Even a young man is known by his actions--whether his conduct is pure and upright.
I. THE TRANSPARENCY OF CHILDHOOD. Some men are full of guile and of hypocrisy; they have acquired the power of concealing their real thought and feeling beneath their exterior, and you are never quite sure what they mean. You dare not trust them; for their words, or their demeanour, or their present action may entirely belie them. Not so the child. He means what he says. If he does not love you, he will not affect any liking for you. You will soon find from his behaviour what he thinks about men and things, about the studies in which he is occupied, about the service in which you want him to engage. And whether he is living a pure and faithful life, whether he is obedient and studious, or whether he is obstinate and idle, you will very soon discover if you try. It requires but very little penetration to read a child's spirit, to know a child's character. but the truth which is not so much on the surface respecting the knowledge we have of or from the child relates to -
II. THE PROPHECY OF CHILDHOOD. "Even a child" will give some idea of the man into whom he will one day grow. "The child is father to the man." In him are the germs of the nobility or the meanness, the courage or the cowardice, the generosity or the selfishness, the studiousness or the carelessness, the power or the weakness, that is to be witnessed later on. He that has eyes to see may read in the child before him the future - physical, mental, moral - that will be silently but certainly developed. Hence we may regard -
III. CHILDHOOD AS A STUDY. If men have found an insect, or a flower, or a seed, or a strum well worth their study, how much more is the little child! For, on the one hand, ignorant assumption may spoil a life. To conclude hastily, and therefore falsely, respecting the temper, the tastes, the capacities, the inclinations, the responsibilities, the cull)ability or praiseworthiness of the child, and to act accordingly, may lead down into error and unbelief and despair the spirit that might, by other means, have been led into the light of truth and the love of God. And, on the other hand, a conscientious and just conclusion on these most important characteristics of childhood may make a life, may save unimaginable misery, may result in an early, instead of a late, unfolding of power and beauty, may make all the difference in the history of a human soul. And only the Father of spirits can tell what that difference is. - C.
Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.
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.
II. WHEN THE ACTIONS OF CHILDREN BECOME THEIR DOINGS THE CHILDREN ARE RECOGNISED AS ACCOUNTABLE.
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.
III. FROM THESE TWO FACTS DRAW CERTAIN INFERENCES.
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.
1. There will be love to God, which will make you try to please Him, and to care for everything which belongs to your heavenly Father, His book, His house, His day.
2. There will be obedience to parents. Obedience to our parents on earth leads up naturally and pleasantly to obedience to our Father which is in heaven.
3. There will be truthfulness. Two great causes of untruthfulness are cowardice and the habit of exaggeration. Do not use overstrained expressions. Speak in a natural, straightforward, simple way.
4. There will be conscientiousness. The conscientious person will do his best, as in God's sight. He will do his work thoroughly. He will be trustworthy. You may depend upon him. No one can be a Christian unless he is conscientious in his work, and conscientious in all his dealings with others.
5. There will be two things found in you, modesty and temperance. Would you think a pert girl or a saucy boy at all like Christ? By "temperance" I mean self-control, self-restraint. Greediness, the desire to get all you can for yourself, is the opposite of it. Temperance teaches us where to stop — shows us how to keep ourselves within bounds. All these good things are fruits of the Spirit.
(G. Calthrop, M. A.)
1. Children will discover themselves. One may soon see what their temper is, and which way their inclination leads them, according as their constitution is. Children have not learned the art of dissembling and concealing their bent as grown people have.
2. Parents should observe their children, that they may discover their disposition and genius, and both manage and dispose of them accordingly, drive the nail that will go, and draw out that which goes amiss. Wisdom is herein profitable to direct.
( Matthew Henry.)
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY "DOINGS" HERE?
1. The tempers a child indulges in. These tempers are fretful, or patient, or selfish, or generous.
2. The ill habits he forms. Idle, or industrious, or careless, or careful, or dilatory, or prompt.
3. The company he keeps. The choice of companions is a very important thing.
II. WHAT MAY BE KNOWN OF A CHILD BY HIS DOINGS? You are making your fortunes now every day. The tempers you are indulging, the habits you are forming, and the company you are keeping are all helping to make them. How careful you should be to find out what is wrong in your tempers and habits, and pray to God to help you to correct it at once.
(R. Newton, D. D.)
1. We are not to be judged merely by our sayings. Many people would like to be judged that way.
2. We are not to be judged only by our appearance.
3. We can only be known by our doings. But who is it knows us thus? In this way our fellow-men know us. In this way, above all, God knows us. If we are to be doing always what we ought to do, we shall need a helper.(1) Because of our inclinations to do evil.(2) Because we have so many powerful enemies. Give the story of Telemachus and Mentor, and show that Jesus is our ever-present friend, helper, and guide.
(R. Tuck, B. A.)
(G. Calthrop, M. A.)
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