THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST.
The Holy Spirit in the Family
'To you is the promise, and to your children.'—Acts ii. 39.
WE have not forgotten the frequent use in the Old Testament of the words in which parents and children were joined together as being together partners in God's covenant and blessings. 'Thou and thy house,' 'Thee and thy seed,''You and your children,' 'Me and my house,' such were the expressions of the blessed bond that made the whole family one in God's sight. God be praised! the expression is found in the New Testament too: 'You and your children.' And nowhere could it have found a place of deeper significance than where we have it to-day. On the day of Pentecost, as the Church of Christ, which had just been born by His resurrection from the dead, receives its baptism of the Holy Spirit, the word is heard, Y
'To you is the promise, and to your children.' All the blessings of the new dispensation, the ministration of the Spirit, are at once secured to our children.
'To you is the promise, and to your children! The promise is of the Spirit of the glorified Jesus, in all His fulness, the baptism of fire and of power. When we are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, we confess our faith in the Holy Trinity, and in the Holy Spirit, not only as one with the Father and the Son, but as being the third person, as alone bringing the full and perfect revelation of the Divine glory. All that in the Old Covenant had been promised by God, all that had been manifested and brought nigh to us of Divine grace in Jesus, the Holy Spirit is now to make our very own. Through Him all the promises of God are fulfilled, all grace and salvation in Christ becomes a personal possession and experience. God's Word calls our children children of promise; it is specially of this promise of the Holy Spirit that they are the heirs. And the secret of a godly education is to bring them up in the faith and for the fulfilment of this promise. In the faith of the promise we must learn to look upon the aid and the presence of the Spirit in our daily training as absolutely necessary and indispensable, but also as most positively secured to us. In all our praying for them, and living with them, in our family religion and daily life, we must learn to count upon and expect the direct working of the Holy Spirit. So we shall educate them for the fulfilment of the promise, that their lives more than our own may, from their youth up, be in the power of the Spirit, holy to the Lord.
To you the promise is, and to your children. The very thought of training children every day in dependence upon the Holy Spirit's presence, and with the expectation of His filling the children, appears to some too strange and high: the thing is impracticable. The reason of their thinking thus is simply that they have not yet learned to understand and enjoy the abiding of the Spirit as essential to a true Christian life. The promise of the Spirit is to you: it is just as parents realize in their own personal experience that it is only the continual leading of the Spirit that enables to live as God would have us, that they will have the capacity for believing, in its full meaning, the promise of the Spirit for their children. So only can they become the ministers of the Spirit to their families. Oh, that the Church of Christ understood the place and the power which the Spirit of God is meant to have in every Christian, and in every Christian home! All the complaints about the neglect or the failure of religious education have their root in this: the Holy Ghost is not expected, is not accepted as the only, as the sufficient strength of the believer for all his God asks of him. As you parents receive the promise, and live and walk in the Spirit, will you receive it for your children too?
For to you is the promise, and to your children. As in nature, so in grace, you and your children have been linked together for good or for evil. Physically, intellectually, morally, they are the partakers of your life. Spiritually it may be so too. The gift of the Spirit and His gracious workings, to you and to them, does not consist of two distinct separate acts; no, but in and through you He would come to them. Your life, your daily influence, is the channel through which His quickening and sanctifying grace would reach them. If you are resting content with the thought that you are saved, without seeking to be truly filled with the Spirit,—if your life is still more carnal than spiritual, with more of the spirit of the world than of God,—do not think it strange if your children grow up unconverted. It is nothing but what is right and natural. You are hindering the Holy Spirit. You are breathing day by day into your children the spirit of the world. You are, it may be unconsciously, but most effectually, using all your influence to train them into man's religion, in its harmony with the spirit of the world, instead of God's religion, in the power of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. The promise is to you, and to your children: in spite of your evil influence, through the faith of others the blessing may reach them, but you have no reason to expect it, except as you yield yourselves to be the channel for its conveyance. If nothing else has yet roused us, would that parental love might lead us to see that for our children's sake nothing less is needed than for us to be filled with the Holy Ghost.
To you is thepromise, and to your children. The promise! would God that all parents understood what is implied in the promise. Too many look upon a promise of God as a mere word or thought —something that is without power until they from their side do what is needed to make it effectual. They do not know that the word of God has in it a living, mighty energy, a Divine seed-life, and that if they will but hide and keep it in their hearts, it will beget the faith through which the blessed fulfilment comes. I come this day to every parent who reads this with a wonderful message. The promise, the promise of the Holy Spirit in His fulness and His power, is to you and to your children. A promise means that God in His infinite power has bound Himself to do what He has said, and that He will most certainly do it for us as soon as we claim it in faith. And the promise here means that the Holy Spirit, with His quickening, sanctifying, and gladdening grace, is ours, waiting to come and to be, in our home, in our family life, all that we need to make it holy and happy. And however far our home life may yet be from God's ideal, and however impossible it appear to us that in our circumstances and with our difficulties we shall ever succeed in making it very different, if we will but claim and hold fast the promise in the prayer of faith, God Himself will fulfil it. A promise needs two things: the receiver must believe and claim it; the giver must fulfil it and make it true. Let our posture be that of simple, trustful faith in God for ourselves and our children, counting on the promise : God is faithful, who will also do it.
Dear fellow-parents! let us humble ourselves that our home life has not more distinctly proved the truth and the glory of this promise. Let us confess with shame how much there has been that was carnal and not spiritual; of the spirit of the world, and not of the Spirit of God. Let us open our hearts to take in the promise of God as something that has a Divine quickening power, and that will itself beget in us the very state of mind which God requires ere the fulfilment comes. Let us look upon ourselves as the divinely-appointed ministers of the Holy Spirit, to prepare and train our children under His influence from their youth up, and let us yield ourselves wholly to His guidance and working. To train a child aright means training him to be a temple of the Holy Spirit, means living ourselves in the power of the Spirit. Let no sense of shortcoming or feebleness discourage us: to you is the promise, and to your children. Let us place our lives as parents under the leading of the Holy Spirit. That will mean, placing our whole life under His leading: because we can be to our children only what we. really are to God. Let the spirit of praise and thanks unceasingly fill us, that God should have bestowed the wondrous grace upon us to make our family life the sphere for the special working of His Spirit; and let it be our unceasing prayer and our confident expectation that, by the power of the Holy Spirit from heaven, our home on earth shall be coming continually nearer to the home in heaven, of which it is meant to be the image and the preparation.
0 Thou thrice holy God! how shall we bless Thee for the promise that our home is to be Thy home, the abode of Thy Holy Spirit, and that in the happy life of love between parents and children which Thou givest us on earth, the Spirit of Thy Divine love is to be the link that binds us together. Glory to Thy name, 0 my God, for the promise of the Holy Spirit to us and to our children!
0 God! we come to set wide open the doors of our beloved home to Thee, and to place it with our whole family life at the disposal, under the rule, of Thy Holy Spirit. We beseech Thee, let Him take possession. As parents we desire to claim the fulfilment of the promise. May our love to our children and our desires for them, our daily intercourse with them and our influence on them, all be under the continual overshadowing of Thy Holy Spirit. May our whole life, the invisible atmosphere that surrounds us and that fills our home, be that which Thy Holy Spirit breathes, holiness to the Lord.
We claim the promise for our children. We desire, in simple, childlike faith, to count upon it, as a settled thing between Thee and us, that they are the heirs of the promise of the Spirit. Give us grace, O Father, as often as we see in them signs of evil that make us sad, tendencies and dispositions that make us fear, or influences around them that bring danger; oh, give us grace to plead the promise in the assurance of faith! 0 our Father! we would live ourselves, we would guide our home life, we would train each child day by day under the leading of the Holy Spirit. Teach Thou it us. May the holy reverence, the deep, quiet joy, the tender watchfulness, the death to self and the flesh, the life of faith in Jesus, which mark His presence, ever be ours. Amen.