Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom you seek…
MALACHI III. 17.
"They shall be Mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels."
There is a legend of old time which tells us how a certain Jewish Rabbi returned to his home after a long absence. His first question was -- "Where are my boys?" for his wife had greeted him alone. Then, instead of answering her husband's question, the wife asked his advice. She told him that some years before someone had lent her something very precious, and she would know whether after fourteen years the loan became hers. The Rabbi gently reproved his wife, and assured her that the treasure thus lent could not become her own. Then the wife told him that on that very day He who had lent the treasure had returned and claimed it. "Ought I to have kept it back, or repined at restoring the loan?" she asked. The Rabbi was astonished that she could ask such a question, and again enquired anxiously for his two boys. Then the wife took him by the hand, and turning back the sheet upon the bed, showed him the two boys lying dead. "The Lord who gave hath taken. They are dead."
My brethren, we who are parents should learn to look upon our children as a precious loan from the Lord. They are God's treasures, His jewels, and He lends them to us for a little while. Now, to-day, I have to speak to you about schools, and the duty of supporting a Christian, as opposed to a mere secular education. But, first, I want to speak about another kind of education, the teaching of home. I would speak most earnestly to you mothers, because as you are the earliest, so are you the most powerful teachers of your children. It is a tremendous responsibility which God has laid upon you. He has lent you a precious jewel, an immortal soul, which will be saved or lost mainly through your influence. Well says a writer of the day, "Sometimes mothers think it hard to be shut up at home with the care of little children. But she who takes care of little children takes care of great eternities. She who takes care of a little child, takes care of an empire that knows no bounds and no dimensions. The parent who stays at home and takes care of children is doing a work boundless as God's heart." O mothers! never grow weary in well-doing, never think the children a trouble and a weariness, but a precious loan which God will ask one day to have restored. May none of you ever have to say --
"I wonder so that mothers ever fret
At little children clinging to their gown,
Or that the foot-prints, when the days are wet,
Are ever black enough to make them frown.
If I could find a little muddy boot,
Or cap, or jacket, on my chamber floor;
If I could kiss a rosy, restless foot,
And hear it patter in my house once more;
If I could mend a broken cart to-day,
To-morrow make a kite to reach the sky,
There is no woman in God's world could say
She was more blissfully content than I.
But ah! the dainty pillow next my own
Is never rumpled by a shining head;
My singing birdling from its nest is flown;
The little boy I used to kiss is dead."
My sisters, God would have you who are mothers to be nursing mothers for Heaven, your nursery, your home, the school of Christ. Let every mother here take to heart the story of Monica and Augustine. You know that the future Bishop and famous preacher was as a young man given up to all kinds of vicious courses, and refused to embrace the faith of his mother, a devoted Christian. His dissipation and impiety were a constant source of sorrow to the gentle Monica, who never ceased to pray for him. When Augustine was a student at Carthage, drinking deeply of the beautiful poisoned chalice of heathen literature, the mother's letters to her son were full of the sweet lessons of Christianity. Still Augustine persevered in the old evil way, and when he gained fame as a teacher he still disregarded the words of Monica She prayed on, but almost in despair. One night she dreamed than an angel appeared to her, and promised that where she was there her beloved Augustine should be. She told the vision to her son, who made light of it, saying, that if it meant anything, it was that she should adopt his faith. "Nay," said his mother, "it was not said to me, 'Where he is you shall be,' but, 'Where you are he shall be.'" Still the years went on, and there was no change in Augustine. Monica consulted a great Christian Bishop, who bade her persevere, since it was impossible that the child of so many tears and prayers should perish. After a while Augustine journeyed to Rome, his mother's prayers going with him. There he heard S. Ambrose preach, and his heart was touched. There was a hard struggle between the old life and the new for a time, and Monica was with Augustine in his conflict. At last she saw of the travail of her soul, and was satisfied. O mothers, pray as Monica prayed for Augustine, if you would have your children grow up as God's children set them a strong example, and pray without ceasing.
There is, in a certain country Churchyard, a grave-stone with this epitaph -- "He loved little children." Few of us could wish for a better. Sometimes a whole life is written in one sentence, it was so, no doubt, in this case. There is not, to my mind, among all the epitaphs in S. Paul's Cathedral, or Westminster Abbey, telling the praises of soldiers, heroes, statesmen, anyone to compare with the simple sentence -- "He loved little children." Now, brethren, if we love little children, we can best show our love by having them brought up as Christian children; by having them taught to love the Church of their Baptism, and to know and reverence the Bible. The question of the day is education with God or without God, a creedless School where the young may believe anything, or nothing, or a Church School where they are brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and grounded in the faith of their fathers. Perhaps there was never a time when England was in so critical a state as now, and its future depends on our children. Outside enemies are clamouring at the doors of the Church, crying, "down with it, down with it, even to the ground." The Franchise will be practically in the hands of everyone; and what will the future of the Church and the State be, when this new power is placed in the hands of those who have been brought up without any definite religious faith? The policy of the day is to shut God out of our Schools, as we have tried to shut Him out of our legislature and our commerce. We find our boys at the Public Schools, and our young men at the Universities, frequently taught by men who openly profess unbelief, and talk of the Incarnation and kindred doctrines as "beautiful myths." We find the children of our parishes brought up in creedless Schools, where all dogmatic teaching is excluded, and we may well fear lest England should drift into the utter unbelief of France.
My brethren, you may take care of your children's intellects, you may give them what is called a "good education," but I tell you no education can be good which is not based upon the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. You may educate a child to pass one of the endless examinations of the day, but we must remember that there is a great and final examination to be passed, when all earthly competitions are ended. Remember your child's soul, and educate him for Heaven.
Parallel VersesKJV: Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
WEB: "Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me; and the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, behold, he comes!" says Yahweh of Armies.