Man is made in God’s likeness. Man's justice is a pattern of God’s; man's love is a pattern of God’s; man's work a pattern of God’s; man's creativity, in some unspeakable and eternal way, a pattern of His. Man's family ties are patterns of God’s.
God the Father is He, said Paul, after whom every
fathership in heaven and earth is named. Our prayer should be that we may be such fathers to our children as God is to us. God The Son is He who is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters, and to declare to us the glorious news, that in Him we, too, are the sons of God, that we may be such sons to our heavenly Father and to our earthly fathers also, as the Lord Jesus was to His Father.
Yes—and even more wonderful still, and more blessed still, the Lord is not ashamed to call himself a husband. Our married love is a pattern of some divine mystery. 'Husbands love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, but that it should be holy and without blemish.' Blessed words, which we cannot pretend to explain or understand, but can only believe and adore, and find, as we shall find, in
proportion as we are loving and faithful inmarriage, that God's Spirit bears witness with our spirit, that they are reasonable, blessed, true; true for ever.
This, then, was the Lord who was coming to judge; not merely a god, but The One and Only God. The Lord, in whose likeness man was made; who had appointed men to be fathers, sons, husbands, citizens of a nation, subject to laws, and yet makers of laws; because all these things, in some wonderful way, are parts of His likeness.
He came to the Jews first, and then to all the nations of the earth, to judge them, Malachi said, on a great and terrible day.
He would burn up and destroy everything in His way, with unquenchable fire. He would inquire of every man, How have you kept my image; my likeness, in which I made you? What sort of husbands, fathers, sons, neighbours, subjects, and caretakers of the earth have you been? And
above all, Malachi says, the root question of all would be, what sort of fathers have you been to your children? What sort of children to your fathers? Does that seem to you a small question? Would you have rather expected to hear John the Baptist ask, what sort of saints they had been? What sort of doctrines they were professing?
A small question? Look at these two little words, Father and Son. Father and Son! Are they not the most deep and awful, as well as the most blessed and hopeful words on earth? Do they not tell us the very mystery of God's being? Are they not the very name of God, God The Father and God The Son, knit together by one
Holy Spirit of Love to each other and to all, who proceeds alike from The Father and from The Son? And then, will you think it a light matter to ask fallen creatures made in the likeness of that perfect Father and that perfect Son, what sort of fathers and sons they have been? God help us all, and give us grace to ask ourselves
that question morning and night, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come, make sure He come and smite this land with a curse.
I have been led to think deeply and to speak openly upon this issue by seeing, as who
can help seeing, the great division and estrangement between the old and the young which is growing these days. I cannot deny the complaints which older people commonly make. Older people complain that young people are grown too independent, disobedient, saucy, and rebellious. It is too true, frightfully, miserably true, that there is not the same reverence for parents as there was a generation
back;—that the children break loose from their parents, spend their parents' money, choose their own road in life, their own politics, their own religion, alas! too often, for themselves;—that young people now presume to
do and say a hundred things which they would not have dreamed in old times. And they are ready enough to cry out that all this is a sign of the last days, of which, they say, Paul speaks in 2 Tim. iii. 4—when men 'shall be disobedient to parents, unthankful, boasters, heady, high-minded, despisers of those who are good,
lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.' My friends, my friends, it is far better for us who have children, instead of prying into the times and seasons which God has kept in His own hand, to read our Bibles faithfully, and when we quote a text, quote the whole of it, and not just those bits of it which help us to
blame others. What. Paul really says, is that 'in the last days evil times will come;' just as they had come, he shows, when he wrote; and what he means I will try and show you presently. And, moreover, remember that Malachi says, that the hearts of the parents in Judea needed turning to their children, as well as
the hearts of the children to their parents. Remember that Paul, in that same solemn passage, gives other marks of 'last days,' which have to do with parents as well as with children, and some which can only have to do with parents—for they are the sins of grown-up and elderly
people, and not of young ones. He says, that in those days men shall also be 'covetous, proud, without natural affection, breakers of their word, blasphemers; having a form of godliness, but denying the power.
Will not these words fill some of us with dread, in case that parents should be as much in fault as the children of whom they complain; in case the parents' sins should be but too often the cause of the children's sins?
Read through Paul's horrible list of sins,
and see how every young man's sin in it has some old man's sin corresponding to it. Paul does not part his list, and I dare not, and cannot. Paul mixes the parents' and the children's sins together in his words, and I fear that we do the same in our actions.
Make sure that you have not set them the example by your own covetousness or laziness. Are they boastful Make sure that your pride has not
taught them. Incontinent and profligate?—Make sure that your own fierceness has not taught them. If they see you unable to master your own temper, they will not care to try to master their appetites. Are they disobedient and
unthankful?—Well, then that your want of natural affection to them, your neglect, and harshness, and want of feeling and tenderness, has not made the balance of unkindness fearfully even between you. Are your children disobedient to you? Make sure that you have not taught them to be so, by breaking your word to them, by
letting them see you deceitful to others, till they have lost all trust in you, all reverence for you. Above all, are your children lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God?—Oh! beware, beware, make sure you have made them
so,—make sure you have been blasphemers against God, even when you have been fancying that you talked religion. Beware make sure you have been teaching them dark, cruel, superstitious thoughts about God,—making them look up to Him not as their heavenly Father, but as a stern taskmaster whom they must obey, not from
gratitude, but from fear of hell, and so have made God look so unlovely in their eyes that 'there is no beauty in Him that they should desire Him.' Can you wonder at their loving pleasure rather than loving God, when you
show them nothing in God's character to love, but everything to dread and shrink from? And last of all, are your children despisers of those who are good, inclined to laugh at religion, to suspect and sneer at pious
people, and call them hypocrites?
Oh! beware, beware, make sure your lipservice, your dead faith, your inconsistent practice, has not been the cause of it. If you, as Paul says, have a form of godliness, and yet in
your life and actions deny the power of it, by living without God in the world, and following the lowest maxims of the world in everything but what you call the salvation of your souls, what wonder if your children grow up hating those who are good? If they see you preaching one thing, and practicing another, they will figure that all godly people do the same. If they see your religion a sham, they will learn to think of all religion as false alsoHow horrible for those who harden their own children's hearts, and
destroy in them, as too many do, all faith in God and man.
God says 'If any man cause one of these little ones to offend, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea.'
If you think you can bring up your children to be blessings to you,—if you think you can live so as to be blessings to your children, without the Bible, you can but try. I think that you will fail. More and more, year by year, I find that those who try do fail. More and more, year by year, I find that even committed Christian’s education of their children fails, and that pious
men's sons are becoming more and more apt to be scandals to their parents and to the Lord. If
any choose to say that the reason is, that the pious men's sons were not of the number of the elect, though their fathers were, I can only answer, that God is no respecter of persons, and that they say that He is; that God is not the author of the evil, and that they say that He is.
If a child of mine turns out ill, I am bound to lay the fault first on myself, and certainly never on God,—and so is every man, unless the inspired Scripture is wrong where it says, 'Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.' And the fault is often in ourselves.
Mayy God grant that His words of Everlasting Truth may sink into all hearts, as far as they are right and true; if sooner or later we are not
all brought to understand the meaning of those two simple words, Father and Son,For where the root is corrupt, the fruit will be also; and where family life and family ties, which are the root and foundation of society, are out of joint, there the Nation and the Church will
decay also; as it is written, 'If the foundations be cast down, what can the righteous do?'
And whensoever, in any family, or nation and church, the root of the tree (which is the conduct of parents to children, and of children to parents) grows corrupt and rotten, then 'last days,' as St. Paul calls them, are indeed come to it, and evil times therewith; for the Lord will surely lay the axe to the root of it, and cut it down and cast it into the fire: neither will the days of that family, or that people, or that Church, be long in the land which the Lord their God has given them. So it has been as yet, in all ages and in all countries on the
face of God's earth, and so it will be until the end of time.
This article was edited from a public domain book called Sermons of the Times by Charles Kingsley.
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