But Jesus called the children to Him and said, "Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
I. THE KINDLINESS OF JESUS CHRIST. Some kind men are not kindly. They will do a great deal for you, will give much to you, will run serious risks or even make serious sacrifices on your behalf; but they are not gracious, genial, winning. They are not approachable; you are not drawn to them; you are not inclined to address them and make friends with them; they rather repel than invite you. Such was not Jesus Christ. He was not only kind at heart, but kindly in manner and in bearing. The children of his day went freely and gladly to him. That "he was never seen to smile" is a wholly unauthorized and, we may be quite sure, an entirely false statement. Did he not take those infants into his arms with a smile upon his face? Did he not frequently, ay, constantly, smile as he looked upon innocency, upon hopefulness, upon childhood? Think of Jesus Christ as not only the kind but the kindly One, as not only the good but the gracious One, as not only the wise but the winning One. Think of him as that One to whom, if he were with us now as he was with men of old, you would be drawn with an irresistible attraction, and to whom you could, without any effort, unburden your heart. And believe that just what he was on earth he is in heaven.
II. JESUS CHRIST STILL RECEIVES US TO THE SHELTER OF HIS LOVING POWER. He took them up into his arms. The arms of the parent are the place of shelter to the child; to them in all time of danger or of distress he naturally and eagerly resorts. It is the place of strength, of defence, of succour. But youth needs more than human sympathy and help; it needs a refuge in Divine tenderness and power. It does so always; but more particularly when parental care is lost, because the parents themselves have "passed into the skies." Very seriously is this need felt when parental care is left behind, when youth or young manhood goes forth from the shelter of the home. Then how priceless is the shelter of the loving power of the Divine Friend! In that unknown "world" which lies beyond the home-life are perils that cannot be anticipated, and that are all unknown. Take care to secure the invaluable refuge of the Divine arm; for only in the protection of the all-wise Leader and almighty Friend will safety be found.
III. JESUS CHRIST STILL LAYS HIS HAND UPON US. Mark tells us (Mark 10:16) that he "put his hands upon them, and blessed them." You still sing, "I wish that his hands had been laid on my head." It is a right and becoming thought. But the laying of the hand of flesh on those children's heads may not have wrought any great spiritual change in them; they may have grown up to reject him. Of far more consequence is it that Christ should now lay the hand of his Divine power and grace upon your heart; that he should so act upon you by his Divine Spirit that your mind should be illumined, and that you understand what is the good and the wise thing to do; that your heart should be touched so that you will live to love him who is worthiest of all that is best. "His touch has still its ancient power." Yes; and more than the healing touch which gave sight to the blind and wholeness to the poor leper is that benignant power which opens the closed mind and cleanses the unholy heart.
IV. JESUS LOOKS AND WAITS FOR YOUR SUBMISSION, He says that it is you who, of all people, can most readily enter his holy kingdom. He must have your free and full consent. When he made the world, and sent the sun on its course, and gave to the sea its bounds, "he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." He compels all things in nature to do his bidding; but he asks, he invites your trust, your worship, your love. He cannot bless you as he would unless you consent to receive him as your own personal Lord and Saviour and Friend. But he assures you that this is open to you as it is not to others; the young can readily give their attention, their docility, their love, their obedience. Fewer and slighter hindrances are in your way than are in the path of those who have travelled further. Of such as you are now "is the kingdom of God." This is the golden chance of your life. - C.
Suffer little children to come unto Me.1. These children were not brought to Christ to be taught, for they were not yet capable of receiving instruction; nor could they profit by His preaching, or put any questions to Him. Those who are grown up to years of understanding, have need to be busy in getting knowledge now, that they may redeem the time they lost, through the invincible incapacities of their infancy.
2. Nor were they brought to Christ to be cured, for it does not appear that they needed it. Little children are indeed liable to many distempers, painful, mortal ones. The physicians have a book among them, "De Morbis Infantum" — on the diseases of infants. Death and its harbingers reign even over them who have not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, but these children were strong and healthful, and we do not find that anything ailed them.
3. They were brought to Christ to be blessed; so they meant when they desired that He would touch them: the sign is put for the thing signified.
I. HOW WE MUST BRING OUR LITTLE CHILDREN TO CHRIST.
1. By surrendering them to Him in Holy Baptism.
2. We must bring them to Christ, by seeking to Him for them, as those who are surrendered to Him. They are to be but once baptized, but they are to be daily prayed for, and the promise sealed to them in their baptism put in suit and pleaded with God in their behalf.(1) Be constant in praying for your children; pray for them as duly as for yourselves, as St. Paul for his friends, making mention of them always in every prayer.(2) Be particular in praying for them; pray for each particular child, as holy Job offered burnt-offerings for his sons, according to the number of them all; that you may be able to say, as Hannah, "For this child I prayed": pray for particular blessings for your children, according as you see their case requires, for that grace which you observe their natural temper (or distemper rather) calls for.
3. We must bring them to Christ, by submitting them to the disposal of His Providence. I have read of a good man, whose son being disposed of in the world, met with great affliction, which he once very feelingly complained of to his good father, who answered (according to the principle I am now upon), "Anything, child, to bring thee to heaven."
4. We must bring them to Christ, by subjecting them, as far as we can, to the government of His grace. Having laid their necks under the yoke of Christ in their baptism, we must teach them to draw in it, and use our interest in them, and authority over them, to keep them under that easy yoke, and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of our Lord Jesus.
II. HOW CHRIST WILL RECEIVE THE CHILDREN.
1. He took those children up in His arms; and so we may hope He will take up our children in the arms of. His power and providence, and of His pity and grace.
2. He put His hands upon those children.(1) If He set us and ours apart for Himself, as His own peculiar people, we may say He puts His hand upon us and ours: as the buyer lays his hand on the goods he has agreed for, they are now his own; as Jacob put his hand on the head of Joseph's sons, to signify not only his blessing them, but his adopting them, and taking them for his own, "Let my name be named upon them." This we hope Christ does for our children, when we bring them to Him; He owns them for His; and we may say they do in some degree belong to Christ, are retainers to His family.(2) If He give His Holy Spirit to us and ours, it may truly be said, He puts His hand upon us and them. The Spirit is sometimes called the finger of God, and sometimes the hand of God, so that Christ's putting His hand upon us, not only puts us into a relation to Him, but works a real change in us; lays hold on the soul for Him, and puts His image, as well as superscription, upon it. The laying on of hands was a ceremony used in conferring the Holy Ghost; and this we pray for, and hope for, from Christ, for our children, when we bring them to Him.
3. He blessed them. He was desired to pray for a blessing for them, but He did more, He commanded the blessing, blessed with authority; He pronounced them blessed, and thereby made them so; for those whom He blesseth are blessed indeed. Christ is the great High Priest, whose office it is to bless the people of God, and all theirs.
III. THE APPLICATION.
1. Let me hence address myself to children, to little children, to the lambs of the flock, to the youngest who can hear with understanding: will not you be glad to hear this, that the Lord Jesus Christ has a tender concern and affection for you; and that He has blessings in store for you, if you apply yourselves to Him, according to your capacity? Lay yourselves at Christ's feet, and He will take you up in His arms. Give yourselves to Him, and He will give Himself in His grace and comforts to you. Lie in His way, by a diligent attendance on His ordinances, and He will not pass by without putting His hand on you. And if. you value His blessings aright, and be earnest with Him for His blessings, He will bless you with the best of blessings, such as will make you eternally blessed.(1) Let us then still bring them to Him, by faith and prayer, according as their case requires.(2) Let us bring them up for Him. Let not your children rest in a mere natural religion; that is good, it is necessary, but it is not enough. You must make them sensible of their need of Christ, of. their lost and undone condition without Him; must endeavour to lead them into the mysteries of our reconciliation to God, and our redemption from sin and wrath, by a Mediator; and O that they may experimentally know Him, and the power of His resurrection! And as in other accomplishments of your children, so in the business of religion, which is their best and true accomplishment, you must, as they come to be capable, put them on to advance.
3. Let this encourage us, who are parents, concerning our children; and enable us to think of them with comfort and hope, in the midst of our cares about them. When we wish well to them, we would willingly hope well; and this is ground of. hope, that our Lord Jesus has expressed so much favour to little children.(1) This may comfort and encourage the tender careful mothers in nursing them, that they are carrying those in their arms whom Christ has taken up in His.(2) This may comfort and encourage us if our children labour under any bodily weaknesses and infirmities, if they be unhealthful and often ailing, which is an allay to our comfort in them; let this serve to balance that, If they belong to Christ, and be blessed of Him, they are blessed indeed; and nothing amiss of that kind shall be any prejudice to their blessedness, or diminution of it, but may, being sanctified, become rather a friend and furtherance to it. Many have been the wiser and better, the more humble and heavenly, for their having borne the yoke of affliction in their youth.
(De W. Talmage, D. D.)
(A. G. Thomson, D. D.)
(A. G. Thomson, D. D.)
(Bishop of Rochester.)
1. With respect to THE COMMAND in the text. Those persons may be said to fulfil it, in the first place, who afford to children a Christian example. Now, let us consider here, what features of character may be best exemplified, so as to produce a good effect. One peculiar trait in the character of our Lord Jesus Christ was His consideration of human infirmity. "We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities."
2. Not only should our instructions be religious, but eminently evangelical, in order to benefit the young. In preaching, it is found that the preaching of mere morality, however luminous and explicit, and however judiciously and powerfully enforced, produces but very little effect.
3. Remember that all human instruction needs to be frequently repeated. Even adults, whose minds are not volatile as those of children, need "line upon line, line upon line, precept upon precept, precept upon precept."
4. Allow me to call your attention, also, to another very important fact, namely, that without the influence of the Holy Spirit, no valuable effect can be produced.
II. In the text there is an allusion, also, to the character of THE ENCOURAGEMENT we may derive from the communication of such instructions: "Of such is the kingdom of God." It might, indeed, be remarked here, that there is an admirable adaptation between what is taught, and the end you wish to produce — the means are exactly united to the end proposed. But —
1. Consider how much good is produced by the influence of habit. Now, when you have to do with children, you have to do with those whose minds are susceptible; and you may be instrumental in forming their habits, and in putting them on their guard against the dangers to which they are exposed.
2. Many to whom we address ourselves on the concerns of their souls, complain of want of time and of the distracting influence of the things of the world. But when you take youthful minds into your hands, you have to do with those on whom worldly cares have no influence.
3. The things of the world produce, naturally, a kind of indurating influence. It tends to sink them down to that very situation in which the soul naturally wishes to be. And not only is there in the minds of children a tenderness of feeling for the reception of these great and important truths, but also a freshness and vigour for the exhibition of these truths, and for the exhibition of them to the greatest advantage.
(R. Treffry.)I. THE CHILDREN OF TO-DAY SHOULD COME TO JESUS BECAUSE THEY NEED JUST SUCH A TEACHER, SAVIOUR, AND FRIEND. I remember a company of blind children from an asylum waiting at the door of one of our churches for some one from within to lead them to their place. Parents and teachers can lead a child to the door of a good life, but Jesus only can lead into goodness and heaven.
II. ANOTHER REASON WHY CHILDREN, AND LITTLE CHILDREN, SHOULD COME TO JESUS IS, THAT THEY ARE NOT SO FAR FROM HIM AS THOSE WHO HAVE GROWN OLD IN SIN. Every child is born close to heaven's gate. Children's hearts have fresh affections that turn to Jesus almost as readily as climbing plants in June wind about their proper support. If those plants lie along the ground till August they can hardly be made to climb at all so late in their life.
III. ANOTHER REASON FOR CHILDREN COMING TO JESUS IS HIS SPECIAL LOVE FOR THEM.
(W. C. C. Wright.)
I. LET US NOT FORBID THEIR COMING TO HIM IN THE RITE OF BAPTISM. If this is one of the calls which Jesus makes to little children; if He says to them, by a fair interpretation of the language of this rite, "Come to Me through the consecrated waters," let us suffer them to go, and not stand in their way with our doubts, our fears, or our apathy. Let that heavenly dew be shed on the opening buds, and shed early. Say not that they are without stain, and therefore need not the purifying wave. Jesus Himself, who in a still higher sense was stainless, Jesus Himself was baptized. Say not that they do not know in what office they are participating. You know it, and feel it; and if they know it not now, they will know hereafter. If you will but reflect that it is the bringing of little children openly to Jesus, placing them in His arms, and yielding them to His blessing, you will have learned the whole reason, nature, and plan of the ordinance at once, because your heart has been your teacher. And you will gladly suffer little children to go in this way to their Friend, and never think of forbidding them.
II. Suffer them to go to Him, secondly, BY ALL THE MEANS OF A TRULY CHRISTIAN EDUCATION. Continue the intimacy which was commenced at the font. Make them acquainted with every expression of His countenance, with every grace and sweetness of His character. We forbid their going to Christ, if in any way we make them, or help them to make themselves proud, vain, revengeful, cunning, or selfish. We lead them to Christ by teaching them to know and love Him entirely, to feel the whole divinity of His lowly yet lofty virtues, to appreciate thoroughly and justly the glory of His humility, the dignity of His meekness, the heroism of His long-suffering, the harmonious perfection of His character, with which everything worldly is in necessary discord.
III. WE CAN HARDLY TEACH THEM THIS, UNLESS WE FEEL IT OURSELVES. Let us lead them, then, to Jesus, by the hand of our own example. Let us be especially cautious that our own selfish interests, bad passions, blind excesses are not placed in their way, to be stumbling. blocks to their tender feet.
IV. Lastly, IT MAY BE THAT OUR CHILDREN MUST DEPART BEFORE US ON THE UNKNOWN JOURNEY, AND WITHOUT US. We must suffer them to go to the arms of Jesus in the world of spirits. It is hard to part with them — but by the effort of an humble resignation, we must suffer them to go. It may be that the Saviour hath need of them. We may know that there also He will love them, and watch over them, and lead them; and that His love, presence, and guidance are better for them than ours.
(F. W. P. Greenwood, D. D.)Isaiah 65:23). Then shall you say, "Lord, here am I, and the children that Thou hast given me." For He is your God, and the God of your seed in an everlasting covenant. Amen.
(Written by Dr. Watts to a lady on the death of several young children.)
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