Train your children with a lasting conviction in your mind, that most of it depends on you.
Grace is the strongest of all principles. See what a great change grace effects when it comes into the heart of an old sinner—how it overturns the strongholds of Satan—how it throws down mountains, and fills up valleys—makes crooked things straight—and newly creates the whole man. Truly nothing is impossible for grace.
Nature, too, is very strong. See how it struggles against the things of the kingdom of God—how it fights against every attempt to be more holy—how it keeps up an unceasing warfare within us to the very last hour of life. Indeed, nature is strong.
But after nature and grace, undoubtedly, there is nothing more powerful than education. Early habits are very important. We are made what we are by training. Our character takes the form of that mold into which our first years are cast. It has been said, that, “Education has a tremendous effect on men’s opinions and thinking habits. What children learn in the nursery, will be displayed throughout their lives.”—Cecil.
We heavily depend on those who bring us up. We get from them a taste and a bias which clings to us most of the days of our lives. We learn the language of our mothers and fathers, and learn to speak it almost without thinking, and unquestionably we catch something of their manners, ways, and mind at the same time. Time will tell, how much we all owe to early impressions, and how many things in us may be traced back to the seeds sown in the days of our infancy, by those who were around us. A very educated Englishman, has gone so far as to say: “That of all the men we meet with, nine out of ten are what they are, good or bad, useful or not, according to their education”—Locke
And all this is one of God’s merciful arrangements. He gives your children a mind that will receive impressions like moist clay. He gives them a disposition at the starting-point of life to believe what you tell them, and to take for granted what you advise them, and to trust your word rather than a stranger’s. He gives you, in short, a golden opportunity of doing them good. See that you do not neglect such an opportunity. Once you let it slip, it is gone forever.
Beware of that miserable delusion into which some have fallen—that parents can do nothing for their children, that you must leave them alone, wait for grace, and sit still. These parents would like their children to die the death of the righteous person, but they do nothing to help them live a righteous life. They have great hope, but they receive nothing. And the devil rejoices to see such thinking, just as he always does over anything which seems to excuse laziness, or to encourage neglect.
I know that you cannot convert your child. I know that they who are born again are born, not of the will of man, but of God. But I also know that God specifically says, “Train a child in the way he should go,” and that He never gave a command to men and women which He would not give them the grace to perform. And I also know that our duty is not to stand still and dispute the command, but to go forward and obey it. It is only when we move out in obedience that God will meet us. The path of obedience is the way in which He gives the blessing. We only have to do as the servants were commanded at the marriage feast in Cana, to fill the water-pots with water, and we may safely leave it to the Lord to turn that water into wine.
By: J.C. Ryle