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Matt. xix. 13. Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me. THESE words were mercifully spoken, and are mercifully left for our instruction. Little children were brought to the Lord Jesus by their friends or parents, " that he should put his hands upon them, and pray ; and the disciples rebuked them." He was engaged in solemn discourse, and they did not approve the interruption. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven. As much as to say, I am come into the world to give the very thing which these parents desire : to give a blessing. Do not deprive these children of
THE DUTY OF, &C. 115 it. Partakers of Adam's sinful nature, let them also be " partakers of the divine nature." Inheritors of that ruin, under which " the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain," let them also share in that restoration which comes through " the second Adam." Let them be "renewed in knowledge, after the image" which they have lost. Born to labour and sorrow, let them also inherit that which can alleviate sorrow, and cheer the weariness of labour. Suffer little children to come unto me. They who enter into the heavenly kingdom must be such as these are now, in the time
of their innocence; and nothing can preserve them, or make them such, except my blessing. This, we may believe, must have been the mind of the compassionate Saviour, when he rebuked his disciples in these words. And thus he has left to all ages a practical proof of his will ; his perpetual will. He has still the same pity for our fallen race ; still the same desire to save those who are encompassed by outward temptation, and betrayed by inward frailty. He still invites them to come to him, and desires that they should be brought to him, that they may find rest in his word, and protection in his love. And whilst we consider this subject, with a view to fulfil his merciful desire, may He who has proi2
116 THE DUTY OF mised to be with his people, " whenever two or three are gathered together in his name," may he realise his gracious assurance, and be with us and bless us I Let us then pursue the subject opened to us in the text, and inquire, first, What it is for the young to come to Christ : next, The need for coming to Him : thirdly, The end of coming to Him. I. Jesus said, Suffer little children to come unto me. But, Lord, thou art in heaven, and we thy weak and sinful creatures are on earth ! It is long since the angels sang, " Lift up your heads, O ye gates,
and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors : and the king of glory shall come in !" True, the parents of the present day cannot bring their children to the Lord in the lowly form of man, which for our sake he vouchsafed to bear ; they cannot now behold the condescending goodness with which he took them in his arms, or laid his hands upon them. But there is a way of applying to Christ, more sure than the movement of the body. Many of the Jews had come to him by the movement of their bodies, and were standing round him at the
PROMOTI G CHRISTIA EDUCATIO . 117 very time when he said, " Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life." 1 And again, on the other hand, the Ethiopian had come to him, whom Philip baptized : had come to him when he said, " I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God ;" 2 though in the flesh he had never seen him. It is the heart, brethren, and not the body, which comes to Christ. The coming to him is the surrender of the soul to him for all that it needs : for pardon, justification, redemption, instruction ; in a word, for salvation. " I will arise, and go to my father," thought the prodigal in his extremity. ow it was the mind here which really sought this refuge. Before the body moved, the mind had gone. And thus it must be with the child ; thus we
desire it may be through the influence of early teaching and continued instruction. In our christian land, the parent does what the Jewish parents did when they brought their little children to the Lord. He offers up his child to him in the way and ordinance which he has himself appointed ; he prays that the child may be received into his flock, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. He does this with a definite object; with a clearness of view and 1 John vi. 40. "- Acts viii. '37.
118 THE DUTY OF knowledge which the Jewish parents could not have. He feels that he has imparted a corrupt nature to his children ; and that unless they be " born again, born of water and of the Spirit, they cannot enter into the kingdom of God." But there is a remedy, and he brings them to the author of that remedy, and prays that their sinfulness may be atoned for, their corruption purified, their children made " members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven." This is the beginning, but only the beginning. Painful experience teaches us how much is still required, that the child may remain a partaker of these covenanted blessings ; and, when the eyes of the understanding are opened, may come to Christ in inward feeling, as well as by outward ceremony. And, therefore, we desire that the young creatures growing up around us should be continually reminded of the covenant made for them, and of the obligations to which it binds them. We desire that as they advance in age, and are involved in the business and temptations of the world, they should understand the circumstances in which they are
placed; the dangers which encompass them, the defence which may secure them. We desire that as they enter into life, it should be said to them, " Behold,
PROMOTI G CHRISTIA EDUCATIO . 119 you go forth as lambs among wolves." Such is the nature of the world to which you belong. You have enemies on every side, seeking to devour ; but there is a good Shepherd, " who laid down his life for his flock." He is glad "to gather the lambs in his bosom, and gently lead the feeble and the young ;" if only they will " hear his voice, and follow him." He who is ready to save, is greater than he who would destroy : and none shall pluck out of his hand those who commit themselves to his care. Thus we desire that from their earliest infancy these children should be acquainted with the Redeemer ; familiarised to think of him as the Giver of heavenly things ; habituated to come to him in their minds for that which is needful to their souls, that they may be delivered from this present evil world, and attain eternal life. For, whether we speak of youth or age, this is to come to Christ : habitually to look to him for " all things that pertain to life and godliness:" to look to him for the ransom which he has paid ; to look to him for the justification which he procures ; to look to him for the wisdom which he supplies ; to look to him for the grace which he bestows; to look to him for the rules which he prescribes : naturally to look to him, as the scholar looks to his
120 THE DUTY OF master for instruction ; as the soldier looks to his general for commands ; as the child looks to his parent for support, and assistance, and encouragement, and protection, and for all that life requires. II. Why so? will any ask? Why is it thus needful ? What reason have the young for coming to a Saviour ? The strongest reason ; the most urgent need. They perish without him ; they have the sentence of death, eternal death in themselves, which he alone can set aside. My brethren, were you to see a child labou ringunder some severe disorder; daily becoming weaker, and less and less able to prevail against the inward disease ; you would not ask, What need of a physician ? ow, sin is the worst disorder ; and sin is bound up in the heart of every child. 3 Christ is the physician, who has the only remedy against sin. And therefore the child has need of Him at the earliest age. The sooner we oppose natural corruption, the better hope we have of curing it. And the longer we suffer the evil heart to rule, the more unwilling to yield will it become. Again, brethren, if you saw a child entering Prov. xxii. 1.3.
PROMOTI G CHRISTIA EDUCATIO . 121 upon a thick and tangled wilderness, through
which it was to find its way, you would not ask why that child should need a guide. ow the world is such a wilderness ; it has many wrong ways, easy to find and follow ; many temptingways, holding out to the young much pleasant fruit, which grows along the path-side : and, besides, many companions are wandering along those unsafe paths, and will persuade, if they can, others to follow them. There is but one right way leading unto life, and that " a narrow way :" do we ask, why the child should need a guide ? why the guardian of the narrow way should say, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me ? But, brethren, I trust that it is needless for me to give reasons why it is good to come to Christ. I trust that you are ready to say, like the people of Samaria to their countrywoman : " ow we believe, not for thy saying, for we have seen him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world." 4 The sheep know the value of their shepherd, who has long directed them by his voice, and fed them by his hand, and preserved them by his power. The soldiers understand the worth of their commander, who has never deserted 4 John iv. 42.
122 THE DUTY OF them in the hour of danger, never left them unsupported on their post, never led them but to victory. The mariners are sensible of their pilot's skill, who has steered them in safety through rocks on the one side and quicksands on the other, and is bringing their vessel, frail and shaken as it is, towards the haven where they would be. And so I trust that you know why others should be led to Christ,
because you have been led by him yourselves ; because you know the excellence of his pastures, and the security of his fold : because you, through him, are " more than conquerors " against all the enemies of your salvation. III. And thus I have arrived at the last of those inquiries which I proposed ; and have only to consider, thirdly, What is gained by those who come to Christ, obeying his invitation ? My brethren, there are many paths through life, but there can be only two terminations. There are the paths followed by them " that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness." The end of those paths is " indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, reserved for every soul of man that doeth evil." Then there is the path followed by them, who, " by
PROMOTI G CHRISTIA EDUCATIO . 123 patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory and honour and immortality." The termination of this path is life eternal: this path leads to the kingdom of God, prepared for the righteous from the beginning of the world, " where is fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore." And this is gained by those who come to Christ. They are withdrawn from the paths to which nature would carry them, and example would direct them, the end of which is death ; and they are conducted into the path which leads to everlastingsalvation. " He that hath the Son hath life ; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."
Look, brethren, for a moment, at these different terminations : consider the two sentences. " Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." " Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." 5 Suppose that you were hearing these different sentences pronounced ; that you were seeing the vast assembly on the left hand, " shut out from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power :" 5 Matt. xxv. 41 44.
124 THE DUTY OF whilst, on the other hand, a bright kingdom was displayed, such as " eye hath not seen, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive." What would be given at such a moment, if any of those on " the left hand," now about to inherit the consequences of their unrepented sins, could be rescued from misery, and received among " the children of light !" It is, then, impossible. The final sentence hath gone forth. " He that is unjust, let him be unjust still ; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still ; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still." 6
Here, then, is seen the gain of those who have lived in the world as disciples of Christ Jesus. That is gained, which at the last will alone be valuable ; that which is beyond price, and which then no price can attain ; no, which not even the price of Christ's own blood can purchase then, if not sought at " the accepted time," not secured in the " day of salvation." ow, then, is the season when we must provide for that, which, too late, we might desire in vain. ow, in the beginning of their days, must children 6 Rev. xxii. 11.
PROMOTI G CHRISTIA EDUCATIO . 125 be suffered to come unto Him, that he may secure them in his fold, and nurture them in safe pastures, and lead them in the way everlasting. And the way to suffer this, is to provide for it. There is no surer course by which those who possess the gifts of God, and desire to use them as faithful stewards, can benefit those who are less favoured. This blessing they who are themselves instructed can give to others who are ignorant. This, they who have been taught of God the value of the soul, can do for those who have no sense of its importance. And too often if we do not actually provide for this, we virtually forbid it. The children cannot procure instruction for themselves ; nor always their parents for them, even if they knew its value. And think of the blessed result, if God favour the effort, and the young are bred up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Such is human nature, that to be without knowledge is to be
without religion ; not to be the servant of Christ, is to be the slave of sin. And to serve sin, is to serve that cruel tyrant, the destroyer both of body and of soul. How grievous is the return he makes, the wages which he pays ! There is pain, anguish of body, ruined constitutions ; there is, still worse,
126 THE DUTY OF anguish of mind, the stings of conscience and of sorrow, ending, perhaps, in a broken heart ; there is disgrace, indigence ; there are prisons, banishment, death. It would be less, if this were all ; if death, the last consequence of sin which we actually see, were indeed the last consequence of sin. But, beyond the death of the body, " outer darkness" awaits the soul, "weeping and gnashing of teeth;" 11 the worm that dieth not, the fire that never shall be quenched." When, then, we ask you to provide the means of education, religious education, to those who would otherwise be wanting it, we ask the means of deliverance from all these. We ask that the children of corruption and the subjects of temptation maybe brought to Him, who has engaged that sin shall not " have dominion over them," neither shall " the world overcome them." 7 He will show them what is safer than sin, and better than the world. Bring them to Him, and he will show them their real state, and raise them out of it ; disclose to them the evil which is in their hearts, and cleanse them from it. Bring them to Him, who will teach them thatindustry is more cheerful than idleness, and contentment better than murmuring ; that sobrietv 7 See Rom. vi. 14. 1 John v. 4, 5.
PROMOTI G CHRISTIA EDUCATIO . 127 is happier than excess, and chastity than impurity. Bring them to Him, who shows that godliness has real charms, that profaneness is hateful and abominable ; that there is comfort in meekness and kindness, but none in malice and revenge. Bring them to Him, who shows that there is more blessing in " the peace of God," than in anything this world can give ; who can bestow on them what they can never find elsewhere, rest of soul.
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