Chapter 2 – Do Not Hinder the Children
Part 1 – The Christian Education of Children
In the first portion of the chapter, Spurgeon addresses the issue of the Christian education of children head on. As regards the church, Spurgeon reminds his readers that preaching and teaching in such a way as to be understood by children is a badge which we should wear proudly. He explains:
“I think nothing greater than to win the hearts of the lowly. So with regard to children. People occasionally say of such a one, “He is only fit to teach children: he is no preacher.” I tell you, in God’s sight he is no preacher who does not care for the children.”
Spurgeon contends that pastors should include something in every sermon for kids. This is obviously not as big an issue today with the advent of Childrens’ Ministry. However, the point is the same. Churches should be sure that they focus on kids just as much as they focus on adults.
Likewise, parents who hold the ultimate responsibility for the spiritual development of their kids must pay close attention to where and how their kids are educated. The spiritual education of our children should be a paramount concern, and they should be taught the things of God from a very early age. Spurgeon explains,
“As we sow we reap. Let us expect our children to know the Lord. Let us from the beginning mingle the name of Jesus with their A B C. Let them read their first lessons from the Bible. It is a remarkable thing that there is no book from which children learn to read so quickly as from the New Testament: there is a charm about that book which draws forth the infant mind. But let us never be guilty, as parents, of forgetting the religious training of our children; for if we do we may be guilty of the blood of their souls.”
Part 2 – The Salvation of Children
Spurgeon proceeds from the spiritual education of children to their ultimate salvation. In Spurgeon’s day many churches never expected children to be saved. I fear that, while it may not be as overtly stated in present times, that same attitude still pervades many churches today! Even if no one ever says it, or even consciously thinks that children should not be saved, the attitude is evident in the way that many Sunday School classes are conducted, the content (or lack thereof) of what kids are taught, and the lack of vision for children’s ministry in many churches.
Spurgeon explains the problem,
“The theory is that if we can impress youthful minds with principles which may, in after years, prove useful to them, we have done a great deal; but to convert children as children, and to regard them as being as much believers as their seniors, is regarded as absurd.”
I appreciate Spurgeon’s conclusion on this matter:
“To this supposed absurdity I cling with all my heart. I believe that of children is the kingdom of God, both on earth and in heaven.”
One side effect of this negative view of child salvation is the general doubt and skepticism that surrounds any child giving his life to Christ. Many people are overly skeptical of childhood conversion for no good reason. While we should be careful in baptizing kids to ensure that they really have a saving knowledge of Christ, the level of care should be no different than it is for a new believer of any age.
Even those who are not outright skeptical of child conversion often still harbor unrealistic expectation when it comes to kids who are saved. Many adults expect kids act years older as soon as they are converted. Indeed, many adults expect better behavior from kids who are saved than from themselves. When they don’t see these “results” in the behavior of children, they begin to question the validity of the conversion.
Part 3 – Jesus and the Children
In the next part of Chapter 2, Spurgeon answers the question of how Jesus would approach such young converts. Spurgeon turns his attention to what Jesus might say to these skeptics and to his view of kids in general.
“Jesus says, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones.” Take heed that ye say not an unkind word against your younger brethren in Christ, your little sisters in the Lord. Jesus sets such great store by His dear lambs, that He carries them in His bosom; and I charge you who follow your Lord in all things to show a like tenderness to the little ones of the Divine family.”
The verse cited by Spurgeon comes from Mark 10:13-16:
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. [Mark 10:13-16]
Other accounts of the same event are recorded in Matthew 19:13-15 and Luke 18:15-17.
Jesus clearly has a special place in his heart for kids. These verses tell us he was indignant with the disciples for rebuking the children who were trying to come to him. Jesus often corrected his disciples, but he was not often displeased. He was displeased with their actions when they tried to keep the children from coming to him.
Jesus does not simply offer words of encouragement or a spoken blessing – or even a religious ceremony for the kids. The verse tells us that he embraced them. He physically took them into his arms and drew them close to him. Can you imagine literally being held in the arms of God? What an awesome picture of the Christian life played out through a group of children! For all of you nursery workers out there, the passage recounted in Luke explains that “they were bringing even infants.” So many people today use the phrase “doing God’s work” that it has become trite in some respects, but the work of Children’s Ministry is quite literally “God’s work!”
Spurgeon goes on to explain that the disciples’ attitude in thinking that Jesus would not want the children to come to him slanders the extent of his love. Spurgeon explains,
“Jesus, the child-man, was never more at home than with children. The holy child Jesus had an affinity for children… Anything we do to hinder a dear child from coming to Jesus greatly displeases our dear Lord. He cries to us, ‘Stand off. Let them alone. Let them come to Me, and forbid them not.’”
It is no wonder that Jesus had a special affinity for children. Generally unburdened by their own self-righteousness, the children were not hesitant to come to him and admit their need for him as many adults are.
To question whether a child can come to faith stands contrary to scripture. Nothing in Jesus’ teaching indicates that you have to be a certain age or have a certain amount of “knowledge” to come to him. To the contrary, scripture is quite clear that we are not, nor have we ever been, good enough to deserve Jesus. That is why we are saved by grace alone. To think that a child cannot experience that grace because of his age alone is to question the will of God.
The age of salvation is of no importance to Jesus. As Spurgeon points out, Jesus says:
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.“ [John 6:37]
If Jesus were to turn away believers just because of some arbitrary age standard, he would be a liar, and we know that God can not lie. As Spurgeon wraps up this chapter, he explains of Jesus:
“That is His teaching: and to send back the child because it has not this or that is to fly in the teeth of the blessed doctrine of the grace of God.”
In my experience with children, I have learned some of the deepest truths I now know about God from their lips. Perhaps because of this, I work hard not to underestimate kids or their spiritual development just because of their age.
I believe part of the problem in church today when it comes to the salvation of children is one of perspective. There is great elation in watching a child, anyone for that matter, come to Christ. There is great joy in watching a child be baptized. However, we must fight the temptation to see the salvation of children as the ultimate goal of Children’s Ministry. Like adults, salvation is not the end of the spiritual journey – it is the beginning. Discipleship is the next step. When we view salvation as a first step followed by concerted discipleship of children, it can alleviate fears and concerns about false professions of faith. As the child is disciple, there are plenty of opportunities to speak into that child’s life and to allow the Holy Spirit to speak into that child’s life. If done correctly, that process serves to ensure the perseverance of children in their newfound faith.
Having worked with children, I appreciate the hesitancy to accept every profession of salvation as genuine. It is too easy to influence kids, and the stakes are too high, not to try to ensure that the child truly understands what it means to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. That said, I don’t believe that doubt should ever be expressed to the child. Rather, we should work to continue to fill them up with the truth of God and allow the Holy Spirit to convict them if their earlier profession was not genuine.
Links to Complete Text
If you’re interested in reading the complete text of “Come Ye Children,” it can be found on at: http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/cyc.htm
The complete text of Chapter Two can be found at: http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/cyc02.htm
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