THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST.
God's Spirit in our Children
'I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing on thy offspring. One shall say, I am the Lord's; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord.'—Is A. xliv. 3, 5.
EVEN as in the prophecy of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, quoted by Joel on the day of Pentecost, express mention is made of the sons and daughters, so here too the blessing of an outpoured Spirit is made to the seed and offspring of God's people. The root-principle of the covenant, promising grace to the fathers for the children, to the children for the fathers' sake and through the fathers, is to be the mark of the dispensation of the Spirit too. The promise is accompanied by the very distinct statement of what would be the fruit of the Spirit's coming on the offspring. Not resting content with a religion inherited from the fathers, the children would openly profess their personal faith in the words: I am the Lord's. Through the power of the Holy Spirit the religion of parental training would become the religion of a personal profession. Let us seek to grasp the two thoughts,—the personal acknowledgment of the Lord as the fruit of the Spirit's work, and the sure promise of the Spirit to do that work.
Among all earnest parents there is the desire that, as their children grow up, they may be found coming forward to make personal confession of the faith in which they have been educated. If we enter fully into the mind of God, it will be one of the great aims of parental training to rear our children for such a profession. And yet there are many Christian parents who would hesitate to admit this. To some the dangers attending a distinctly religious education, of cultivating a formal and traditional faith, appears so great, that they leave their children to themselves; they would never think of asking them whether they can say, I am the Lord's, or encouraging them to do so. They do not believe in the conversion of children: they are so impressible, and so much the creatures of their surroundings, that such a profession is not to be counted on, and ought rather to be avoided. Others are themselves, though living in the fear of God, still so much in the dark on what they consider the intricate question of assurance of faith, that if they themselves have no liberty to say, I am the Lord's, it is no wonder they never think of helping their children to say it. It is, as they think, only the advanced believer who dare speak thus; in them it would be presumption and pride. With others still, though they admit in theory the duty of making such a confession, and the possibility of a child making it too, yet the heart is so cold and worldly, that the warm, loving confession of Jesus as their Lord is never heard from their lips. Family worship and religious profession testify to anything but the living, loving attachment to a personal Saviour. Their children would never learn from them to say, I am the Lord's.
And yet we see it here promised so distinctly that the Spirit's working, a living spiritual religion, will manifest itself thus. The experience of these last years has proved to many, who formerly were in doubt, that a distinct profession of Jesus as a Saviour is as sure a fruit of the Spirit's presence among the children as among older people, and that it can be quite as trustworthy too. A little reflection, too, will convince us that nothing can be more natural than that this should be the fruit of God's blessing on the labours of believing parents. Do we not tell them from their youth that God is Love, and that He gave Jesus to be a Saviour? Do we not tell them that they belong to God, not only in right of creation and redemption, but in virtue of our having given them to Him in baptism, and His having accepted them? And why should it appear strange if the child believes what we say, and speaks it out, I am the Lord's? We tell them that Jesus receives sinners who confess their sins and give themselves to Him to be cleansed. This truly is what we ought to hope for as the fruit of our instruction, that when he feels his sins the child goes and confesses them to the blessed children's Friend, and believes that He does not cast him out, but accepts and pardons. Oh, let us be very careful of casting suspicion on the childlike, I am the Lord's! We teach the children what it means to speak thus: that it implies a giving ourselves to be His property, to do His will, and to acknowledge Him as Lord and Master. And if their young hearts are touched, and consent, oh! let us beware of refusing or doubting their profession, or of reproaching them when they fail; let us remember the promised fruit of the Spirit's working among the children is this: I am the Lord's.
And are we then to think that there is no danger at all connected with it? And are we to rest content with the momentary impressions which speak the words without inquiring farther? By no means. As with those who have come to years, so with children: impressions may be temporary and profession superficial. We have been warning against the disposition that doubts the reality of all children's conversion and profession: God's Word teaches us what it is that will give them sincerity and reality. Let us consider well the second lesson our prophecy teaches: it is the Spirit's working that will make the 'I am the Lord's' Spirit and truth.
And in what way is the outpouring of the Spirit, that is to have this blessed result, to be given? Blessed be God! the promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit dwells in the Church of Christ, in the hearts and the homes of His believing disciples. There may now still at times come special outpourings of the Spirit in revival movements of wider or smaller extent, when the young come forward in numbers to confess their Lord. But for this we have not to wait. In promising the Spirit to the offspring of His people, God would have us expect that parental instruction, that a consecrated home life, that His ordinances of family religion, are to be the means the Spirit is to use and bless for leading the children to Christ. The Spirit ever works in the Word; to the child the parent is the God-ordained minister of the Word. The blessing of the new dispensation is this, that the parent may count on the Holy Spirit for his children too, from their youth up, and that all his teaching and training, his word and work, though it be in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling, may be in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.
But then everything depends upon the parent himself as a minister of the Spirit. He must live and walk, he must be led and sanctified, by the Spirit, he must speak and pray in the Spirit, and he must in faith claim and accept the promise of the Spirit for his child. It is possible, we said, that a child's profession, I am the Lord's, may be of no value. This depends greatly on the parents and those who surround it; he takes the meaning of the words very much from them. If to them it be the language of a joyous faith and consecration, the child unconsciously catches the meaning from the spirit in which he sees them lived out. If they watch over his weakness, and continually speak words of help and encouragement, even the little child can, amid childlike stumblings and failures, prove the reality of the change of which this profession was the token.
Dear parents! let God's thoughts for your children enter your hearts and rule there. These two thoughts specially: God's Spirit and my children belong to each other: I may in faith claim the Spirit's dwelling and working in them. And my child may know and say that he is the Lord's: the fruit of the Spirit is the faith of the heart and the confession of the Hps, Jesus is mine. Let this promise be your strength as you deal with God, your strength as you deal with your child: They that wait on the Lord shall not be ashamed.
O Lord God! we draw nigh to Thee to claim the fulfilment of this promise on behalf of our beloved children. Lord! may they from their very youth have Thy Spirit poured out upon them, that even in the simplicity of childhood they may say, I am the Lord's.
O Lord! be pleased to this end to fill us Thy servants with Thy Holy Spirit. May all our home life and our parental influence be a channel through which the Spirit reaches each child. God! help us so to live that the life that breathes around him may be life in the Spirit.
Specially we ask Thee, gracious Lord! to give us great singleness of aim in training our children for Thee alone. Oh! that the indwelling of the blessed Spirit may not be thought of as something hardly to be expected, but as the one gift the Father loves to bestow, and the first thing the child needs to grow up into a noble man and Christian. Lord! let our training of him, as Thy exclusive sacred property, to know and say he is Thine, be our one desire. And we can count on this, that each child we so consecrate to Thee, Thou wilt, by Thy Spirit, consecrate for Thine own. May we so experience how wonderfully the parent's work and the Spirit's work blend in securing the seed of Thy people for Thyself. Amec