“Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God.”
We are unable to discover anything in this passage inharmonious with the views expressed in the twenty-third number of our last volume, on the subject of the salvation of infants. To our mind this text, when properly understood, will confirm the sentiments therein expressed. The occasion on which these words were spoken by our Lord, was not one in which he was setting forth the way of salvation. The people which gathered around our Lord, were bringing their little children or infants to Christ, not to have them baptized nor rantized, but we are informed in the context that the object of those who brought their children to him was that he would touch them. Who they were who brought their children, or what benefit they hoped to secure for their little ones, from his touching them, we are not informed; but we presume that, like the diseased woman who sought to touch the hem of his garment that she might be healed of her infirmity, they believed that a virtue would be communicated by the touch which would secure to them some blessing either temporal or spiritual. But the disciples rebuked them. From this circumstance it would seem that those who brought their children were not disciples, but whether they were or not, they were rebuked by the disciples, who seemed to regard it as an annoyance, and rebuked them. Mark says, “When Jesus saw it,” (that is, when he saw the conduct of the disciples,) “he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer little children to come unto me.” It was somewhat presuming in the disciples, in the presence of the Master, without any authority from him, to rebuke those who brought their children to him. This may serve as an admonition to us all as disciples of the Redeemer, to avoid the assumption of authority which he has not vested in us. It becomes us as his disciples to always remember that it is his to command, and ours to obey. In the text we have two express and positive commands laid down for the government of the disciples of Christ, for unto them as such the text is addressed. Both of these commands enjoin the duty on the disciples to be passive, in regard to children’s coming to Christ; and the reason why they should be passive is given also, namely: “For of such is the kingdom of God.” It would be exceedingly difficult to infer from these words a duty to interfere in the matter of bringing or preventing them from coming, much less to infer an obligation to baptize or rantize them. Christ has informed us that no man can come unto him except the Father, which sent him, draw them; and all such as are drawn to him by the Father, he will raise up at the last day. Hence it is a matter over which his disciples have no power or control. They can neither facilitate nor hinder any from coming to Christ, either infants or adults, who are drawn to him by the Father, for the same power is displayed in drawing them to him that was displayed in sending the Savior into the world. As none but God the Father had the power and the right to send his Son into the world to save sinners, so none but God has the power or right to draw sinners, old or young, unto him. And as they have no power to draw them, they are equally destitute of power to oppose their coming to him, when drawn or brought to him. It is indeed a matter in which they are not allowed to interfere. There can be no danger that any of God’s chosen people should fail to come to Christ, for he has positively assured us, that “All that the Father giveth me, shall come unto me, and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” The work of salvation is so ordered and established in the counsel and decree of God, that neither men nor angels shall share with God in the work, nor divide with him the glory resulting from it. He will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; even every one of them that is called by my name, for I have created him for my glory; I have formed him, yea, I have made him.
The reason assigned by our Lord for commanding them to be passive is, when duly understood, a very weighty one. “For of such is the kingdom of God.” If he had said to them, For of such shall be the kingdom of God, they might have inferred that the kingdom of God was not yet established, that the subjects of it were not yet known, and that there was some blank in regard to its establishment, yet to be filled up. But the kingdom of God was prepared from the foundation of the world. God’s King is set upon his holy hill of Zion. His throne is forever and ever. It is from everlasting to everlasting. All his subjects were chosen in him before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without blame before him in love. “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.” And as he only, knoweth them that are his, or them that are of this spiritual kingdom, none others are qualified to decide who shall or who shall not come to the Redeemer. The disciples can only know who they are as he makes them manifest. They could not therefore be competent to supervise the matter by forbidding any, whether old or young, to come unto him. But as the words of our Lord are full of wisdom and instruction, we may learn that besides impressing the disciples with a sense of their incompetency to judge and decide who may or may not come to Christ, or who are and who are not of the kingdom of God, we learn two other important truths:
First, that there are some such children in the kingdom of God, as those whom he had taken in his arms, laid his hands upon, and blessed. “For of such is the kingdom of God.” Those whom he has blessed are blessed for evermore; and, on this occasion at least, he blessed some who were literally little children. As in the article in the twenty-third number of the last volume, we proved by the testimony of the Scriptures, that all the human family, young and old, are by nature children of wrath; that all have sinned, and are therefore mortal; that if they were not sinners they could not die, neither could they be saved by the mediation of Christ, if they were not sinners, for he came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. His name is called Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins; it is therefore fully demonstrated that infants, in order to be saved, must be redeemed by Christ, and born again of an incorruptible seed, by the word of the Lord, which liveth and abideth forever. And we now reiterate the declaration we before made, and which cannot be successfully contradicted, that the doctrine held by the Old School Baptists is the only doctrine preached among men that can possibly embrace the salvation of infants, or of any others.
Second, “Qf such is the kingdom of God.” All who belong to the kingdom or God, are brought experimentally into it by being born again, in which birth they are converted and become as little children. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And in connection with our text Christ said, “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.” - Mark x. 15. “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein.” - John xiii. 17. Let us seriously consider this important asseveration of our Lord Jesus Christ. What awful considerations hang upon these words. No man can enter the kingdom of God in any other way than as a little child. Then, instead of infants being debarred from salvation because they are infants, and unable to do anything to procure salvation, all adults, in order to be saved, must become as little children. What is there then peculiar to little children, which is so very important to qualify us for a reception of the kingdom, that none without it can in any wise enter without it? Is it free will, free agency, or human ability to comply with terms, conditions and overtures? We think there are none who will take that position. Little children are helpless, artless, dependent, without wisdom or ability to help themselves, and therefore entirely dependent on protectors for support and safety; let it be remembered that all who are born of God, taught by his Spirit, and brought by grace into the experimental enjoyment of the kingdom of God, must be reduced to a sense of their entire inability and helplessness, with no more power or wisdom of their own to rely upon, than the little child has for its own protection or support. As we are all by nature under the infatuation that we have sufficient power to determine our own destiny, we must be converted from that delusion; be slain to all our confidence in the flesh, and taught of God to know that we are poor, guilty, condemned sinners, totally destitute of ability to will or to do anything towards our own deliverance. They are made to feel, to know, and to confess that if they are not saved by a strong, sovereign and almighty power, they are lost forever. When born of God, that meek, quiet, confiding, childlike spirit, which is peculiar to all the saints of God, is implanted in them, and under its benign influence they seek for a lowly place in the kingdom of God. They do not feel to enter the place of broad rivers and streams as a galley with oars, propelling themselves along by works, nor as the gallant ship in full trim, with canvas all spread out to the breeze; but stripped completely of its canvas, spars and rigging, of all its oars and self-propelling instruments, as the little, passive, helpless, dependent child enters into natural life, so enters the heaven-born child of God into the kingdom which is, and was, prepared for him from the foundation of the world. Now we ask, Is not this method of salvation alone by grace, perfectly adapted to all the redeemed family of God, whether infants or adults? The tall, the wise, the noble and the mighty men of this world, are quite as helpless and dependent for their salvation as the infant, the heathen, or the idiot. What other doctrine except that held by the old fashioned Baptists, and advocated in the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, presents any hope for the helpless, the lost and the ruined of mankind? This childlike condition not only qualifies Zion’s converts to enter, but also to dwell in the kingdom. “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”
When the disciples of our Lord were at one time inflated with vain ambition, and inquired which of them was to be greatest in the kingdom of heaven, our Lord set a little child in their midst, “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. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”—Matt. Xviii. 3-6.
January 15, 1857.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 415 - 420