THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST.
A Consecrated Child.
'For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him: therefore I also have granted him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he is granted to the Lord.' —1 Sam. i. 27, 28.
THE intercourse between the believing parent and the Lord in reference to his child has been set before us under different aspects. In Samuel's story we have a new and very beautiful expression of the relation. Hannah has received a child from the Lord in answer to her prayer; the love and joy of her heart can find no better way of expressing themselves than in her giving her child to the Lord again, to be the Lord's as long as he lives. In very deed just the thought that comes up into the heart of many a Christian mother as she looks on her first-born little one; a thought that has only to be considered carefully to open up to us some of the most precious lessons of parental faith and duty. Whether we think of God, of our child, of ourselves, there is every reason to say, 'As long as he liveth he is given to the Lord.'
Or does not, so the mother speaks, the child belong to God? Was it not to bear His own image, as His servant, for His own glory, that He created man, that my child, too, has been born? God looks upon him as His; he has only been lent and entrusted to me to train. It is indeed not mine but the Lord's. And because I am naturally so inclined to forget this, to love and treat the child as if it were altogether mine, I count it such a precious privilege, in a distinct act of surrender, to give it to the Lord for all the days of its life.
And God has not only a right to the child, but He needs him. The work He has to do upon earth is so great, and He has so arranged for each his work, that He would not miss one single one of His people's children. I have so often heard or read of a mother joyfully sacrificing an only son, or all her sons, for her king or country; and shall I not count it an honour to give to my King the child which is His, and which He has lent me, with the privilege of loving and training and enjoying it? Do I not love Him, and have I not often asked what I can render to Him for His love to me? And shall I not delight to give what is my most precious possession upon earth to be His? Yea, to Him who gave His Son for me, to Him alone, all I am and have belongs; my child too I have given to the Lord as long as he shall live.
But 'tis not only for God's sake; for my child's sake too I give it to the Lord. The more I love it, the more heartily I give it away to God. Nowhere can it be safe or happy but with Him. I do indeed love my precious little one, and yet how little I can do for it! I know it is born in sin, and has inherited from me an evil nature, which no care or love of mine can overcome. If I give it to God I know that He accepts of it, and takes it for His own, to make it His own. He will make it one with His beloved Son, cleansing it in the precious blood, and, in a second birth by His Spirit, giving it a new and holy nature. He, the great God, will adopt my child as His, and make it His here, taking it up to His own home through eternity. He will use me as His minister, giving me all the wisdom I need to train my child worthily as His. Oh, ask me not why I give my child to God! It is because I love it. Who would not give their child to such a God, for such blessings?
And for my own sake, too, I give it to the Lord, for—and this is so wonderful—the child I give to God becomes doubly my own. In the consciousness of the wonderful partnership between God and me, I feel that the child I give to God, and He then holds for me and yet gives back, I can love with an intenser and a holier love. I then possess it without the fear of sinning in loving it as my own, without the fear of ever losing it. Even if death were to come and take it from me here, I would know that it was still mine in the Father's home, only taken from me for a time to serve in the King's own palace. God gave it me; I gave it back to Him. God gave it once again to me; and once again I gave it back to Him; giving my child has become the link of a most blessed friendship and intercourse between God and me.
And if He leaves it with me on earth, having given it to Him and knowing that it is His gives the confidence that all the grace and wisdom I need for training it will be given. I need have no care; my child is now the Lord's: will He not provide for all His child needs? If the parent would know to love and enjoy and train his child aright, let him give the child to God.
Such are some of the blessed grounds on which a parent gives his child to God. Let us now consider how this consecration of the child is to be maintained and carried out in education.
Let the parent use it as a plea with God in prayer. The grace promised for training a child, though most certain, is not given at once, but just as the grace for our own personal life, day by day. In the education of our children difficulties will often arise, in which it is as if God's help does not come. Then is the time for prayer and faith. The power of sin may manifest itself in the child; in his natural character there may at times be more to waken fear than hope. Our own ignorance, or unfaithfulness, or feebleness may often make us fear that, though God be faithful, we may be the cause of our child's not growing up the Lord's. At such times, as at all times, God must be our refuge. Let us then maintain our consecration of the child, and plead it: we did give it to the Lord; we abide by it; we refuse to take it back because either we or the child are guilty; we plead for grace for the child that has been given by us and accepted by God. The more we do this, it will become in our souls a settled thing, definitely and finally settled, that what we gave God took, that it is His now, and that we can leave it with Him. Such faith will give rest, and bring a sure blessing.
Let us use it as a plea with our child too. Let him, even if we do not often say so in words, feel that it is implied in all our intercourse with him, that he has been given away to God. Let him know that this is the reason we cannot give way to his will, or to allow sin in him—we have a charge from God to keep him for Him. Let him mark, in our holy gentleness and firmness, that this is not a profession, but a principle that really animates us. Let him realize it so that it gradually becomes a motive with himself; he has been given to God, and accepted by Him; how should he disobey or grieve Him? Let not our words, but the whole spirit of our life and prayer and education, make the child feel, I am the Lord's, K
Let us use it as a plea with ourselves, a motive to the faithful discharge of our duties. The pressing avocations of life, the spirit of the world all around us, the little help we receive from the Church in regard to the consecration of our children and a really consecrated education, makes even godly parents grow unwatchful or negligent. And a really consecrated education needs a high tone of devotion in daily life, and that without ceasing. Let us from time to time look at our children in the light of this great transaction with God,—I have given my child to the Lord,—to stir ourselves to diligence, to faith, and to prayer. Let us very specially act under the influence of this motive as we think of the profession we educate our child for. God needs servants for His temple; let us ask Him what the place is He has for each child in His kingdom. If such a spirit animated each parent who has given his child to God, surely a far larger number of young Christians would grow up to work for God. If all the children professedly consecrated to God were really brought up as such, if we had consecrated parents as Hannah, and a consecrated education as Samuel's, we should have no lack of men to stand up and take their place in the service of God's temple. May God by His Holy Spirit teach us the full meaning and power of the words we use! I have given my child to be the Lord's as long as he liveth.
O Lord my God! hear, I pray Thee, a mother's prayer, as I come to Thee with the child Thou hast given me. O my God! I have heard that Thou dost allow the mother to give her child back again to Thee, and that, having accepted and sealed it for Thine own, Thou dost entrust it to her again. O my Father! it is now Thine—and mine! My soul bows in the dust at the thought of this inexpressible privilege, this joint ownership in my child between God and me. I look to Thee for the grace to enable me to keep this treasure, to be given back to Thee with usury.
Teach me, I pray Thee, to love it with a holy love, and to train it for the service of Thy temple. Teach me to speak to it of Thee and Thy love so that its heart may early be won for Thee. May my whole life be to it an inspiration, inviting and helping to what is pure and lovely, to what is holy and well pleasing to Thee. And do Thou, of Thy great goodness, cause my child early to hear the voice that called Samuel, and in childlike simplicity and reverence to answer, Speak, Lord, Thy servant heareth.
O Lord! Thou wilt not despise a mother's prayer. Thou acceptest my surrender. By Thy blessing we shall be a consecrated mother and a consecrated child. Amen.