THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST.
Children of the Kingdom.
1 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness.'—Matt. viii. 12.
IN what close union we have here before us the wonderful privilege and the terrible danger that attach to the place our children have in the Church of Christ. They are children of the kingdom: what more glorious! They can be cast out into outer darkness: what more awful! The only way certainly to avoid the latter is fully to grasp the former; to let it be not a name but a power ruling and renewing the whole life. To this end let us try to apprehend all it implies.
Children of the kingdom! What kingdom? The answer is simple: the kingdom of God! And where is this kingdom? In heaven. It is that Divine rule or dominion which obtains in heaven and the whole heavenly world. Its centre is the Throne of God, on which He dwells who is the Holy One, from whom all life and all law and all love flow forth. Around that Throne are powers and principalities and dominions, with their untold myriads of holy spirits who do His will and are the messengers of His power. Of that kingdom the mark is, that in God everything is love and blessing, in His subjects everything obedience and joy.
And how can this heavenly kingdom be here on earth? When God created the heavens and the earth, it was with the object of securing new territory in which His heavenly empire might be established. But the power of another kingdom, the kingdom of Satan, interfered, and in the fall of man the coming of the kingdom was delayed. For four thousand years it was promised and hoped for, but the kingdom of heaven was not yet on earth.
And how did this kingdom come? It was in the fulness of time, when the King Himself came to earth, that the message was heard: The kingdom of heaven is at hand, the kingdom of heaven is come unto you. He came, first in His own life as a subject and a servant, to show us what the spirit is that animates all the subjects of the kingdom — implicit obedience, delight in doing the will of God. In that obedience unto death He broke the power of Satan and of sin, showed forth the wondrous love with which as our King He loved us, and set us free for the blessed life of serving and obedience like His own. And then, when as King ascending to heaven, He took His seat upon the throne, the kingdom could come. In the outpouring of the Holy Spirit the kingdom came in power, and was set up in the hearts that had been prepared to receive Him, and to enter the kingdom.
And who were the subjects of this kingdom? Jesus had said: 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Nothing less than the Spirit of God, the Spirit of heaven, coming in and taking possession of a man, could fit him to enter, or even see the kingdom, or to live as one of its subjects. But with this solemn message Jesus had also spoken: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven :' to become an heir of the kingdom, nothing was needed but the consciousness and confession of poverty; having nothing, we might possess all.
And the marks of those who truly belong to this kingdom? Nothing less than the marks by which the King was known on earth: obedience and love towards God, obedience to the uttermost, an absolute surrender to His will. And towards man, love, giving itself to live and die, to bring the blessings of the kingdom to all around. 'The kingdom is not in word but in power;' the kingdom of heaven above everything is in the infinite power of the eternal life: as the kingdom comes down, the Holy Ghost, the power, comes too to give the strength to live as members of the kingdom. In each one of whom the kingdom truly takes possession, the prayer,'Thy kingdom come,' becomes the desire of the heart, and everything is subordinate to its extension and the manifestation of its glory.
And who are the children of the kingdom? Jesus spake this word even of the Jews who rejected the kingdom. God had in His great mercy committed the promise of the kingdom to Israel, and all its children were its heirs. And now our children, born under its influence, destined for its blessings, baptized into the fellowship of the Church, which is the nursery and training school of the kingdom,—our children are children of the kingdom—' of such is the kingdom of heaven.'
And what is needed to secure for them the possession of the kingdom to which they have thus been made the heirs? That they may lose it, we see—children of the kingdom may be cast out into outer darkness. What is needed above everything is this, that they be so educated and trained under the influence and power of the heavenly life, in the very spirit of the kingdom, that the blessing which their name, as expressive of their destiny, brings, may become their own personal and everlasting possession.
And who is to train them thus? Christian parents! this is our holy privilege. As children of the kingdom, they are entrusted to us to keep and nourish. The keynote of our education, the watchword in all our desires and efforts on their behalf, our plea with God for them, and with them for God, must be this: They are children of the kingdom. To parents God has entrusted the high commission of leading their children on from the place where their title is only yet a name and a promise, to the life of possession and full enjoyment.
And what is needed to enable the parent to do this? Nothing less than that with his whole heart he himself live in and for the kingdom of heaven. The atmosphere of the home must be the spirit of heaven; Christ's command, 'Seek first the kingdom of God,' must be the ruling principle of all its conduct: unconsciously the child must receive the impression that not only personal blessing, but the interests and extension of God's kingdom, are the hope and the joy of life. Parents whose citizenship is in heaven, who have in truth entered the kingdom, and live in it, will alone be found worthy or fit to train the children as heirs of the kingdom.
And how are parents able thus to live ?' My kingdom,' Jesus said, 'is not of this world: my kingdom is not from here.' It is from above, from heaven, from God, the kingdom comes; it is from above, from heaven, from God, the Spirit and the life and the power of the kingdom must come each day. Coming out of the world, daily rising upward and entering into the Holiest within the veil through the blood, the believer must tarry in God's presence in worship and surrender, until the anointing is fresh upon him; so only can he come down into his home, and consecrate it as the nursery for children of the kingdom. So long as we are content with just religion enough to save ourselves and our children, we must not be surprised if they remain unsaved: it is only in seeking to be filled with the Spirit, to have our whole life, like Christ's, sacrificed for the kingdom, that we may count on the blessing of a successful education. 'My kingdom is not of this world :' the spirit of the world, perhaps unconsciously, ruling in the parents, destroys all that they hope to effect by their purposes, their precepts, or their prayers. In Christ's command, 'First the kingdom', we have the secret and the certainty of a successful education.
Parents! your children are children of the kingdom, the kingdom of God in heaven! Hold and love and train them as such, for God alone! From God alone be your hope. From above, from above must be your help. Seek it in much prayer. Accept it in childlike faith, that believes that you have what you ask. Yield yourself to it, denying self, not allowing self any say in the guidance of your life or home. Yield yourself to it, keeping the ear open every hour to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, through whom alone the laws and the powers of the kingdom can work in us.
Above all, remember Jesus! He Said, 'Suffer little children to come UNTO Me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.' He is the King: in Him we have the kingdom as a Presence. Live with Him, on Him, in Him. He loves our children and looks after them; His presence and love will more than anything fill us and them with a holy enthusiasm for the kingdom: so will they grow up in the kingdom and for the kingdom. And we shall taste the joy unspeakable of having our home, with its life and love and training, within the kingdom; yea, of having the kingdom of heaven within our home.
Our Father which art in heaven, Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory. Blessed be Thy name, that by Thine Almighty power Thy kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, hath come to this earth, and will come, until the whole earth be filled with Thy glory. Blessed, too, be Thy name, that we and our little ones are the children of the kingdom. O Father' we look to thy Father-love to give us who are fathers and mothers grace to realize how sacred our calling and our home is, because we are training children of the kingdom for Thee. Teach us, we pray Thee, never to put asunder what the words of our Lord have joined together—the children and the kingdom. May all our love and intercourse and influence help to link them inseparably with the kingdom. May they never know that they are not living and growing up in it.
Blessed Lord Jesus! who didst say of the little ones, 'Of such is the kingdom,' we do beseech Thee, reveal to us what Thy kingdom is in its spiritual reality and glory; what it is even here on earth as the rule of God by the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of His people. May the kingdom of God be within us in such power, and we within it in such truth, that our children may not only have the name, but that the very atmosphere they breathe in our home be such as will really make them children of the kingdom. Amen.