THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST.
I and the Children.
'Behold, I and the children which God hath given me.'— Heb. ii. 13.
THESE words were originally used by the prophet Isaiah: 'Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel.' The prophet and his family were to be God's witnesses to certain great truths which God wanted His people not to forget. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, these words of the Holy Spirit are put into the mouth of Christ as His confession of His relation to those whom He is not ashamed to call His brethren. They are words which the Holy Spirit still uses as the language of the believing parent who presents himself with his children before the Lord, in the consciousness of that wonderful unity of the Spirit in which the family is one before God. As we draw our meditations to a close, these words invite us to gather up all that the "Word has taught us of the Purpose and the Promise of our God, of the work of Love committed to us, and the abounding Hope in which we may look to the fulfilment of what God has led us to expect.
'Behold, I and the children which God hath given me!' let this be the language of a deep and living faith, as we think of the wonderful ground of our unity. I am one with my children in virtue of God's eternal purpose, when He created man and instituted the family. He meant the parent to beget children in his own likeness, to impart his own life and spirit to them, to have one life with them. When sin entered, the promise and the covenant were given to restore the blessing that had been lost; again, the parent was in faith to receive for the child, and communicate to him, the grace God had bestowed. In virtue of that promise I am one with my children, and my children are one with me, in the enjoyment of the love and the life that comes in Jesus. In that faith I present myself before the Father with that same ' Behold!' with which Jesus called the Father to look upon Him and His, and I say too, 'Father! behold, I and the children whom Thou hast given me.' Thou hast given them me, with a Divine giving, to be inseparably and eternally one with me. God hath given them me, in the power of the complete redemption of His Son, with the sure and full promise of Thy Holy Spirit for them as for me. God hath given them nie to keep and train for Him, and then present before Him as mine and His too. In this faith I want day by day to look upon my little Godgiven flock, to believe that they are one with me in the possession of all the promises and blessings of the covenant, of all that the love of my God can give. As often as the thought of the corruption of their evil nature or the sight of its outbursting comes up, when for a time it may appear as if they are not growing up as one with me in Christ, my faith will still say, Behold, I and the children Thou hast given me. And even when the thought of past sin and neglect in my training makes me fear lest my guilt is the cause of their being unconverted, I will still say, looking to the blood sprinkled on the doorposts of my home, the precious all-availing blood, that cleanses all my sin too: Behold, I and the children whom Thou hast given me. We are one, we must be one through Thy grace, we shall be one to all eternity.
In Jesus Christ nothing availeth but faith working by love. 'Behold, I and the children God hath given me :' when spoken in loving faith, the words become the inspiration of love for the work God has committed to it. The bond between a parent and child is a double one—there is the unity of life and of love. What has apparently become two lives love voluntarily and joyfully links together and makes to be still one This love in nature cares for and rears and nurtures the child. It is this love that God takes possession of and sanctifies for His service. It is this love that becomes the strength for the difficult and yet delightful work the parent has to do.
Love is always self-surrender and self-sacrifice. It gives itself away to the beloved object; it seeks to enter into it, and become one with it; true, full love has no rest apart from perfect union with the beloved; all it has must be shared together. God calls His redeemed ones thus as parents to love their children, to identify themselves with them, to seek and claim their salvation as much as their own. And as the Spirit of Christ takes possession of the heart, the parent accepts the call; and in the unity of a love that cannot think of itself without the children, that is ready to sacrifice everything to make them partakers of its own blessedness, the parent learns to say with a new meaning, Behold, I and the children which God hath given me.
I and the children! I, the author of their life, the framer of their character, the keeper of their souls, the trustee of their eternal destiny. I, first blessed that I may bless them, first taught how my Jesus loved me and gave Himself for me, that I may know how to love and how to give myself for them. I, having experienced how patient and gentle and tender He is with my ignorance and slowness and wilfulness, now set apart not to think of my ease or comfort, but in the meekness and gentleness and long-suffering of Christ to watch over and to bear with their weakness. I, made one with these children, that in the power of love I may be willing to study what they need,and how I may best influence them; to train myself for the work of ruling well, and training them to self-rule. I, walking in the obedience and the liberty of a loving child of God, and guiding them in the happy art of an obedience to authority that is always free, and a freedom that is always submissive to law. Yes, I and the children! the consciousness grows upon me that, in the unity of love, what I am the children may and will be. And the more tenderly my love to them is stirred up, the more I feel that I but need first myself to be wholly and only the Lord's, entirely given up to the Love that loves and makes itself one with me; this will fill me with a love from which selfishness shall be banished, and which gives itself in a Divine strength to live for the children that God has given me.
When faith and love thus have spoken, hope will have courage to take up the song, and in full assurance to say, 'Behold, I and the children which the Lord hath given me!' We are inseparably and eternally one. Hope is the child of faith and love. Faith is its strength for waiting and watching, love its strength for willing and working. Hope ever looks forward. It sees even in this life, when things are dark, the Unseen God coming through the clouds to fulfil His word. It sings the song of victory, when others see nought but defeat. Amid all the struggles through which it may see a loved child passing, amid all trials of faith and patience it speaks: 'In His word do I hope : I will hope continually, and will praise Thee yet more and more.' Through its own buoyant tone it inspires with hopefulness the children when discouraged in the fight with evil; it seeks to be the morning-star of the home. It looks forward to each one of the circle being not only a saved one, but a sanctified one, fit for the Master's service here on earth. And as often as it looks for the blessed hope, the appearing of our Lord Jesus, and the glory that is to follow, it rejoices in the full assurance of an unbroken family circle in heaven. It even now trembles with joy as it thinks of the privilege that waits it, when the Son has presented Himself with His brethren in His 'Behold, I and the children whom God hath given me,' of also coming forward to fall down and worship and say likewise, 'Father, behold! here am I too, and the children which Thou hast given me.' May God teach us to rejoice in this hope !' Now the God of hope fill your hearts with joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope in the power of the Holy Ghost.'
'Behold, I and the children which God hath given me :' beloved fellow-believers, whom God has honoured to be parents, shall we not seek to have the spirit of these words breathe through our whole home life? It is God who has given us the children; it is He who regards them as one with us in His covenant and blessing, and teaches us to regard them so too. It is His love calls and fits for a life of self-sacrifice and unselfishness; it is His grace will accept and give success to our efforts to be one, perfectly one with our children in the power of faith and love and hope. In God's sight and promise we are one; in our life and love and labour let us be one with them. too; we shall be one through the glory of eternity.
Our gracious Father! we do thank Thee for all the blessed teaching of Thy Holy Word concerning our children. We thank Thee that it has set them before us in Thine own light, as created by Thee, ruined by sin, redeemed in Christ, and now entrusted to us to keep and care for, while the Holy Spirit renews them to Thine eternal life and glory. We thank Thee that Thou Thyself hast come as our Teacher to fit us for teaching them. We pray Thee for Thy blessing on each word of Thine, that we may indeed become such parents as Thou wouldest have us be.
O Lord, we pray Thee to establish in our thoughts and hearts and lives all the wonderful truths that gather round the home life. "We would count Thy covenant and its promises as exceeding precious to us. Our faith would see the names Thou givest to our children, children of the covenant, of the promise, of the kingdom, as written on their foreheads. We would treasure all the promises of Thy Spirit and Thy blessing as their sacred heritage. "We would read of all Thy dealings with Thy saints in the birth of their children, and their upbringing for Thy service, as the revelation of Thy will with ours. We do accept all Thy warnings and all Thy instructions concerning children as the law of our home. O Lord! open our eyes, that we may ever have before us the picture of & believing home as Thou wiliest it, and wiliest to make it for us.
Above all, blessed Lord Jesus! let Thy presence and Thy love and Thy joy, filling the parents' hearts, be the power to fulfil the Father's will, and to win our children's love. It is in Thee all the promises are Yea and Amen; come Thyself, and accept our consecration to be wholly Thine; come Thyself, and let our home be the abode where Thou lovest to tarry. Then shall it be blessed indeed, and each of us say with neverceasing gladness of hope, Behold, I and the child God hath given me.
Even so, Lord Jesus. Amen.