Story type: Essay
A SUNDAY SERMON
“Suffer the little children to come unto me; and forbid them not; for of such is the Kingdom of God.”–Mark X., 14.
Jesus gave to the child its place in the world’s society.
With all the power of divine authority He built around the feeblest among us a wall that has protected them through the ages.
Before His day the child existed only by sufferance. It had no rights.
It was but a counter, an infinitesimal atom. It was considered simply the property of the parent. Its father had power of life and death over it. The homeless dog that roams the streets to-day is more effectively shielded from cruelty than was the friendless child before Jesus came to live and to die for the weak and poor.
The law had said:
“The parent is ruler of the child, and may dispose of it as he sees fit.”
But Jesus said–and these are the most beautiful and affecting words in all the moral law of the world:
“Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.”–Matthew xviii., 10.
No threats so terrifying as those aimed at men who should harm little children:
“It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”–Matthew xviii., 6.
It is impossible now to conceive the horrid indifference to childhood’s rights which preceded the birth of Christianity.
Infanticide was not the exception, but a settled custom. So much so, that in Rome the “exposure” of children in desert places was almost a virtue, since it gave the child some slight chance of surviving.
Not a few, but thousands and tens of thousands of children were thus “exposed.” They fell a prey to wild beasts, or to the human beasts, still more ferocious, who took the children to make slaves or criminals of them.
Jesus came, and a miracle was worked–a miracle that no man will deny.
This was the miracle:
“For I say unto you, their angels behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.”
Jesus spoke, and thousands of millions of men, through nineteen centuries, have believed, and obeyed the command.
Every man was warned that the child dying goes straightway into the presence of God, and there, looking upon His face, bears witness to the treatment meted out to him here.
Well might it be said of the man who mistreated such a child:
“It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Every man should study with awe and reverence the sad, lonely misunderstood life of Jesus, the friend of children. He had no home, and for companions only a few humble fishermen, to whom He spoke in simple parables, as to children.
“The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head.”–Matthew viii., 20.
It was this childless, homeless Man that ever used His marvellous power to protect children.
It was He who gave to children their definite share in the kingdom of God.
Before His coming the wisdom of the world was devoted to telling the child ITS duty.
But Jesus explained to grown men THEIR duty toward children.
The family life was His ideal.
All men were His brothers, and, with Him, sons of God.
The loving kindness shown by God toward helpless men and women THEY should show to helpless children.
Neither the rights nor the WISDOM of children must be despised:
“I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.”–Luke x., 21.
Wherever Jesus went, children followed Him, and the tiniest little soul, in its mother’s arms or tottering along in wide-eyed curiosity, could arrest His loving attention.
How beautiful is the picture that the Bible story presents to the mind!
Jesus is at Capernaum, on the sunny shore of the Sea of Galilee.
The Disciples–simple, honest men, often excited as to precedence and filled with deep longing to stand first in the Master’s esteem–ask Him:
“Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”–Matthew xviii., 1.
Around them is gathered the typical Oriental group, and many olive-skinned women, with their children:
“And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them and said: ‘Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
“‘Whosoever, therefore, shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
“‘And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.’”
Teach your children to think of and to love the divine Soul that pleaded their cause. Teach them that in all the words He uttered there can be found only love for them. No threats, no warnings– only love.
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