Then the little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them; and the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
I. THE MOTHERS. The word "then," with which the paragraph opens, is deeply significant, because it closely connects this paragraph with that which precedes. Jesus had been vindicating the sanctity of marriage. The degenerate Jews bad come to regard the subject too much, if not exclusively, in regard to the relations of man and wife. Here we see its bearings on the great and wonderful fact of motherhood. Marriage should be protected for the sake of the children. True parents do not live chiefly for their own happiness. They live for their children. The unselfish love of motherhood is one of the most striking facts in nature. It softens the tigress when she is playing with her cubs; it gives ferocity to the hen when she is protecting her chickens. Now mothers, naturally yearning for the good of their children, can do nothing better for the little ones than to bring them to Christ, and train them for him. Yet some parents, who study the bodily health of their children with deepest solicitude, scarcely give a thought to their souls' welfare.
II. THE CHILDREN. They showed certain traits of character.
1. Obedience. The children came at their mothers' bidding. Obedience to parents is the root of obedience to God.
2. A perception of the attractiveness of Christ. Obedience would bring the children with their mothers. But more was wanted to induce them to go up to Christ and permit him to take them in his arms. There are some people who only terrify children, although they try to coax them into favour. Jesus, however, was evidently one who won children by his own gentleness, kindness, and childlikeness. Pharisees were uncomfortable in his presence, but children were quite at home.
III. THE DISCIPLES. They rebuked the mothers. Why?
1. For Christ's sake. They would not have him troubled. They wished to serve Christ, but they did not understand his mind; therefore they blundered. We must know his will and do it, if we would serve him acceptably.
2. For their own sakes. They would keep Christ to themselves. The advent of these mothers and children interrupted a discussion which was very interesting to them. But Christ preferred to turn from a subject which was distressing to him to the innocent simplicity of the little children. Further observe:
(1) Children will come to Christ if we will suffer them. It is our part to remove every hindrance from their approach to him.
(2) All children need Christ's blessing.
(3) Very young children are old enough to receive it.
IV. CHRIST. He appears as the children's Friend and the Champion of their mothers. This well known incident reveals him to us in his most winning grace.
1. Love of children. We should give the children a good place in our arrangements for Christian work, if we would please our Lord, who is their Friend.
2. Childlikeness. Jesus is drawn to the children by a natural affinity.
3. Gracious kindness. He blesses the children. This he does with personal touch, putting his hands upon them. Christ will take trouble to help and save children. - W.F.A.
Then were there brought unto Him little children.I. THEY NEED THE SAVIOUR.
1. AS children, they are within the covenant and provisions of grace.
2. They are naturally blind and dark.
3. Nor let us forget that they are guilty.
4. They need, therefore, to be led to Jesus as penitent sinners for forgiveness and peace. They need a guide, a shield, a true friend, etc.
II. THEY MAY BE BROUGHT TO HIM WHEN VERY YOUNG.
1. On this point, opinion among godly people has been very much modified since the general establishment of Sunday-schools.
2. It is a great mistake, and involves a great wrong to the child, not to insist upon his deciding and choosing Christ now, for unbelief and carnality are gaining strength.
3. There is no kind of knowledge which will find readier access to the juvenile mind, and be more easily retained there, than the knowledge of Christ.
4. How many and how marked are the examples of early piety which the Bible records.
5. The religion of children — if genuine and healthy — will differ in some respects from the religion of elderly people. Ignorant prejudice has done a world of mischief.
III. ONE OF THE FIRST DUTIES WE, AS A CHURCH, OWE THE LORD JESUS IS TO ASSIST IN BRINGING THESE CHILDREN TO HIM.
1. They are our own flesh and blood. They are our own immediate successors in the Church and the world. They are immortal. They are the object of Jesus' redeeming love; they are brought within our influence that we may be Christ's ministers to them, and their guides to Him, etc.
2. The present is the golden Opportunity. The promise is true to your children, that they also shall receive:' remission of sins," and "the gift of the Holy Ghost." Bring them to Jesus! Alas! some of you parents, masters, heads of households are not yourselves following Christ, and how can you bring your children or young people to Him? Teachers, suffer the children to come to Jesus, and hinder them not, etc.
(J. Findlay.)I. THE PRINCIPLE ON WHICH THE SUNDAY-SCHOOL SHOULD BE FOUNDED. It must be founded and carried on in Faith, in its usefulness, its worth, its importance. Faith in your schools; faith in God; in the child whom you teach; and in the Scriptures which are to be taught.
II. THE END, THE GREAT OBJECT, WHICH SHOULD BE PROPOSED AND KEPT STEADILY IN VIEW BY ITS FRIENDS. The great end is, to awaken the soul of the pupil, to bring his understanding, conscience, and heart into earnest, vigorous action on religious and moral truth, to excite and cherish in him spiritual life. The great end in religious instruction, whether in the Sunday-school or family, is, not to stamp our minds irresistibly on the young, but to stir up their own; not to make them see with our eyes, but to look inquiringly and steadily with their own; not to give them a definite amount of knowledge, but to inspire a fervent love of truth; not to form an outward regularity, but to touch inward springs; not to burden the memory, but to quicken and strengthen the power of thought;... not to tell them that God is good, but to help them to see and feel His love in all that He does within and around them. In a word, to awaken intellectual and moral life in the child.
III. WHAT IS TO BE TAUGHT IN SUNDAY SCHOOLS? The Gospels, the Gospels, these should be the text-book of Sunday Schools. There are three great views of Christianity, which pervade it throughout, and to which the mind of the learner must be continually turned.
1. The spirituality of the religion.
2. Its disinterestedness.
3. The vastness, the infinity, of its progress.
IV. How SHALL IT BE TAUGHT? Attention must be secured by moral influence. You must love the children. You must be interested yourselves in that you teach them. Be intelligible. Teach by questions. Teach graphically where you can. Lay stress on the most important things. Carry a cheerful spirit into religious teaching.
(Dr. Channing.)I. WHO WERE NOW BROUGHT TO CHRIST? Probably infants. None of them were arrived at the full exercise of reason; and some of them might be carried in the arms of their friends.
II. FOR WHAT END WERE THEY BROUGHT TO CHRIST? Probably not to be healed of sickness or weakness. It was, that He might lay His hands upon them and bless them. They had a high opinion of the piety of Jesus, and of His interest in the Divine favour.
III. THE RECEPTION JESUS GAVE THE CHILDREN. Kind and gracious.
IV. THE DECLARATION HE MADE CONCERNING THEM. "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." Christ commends in children three or four things, wherein they who are adult ought to resemble them.
1. Freedom from prejudice or openness to conviction; freedom from pride, or humility; freedom from worldly affections, or indifference to earthly things: and finally, freedom from custom of sinning, or innocence.
(Nath. Lardner.)1. The doctrine of this text may afford comfortable thoughts concerning such as die in infancy, or in very early age, before they have done good or evil.
2. It teaches us to be cautious, how we disparage the human nature, and say, that it is, in its original conception, corrupt, depraved, and defiled.
3. This history teaches us the right of young persons to be present at the worship of God, and seems to hold forth the duty of those under whose care they are, to bring them early to it.
4. We may infer that it is not below persons of the greatest eminence for wisdom and piety to show affection and tenderness for little children.
5. We hence learn, that all of us arrived to years of knowledge and understanding should see to it, that we bear a resemblance to little children. And 6, this history affords encouragement to young persons arrived to the use of reason and understanding to come to Christ, and offer up themselves to God in and through Him.
(Nath. Lardner.)1. As respects faith. Children are trustful: its trust has little to do with the intellect. Faith is not a thing of the understanding, but of the heart. When you read the Bible, do it as a little child, "My Father says thus." A child's joy is always truer than a child's sorrow.
2. A child's mind has a wonderful power of realization. They soon picture what is said to them. We should realize the invisible.
3. Little children may be angry, but their anger never lasts.
4. They are innocent and do not hurt.
5. They are, as a rule, generous with their possessions.
6. The sympathy of a child is perfect, to a tear or a smile he will respond in a moment.
7. A little child is a thing new born. We must be born again.
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)I. WHAT MOTHERS WANT FOR THEIR CHILDREN.
II. WHAT DISCIPLES SOMETIMES WANT FOR THE CHILDREN. TO run away and not be troublesome. Sometimes they would keep them away from Christ until they grow big. Whence can such a mistake arise? From such ideas as —
1. Christ is too busy with saving men to care about the children.
2. Children have not the needs which Jesus came to supply.
3. If the children get the blessing now they will lose it ere they become men.
III. WHAT JESUS WANTS FOR THE CHILDREN. To come to Him. They can trust, love, etc.
(R. Tuck, B. A.)
I. JESUS IS ATTRACTIVE TO CHILDREN. Some men and women for whom they do not care. Jesus not like these. There are others for whom children are never shy, or afraid. Jesus like these.
II. JESUS IS DEEPLY INTERESTED IN CHILDREN.
III. JESUS PRAYS FOR CHILDREN. "He put His hands on them," etc. Ancient custom. He ever liveth to make intercession for us.
IV. JESUS WISHES CHILDREN TO BE HAPPY. He blessed the children who came to Him, and He blesses you.
V. MANY CHILDREN ARE WITH JESUS IN HEAVEN.
(Alex. McAuslane, D. D.)
I. WHO SPAKE THESE WORDS, AND WHY WERE THEY SPOKEN, "Jesus said." Because He loved children and came to do them good.
II. HOW SHOULD LITTLE CHILDREN COME TO CHRIST.
1. By thought.
III. WHAT KEEPS LITTLE CHILDREN BACK FROM CHRIST, AND WHO FORBIDS THEM TO COME TO HIM. The disciples. I will point out what in yourselves keeps you back.
2. The mockeries of your playfellows.
IV. WHAT IS TO BE GAINED BY COMING TO CHRIST.
(T. J. Judkin M. A.)
1. Confidence, instead of scepticism.
2. Self-surrender, instead of distrust.
3. Truth, instead of hypocrisy.
4. Want of pretension, instead of pride.
I. By not being taught of Christ through word and example.
II. By being taught legalism; that is, "Be good, or God will not love you," instead of this: Christ (God) loves you, therefore go to Him in order to be good.
(Schaff.)1. His sympathy for and with children.
2. Our right to bring children to Him for blessing, and this before they can understand anything concerning Him or His truth.
3. That they are members of Christ's kingdom, and are so regarded by Him, and are to be so regarded by us, and this irrespective of any parental faith.
4. That such as die before they have wandered out of God's kingdom into the kingdom of Satan are certainly saved, since they are of the kingdom of heaven.
5. The incident condemns all conduct on the part of the church, the teacher, or the parent, which tends to repress, chill, or check the enthusiasm of childhood for Christ, and darken its simple faith in Him.
(Abbott.)I. A mother's love.
II. A mother's responsibility.
III. A mother's consolation.
(P. Robertson.)John Newton, of Olney, from blasphemous sailor to an earnest minister of God. It was a mother's influence which made George Washington a man of such truth, such nobleness, and such power, that he swayed the people of America as one man.
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