And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.…
Mark 10:13-16. Parallel passages: Matthew 19:13-15; Luke 18:15-17.
I. CHILDREN BROUGHT AND BLESSED.
1. Our Lord's love of children. Our Lord, when on earth, had no greater favourites than children. He set them in the midst; he laid his hands on them; he blessed them; he invited them to his presence; he welcomed them to his person; he folded them lovingly in his arms. He calls them the lambs of his flock; he provides them suitable spiritual food, and with it he bids us feed them. He represents by them his faithful followers; he reproves his disciples when they would have prevented their access to him. He reminds us all that they are precious in our heavenly Father's sight, preserved by his providence and protected by his power. He assures us, as we have seen, that "their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven."
2. Individual features of the three narratives. The request of those who brought the little children, as reported by St. Matthew, is not only that the Savior should touch them, as in St. Mark and St. Luke; but "put his hands on them, and pray. In St. Mark, we are told that Jesus not only touched the little children, as requested, but took them up in his arms." They thus got more than they asked. This is usually the way with Christ; he does more for us than we ask or think. An additional feature of the narrative, as supplied by St. Luke, is that some of these children were of very tender age - mere infants
II. THE CHANGE BY WHICH WE BECOME AS LITTLE CHILDREN.
1. A parallel passage. In St. Matthew's Gospel (Matthew 18:3) we have a statement exactly corresponding to the fifteenth verse of this tenth chapter of St. Mark, with this difference, however, that the former passage goes further back, bringing us up to the turning-point at which we become as little children. The verse referred to reads thus, "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of God;" the Revised Version has, "Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven." This rendering of εἰσέλθητε in the last clause brings out the meaning with due emphasis, and is thus more accurate than that of the common version; the substitution of turn for be converted in the first clause is intended to divest the term of the technical theological sense which some attach to it. The word στραφῆτε (second aorist passive) may be translated as a passive, or as a middle, since the aorists passive have often a middle meaning, equivalent to turn yourselves, or simply turn intransitively, as we have it in the Revised Version. In its application, as shown by the context, it urged those addressed to turn away from their ambitious notions, self-seeking eagerness, and fondness for precedence. The term is general, we readily acknowledge, and denotes a change such as that referred to; but before men are capable of turning from the courses indicated, and of exhibiting the characteristics of little children, they must have become the subjects of a special and greater change, of which that immediately referred to is a manifestation. We may read the statement of St. Mark, that "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein," or, as it is more accurately rendered in the Revised Version, "he shall in no wise enter therein," in the light which St. Matthew's statement sheds on it.
2. Divine agency. We have seen that the word in the closely corresponding text is limited by some, and may indeed be limited, to its literal sense, and understood of a turning away from such high-mindedness as the disciples had displayed on that occasion - a turning away from such haughtiness of spirit as led to the question asked by them, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Others may be disposed to take it in the sense of recovery from backsliding, of a return to the Lord after some wrong step, as a compound form of the same verb is employed (ἐπιστρέψας) in the words addressed to Peter, "When thou art converted, strengthen the brethren; or, as we read it in the Revised Version, "And do thou, when once thou hast turned again, stablish thy brethren." Others may prefer the wider and more technical sense of conversion. But whatever sense be attached to the one particular term, a change effected by Divine agency must be presupposed; otherwise the changes implied in the lower sense cannot be rightly accomplished, nor the characteristics of childhood fully attained. "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein," is the statement of St. Mark, and suggests the inquiry - What is it to receive the kingdom of God? Now, to take the simplest and plainest view of this matter, to receive the kingdom of God is to receive the gospel of the kingdom; and to receive the gospel of the kingdom is to receive him who is the Subject of that gospel, and the Sovereign of that kingdom - the Christian's King and Head; and to receive him, again, is the turning-point in a man's spiritual history, the greatest and most important event of his whole life. This reception of the Savior implies faith of the operation of God - faith, which is God's gift and the Spirit's work in the heart. Wherever faith exists, even as a grain of mustard seed, Christ is formed in the heart. It matters little what name is given to this change, whether we call it "the new birth," or "regeneration," or "conversion;" to be subjects of it is the great thing, for it is the principle of all right action, and the prolific source of all Christian graces and of all truly virtuous conduct.
3. Statement of a difference. We may notice a difference which will help to a clearer apprehension of the change in question. Conversion is akin to regeneration; it is most nearly similar, and cannot be separated from it, and yet it is not quite the same thing. Regeneration implants a new principle in the soul; conversion is the practical putting forth of that principle. Regeneration imparts new life to the soul; conversion is the exercise of that life. Regeneration bestows new power; conversion is the manifestation of that power. For sake of illustration, let us suppose a man dead and buried. Regeneration may be compared to life entering into the sepulcher, opening the eyes that death had scaled, giving back the healthy color to the cheeks and causing the vital fluid once more to circulate through all the frame; conversion may be represented by the same man, after being thus reanimated, exerting the power of life which he has just received, rising up from among the dead, coming forth from the tomb, and entering on the various duties and activities of life. Conversion and regeneration are thus so closely linked together as cause and effect that they often stand for one another.
4. Human instrumentality. Here, too, the power of God and the work of man unite; Divine agency and human instrumentality combine. The hand of man may roll away the stone and remove the grave-clothes, as in the case of Lazarus; but nothing short of the power of God can resuscitate the buried corpse, or speak the dead to life. So, also, it is when the dead in trespasses and sins are quickened. By the instrumentality of man, the stone that stops the mouth of the sepulcher may be taken away and the grave-clothes unbound; but nothing less than "the working of God's mighty power which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead," can make any one of us alive through Christ Jesus. We may preach and pray, and it is our duty to combine both, and our privilege to engage in either; but the power that raises the dead to life is the power, and not only the power, but the mighty power of God. The prophet of old acknowledged this, for after he had prophesied to the dry bones in the valley of vision, he followed up his prophesying by prayer, saying, "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live." The psalmist felt the same when he said, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." The apostle was of the same mind when he wrote, "But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, quickened us together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved)."
5. The means employed, and the manner in which the change is effected. God treats us as reasonable beings; he makes his appeal to the faculties with which he has endowed us. He addresses us as his intelligent creatures, and challenges us to inquiry, saying, "Judge ye what I say." He speaks to us in his Word and by his ambassadors, and even entreats us to be reconciled to God. He bestows his Spirit, for without the agency of that Spirit all the rest would be but as the rolling away of the stone and the unbinding of the grave-clothes already spoken of.
6. The nature of the change. After the creation of the heavens and the earth, the first work of God was light. God said, "Let there be light." In the change in question, which, for convenience' sake, we may call conversion, the first work is also light; he enlightens our understanding in the knowledge of Christ. God's Word, indeed, is light, "a light to our feet;" but while we are unconverted there are scales on our eyes, and if we see at all, it is only "men like trees, walking." The Spirit takes away the scales; and we see the suitability and sufficiency of the Savior, the completeness of his work, the fullness of his offices, the freeness of his mercy, the riches of his grace, the length and breadth and depth and height of his love; we see also our sins in the light of his sufferings, and his sufferings endured for and expiating our sins. This is not all; it is not enough to have light in the head. There is often natural light, intellectual light, the light of science, even the light of theological speculation or doctrine or controversy; but such light by itself never brought any soul to the Savior. Of such light we may say, it is the light of the moon shining on an iceberg away in a frozen sea; it is the nocturnal light of twinkling stars, as they sparkle in the firmament, and shed their flickering radiance on some far-off mountain capped with snow. In this gracious change there is an additional element. With light in the head it combines love in the heart. Like light and heat from the same fire, they go hand in hand. The heart follows the head, and they act and react upon each other. The will obeys the understanding, and the affections go along with both. The subject of this blessed change can say with one of old, "Whereas I was blind, now I see;" but he goes further, and can say with the apostle, "The love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Ghost which was given unto us." The regenerate soul can say, "I know whom I have believed;" but it stops not there; it adds, "Whom having not seen, I love." Conversion, if we may use the term in its popular sense, is the love of Christ constraining us; it is the Word of Christ instructing us; it is "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ;" it is the work of Christ renewing us; it is the Spirit of Christ enlightening us; it is the life of Christ imparted to us - "because I live, ye shall live also;" it is the love of him "who first loved us, and gave himself for us." This love expels the enmity of the carnal mind, gives a new bent to the will and a new bias to the feelings; it lays hold of the affections, and influences all the energies of our being, operating at once on the faculties of the mind and the members of the body. It is God making us willing, as well as welcome, to be his people in the day of his power.
III. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF CHILDHOOD.
1. Infant salvation. When it is said that "of such [that is, children] is the kingdom of God," it may mean children literally; and so many understand it, and refer kingdom to the state of future blessedness, maintaining that, as the majority of mankind die in infancy, and as they are redeemed, children will constitute the majority of the saved. But there is another interpretation, which understands children spiritually, that is, those who resemble children in character; thus St. Paul says, "Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men." While we are fully persuaded that all children dying in infancy are saved because of the superabundant grace of God in Christ Jesus, we are far from supposing that regeneration is not necessary in case of children as well as of others. Indeed, the Word of God proves it indispensable; for thus says the psalmist, "I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me;" and again, "We go astray as soon as we be born, speaking lies;" and further, the Prophet Isaiah says," All we like sheep have gone astray." It thus becomes our duty to seek, by all available means, to bring children to Christ the Good Shepherd, who carries the lambs in his besom, that he may bless them and make them members of his flock. There are, however, several characteristics of children which serve well to illustrate the character and conduct of God's spiritual children.
2. The first characteristic is humility. When converted to God, we become like little children in humility. Pride is the ruin of our race; we trace it back to Paradise. Satan introduced it there. It was the great inducement with our first parents that they should be "as Gods, knowing good and evil." We mark its dark waters along the stream of time from then till now. It was a fruitful source of disaster to King David. In the pride of his heart he numbered the people, and the dreadfully calamitous choice was allowed him to elect between seven years' famine, three months' war, or three days' pestilence. Another instance occurs in the case of Naaman, commander-in-chief of the host of Syria. Leprous as he was, and consequently miserable as he must have been, he felt his pride wounded when the prophet directed him to wash seven times in Jordan; he turned away in a rage, saying, "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?" Come we to New Testament times, we have another still more awful instance of pride and its punishment. Herod sat upon his kingly throne; he made an oration - a king's speech, and more eloquent, no doubt, than royal speeches generally are; at all events, the people were in raptures with him and it, so that they shouted, "It is the voice of a God, and not of a man." He was arrayed in royal robes; he was proud of his pomp, of his power, and of his popularity. But the angel of the Lord smote him; "he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost." The same evil propensity of fallen humanity finds thousands and tens of thousands of living exemplifications in those whom the Scripture calls "proud boasters," "heady, high-minded," and classes with the vilest and the worst. On the contrary, the first evidence of conversion to God is humility. The child of a prince will, if permitted, amuse itself with the child of a peasant. As they sport together there is no distinction of riches or of rank; they meet together on the same common level; they stand on the same footing of equality. We are not universal levellers; we would not do away with the distinctions of rank that exist, and perhaps must exist. We find in the membership of the human body some members discharging honorable functions, others functions less so. We find in the heavenly hierarchy various grades - thrones, and dominions, and principalities, and powers. But we would willingly do away with, and Christianity tends to do away with, that proud spirit that sets up castes and opposes class to class, preventing that cordial sympathy that should ever bind together all the many members in the great family of man. Why should we be proud? What are we proud of? Is it of our bodies? They are "fearfully and wonderfully made," yet dust they are, and unto dust they must return. Is it of our souls? God" breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul." Is it of what we are? We are only creatures of a day, and our foundation is in the dust. Is it of what we have? We have nothing, be it worldly wealth, or intellectual endowment, or physical superiority, or spiritual grace, - nothing that we have not received. We are pensioners on the Divine bounty, daily recipients of the Divine favor, almoners on the liberality of God. Most of us have read the Revelation Legh Richmond's little book entitled ' The Dairyman's Daughter,' and the text which by the blessing of God became the means of converting that once poor, proud girl. That text was, "Be ye clothed with humility" (ἐγκομβώσασθε: literally, "wrap tight round you your humility," in allusion to Christ girding himself with a towel to wash his disciples' feet), and by its application to her heart she was led to feel her own emptiness and Christ's fullness. Next to the robe of Christ's righteousness, and inseparably connected with it, is this garment of humility which distinguishes every converted soul, which every child of God puts on, and which every Christian wears. Of all the many promises of Scripture, not one is made to the proud. "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble;" "The humble and the contrite heart the Lord will not despise."
3. A second characteristic is teachableness Christ was meek and lowly in heart." He invites us to learn of him. Most children are docile; at all events, childhood and youth are the seasons for learning. Though there is no age however advanced at which we should not be learners, and no stage o! progress at which we shall not have still much to learn - for here "we only see through a glass, darkly" - yet there is truth in the trite old proverb, "Learn young, learn well." The Christian, by his very profession and by his practice, when truly converted to God, is a disciple; and what is that but a learner, a scholar in the school of Christ? There are three teachers in this school - the Word of God, the providence of God, and the Spirit or God. The entrance in of that Word giveth light; it makes "wise unto salvation." Every time we hear it preached, or peruse it prayerfully and thoughtfully, the light is brightened and increased. It is our privilege, and should be our pleasure, to study that Word daily and diligently, dutifully and devoutly. If it were only a single text meditated on each day, it would result in spiritual blessing. We are to search this Word. There is a treasure in it, and we are to dig for that treasure - a pearl of great price, and we are to seek for that pearl, and, if needs be, part with everything else rather than miss it. That treasure is Christ, "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." That pearl is Christ - a pearl of exceeding price. There are shallows in this Word where a child may wade, and depths which no human line can fathom. "Search the Scriptures,." said our Lord; "for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." The providence of God teaches us in many ways and furnishes many lessons. We need grace to mark those lessons and follow the leadings of that providence, and in this way the most afflictive dispensations are productive of good, so that there is occasion to say, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted." The Spirit of God is the great Teacher, he leads us into all truth, he takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us, he convinces us of sin, of righteousness, and of judgement. Let us pray for childlike docility of spirit; let us come to the three teachers we have named, and hear what God the Lord will say to our souls.
4. A third characteristic is trustfulness. Children are proverbially confiding. When we pass from the years of childhood we become wary - too wary; cautious - often far too cautious, though never too circumspect. Let a parent make a promise to his child; that child never questions his father's word, he never doubts his father's ability to perform his promise, he never suspects his father's willingness to make good what he has said. Would that we all acted thus towards our heavenly Father! Would that we all took him in this childlike manner and with this childlike trustfulness at his word! Would that we all sought the Spirit of adoption, by which we could look up and say, "Our Father in heaven," and inward and say, "Abba, Father," and outward and around saying, "All things work together for good to them that love God," - the beautiful things of earth and sea and sky are mine, for my Father made them all. In the 'Life of Sir Henry Havelock,' one is amused with a remarkable example of childlike confidence on the part of his son which is recorded therein. Sir Henry had had occasion to call at a public office on business. He left his son at the door to wait for him outside. The father, after despatching the business in band, passed out of the office by another way, in total forgetfulness of his son and of the appointment made with him. The boy, however, had such perfect confidence in his father's promise and usual punctuality, that he waited, and waited, and continued waiting all the day long, till the shades of evening were gathering. By that time something had occurred to remind Sir Henry of his son, when, going immediately to the place, he found him on the spot where he had left him in the morning. God has given us his sure Word of prophecy and promise; he bids us wait, and that prophecy will be fulfilled and that promise performed. An earthly parent may fail or forget; God never forgets his promise, nor fails to perform it to his people. He is never slack concerning his promise; at the time appointed it shall come, and not tarry. It is ours to wait and watch and work, "for the day of redemption draweth nigh." It is ours to exercise filial trust and childlike confidence in our heavenly Father, who "is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent."
5. A fourth characteristic. Another characteristic is simplicity. We do not mean that a child of God must be a simpleton; quite the opposite. We are to be "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." Now, by Christian simplicity we understand guilelessness and harmlessness. We take it to denote singleness of heart, of tongue, and of eye; it becomes the Christian, it glorifies God and impresses man. "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings God hath ordained strength." The children in the temple proclaimed, "Hosanna in the highest!" Once in a stagecoach, as we have read, a little interesting girl five years old was sitting beside her mother. A gentleman was paying attention to the child. After a time, turning her full blue eyes upon him, with childlike lovingness and in her own simple accents, she said," You love God?" The gentleman passed the child's question off as best he could. The coach reached the place of destination,, the journey ended. But still the words of that child haunted him. The question she asked was new to him; he had never thought of it before. He never rested till, by the grace of God, he was able to answer it by felt experience. Time rolled on. A few years after, as he passed through the streets of a town, he saw the mother of that little child at a window, in weeds of mourning. He called to inquire for his favourite, but she was gone; God had taken her home to glory, and to be for ever with himself.
1. Contrast. Over the entrance to Plato's famous academy at Athens was written the sentence, "Let no one enter here who does not possess a knowledge of geometry." Over the gate of heaven is written, not the proud maxim of the philosopher, but this plain statement, "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein."
2. What is implied in exclusion. Not to enter heaven, in other words, exclusion from heaven, implies the absence of holiness, of hope, and of happiness. It is never to see the King in his beauty, never to see the land that is afar off, never to enjoy peace, never to enter into rest, never to meet God in mercy, never to sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and never to join the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn which are written in heaven. Still more, exclusion shuts out from wearing the crown and occupying the throne, from tenanting the mansion, and tuning the harp, and swelling the anthem of "Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory, and blessing." Not to enter heaven is to be excluded from the holy presence, from the blessed fellowship of patriarchs and prophets and apostles and martyrs and confessors; to be shut out from the life and light and love of the upper sanctuary; to be shut up with the devil and the damned, with lost spirits, with devouring fire and everlasting burnings; to be doomed to "weening, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth," and to dwell for ever in that prison-house of hell, "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." - J.J.G.
Parallel VersesKJV: And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.