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Book Review

The Duties of Parents - by Ryle, J.C.

3rd ed. Mohawk, TN: Triangle Press, 1996. 38pp.
Nelly Feldi, wife of TMS student Matthew Feldi

In The Duties of Parents, J.C. Ryle brings together many Scriptures and biblical principles related to parenting and explains them so clearly that the reader is compelled to strive to honor the Lord’s commands. I first heard about this book at a baby shower several years ago. A mom of older children recommended it and commented on the many things she had learned from it. I promptly purchased it, and was immediately impressed with its depth and faithfulness to Scripture. The God-given privilege and duty of parents is formidable--impossible to attain to, in fact, without the Holy Spirit’s illumination of Scripture and provision of power to obey it. Ryle explains, first, the necessity of training our children in God’s ways and not leaving them to follow their own nature. He writes, “Obedience is the only reality. It is faith visible, faith acting, and faith incarnate” (19). Next, he reminds us of our responsibility to train our children with “tenderness, affection, and patience … woo[ing] with kindness, if their attention is ever to be won” (4). He writes that “love should be the silver thread that runs through all [our] conduct” (4).

What challenging words these are, but how they remind us of our Heavenly Father’s conduct towards us! “For the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8). Ryle goes on to point out the need to train our children in the knowledge of and adherence to God’s Word, in developing the habit of turning to God in prayer, and in other godly habits. He reminds us of the power of our own example, “Strive, rather, to be a living epistle of Christ, such as your families can read, and that plainly too” (31). This short booklet concludes with the reminder that the success of all of our efforts in these areas depends on the Lord’s blessing, which is to constantly be sought in prayer, “Water, therefore, the seed you sow on their minds with unceasing prayer. The Lord is far more willing to hear than we to pray; far more willing to give blessings than we to ask for them” (35).

I don’t imagine that I will ever cease to benefit from the reading and re-reading of this book because I will never master the duties it outlines. Its thirty-eight pages are almost poetic in the way in which each sentence is packed with rich Biblical truth. Every time I read it, I feel as if it’s the first time. May the Lord use this book to instruct, encourage, and convict you as it has me.

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