THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST.
The Child of the Covenant.
'And, behold, the word of the Lord came to Abraham, saving, He that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shal! !ie t!iine heir. And he believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness.'—Gen. Xv. 4, 6.
'Ye are the children of the covenant.'—Acts iii. 25.
THREE times had God already given to Abraham the promise that He would make of him a great nation, as the sand of the seashore in multitude. When God appeared to him the fourth time, Abraham poured out Ins complaint before God:' Behold, I go childless. Behold, to me Thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is my heir.' In answer the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ' Lo, this shall not be thine heir; but he that cometh forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.' And then follow the memorable words, 'Abraham believed God, and He counted it to him for righteousness.'
The great truth which this narrative sets before us is this—that the longing and asking for, the promise and the gift on God's part, and on our part the reception and the birth of our children, is a matter of faith; a matter in which God takes the deepest interest; in which He holds communion with men; and in which faith must operate and will assuredly be blest. It is especially as a parent, and in reference to the promise of a child, that Abraham's faith is exercised and found well pleasing to God. In the power of faith the natural longing for a child becomes the channel of most wonderful fellowship with God, and the natural seed becomes the heir of God's promise and the spiritual blessing.
The reason and meaning of all this is easily found. In Noah God had begun to acknowledge the validity of the oneness of parents and children in the dealings of grace.
But it had been of little avail. Immediately after the flood Ham's wickedness burst out, and it was not many years before the whole world had sunk into idolatry. It is ever God's way by degrees and gradually to reveal the ways and the purposes of His grace, and so He resolves to deal differently with Abraham. The children of Noah had been born after the flesh. Before their birth God had not entered into covenant on their behalf. In character they had become independent men ere God made them partakers of Noah's blessing. With Abraham He will deal otherwise; His way of dealing in covenant with His servants is to be advanced a distinct stage forward. The child, who was to be taken up into the covenant, was from before his birth to be the object of God's care and the parent's faith. The very birth of the child God takes charge of, to watch over and to sanctify by His word and by faith. Everything connected with Isaac's birth is to be a matter of God's revelation and man's faith. Against nature and against hope God Himself by His promise awakes the faith and expectation of a child. For twentyfive years this faith is tried and purified, till Abraham's whole soul is filled with believing expectancy, that so the child may in truth be the child of faith and prayer; a gift of God received by faith. Before the birth Abraham is circumcised, once again sealed for God in the covenant of circumcision, that so full and clear proof may be given that the birth of the seed of His people is holy in His sight, a matter to Him of special interest, the object of His promises and His blessing. In all this God would teach us that it is not only in their individual capacity, but especially as parents, and that from before the first hope of having children, that His saints are taken into covenant with Him, are called to exercise Abraham's faith, and to receive their children from His hands. Not only are the children when grown up, but even from the birth, to be partakers of the covenant. Yea, from before the birth, in the very first rising of hope, would God, by the power of His promises given to faith by His Spirit, begin the great work of redeeming love. He would thus reveal to us how that wondrous power with which He had endowed man, of bringing forth and giving life to a child after his own image, and which by sin had become the great strength of Satan's kingdom, was again to be consecrated, and under God's own eye to be rendered subservient to the extension of His kingdom and glory.
Hence it is that the Bible is so full of what cannot otherwise be understood,—of Divine promise and interposition, of human activity and expectation, connected with the birth of children. Everything concentrates on that one great lesson,—the fatherhood and the childhood of this earth hath a Divine and heavenly promise, and everything connected with it must with us be a matter of faith, a religious service holy to the Lord and well pleasing in His sight. I must not only believe for myself; if I would fully honour God, my faith must reach forth and embrace my children, grasping the promises of God for them too. If I would magnify the riches of God's grace, if I would with my whole nature and all my powers be consecrated to God's service, and if I would accomplish the utmost possible within my reach for the advancement of His kingdom, it is especially as parent that I must believe and labour.
And what I see in Abraham, that God thought so long time needful for the strengthening and ripening of faith before he might receive the promised child, teaches me that this grace is a gift of high value, and cannot be attained but by a close walk with God, and whole-hearted surrender to His teachings and leadings. The faith which was sufficient to justify Abraham was not sufficient to receive the blessing for his seed; it had to be further strengthened and purified: faith must ever be in proportion to the extent of the promise. And believing parents will experience that there is nothing that so mightily quickens the growth of their faith as the reaching out after this blessing for their children. They will feel in it the mightiest stimulus to a life of entire devotion and unmixed faith, that they may have not only enough for themselves, but to impart to children, in harmony with that law of the kingdom: 'According to your faith be it unto you.'
But with this solemn lesson Abraham's story gives us the comforting assurance that God will give the grace to attain what we need. With what patience and long-suffering did He lead Abraham and Sarah until they were fitted to accomplish His purposes, and it could be said of them, 'Abraham believed that he might become the father of many nations;' and,' through faith Sarah received strength to conceive seed and was delivered of a child.' Even now still will that God, who has undertaken to sanctify His people soul and body, and to fill them with His. Spirit, Himself train them for the holy calling of believing parents. He will teach us how the birth of our children can become the highest exercise of a faith that gives glory to God, and the truest means of advancing our spiritual life and the interests of His kingdom.
With us, too, the promise of God and the power of faith are the wondrous links by which the natural seed becomes the heir of the spiritual blessing, and the parental relationship one of the best schools for the life of faith. It is specially in a believing fatherhood that we can become conformed to the image not only of faithful Abraham, but of the Father in heaven Himself.
O our blessed God and Father! what thanks shall we render to Thee for the wondrous revelation of Thy will in Thy servants Abraham and Sarah. The fatherhood and motherhood of earth Thou didst take into Thy covenant charge and keeping, didst sanctify and bless, that the seed of Thy people might indeed be holy to the Lord. Where sin had abounded, and manifested its terrible power, Thou dost make grace much more to abound; and Abraham's child, the heir of sin and misery, Thou didst make the heir of the promise and its blessing. Blessed be Thy name!
Gracious God! open the eyes of Thy servants to see how, through the birth of Thine own Isaac, Thy dear Son Jesus Christ, in our flesh, the birth of our children hath indeed been redeemed from the power of sin, and Thy promise comes to us larger and fuller than ever Abraham could understand. Teach us, teach all Christian parents, to realize that if there is one thing in which Thou hast an interest, in which Thou givest abundant grace, in which Thou askest and aidest faith, it is for a believing fatherhood, for our receiving our children from Thee and for Thee. O God! enlighten and sanctify our hearts to realize it: the fruit of our body is to be the heir of Thy promise. And let our parentage, like Abraham, he what binds us to Thee in worship and in faith. Amen,