3. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
5. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o'clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.
6. There once lived, in a sequestered part of the county of Devonshire, one Mr Godfrey N______: a worthy gentleman, who, taking it into his head rather late in life that he must get married, and not being young enough or rich enough to aspire to the hand of a lady of fortune, had wedded an old flame out of mere attachment, who in her turn had taken him for the same reason. Thus two people who cannot afford to play cards for money, sometimes sit down to a quiet game for love.
8. The first ray of light which illumines the gloom, and converts into a dazzling brilliancy that obscurity in which the earlier history of the public career of the immortal P______ would appear to be involved, is derived from the perusal of the following entry in the Transactions of the P______ C___, which the editor of these papers feels the highest pleasure in laying before his readers, as a proof of the careful attention, indefatigable assiduity, and nice discrimination, with which his search among the multifarious documents confided to him has been conducted.
9. My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip.
I happened to see this the other night. John Cleese introducing an evening of comedy for Prince Charles is only mildly funny I'm afraid but about 2' 20" Michael McIntyre comes on and after a bit he is hilarious (and totally clean).
The third encouragement. He gives Salvation to us. What man, hearing that a kingdom has been left to him, will not quickly ask, where is it? and as soon as he hears, he travels there as soon as he knows. We have heard that in the Lord Jesus there is Salvation to men: run, if we cannot do this, walk; if we cannot do this, roll towards him while it is day, before the night cometh, in which no man can work; therefore, hurry. More here
C H Spurgeon
1. Husband and wife disagree on something. We mentioned this earlier. Inevitably you and your spouse are going to disagree on some aspect of your child’s upbringing. It may be something big – He wants him to go to boarding school!?? She let’s them eat in bed! What time they can come in at night. Can they watch The Simpsons? How you resolve such issues belongs to the area of marriage guidance not parenting but do be aware of the problem.
2. Children playing off mum against dad. This follows on. Your children will certainly spot differences if they are there – and exploit them if they can. They will even try ‘Dad/mam said I could’ when actually mam/dad simply said ‘ask mam/dad’ which is quite different.
3. More than one child. I remember as a young man being in people’s houses and sometimes seeing crayon marks on one of the nice books or somewhere. And I would think to myself, when I have kids that won’t happen in my house. And I still thought that when I had my first son. But then after the second or third I began to see how this sort of thing happens. While you’re busy with one child the other one is getting up to mischief. Often while you’re busy telling one off another will need attention and so things get left. I have a vivid memory too of coming home from church once when we had three little boys –they must have been 7, 4 and 3 – and there was a new hole in the ground. First, the eldest jumped in, then the second, then the third. Children copy each other – it was alright that time but sometimes it can be a problem.
4. Fast changing scene. Children especially are constantly changing. There is a big difference between a 2 year old toddler and a 10 year old boy and a 16 year old teenager. It would be madness to try treating them in the same way. At the same time technology is changing and the possibilities too. With our oldest we simply wouldn’t let him have his own hand held computer game but then at some point we were given some consoles and, for good or ill, all the boys sometimes play on the Nintendo or the Wii. Have we grown soft? Or are we just adapting to changing times? It can be a fine line but certainly we need to adapt.
5. In public and private. One other thing worth mentioning is that it is one thing to discipline children in the privacy of your home but when you are out or if you have visitors present, it is a different thing. Children often latch on to that and will take advantage sometimes, regardless of the consequences later. Again I am pointing out something to think about rather than giving answers though it should be obvious that we should aim to keep discipline as private as possible and certainly do all we can not to publicly humiliate our children. It is probably the public humiliation that drives the opposition to smacking children in the supermarket rather than a fundamental opposition to physical punishment.
6. Some closing remarks
1. See the importance of not being too idealistic or complicated. Some Christian books on bringing up children though very good can tend this way. Some books, for example, will say that when you punish a child you should always take them to the Bible and show them the command they have broken first. Now that’s is fine as an ideal but the reality is that when you are all sat down for a meal and junior makes an inappropriate wisecrack or thumps his brother you need to deal with it promptly and opening the Bible to Exodus 20 is simply not on! You do not want anything too complicated either. Some good parents run reward schemes which is fine but not if they are too complicated. My inclination would be to make all sorts of rules about what children can and can’t do on the Lord’s Day but it is probably best to have broad rules and wait until things come up.
2. Expect to make mistakes and admit them. I think that has been clear from what I have said. We are sinners and so we are bound to fail at certain points. Bad behaviour will go unpunished. Good behaviour will go unrewarded. Worse, we will praise where no praise was due and worse again punish unjustly – for which we’ll have to apologise. We will have to change our ways and ideas at times. We are not to exasperate our children but sometimes we will and for that we must seek God’s forgiveness and theirs too.
3. Be thankful for the privilege. It is a wonderful thing to be parent for all the anxiety and trouble it may be. You are shaping a human being. You are having an influence that will last all his life. We should give thanks in all things but especially be thankful to God if he has chosen you for this task.
4. Look to God for grace. We must think seriously about this matter and do what we can to get it right but in the end we are in God’s hands and rely on his grace. If anything good comes out of your family or mine it is at least as much despite us as because of us. How we need God’s grace. Remember Jesus’s words Without me you can do nothing.
Let’s begin with the warning. It is very easy to listen to a talk like this, especially if your children are still very young or not even born yet to think ‘Right. These are God’s children and the most important thing is that they should be saved and so I’m going to make sure that I so arrange things that they are bound to become Christians. We will read the Bible every day and we will keep the Lord’s Day special and not a day will go by without me praying for them.’ Now it is good to be keen to do such things, of course. I’m not saying anything against them. However, at the same time, we must continually remind ourselves that salvation is entirely from the Lord. It is a sobering thought to think that even those with the most godly parents you can imagine have nevertheless sometimes rejected the truth. We must do all we can then - but we must not think we can convert our children or make them Christians. Only God can do that. He uses means, of course, but he is sovereign in his use of those means and is not bound by them.
No doubt you can see the comfort in this. After you have been a parent for a while you are conscious of many, many mistakes and errors – some you can out right, some it is too late. Your children see you eventually at your worst. They know you like no-one else. They see your inconsistency, your hypocrisy, your poor leadership skills, your incompetence and lack of self-control. It is enough to make you want to give up some days. Now the comfort here is that children are not saved on the basis of how good we are at being parents. There is no slot machine here. This is not to make an excuse for bad parenting. It is simply reminder of the grace of God. That is our hope. If any child comes to know the Lord or turns out even halfway decent it is the grace of God. Good parenting is often a means to this but children are sinners too and sometimes even the best parenting produces nothing while even where there is quite poor parenting nevertheless the child grows up to be a good citizen and in some cases a citizen of heaven too.
4. Be prepared to discipline your child
1. Understand the biblical authority structure in the family. It is not the father at the top then the mother, then older kids with the younger ones at the bottom. Rather, both parents have equal authority over all the children and unless it is specifically given to them for a certain occasion the children have no authority over each other. Obviously in the marriage bond the wife must submit to the husband and so when big decisions about parenting are being made that may come into play but as far as the children are concerned what dad says goes and what mam says goes. We will say something about when those two disagree later.
2. Recognise the legitimacy of physical punishment. There is quite a strong movement against physical punishment at present. Where physical punishment is allowed it can be too harsh. Generally speaking, society can never get a balance so having corrected one danger it now wants to go to the other extreme and ban all physical punishment. It is quite clear from the Bible, however, that physical punishment is permissible, indeed in many cases necessary.
No detail is given – What age?, Girls and boys? With the hand or an implement? Etc. Common sense will guide us in most of these matters. Let me just say that smacking is an important tool in a parent’s toolbox. Clearly we must never smack in temper. It should be done in a judicial way.
3. Every child is an individual and it is important to remember that. In the area of discipline this is clearly so. I have one son who is not particularly bothered by a smack if he deserves it and another who will often cry if you speak sternly to him. Obviously I deal with them differently. I have no girls but I would guess that they are quite different again and need to be handled so.
4. Physical punishment is not a panacea and really only works up until the age of about 8 or 9 with most children. This leaves another 10 years or so when smacking will not be an option. Even then, however, we must work on being fair and effective and try to come up with punishments that don’t drag on indefinitely.
5. Aim to break the will not the spirit of the child. They must learn who is in charge and respect our authority but we are seeking to control them or to press them into some mould of our own making. There is a difference (hard to spot sometimes) between rebellion and high spirits.
6. Be positive and encouraging. It is so easy to forget to do this. We are so busy with correcting them that we forget to give praise when praise is due. I’m sure my children would tell me I’m very bad at this. My own mother believed that too much praise wasn’t a good thing and might make a child too cocky. I think that is wrong. I suppose constant and unwarranted praise can puff someone up but God has his ways of bringing down the proud and it is not our job to burst people’s bubbles. God does that. Encourage them all you can. Like you and me, they need it.
7. Try to pre-empt trouble. Obviously thinking ahead helps. Best to avoid trouble than to get into a confrontation. One of our members, who is a single mother, was telling me how she read in a book about the danger of giving children too many choices. She suddenly realised what she was doing wasn’t helping her son. He’d come down in the morning and she’d say what cereal do you want for breakfast? And there would be a good choice. Then Which colour cup do you want? Then what did he want in his sandwiches as she made them? Then she’d let him have a choice over which clothes he would wear and what he might do before school and so on. Then at some point he would choose to do something that she didn’t want him to do and he’d be in trouble. Yet all he was doing was making another choice. We need to think things through then.
8. Try never to shout. Some of us rarely shout and it’s not too much of temptation. Some of us often shout. With children it is almost never a good idea. It’s easy to fall into though. Try not to do it.
This has prompted calls for teachers to be given greater powers of restraint over violent and disruptive pupils. What struck me was how at the end of the article it said that schools are seeing an increasing number of parents who have simply lost control of their children. Mick Brookes of the National Association of Headteachers is quoted as saying: “Some of these children seem never to have heard the word no. It’s down to poor parenting.”
I think that increasingly people are seeing that among the many other problems we have in this country (and making its own significant contribution to others) is poor parenting. Many responsible parents would agree. However, once you say such a thing, if you are a parent, you may feel a little but nervous. Those of us who have been parents for any length of time are conscious of many failures and inadequacies and are looking for help to improve.
I myself have been a parent for over 18 years and am the father of 5 boys. I guess that may be why I've been asked to come and speak to you tonight on being a good parent. I’m also a pastor down in London so I want us to look at this subject chiefly in terms of what the Bible says – I think that in the end that is where we are going to get the best help. So I want to say a number of things tonight and then we’ll open it up for questions and I’ll do my best to answer.
1. Remember whose child it is
So whose child is it? The Bible is very clear about that. Psalm 127:3 Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. All children are God's children – they belong to him. If we are parents, we are parents because God has made us parents – either in the normal way or by means of some other providence. You can’t simply decide to be a parent. It’s in God's hands. When we think of being parents then we need to remind ourselves of what we are. We don’t own our children, they aren’t projections of our own egos, they are not ours to do with as we wish. No, they belong to God and he has appointed us, for how ever long it may be, to take care of this child or may be more than one, before him.
Being a parent then is a tremendous privilege. I often think of what a privilege it is to be involved in the lives of my boys and to be bringing them up. It is fascinating to see. At the same time it is a tremendous responsibility. I’m their father. The influence I can and do have on them, good or bad, is possibly greater than that of any other person. What potential for good or for harm there is here. What a task – to be a parent! That’s the way to think about being a parent then. It’s the privilege and responsibility of bringing up someone who, like me, will one day stand before God to be judged.
2. Be clear about what your chief aim should be
Oh yes, it would be wonderful to watch your son play soccer for Arsenal or Chelsea or rugby for England or whoever or who is a successful doctor, lawyer, architect or whatever. It would be great to have a daughter who plays the piano or violin like the best of them or who wins Wimbledon. Mind you, it would be enough for some just to have their kids alive and healthy and happily married and some lovely grandchildren to enjoy.
But in the end think about this, what really matters? This life will soon be over for you and for your children. What really matters is that they should know and serve the Lord. What good is it for anyone to gain the whole world yet lose his soul? Once we see this clearly it is bound to affect how we bring up our children. It will affect our attitude to what they do with their Sundays – to how they are educated. It will affect the whole atmosphere at home. What is my greatest ambition for my child? What an important question. Take care how you answer. It should surely be that they bring glory to God.
On Saturday I went with Rhodri to see Jan Akkerman and Gareth Pearson at Haverhill arts centre. They'd been in London on Wednesday but that's prayer meeting night and in a very short tour this was the only reasonable prospect, although I was a little cagey about using a Saturday night like that. Anyway in the end we made something of a trip of it travelling the 66 miles by way of Saffron Walden. We also took pictures of each other at Ugley and had a little look at the impressive Audley End, which is shut up at this time of the year. Saffron Walden is oozing with history and this was a good bit of reconnoitring for a future trip. It has several old buildings (Tudor, Georgian, etc) lots of antique shops and a nice market square. Everything was about to close by the time we got there and so we had a quick look around then had some chips and headed off across country and over the Essex/Suffolk border to Haverhill.
I saw someone describing Haverhill as the ugliest town in Suffolk - which is rather unfair but you can see their point. We looked for somewhere for a coffee and there wasn't really anywhere we could see so we went into a Wimpy. Rhodri had coke which was fine and I had a coffee which was not. He decided he wanted ice cream. They brought this very nice looking ice cream but it was tasteless. Rhodri was sat with his back to the counter but with a mirror in front of him. Through the mirror he could see a tub of Sainsbury's Basics ice cream. That's what they'd given him! I guess such a product is aimed at shutting little kids up but shame on Sainsbury's for producing it and on Wimpy for serving it.
The arts cnetre is actually a lovely old place inside and out and we had a great concert. Pity there weren't more there. It was good to see Graham, Gareth's dad, who I was in school with, and who goes to my home church. The Akkernutters (Leigh, Lloyd, Jim,etc) were out in force. Gareth did a nice set and talked a bit as he does. It's a shame that great talent and personality are not enough to win you fame and fortune. It was good to see Gareth again and pass on a copy of Steve Nichols' Getting the Blues which seemed appropriate. I also gave one to Jan later (plus a copy of my own book) and had a chat ranging over the happiness of sea lions, Rabindranath Tagore and the Rabbi's tunnel, etc. His own set was superb. He wandered on stage picked up his battered Lowden and said it was cold waiting upstairs so he'd decided to come down (!). He then sat (Gareth had stood) and got going. First we had what he called a medley of old Dutch carpenter songs (ie Focus stuff - beginning with bits from Eruption, unheard until then the Akkernutters told me, Le Clochard, Sylvia, Anonymus, etc). He then played two of the suites from his acoustic album and rather different version of Tranquiliser. I think it was Firenze and something else next (probably not) and then a bit of Django type stuff plus another track. He then got into a storming version of Hocus Pocus that was mesmerising. Sadly (though not surprisingly) a string broke part way in and so we never got to hear the whole thing. Instead he called Gareth up to do another number while he re-strung. They finished off with a fascinating duet playing with Michael Jackson's Billie Jean which Gareth had tackled earlier. Slightly surreal, Jan ended thanking Gareth then Graham (who's been driving Jan around - usually with his head out of the window trying to have a smoke!) then me (!) then Leigh. He would have named the whole audience if he could have - or at least the Welsh ones!
After a quick chat and some photos we headed off into the wet night and got home just outside my personal curfew looking forward to the Lord's Day.
Act of restoration
In 1648 Brooks was invited to be minister of St Margaret’s, New Fish Street Hill, but laid down uncompromising terms. He requested that the parish elders chosen under the Presbyterian system should resign and that the godly people of the parish should gather in conference to own one another’s grace and receive godly strangers, though differing in opinion, into their church.
Furthermore, he would offer communion only to members of this newly constituted church and baptise only their children. In effect, he wanted to transform this parish church into an Independent congregation. This was too much for the people and negotiations broke down.
It was not until March 1652 that, with an order from the committee for plundered ministers, he was finally settled at St Margaret’s. After the Restoration, Brooks continued to preach, first in London, then at Tower Wharf and in Moorfields, near St Margaret’s.
In 1662 he fell victim to the notorious Act of Uniformity and was ejected from his living. He continued to preach in London, however, apparently suffering little persecution. Unlike many ministers, he stayed in London during the Great Plague of 1665, faithfully tending his flock and comforting those afflicted by the Great Fire of 1666.
The lengthy treatise London’s Lamentations (Works Volume 6) is based on Isaiah 42:24, 25 and is ‘a serious discourse concerning that late fiery dispensation that turned our (once renowned) city into a ruinous heap: also the several lessons that are incumbent upon those whose houses have escaped the consuming flames’. It is ‘perhaps the most remarkable contemporary memorial’ of the event.
The fall of death
In 1672 he was licensed to preach as a Congregationalist in Lime Street under the Declaration of Indulgence, but that licence was revoked in 1676. In that same year his first wife, Martha Burgess, a godly woman whom he greatly treasured, died.
He wrote: ‘She was always best when she was most with God in a corner. She has many a whole day been pouring out her soul before God for the nation, for Zion, and the great concerns of her own soul’.
He later married a godly young woman named Patience Cartwright — she, as Grosart puts it, ‘spring-young’ and he ‘winter-old’. She proved an excellent companion in his closing years.
Brooks died on 27 September 1680 and was buried on October 1 at Bunhill Fields. In his funeral sermon John Reeve spoke of Brooks’ ‘sweet nature, great gravity, large charity, wonderful patience and strong faith’. Grosart discovered and printed his Last Will and Testament, composed six months before. It begins:
‘Death is a fall that came in by a Fall: that statute Law of Heaven “Dust thou art and to dust thou shall return” will first or last take hold of all mortals; the core of that apple that Adam ate in Paradise will choke us all round one by one; there is not one man living that shall not see death; though all men shall not meet in Heaven, nor in Hell, yet all men shall meet in the grave whither we and all a[re] going’ [spelling modernised].
Brooks’ most important legacy lies in his published writings and in this anniversary year we may want to take time to peruse one or other of his works, giving thanks to God for what remains. In Brooks own words:
‘Remember that it is not hasty reading, but serious meditation on holy and heavenly truths, which makes them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the mere touching of the flower by the bee which gathers honey, but her abiding for a time on the flower which draws out the sweet. It is not he who reads most, but he who meditates most, who will prove to be the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian’.
In 1860 James Nichol published the six volume works of the Puritan Thomas Brooks. Of all the Puritan divines Nichol reprinted, Brooks proved to be the most popular.
Thomas Brooks was probably born some time in 1608 — 400 years ago this year — and in spite of their age, these chunky volumes were republished in 1980 and remain in print (and on-line). They contain a treasure trove of what Richard Baxter called ‘affectionate practical’ writing and what a more modern writer has dubbed ‘treatises for the heart’.
Unlike some Puritans, Brooks is not difficult to read. For Spurgeon, he was ‘of all the Puritans ... the most readable, if we except John Bunyan; and if he cannot display the depth of Owen or the raciness of Adams, he leaves them far behind in excessive sweetness and sparkling beauty of metaphor’.
According to Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson, ‘He communicates profound truths in a simple manner and is appropriate reading for young people and adults. His writings exude spiritual life and power and are particularly comforting for true believers’.
In 1860 Spurgeon published a book (now available on-line) with the witty title, Smooth stones taken from ancient brooks containing around a thousand sayings gleaned from Brooks writings. Here are some examples:
‘There is no such way to attain to greater measures of grace than for a man to live up to that little grace he has’.
‘Zeal is like fire: in the chimney it is one of the best servants; but out of the chimney it is one of the worst masters. Zeal, kept by knowledge and wisdom in its proper place, is a choice servant to Christ and the saints; but zeal not bounded by wisdom and knowledge is the highway to undo all, and to make a hell for many at once’.
‘As a body without a soul, much wood without fire, or a bullet in a gun without powder, so are words in prayer without the spirit of prayer’.
Brooks was a prolific writer. Between 1652 and 1670 he produced some 16 highly popular books of Christian devotion and edification. Apples of Gold (1657) reached 17 editions by 1693. Many works were later translated into other languages.
Volume 1 of his Works begins with his famous Precious remedies against Satan’s devices. This ends with the following ten ‘helps’: Walk by the rule of God’s Word; don’t grieve the Spirit; strive for heavenly wisdom; resist Satan’s first motions; labour to be filled with the Spirit; remain humble; pursue watchfulness; retain communion with God; fight Satan by drawing strength from the Lord Jesus; and be much in prayer.
Also in Volume 1 is The mute Christian under the smarting rod on coping with suffering and the cryptic titles Apples of gold and A string of pearls which look, respectively, at youth and old age and at heaven.
Other volumes contain such excellent fare as Heaven on earth on assurance, and The privy key of heaven on prayer. Volume 4 contains no less than 58 sermons on a single text — Hebrews 12:14 (The crown and glory of Christianity, or, Holiness the only way to happiness).
But what do we know of the man himself? In short, very little. In Nichol’s edition of his works, the editor, Alexander Grosart, is forced to dwell on the lack of information about Brooks and why it has been lost.
There is no known portrait of Brooks and we know nothing of his ancestry or parentage. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) suggests he was born in Sussex, possibly Lewes. Since Brooks died in 1680 aged 72, he was born in 1607 or 1608.
The first solid date we have is a Cambridge University record stating, ‘Thomas Brooks: matriculated as pensioner of Emanuel, July 7th 1625’ — the year Charles I became King. Pensioner suggests that Brooks was well born. Emmanuel was a strongly Puritan college and he probably rubbed shoulders with men like John Milton and the prospective New Englanders Shepard, Cotton and Hooker.
When or how he was converted we do not know. After 1625 the meagre trail again disappears. It is now thought that he left university before graduation and was not ordained until around 1640. In 1652 he writes of having preached for 13 years, mostly in London, but his ministry had been an unsettled one.
A strong Puritan, Brooks always stressed that true religious knowledge must be inward, experimental, even mystical — not merely external, notional and formal. The ODNB suggests that in the spectrum of Puritan thinkers he can be placed ‘on the radical side of Independency’.
He denounced antinomians and the radical ideas of Levellers and Fifth Monarchy Men, but like Owen and Thomas Goodwin he believed strongly in the autonomy of the local church.
As an Independent during the Civil War (1642-1648) he supported the army and was close to Thomas Fairfax, Commander-in-Chief of Parliamentary forces. He almost certainly acted as a chaplain to Parliamentary commanders on land and sea.
His ministry at sea is mentioned in some of his ‘sea-devotions’. He also speaks of enduring ‘some terrible storms’ but adds, ‘I have been some years at sea and through grace I can say that I would not exchange my sea experiences for England’s riches’.
Preaching to Parliament
In 1647 and again in 1651 he signed declarations issued by Independent and Baptist churches that openly espoused the principle of rule by the godly. On 14 November 1648 he preached the funeral sermon for Colonel Thomas Rainsborough, urging army leaders ‘to side with the Saints, let the issue be what it will’.
A month later, after the purge of the Long Parliament, he preached to the Rump a sermon on Psalm 44:18 (later published as ‘God’s delight in the progress of the upright’) in which he not only justified the action but exhorted the MPs to execute ‘justice and judgement’. In 1650 he appeared before Parliament again to preach a thanksgiving sermon from Isaiah 10:6, following Cromwell’s victory at Dunbar.
Brooks was one of the Independent ministers Cromwell called to his residence in July 1652 to discuss providing godly men to preach the gospel in Ireland. In early 1655 Cromwell again asked him to be present at an interview with the Fifth Monarchy Men.
Since returning this rhyme learned as a child has risen to the surface of my mind