The Responsibility of Fatherhood

Fathers’ Day Sermon by Geo. A. Miller

Train up a child in the way he should go: and even when he
is old he will not depart from it. — Prov. 22: 6.

And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but
nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord. —
Eph. 6:4.

 

FOR a number of years our churches have been
observing Mothers’ Day. This is a beautiful
custom and is proving very helpful to the church.
It is also a help and a blessing to the mothers and
children. Father, however, has been almost entirely for-
gotten or ignored in these services. He has come too of-
ten to think he has no part either in the church service
or the home. It is time we should give father a square
deal and bring him to realize that he is an important
factor in the life of his children and of the church.
I would not, for a moment, take away one particle of
honor and responsibility from mother, but I would
like to stress the importance of father’s responsibility
and influence. It may be that we have felt the im-
portance of preaching to mother more than to father
because, formerly, there were more mothers present
at the church services. If the fathers have at any
time felt slighted because they were not given a more
prominent part in the special days of the church cal-
endar, it is possibly because they have not been active

 

enough to deserve such a place. They have remained
at home or been so given over to business that they
have neglected their true church and parental duties.
My text shows the responsibility of parents in general,
and fathers in particular.

We all realize the importance of training children
for the great work of life here and hereafter. This
can not be truly done unless both parents perform
their respective parts. Early training may for awhile
seem to be lost in the life of an individual, but in
later years it will have its influence. ”When he is
old he will not depart from it,” said the sacred writer.
Paul realized the importance of the father’s respon-
sibility to his children. ”Nurture them in the chasten-
ing and admonition of the Lord.” It is not enough
to feed and clothe them. The child that God has
given is a living soul. His spirit is a part of the
Great Spirit of the universe. His soul, as well as his
body and intellect, is to be nurtured and developed.
Who is to do this? Too often it is looked upon as
the duty and obligation of the mother alone. Paul
says it is the father’s duty as well. You fathers
can not shift your responsibility to any one else.
There is no excuse that you can give, that will re-
lieve you of this obligation to your child. I suppose
in this modern day the most common excuse is that
“I am too busy to look after those things. I leave
them to my wife.” You ought to be ashamed of
yourself to make such an excuse. You admit the duty
in making the excuse, and no duty in the world is
more important. Two boys were playing across the
street when the father of one of them passed on the
other side. The neighbor boy said, “Who is that
man?” The reply was, “Oh, he’s a man that sleeps

at our house” Does your boy think of you only as
a roomer in what he calls home? Fortunate is the
child that has a true home in which both father and
mother preside with equal solicitude and a sense of
equal responsibility.

It is a mistake to suppose that children are not
close observers. A man once speaking before a Bible
school was stressing the need of observation. He re-
marked that children do not observe closely and to
prove it he would use an illustration. There was a
class of small boys on the front seats. He said,
”Now, you boys give me some numbers of two figures,
and I will put them on the blackboard.” One gave
”fifty-seven” and he put down seventy-five. Another
said “forty-two” and he put down twenty-four. Then
a little fellow that lisped called out, “thixthy-thix, ”
and added, “I’d like to thee the thucker change
that.” Not only is your child a close observer of
folks in general, but he is a close observer of you in
particular.

Whatever may have been the indifference of the
fathers to the church and Bible school in the past, we
can see a great and growing interest at the present
time. Never was there a day when so many men
were in attendance at church and interested in the
things pertaining to the spiritual life. We have only
to look about us to see great men’s classes; they num-
ber hundreds and even thousands. Think of a class
of a thousand or more men meeting every Sunday
morning to study the word of God. What a great
object-lesson to the growing boy! What an oppor-
tunity for a father to set an example to his son!

It is easy to make excuses for not going to the
Bible school or church. One of the most familiar is,

 

”When I was a boy my parents made me go until I
became tired of it.” Did your parents make you
wash your face when you were a boy? Did they
make you clean your shoes? Did not these things
make you tired? Then, why do you do them now?
Shame on you — big, lazy, no-account men — to blame
your own meanness and neglect upon your godly,
Christian parents! It seems to me they should rise
from their graves to haunt you all the rest of your
days. Your excuse is worse than none and is an open
condemnation of your conduct, showing that you are
an ungrateful, blasphemous son of good parents.
They did their duty and you abuse their memory.
Much has been said in criticism of preachers’ boys,
but if you will study the lives of the preachers and
the noted men of to-day you will discover that a
surprising number of them are preachers’ sons, and
that practically all of them are from Christian homes,
where they have been brought up to attend the ser-
vices of the church regularly. Instead of blaming
your parents, you have occasion to thank them for
making you do your duty when you were young.

Every father should realize the great obligation
resting upon him in the training of the immortal soul
that has been given into his keeping. The soul of his
child is of more value than all else in this world and
to nurture it is his highest privilege. Man has been
endowed with the ability to achieve great things. He
has built the Pyramids and the Parthenon; he has
tunneled the Alps and made a way for trains under
the East River; he has dug the Suez and Panama
Canals; he has erected great cities and accomplished
many wonderful works — but the greatest of all his
endowments is the ability to work with God in train-

ing a human soul in the way of eternal life. It is
a task big enough to call forth the best effort of the
greatest men of this or any other time. Great men of
all ages have realized this obligation.

Not long ago a prisoner brought an awful accusa-
tion against his father, who was a very eminent law-
yer. “When asked if he remembered his father, the
prisoner said: ”Perfectly; whenever I entered his
presence he said, ‘Run away, my lad, and don’t trouble
me.’ ” By keeping his boy from “troubling” him
the great lawyer was able to complete his famous
work on “The Law of Trusts,” but his son in due
time became a practical illustration of the most sa-
cred of all trusts violated.

True fatherhood among men is but a reflection of
the fatherhood of God. What a high and holy po-
sition. How full of possibilities for eternity. I cer-
tainly pity some children when I see their fathers.
What can you expect of a half-grown boy when he
sees his father with a cigaret in his mouth? It is im-
possible to understand the type of mind that will at-
tempt to justify the setting of such an example before
a son. Is such a man reflecting the fatherhood of
God?

A babe is the most helpless and dependent thing
that is born into the world. Its absolute dependence
is for the purpose of making it a care and a respon-
sibility to its parents. All parents should see in
their children’s eyes the soul of God born anew into
the world.

”They are idols of hearts and of households,
They are angels of God in disguise;
His sunlight still sleeps in their tresses,
His glory still gleams in their eyes.”

 

And if parents can see God looking out upon them
through the eyes of their little ones, the little ones
should find God waiting for them in the hearts of
their parents.

No true father would want to rear his child in a
community where there is no church or where that
child would receive no religious instruction. But,
what are you fathers doing to build up the church
in your community? It would be a very poor, good-
for-nothing excuse of a father who would sit and do
nothing while others fed and clothed his children.
It would be just as bad, if not worse, for an able-
bodied father to expect others to pay for his chil-
dren’s education. Is it not worse for you to expect
some one to bring up your children in the nurture
and admonition of the Lord, while you loaf on the
job of real fatherhood? You should do your duty in
the development of the soul that God has given into
your keeping. Your child is a gift from God.

The welfare of children demands a home. That
home should be a Christian home. It can not be a
Christian home if both parents are not Christians.
It is said that if children from the cannibal South Sea
Islands were brought to a Christian land and put
into Christian homes they would grow up to be
Christians, and if children of our land were taken
early in life to the South Sea Islands they would
grow up to be cannibals. God so created man and
woman that each is the complement of the other, and
it requires both to make one complete person. One
supplies what the other lacks. God did not create
woman from the head of man that she should rule
over him, nor from his foot that he should trample
upon and degrade her, but from his side that she

should be a helpmeet to him. In the rearing of chil-
dren the strength and power of manhood is to be
mingled with the love and tenderness of womanhood,
that the child life may be complete. If one parent
should be taken by the hand of death, then the double
responsibility falls upon the other. The mother must
then, as far as possible, supply the place of the father,
or the father the place of the mother. It is very much
harder for the mother to do this if the father is
living. I have seen fathers that were but a hindrance
in the spiritual development of their children. It
would be far better for the souls of some children if
their fathers were dead. Is it possible that this is
true of you? May God have mercy upon your soul
if it is.

The church is the spiritual power-house where a
man becomes charged to carry home the electric cur-
rent of Christlikeness to his children. It is impossible
to convey spiritual life to your children if you have
none yourself. No lodge, club or fraternal organiza-
tion, I care not how good it may be, can take the
place of the church. The church is the only institu-
tion that can develop the soul. It is the one divine
institution on earth. “Whatever there is of religious
or spiritual value in the lodge and its ritual was
borrowed from the church and from the Bible. The
school, the club, the lodge — each has its place, but
none of them can take the place of the church of
Christ on earth. The school develops the intellect;
the club, the social life; the lodge, the fraternal life;
but the church is the only ordained institution to
develop the spiritual life of the individual. Which
is the highest and most important? Browning says:
”Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure.”

 

What part of your life-work and energy are you
giving to the eternal things? How much time are
you fathers giving to strengthen the eternal spirits
of your children? The Creator has implanted in the
bosom of every human being a longing for God and
immortality. Sabatier says: ”Man is an incurably
religious animal” You may harden your conscience;
you may neglect your duty to your God and your
family; you may destroy your own soul and ruin the
souls of your children — -but you can not entirely get
rid of the feeling within you that you were designed
to be a child of God, an heir of heaven. You may
live in the cellar of your being; you may give your
life to the gross materialism of your day; you may
freeze your soul in selfishness, until it becomes as
hard as the gold and silver you are seeking — ^but you
will never be entirely satisfied with these things.

What is the greatest inheritance you can leave to
your children? Is it wealth? This they can misuse
and destroy. Is it fame? This they can mar and
abuse. Is it opportunity? This they can ignore or
despise. Is it a good name? This they can tarnish
or disgrace. The greatest inheritance you can leave
is training in righteousness.

It is sad to see men to-day trifling with life’s se-
rious problems and giving their best thought and at-
tention to the fleeting things of this world. They dis-
miss their conscience with a laugh; they kill their
capacity for worship by neglect; they destroy their
inheritance of spiritual life through pleasure and
gratification of self; they see nothing in religion.
Why should they? They never put forth a single ef-
fort to develop the religious part of their natures.
The landscape artist, Turner, was once painting a

sunset from nature. A lout of a fellow was watching
him as he painted. As the watcher looked at the
sunset and then at the picture he said to the artist,
”I do not see anything so wonderful about a sunset.”
”No,” said the artist; ” don’t you wish you could?”
How can one who is dead in trespasses and sin see
anything in religion? To a blind man there is no
light. To a deaf man there is no sound. To a blas-
phemer there is no God. To a materialist there is
nothing spiritual. It is more easy to commit soul
suicide than suicide of the body. Use the means for
spiritual growth God has given and you will see Him.
Train your child as you should and he will behold
God and His glory.

What can a father expect of his son, when he him-
self spends the Lord’s Day with his pipe and Sunday
paper? “What will the son think of soul values if the
day of worship is used only for joy riding and
picnics ?

There is a great cry at present about “Blue
Laws.” There are no Blue Laws being proposed nor
enacted. The noise about it is propaganda of the
moving-picture combine and other commercial inter-
ests, to break down the sacredness of the Lord’s Day.
There would be no rest-day if there had been no
church. You may abuse the church for wanting to
keep this day as a time of true recreation and wor-
ship, but you would be going the weary treadmill of
seven continuous days of toil and labor each week, if
it were not for the church. A man may become so
degraded that he abuses the mother who gave him
birth, but it is far from honorable and manly. You
can abuse and neglect the church that has brought to
you countless blessings, but it is something that should

bring the blush of shame to the cheek of every true
man. Dr. Kelly, of Baltimore, one of the greatest
surgeons and physicians of the land, spends nearly
every Sunday in speaking on the value and need of
keeping the day sacred and set apart for worship.
Are you giving your child a fair chance in life if you
are keeping him from the Lord’s house on the Lord’s
Day? ”Forsake not the assembling of yourselves to-
gether as the manner of some is.”

I wish I could give a list of the great men who
have honored the church; men who have been devout
and faithful in attendance upon its services and its
ordinances. There are such men as Gladstone, who
was a lay reader to the end of life. Lloyd George,
who was brought up by a preaching elder uncle.
President Harding, who refuses every invitation to
play golf on the Lord’s Day. Garfield and Eoose-
velt, who never missed a Sunday service. Bryan and
Hughes, devout and faithful to their religious obliga-
tions. Nearly every President our country has ever
had was an out-and-out churchman. You are not
in great company when you neglect the church. Do
you say, ”I can be a Christian without going to
church”? I doubt it. An artist must go to a school
of art, a lawyer to a school of law, a doctor to a
school of medicine, and a Christian to the school of
Christ. The church is that school. You can be a
better Christian by attending church regularly. At
least, your influence does not count on the side of
Christianity if you do not go to church.

The only way you became a Christian was by the
way of the church. The preacher, whom you neglect
and often scoff at, has more interest in your soul than
you have yourself. By staying away from the church

you are wronging yourself much more than you can
possibly wrong the church or the preacher. One of the
saddest things in the world is to hear a father
say, “We do not go to church” while there is stand-
ing at his knee a boy who is soon to go out into the
world of sin and temptation without the help and
protection that the church gives. I once had a father
praise to me the godly, faithful. Christian life of his
father, while he admitted in the presence of his own’
children that he never attended church. He had re-
ceived on his own admission a great blessing from his
father, but did not seem to realize that he was giv-
ing nothing of spiritual value to his own children.
What will those children have to say of their father?
When William E. Gladstone died, the leader of an-
other nation said: ”The world has lost its greatest
citizen/’ and Morley says of him: ”He cared for the
church as much as he cared for the state; he thought
of the church as the soul of the state.” The world’s
greatest citizen, the mightiest statesman of Britain,
could not afford to ignore the church. Neither can
you or I.

Another foolish excuse a man often gives for not
attending church is, “I am better than some of the
men in the church.” To say that you are better than
the worst is to make a very lame and foolish com-
parison. Why not compare yourself with the best?
Most any farmer can find in his cornfield an ear that
is better than the poorest nubbin in his neighbor’s
field. That proves nothing in his favor or against
his neighbor. Stand up before God like a man and
let your own life count for itself. Why contemptu-
ously exclaim, “Hypocrites in the church!”? Maybe
there are, but there are more outside. The only way

you can ever rid yourself of the company of hypo-
crites is to become a hermit and live alone in a cave.
Even then I suspect you will be with one of the
biggest of the lot. Those who find fault with the
church to-day say: ”Why does not Christianity adapt
itself to modern life?” “Well, why does not modern
life adapt itself to Christianity? That would be bet-
ter for modern life. If you are looking for a great
task in the world, you will find it in the service of
Jesus Christ. Here is the true man’s biggest job.

The three truly great things in one ‘s life are heredity,
environment and will. Every father deals largely
with the first two. Heredity is the unseen hand
stretched from the lives of our forefathers over our
own lives. We hand down to our children our ten-
dencies to physical and mental diseases. Some one
asked how early to begin the education of a child.
The answer was, ”With his grandfather.” I have
known children who have had to fight temptations
and passions all their lives on account of the sins
of their fathers. What is true of the physical is
just as true of the moral and spiritual. Environment
is the total of the surrounding things that influence
our lives — things which we touch and which touch
us in the daily business of living. What kind of an
environment are you endeavoring to throw about your
children? The will is that power within us which
enables us to make resolutions and keep them. Will
power may overcome heredity and environment, but
many fathers are making the task a hard one for
their children. It is possible for heredity to hand
down a weak will, and then the case of the child is
hopeless and the parent is to blame. I fear there are
children who will open their eyes in hell and blame

their fathers for an eternity of suffering. Will your
children be among them? There are fathers who
through all eternity will regret the woe they have
brought upon their children. Are you to be one of
those fathers? God pity you, if you are. My friend,
would it not be the part of wisdom for you to so link
up your life, and the lives of your loved ones, with
the church of Jesus Christ as to enable you to
face eternity with calmness and assurance? “When
the ”Titanic” sank, the name of God was on every
lip, and the heroic musicians went into eternity play-
ing ”Nearer, My God, to Thee.” When Captain
Scott sat facing death amid his dead companions in
the frozen south, the last message he wrote to the
people of Britain linked his country and his family
with God. When Shakespeare died, he left a will,
the first clause of which declared, “I commend my
soul into the hands of God.” The last words that
Tennyson wrote were these:

‘Tar though from out the bounds of time and place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.”

What a blessing it is to have the light with you as
you journey along the way of life, and how much
greater the blessing to have it with you in the end.
The other day a man that graduated from Dartmouth,
just sixty years ago, wrote the following poem:

”As I review the years long passed,
The best of all has been the last.
Not that my childhood days were sad,
Or any part of life was bad ;
But, like a spring among the hills —
Creating dancing, rippling rills —

Deepening and broadening as it goes,

Until into the sea it flows,

The tributes all along its course

But clarify and give it force.

Friendships and books have borne their part,

Enlarged my mind, possessed my heart;

Lifers cares and toils, its hardships, too.

All pass alike in glad review.

Its path has brightened all the way.

And reached at last the full-orbed day.

Like rivers, broadening as they flow,

Deep falls and cascades soon outgrow;

Thus down life’s placid stream I float,

My Master captain of the boat.

And, as I to the haven near,

released from care, without a fear.

Along the shore I see the lights;

Hear music, foretaste of delights.

Ere long I’ll join the song of praise

Which I have practiced all my days.”

May our lives be thus lived for God and our
children.