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CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM.
Read 1 Samuel iii.
THE CHARM OF CHILDREN.
SHORT SUNDAY READINGS FOR JULY.
BY MARCUS DODS, D.D.
things which by their very nature are des-
most tremendous realities, and must still THE THERE are many things in children which play and act and be artificial in our very charm us.
1. First, their inability to efforts to be in earnest. Ah! what different conceal their thoughts, the artless frankness men should we be could we regain the open of their love, their general simplicity. They mind of our early years and set ourselves have not yet an evil conscience, and they before God with the unsatiated, expectant are unaware of anything within them which heart of the child, and could we again listen may not be freely uttered; they are unaware to God with the earnestness of one to whom of it, because as yet it is not there. • They all is yet real and nothing a mere tale ! are naked and are not ashamed.” They Surely we do well to pray God that in this assume no disguise, because they are uncon- respect our youth may be renewed, and that scious of their need of any. The child's He would revive within us the feeling that past has no repentance in it. He is as yet we have but begun to live, to know, to feel, clean from actual sin. His future is not and that there lies before us an endless and gloomy through a sense of past failure and infinitely stimulating experience. Well may present weakness. What he desires he asks we pray for power to be in earnest, to treat for; what he thinks he says; what he feels what is revealed to us as real, to wonder in he utters. Mistakes have not yet taught him simplicity and to worship. May God dip caution ; sin has not yet taught him self- us in the waters of His regenerating Spirit watchfulness; the approbation and disappro- that our flesh may become fresh and soft as bation of others are only slowly teaching a child's again! For "if any man is wise him self-consciousness. It is this uncon- in this world, let him become a fool that he scious, innocent frankness which refreshes us may be wise;" and if any man is in children. It blows like a fresh breeze from furrowed with the experience of this world, their presence across our spirits, and sweeps cold and incredulous and without hope, let away the close atmosphere of social restraints him become a child, that he may enter and and guilty remembrances and evil thoughts. mature in life eternal. This simplicity is above and beyond us. 3. The charm of childhood arises partly
2. Another characteristic charm of child- from its readiness to receive instruction, hood is its ready belief of everything it is support, gifts. Adults receive a gift in one told. The child believes in the world, hears way; children in quite another way. The of its wonders with a reverential awe, which, child is fond of acquisition, of taking hold if it amuses, may also instruct us. Look at of things, and making them its own. It the earnestness of a child listening to a tale, does not conceal its delight and real estiand who stands for a moment when it is mate of the favour done it. It is its nature done, gazing into your face while his soul to accept all that is offered, and even to ask is all absorbed, and then asks you some and claim in the most exorbitant manner. grave question in explanation, and say what It cannot comprehend that it is not to be you would give for some measure of that promptly and amply satisfied, and it complains ready belief in things unseen, in that infi- of every least discomfort as an injury done nite unknown which lies before him, and it, and not to be tolerated. The whole life out of which every kind of marvel may of a child is reception. He takes gifts naturcome! As we grow older we clothe our ally, and without distressing himself as to selves in scepticism, and think thus to guard his right to them. It never enters his head ourselves against deception, till, as the that he should be treated as he deserves. He climax of wisdom and security, we believe is to be fed, because he is hungry; he is to nothing, and are like the heavy - mailed be made happy, because his nature craves knights of old, stifled in our own armour. it, not at all because he has made good his We count it weak to be astonished, childish claim to be so treated. And in this the to be seen lost in reverence and wonder, child's instinct is an example to our reflecand gradually train our spirit to believe in tion. He believes with Paul that the chilnothing but the most commonplace physical dren ought not to lay up for the parents, but
Read Matt. xviii. 1-14.
the parents for the children ; whereas we being held up as a model, and by this very will ever be trying to provide for God, and consciousness he became their model. They cannot ever learn to let Him provide for us had all been ready to prove their claim. and give us all. For God sells nothing, only “We can speak, and without Peter's broad gives, and he who will not take the kingdom accent,” said James and John. “I can write of God as a little child cannot take it at all
. and manage the business affairs of the new There are two kinds of children who make kingdom," said Matthew. “I have foreign their parents anxious. There is a child who correspondents and can extend the influence . does not know the value of what is given of Jesus in remote countries,” said Philip. him, and leaves it unused or hurls it into the As for Judas, he being purse-bearer, there fire. And there is a child who knows the was no question that he was indispensable. gift's value, but thinks he cannot accept so Every one urged, with apparent justice, his much from his father, and accordingly goes special utility in the new kingdom. Each to help him with his work, and after he has one thought with satisfaction that he could spoiled much good material, fancies he has do something to help on the cause, could earned his father's gift, and is indebted to contribute money, could win followers, could
But the true child is humble and exhibit the merits of Jesus, could handle the dependent.
sword. “Here,” says Jesus, “is the one exSECOND SUNDAY.
cellence on which my kingdom is founded, and by which alone it can be extended, the
excellence of not knowing you have any exCHILDREN THE TYPE OF CHRIST'S FOLLOWERS.
cellence at all.” One pities the poor disciWhen our Lord used the child as the type ples so suddenly and completely dropped of His followers, His disciples were discuss from all their vain notions. ing the question, Who is the greatest in the For not only must they clearly have seen kingdom of heaven? This, in the abstract, that precisely as they had counted on high is a profitable question to discuss. Wher- place must their place be low, but as they
a ever men of any earnestness meet, it is sure, gazed at the child, all unconscious of any in one form or another, to turn up. “What merit and void of all ambition, they must constitutes human perfection ?” “Is it have felt the very helplessness which Nicosomething a man has by nature, or by the demus gave expression to in the words, gift of God, or by education and effort ?” “How can a man be born when he is old; "On what principle does promotion in the can be enter a second time into his mother's kingdom of God proceed?” “What is it womb and be born ? They look at the we must do if we would win eternal glory babe held up to them as their model, and and perfect attainment ere these few years what do they see in him ? Not great attainof life are beat out ?”. Such questions arise ment which by much striving they might in all thoughtful minds ; but when they are hope to win; not a marvellous purity which discussed with a personal reference, and in stern self-control might possibly achieve; view of present competing claims, there in- not a consecration of life to God which they evitably arise jealousies, alienations, vanity, might perchance attain to through the examand hatred. The acrimony and heat which ple and grace of their Master; not ability the disciples exhibited disclosed to our to deal with high matters or to be of great Lord the temper that would again and again service-none of these things, but an absobe manifested in His Church, as men strove lute unconsciousness of any ability, of any to carry into it their worldly ambitions, and merit, of any claim to reward or high place. make it minister to their vanity.
What they saw was the apparently unattainAnd therefore, that His rebuke might be able, true humility; humility which did not audible to all generations, He puts it in a know itself to be humble, and was thereby dramatic form. He calls a little child and humble. sets him where every eye can see him, and It is the broken heart, the feeling of insufwhile they thus gaze at the little fellow, ficiency, of having rendered evil for good, standing with abashed face and drooping that brings a man within the kingdom of eyes, or playing unconsciously with the beard | God. He has no claims to urge, no promises of Jesus as He holds him in His arms, i to make, no pretensions, nothing at all to He says, “Except ye be converted and be show. He knows himself to be altogether come as this little child, ye cannot so much dependent on God, and as a little child he as enter the kingdom of heaven.”. They accepts the infinite, forgiving love and grace saw the child wholly unconscious he was God bestows upon him.
Measured then by this little boy do we affinity with the day of Christ, living now on seem small or great in the kingdom of God ? | those very principles which it is to assert Measured by the standards we set for one and enforce. They are the children of the another, we may sometimes be satisfied with light, and cannot fear the day. our attainment. It is well to look steadily Light is the element of life. Both for at this standard set before us by the Lord life itself, and for effectively using life, we Himself. The child has no idea that its need light. Even the blind could not live opinion or its person is of any importance. were there no light. Not without reason It is the greatest because it does not seek have men so commonly worshipped the sun, to be the greatest, and has no thought the centre of our planetary system, which of its relative position. The child never upholds us and floods us with its light and dreams it has to earn its father's love, but warmth, and with life itself. The uncontakes for granted that it has it, and pro- scious plants turn towards the sun, and with ceeds upon that understanding. The child every ray of sunshine our own being drinks is at once audacious in its demands, and in a draught of life. The sun is the great utterly unconscious of any worth in itself; physical symbol of God, upholding us in life, audacious, because he never connects his ex- steadfast and reliable in his ways, imparting pectations with his deserts, nor once con- freely out of himself all we need for life. ceives that he is to have only what he works “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at for or deserves. When, therefore, our Lord all.” “The Lord God is a Sun." sets this child before us, it is as if He said, When it is said that God is light much is “Away with all self-consciousness and pre- meant. At the very least this is meant, that tension! If you fancy yourselves great, you there is in God no ignorance and no untruth; make yourselves little. To claim purity is no acting as if things were other than they to produce a stain. Do not be thinking of are; no veiling from himself of one thing what you have, but of what you need. Self- till another is accomplished ; no neglect of complacency, self-confidence, measuring your the reality; no confusion of good and evil ; selves with other men, these are feelings of no acceptance of the one as if it were the this world, not of my kingdom.”
other, but only and always complete recog. To be simple-minded, to be natural, to be nition and application of the highest prinhumble, this is our calling. To make our ciples of action.
To make our-ciples of action. In God there is a perfect selves of no reputation, to hold ourselves simplicity, the absolute truth, everything cheap, to take everything as a gift, nothing known for what it is; no doubleness, and no as pay-this is the essence of Christianity darkness. And this light that is in God To enter Christ's kingdom, meekness, gen- becomes life to us when we acknowledge God tleness, humility, are necessary. We must and stand out before Him, delighting that not strive nor cry nor let our voices be heard He shine on us, and intensely desiring that in the streets. We must be emptied of self, His truth pass into us, that we be made true and be brought to seek what redounds not as He is true, and learn to live in the truth, to our praise or gain, but to the good of men. not for ourselves, our own pleasure and profit, We must love mercy and walk humbly with but guided by the truth to do the best for all. our God. We must go apart with Him who The light that is in God comes to us through set the little child in the midst, and we must Christ. God is light, and Christ is the manikeep saying to Him, “Teach me also, o festation of God, the effulgence of His light. Lord, and lead me in thy way.”
By Him we know that God is, and are brought into actual spiritual connection with God.
To know God and ourselves ; to know God's Read John i. 1-9; üi. 17-21; ix. 1-7.
requirements and purpose and nature, and our own capabilities and relation to God
these constitute the light we need for life Having occasion to speak of the Day of and for living by; and this light Christ gives. the Lord, its suddenness, its finality, and it was in a dim, uncertain twilight, with the brightness of its glory, St. Paul removes feebly shining lanterns, the wisest and best any alarm or anxiety which his announce- of men sought to make out the nature of the ment might create by reminding his readers living God and His purposes regarding man. that this great day cannot be sudden to But in Christ God has made clear noonday those who are prepared for it, and cannot be all around us, and in this light the simplest anything but happiness to those who already sees what angels desired to look into, and has are living in its light. Christiaus have an no doubt about what God means we should
THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT AND THE CHILDREN OP
DARKNESS. I.-THEIR ORIGIN.
Read John xi. 20—36; 1 Thess. v. 1-11.
do, and what He means to do. The more veal. They believe in the world as they see one considers the matter, the more amazed is and know it, not illumined by the light of he to see the certainty of moral perception God's presence and holiness. They do not and the blaze of light on our connection with wish to think that they are living under the God which that single and brief human life pure, true eye of the holy God. Such a God has left as its result. The humblest Christian as Christ reveals, a God in earnest, satisfying has now ideas about God, and about his own all requirements, living in the truth, the relation to God and the future, which the Father of lights, and in whom is no variablewisest of men without Christ did not attain. ness, they do not wish to see and own.
The “children of light,” then, are they They wish rather to be left alone with the who draw their life from the light that is in world, with its pleasures and gaieties, its exChrist. As the “children of this world” are citement and easy-going, unreproving ways. those who wholly belong to this world and They love the darkness rather than the find their life in it; as the “son of perdition' light. is he who is identified with perdition; so the
FOURTH SUNDAY. children of light are those who belong to the light and live in it as their element. They are produced by the light, and would not have been what now they are had they not The conduct of the children of light is known Christ and God in Him. Christ con- necessarily very different from that of the tains the truth for them; the truth which children of darkness. Of the latter Paul penetrates to their inmost soul, which illumi- says, “They sleep and are drunken.” At nates the darkest problems of life and pierces the best those who are not living with Christ, with its ray the remotest future. They have and therefore in the light, are asleep. They in Christ seen the truth about their relation are not dead, but neither are they all alive. to God, and this determines all else that is of They are unconscious of the most important prime importance; and they now habitually realities around them, and live only in the stand out in the open day of God's revealed unreal world of dreams. They have been presence, and ceaselessly desire that He be lulled to sleep in the lap of a Delilah, who more fully revealed and known, that their shears off the locks of their strength. Their soul may be flooded with the light that is in most important interests are possibly being Him, and that so they too may know things settled by others around them, and they as they are and live in the truth.
know it not, but sleep on heedlessly; as Christians may also be called the children Sisera's face remained placid in slumber even of light because living in the element of light when Jael was stooping over him with the they themselves become “light in the Lord.” tent-pin and hammer; or as the robbers who Little light have they in themselves, they have come upon a sleeping traveller stand know. Dark, opaque, earthly clay are they, round and consult how they may make away but illumined by the unseen Sun they shine with him, and are already portioning his as moons and witness to the continued exis- goods among them while he lies unconscious tence of Christ. It is because we are our and dreaming his pleasant dreams. And if selves so opaque that we are incontrovertible any of the children of darkness start in their witnesses to Christ's illumining power. If sleep, if a strange dream seems almost to there be any light in us, anything to guide compel awakening, if the sounds of the real and enliven men, it is reflected light. And life that is astir around them breaks through in every true Christian there is some light, their heavy sense and they begin to move often hid, it may be, under a bushel, carried restlessly, some emissary of darkness is ever now in an earthen vessel, but when the rude by to give the cradle another rock, and they stroke of sudden trial or the hard hand of fall over with a satisfied sigh, dead asleep as death breaks the outer shell of the life, as before. God is close to them and He is not the pitchers of Gideon's men were broken, in all their thoughts; the glory of the Lord the light suddenly breaks forth, and they are is risen upon them and they see it not; the manifested as children of the day.
voice of Christ is calling to them and they The "children of darkness," on the other hear it not; His hand is laid on them, now hand, are they who have never turned to- in gentle remonstrance, and again to stir wards the light that is in Christ and appro- them to wakefulness, but at the most they priated it. The light that is in His coming only mutter, “A little more sleep, a little they have not comprehended nor loved. They more slumber, a little more folding of the make nothing of all that Christ came to re- hands to sleep."
Sometimes, as Paul hints, this sleep is the “Let us not sleep as the rest, but let us sleep of intoxication. Insensibility to the watch and be sober.” The children of the brilliant and great realities of the spiritual day, whose life is in the light, necessarily world and its ever-advancing history is the renounce the works of darkness. Even the result of partaking immoderately of the drunken and sleepy do not drink and sleep sparkling cup of the gaieties of life and the in the forenoon. Every man has some natural glittering imbecilities of fashion, or of the shame if found asleep in the day-time, no drugged and stupefying bowl of sensual plea- matter what good excuse he has for it; howThe man who is intoxicated with ever exhausted or unwell he may
be. And those stimulants of life which are meant to when a man begins to exceed not only at be used in moderation or not at all, is dead night but before the day's work is well begun, asleep to the pure and tender joys of the he is looked upon as a doomed man. When spirit. And, on the other hand, all thought Peter's converts were charged with being of the spiritual world is sometimes dismissed excited with wine, he thought it enough to and darkness regarding it is cultivated, that remind their accusers that it was but nine the flesh and the world may be uninter- o'clock in the morning. Nature itself, then, ruptedly served, for they that are drunken teaches those who are of the day to watch are drunken in the night.
and be sober. If, then, we are in any direction shutting We are to watch, to be wakeful, not out the light, and refusing to allow it to sleepy. We are to be broad awake, fully shine on some part of our conduct; if there alive to facts, keen in our scrutiny of what are facts in this world's past and truths is passing around us, on the outlook for truth about God or ourselves we dare not take full that has a bearing on our life, and alert to account of, lest our slumber should be broken use it. We are to use the daylight we by these rays of light, we cannot but confess have. We are to bring ourselves more and ourselves children of darkness. If we are more into the light of Christ's life. We not the fuller of life and joy the more truth are to use what He has taught us; not to we know; if we do not welcome the presence admire the light only, not to analyse and exof God and of Christ as the very sunshine periment upon it, not to theorise about it, of our moral nature, in which at last we feel but to use it, to walk by it, to admit it as ourselves truly to grow
and flourish; our true life now. shrink from admitting a fuller and clearer Thus wakeful, we shall also be sober. consciousness of God, are we not asleep, Having another ambition than that which dangerously, culpably asleep? Are we not this world satisfies, we are not intoxicated culpably asleep if we give no thought to with its applause, its fashion, its distinctions, those mighty spiritual forces which must de- its glitter and its grandeur. We are sober. cide our eternal destiny, and which are al Christ has made a show of the world's prinready gathered, as it were, around our bed, cipalities and powers in His cross; and and may be taking away our last resources judging things by the light that streams and chances, our cruse of water from beside from the cross, we are emancipated from our pillow, and the spear on which we trust their thraldom and fascination, and are taught from its place? The sleeper is not conscious to live a sober, steadied, disillusioned life. of the rapid approach of the sun, but the sun does not wait upon his word or expectation :
FIFTH SUNDAY. so, while we sleep on, the day is steadily ap
Read 1 Thess. iv. 13 ; v. 11. proaching. We do not with our slumber infect the swift ministers of God's will, nor The different attitudes men assume todoes our unconsciousness render unreal what wards the first coming of the Lord, neceswe ignore. The truth reigns, and is rapidly sitate a difference of attitude towards His drawing on to rule and determine all our second coming. Two days of the Lord are affairs. “The night is far spent, the day is spoken of in Scripture, the first and second
. at hand, and now it is high time to awake coming of Christ. These two days have so out of sleep. Cast off therefore the works much in common that it is sometimes diffiof darkness, and put on the armour of light.” cult to determine whether it is to the first or To all God is ceaselessly crying, “Awake to the second some prophetic utterance apthou that sleepest and arise from the dead, plies. There is a day of the Lord approachand Christ shall give thee light.”
ing. The first coming involves the second. The' conduct which becomes the children It is incomplete without it. All the issues of light is depicted in the appropriate terms, of the first await the second for their full