Born with a Bias Toward Evil

J.C. Ryle offers timeless advice to parents: The Duties of Parents

1. First, then, if you would train your children rightly, train them in the way they SHOULD go—and not in the way that they desire.

Remember—children are born with a decided bias towards evil—and therefore if you let them choose for themselves, they are certain to choose wrong.

The mother cannot tell what her tender infant may grow up to be—tall or short, weak or strong, wise or foolish—he may be any of these things or not—it is all uncertain. But one thing the mother can say with certainty—he will have a corrupt and sinful heart! It is natural to us to do wrong. “Foolishness,” says Solomon, “is bound in the heart of a child” (Proverbs 22:15). “A child left to himself brings his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15). Our hearts are like the earth on which we tread; let it alone, and it is sure to bear weeds.

If, then, you would deal wisely with your child, you must not leave him to the guidance of his own will. Think for him, judge for him, act for him, just as you would for one weak and blind; but for pity’s sake, give him not up to his own wayward tastes and inclinations. It must not be his likings and wishes that are consulted. He knows not yet what is good for his mind and soul, any more than what is good for his body. You do not let him decide what he shall eat, and what he shall drink, and how he shall be clothed. Be consistent, and deal with his mind in like manner.Train him in the way that is scriptural and right, and not in the way that he desires.

If you cannot make up your mind to this first principle of Christian training—it is useless for you to read any further. Self-will is almost the first thing that appears in a child’s mind—and it must be your first step to resist it.

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