“Make confession unto the Lord God of your fathers.”
Public confession of your faith must take place between your baptism and your approach to the holy supper. That confession is a unique and important event because it represents the time when you rise in the assembly of believers and publicly assert that you desire to be one of them. It is also true that in that sense public confession is entirely necessary and perfectly appropriate. It is an event in your life, and is an important one. But that event should by no means suggest that it is your first confession, or that it is to be your last.
Have you ever heard the expressions: “I will make my confession next year,” or, “I made my confession three years ago”? Such statements ought not to be made. They betray an improper attitude, for they suggest that public confession is a milestone which, once it has been passed, can conveniently be forgotten. They are expressions that seem to imply that the young man or woman who has not yet committed himself to the event of public confession cannot yet be held responsible for the moral implications involved in that event. They suggest also that he who has “made his confession” is there by absolved of all responsibility in the matter.
That attitude is quite wrong. Confession is a lifelong matter. Responsibility for it begins early and never ceases. One’s confession should be actively expressed each time one observes that Satan’s voice and strength and machinations are being employed against that Savior.
Indeed, confession begins early. It comes to expression in the schoolboy who hears his Jesus insulted by one of his associates. He objects to the insult. He simply refuses to be told such things. His fellows tease him and mock him, but even though he is buffeted and beaten, he perseveres in his confession. Such occasions are presented to children—in school, on the streets, at their games—and they should rise to them. Baptized children must be Jesus’ children, and must be indignant when any disparage the Savior they love. Confession begins as early as that, and those early confessions sometimes cost more of sacrifice and of tears than does the public confession in the church.
Unfortunately there are also indifferent children. There are children who are incapable of a righteous indignation. There is also that other, most unbearable type—those who always want to be teaching others, and who frequently do so by means of big words they themselves do not comprehend. Such practices represent no true confession, naturally, but only arrogance and pride. If these young Pharisees could, they would parade through the streets wearing their minister’s wing collar and white necktie. We are not rising to the defense of these.
But the truth remains that a young child should be filled with childlike zeal for Jesus; he should bow before Jesus’ name; he should foster reverence and respect in his heart for his Savior. Knowing that he belongs to Jesus, he may not be passive and indifferent when he hears his fellows reproach his Master. A good child allows no one to say anything disparaging about his own father or mother. And every child can and must know that Jesus said: “He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me.” Vaunted pedantry becomes no child, but love and ardor and zeal for Immanuel do. He must rise to defend the honor of his Jesus, and he must do it with an unwavering voice, with a flush of indignation of his cheeks, and with a sparkle in his eye. That is the true and natural way in which a baptized child confesses his Lord.
Fathers and mothers must augment that kind of confession in their children. None can be as loyal as a child, none as heroic, none as susceptible to indignation. Unfortunately all parents do not observe that, and do not assist their children in a constant confessing. Father, well, he once “made his confession.” And mother “attends communion,” but for the rest, she seems to take Jesus for granted.
If that is your attitude, parents, how will your child ever learn to confess? You know he must be encouraged to persist in making his confession constant. You know how hard it is for him to do that. Nothing hurts a child quite as much as to be laughed at by his fellows. There is quick justice in the world of children. They make their verdicts, pass sentences, and enforce them. Sometimes they enforce them by teasing, sometimes by vexing, and sometimes by coming directly to blows.
Your child needs encouragement. Stop to appreciate his situation. He leaves home to make contact with the world, and does so with the sure conviction that Jesus is supreme always and everywhere. Then he learns it is exactly because of his conviction that he is to be called into court by his fellows. That awareness shocks him and fills him with fear and temerity. If in that crisis you fail to sustain him by your love and your prayers, it is most likely that when he next hears his Jesus insulted, he will be less courageous in rallying to the defense. Later he will say nothing, and finally he will join with his comrades in laughing at some other boy.
Hence parents and teacher have a weighty responsibility in this matter. It would be quite appropriate if catechism classes and sermons were made more emphatically encouraging to young confessors. Do not forget that courage is a singular quality. Once it has gone, it seldom returns. Yet it is a noble quality of the soul, and without it there can be no true confession.
Here is a young man who has become twenty years of age. He has never risen to defend his Lord, has never by his actions testified for him, and has never sacrificed for Jesus. Now, having almost attained the legal age of maturity, he is accepted by his pastor, and he says yes before the congregation. He has “made his confession.” But who would dare to call that a confession what obviously was a mere formal observance of a custom! No heroic courage entered into it, unless it was the courage to defy the embarrassment of rising before so large a group of people. And of genuine ardor, of heartfelt zeal, there was nothing at all.
Indeed, no ever truly confessed whose experience as a child and as a youth was not characterized by frequent confessions of his Lord. He must have been previously mocked, despised, blasphemed, beaten, perhaps. He must have persevered courageously in spite of these, being motivated solely by his love for and his loyalty to Jesus. His public confession then represents a public expression of what he has long fostered in his heart. This is the true confessions of every young man and of every young woman. A young woman too, although manifesting it less drastically than a young man, should be full of courage, of loyalty, and of love, and should never allow herself to deny her Jesus.
It is to be regretted that many parents do not fully appreciate the fact that their children should be constantly confessing their Savior. Such parents have their children baptized and accepted by the church. They send them to school, to catechism classes, and to church. But they fail to appreciate that their children should be educated to become heroes and heroines of Jesus, and that unless they become such, their confession will be merely formal and illusory. These parents fail to respond to Ezra’s dictum to Israel: “Now therefore make confession unto the Lord God of your fathers, and do his pleasure; and separate yourselves from the people of the land.”
Parents who fail to respond to that plea do not appreciate the fact that the service of the Lord involves a holy warfare, and that new recruits must constantly be trained and qualified for that conflict. Yet that is the situation. After paradise God put enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. That combat continues from one generation to another. One generation passes away, and another rises in its place, but the holy war for the Son of God against his enemy must be fought from epoch to epoch.
For that reason, parents, the fact that you yourselves, as loyal servants, are fighting in that conflict does not suffice. You must also prepare your children for combat, must fit them out in suitable armor, must drill them, and, above all, you must inspire in them an unwavering loyalty to the Lord’s banner and an unquenchable ardor for his holy name.
You say your child does not oppose the kingdom. But that is not enough. True confessing demands a positive attitude. He accompanies you in battle, does he? But he must take the initiative. That fact that he imitates your words and actions does not prove his personal valor. Remember that even a child, though he is but one in a world of others, must be the voice of one crying in the wilderness.
How foolish it is then to say to yourself, “I think my child will make his confession when he reaches maturity.” Confession is a daily matter. It should come to expression as frequently as your child meets other children and other people. He confesses or he fails to confess as often as he is among “the people of the land.” We know that these people shrug their shoulders when Jesus’ name is mentioned.
The name of the Lord must be praised from generation to generation. The Lord’s praises must be voiced by the seed of the church, and must be sung by the children who have been baptized in his name. Hence you may not permit your child to grow accustomed to indifference or to passiveness, but must teach him to sing his Savior’s praise and to rise to his Lord’s defense at every occasion. He must be always confessing if ever his public confession is to be genuine and true. That only makes confession a sincere and heartfelt matter.