C.N. Douglas, comp. Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical. 1917.
Childrens Day (Sunday School)
And they brought young children to Him, that He should touch them; and His disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them.
Dr. Holmes was asked when the training of a child should begin. A hundred years before it is born, he replied. This is a strong way of putting the truth that the training of children should begin with the training of their grandparents.
Among the old Romans there prevailed the touching custom of holding the face of every new born babe toward the heavens, signifying by their presenting its forehead to the stars that it was to look above the world into celestial glories. That was only a vain superstition; but Christ has taught us how to realize the old Pagan yearning.
I will say broadly that I have more confidence in the spiritual life of the children that I have received into this church than I have in the spiritual condition of the adults thus received. I will even go further than that, and say that I have usually found a clearer knowledge of the gospel and a warmer love of Christ in the child-converts than in the man-converts. I will even astonish you still more by saying that I have sometimes met with a deeper spiritual experience in children of ten and twelve than I have in certain persons of fifty and sixty.
Do not others expect from children more perfect conduct than they themselves exhibit? If a gracious child should lose his temper or act wrongly in some trifling thing through forgetfulness, straightway he is condemned as a little hypocrite by those who are a long way from being perfect themselves. Jesus says, Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones.
When children ask you questions about gray hairs, and wrinkles in the face, and sighs that have no words, and smiles too bright to be carved upon the radiant face by the hands of hypocrisywhen they ask you about kneeling at the altar, speaking into the vacant air, and uttering words to an unseen and in an invisible Presencewhen they interrogate you about your great psalms, and hymns, and anthem-bursts of thankfulness, what is your reply to these? Do not be ashamed of the history. Keep steadily along the line of fact. Say what happened to you, and magnify God in the hearing of the inquirer.
Ought there to be room in the bonds of church-fellowship for the great mass of average boys and girls who, by judicious training and careful Christian nurture, may be induced very early to give their hearts to God? Aye, we believe with all our heart there ought to be such a place. We believe that before many years there will be such a place in every true church, and it will be just as much expected that many young children will form part of the membership of every church as that there will be gray-haired men and women there.
Children should be educated in and into the church. Whatever our theory may be of the spiritual relation of the child to the church, this is certain and true: That children should be consecrated to God from their birth. Of such is the kingdom of heaven. We should assume this as the normal state of the case and treat the child accordingly. He should be trained in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. His first intelligent lesson should be of God and worship. The happiest hours of child-life should be in learning of the way to God through Jesus Christ.
But these dear boys and girlsthere is something to be made out of them. If now they yield themselves to Christ they may have a long, happy, and holy day before them in which they may serve God with all their hearts. Who knows what glory God may have of them? Heathen lands may call them blessed. Whole nations may be enlightened by them. O brethren and sisters, let us estimate children at their true valuation, and we shall not keep them back, but we shall be eager to lead them to Jesus at once.
Few special days in the average Sunday school are looked forward to with such eager expectancy on the part of the scholars as Childrens Day. Even fathers and mothers, big brothers and sisters, who perhaps seldom enter church doors, go then if at no other time. With many schools it is practically the end of a years work and an anniversary corresponding to Commencement Day in our public schools. But in every school it may be a day of unusual opportunity for presenting the joy of the Christ-life and the friendship of the All-Loving One to many who perhaps are not reached at other times during the year.
Some kind hearts have lived in every generation, but it is only within a few years that the older Christians have come into such perfect love and sympathy with childrens needs as to set apart a Sunday for their especial benefit. Those who planned the grand day seem to enjoy it as much as the little ones, for the churches are full of grown-up people, many of them with silvery hair and wrinkled faces; but many of the wrinkles seem to be smoothed out by the happy, fresh looks that come over them when the childrens voices are heard taking a prominent part in the worship. We older ones can testify that Childrens Day has benefited us in many ways, and is the Sunday of the whole year which we enjoy the best.
For you, a boy or girl, to be a Christian will be for you to be as nearly as you can like what Jesus was when He was at your age. That is one reason why it is worth so much to us to have a Jesus that began in the cradle and gradually grew up. If we had a Jesus that was already a man when He came, and hadnt stopped to be a baby and a boy, we should hardly have known what to say to the children about these things; we might have had to say that only grown-up men and women could be Christians. But now we have Jesus all the way along, from eighteen inches up, so that we can say to any one, You can be a Christian by being as nearly as you can like what Jesus was at your age.
As we look and listen we hear with our hearts the cry of myriads of children pleading for the bread of life. What response shall we make to this lifted signal? The offering of Childrens Day will measure our love, our gratitude, our appreciation of the divine movement of Providence and of the grand and awful time in which we are living. Let every one, then, give as God has prospered him, and additional Sabbath school missionaries will go forth to many a wilderness, and the solitary place will be glad for them and blossom as the rose.
Most of you will have a very happy Childrens Day, we trust; but there will be many of Christs little ones who will have to be at home on beds of sickness and pain, and cannot go to the Lords house and worship Him among the beautiful flowers and loving friends who will make everything so attractive. Remember such ones. Carry them flowers and some sweet, helpful words, to make the day less burdensome to them. There may be others obliged to stay away, who have not suitable clothes to wear, because of their poverty. Seek out such and overcome any hindrances in their way that you can, so that as many as possible of Christs little ones may gather together in His courts on that especial day.
And so sweetly adapted is the child-mind to the Gospel and the Gospel to the child-mind that they cheerfully coalesce, and the babes milk is not more palatable and nutritious than is the bread of life to the new-born soul. No one can say how soon a child may intelligently apprehend the divine truth. Many saints of God have no memory of the period in their early lives when Christ was not dear to their hearts. When they were born from above they do not remember any more than they can recollect the moment when they first breathed the breath of life. It is not so with all; perhaps not so with the most. But the true theory of the Gospel is that children should be brought up on it, as their daily food; be nurtured by it; renewed by the Holy Spirit, and made heirs of salvation.
Were we more anxious about the children we would do more work of a Christian kind. The old man seems to be beyond our reach, but the little child seems to be made for Christ. It would seemdo not let us shrink from the termnatural for every little child to put out his arms to cling to the Child of Bethlehem. Save the children and you will purify society; expend your solicitude upon the young, opening, tender life, and, you shall see the result of your concern after many days-. Services should be constituted for children; the old people have had the sanctuary too long; their ears are sated with eloquence; their minds are stored with names that never turn into inspirations; churches might be built for children, and preachers trained to speak to them alone. We have reversed all things and thus have gone astray. * * * * A poet says he was nearer heaven in his childhood than he ever was in after days, and he sweetly prayed that he might return through his yesterdays and through his childhood back to God. That is chronologically impossiblelocally and physically not to be done, and yet that is the very miracle which is to be performed in the soulin the spirit; we must be born again.
So with the children. It is even more important that religious exercises should not be made irksome and burdensome to them. Too much of a good thing is bad for them. I would not require them to be all the livelong day in a treadmill of religious work. They will be disgusted and hate the service, which should be always attractive to them and a delight. It is a serious question with ministers how to make the pulpit useful and pleasant to the young. Preachers with the gift of talking to childrena gift not so rare as is often thoughtsometimes give a brief discourse to the children before the regular sermon. The objection to that practice is that children take it as their portion and dismiss the sermon that follows from their attention altogether. Now the art of talking to children does not consist in baby-talk or little stories or poor jokes. A man need not be a mountebank in order to interest the young in what he is saying. Children are not fools. If a man is simple in his words and earnest in his manner, children will hear with attention and get instruction from a sermon that is designed for the whole people.