You cannot make your children love the Bible, I admit. No one but the Holy Spirit can give us a heart to delight in the Word. But you can make sure that your children are acquainted with the Bible; and remember that they can never become acquainted with that blessed book too soon, or too well.
A thorough knowledge of the Bible is the foundation of all proper views of true religion. He that is well-grounded in the Bible will not generally be found to be a person who wavers in his beliefs. He will not be blown and tossed by every wind of new doctrine. Any system of training which does not make the knowledge of Scripture the first priority is unsafe and unsound.
You need to be very careful on this point, for the devil is in the world, and false doctrine abounds. Some are to be found among us who wrongly give to the Church the honor that is due to Jesus Christ. Some are to be found who make “rituals and forms” into saviors and passports to eternal life. And some are to be found in like manner who honor a catechism more than the Bible, or fill the minds of their children with miserable little story-books, instead of the Scripture of truth. But if you love your children, let the simple truths of the Bible be everything in the training of their souls; and let all other books take second place.
Do not care so much for your children being mighty in the catechism, as for them being mighty in the Scriptures. This is the training, believe me, that God will honor. The Psalmist says to God, “You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word.” [Psalm 138:2] and I think that He gives a special blessing to everyone who tries to magnify His Word and His Name among children.
See that your children read the Bible reverently. Train them to look upon it, not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the Word of God, written by the Holy Spirit Himself—all true, all profitable, and able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
See that they read it regularly. Train them to regard it as their soul’s daily food—as something essential to their soul’s daily health. I well know that you cannot make this anything more than a form; but there is no telling the amount of sin which a mere form may indirectly restrain.
See that they read it all. You need not shrink from bringing any doctrine before them. You need not assume that the leading doctrines of Christianity are things which children cannot understand. Children understand far more of the Bible than we are apt to suppose.
Tell them of sin, its guilt, its consequences, its power, its vileness: you will find they can comprehend this.
Tell them of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His work for our salvation—the atonement, the cross, the blood, the sacrifice, the intercession: you will discover that it is not beyond them to understand.
Tell them of the work of the Holy Spirit in man’s heart, how He changes, and renews, and sanctifies, and purifies: you will soon see they can follow your teaching to some degree. In short, I believe that we have no idea how much a little child can take in of the length and breadth of the glorious gospel. They understand far more of these things than we suppose.
As to the age when the religious instruction of a child should begin, no general rule can be laid down. The mind seems to open in some children much more quickly than in others. We seldom begin too early. There are wonderful examples on record of what a child can attain to, even at three years of age.
Fill their minds with Scripture. Let the Word dwell in them richly. Give them the Bible, the whole Bible, even while they are young.
by J.C. Ryle