see the wisdom of all your training. But in the meantime if you say a thing is right, it must be enough for them, — they must believe you, and be content.

Parents, if any point in training is important, it is this. I charge you by the affection you have to your children, use every means to train them up to a habit of faith.


See this post for an introduction to this series and links to obtaining a copy of
J. C. Ryle’s full booklet, 
Duties of Parents.