THE DIVIEESS OF CHILDHOOD.

BY H. . GRIMLEY, M.A.,
Matins, Christmas Day, 1875.
" Unto as a Child is born. "—Isaiah ix. 6.
With each returning Christmas Day our thoughts ought ever
to be fresh and bright. For they have to dwell on that
wondrous birth at Bethlehem, which is the starting-point of
a new era in the history of the world. Let me on this bright
and sunny Christmas morning present to you for your con-
templation thoughts concerning the Divine Child at Bethle-
hem which will be in accordance with ray usual teaching.
For the burthen of all I ever say to you respecting the life
of Christ is this — that it was a revelation to us of the essential
Divineness of Humanity. It was God Himself showing to
the world the truth of the divinely-uttered words as to man
being made in His own divine image. It was the divine
way of showing to men the possibility of returning to the
divine ideal of men.
But to-day it is the Divine Child not the Divine Man we
have to contemplate. And the leading thought I wish to
bring before you is this — that the Child at Bethlehem is for
us the manifestation of the Childlike that ever dwells in the
very nature of God. Just as the whole world of nature is for
us a manifestation of the very thoughts of God, and the
whole history of man's progress on earth an unfolding to us
of the will of God, so is the life of the only Man, who has
on this earth attained to human perfection the revelation to
us of the nature of God — the most complete revelation
possible for us to discern.
For us then to begin to understand the nature of God, we
The Divineness of Childhood. 237
must allow our thoughts to dwell upon the Child-life of
Him to whom we apply the prophetic words, "Unto us
a Child is bom." Our thoughts are drawn into the con-
templation of that Divine Child-life every Christmas-tide.
Our memories are stored with all the thoughts which have
been awakened within us as we at each recurring Christ-
mas have pondered upon the Child-life of our Emman-
uel. The thoughts of devout souls in the past who have
made the Infant-days of our Lord a theme for contem-
plation are treasured up for us in the hymns we sing.
From our own thoughts — from the thoughts of others which
have joined themselves to our own — can we gather the reve-
lation as to the nature of God which He designs we shall
receive from reverently pondering upon the Divine Childhood
of Jesus. It is difficult for us to progress in the knowledge
of God and of His divine nature ; it is so difficult that it is
indeed the work to which the mind must apply itself in all
its exalted moments to the end of life. Christian artists in
the middle ages tried to represent their idea of God the
Father of us all. In some of the old church windows on the
continent — ^and perhaps too in this country — you may still
see the pictured representation of the Eternal Father as an
aged man. Doubtless the old artists thought they were
justified in thus symbolising, as an assistance to the thoughts
of men, the Great God whom the Prophet Daniel speaks of
in a word-picture as the Ancient of Days ; but what the Pro-
phet saw in vision, and what presented itself to the imagina-
tion of the mediaeval artists, is but a partial view of the
Divine Father of us all, whom we are learning to know as He
is revealed to us in Christ. And we are but endeavouring
to perfect our conceptions of the Infinite Deity — of Him
whom no man hath seen in all His glory at any. time — ^when
we strive to behold Him in Christ. But it is not Christ
simply as the mature Man who is God manifest in the flesh
for us. It is Christ the Babe of Bethlehem, it is the Child
238 Tlie Divineness of Childhood.
Jesus of azareth, it is the youthful Christ growing in wis-
dom as well as in stature, and in favour with God and man,
it is Christ going about doing good among His earthly
brethren, Christ in His life of suffering, Christ in His death
of agony and shame, Christ triumphing over death and the
grave, Christ ascending in His glorified spiritual body to the
imseen heaven above us and around us, Christ dwelling
there as the Head of His Church in heaven and on earth,
Christ as the source of the Divine life of all who are united
to Him in wisdom and love, Christ as He is manifested to us
in the lives of the saintly ones whose memory is a solace to
us — whose life and death are precious in His sight, Christ as
He is manifested to us in all who are living a life of union
with Him, in all whose deeds of love, whose words of love,
whose looks of love, touch our hearts and kindle within us
divine feelings ; it is Christ thus contemplated, thus adored,
thus arousing our most rapturous devotion, who presents to
us the most perfect conception of God that on earth it is
possible for us to strive to attain to. This is the Jesus,
looking up to whom we shall see the Author and Finisher of
our faith — the Increaser and Perfecter of our spiritual
insight, of our knowledge and love of God, and of things
divine.
This Jesus we have to contemplate to-day as the Babe of
Bethlehem. And as we see Him as a Child in His mother's
arms — in the arms of her whom all generations are to call
Blessed, whom we have to look up to as highly-favoured of the
Lord — we have to dwell upon the thought that even thus He
is to us a manifestation of the nature of God — a manifesta-
tion of the Childlike as it ever dwells in the all-comprehensive
nature of the Infinite Deity. And it is well for us that each
recurring Christmas should bring us these thoughts. They
have during these latter-days of Christendom been in danger
of being erased from the tablets of the human heart Some
of our fellow Christians have given themselves up too much
The Divineness of Childhood. 239
to the contemplation of the Deity as the Stem and Terrible
One, as the Majestic and Unapproachable One, as the
Decreer of Salvation or Perdition to whomsoever He will.
Even to them I believe the yearly Christmas comes to give a
tenderness and gentleness to their conceptions of God that
are not written down in their severely sublime theology.
But the thought of the divineness of Christ, even as a Child,
has been one which has, from the earliest days of the church,
told upon the hearts and lives of Christians. The sacred-
ness of the life of a child, is a thought which has unfolded
itself to richer perfection within the circle of the Christian
Church than elsewhere. Childlike gentleness, childlike love,
childlike trust in God, childlike trust in one another, the
human heart has acquired in ever-increasing fulness since
the days when the Divine Child first revealed to it the
thought that the Childlike is the Godlike. And, my friends,
as this Christmas Day is a day on which to think our kindliest
thoughts and to say our kindliestwordsof our fellow-Christians,
with whom on this earth our tendency and danger is to be
in imperfect communion — of our fellow-christians of another
branch of the Holy Catholic Church — this I will say, that if
ever you are thrown into the society of devout and cultured
Roman Catholics, whether in this country or on the continent,
you will find as one result of their minds dwelling so much
on the thought of our Lord as a Child in His mother's arms,
on the thought of the manifestation of the childHke sweetness
and childlike lovingness of the Divine in the gentle Jesus —
you will find that they have attained to an habitual tender-
ness of demeanour, to a gentleness in word and deed, which
it is impossible to become conscious of without an awaken-
ing of Christian sympathy and love. On this day, when our
thoughts should be full of peace and goodwill to all who call
themselves Christians, it is fitting that we should recognise
what is loveable, and gentle, and divine in those whom the
240 The Divineness of Childhood.
formal divisions of Christendom cannot keep wholly severed
from us.
But not only must we aim at recognising what is childlike
and divine in all our fellow-Christians, we must do more — ^we
must aim at possessing ourselves the blessings of a childlike
disposition of soul — of a disposition childlike and therefore
divine, because the childlike exists in its fullest and sweetest
perfection in Christ Himself, who is our exemplar of all that
is divine. He Himself tells us that we can only enter into
the kingdom of heaven by approaching it with the lowliness
and tenderness of a little child — that the blessings of that
kingdom can only be received by us as little children. He
Himself was childlike all through His earthly life. He had
a childlike trust in His Father's constant care. That daily
prayer, which cannot be genuinely said by us except as little
children conscious of being in the presence of a Great Father
— that daily prayer was His prayer too. " Our Father" were
words ever on His childlike lips. He had ever the quick
sympathy of a child. He ever manifested a childlike faith
in things beyond the seen. He took into account all the
sweet grace and tenderness, the loving trustfulness, the long-
ings after a heavenliness in life, that are possible to the
human soul ; He took into account all those things that we
are inclined to think it a sign of manly knowledge of the
world to ignore as visionary and dreamlike.
O my friends, if we would give up ourselves to imitation
of the life of Christ, we must accept the lesson that Christ-
mas brings with it, and resolve to imitate His childlike
gentleness and childlike faith in the possibility of the men
and women of the world working out, • in their daily lives,
the divine promptings which are whispered within the soul
by the voice ever coming from the unseen world. This is
the Christmas message of peace and goodwill that the Christ
Child is ever bringing to us. The old legend is very true.
At Christmas time— so the old story goes that our fathers
The Divineness of Childhood. 241
and mothers in days gone by used to tell one another with
hushed breath — the Christ-Child ever wanders over the whole
earth, and whosoever will may hear His gentle voice. As
the eternal Childhood of the Divine nature became incarnate
in the Child of Bethlehem, whose birth we to-day celebrate,
so is it ever striving to become incarnate in us, — so is it
ever striving to manifest itself to us, that we may grow in
childlike innocence and childlike faith. The little children
of the world are an ever-present manifestation to us of the
gentleness which dwells in the Divine nature, and which
would not be in them if it were not in that Divine One
in whom they live and move and have their being. In
their voices which are so pleasant to us every Christmas
time — ^in their voices soft and sweet, merry and gleeful,
tender and winsome, we may hear the voice of the Christ-
Child, inspiring us with a desire to retain ever a childlike
demeanour of soul, and a childlike simplicity and lovingness.
O let us be thankful ever for the sound of children's
voices ; for the sound too of the voices of friends greeting
us on this Christmas day in tones which declare that the
childlike has not died out of the hearts of those to whom
maturity of years has come. How unnecessary and childish
must our hearty greetings seem to those who look upoii
the Christian world as a world of idealism and delusion.
Childish they are, and that is why we glory in them. We
shall never weary of the childlike heartiness of our Christmas
salutations. But as we ourselves value the sound of the
voices of our children raised in glee and pleasantry, and the
sound of the voices of our friends joyfully greeting us, let us
bethink ourselves of those who rarely hear the music of a
friendly voice, and to whom the tones of Christian sympathy
and charity will this Christmas time bring comfort to a weary
life of poverty and suffering. The poor we have always with
us. For Christ's sake, who loves the poor, let us manifest to
them our love both in words and deeds, that so they may
Q
r^2 The Dizimmiss of Ckildkoifd,
a:c zjrrt ir ±idk r".T,T 2I cEr^ tooes hxre died out of
h "Sir t:6css f:r r:£=, xad ri^si do heut is filled for tbem
wEii: crrzs* jjrre.
Rfi=«=:ber ido. =t zr^^ads. aad t*s is t5ie burthen of my
ser=>:c. trar :he 0£3clEke lomifesced to os in Christ, rnani-
fesred t. 5 z$ in ccr cr-"Kfrgr- EsinrVsad to us in the sweet-
ness 2r>f rr-'-Tz graces of ibe Ihies of Chiisdans, — that this
Dh-be Cii£Icli=cess s ccemsl In the spirinial worid to-
wards wh: Ji crerr Christzias Day we spend on earth brings
13 nearer. wLar we have kamt to kx^ upon as Divine here,
we sbaZ sdll kx k zpcn as DhrEne there : and the Etonal
Cbiichoco of the Divine One wiH he for ever unveiled to
us in that life of growih in love and wisdom, which will con-
sdrjte our union wiih one another and with the Lord.
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