Train up a child in the way he should go - The Hebrew of this clause is curious: דרכו פי על לנער חנך chanoch lannaar al pi darco , "Initiate the child at the opening (the mouth) of his path." When he comes to the opening of the way of life, being able to walk alone, and to choose; stop at this entrance, and begin a series of instructions, how he is to conduct himself in every step he takes. Show him the duties, the dangers, and the blessings of the path; give him directions how to perform the duties, how to escape the dangers, and how to secure the blessings, which all lie before him. Fix these on his mind by daily inculcation, till their impression is become indelible; then lead him to practice by slow and almost imperceptible degrees, till each indelible impression becomes a strongly radicated habit. Beg incessantly the blessing of God on all this teaching and discipline; and then you have obeyed the injunction of the wisest of men. Nor is there any likelihood that such impressions shall ever be effaced, or that such habits shall ever be destroyed.
חנך chanac , which we translate train up or initiate, signifies also dedicate; and is often used for the consecrating any thing, house, or person, to the service of God. Dedicate, therefore, in the first instance, your child to God; and nurse, teach, and discipline him as God's child, whom he has intrusted to your care. These things observed, and illustrated by your own conduct, the child (you have God's word for it) will never depart from the path of life. Coverdale translates the passage thus: "Yf thou teachest a childe what waye he shoulde go, he shall not leave it when he is olde." Coverdale's Bible, for generally giving the true sense of a passage, and in elegant language for the time, has no equal in any of the translations which have followed since. Horace's maxim is nearly like that of Solomon: -
Fingit equum tenera docilem cervice magister
Ire viam, quam monstrat eques; venaticus, ex quo
Tempore cervinam pellem latravit in aula,
Militat in sylvis catulus. Nunc adbibe puro
Pectore verba, puer; nunc te melioribus ofter.
Quo semel est imbuta recens, servabit odorem