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There is much to be feen of the proper glory of the Redeemer in this paffage of fcripture-His ufefulnefs-his attention to improve every feemingly accidental occurrence for the purpose of inftruction, and his amiable condefcenfion to all who humbly applied to Him, and tender feeling for their wants and weakneffes. It appears from this paffage, that the inhabitants about Jordan, where he then was, not only brought their fick to be healed, as they did in most other places, but brought young children "that "he fhould touch them." In Luke they are called infants; and in the latter end of the paffage now read, it is faid, he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and bleffed them; fo that it is probable they were all of them of very early age, and fome of them perhaps, literally what we call infants, who could not yet speak or walk. I fee not the leaft foundation for what fome commentators imagine, that they might labor under fome diforder, from which the parents fuppofed he would cure them: If this had been the intention, the difciples would not, probably, have found any fault with it. The probability is, that the parents or relations of the children brought them, expecting that he would lay his hands on them-authoritatively blefs them, and pray for them; from which they believed important benefits might be derived to them. The dif ciples, we are told, "rebuked thofe that brought them," fuppofing, doubtless, that it was an impertinent and unneceflary interruption of their mafter, and that the children could receive no benefit at that early time of life; and who knows but, like the human wifdom of later times, they might think the attempt fuperftitious as well as unneceffary. However, our Lord was of a different opinion, and faid-" Suffer the little children to come unto me, and "forbid them not; for of fuch is the kingdom of God."
Now the fingle fubject of this difcourfe fhall be to inquire, What is the import of this declaration? and, What we may underfland our Saviour as affirming, when he fays, of young children or infants, " of fuch is the king"dom of God?" After this, I will give fuch advices as the truths that may be eftablished fhall fuggeft, and as they feem to me molt proper to enforce.
Let us then confider what we may understand our Saviour as affirming, when he fays of young children or infants," of fuch is the kingdom of God."
And, in the first place, we may understand by it, that children may be taken within the bond of God's covenant; become members of the vifible church, and, in confequence, be relatively holy. I do not found the lawful. nefs of infant baptifm on this paffage alone, and mean to enter into no controverfy on the subject at this time; but, as it is clearly established in other paffages, it may well be understood here. At any rate fo far as I have affirmed is undoubtedly certain, that they may be admitted within the bond of God's covenant. We know, that under the Old Teftament, they received the fign of circumcifion, which in the New Teftament, is faid to be "a feal of the "righteoufnefs that is of faith." (Rom. iv. 11.) Many benefits may arise from this. As in the natural conftitution of man, many advantages and difadvantages are derived from parents upon the offspring, fo in the moral conftitution of divine grace, many bleffings, fpiritual and tempo, ral, may be inherited from pious parents. Children are the fubjects of prayer; and, of confequence, within reach of the promife. The believer may juftly hope for his feed dying in infancy, and in after life, many eventual providential mercies may be expected from that God who "fheweth mercy to thoufands of generations of them that "love him."
It was usual in the most ancient times, for aged or holy perfons to blefs children formally. I do not recollect in ancient hiftory, a more beautiful, or more tender scene, than that we have recorded, Gen. xlviii. 15. of the patriarch Jacob's blefling his grand-children, the fons of Jofeph, when he was about to die-" And he bleffed Jofeph and "faid, God before whom my fathers, Abraham and Ifaac, "did walk, the God which fed me all my life long to this
day, the angel which redeemed me from all evil, blefs "the lads; and let my name be named upon them, "and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Ifaac: "And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the "earth." We are told by an ancient writer of the Chrif
tian church, that Ignatius, afterwards bishop of Antioch, was one of thofe children thus brought to Chrift for his bleffing; and there is no reason, that I know of, to oppose the tradition: For fuppofing him to have been an infant, or even from 2 to 5 years of age, it would make him only between 70 and 80 at the time of his martyrdom, in the year 108 from the birth of Chrift.
2. The declaration "of fuch is the kingdom of God,” may be understood to imply, that children may, even in infancy, be the subjects of regenerating grace, and thereby become really holy. This is plain from the nature of the thing; for if they can carry the corrupt impreffion of Adam's nature in their infant ftate, there can be no doubt but they may be renewed after the image of him that created them. Almighty power can easily have access to them, and can, in anfwer to prayers, as well as endeavors, form them for their Maker's fervice. See what the prophet Ifaiah fays, xxviii. 9. " Whom fhall he teach know"ledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? "Thofe that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from "the breafts." Samuel was a child of prayer, and dedicated to God from his infant years, and it is faid of him, 1 Sam. ii. 26. “And the child Samuel grew, and was in "favor both with the Lord, and alfo with men." It is an expreffion frequently to be found in pious writers, and among them that are far from denying the univerfal corruption of human nature, that fome may be faid to be fanctified from the womb-that is, that the time of their renovation may be beyond the reach both of understanding and memory; and this being certainly poffible, may justly be confidered as the object of defire and the fubject of prayer. Few, perhaps, have failed to obferve, that fome children difcover upon the first dawn of reason, an amiable and tractable difpofition, and drink in fpiritual inftruction with defire and delight; while others difcover a frowardness and repugnance, that is with much difficulty, if at all, and fometimes never, overcome.
3. I think this declaration implies, that children are much more early capable of receiving benefit, even by outward means, than is generally fuppofed. No doubt
the reafon of the conduct of the difciples was, that they fuppofed the children could receive no benefit. In this, from our Lord's anfwer, it is probable he thought them. mistaken. I will not enlarge on fome refined remarks of perfons as diftinguifhed for learning as piety; fome of whom have fuppofed, that they are capable of receiving impreffions of defire and averfion, and even of moral temper, particularly, of love or hatred, in the first year of their lives. I muft, however, mention a remark of the juftly celebrated M. Fenelon, archbishop of Cambray, becaufe the fact on which it is founded is undeniable, and the deduction from it important. He fays, that' before they are thought capable of receiving any inftruction, or the leaft pains are taken with them, they learn a language. Many children at four years of age can speak their mother tongue, though not with the fame accura'cy or grammatical precifion, yet with greater readiness and fulness than moft fcholars do a foreign language after the ftudy of a whole life.' If I were to enlarge upon this I might fay, they not only discover their intellectual powers by connecting the idea with the fign, but acquire many fentiments of good and evil, right and wrong, in that early period of their life. Such is the attention of children, that they often feem to know their parents' tempers fooner and better than they know their's, and to avail themselves of that knowledge to obtain their defires.
To apply this to our prefent fubject, or rather the occafion of it, allow me to obferve, that the circumstances of folemn tranfactions are often deeply engraven upon very young minds. It is not impoffible that fome of thofe young children might recollect and be affected with the majefty and condefcenfion of Jefus of Nazareth, and the impreffion be attended with happy fruits. At any rate, as no doubt the parents would often relate the transaction to their children, this would be a kind of fecondary memory, and have the fame effect upon their fentiments and conduct.
4. This declaration implies, that the earlieft, in general, is the fitteft and beft time for inftruction. This part
of the fubject has been treated at full length by many writers in every age, I therefore fhall fay the lefs upon itOnly obferve, That the importance of early inftruction is written upon the whole fyftem of nature, and repeated in every page of the hiftory of Providence. You may bend a young twig and make it receive almoft any form: but that which has attained to maturity, and taken its ply, you will never bring into any other fhape than that which it naturally bears. In the fame manner thofe habits which men contract in early life, and are ftrengthened by time, it is next to impoffible to change. Far be it from me to fay any thing in oppofition to the infinite power and abfolute fovereignty of God; but let us alfo beware of confidering these as opposed to the natural courfe of things, or the ufe and efficacy of means. We have many warnings upon this fubject in fcripture, where the recovery of an habitual and hardened finner, is likened to a natural impoffibility, Jer. xiii. 23.-" Can the Ethiopian change his "fkin, or the leopard his fpots? then may ye alfo do good "that are accustomed to do evil." God will referve to himself his own abfolute fovereignty, but it is at every finner's own peril if he prefume upon it and abufe it.
5. This declaration of our Saviour" Of fuch is the "kingdom of God"—may imply, that, in fact, the real difciples of Chrift chiefly confift of thofe who are called in their earlier years. The vifible church of Chrift is a numerous and mixed fociety; but his myftical body, confifting of real believers, I think we are warranted from this paffage of fcripture and others, as well as the analogy of faith, and the reafon and nature of things, to fuppofe, confifts for the most part of those who are called in infancy and youth. This is an important truth, and deeply fraught with inflruction to all, of every rank. There are fome called after a courfe of oppofition to God, but they are few in comparifon; therefore the apofle Paul ftyles himfelf" One born out of due time." Perhaps experience and a deliberate view of the ftate of the world, is fufficient to prove this affertion. The inftances of conver fion in advanced life, are very rare: and when it seems to happen, it is perhaps moft commonly the refurrection