THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST.
'And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden.'—Luke i. 46-48.
X quisite joy, of deep, unutterable thanksgiving taking the place of pain and sorrow, as when a mother knows herself to be the living mother of a living child. Our blessed Lord used it as the fittest type of that wondrous surprise, that strange resurrection joy, with which His disciples should find Him whom they mourned as crucified and dead to be the Living One. 'A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come, but as soon as she is delivered of the child she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.' A mother will find no more fitting expression for her joy than in
perhaps no such moment of exthanksgiving to Him to whom she owes so much. And for the expression of that thanksgiving she will find in many portions of Holy Scripture the most suitable language. How often, for instance, has the mother almost instinctively asked for the words of Psalm ciii.: 'Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and with tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.' But as the simple summary of all a mother has to say, no words will be found more beautiful than these of the mother of our Lord: 'My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit doth rejoice in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden.'
In His holy providence the Father has so ordered it that the first week after the birth of the little one is a time of weakness, in which nothing is so much needed as quiet and rest for the restoration of nature's exhausted powers. The arrangement is one of wondrous grace, giving the mother time to prepare herself again for the new duties devolving on her. While household duties and ordinary intercourse are kept at comparative distance, the Lord would keep His child for a little while in the secret place of His Holy Presence, to encourage and instruct her for the solemn responsibilities now again awaiting her. And there is nothing that will be more pleasing to her Lord, and more refreshing and strengthening for her own life, and a fitter preparation for blessing to the little one, than that the spirit of thanksgiving should give its bright tone to all her thoughts and hopes, and the song of praise, from the lips of the model-mother, be repeated day by day, and from hour to hour: 'My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit doth rejoice in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the low estate of Hia handmaiden. For He that is mighty hath done to me great things, and holy is His name; and His mercy is on them that fear Him, from generation to generation.'
It is hardly necessary to remind a mother of what all there is to stir her to praise. She has but to think of the anxious thoughts and fears that would sometimes come up as the solemn hour of her trial rose up before her, and her song is,' I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.' She looks at the precious little treasure that has been given her, with all the love and joy it brings into heart and home; and the words come spontaneously, 'What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward s
me?' She sees in the little one, as she looks upon it in the light of God's purpose and promise, an immortal being, fitted for showing forth God's glory on earth, and sharing that glory in heaven, as a jewel in Jesus' crown; and her soul bows in trembling wonder at the thought that the charge of keeping and forming such a treasure should be committed to one so feeble. She remembers that, though the little one has inherited from her an evil nature, yet through her too it has the promise of the covenant and the earnest of the Spirit: her child is holy, because she is one of God's holy ones in Christ. She thinks of all the grace and wisdom and strength provided her in Christ to secure to her and her child all that God's love had prepared; and as she listens to the voice, 'My grace is sufficient for thee: my strength is made perfect in weakness,' she can only sing again, 'My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit doth rejoice in God my Saviour; His mercy is on them that fear Him, from generation to generation.' It is not only God's mercies, but God Himself, in whose love they have their value and their continuance; it is God Himself in whom Mary, in whom the believer, in whom the grateful mother, is glad and rejoices. True praise uses God's mercies only as the steps of the ladder along which it rises to leave them behind and rejoice in God alone.
This spirit of thanksgiving, in which, not content with the blessings alone, we rise up to the God who gave them, and rejoice in Him, is of greater worth than can well be expressed. It elevates and sanctifies both the joy, the gift that causes it, and the glad possessor, because it lifts all out of the sphere of nature into the fellowship of the spiritual and the Divine. And in this way it is the true preparation for all the work the mother has before her. We saw in Mary's surrender of herself to her God, that He might fulfil in her the good pleasure of His will, how there were combined in it two elements, the surrender to the work she had to perform,' Behold the bondmaid of the Lord, ' and the trust that counted on God to do for her what He had promised, 'Be it according to Thy word.' In both of these aspects the thanksgiving and joy of the hour of deliverance, if cultivated and kept up, will be guidance and strength.
'Behold the bondmaid of the Lord.' The labour of bearing a child is but the beginning of that labour of love to which God has appointed and set apart the mother. The whole work of rearing and guarding and training the child is now to follow. The spirit of thanksgiving is the best preparation for the altar of consecration. If the mother is indeed to receive grace for the right and successful fulfilment of this new charge, it will need on her part a very distinct consciousness and confession of unfitness, a very definite giving up of herself to be henceforth the Lord's willing, loving slave for this holy work. As she looks at how much there may be that has to be parted with and put away, how much that she will have to struggle against and overcome, to be the holy mother of a holy child, entirely consecrated to God, the thought may come up that the sacrifice and the strain will be too great, that it is impossible to live so strictly, so entirely and peculiarly given up to God's service. We fear to be too different from others; God could bless us and our children even though we are not so very holy. Oh, that a mother, if such thoughts come up, would just pause and think of what God has done! There is the new life given to herself, and the life of her precious little one, there is the love and mercy of God, and all the promise of more love and mercy to be poured out—has the thanksgiving been so unreal, has the joy been so selfish and earthly, that there can be any hesitation as to whom these lives shall belong to? God forbid! if the thanksgiving has been true, it cannot but lead the mother to say that utterly and entirely she will live for God, that she may have grace to train a child who, too, shall utterly and entirely be the Lord's. 'The joy of the Lord is your strength;' a mother's joy is the power for a mother's work; the spirit of thanksgiving leads to the altar of consecration where mother and child are laid as living sacrifices to be the Lord's alone.
'Be it unto me according to Thy word:' this word of faith and trust, looking to God to do all that He has promised, gets new meaning after the experience of the first part of its fulfilment. In all the work that waits the mother in the future, the goodness just experienced teaches her to trust. Let her but yield herself heartily, not to her work, but to her God for His work; she may depend upon it that His teaching and His help and His strength are realities. Let her in the joyful spirit of praise take His word, and, as she studies what it says of a mother on earth, note what it says of the Father in heaven and the abounding grace He has undertaken to supply, and her faith will grow strong that her vow of surrender has been accepted, that its fulfilment is possible and certain, and that the joy of a child born into the world is but the beginning of a joy that shall know no ending. Let thanksgiving lift the heart to God in praise; there faith becomes easy. Let faith lift the heart to God too; there thanksgiving becomes natural, and the life of mother and child may become one unceasing song of faith and love, of surrender and obedience, of thanksgiving and praise.
Blessed be the Lord! for He hath showed me His marvellous kindness! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits! "What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me?
O my Father! in this the time of her weakness and gladness of heart, Thy handmaid draws nigh to praise Thy mercy and Thy love. Here am I and this precious child Thou hast given me, the witnesses of Thy power and Thy goodness; may our lives, all our days devoted to Thee, be the sacrifice of thanksgiving we bring Thee.
Oh, hear the prayer of Thy handmaid, and let my life, now received anew as from Thy hand, indeed become wholly new. In daily intercourse with my Father, in close following and fellowship with my Lord Jesus, in a very tender yielding to the leading and sanctifying of the Holy Spirit, I desire henceforth to live only and wholly as Thy handmaid.
And with myself, Lord, I offer Thee my precious child. Let the grace I have implored of Thee fit me from its very birth to hold it as Thy property, a sacred trust from Thee to nurse and train as Thine. It comes from Thee, O my God, a gift to me; accept it from me again, a living gift to Thee. Come to Thy handmaid, I pray Thee, in this her time of weakness and thanksgiving: let in this time of holy quiet Thy presence overshadow nie, and give me the assurance that my prayer is heard; that Thou hast accepted her and her little one to keep as Thine own for evermore. Amen.