Numbers 3:15
"Register the Levites by their families and clans. You are to count every male a month old or more."
Doing God's WorkW. Clarkson Numbers 3:1-32
The Church Engaged in a Work of Moral RepairJ.S. Exell Numbers 3:1-32
The Families of Levi Get Their Several CommissionsW. Binnie Numbers 3:1-32
Church Membership of ChildrenH. Bushnell, D. D.Numbers 3:15-22
Dedication of Infants to GodBp. Babington.Numbers 3:15-22
There are various kinds of fire used in the service of God which, if not as hateful in his sight as that offered by Nadab and Abihu, are "strange." There is a fire which is appropriate and acceptable, because kindled by God; all others are "strange fire, which he commanded not" (Leviticus 10:1). E.g. -

I. ILLEGITIMATE ZEAL, as seen in every kind of persecution (see Luke 9:51-56). Yet a writer on the origin of the Inquisition quotes the passage in justification of the burning of heretics: "Lo! fire the punishment of heretics, for the Samaritans were the heretics of those times" (Prescott's 'Ferdinand and Isabella,' 1:319, n.). See Galatians 4:18. But let the zeal run in the path marked out for it by Christ towards enemies (Matthew 5:44), backsliders (Galatians 6:1), or heretics (James 5:19, 20).

II. UNAUTHORISED SERVICES; whether offered by unauthorized persons, as Korah, who yet had the true fire (chapter 16:17, 18), or Saul (1 Samuel 13:9-14), or Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26.); or by God's servants, but in ways alien to his mind (Illus., Uzzah, 1 Chronicles 13:9, 10; 1 Chronicles 15:13). Such are the "voluntary humility" and "neglecting of the body" condemned in Colossians 2:18-23, and all similar austerities. The fire God approves must be presented by accepted worshippers in an appointed way.

III. SUPERSTITIOUS DEVOTIONS. These may be presented through Christ "the way," and yet marred by ignorant fears of God, or unworthy fancies, or errors intertwined with God's truth in the many ways known to ancient or modern superstition (1 John 4:18; 1 John 5:13-15).

IV. ARTIFICIAL EMOTION. We need never dread the emotion caused by God's own truth, used in legitimate ways. Truth is like solid fuel that ought to keep up a glowing heat, whether of alarm (Acts 2:37; Acts 24:25) or of joy (Acts 2:41). But emotion excited apart from the communication of appropriate truth may be disastrous; or at best like a blaze of straw, soon leaving only blackness and ashes. All such "strange fire" tends to the injury, or even the destruction, of the offerers (John 4:24). To worship God in truth we must ourselves be "accepted in the beloved," enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and must present spiritual sacrifices kindled by his own celestial fire of love. - P.

From a month old.
: — That He taketh them from a month old is a thing of good use, and we may note it, for it notably showeth that we may destinate our children to God before they be fit for any other course of life. In the Gospel, those parents that brought little children to Christ are chronicled up for an eternal praise of them, and for an example to all parents to the end of the world. Matthew calleth them "little children." Luke calleth them "babes," even such as yet hanged upon the breast, effectually noting how soon we should bring them to Christ. Satan's envy even against these babes to be brought to Christ appeareth there, and our Saviour's unspeakable good against that malice, commanding them to be brought unto Him, and not to be hindered, taking them in His arms, putting His hands upon them, blessing them, and graciously affirming, that "of such is the kingdom of God." A natural parent wishes all good to his child, and as he is able, procureth it, even as the root spreadeth his sap to the branches without grudge or exception; and a religious parent, above all worldly good, careth for God's holy fear to be planted in his child. For the effecting whereof soon he bringeth him unto Christ, knowing that the first liquor put into a vessel is of great force ever in the same. Alas, what will the whole world profit them, were we able to give it them, ii eternally they be damned — yea, they and we both, they for not knowing Christ, and we for not bringing them to Christ. Wherefore earnest is that commandment of the Holy Ghost, "Fathers, bring up your children in instruction and information of the Lord." Abraham is registered up for this care; and whilst this Book of God remaineth it will be found written to their praise that Timothy's grandmother and mother brought him up in the knowledge of the Scripture from a child. Honour may shine and glory may glitter, but how soon covered with a cloud. Beauty much wished, but permanent with neither wishes nor wisdom whatsoever. Only the good gotten by bringing children to Christ remaineth for ever in his reward. And therefore let religious parents have a care of it, even soon, soon, remembering this place, that the Levites, appointed for His service, He would have numbered from a month old.

(Bp. Babington.)

What, then, is this infant membership? What conception can we take of it which will justify its Christian dignity? A great many persons who are very sharp at this kind of criticism appear to have never observed that creatures existing under conditions of growth allow no such terms of classification as those do which are dead and have no growth; such, for example, as stones, metals, and earths. They are certain that gold is not iron, and iron is not silver, and they suppose that they can class the growing and transitional creatures, that are separated by no absolute lines, in the same manner. They talk of colts and horses, lambs and sheep, and it possibly not once occurs to them that they can never tell when the colt becomes a horse, or the lamb a sheep; and that about the most definite thing they can say, when pressed with that question, is that the colt is potentially a horse, the lamb a sheep, even from the first, having in itself this definite futurition; and, therefore, that while horses and sheep are not all to be classed as colts and lambs, all colts and lambs may be classed as horses and sheep. And just so children are all men and women; and if there is the law of futurition in them to justify it, may be fitly classed as believing men and women. And all the sharp arguments that go to cover their membership as such in the Church with absurdity, or to turn it into derision, are just such arguments as the inventors could raise with equal point to ridicule the horsehood and sheephood of the young animals just referred to. The propriety of this membership does not lie in what those infants can or cannot believe, or do or do not believe, at some given time, as, for example, on the day of their baptism; but it lies in the covenant of promise, which makes their parents parents in the Lord; their nurture a nurture of the Lord, and so constitutes a force of futurition by which they are to grow up imperceptibly into "faithfuls among faithfuls," in Christ Jesus ..... The conception, then, of this membership is, that it is potentially a real one; that it stands, for the present, in the faith of the parents and the promise which is to them and to their children, and that on this ground they may well enough be accounted believers, just as they are accounted potentially men and women. Then, as they come forward into maturity, it is to be assumed that they will come forward into faith, being grown in the nurture of faith, and will claim for themselves the membership into which they were before inserted. Nor is this a case which has no analogies that it should be held up as a mark of derision. It is generally supposed that our common law has some basis of common sense. And yet this body of law makes every infant child a citizen; requiring, as a point of public order, the whole constabulary and even military force of the state to come to the rescue or the redress of his wrongs, when his person is seized or property invaded by conspiracy. This infant child can sue and be sued; for the Court of Chancery will appoint him a guardian, whose acts shall be the child's acts; and it shall be as if he were answerable for his own education, dress, board, entertainments, and the damages done by his servants, precisely as if he were a man acting in his own cause. Doubtless it may sound very absurdly to call him a citizen. What can he do as a citizen? He cannot vote or bear arms; he does not even know what these things mean, and yet he is a citizen. In one view he votes, bears arms, legislates, even in his cradle; for the potentiality is in him, and the state takes him up in her arms, as it were, to own him as her citizen.

(H. Bushnell, D. D.)

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