How to View Our Children
As you know, we had our Teachers' Conference this summer in Norwich, Ontario. There a busy week was spent giving and attending workshops, delivering and listening to topics; also some courses were given. Upon request, we will here give the conclusion of the course which we held about Child and Covenant. That conclusion was a practical one since we felt the necessity of applying any theoretical and dogmatic instruction to the reality of everyday practice in the classroom. For it is there that our children are taught and trained during such an important period of their lives.
Our forefathers realized the importance of having good Biblical education for the youth of the church. You can read that in our Church Order, drawn up by the National Synod of Dordrecht in 1618-1619, in article 21, about the ecclesiastical care of the school. That article says: "Consistories shall see to it that there are good school teachers, not only to teach the children reading, writing, languages, and the liberal arts, but also to instruct them in godliness and in the Catechism.'' This means, in historical light, that the consistories should urge the authorities to replace teachers holding Roman Catholic or unsound principles with capable ones who have subscribed to the Reformed doctrinal standards. Also, these teachers must instruct in godliness and the Catechism in addition to the regular subjects. This is a precious but also a responsible task laid upon sinful men. In order to teach godliness, we must ourselves know something of the fear of the Lord. We need experiential knowledge of the lessons, which is received at the school of free grace.
And how do we have to view the children entrusted to our care in the classroom? That is a very important issue also in respect to our own identity as NRC Schools.
First, we have to view them as fallen descendants of Adam. Be realistic in your approach. You can have desires or expectations; you may be longing to see some fruits on your labors, but unless you see some evidence of those fruits in a true renewing also in a young life, you must consider the children, as we read in our Form for Baptism, as "conceived and born in sin and therefore subject to all miseries, yea, to condemnation itself." Oh, what a sad reality! May we ask the Lord that we feel the weight of having souls of children entrusted unto us, lying in their shame and in a state of enmity by nature. For also children are lost in Adam and "are therefore children of wrath, insomuch that they cannot enter into the Kingdom of God, except they are born again." Oh, that we may not deceive them and ourselves with false presumptions, if we do not see clear tokens of renewing in their life!
Secondly, we must view them as children, however, who, although being not better than others, nevertheless are set apart as children born under the ministration of the covenant. Surely we must maintain firmly that there is an essential difference in the relationship to the covenant and that only by regenerating grace, by God's quickening work in them, they really do become partakers of that covenant of grace – being brought into that covenant.
But the outward relationship is also very important and also increases the responsibility of those who have to train and instruct them. Did not the Lord rebuke the Israelites because they had sacrificed "His children" to Molech? God shows that He has a right to them and that they should be brought up according to His commandments, as a separated people. Oh, that we might feel that responsibility! The children in the classroom are not, first of all, our students, nor children of their parents, but set apart for Him. How careful and faithful do we have to be with these precious jewels who belong to Another!
Thirdly, we must view them as children who have a conscience, which tells them if they do wrong, but wherein also impressions can be found when we tell them about the happiness of God's
people, about the seriousness of the righteous judgments of God, and also when we tell them that there is a way of escape. The calling, "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not," must be told to them. But also the gracious invitation: "and those that seek Me early, shall find Me." Oh, how touching can it be for young children, when they hear about the riches of God's children, the faithfulness of their God and the future of eternal glory which lies before them! Tell them that also today children can be converted and that God still builds His church, although the time wherein we live is very dark and full of danger. For the Word of grace which God commands will stand to a thousand generations and He upholds the covenant which He made Himself (Ps. 105).
Fourthly, we must also instruct them, and explain who are the true covenant children. We must firmly maintain that there is a difference between the ministration and the essence of the covenant. And then our youth need to know who are now really God's people. For I fear that they do not very often hear God's people speaking out of the fullness of their hearts about what God has done unto their souls. Our children know that there is such a people, and that they too must be converted. Hopefully this will be emphasized in our classrooms, but also in the homes.
But do they know how God converts His people? Do they learn also in the Bible stories what the marks of true grace are, what the experiences are of those who fear the Lord? Preaching must be Scriptural, experiential, but also our teaching must be the same, although it has to be done with simplicity according to the age of the children. Give examples from Scripture, from daily life also. And how privileged the children would be if you were living examples yourselves, teachers and parents. For the fear of the Lord is not just an idea, it is a living reality which has to be seen. Tell them of the fear of the Lord in the life of Moses, of Joseph, of Ruth, of David, of the three young men in that hostile environment, of Daniel, and others. Show unto them that this is not all just history, but that there still is such a people who experience how good God is for an unworthy sinner. Possibly from your own youth, you remember when God's people still came together in homes, when they told each other about their meetings with God, their gracious deliverances, or the necessary instruction they received from Him. It is so necessary, that our young people hear and see that living reality of the practice of godliness. And if that is missing and if they do not hear and see the examples of it, also in our instruction, then I am afraid that soon the time will come that our children will not know any more how God converts a sinner. They will not understand the sermons preached or read in the church, and they will believe wrong opinions and superficial conceptions of what is necessary to be known for eternity will it be well with us. I hope that my fear is unfounded. But are there not already today many people who have superficial ideas, or are ignorant of this most essential part of our doctrine? God still converts sinners in the same way as He did Adam and Eve, and all those who lived in the beginning of human history. So be instructive in your approach to the class, teachers, to your children, parents, and may the Lord give many living examples among us which will make our youth jealous of the possessions of God's children.
Fifthly, we must be realistic, not hide the sad conditions and circumstances of our times, but we must also tell them that in spite of this, there is hope from God's side. For whatever may change, God's Word shall not fail, but shall certainly show evidence of being the truth; it shall be fulfilled in spite of human impossibilities. Did not the Lord say in Psalm 22:30, "A seed shall serve Him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation."
His promises will stand and they that may trust in that Word, by grace, will never be put to shame. And in respect to the glorious kingdom of the Greater Solomon, we read in Psalm 72:5, "They shall fear Thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.'' That is a word also for today when churches are broken down, the truth is darkened and when it seems that God is withdrawing Himself from the church. A word for today, when so many young people are allured by other false doctrines, or turn to the world, despising and rejecting what they have heard in their earlier youth. But nevertheless, the King is alive, and He will gather His chosen people out of all nations, kindred and generations. May that become a pleading ground, when by many circumstances you could be discouraged. Oh, the Sanballats and Tobiahs will mock and ridicule you, but the Lord will finish perfectly what He has promised!
Sixthly, may your labors be done prayerfully, so that you may realize, "Without Me ye can do nothing," but also, "Is there anything too hard for the Lord?" Oh, what a precious privilege for a child to be educated, to be trained by praying teachers or parents. Hannah, the mother of Samuel, did not cease praying when the child of so many prayers was born, but she continued, and remained a supplicant at God's throne.
How good it is for us to realize that we are unfit for the performance of our duties and that we cannot do it by ourselves, and that brings us and keeps us upon our knees. There is still a God who hears and answers prayers.
Finally, study and search God's Word thoroughly. Therein Wisdom speaks and counsel is given. Ask the Lord to reveal His Word unto you, and apply it unto your heart. Read good devotional and doctrinal works; read our old writers. How often did it please the Lord to bless them, to discover, to instruct, to encourage. And then we must highly value what the Lord has given unto us from the heritage of our fathers. Do not despise them or exchange them for easier, more superficial literature. Visit with and listen to God's people. How good it is to sit at the feet of old, experienced children of God who reveal that they have received so many lessons at the feet of Jesus Christ, the great Instructor of foolish students.
Ask for God's guidance, wisdom, and faithfulness and so may your and our labors be done in dependence on Him who is faithful, looking up unto Him who teaches the blind the way they have to go. He will take care of His own case, will provide and give the fruits, although we do not always see them.
Thus, by His divine blessings, may our schools prosper, our families be little churches – to the glory of His holy Name and the salvation of our children and families.