Raising The Christian Family
Legh wrote some interesting things on family life that are worth pondering. Though he wrote in the 1800s, his admonitions still ring true in our day.
Richmond was very concerned about the way he raised his family. He strongly believed that many so called "innocent" pleasures were anything but innocent.
Richmond's first object was to make home the happiest place to his children; to render them independent of foreign alliances in their pursuits and friendships; and so to interest them in domestic enjoyments, as to preclude the feeling, too common in young people, of restlessness and longing to leave their own fire-sides, and wander abroad in search of pleasure and employment. In this attempt to satisfy his family, and engage their compliance with his wishes, he so completely succeeded, that every member of it left home with regret, even for an occasional visit, and returned to Turvey with fond anticipation—as to the place of their treasures.
"I have long thought that though a good school is better than a bad home, a good home is the best of schools. Children are for the most part educated in temper and habits of all kinds, not by schools-but by companions, and here, all is contingency."
"Some may think I am too fond of seeing my children around me; if it be a weakness, I must plead guilty to it-from their infancy I have looked forward, as far as providential circumstances would permit, to ﬁnd comfort, support, and companionship in my children. My middle, and if spared, my old age, may much require it; and if my life be short, can anyone wonder that I should like to see and know much of them while I remain in this world. It has ever been my heart’s desire and prayer, to give them a useful, happy, exemplary home-were I to fail here, life would indeed become a blank to me. I would strive “to roll the troublous trial on God,” but I would deeply mourn in secret."
A happy home greatly depends on the recreations and amusements which are provided for young people…. Mr. Richmond was aware to these issues and endeavored, by a succession and variety of recreations, to employ the leisure hours to advantage. He had recourse to what was beautiful in nature or ingenious in art or science-and when abroad he collected materials to gratify the curiosity of his children.
Music was another source of domestic amusement in which Mr. Richmond excelled, being both a good composer, and no mean performer. Many of his children played on some instrument, and occasionally joined their father in a “concert of sweet sounds.”
He encouraged the use of the pencil, and was very anxious that his daughters should cultivate their taste for drawing.
“Mere innocent pleasure is not a sufﬁcient motive-the glory of God must be the end and aim of every attainment, or else it is a waste of time, and an abuse of talent. Pencils, paint, Indian ink, and Indian-rubber, may be devoted to the honor of him who bestows the power of combining their respective properties, so as to produce the similitudes of his works.”
“I am no less anxious about the cultivation of musical talents; there is, however, more danger of music being abused than drawing-the inundation of frivolity, and the sometimes unsuspected associations of a carnal and worldly nature, which mingle with musical compositions of a modern and fashionable cast, often distress and hurt me. The fascinations of the ballroom, the corruptions of the theater and opera-house, too often creep into the quiet piano-forte corner of young people. Even instrumental music, with its appendages of waltzes, dances, and love-sick airs, has often a tendency to familiarize the young mind with subjects injurious to its welfare. The sober dignity of genuine instrumental music is nearly lost in the substitution of modern trick and blandishment-but if instrumental music be thus abused, how much more so vocal music-here the art and science of music opens its richest stores of opportunity for glorifying God and edifying man.”
“I am persuaded that music is designed to prepare for heaven; to educate for the choral enjoyment of paradise; to form the mind to virtue and devotion, and to charm away evil, and sanctify the heart to God. A Christian musician is one who has a harp in his affections, which he daily tunes to the notes of the angelic host, and with which he makes melody in his heart to the Lord. Does he strike the chord with his hands? it is to bid lute and harp to awake to the glory of God. The hand, the tongue, and the ear, form a kind of triple chord, not to be broken…. Bring music, my beloved child, to this test, and your vocal hours will not be spent in vain.”
Legh Richmond had strong convictions about amusements for his children:
"With so many resources of innocent and improving amusement, Mr. Richmond’s children felt no regret at the prohibition which their father placed on all games of chance; on ﬁshing, hunting, dancing; the theater, oratorios, and other sources of gratiﬁcation, which he thought to be inconsistent with the spirit of religion; connected with much evil; and a preparation for it. I have heard him say, ‘Even where there is no positive evil, I think it important to draw a strong line of demarcation between the church and the world."
"People may cry, What great harm in this or in that? They may have a plausible pretext for doing what I condemn; for there is nothing, however absurd or wicked, which will lack an advocate or an argument to support it. I lay down this general rule for all occupations. Whatever has a tendency to ﬁt my children for heaven, I approve; but I must keep aloof from everything which is likely to be a snare or a temptation to them, or to indispose their minds to a serious and steady pursuit of this one great object."
He carefully remember his children’s birthdays:
"The birth-days of his children were kept with no less reference to religion, though in a more private manner. He commended them to God for his blessing and favor. He wrote each of them a letter of congratulation, usually accompanied by a present of some useful kind. The day was spent in innocent festivity, and the evening was employed in the museum. These seasons were anticipated by the children with much delight, and their recurrence contributed, in a great degree, to promote the harmony of the family, by a reciprocity of affectionate interest among its members. … The birthday was kept as usual, even when the child was absent-and whether absent or present, a letter of congratulation was written on the occasion.
Here is a sample from one of his birthday letters:
Childhood is the period when the character and habits of the future man are formed. Triﬂe not, therefore, with your childish days. Set a ﬁrm and valuable example to your younger brother-he will more or less imitate your ways and dispositions, be they better or worse. Remember! the eye of God is upon you in every place. Be where you will, you may always say, with Hagar in the wilderness, “You O God, see me.” I have of late known but little, too little, of your state of mind, and your views of things temporal and spiritual. I have had occasional uneasiness on this subject. You ought ever to be putting forth the energies of your mind in every proper and possible way. It is time that your attention should be drawn to your future station in life, whatever Providence may design it to be. Every day and every hour should bear witness to some progress and improvement in useful learning; and above all, in that knowledge which makes wise unto salvation."
Here is more from Legh Richmond
Fishing is generally deemed a harmless amusement-but I cannot allow it to be a ﬁt recreation for a Christian. What are we to think of impaling a worm, and being highly delighted while the poor creature suffers exquisite torture for our sport! If we use an artiﬁcial bait-yet is time, the precious hours of life, so valueless that we can afford to throw away half or a whole day in this triﬂing?
You can do nothing well without faith and prayer-without much anxious reading of the Holy Scriptures.
He allowed no fellowship whatever with other families, except under his own watchful eye and diligent superintendence. He even declined invitations from personal relatives whom he dearly loved, and with whom he himself kept up a friendly correspondence. It was his ﬁxed resolve to sacriﬁce all considerations of interest, and even courtesy, although he might thereby expose himself to censure and misapprehension-rather than expose his children to an inﬂuence which he feared might be injurious to them. And even when some of them were nearly grown up, he exercised the same vigilance, and regarded with suspicion every circumstance from which he apprehended possible injury.
To his wife he concluded a letter: “Nourish a contented spirit-do not mistrust God-let not your soul be disquieted within you-look kindly on providences, and hopefully on events”
To his daughter: “Beware of pride and self-conceit; of fretful tempers and discontent. Learn to quell impatience and obstinacy. Let your ﬁrst-your very ﬁrst delight be, in serving God by serving your parents. Reckon not on youth, or long life. Devote yourself to active usefulness in the family, and in the parish. Show forth the principles in which you have been educated, by a practical exhibition of them in your conduct. But who is sufﬁcient unto these things? Christ! Without him you can do nothing-no, not so much as think a good thought. But you can do all things through Christ strengthening you. He is the sufﬁciency of all his people. By faith in him you obtain power to perform duty. “By grace are you saved, and that not of yourselves; not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Could works save us, we might boast, and heaven would be full of boasters. But, no, no, no! The song of the saints is, “Not unto us, not unto us; but unto your name be all the glory!”
Further admonitions to the same daughter: “
1. Be constant in private prayer.
2. Be wise in the choice of books; shun everything of the romance and novel kind! And even in poetry, keep to what is useful and instructive.
3. In company, show that the principles of your father’s house and ministry are your rule of conduct, and your real delight. Be consistent -cheerful-but not light; conversational-but not triﬂing.
4. Keep ever in view, that you are supporting my character and credit, as well as your own.
5. Show a marked preference to such conversation, remarks, people, discussions, and occupations as may tend to spiritual good.
6. Always think before you speak; say and do neither hastily nor unadvisedly.
7. If any proposal is ever made to you, in which you hesitate how to act, ﬁrst say to yourself-How would God have me to act? Secondly-What would my parents have me to do, if they were here to advise me?
8. Never lose sight of this-that the more public my name, character, and ministry become, the more eyes and ears are turned to my children’s conduct-they are expected, in knowledge and circumspection, in religion and morals, in opinions and habits, to show where they have been educated; and to adorn, not only their own Christian profession-but their parent’s principles.
9. In music, prefer serious to light compositions; and in vocal, keep close to sacred Words.
On circumspection of walk, redemption of time, and general sincerity of character...
1. Adhere most scrupulously to Scriptural truth; and labor to preserve the strictest integrity, simplicity, and sincerity.
2. Engage in no pursuit in which you cannot look up unto God, and say, ‘Bless me in this, my Father!’
3. Strive to be as kind, forbearing, and forgiving as you can, both to friends and foes.
4. Never speak evil of anyone.
5. Strive to recommend true religion by the courtesy, civility, and humble character of your conduct.
6. Watch against irritation, pride, unkind speaking, and anger-study and promote love.
7. Mortify all lusts, sensuality and sloth.
8. Never speak well of yourself. Keep down pride; let it not be indulged for a moment-but watch against it.
9. Shut out evil imaginations and angry thoughts.
10. Let it be your sole business here to prepare for eternity. Consider every moment of time in that view.
11. Remember that you have to contend with a legion of devils; a heart full of deceit and iniquity; and a world at enmity with God.
12. Pray that you may ever rejoice in the advancement of Christ’s kingdom; and the salvation of sinners; and labor in every way to promote these objects.
13. Prayer is the only weapon which can subdue your corruptions, and keep you in close fellowship with God. Cultivate prayer.