THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST.
The Sacredness of Motherhood.
'He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.'—Luke i. 15.
MAY God grant us His grace, to meditate in holy tenderness and reverence on the truth revealed to us here, a truth of unspeakable preciousness and power to a believing parent: the mother's womb the work-place of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord has taught us that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist; if he could be filled with the Holy Spirit from before his birth, how much more, now that Christ is glorified and the Holy Spirit given, the child of those who have become partakers of the full redemption, and the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ.
We find here, at the very opening of the New Testament history, the same truth that came out so strongly in the laying of the foundations of the covenant with the patriarchs. In preparing and securing servants to do His work, God loves to begin at the very beginning, and from before the birth, from the very first conception of life, to take charge and to sanctify the vessel He is to use for His service. The more distinctly we apprehend this part of God's plan with His Church as one of the root-principles of the economy of redemption, the better shall we understand the holy privilege and duty of parentage. Very specially will mothers be encouraged and strengthened in faith to yield themselves, with all the hopes and joys of motherhood, to be God's chosen vessels for the fulfilment of His purpose and the perfecting of His Church.
Let us look first at what Scripture teaches us of the mother in whom the Holy Spirit is thus to work. Of John's parents it is testified: 'They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.' It is the God of nature, who in this world of cause and effect has ordered that like begets like, who is also the God of grace. With omnipotence at His command, ready to work any miracles He pleases, He yet most carefully observes His own laws, and when He wants a holy child, seeks for holy parents. Throughout Scripture, specially in the New Testament, the blessed indwelling and inworking of the Holy Spirit is promised to the obedient. Man must, in obedience to Divine command, and under the preparatory moving of the Spirit, build the house; then does the Holy Spirit as the glory and the presence of the Lord take possession and fill it. And so it was of parents, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, that he would be born who was to be filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb, and the forerunner of Him who should baptize with the Holy Ghost. It is of holy parents that God would take a holy child.
The double lesson for every parent, and specially for every mother, is of the deepest interest. A righteous and blameless life prepares for, and may also count upon the power of the Holy Ghost in the unborn child. Let expectant mothers, who would fulfil their holy calling as the ministers of their Lord's purposes, study Elizabeth's character: 'righteous, and walking in all the commandments of the Lord blameless.' It is to such a life that God chose us,'that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.' It is to such a life Jesus redeemed us: 'He hath reconciled you in His body through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight.' It is no more than what every child of God ought to be and can be, 1 blameless and harmless, without blemish in the
midst of a perverse generation.' But it is specially what every mother should be, who would offer her body as the temple of the Holy Ghost, that in her the very first beginnings of life may be overshadowed by the Holy Ghost. Qh, that mothers, and fathers too, understood to what a terrible degree the spirit of the world and the flesh, a life in which blamelessness before God is never expected or sought after, in which sin and selfishness are allowed to have rule, hinder the influence of the Spirit, and entail upon the child, more than is needed, the heritage of unholy appetite and passion. Let them believe that a life which, in deep humility and the faith of Jesus as our sanctification, seeks to walk in obedience and righteousness, blameless before the Lord, will be accepted and honoured of Him. Let them believe that they have a right to ask, and most confidently to expect, the Spirit that is in them to take possession of the life God gives through them. Let them cherish this as the highest and the brightest hope of a holy motherhood: 'He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.'
Let us now look at what the angel's message teaches us of the child thus conceived and born: 'Thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth, for he shall be great in the sight of the Lord,'—three marks of a child boin under the covering of the Holy Spirit. The parents are to' have joy and gladness.' Alas! how many a Christian parent has had reason to say in bitter agony, Would God my child had never been born! Would you have divinely given and divinely secured joy and gladness in the children that are given you? Oh, let the Holy Spirit take possession of them from before their birth. Yours will be the holy joy of heaven in them, as you see the beauty of the Lord upon them, a joy that none can take away.
'And many shall rejoice at his birth.' Alas! how many children of Christian parents have been the curse of their fellow-men! Would you have your child blessed and made a blessing, with many to thank God that ever they knew him or that he was born? Study the story of John's birth. Study it in connection with the story of Jesus' birth. It was for Jesus' sake, in the power of the Son of God coming in the flesh, in virtue of his connection with Jesus, that John was thus filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb. Plead the coming, and the birth, and the redemption of Jesus on behalf of your child; claim the outpouring of the Spirit upon all flesh, and the promise of the Spirit to you and your children, and your faith will be strengthened to perfect confidence that your child too may in his measure be filled with the Spirit, and shall make many to rejoice at his birth.
'And he shall be great in the sight of the Lord.' This sets the crown on the whole. A joy to his parents, a blessing to his fellow-men, and great in the sight of the Lord, is the Spirit-born child. Among men he may not make a name, in gifts and talents he may not be great, but great he will be in the sight of Him who sees not as man sees. He will be a vessel God can use for His work, a true waypreparer for the coming of the Lord in His kingdom.
Mother! God gives you this picture of Elizabeth and her child of promise, with the double lesson: live as she did; believe and receive what she did. Young mother, your motherhood is in God's sight a holier and a more blessed thing than you know. If you are indeed God's child, you have in everything been placed under the leading and the rule of His Holy Spirit. Be sure that all the tender interest and solemn thought, all the quiet trust and joyful hope, which expectant motherhood calls forth, may be sanctified and refined by God's Holy Spirit, and you be united with your little one under the overshadowing of His heavenly grace.
Ever blessed God! once more Thou hast shown me Thy way in preparing a seed to serve Thee, and what a deep interest Thou hast in securing a holy and blameless motherhood. I have seen Thee training a mother for Thy service. Thou dost fill her heart with the thought of the Divine destiny of her child. Thou dost stir her faith to the confident expectation of Thy Divine Spirit and blessing on her seed. Thou dost call her in righteousness and blamelessness of life to her holy work. Thou dost in all things teach her that the life she is to bring forth is a holy gift from Thee, to be received and borne in a pure and holy vessel.
O Thou great and glorious God! in deep humility and trembling Thy handmaid bows before Thee, to offer herself to Thy service. O my Father! who dost much more surely than fathers on earth give good gifts to their children, give Thy Holy Spirit to Thy children, to make even their body Thy temple, fulfil Thy wondrous promise to Thy child. Let Thy Holy Spirit dwell in me. If it please Thee to make me the mother of a child, oh, let him be filled with the Spirit from the womb. Let me be filled with the Spirit. And let my child be born only for this one thing, that he may be great in Thy sight, and a blessing to all around him. Amen.