Our Weakness our Strength. By Rev.

James Vaughan
" I am but a little child ; I know not how to go out or come in."I Kings iii. 7.

/^UR Master, at least once in His life, made it His teaching to call a little child, and to set him in the midst. And I trust that we shall be in the strictest accordance with the mind of Jesus, if we take, as our subject this morning-, the confession, " I am but a little child," and set it before you as a study and copy for the year. It was a very wise and great man who said it, and he said it at the moment when he was just succeeding to his high dignities, and was on the eve of one of the greatest works which was ever given to a man to do. But it is always the same. The weak seldom feel their weakness, nor the ignorant their folly. And show me the men who have done the real and the grand works of the world, and I will show you those who have had the deepest consciousness of inability and unworthiness. It is the Moses', the Solomons, the Jeremiahs, the John the Baptists, who always feel their nothingness. And the higher you ascend in the true scale of manhood, the more unaffected and entire is the acknowledgment, "I am but a little child; I know not how to go out or come in." And it is because I hope that this year will be one in

I04 Our Weakness our Strength. which you will not only receive but do greater things than you have ever received or done before, that I am the more anxious to lay this thought on the threshold, as the condition of all that is good, and all that is high, and all that is useful, and all that is happy, ** I am but a little child."

One only who ever lived and achieved the greatnesses of life never used those words, but even He went as near to it as the omnipotence of the immeasurable Spirit which dwelt in Him would allow, when He said, " I can of mine own self do nothing." There will be much of the "going out" and of the " coming in," before this year has run its course, to every one of us. It is a part of the liberty of the fold of Christ that they go in and out. You will have to go out, at the beginning of the year, to your duties, and to come in at the end to render your account of how you have done them. You will have to go in and out of your own room every day, to find the right access of prayer to God, and then the true egress from prayer to work. You will have often to go in and out among your own thoughts, and to make the hard scrutiny of the heart's deep chambers. You will be called every day to go out and to come in before many eyes, — the eyes that watch you, — the eyes of severe judgment and tender sympathy, — the eyes of Satanic malice and angelic love. You will have to move in your societies and your businesses in the common track, or in the rare emergence, as those to whom the honor, not of the Church only, but of Christ, is committed.

Our Weakness our Strength. 105 You will have to go forth now into some wide circle, and then to come back again into the higher responsibility of your smaller sphere. Some deep passages of life, no doubt, are even now waiting for you, in which it is of the utmost importance that you should know how to go into them, and how to come out of them well.

On the unknown field that he has to traverse before this year is over, no one can tell what will be occurrent to him ? And who knows whether that great exit and that blessed entrance may not come before this year shall have run its course, when he must go out of the shadows, and come into the realities, — ^when he must go out from the familiar scenes around him, and come into the high companies of saints and angels, and the presence of his Father, — ascending and descending that little valley which sepsirates faith from vision, and discipline from rest. And oh ! brethren, when I think what it is to "come out" and to " go in " well in all these things, and what issues are upon the stage, I do not see how any one can do other than feel his own utter incompetence, — or what other words would rise to the lips, or fit to the heart, but, " I am but a little child; I know not how to go out or come in." ow understand this, — that the way to " go out " and the way to " come in " well, is never, during the course of the year, to cease to be or to feel unequal to the task of life ; but to have always in your mind the sense of utter incompetence On such a day as this when the future presents itself with more than usual solemnity, and when the heart is awed by the hush of one of the great transitions of time, it is not so difficult to realize the disproportion of our own

io6 Our Weakness our Strength. infantine strength to the mighty undertakings that lie before us. But the real danger is, lest, as the year runs on, that feeling should pass away, and lest you should cease to remember and believe, " I am but a little child." Well would it have been for Solomon if he had always retained the feeling which he had that night at Gibeon. For in the spiritual life, we do not grow out of childhood, but into it. And if to-day, more to-morrow, — and if to-mcMTOw, more the day after, for ever and ever, — this is the only language of truth, — "I am but a little child; I know not how to go out or come in."

Seeing, then, that it is by being " a little child " that you are to do everything, it is of the utmost importance that we now consider what is that talisman of safety and that secret of success, — ^what is the summary of all Christ's teachings, what is it to be "a little child ?" First, every day, you must be bom again, that every day there may be about you something which says, " The dew of my birth is of the womb of the morning." You must have the freshness of a constant regeneration. True, you may have been bom again in your baptism. True, you may have undergone distinctly, at some particular afterperiod of your life, such a great change as was nothing less than the coming out a new creature. evertheless, it must be a constantly repeated thing. And this must be the description of the state of your soul every day of your life, — " bom again," " bom again," — bom from yesterday into to-day, — bom to feel as I never felt before, — to new affections, new enterprises, — it may be to new struggles and new sorrows, — certainly to new faith and new joys. This makes the bloom of the soul's perpetual infancy.

Our Weakness our Strength. 107 And I do not see how it can be attained excepting by a daily birth. I can fancy it almost a part of the happiness of heaven, that we shall feel for ever and ever, as one just new created. Pray for it, cultivate it, — a continuous spring-time of the soul all the year round. Get rid of the incrustations, of the conventionalities, of the routine which age, and long familiarity give, and try to see everything every moment in a novelty, — the world to you, and you to the world, — you to your duties, and your duties to you, always a thing new-bom. Closely connected with this freshness is simplicity. The great danger of religion is that it becomes too much a matter of intellect. The characteristic of a little diild is that he is ruled by his heart. He loves more than he knows; while generally, we know more than we love. Take simple thoughts of everything ; and when you have taken them, be sure that you use simple words to express them. What is beyond you, leave it. A mystery is the simplest of all simple things so long as you are content to leave it to be a mystery. And this is exactly wh^it a

child does. Why his father will do anything, or how his father will do anything, he little cares. All he knows is, ** He is my father;" and all the rest follows by a natural sequence. What have we ever gained by going further? Jesus loved me from all eternity, and He came £ind died for me, and I am forgiven, and I am at peace, and I love Him who so loved me ; He is in me, and I am in Him, and He will take care of His own work, and I will do all I can to honor, and to serve, and to love, and to please Him, till He comes. And He will come very soon. ot a day this year, but He may come that day.


io8 Our Weakness our Strength. That is a child's view. That is true philosophy. And what do I gain, I ask, if I go further ? Why does a child see so far, where, often, a man cannot ? Because a child's mind is transparent, and it is the reward of transparency to see feir. What is a child's life? It lives a little in the past, much more in the future, and very very much more again in the present. Do you the same. Your thoughts may go to the past, but exceptionally, — to the future, the far future, much oftener, for refreshment and delight, — but, as a general rule, keep in the present, — the present duty, the present trial, the present happiness. Do not dilute the present by distracting thoughts of the past or the future ; but afford to live in the present by having the past all forgiven, and the future all undertaken for. And believe that the best attitude to be prepared for whatever may be coming, is to be diligent and faithtul in whatever the present moment calls you to do. There are some things which never belong to a very little child. He does not look much into himself. Do not you look much into yourself. He is not subject to that wretched feeling of offended dignity; — neither do you.

He does not compare himself with others ; — neither do you. And whatever else childhood is or is not, its affections are pure. We pay sorely for the benefits we derive from manhood by the price of the passions of the mcui. There are many of us who would give all worlds to be able to go back to the purity of the feelings and the imaginations of our infancy. It is a beatitude upon childhood, — " Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." And therefore a little child sees more of God than a man does, because the little child is " pure in heart."

Our Weakness our Strength. 109 But above all, remember, a little child does not walk, but is carried, — does not know, but is taught, — does not think, but is thought for, — does not keep, but is kept, — does not save, but is saved, — does not stand, but is holden up. So be it with you. Copy the little child. Consent in all things to be undertaken for, — feel, " My only safe place, all the year round, is the arms of Christ." Listen well for voices that will speak to you, and trust the smile that looks down upon you. Go leaningly, go trustingly, go lovingly. And if only you will be child-like to God, God will be very God-like to you. And the less you are to yourself, the more will Christ always be to you. Here, then, this day, is your confidence and your comfort. God knows how very weak you are, and what a very difficult thing it is to lean. You are but a child, but you are a child in His family. You are a very little child, but you live in the greatnesses of the heart of the Almighty. **Go in this thy might," — your weakness, your strength. The ivy that twines round the rock is surer than the cedar which stands alone upon the mountain. Be less, less. Set the image of a very little child always before you, and ask yourself, " How would the little child do ?" At every door, confess to helplessness, and through many doors, you will go in and out quite safely. And you may, with this morning of the ew Yeair, then "go out with joy," and when it is evening, you will " come back with peace."

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