You indulge your child and do not correct him; you permit selfishness, and envy, and anger to encrust themselves, by successive layers, thicker and thicker on his character: you beseech him not to be naughty, but never enforce your injunction by a firm application of the rod; and you think the fault, if it be a fault, is a very trivial one: perhaps you appropriate to yourself a measure of blame for loving your child too much. Nay brother; be not deceived; call things by their right names. Beware of the woe denounced against those who call evil good. You do not love, you hate your child.
Sparing the rod is the specific act, or habit, which is charged against the parent, as being equivalent to hating his son. The child begins to act the tyrant: he is cruel where he has power and sulky where he has not: he is rude, overbearing, untruthful. These and kindred vices are distinctly forming on his life, and growing with his growth. The matter is reported to the father, and the same things are done in his presence. He tells the child to do better, and dismisses him with caresses. This process is frequently repeated. The child discovers that he can transgress with impunity. The father threatens sometimes, but punishes never. The child grows rapidly worse. By the certainty of escaping, acting in concert with a corrupt nature, the habit of intentional evil-doing is formed and confirmed. All the while the father takes and gets the credit of being, if not a very wise, at least a very loving parent. No; it is mere prostitution of that hallowed name to apply it to such ignoble selfishness. Love, though very soft, is also very strong. It will not give way before slight obstacles. To sacrifice self is of its very essence. If it be in you, it will quickly make your own ease give way for the good of its object. When a father gives the child all his own way, yielding more the more he frets, until the child finds out that he can get anything by imperiously demanding it, he yields not from love to his child, but from loathsome love of ease to himself. It is a low animal laziness that will not allow its own oily surface to be ruffled even to save a son. If there were real love, it would be strong enough to endure the pain of refusing to comply with improper demands, and chastening for intentional or persistent wrong-doing. Parents who are in the habit of giving their children what they ask, and permitting them to disobey without chastisement, may read their own character in this verse of Scripture. Such a father “hateth his son” that is the word. To call it love is one of Satan’s lies. It is unmingled selfishness. The man who gravely tells his child what is wrong, and, if the wrong is repeated, sternly chastens him,--that man really loves his child, and sacrifices his own ease for the child's highest good. It is enough to break one's heart to think how many young people are thrown off the rails at some unexpected turn of life by the momentum of their own impetuousness, for want of a father's firm hand to apply in time the necessary break. We need a manful, hardy love--a love that will bear and do to the uttermost for all the interests of its objects.
Let it be remembered here, however, that every blow dealt by a father's hand is not parental chastening. To strike right and left against children, merely because you are angry and they are weak, is brutish in its character and mischievous in its effect. A big dog bites a little one who offends him: what do ye more than they? Never once should a hand be laid upon a child in the hasty impulse of anger.
When a father puts forth his strength to hold the struggling victim, and applies the rod, although every stroke thrills [quivers] through his own heart, this is love such as God commands and approves. Our Father in heaven chastens the children whom He loves, and does not spare for their crying. Genuine parental love on earth is an imitation of His own.