We are living in an evil time. Iniquity abounds. Satan is working with all his power and cunning to ensnare and destroy. There is no class in greater danger than the young; but our Heavenly Father sees the temptations which surround the youth, and he invites them to come to him for strength to resist evil and to stand firm for the right. The fear of the Lord will be as a shield to the youthful heart, to turn aside the fiery darts of the adversary. The Holy Scriptures, as a light upon the path of life, will keep the feet of the young as well as the old from becoming entangled in the snares of Satan.
God’s ancient people were admonished faithfully to instruct their children in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.” This was to be regarded as the most important of parental duties.
Israel were also required to preserve memorials of the wonderful deliverances which the Lord had wrought for his people. When their children should ask, “What mean ye by these tokens?” the parents were to rehearse the story of God’s care and love. Thus the mighty manifestations of divine power would never be forgotten, and the youth would see the justice of God’s claims to their heartfelt obedience, their willing service.
The words spoken to fathers in ancient times are as verily addressed to fathers today. There is no excuse for the neglect to instruct children concerning present truth and the fulfillment of the prophecies for this time. In our experience as a people we have had precious tokens of God’s favor, solemn manifestations of his power, which are as valuable to our children as were his wonderful works in olden times to the children of ancient Israel. When parents shall manifest such an interest for their children as God would have them, he will hear their prayers, and work with their efforts; but God does not propose to do the work which he has left for parents to do. It is because of the wicked neglect of fathers and mothers that so many of the youth are left to go to ruin. In most cases, parents are responsible for the weak morals and infidel sentiments of their children. They have failed to restrain and guard them, and have not given them right instruction, and a good example in their own life. Society is far below what it might be, if parents would do their duty to their children, in obedience to God’s requirements.
One of the surest safeguards for the young is useful occupation. Had they been trained to industrious habits, so that all their hours were usefully employed, they would have no time for repining at their lot or for idle day-dreaming. They would be in little danger of forming vicious habits or associations. Let the youth be taught from childhood that there is no excellence without great labor. Aspirations for eminence will not avail. Young friends, the mountain-top cannot be reached by standing still, and wishing yourselves there. You can gain your object only by taking one step at a time, advancing slowly perhaps, but holding every step gained. It is the energetic, persevering worker that will scale the Alps. Every youth should make the most of his talents, by improving to the utmost present opportunities. He who will do this, may reach almost any height in moral and intellectual attainments. But he must possess a brave and resolute spirit. He will need to close his ears to the voice of pleasure; he must often refuse the solicitations of young companions. He must stand on guard continually, lest he be diverted from his purpose.
Many parents remove from their country homes to the city, regarding it as a more desirable or profitable location. But by making this change they expose their children to many and great temptations. The boys have no employment, and they obtain a street education, and go on from one step in depravity to another, until they lose all interest in anything that is good and pure and holy. How much better had the parents remained with their families in the country, where the influences are most favorable for physical and mental strength. Let the youth be taught to labor in tilling the soil, and let them sleep the sweet sleep of weariness and innocence.
Through the neglect of parents, the youth in our cities are corrupting their ways and polluting their souls before God. This will ever be the fruit of idleness. The almshouses, the prisons, and the gallows publish the sorrowful tale of the neglected duties of parents.
Fathers and mothers too often leave their children to choose for themselves their amusements, their companions, and their occupation. The result is such as might reasonably be expected. Leave a field uncultivated, and it will grow up to thorns and briers. You will never see a lovely flower or a choice shrub peering above the unsightly, poisonous weeds. The worthless bramble will grow luxuriantly without thought or care, while plants that are valued for use or beauty require thorough culture. Thus it is with our youth. If right habits are formed, and right principles established, there is earnest work to be done. If wrong habits are corrected, diligence and perseverance are required to accomplish the task.
It has been truly said, “Show me your company, and I will show you your character.” The young fail to realize how sensibly both their character and their reputation are affected by their choice of associates. A person seeks the company of those whose tastes, habits, and practices are most congenial to his own. When one prefers the society of the ignorant and vicious to that of the wise and good, he shows that his own character is defective. At first his tastes and habits and those of his companions might have been dissimilar; but as he mingles with this class, his thoughts and feelings change, he sacrifices right principles, and insensibly yet unavoidably loses his distinctive character, and comes down to the lower level of his companions. As the stream always partakes of the properties of the soil through which it runs, so the principles and habits of youth become invariably tinctured by the character of the company in which they mingle.
More than human wisdom is needed by parents at every step, that they may understand how best to educate their children for a useful, happy life here, and for higher service and greater joy hereafter. Fathers and mothers, ever remember that to you is committed a sacred trust. The power of example is very great. If you fail to select proper society for your children, and allow them to associate with persons of questionable morals, you place them or permit them, to place themselves, in a school where lessons of depravity will be taught and practiced. You may feel that your children are strong enough to withstand temptation; but how can you be sure of this? It is far easier to yield to evil influences than to resist them. Ere you are aware of it, your children may become imbued with the spirit of their associates, and may be degraded and ruined.
Fathers and mothers, it is your duty to give more earnest and careful attention to your children. Guard their principles and their habits as the apple of your eye. Allow them to associate with no one with whose character you are not well acquainted. Permit them to form no intimacy until you are assured that it will do them no harm. Accustom your children to trust to your judgment and experience. Teach them that you have a clearer perception of character than they in their inexperience can have, and that your decisions must not be disregarded.
Christian parents, I entreat you to awake. Have a jealous care for the souls of your children. Do not allow your time and attention to be so fully absorbed in other things that you cannot properly instruct your sons and daughters. If you neglect your duty and shirk your responsibility, expecting the Lord to do your work, you will be disappointed. When you have faithfully done all that you can do, bring your children to Jesus, and with earnest, persevering faith, make intercession for them. The Lord will be your helper; he will work with your efforts; in his strength you will gain the victory. In the great gathering day it shall be yours to say with joy, “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me.”
— E.G. White, Review and Herald, September 13, 1881