This is taken from Richard Baxter‘s The Saints Everlasting Rest, written in 1650 and abridged for the first time in 1754 by John Wesley. In it the venerable minister presses on parents to make use of their opportunity to evangelize their children in light of the advantage parents naturally hold.
Parents living 360 years after he first set pen to page will be wise to heed his words in their own day.
I entreat you that are parents to consider what excellent advantages you have, above all others, for the saving of your children.
1. They are under your hands while they are young, and tender, and flexible; but they come to Ministers, when they are grown older, and stiffer, and settled in their ways, and think themselves too good to be catechised. You have a twig to bend, and we an oak; you have the young plants of sin to pluck up, and we the deep-rooted vices. The consciences of children are not so seared with a custom of sinning, and long resisting grace, as others. You have the soft and tender earth to plough in, and we have the hard and stony ways, that have been trodden on by many years’ practice of evil. We have a double task first to unteach them, and then to teach then better; but you have but one. We must unteach them all that the world, and the flesh, and wicked company, and the Devil, have been diligently teaching them in many years. You have them before they are possessed with prejudice against the truth; but we have them to teach, when they have many years lived among those that have taught them to think GOD’s ways to be foolish. Doth not the experience of all the world show you the power of education What else makes all the children of the Jews to be Jews And all the children of the Turks to be Maliometans And of Christians to be in profession Christians And of each sect or party in religion to follow their parents Now what advantage have you to use all this for the furtherance of their happiness!
2. Consider also, that you have the affections of your children more than any others. None in the world has that interest in their hearts as you. You will receive that counsel from an undoubted friend, that you would not do from an enemy, or a stranger. Now, your children know you are their friends, and advise them in love; and they cannot but love them again. Nature has almost necessitated them to love you. O therefore improve this your interest in them for their good.
3. You have also the greatest authority over them. You may command them, and they dare not disobey you, or else it is your own fault, for the most part; for you can, make them obey you in your business; yea, you may correct them to enforce obedience. Your authority also is the most unquestioned authority in the world. The authority of Kings and Parliaments has been disputed, but yours is past dispute. And therefore, if you use it not to bring them to GOD, you are without excuse.
4. Besides, their dependence is on you for their maintenance. They know you can either give them, or deny them what you have, and so punish and reward them at your pleasure. But on Ministers or neighbors they have no such dependence.
5. Moreover, you that are parents know the temper and inclinations of your children; what vices they are most inclined to, and what instruction or reproof they most need. But Ministers cannot so well know this.
6. Above all, you are ever with them, and so have opportunity, as to know their faults, so to apply the remedy. You may be still talking to them of the word or God, and minding them, of their state and duty, and may follow and set home every word of advice, as they are in the house with you, or in the shop, or in the field. O what an excellent advantage is this, if you have hearts to use it. Especially you mothers remember this: you are more with your children while they are little ones than their fathers, be you therefore still teaching them as soon as ever they are capable of learning. You cannot do GOD such eminent service yourselves as men; but you may train up children that may do it, and then you will have part of the comfort and honor, What a deal of pains are you at with the bodies of your children more than the fathers And what do you suffer to bring them into the world And will you not be at as much pains for the saving their souls You are naturally of more tender affections than men; and will it not move you to think that your children should perish for ever Therefore I beseech you, for the sake of the children of your bowels, teach them, admonish them, watch over them, and give them no rest until you have brought them to CHRIST.
If that whets your appetite I would recommend further reading in Baxter’s The Duties of Parents for their Children. You will be surprised how well his counsel speaks to the modern family.