THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST.
The Crowning Blessing.
'I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh ; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.'—Joel ii. 28.
THIS is the promise of which the day of Pentecost was the fulfilment and the interpretation. The coming of the Comforter, the baptism with the Holy Ghost and with fire, the endowment with power from on high, the receiving the power of the Holy Ghost to be His witnesses to the end of the earth,—all these precious promises of Christ were comprehended and fulfilled in the fulfilment of Joel's prophecy. It contains the title-deeds of what the birthright and the baptism of Christ's Church secures to her: the Holy Ghost from the throne of the exalted Saviour, as her power for testimony and for suffering, for triumph and for blessing, is the heavenly sign with which she has been marked and sealed.
In this foundation promise, what a place is given to the children !' Your sons and daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams; your young men shall see visions.' The seed of God's people have such a place in His heart, when He deals with His people their offspring are so continually in His thoughts, that even in the promise of Pentecost the first thing introduced is, not the disciples now anointed to preach, but the sons and the daughters prepared to prophesy. Let us try and take in what it teaches us of God's purpose, of a parent's hope, and of a child's education.
1. God's purpose. With the gift of the Holy Spirit to His Church, God had an object, and that object was power, power from on high for her work of testifying to the ends of the earth. The very last words of the Master (Acts i. 8) speak only of this. All the other blessings of the Spirit, assurance, joy, holiness, love, have this as their aim— influence, fruit-bearing, the power to bless. It is because so many Christians do not understand this that there is often such a weary and fruitless seeking for the blessings of the Spirit, when they would come as unsought, if there were but a wholehearted surrender to what the Spirit is given to qualify for, God's service and work. No wise man wastes power: he economizes it, and puts in just sufficient for the work. According to the work our will undertakes, and our faith expects to perform, is the power, the measure of the Spirit God gives.
This is true of our children too. In Joel's prophecy God reveals His purpose with our sons and daughters. Under the mighty breathings of His Spirit they are to prophesy. What this prophesying is Paul tells us: 'If all prophesy, and there come in one unbelieving or unlearned, he is reproved by all, he is judged by all: the secrets of his heart are made manifest: and so he will fall down on his face and worship God, declaring that God is among you indeed.' This is prophesying in the power of the Spirit, convicting even the unbelieving and unlearned. And for such prophets God wants our sons and daughters. And for such prophets we ought, in this dispensation of the Holy Spirit, to educate our sons and daughters.
The world is in sore need of them. The Church is suffering for want of them. Supply always creates demand. Because there is so small supply, the Church thinks it has done something great when there is annually some increase in the amount of its subscriptions and the number of its agents. But oh! if there were a heart to enter into God's purpose, and the Church and parents understood what glory it is definitely to train our sons and daughters to be prophets of the Most High, witnesses and messengers for Jesus our Lord, what a change it would bring in our modes of operation! As the children of this world do their utmost to obtain some high commission in the army or navy, some good appointment in the civil service or in business, why should not the children of God press around the throne of their Father, seeking no favour so earnestly as that He would fulfil this promise in their children, and make them His prophets wherever He has need of them. God's purpose is that the Holy Spirit should take possession of our sons and daughters for His service; that our sons and daughters should be filled with the Holy Spirit of consecration and power for service. They belong to Him, and He to them.
2. The parent's hope. Just imagine believing parents entering fully and heartily into this purpose of God, acting upon it as a settled thing that they are training their children for the service of God's Spirit, could any doubt still arise in their minds as to whether they might count on the conversion of their children? Aim high, is a daily maxim; you will accomplish more than he who is content with a lower range. This is the blessing of full consecration: while it aims at the highest that God has promised, the secondary gifts, that others struggle life-long for in vain, fall unsought to their share. Nothing will give such confidence of the salvation of our children, of the Spirit's working for conversion and renewal, as the consciousness of having surrendered them undividedly to the service of God and His Spirit.
And it will equally inspire us with confidence in regard to fitness for parental duty. We have no conception of the extent to which self-interest enfeebles faith and self-sacrifice emboldens it. If I know I am very much seeking the salvation of my children for their own and for my sake, the soul cannot find the strength to rise to the confident assurance that all grace for training my child will be given. But let me lose all selfish thought of myself and them in the childlike, generous placing them at God's disposal, and it will become impossible to doubt that my Father will give me grace for the work I do for Him.
And then, though there is a diversity of gifts, and I may not see each child used in the direct service of the Master, I may be sure that the heart's purpose is accepted, and the effort to train all my children to be the vessels of God's Holy Spirit has had its elevating influence on my own soul, on my home, on each of my children, whatever their external calling in life may have to be. The more distinct my acknowledgment in family religion that in this dispensation the Spirit claims all, the more may I depend upon His presence with me and mine.
3. The children's training. Such a purpose in God's heart, and such a hope in the parent's heart clearly apprehended, how they ought to, how they will, influence the children's training!
Cultivate every mental power, with the view of having a sharp instrument prepared for the Master's use. Cultivate even what are counted natural virtues—diligence and decision, order and method, promptness and firmness, with the high aim of having the child the fitter for the work to be done. Cultivate every moral power to be the form prepared for the Holy Spirit's filling. Let - obedience to conscience and to law, let self-control and temperance, let strict integrity and justice, let humility and love, be aimed at in education, that the Holy Spirit may have them to form a noble Christian, an efficient servant of the Lord, a true prophet. The prize that parents aim at for their children is often counted worthy of any sacrifice; there have been those who have willingly suffered want to give their sons a liberal education, or to secure their daughters a position in the world. Oh, let us so set our hearts upon the promotion we seek for our children, that all thought of sacrifice passes away as we study and labour, as we pray and believe, to have them in very deed counted worthy of a place among the separated ones whom the Spirit of the Lord anoints for His work.
And now we close our meditations on the Old Testament testimony as to the place children occupy in the purpose and promise of God. We have seen what God would be for our children—a God in covenant, with the covenant blessing of the blood and the Spirit of Jesus. And we have seen what He would have our children be to Him—a covenant seed, to receive and transmit and multiply the blessing through the earth. And we have seen what He would have parents be, as standing between Him and their children—the ministers of the covenant, to sprinkle and plead the blood with Him, to receive the Spirit from Him, and by example and training and life to communicate the blessing to them, to be the channels for the Spirit's training them for His service.
God help us to learn these three lessons. God help us to believe and receive all He is willing to be for our children through us. God help us to give and train the children for all He would have them be. God help us to be faithful sureties for our children, to seek for them nothing less than God seeks, and so to live that from our homes may go forth sons and daughters to prophesy in His name.
0 Lord our God! we thank Thee again for the institution of the family, as Thy Divine appointment for transmitting Thy salvation to all generations. And we thank Thee for the revelation of Thyself as the covenant God of the children of Thy servants, pledging Thyself to fulfil all Thy promises of blessing. And we thank Thee most of all for the promise of the Spirit, of Thy Holy Spirit, of the Spirit of Thy Son, to dwell in our sons and daughters.
O Lord! fulfil Thy promise to our children. Give us grace to train them for Thee, in the faith of the Spirit's working, of the Spirit's coming with power. Give us grace to prepare them to be meet for the Master's use, every gift cultivated and consecrated for Thy service. Let our sons and daughters prophesy in the power of the Holy Ghost.
O Lord! bless all believing parents. Let Thy claim on their children, let Thy promise of the Spirit, let the inconceivably high privilege of offering their children to Thee for service, let the power promised to parents, let the crying need for labourers, let the Spirit's seeking for those whom He can use as the prophets of the Most High, so fill their hearts, that all their training may be in harmony with Thy purpose: 1 Your sons and daughters shall prophesy.' Amen.