THE FATHER, THE MOTHER, THE CHILD, THE FAMILY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-6-62 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The Father, the Mother, the Child, the Family. In the sixty-eighth Psalm and the sixth verse, “God setteth the solitary in families.” It is a myth, it is a tradition that Remus and Romulus were nursed by a she-wolf and grew up to found the eternal city of Rome. So far as we know, no child is ever brought up except in the circle of a home and a family. The same God that gave us breath, and the same Lord God that created the world in which we live, also ordained this: Psalm 68:6, “He setteth the solitary in families.” We have fathers, and mothers, and kindred, and loved ones who put shepherdly nourishing arms around us and made it possible for us to grow up and to live.
Then the fundamental and the basic unit of God’s order, and God’s humanity, and God’s society is that family unit of father, mother, and child. If those family units are pagan, then the social order and the nation is pagan. If those family units are worldly, then the social order and the nation is worldly; but if those family units are godly and God honoring and Christian, then the social order and the nation are God honoring and Christian. The strength of America, our beloved country, in these generations passed has been its great Christian idealism and its godly foundations.
I have been only through a part of South America; but no man could see any part of it and not be impressed with the almost illimitable resources of that South American continent. There are eight waterfalls down there greater and bigger and higher than Niagara. I flew across the Amazon River: it is five hundred miles wide at its mouth, and five hundred miles out into the south Atlantic Ocean the water is still fresh from the impact of that mighty stream. There are at least a dozen tributaries of the Amazon that are greater than the Mississippi. I flew over a vast basin that had delta arm after delta arm that looked bigger to me than our mighty Mississippi. And I said to the pilot, “Over what vast drainage system are we passing now?” And we were flying over the Orinoco, which most of our people never heard of, but any wing of which is greater than our great Mississippi. There are vast mountains down there made out of solid iron. We pour the ore into America today. There are almost illimitable fields of oil; we flow their unceasing produce into America today. Most of those great refineries on the coast of Texas are fed by the oil out of the fields of South America. Yet all the nations of the subcontinent to the south combined do not begin to start to commence to equal the great national strength and prosperity and past history and destiny of America. Why? For one simple reason: the Spanish conquistadors turned south and sought, among those great mountains and valleys of America, gold and wealth; whereas our Pilgrim Fathers came to this North American continent seeking a place to build homes, and to build churches, and to build schools. And there they erected this national monument unto God.
The present strength of America lies in its family units. As Lyman Abbott, the eloquent preacher, one time said in a great peroration, “A nation is made great not by its fruitful acres, but by the men who till them; not by its vast forests, but by the men who use them; not by its great mines, but by the men who work in them; not by its vast railroads, but by the men who run them. America,” he said, “was a great country when Columbus discovered it. But Americans have made out of it a great nation.” And if our country has any future, it lies in the godliness of our family units. As Lord Byron wrote:
“While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand;
When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall;
And when Rome falls – the World.”
[from “The Coliseum,” Lord Byron]
While stands the American home, America shall stand. When falls the American home, America shall fall; and when America falls, how tragically true today, the whole world.
So long as there are homes to which men turn at close of day;
So long as there are homes where children are, and women stay;
If faith, and love and loyalty, be found across those sills,
A nation can recover from its gravest ills.
So long as there are homes where fires burn; and there is bread;
So long as there are homes where lamps are lit; and prayers are said;
Although a people falter in the dark; and nations grope;
With God Himself behind those little homes we still have hope.
[“There Are Homes,” Jessie Alberta Silvernail Card]
“God setteth the solitary in families” [Psalm 68:6]: Abraham and Sarah, and a little child whom they named “Laughter,” Isaac [Genesis 21:2-3]; Boaz and Ruth, and a little child whom they named “Minister,” “Helper” [Ruth 4:13, 17]. I suppose they were going to make a Baptist preacher out of little Obed; I’m in favor of it. Elkanah and Hannah and a little child whom they named “Asked of God,” Samuel [1 Samuel 1:19-20]; Zacharias and Elizabeth and a little child whom God told the family to name “John” [Luke 1:13]; Joseph and Mary and the Child, virgin born of the love of God, created in the womb of human flesh, whom they named “Savior,” Jesus [Matthew 1:20-25] – always and throughout the Word of God, the great basic unit in the will and elective purpose of heaven is our family.
Now in the Trinity, the Father: in the will of God and in the purpose of the Lord, it is the father whom God ordained, who God ordained to be the priest of the home, the head of the house [Genesis 3:16; Ephesians 5:23, 6:4; 1 Timothy 3:4]. Whole lot of funny things are said about that, and a whole lot of jokes are told about that; but in a recent magazine article, I could not help but be impressed: one of the judges of one of the far-famed domestic courts of America said, “I can heal overnight the entire problem of juvenile delinquency in the United States, and I can do it in one simple way: by making the father the head of the house.” And that long article this far famed juvenile judge wrote was a demonstration out of history and out of current developments and out of his long experience as judge on the bench proving that avowal. When that child grows up without honor and respect for that father, he will not have honor and respect for law and for administration of justice and social order. It begins in the home, the father in the house, God’s spiritual leader in the home.
I so well remember, as a student in the seminary, being invited to speak to a large district convocation of men. And I spoke from the first chapter of Job, where God says in the book that Job gathered his seven sons and his three daughters [Job 1:2], and he prayed for them all and offered burnt sacrifices for them all; then the addition, “Thus did Job continually. For,” said Job, “it may be that my boys have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually” [Job 1:5]. Well, I was a young fellow, and I had great enthusiasm. I’ve lost a whole lot of it for the American family since then. The most worldly thing I know in modern life is the typical American family. Ah! The godliness of our homes has almost disappeared. There’s jazz, and radio, and TV, and everybody striking out for a dozen different ways, and everybody vying for the car; and the whole atmosphere of the home is an annihilation to the Spirit of God.
Well anyway, I was preaching about Job to those men, and his family altar, and his prayers for his children, and how Job did that continually. Well, when I got through, why, they finished their meeting and were going to have the benediction. And I want you to know that as they came to the conclusion of that service, the large convocation of men, as they came to the conclusion of that service, one of the most distinguished men I ever looked upon in my life, white hair, a magnificent looking man, stood up and said, “Wait, I’d like to say something to that young fellow.” He was an illustrious judge in the state of Kentucky. And standing up he turned to me and said, “Young fellow, before you go back to the seminary, I would just like to say to you that as I listened tonight, I have resolved in my heart that we’re going to say grace at the table before we break bread, and we’re going to have family prayers before we rest in sleep at night.” That’s a very simple and a very humble thing for a distinguished man to say, but I do believe, I do believe if the manhood and the husbandhood and the fatherhood of our American homes would do even that humble and simple thing, we could remake the complexion of the life of our native land.
And the mother: what’s a home without a mother? I haven’t time to speak of that. Then the child: you know if there is ever a leaning in the wrong direction, it is almost always in our lack of confidence in the spiritual appreciation and perception of the child. He may be wiggling all over the bench but at the same time getting more out of the sermon than the father and the mother who listen so attentively. And he may be filled with all kinds of childish words and activity, but there may be in his soul great plantings of the Lord. And, if we lean I say in a wrong direction, it is almost always in our lack of confidence in their love and understanding of the real message of God.
I was preaching in southern Indiana at one of these state evangelistic conferences. And I used an illustration there, and after the service was over, there was an old, old lady who came up to me and said, “I lived through that illustration. I was there.” The illustration was this: that in Salem, Illinois – and I was preaching right nearby – in Salem, Illinois, down the aisle in the First Baptist Church of Salem, Illinois, came a little boy, and he gave his heart to Jesus and said he took Jesus as his Savior and he wanted to be baptized and to join the church. The little boy was named William Jennings Bryan. The reason the illustration made such an indelible impression upon me, my father thought William Jennings Bryan was the greatest man that was ever born outside of the Bible. The little fellow came down the aisle, William Jennings Bryan; and in that Baptist church, where his father and mother belonged, made a confession of faith and wanted to be baptized. And the pastor and the deacons of the church met together and said, “The little boy didn’t understand, and he wasn’t old enough,” and they refused him. And as you know, he went to a Christian college of another denomination and became a member of that denomination – which is all right, I have no grief against that – I’m just saying that when the pastor and the deacons said the little boy was too young, that dear old lady who came up and talked to me after I’d made my speech, she said, “Oh, pastor, I was there. I was there. And I remember that.” And she said, “Our pastor and our deacons made a great mistake.”
Now I think we ought to teach them. And we’re careful, as you know; I pray with every one of these children, talk to every one of them who are presented to you; but O Lord, O Lord, many, many times do I think I knew more of God, actually, and He was nearer to me when I was a boy than when I become a man. That child; the hand of the Lord in his life, and unless evil and Satan and the world somehow deflect his life, a child will grow straight up unto God. It’s a funny thing what these psychologists say; it’s a funny thing, when all they’ve got to do is to look at a little child, and it will be as natural for him to pray as it is for him to breathe. For the same God that made his breath and gave him life, planted in his soul an affinity for a likeness and outflowing to God – this little child, and the infinite heritage of the Lord are these children. As we put our arms around them and love them in Jesus’ name, guiding their little footsteps into the likeness of the love and hope and preciousness of Jesus, we have our greatest commitment and our highest destiny.
I must close. We sing this song of appeal. Somebody you, give your heart to Jesus. Somebody you, put your life in the fellowship of the church. While we sing this song of appeal, you come. A family or just one somebody you, as God shall say the word and make the appeal, come, come, while we stand and while we sing.