THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST.
The Father Priest and Prophet
'And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say, What mean ye by this service? that ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord's passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when He smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.'—Exod. xii. 26, 27.
THE Passover sets the believing parent before us in a twofold aspect. First, as dealing with God on behalf of the children, and bringing down the blessing on them; then as dealing with the children for God, and seeking to lead them up to Him. .In the former capacity, he sprinkled the blood of the lamb upon his house, securing God's protection for the children. In the latter he had to instruct his children, telling them of what God had done, and seeking to lead them to the personal knowledge and acceptance of this God as their God. Those two parts of parental duty are closely and inseparably linked to each other, the first heing necessary as the root and origin of the latter. The parent's work as priest fits him for his work as prophet and teacher. The second is indispensable to the full appropriation of the blessing that the former has secured. It was after having sprinkled the blood for himself, and his child too, that the parent had to instruct him in the meaning of the holy mystery. His interposition with God, his experience of God's blessing on himself and child, were his own training to fit him for the training of his child. As we keep this in view, we shall recognise the beauty of that institution by which God has chosen and appointed the believing parent the instructor of his children, and realize its extreme fitness as the best means of securing a godly seed for the Lord.
Observe, it is the parent, who has himself already experienced the salvation of God, who is appointed to lead the child to know God. The knowledge of God is no mere matter of the understanding; it is to love Him, to live in Him, to experience the power of His presence and His blessing. It is evident that the man who would teach others to know God must be able to speak by personal experience of Him, must prove by the warmth of love and devotion that he loves this God, and has his life from Him. When God instituted the family as the great instrument of transmitting His fear, He so arranged it as to give it the highest possible efficacy. This consisted in his revealing Himself to each head of a family as the God of his salvation. In the other sacrifices in Israel, the priest sprinkled the blood in the holy places, but in the Passover there was this peculiarity, that each'father sprinkled it on his own house. He thereby performed the act of faith by which the destroyer was kept from his house; and when he went forth from Egypt, and undertook the journey to Canaan, he could bear personal witness to God's faithfulness, and to the efficacy of the atoning blood of the lamb. He could speak as a living witness from personal experience. As a redeemed one he could tell of redemption; he could tell of the Redeemer-God. It is even so now still: personal experience of the power of the blood can alone fit a parent for speaking to his children of God. It is the looking back upon the time when personal deliverance from sin was experienced, and the looking up to a God with whom, in the spirit of adoring gratitude, a personal intercourse is maintained, and the looking forward to a home where the longing spirit knows it will inherit a place prepared by the Father,—it is this and this alone that fits a parent to speak aright and in power. It is the parent who has himself experienced redemption who can tell his child in truth of the God of Eedemption, who can act in accordance with the injunction (xiii. 8): 'And thou shalt show thy sou in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the Lord did unto me in the day when I came forth out of Egypt.'
And as parents in Israel had every year to renew the remembrance of that deliverance, so now it is the parent who lives in the ever fresh experience of what the powers of redemption are, who can, with ever-deepening earnestness and freshness, speak of the mercy and the truth, as well as of the blessed service, of the God of salvation.
But observe, further, this parent has also been constituted and accepted as God's appointed minister in the redemption of the child. It is this gives an increased fitness for his work as instructor of the child. He can not only speak of a salvation he has experienced,—urging and inviting the child to come and taste that to which he is as yet a stranger. No; in sprinkling the blood upon the door of his house, he saved his child too from the destroying angel. He was honoured to act with God on behalf of the child; what the child could not do, he did for him, and the deed was accepted. The child has initially been made partaker of the blessing of that sprinkling of blood, and has, in growing up, personally to accept what has been secured and sealed to him. And what a mighty vantage ground it gives the believing parent in his labour, when he can thus look upon his child in the light of that great transaction between God and himself, of which that child has been the object! With what confidence it inspires his faith! how his energies will be roused! and what a strong motive in pleading with the child himself! He speaks to him, as no longer a stranger to the covenant of grace, but as a child of the covenant. He points him to a God who began to deal with him in the feebleness of infancy; he can attest to the reality of an engagement entered into between God and himself, and sealed in the sprinkling of blood. He shows him how God - dealt with the houses, with the families of Israel; and if not in the way of argument, yet practically, and in the tone of the language which his faith adopts, he lets him feel that he cannot consent to one of his house refusing to acknowledge the God of the house.
And it gives him no less power in pleading with God on behalf of the child. He reminds the great Jehovah of the blood and the oath of the covenant, and claims for his child the blessings of redemption,—that just as he is a child of the redeemed people, he may grow up personally to accept and ratify the covenant. Next to his own personal experience of the blessing of salvation, this consciousness of what, as a believing parent, he has been allowed to do, and of his seed having been received with him into covenant, constitutes the fitness of the believing parent for his being the minister of God's grace to his child.
But there is another thought that brings out still more strikingly the wondrous adaptation of the family constitution for the working out of God's purposes,—this, namely, that it is grounded on the natural relation, sanctifying its affections, and adopting them into the service of redemption. It is not any one redeemed man saying to his fellowman, Come and see what God hath wrought for me. Nor is it any one redeemed man saying to some child to whom he sustains a certain official relation, and on whose behalf he has performed an act of atonement, Come and let me lead thee to thy God. But it is a father, with his own child. In nature they are one, united by the closest and most wondrous ties. The child has his life from the father. The father looks upon him as part of himself, of his flesh and of his bones; he loves and cherishes him. This love seeks, even in nature, the happiness of the child, and can often make wondrous sacrifices to attain it. And it is this love God lays hold of in the parental covenant, and purifies to be the minister and vehicle of His grace. And with a parent's love there is a parent's influence. The weakness of the child renders him dependent, to a wondrous degree, upon the parent's will. The character of childhood is formed and moulded by impressions; unceasing intercourse with the parent can render these impressions deep and permanent. The child's love to the parent rises and meets the parent's love, and the spirit of the parent can thus, in addition to the natural influence of birth, in wondrous measure be breathed into the child. Of all this God's grace seeks to avail itself, and while it is the sole prerogative of the Holy Spirit to renew the soul, and make a child of God, there is nevertheless a need for the means and instrumentalities through which His gracious workings are prepared and applied, are confirmed and established. And of all these instrumentalities, there is none more wondrously devised, or more beautifully adapted to its object, than this of godly parentage. A parent made partaker of God's love and grace himself, accepted and blessed with the promises of the covenant and the Spirit, as covenanting for his child; and then sent forth, in the power of consecrated parental affection, to make all the influences and intercourse of domestic life the auxiliary to the great work of gaining the child for God,—this surely is one of the most wondrous exhibitions of God's grace upon earth.
O my God! I come to Thee again with the earnest prayer for Thy teaching. Thou hast said, 'I will be the God of all the families of Israel.' Open my eyes to see clearly, and my heart to feel deeply, what Thy purpose is in this.
Since sin entered and ruined our nature, Thou wouldst early take possession of the little ones for Thyself. Thou seekest to secure parents with all their love and influence to be Thy ministers. Thou enterest into covenant with them, giving them the right to claim the Blood of the Covenant for their children, and in that Blood the promise, 1A God to thee and to thy seed.' And then Thou sendest them, as themselves redeemed, as having claimed and accepted redemption for their children, to use their influence for Thee, and win and train their children for Thy love and service.
Lord God! open the eyes of the parents of Thy Church to their calling, that they may honour Thee as the God of their families. And, 0 Lord my God! bless my own house, and give me grace, as one of Thy redeemed ones, to train my children for their God. May the joy of a personal experience of redemption, and the love of the blessed Redeemer, warm my heart, and inspire my words, and light up my life, to testify of Thee, and train them for Thee alone. Amen.