« PreviousContinue »
These two disciples we are speaking of were called to the great privilege of attending upon Christ, of hearing His gracious words, and partaking of His Almighty help.
And surely we are called to a blessing no less than this, when we are called to the unspeakable privilege of loving God. That we should be allowed to do so—that we should be permitted to love Him who is so infinitely good ! surely words cannot speak the greatness of this favour. That there should be no limits or bounds set to this, but that we should be allowed to love Him with all our heart, and soul, and strength; and not only allowed, but commanded to do so: and also that He who commands should give us the power to perform! if after this we fix our hearts on things below in this our time of trial, then surely, in the eyes of the Holy Angels of God, our conduct must appear as inexcusable as that of Judas, who for thirty pieces of silver sold the LORD of life, and forfeited Heaven.
And, indeed, even now it is very easy to see all this; it is easy to see the vast difference between the love of God, and the love of every thing else; but we are satisfied with seeing this : and still, after all, we are, for the most part, in the same place, and have done nothing towards the attainment of it: we let day pass after day, and year after year, till suddenly death stares us in the face, and makes us look more closely on our own folly, when it is too late to amend it.
And the reason of all this may be comprised in one short saying—because we say and do not-or because we hear and do not.
The road to destruction is paved with fine sayings, and great intentions, and feelings of good; or else there would not be so many that travel along the broad road, as our blessed Lord says
many are they who go in thereat." The road to Heaven is paved with good works alone.
Blessed and Divine Lesson- let us unlearn all other things, that we may learn it! Privilege unspeakable, and consummation of all joy ; let us value nothing else, in order that we may value this alone; let us care for nothing else, that we may be exceeding careful of this ; for Heaven and earth and all things else shall pass away, but Divine Love shall alone remain.
“I am always
by Thee, Thou hast holden me by my right-hand.” “ Whom have I in Heaven but THEE ? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of THEE!” “My flesh and my heart faileth ; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever!” "I will behold Thy presence in righteousness, and when I wake up after Thy likeness I shall be satisfied with it.”
ST. LUKE ii. 40.
“And the Child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and
the grace of God was upon him."
VERY little is told us of our blessed Lord for all the early years of His life, from infancy to manhood. Once only does He come before the eyes of mankind; it is when He was twelve years
of age, when He was lost by His parents, and found in the temple. The description of His early age is contained in a few words, that HE “was subject to ” His parents;—which doubtless signifies that He was in an extraordinary manner a pattern of filial obedience : and that HE“grew in wisdom and in stature;” in stature like other children ; in wisdom, such as made Him in the highest degree accepted of God, Who testified at His Baptism, saying, “ This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” And such He grew as a child, “in favour both with God and man.” In the
of men He was but as other children : in the eyes of God, who was tenderly watching over Him, He grew in favour as the Son of man, increasing day by day in perfect holiness. Man knew Him not; but doubtless the angels of heaven, who had sung His birth, never ceased to attend upon Him in wonder and adoration ; while as a poor child He was subject to poor parents, and daily becoming more and more acquainted with human
But beyond what is written, no thought of man can conceive worthily of that Divine Childhood.
Next to the childhood of our Lord Himself, we are inclined to look to the childhood of other saints of God in Scripture, such as the holy child Samuel, who also, like our blessed Lord Himself, only appears to us when a child in the temple of God; as if the temple of God was the only place for a child. But we look especially to the children mentioned in the Gospels, to learn what is said of them as they came near to the Person of our blessed LORD. And now we find this circumstance, (and blessed be God for it!) that full as is every page of the Gospel with the wickedness of men, yet no bad word and no wicked deed is recorded of any child against Christ. And moreover, when men were forward to follow Him, and made professions of zeal in serving Him, He put them back with awful warnings, speaking to them of “taking up the cross,” and of first “
counting the cost;" but not so with children ; He drew them unto Him with unrestrained affection, and bowels of compassion yearning over them: we behold Him taking them up in His arms, and with His hands upon them. And they alone of all mankind returned His affectionate care without alloy ; for we find them in the temple celebrating His praise, when the Priests and Scribes were angry with them, as they heard them crying Hosannah to the Son of David. The children, indeed, understood not what was the meaning of those glorious words which they sung; but to our Lord it was the most acceptable offering of praise that He received, for He defended them, and said, “ Have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise ?” This was the praise which best spoke the nature of His kingdom : these were the songs that were most suitable to His temple : these Hosannahs of the children were not followed the next day with cries of “crucify Him,” like the Hosannahs of the multitude were. And as we find holy childhood in God's temple on earth, and children in the temple singing His praise : so also in His temple in heaven they sing the new song before the throne, " These are they which were not defiled with women: for they are virgins. These are they which follow the LAMB whithersoever He goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and to the LAMB. And in their mouth was found no guile, for they are without fault before the throne of God."
If we inquire on what other occasions children are mentioned in the Gospels as finding access to Christ, or spoken of in relation to Him, we shall find them as partaking of His sufferings : “ For this also is a high privilege,” as St. Paul says, “ unto you is given not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Such were those holy innocents which were slain at Bethlehem, the first of Martyrs–Martyrs not in will, but in deed. And other children also are mentioned in the Gospels as sufferers; not sufferers indeed for His Name's sake, but brought near unto Him by suffering ; such were those who were healed by Him, as that youth who was possessed by a devil, grievously tormented, and cast by him into the fire and water, and that daughter of the Ruler, twelve years of age, sick of a fever, on whom our Lord laid His hand, and raised her from the dead.
But far more than this has our LORD done to dignify and exalt the state of childhood, by telling us more than once, that we must become like little children in order to enter into the Kingdom; and that he who humbles himself most as a little child, shall be the highest in that Kingdom. All true greatness, therefore, consists in being like a child. Now this not only sets before us the pattern and description of what we ought to be: but raises the state of childhood in men's eyes : for we naturally reverence and respect, and think highly of that which we are desirous to imitate. It makes childhood precious in the eyes of a good man: and also it checks all thoughts of pride in the most perfect, to be taught that He who would learn perfection in the school of Christ, has still to go back, and to learn of a child.
Now we cannot understand the full meaning of any of our Lord's words, for they are higher than heaven, and we are on earth; they are Divine words, and Angels desire to look into them : but though we cannot understand them altogether, yet we can always by God's gracious help comprehend a great deal, which, if we follow it, will lead to our everlasting good. We cannot fully therefore understand, in what sense the most perfect must be as children ; must go back to that childhood they have lost. But though we cannot understand it fully, yet we can in great measure. For instance, children have no worldly possessions; and he is the best Christian who is most disengaged from them: who even " in possessing" is, as St. Paul said, " as if he possessed not." In like manner we may observe, that to be “poor in spirit,” that is to