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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
School of Infancy—Claims of Childhood
By Johann Amos Comenius (1592–1670)
 
THAT children are an inestimable treasure, the Spirit of God by the lips of David testifies, saying:—“Lo, the children are the heritages of the Lord; the fruit of the womb his reward; as arrows in the hand, so are children. Blessed is the man who has filled his quiver with them; he shall not be confounded.” David declares those to be happy on whom God confers children.  1
  The same is also evident from this: that God, purposing to testify his love towards us, calls us children, as if there were no more excellent name by which to commend us.  2
  Moreover, he is very greatly incensed against those who deliver their children to Moloch. It is also worthy our most serious consideration that God, in respect of the children of even idolatrous parents, calls them children born to him; thus indicating that they are born not for ourselves but for God, and as God’s offspring they claim our most profound respect.  3
  Hence in Malachi children are called the seed of God, whence arises the offspring of God.  4
  For this reason the eternal Son of God, when manifested in the flesh, not only willed to become the participator of the flesh of children, but likewise deemed children a pleasure and a delight. Taking them in his arms, as little brothers and sisters, he carried them about, and kissed them and blessed them.  5
  Not only this: he likewise uttered a severe threat against any one who should offend them even in the least degree, commanding them to be respected as himself, and condemning even with severe penalties any who offend even the smallest of them.  6
  Should any one wish to inquire why he so delighted in little children, and so strictly enjoined upon us such respectful attention to them, many reasons may be ascertained. And first, if the little ones seem unimportant to you, regard them not as they now are, but as in accordance with the intention of God they may and ought to be. You will see them not only as the future inhabitants of the world and possessors of the earth, and God’s vicars amongst his creatures when we depart from this life, but also equally participators with us in the heritage of Christ, a royal priesthood, a chosen people, associates of angels, judges of devils, the delight of heaven, the terror of hell—heirs of the most excellent dignities throughout all the ages of eternity. What can be imagined more excellent than this?  7
  Philip Melanchthon of pious memory, having upon one occasion entered a common school, looked upon the pupils therein assembled, and began his address to them in these words:—“Hail, reverend pastors, doctors, licentiates, superintendents! Hail! most noble, most prudent, most learned lords, consuls, prætors, judges, prefects, chancellors, secretaries, magistrates, professors, etc.” When some of the bystanders received these words with a smile, he replied:—“I am not jesting; my speech is serious; for I look on these little boys, not as they are now, but with a view to the purpose of the Divine mind, on account of which they are delivered to us for instruction. For assuredly some such will come forth from among the number, although there may be an intermixture of chaff among them as there is among wheat.” Such was the animated address of this most prudent man. But why should not we with equal confidence declare, in respect of all children of Christian parents, those glorious things which have been mentioned above? since Christ, the promulgator of the eternal secrets of God, has pronounced that “of such is the kingdom of Heaven.”  8
  But if we consider only their present state, it will at once be obvious why children are of inestimable value in the sight of God, and ought to be so to their parents.  9
  In the first place, they are valuable to God because, being innocent with the sole exception of original sin, they are not yet the defaced image of God by having polluted themselves with actual guilt, and are “unable to discern between good and evil, between the right hand and the left.” That God has respect to this is abundantly manifest from the above words addressed to John, and from other passages of the Sacred Writ.  10
  Secondly, they are the pure and dearly purchased possession of Christ; since Christ, who came to seek the lost, is said to be the Savior of all, except those who by incredulity and impenitence shut themselves out from being participators in his merits. These are the purchased from among men, that they may be the first-fruits unto God and the Lamb; having not yet defiled themselves with the allurements of sin; but they follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. And that they may continue so to follow, they ought to be led as it were with the hand by a pious education.  11
  Finally, God so embraces children with abounding love that they are a peculiar instrument of divine glory; as the Scriptures testify, “From the lips of infants and sucklings thou hast perfected praise, because of mine enemies; that thou mayest destroy the enemy and avenger.” How it comes to pass that God’s glory should receive increase from children, is certainly not at once obvious to our understanding; but God, the discerner of all things, knows and understands, and declares it to be so.  12
  That children ought to be dearer and more precious to parents than gold and silver, than pearls and gems, may be discovered from a comparison between both of these gifts from God: for first, gold, silver, and such other things, are inanimate, being only somewhat harder and purer than the clay which we tread beneath our feet; whereas children are the lively image of the living God.  13
  Secondly, gold and silver are rudimentary objects produced by the command of God; whereas children are creatures in the production of which the all-sacred Trinity instituted special council, and formed them with his own fingers.  14
  Thirdly, gold and silver are fleeting and transitory things; children are an immortal inheritance. For although they yield to death, yet they neither return to nothing, nor become extinct; they only pass out of a mortal tabernacle into immortal regions. Hence, when God restored to Job all his riches and possessions, even to the double of what he had previously taken away, he gave him no more children than he had before; namely, seven sons and three daughters. This, however, was the precise double; inasmuch as the former sons and daughters had not perished, but had gone before to God.  15
  Fourthly, gold and silver come forth from the earth, children come from our own substance; being a part of ourselves, they consequently deserve to be loved by us, certainly not less than we love ourselves: therefore God has implanted in the nature of all living things so strong an affection towards their young that they occasionally prefer the safety of their offspring to their own. If any one transfer such affections to gold or silver, he is, in the judgment of God, condemned as guilty of idolatry.  16
  Fifthly, gold and silver pass away from one to another as though they were the property of none, but common to all; whereas children are a peculiar possession, divinely assigned to their parents; so that there is not a man in the world who can deprive them of this right or dispossess them of this inheritance, because it is a portion descended from heaven and not a transferable possession.  17
  Sixthly, although gold and silver are gifts of God, yet they are not such gifts as those to which he has promised an angelic guardianship from heaven; nay, Satan mostly intermingles himself with gold and silver so as to use them as nets and snares to entangle the unwary, drawing them as it were with thongs, to avarice, haughtiness, and prodigality: whereas the care of little children is always committed to angelic guardianship, as the Lord himself testifies. Hence he who has children within his house may be certain that he has therein the presence of angels; he who takes little children in his arms may be assured that he takes angels; whosoever, surrounded with midnight darkness, rests beside an infant, may enjoy the certain consolation that with it he is so protected that the spirit of darkness cannot have access. How great the importance of these things!  18
  Seventhly, gold, silver, and other external things do not procure for us the love of God, nor as children do, defend us from his anger; for God so loved children that for their sake he occasionally pardons parents; Nineveh affords an example: inasmuch as there were many children therein, God spared the parents from being swallowed up by the threatened judgment.  19
  Eighthly, human life does not consist in abundance of wealth, as our Lord says, since without God’s blessings neither food nourishes, nor plaster heals, nor clothing warms; but his blessing is always present with us for the sake of children, in order that they may be sustained. For if God liberally bestows food on the young ravens calling on him, how much more should he not care for children, his own image? Therefore Luther has wisely said:—“We do not nourish our children, but they nourish us; for because of these innocents God supplies necessaries, and we aged sinners partake of them.”  20
  Finally, silver, gold, and gems afford us no further instruction than other created things do, namely, in the wisdom, power, and beneficence of God; whereas children are given to us as a mirror, in which we may behold modesty, courteousness, benignity, harmony, and other Christian virtues, the Lord himself declaring, “Unless ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” Since then God has willed that children should be unto us in the place of preceptors, we judge that we owe to them the most diligent attention.  21
  Thus at last this school would become a school of things obvious to the senses, and an entrance to the school intellectual. But enough. Let us come to the thing itself.  22
 
 
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