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§ 225. The Blessing of Little Children. (Luke, xviii. 15-17; Matt., xix., 13-15; Mark, x., 13-16.)

As the Saviour was leaving a certain place in Peraea, where he had deeply impressed the people, they brought their little children to receive his blessing. The disciples, unwilling to have him annoyed, turned them away. But Jesus called them back, and said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of Heaven.” He then took them up in his arms, laid his hand upon them, and blessed them; adding, “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter therein.” These words were opposed partly to the idea still entertained by the disciples (manifested in their deeming the approach of the children inconsistent with his dignity), that the glory of Messiah and his kingdom would be outward; and partly to the self-willed and self-seeking spirit which debased their religious conceptions; a spirit strikingly exhibited in many of their expressions during this last period of Christ’s labours.

In fact, this single saying expressed the whole nature of the Gospel proclaimed by Christ. It implied that he viewed the kingdom of God as an invisible and spiritual one, to enter which a certain disposition of heart was essential, viz., a child-like spirit, free from pride and self-will, receiving Divine impressions in humble submission and conscious dependence: in a word, all the qualities of the child, suffering itself to be guided by the developed reason of the adult, are to be illustrated in the relations between man and God.609609   Precisely the same spirit as was demanded in the sayings of Christ alluded to on p 225, seq. Without this child-like spirit there can be no religious faith, no religious life. On the one hand, Christ rebuked that self-confidence which expects a share in the kingdom on the ground of intellectual or moral worth;610610   The belief that reason is self-sufficient would utterly unhinge the Christian world, and cause its life to assume forms directly the reverse of those which Christian principles have created, It would, indeed, cause a contest of life and death. but on the other, by making children a model, he recognized in them not only the undeveloped spirit of self, but also the undeveloped consciousness of God, striving after its original. The whole transaction illustrates the love with which Christ goes to meet the dawning sense of God in human nature.

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