Proverbs 13:24

An Exposition of the Book of Proverbs
Charles Bridges

"He who spares his rod hates his son,
but he who loves him disciplines him promptly."

Among the many modern theories of education, how often is God's system overlooked! Yet should not this be our pattern and standard? The rod of discipline is its main character--not harsh severity but a wise, considerate, faithful exercise, always aiming at the subjugation of the will and the humbling and purifying of the heart. Here, however, God and man are at issue. Man often spares the rod because he loves the child. This, at least, he calls love. But is not our Father's love to his children inconceivably more yearning than that of an earthly parent? Yet he does not spare the rod--"What son is he whom the Father chastens not?" Is the rod the proof of his hatred? "Whom the Lord loves, he chastens." Nay, he gives us his Divine judgment--he who spares the rod hates the child. Does he not act at least as if he hated him by omitting a duty so necessary for his welfare and winking at the indulgence of vicious habits and a wayward will so surely issuing in bitter sorrow? Is not this delivering him up to his worst enemy? Better that the child had been trained in the house of strangers than that he should thus be the unhappy victim of the cruelty of parental love.

The discipline of our children must commence with self-discipline. Nature teaches us to love them much. But we want a controlling principle, to teach us to love them wisely. The indulgence of our children has its root in self-indulgence. We do not like putting ourselves to pain. The difficulties indeed can only be known by experience. And even in this school one parent cannot measure the trials of another. But all our children are children of Adam. "Foolishness is bound up in their hearts." All choose from the first dawn of reason the broad road of destruction. And can we bear the thought that they should walk in that road? We pray for their conversion. But prayer without teaching is mockery, and Scripture teaching implies chastening. Discipline, therefore, must be. All need the rod, some again and again. Yet it must be the father's rod, yearning over his chastened child even while he dares "not spare him for his crying." The rod without affection is revolting tyranny.

But often we hear mourning over failure. And is not this the grand reason, that we do not chastise promptly? Satan begins with the infant in arms! The cry of passion is his first stir of native corruption. Do we begin as early? Every vice commences in the nursery. The great secret is to establish authority in the dawn of life, to bend the tender twig before the knotty oak is beyond our power. A child early trained by discipline will probably preserve the wholesome influence to the end of life.

But fearful indeed is the difficulty (when the child has been the early master) to begin chastening when the habit of disobedience has been formed and hardened, or to have the first work to do when the child is growing out of childhood and when the unreserved confidence needs to be established. Rarely indeed does this late experiment succeed, when the severity necessary to enforce it is not less dangerous than painful. "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth" (Lam. 3:27).

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