THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST.
'Ordain elders, if any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having children that believe, not unruly.'—Tit. i. 6.
aOD expects that the children of believers should be believers too. There is nothing so honouring or pleasing to God as that we believe Him; nothing that so opens the way for His blessing and love to flow in and take possession of us, as that we believe Him. And the very object and purpose of God in the institution of the parental covenant is that believing parents should educate believing children. They are the children of the promise; God and His grace are theirs in promise; a promise has no value but as it is believed; parents who truly believe will understand that it is their privilege and their duty to train ' children that believe.'
We have seen how, on the day of Pentecost with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Peter announced that the foundation-principle of God's covenant with Abraham was in the New Testament to remain unchanged, and children were still to be regarded as the heirs of the promise. Family life, as ordained by God in Paradise, the household, was still to be the channel for the transmission of the blessing of the Spirit. Faith was not to be an individual thing, but to embrace the household, and then from the parent out to pervade it. It is in harmony with this that we so often find in the Acts—that book of the Acts of the Holy Ghost— mention made of the household. 'Cornelius feared God with all his house.' 'Lydia was baptized, and her household.' To the jailor of Philippi Paul said, 'Believe, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house,' and 'he was baptized, and all his, immediately;' and 'he rejoiced greatly with all his house, having believed in God.' 'Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue at Corinth, believed in the Lord with all his house.' In the Epistles of Paul we find that he four times uses the expression, 'the church in thy house;' he does not say the church assembling in thy house, but the church which is in thy house, referring evidently to the circle of believers constituting the family. Though in these cases, no express mention is made of children, the principle of the organic unity of the family, on which the idea of a household rests, assures us that the children were comprehended in it too. And it is so clear to Paul that believing parents ought to have believing children, that, when such is not the case, he regards it as a matter of blame, as a sure index that there has been something wrong on the part of the parents, that their own faith and life has not been what it should be; they are at once debarred from holding any place of honour or influence in the Church of Christ. When the father, as the ruler of the church in the home, has not trained children that believe, he is unfit for taking care of the house of God. Children that believe are to be looked for from parents whose life is truly that of faith. Let us try and once again take home the lesson God would teach us.
Even children can be believers. Trustfulness, the power of simply believing what is told, of resting on what love has promised, is one of the most beautiful traits of true childlikeness. It is this wonderful power of a child's heart, of which the parent avails himself every day, and which often fills him with such gladness, that must be guided heavenward, and led to cling to God and His Word, to Jesus and His love. There is nothing more natural to children than to believe; it is through a parent's faith that the Holy Spirit loves to take possession of the child's, and makes it the living link to a living Saviour. As the child grows, the faith may grow; a deep and hidden root of life that even amid temporary coldness or declension still holds on to the blessed Saviour.
God expects our children to grow up believers. We ought to expect it too. It is of the very nature of faith in God that it ever seeks to think as He thinks, to count upon Him for what with man and nature is impossible, to make His promise and His power the measure of its hope. Let us take time to realize that God's wonderful promise to our children is meant so to take possession of us that it shall fill us with the sense of His holy power waiting to fulfil it, and draw us to live in His presence and in presence of our children as the channels of that power and that blessing. The confidence that our children will grow up true believers—something much higher than the confidence that they will eventually be saved— will exercise its influence on us and on them. On us as a daily call to a life of pure holiness and consecration; on our children in the creation of an atmosphere of faith around them in which they breathe and live. In our homes God expects that there shall be children that believe.
The proof that our children are believers will be their conduct. Paul writes,' elders having children that believe, not unruly.' Faith is ever perfected by works; like every other function of life, it can grow and become strong only by action. A bio of faith is always a life of obedience. And a child's faith must prove itself in a child's obedience, that is, obedience to the parents. Children that are allowed to be unruly and disobedient and selfwilled will speedily lose their childlike faith. What is said of men, that, having thrust from them a good conscience, they have made shipwreck of the faith, holds good of children too. Faith is surrender. I yield myself entirely to the influence of the news I hear, of the promise I receive, of the person I trust. Faith in Jesus is entire surrender to Him, by Him to be ruled, and influenced, and mastered. Faith in Jesus is the surrender to Him and His will. Faith in Jesus to be saved by Him, is the surrender for Him to let Him save us in the way He has opened up, the way of trusting, loving, holy obedience. Let parents seek to lead the little one's simple faith in Jesus to this surrender. Let them claim the child's obedience to themselves as obedience to Jesus. Let them educate the child to obey conscience in Jesus' name; their home will be the happy proof that believing children are not unruly.
If ours are not children that believe, let us seek the cause with none but ourselves. God's promise is sure, and His provision is perfect. There is something wrong in our consecration. It may be— alas! how frequently it is so—that the spirit of the world so prevails in heart and home, that while the Sunday talks teach the children faith in Jesus, the week-day life trains them to faith in the world, to a surrender to its spirit and rule. Or it may be that, while we are earnestly engaged in religion and religious work, there is but little of true spirituality, of the joy and the love and the power of holiness which alone make religion a reality. Eeligion has been an occupation like any other; but the holy presence of Jesus has not been felt by our children. Or even when there has been a striving after this, there may have been failure, in our not devoting ourselves to the holy task of training children; we have entrusted the work to others, and neglected the self-denial and the study needed to fit ourselves for the work of ruling them well, and of guiding them in the ways of the Lord. Let us seek very honestly and very earnestly to discover the reason of failure, to solve the sad enigma: we are believers, we have a faithful God, and yet we have not what He claims,' children that believe, not unruly.'
God calls us to heart-searching, and confession, and return. And even if we have children that believe, but of whom we cannot but confess that their faith is not in such power and devotion as we could wish, let us turn to God with humbling and a new surrender. Our home life needs the -power of a true consecration. The warm light of a Saviour's love and the joy of His near presence shining from us, it is this our homes need as the secret of a successful education. Each new step in the path of entire separation to God, and of larger faith in His abiding and keeping presence, must make itself felt in the family. If there are circumstances and influences that appear to make it impossible, let us remember what faith can do: it can bring Almighty God and His power into the scene. It may not obtain at once what it asks. But it can live the life God wants His child to live, it can keep the soul in peace and rest; it can in secret exert its slow but sure influence. It is the faith of an entire surrender that our homes need, and that will transform them into what God would have, the nurseries of believing, obedient children. Both with God and with our children, let us study and remember this well: there is no power so mighty as that of a quiet, restful faith, that knows that God has given what we have asked, that He has taken charge of what we have entrusted to Him, and that in His own hidden, silent ways He is already working out what He has undertaken. Parents who are believers, who believe with their whole heart and strength and life, will have ' children that believe, not unruly.'
Blessed Lord God, the God of the families of Israel! we thank Thee for each message that reminds us of what Thou wouldst have our children be, as the proof of the reality of our faith in Thy Word and our life in Thy love. We pray Thee, blessed Lord! to print it deep in our hearts that in every believing home Thou dost expect and dost seek for believing children. Lord! as trees of Thy planting, we would yield Thee the fruit Thou seekest.
When Thou dost not find it, we beseech Thee to work a deep conviction of the sin that is the cause of the shortcoming. Whether it be unbelief or worldliness, the want of ruling well or the want of living well, reveal, we pray Thee, the sin, that it may be confessed and cast out. Eeveal especially how it is chiefly the want of our undivided consecration to Thy will, with its consequent want of a full assurance and experience of Thy presence, that is the secret cause of all our failure.
Blessed Lord Jesus! it was Thy presence, the tidings of Thy being so near and so loving and so mighty to bless, that drew so many parents to trust Thee when Thou wast on earth. O our Lord! it is Thy presence with us which will strengthen our faith and give us children that believe. We do set our homes open to Thee. Come in and reign. Be our joy and gladness every day. We have yielded ourselves to live each moment under Thy rule; we have believed in Thine acceptance of our sacrifice to keep us abiding in Thee; oh, give us the wisdom and sweetness, the faith and the power to be a blessing to our home. Oh, give us children that believe, children whom in the power of faith Thou canst use for Thy glory. Amen.