THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST.
Jesus the Children's Surety.
'And they brought Him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord, and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord.'—Luke ii. 22-24.
ACCORDING to the law of God in Israel, a child was circumcised when eight days old; this was done in its home. On the fortieth day the mother was to appear in the temple to bring the sacrifice of her purification, and to present her child to the Lord. If the child was a first-born, then its presentation had special reference to the first-born belonging to the Lord, and it had to be redeemed. The Child Jesus had thus too to be presented to the Lord, as being made under the law, and made like unto His brethren in all tilings. Made like in all things, not only that He might have experience of everything we pass through, but that we might know that every state and condition has been sanctified by His Holy Presence and merit, and that He now, by giving us the spirit which was in Him when passing through them, might impart to us the blessing and the sanctifying grace that flow from fellowship with Him. This truth has thoughts of wonderful joy and comfort for parents as they bring their little ones to God's home, to present them before the Lord in baptism.
Let us study this presentation of the holy Child Jesus. There He is, presented to His Father in heaven by His earthly parents; a helpless infant, but yet a pleasing sacrifice, a sweet-smelling savour. There, too, He comes as the first-born among many brethren, the Forerunner, through whom our little ones too can be acceptable to the Holy One. For now, when we bring our child to present him to the Lord, He looks down from heaven on the offering, and gives, in answer to the parent's faith, to our child the spirit of His holy childhood. He was indeed made like us, that we might become like Him; He was made like unto our children, that they might be made like Him. He was not only Mary's first-born, but the Father's first-born among many brethren. Where the first-fruits are holy the whole family is holy. The presentation of the Child Jesus to the Father gives us a right to present ours, and makes them acceptable too. Blessed thought! to place my child beside the holy Child, and in faith to claim that in Him my child is holy and accepted too.
In Israel the presentation of the child was accompanied with a sacrifice to cleanse away the defilement of sin cleaving, at every birth, to both mother and child. This we need too. And what a mercy that the mother now can look to the blessed Jesus, the great sin-offering and atonement (Lev. xii. 6), for her cleansing from all sin, so that she may be accepted and fitted for being a true mother to this God-devoted child! And what mercy that the children, too, share in the efficacy of that great sacrifice ere they know it! that from their birth they now are holy to the Lord, and may receive that Holy Spirit which is the lawful inheritance of the seed of God's believing people. We present our little one to the Lord, with Jesus as the great sin-offering making us acceptable and clean, and holy to the , Lord.
The object of this presentation in the temple of the children was very specially to acknowledge God's claim upon them, and to devote them to Him as His property. With what gladness and confidence parents do this when first they have seen Jesus presented in the temple. Or what does this mean? Has the Eternal God indeed not spared His only-begotten Son, but given Hiin up for us and our children? Has He in very deed given His Son, the Lord of glory, to be our and our children's possession, to enter into all their feebleness and misery, to be like them subjected to a birth needing purification and presentation with sacrifice, and to a death like ours under the curse, and shall we now withhold our children from Him? Or shall we not most gladly present them before Him to be only and wholly His, devoted to His service and glory? Shall we not place our little one beside this holy Child, and on His merits, and say, Father ! through Thy holy Child Jesus, with Him, in Him, like Him, I present my child to Thee, to be the Lord's only and for ever?
Be assured that in such a presenting of your child, after the example, in the power and spirit of God's Child, there is a rich and sure blessing. Presented to God in Jesus, accepted in Jesus, it may now grow up with and like Jesus. Let your faith lay hold of the holy child-life of Jesus as belonging to your child, as communicable by the power of the Holy Spirit. Let your faith maintain and renew daily the solemn act in which you as parent appeared before the Lord to present your child to Him, ere you took it back to your home to rear and train. Let your faith rejoice in that definite Divine transaction in which, when you presented your child in the name of Jesus, it was accepted of the Father as His own. What we present to God, 'according to that which is said in the law of the Lord,' that, in accordance with His word, God takes. And what He takes He keeps. And our faith has only ever to look to God's taking and keeping, to have the joyful assurance that the matter is finally settled between God and us. Let this faith make you strong to train the child for God, in a strength and grace which He will give, to secure His property for Himself. Let this faith speak to your child, as he can receive it, of his having been presented with Jesus, like Jesus, in Jesus, to the Father, and of his fellowship in the life and spirit of Him who became the children's Surety. Let the holy childhood of Jesus overshadow and sanctify the childhood of your little one. Let your children grow up in the friendship and the footsteps of the holy Child. Live in everything as those who are going to train children who are to be like Jesus. If the thought appear too high, let it but constrain you to ask the Father whether He does indeed desire your child to be wholly like His, and whether He does expect of you to train it to be so. The answer will not be withheld, and the presentation of Jesus in the temple will become to you a pledge of the grace that enables you to see how Jesus is in everything the promise of what your child can be, and to train him accordingly
We all know how, in the economy of grace and in the work of salvation for man, there are always two powers in action, the Divine and the human. To the former corresponds faith, that ever looks to God's promise and power; to the latter works, without which faith cannot be perfected, and which obey and fulfil the will of God. In our study of the teachings of God's Word on the parent's calling, we have ever found how these two aspects of truth are presented by turns, and how, while at one moment everything appears to depend upon a parent's faith in what God does, very soon after a parent's character and conduct appear to decide all. The two are inseparably interwoven: the more intently we pursue the one line of thought, the clearer will the other become. And we shall see that the deeper our insight into the indispensable necessity of either, the greater will be our felt need of the other as its complement.
We have here again been meditating on the spiritual side, and apparently speaking less of the practical training of daily life. Let all parents be assured that there is nothing more intensely practical than an act of real faith. If our presenting a child to the Lord be the deed of an intelligent, childlike, heartfelt faith, it will have its mighty influence on our daily treatment of the child. If it be renewed from day to day, it will have its effect on our whole relation to the little one growing up under our care. As we think of it as God's devoted and accepted property, as we regard ourselves as trustees to whom it has been committed for keeping and training, as we realize how God never would expect of our feebleness to take charge aright of an immortal spirit without providing the grace to do it well, and give ourselves with the child to a life of consecration and holiness, our faith will be the vital principle ruling all our conduct. Sanctifying our home life, and elevating our education to what God would have it be, our faith will be the work of His Spirit, transforming through our life each child, who, like Jesus, has been presented to Him, into the likeness of the life of Him who is the first-born among many brethren.
Eternal God! who art the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in Him of all that is truly childlike in heaven and on earth, see us draw nigh to Thee with our little one to present it to the Lord. We bring it to Thee, that Thou mayest regard it in Thy great compassion, cleanse it from the sins it inherits, through its birth from sinful parents, and accept it as Thine own, to be set apart and sealed as holy to the Lord. We present it unto Thee, O Lord God. We do it in the assurance of faith and hope, because Thine own holy Child Jesus was once, as the first-born, presented in the place and on behalf of all who are brought to Thee in faith in Him. Blessed God! beside Him, and in Him, the children's Surety, we present our child unto the Lord.
We beseech Thee, enlighten our understanding to apprehend fully all that Thy Son's being made like our children implies and secures. Strengthen our faith to apprehend and accept all the fulness of blessing it has opened to us. Let the holy childhood of Jesus be the protection of the childhood of our child. Let the likeness of our child, O Father, to Thine in this that he has been presented to Thee as Jesus was, be the beginning and the power of a likeness that shall take possession of the whole life. And give grace to Thy servants to be the worthy parents and guardians and guides of a child who has been presented to the Lord, as Jesus was. For His sake, O our Father. Amen.