A Child's Accountability
Proverbs 20:11
Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.

The Bible recovers lost truths, as well as lost souls. The recovery of lost truth is one means of restoring lost souls. It is like a guide in a wilderness, as food in famine, as light in darkness: it is the restoration of that which is useful and essential. The truth of this passage is a lost truth. That human beings are early accountable, and early assume a decided character, is evident to reflection and observation. Apart from the teaching of Scripture, it is a lost truth that a "child is known by his doings." "Child" means a son or daughter under parental control.

I. THE ACTIONS OF CHILDREN BECOME, IN PROCESS OF TIME, THEIR OWN DOINGS. Children move before they act, and they live as mere animals before they act spiritually and morally. In process of time the child acts. All its movements become conduct, the result of a determination to behave itself in a particular way.

1. An act which we are justified in describing as right or wrong, and which we can lawfully call the act of an accountable individual, must be performed by a being endowed with the following capacities: He must be able to conceive the act before its performance, mentally to see the thing done before doing it. He must be capable of appreciating motives for and against the action. He must know good and evil. He must have the power of saying, "I will," and "I will not." The "doings" of an individual are those acts which he rationally and intentionally performs.

2. A child, in course of a few years, exhibits the capabilities of which we speak.

3. Then it is, whether it comes early or late, that the actions of a child are his "doings." He now performs the functions of a rational creature.


1. God recognises the child as the author of its own actions: He sees the doings of the child spring from a motive and principle within. He now holds the child guilty for its transgressions of His law. The child is now exposed to punishment; and to escape punishment, a dispensation of mercy to that individual child is necessary. God's treatment of the child recognises the child's doings.

2. The god of evil knows, by the doings of children, with whom and with what he has to do. He cannot, as God, search the heart, but he can observe the principles, tastes, and inclinations. He studies the child's nature that he may know best how to injure it.

3. The angelic inhabitants of heaven recognise children in their ministrations. A child who is an heir of salvation is known to the angels — they minister to him, performing offices of kindness and services of charity, ordained by the God of love.

4. Children are recognised as accountable by their fellow human beings. Children are known to other children, and known to men.


1. The evils of sin are not escaped by the childhood of the sinner. God does not hold him guiltless because he is a child. But the Supreme Lawgiver does not account the child a man. Sin brings darkness into a child's mind, and disquiet into a child's heart, and gloom over a child's spirit. There are wages paid now, and paid in the spiritual condition of the early sinner, and those wages are death.

2. As a child, he is exerting influence for good or for evil. The measure of the influence is not so considerable as in the case of the adult, but there is influence.

3. All the differences of human character are not traceable to education. Some of these differences may be thus explained, but not all, and not the greatest. The earliest doings of a child do not make manifest his education, but himself.

4. The character of the future man is often indicated by the character of the present child. If the earliest actions of children be observed, they will indicate the character which the child so constituted will form.

5. God does not treat a generation of children en masse, but individually. There is a personality about every child.

6. If a child be known by his doings, one test of character is universally employed by the Judge of all. The decisions of the final judgment are according to that a man hath done, whether good or bad. The child and the man are under one Lawgiver.

(E. Martin.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.

WEB: Even a child makes himself known by his doings, whether his work is pure, and whether it is right.

Short Weights and Measures
Top of Page
Top of Page