When a baby is born, the parents are responsible for training the child to accept the gift of salvation provided by Christ. “Human infants are the most perfect, and yet the most helpless, of all the Creator’s handiwork.”¹ But there is a diabolical angel standing by, who will work with all his might to draw the child away from accepting the gift.
At birth, the little one’s appetite and emotions are well developed, and on these the devil will work to teach the child his ways. “With his manifold devices Satan begins to work with their tempers and their wills as soon as they are born.”²
The newborn also has a conscience, the ability to reason, and a will, but at birth these are not fully developed. It is the responsibility of the parents to be those higher powers for the child. If they do not fulfill this role, the baby will learn that his lower passions must always be satisfied. Satan will play on his undeveloped will to insist on satisfying self. As he grows, he will even reason this to be his right.
Christian parents will say ‘No’ to a child who cries for food when it is not appropriate. They will say ‘No’ when there is a striving for attention at a time to sleep. Certainly there may be reasons for the disturbance, but after this is checked out, the child must be taught to surrender. “From babyhood she (the mother) is to discipline them to self-restraint and self-denial…” ³ Indulgence of even little infants teaches them to believe their desires should always be granted, as self, through the ‘lower passions’, will rule.
“Children who have never learned to obey will have weak, impulsive characters. They seek to rule, but have not learned to submit. They are without moral strength to restrain their wayward tempers, to correct their wrong habits, or to subdue their uncontrolled wills. The blunders of untrained, undisciplined childhood become the inheritance of manhood and womanhood.”4
A child must be taught to love, to be patient, kind and generous. Babies brought up in orphanages where there is no affection, are unable to show affection in adult life. A baby who smiles is responding to love shown by the parents. “If children are not taught to love, respect, and to obey their parents in the fear of the Lord, how can they be led to love God?” 5
Newborn babies are totally innocent of personal guilt and their heavenly record will show a blank page. It will remain blank until they personally break the law of the parents. At what age this takes place, only God knows.
Even very small babies can reveal angry and impatient traits when they are crossed. It is a limited understanding, but there is a personal decision. This has been tested many times, and found that a very small baby can decide for his own well-being or entertainment to accept or reject an enticement. Of course, the brain would be operating only on a biological level based on repetition, much like training an animal, but decisions are being made. Understanding this fact reveals the importance of parents training their children to choose character traits that uplift and prepare them for living a Christian life, right from the beginning.
In fact, the training must begin with the parents from conception, as character traits will be revealed in the child at birth. One man with a violent temper said he was born angry, and this is confirmed by Ellen White. “If before the birth of her child she (the mother) is self-indulgent, if she is selfish, impatient, and exacting, these traits will be reflected in the disposition of the child.” 6
“The thoughts and feelings of the mother will have a powerful influence upon the legacy she gives her child. If she allows her mind to dwell upon her own feelings, if she indulges in selfishness, if she is peevish and exacting, the disposition of her child will testify to the fact. Thus many have received as a birthright almost unconquerable tendencies to evil.
“The enemy of souls understands this matter much better than do many parents. He will bring his temptations to bear upon the mother, knowing that if she does not resist him, he can through her affect her child.” 7 “Many children are born with the animal passions largely in the ascendency, while the moral and intellectual are but feebly developed.” 8
The reverse is also true, for it says further, “But if the mother unswervingly adheres to right principles, if she is temperate and self-denying, if she is kind, gentle, and unselfish, she may give her child these same precious traits of character.” 9
What a blessing for both mother and child, and how much easier the child’s training.
Parents adopting children have at times found bad attitudes and sinful traits displayed in the child at a very early age. The little one has come into life with sinful tendencies already active, and it will be strong Christian parents who are able – with the blessing of God – to lead the child off the devil’s ground. Few of us have been brought up in perfect environments, and we all have trials that could have been averted if we had been trained to surrender as a baby.
Genetic defects can cause weaknesses in health and addictions that bring great trials very early. Life can be even more difficult when we consider that our parents and grandparents passed on mutations that may have been a trial for us. We pass these weaknesses to our children, even if we keep the very best of physical and spiritual health.
All this the devil understands, and he is watching for his opportunity to train the child to follow his ways.
“Children who have not experienced the cleansing power of Jesus are the lawful prey of the enemy, and the evil angels have easy access to them… By the faithful and untiring efforts of the parents, and the blessing and grace bestowed upon the children in response to the prayers of the parents, the power of the evil angels may be broken and a sanctifying influence shed upon the children. Thus the powers of darkness will be driven back.” 10
To be born ‘in Adam’ is to be born into a race that has been ruined by sin. Heaven is not a natural right, and every child is a potential soldier in the devil’s army. Although Jesus has provided the way back, there is a battle for the soul, in which neither Jesus or the devil will give in.
Every human being is born with a spiritual ‘disease’ called the “law of sin”. 11 This makes us ‘sinners’ at birth, not because we have personally sinned, but because we are descendants of Adam. 12 We are born without any spiritual life. There is no personal record of sin marked against our name, but it is recognized by Heaven that we are part of a race that has inherited the ‘disease of sin’, and thus all are barred from the heavenly home.
To be born of Adam is not punishable. There can be no eternal life, but it does not include punishment by the fires of the second death; babies who cannot be saved just cease to exist when they die the first death. 13 Only personal disobedience to the Law of God (or a young child disobeying its parents) brings accountability and punishment. Without the new birth experience, all practicing sinners will be punished according to their works.
Being descendants of Adam with the ‘disease of sin’, we cannot overcome the enemy. The natural heart is at enmity with God, and we cannot change it. 14 Our hearts are evil “and desperately wicked”. 15 “In our own strength it is impossible for us to deny the clamors of our fallen nature.” 16 If children “have not been brought up in the fear of the Lord; if they have no knowledge of Christ, no connection with heaven, they will have no moral power…” 17 “Humanity has no power to regenerate itself. It does not tend upward, toward the divine, but downward, toward the satanic..” 18
Although Jesus has provided salvation, God did not immediately change man to make him inherently good and spiritual. No. Man is still born with a powerful and deadly spiritual ‘disease’. “Human nature is depraved, and is justly condemned by a holy God.” 19 No one is exempt. “All have the same sinful nature.” 20
After seeing Adam and Eve succumb to his sophistries, Satan thought he would have an easy time setting up his kingdom on earth, but when he heard the first gospel promise, he knew his work would be hindered. 21 Not only would the Seed of the woman crush his head at some time in the future, but every human being would by some means (a mystery to him) be influenced by God. Those who surrender to that influence would be at enmity with Satan. He must be diligent and begin his work right from the very beginning of life, to make converts for his kingdom. It was either conquer or be conquered.
Jesus came to this earth to gain the victory where Adam had failed and having gained the victory, He is able to offer to every member of the human family a most precious gift — a gift purchased by His sinless life, and sealed with His death upon the cross. By this gift men can be uplifted from the ruin and degradation of sin to become children of God, a completely new life – “reclaimed, regenerated, and restored to the image of God.” 22
Although the ‘law of sin’ remains, the gift provides a powerful antidote that puts the offensive and sinful nature in remission.
But the baby is not able to personally accept the gift, so the responsibility lies with the parents. If they are dedicated Christians, the blood will cover the little one. The child is safe, but not beyond the devil’s temptations. It is the same for the parents and the rest of the family; they are protected by Christ, so long as they remain surrendered to Jesus and obedient to His commandments.
“Parents have a more serious charge than they imagine. The inheritance of children is that of sin. Sin has separated them from God. Jesus gave His life that He might unite the broken links to God. As related to the first Adam, men receive from him nothing but guilt and the sentence of death.” 23
Parents must continue to train the child to submit to their authority because they are the voice of God to their little one. Failing to train a child is to allow the devil to train him for his evil purposes. But Jesus will not give him up, even when he leaves the protection of the Christian home. He may get into drugs, alcohol, smoking and a licentious life, but the Saviour will follow behind, drawing him to himself. So it is for all who have gone from Christian homes. Some will return, but not all.
1. 2 SM 466.
2. Adventist Home 202.
3. AH 236.
4. Child Guidance 274.
5. Special Testimonies Education 69.
6. Ministry of Healing 372.
7. Adventist Home 241.
8. Solemn Appeal 179.
9. AH 241.
10. Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students 118.
11. Romans 7:17.23.
12. Romans 5:17-19.
13. EW 276. This is the principle for this understanding.
14. Steps to Christ 20. Job 14:4. Rom 8:7.8. Jer 17:9. F&W 64.
15. Jeremiah 17:9.
16. DA 122.
17. Child Guidance 491.
18. Courage for the Crisis 25.
19. Review & Herald Sep 17. 1895. John 3:18.
20. Heavenly Places 292.
21. Gen 3:15. SpTB02 6.2. DA 115.6.
22. 5Testimonies 739. ST.
23. Child Guidance 476.