Spurgeon begins this chapter by reiterating several of the points which made in previous chapters. He then tackles some of the objections that adults raise regarding whether or not children can truly accept Christ as the Lord and Savior. This is not the first time in this book that Spurgeon tackles this subject, and it is clear that it was a personal quest of his to dispel adults of any notion that kids are not a vital component of the kingdom of God.
This chapter marks the continuation of Spurgeon’s exposition of the following verses from Mark 10:
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]
A Plea to Teachers and Parents
Before jumping into his defense of kids and their ability to enter the kingdom of God, Spurgeon makes an impassioned plea to parents and teachers to pray for the kids under their care. Our own kids, and those we teach, should hold a place of high priority in our prayer lives. If the women discussed in Mark 10 eagerly brought their children to see Jesus, we should much more eagerly bring our children to the throne of grace in our prayers. As Spurgeon explains,
“…let none of us be content, whether we be parents or teachers, until He has received our children, and has so blessed them that we are sure that they have entered the kingdom of God.”
Children are both a blessing and a stewardship from God, and our prayer life should reflect both aspects of that. We should thank God that he blessed us with kids and pray that we would be up to the task of leading them.
A Child’s Access to God
Following his impassioned plea for prayer, Spurgeon jumps right into a defense of a child’s immediate access to God based upon the verses cited above. Children are not different than adults when it comes to accessing God. To assume that Children are somehow less important to God is to question to infinite nature of his love. Spurgeon points out that Jesus adds the phrase “truly, I say to you” when speaking about the children and explains:
“These prefatory expressions are intended to secure our reverent attention to the fact that so far from the admission of children into the kingdom being unusual or strange, none can find entrance there except they receive the gospel as a little child receives it.”
Rather than being the exception, the admittance of children into the kingdom of God is actually the rule. To those who would consider the salvation of children a minor thing in the sight of God, Spurgeon reminds them:
“If we think that children must be little in His sight, what are we?”
Who are we as adults to suppose that we have somehow, through some effort of our own, merited God’s grace and someone else does not merit it simply because of their age? This is a form of idolatry which is detestable to God. Spurgeon then touches on another theme which he raised in the last chapter. He notes that the streets of heaven are actually filled with the souls of those who died young in their physical life:
“Snatched from the breast ere they had committed actual sin, delivered from the toilsome pilgrimage of life, they always behold the face of our Father which is in heaven. ‘Of such is the kingdom of God.’”
Given the number of children in heaven, Spurgeon reminds us that they are clearly significant in the kingdom of God, and reminds adults that they should remember that it is likely that grownups are actually the less significant population in God’s kingdom.
The Importance of Teaching Children
Continuing to reinforce ideas raised in earlier chapters, Spurgeon returns to the promise inherent in teaching young souls about God, and the importance of teaching them only the truth and sound doctrine:
“A little error injected into the ear of a youth may become deadly in the man when the slow poison shall at last have touched a vital part. Weeds sown in the furrows of childhood will grow with the young man’s growth, ripen in his prime, and only decay into a sad corruption when he himself declines. On the other hand, a truth dropped into a child’s heart will there fructify, and his manhood shall see the fruit of it. Yon child listening in the class to his teacher’s gentle voice may develop into a Luther, and shake the world with his vehement proclamation of the truth. Who among us can tell? At any rate, with the truth in his heart the boy shall grow up to honour and fear the Lord, and thus shall he help to keep alive a godly seed in these evil days.”
Kids are very susceptible to false teaching. As leaders and teachers, it is our job to ensure that everything that we instill in them represents the truth of God!
A Refutation of Arguments Against Children Coming to God
Some argue that children are not prepared to accept Jesus as their Lord because they are not capable of understanding, nor do they have an appreciation for, the solemnity of the situation. Spurgeon refers to the argument that children often “trifle” and notes quite candidly:
“Big children are worse triflers than the little ones can ever be. Despise not children for trifling when the whole world is given to folly.”
Some argue that children are not capable of accepting Jesus because they will soon return to their childish things and forget about him. Spurgeon, with his usual candor, points out the hypocrisy of this argument and the vast history of people discussed in the Bible who turned from God and forgot about what he had done for them. Spurgeon points to the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“”To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast? For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.” For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the LORD will speak to this people, to whom he has said, “This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose”; yet they would not hear. And the word of the LORD will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. “ [Isaiah 28:9-13 ESV]
To those adults who would dare to make such an argument against the salvation of children, I would ask how many times have you ignored God and reverted back to your old ways? How many times have you had to seek forgiveness for the same things more than once?
It is the height of hypocrisy to suggest that, because children may from time-to-time stray from what they have been taught , they should not be taught the things of God. Spurgeon points out that it is often those things that we learn when we are young that remain with us the longest:
“The voices of childhood echo throughout life, The first learned is generally the last forgotten. The young children who heard our Lord’s blessing would not forget it. They would have His countenance photographed upon their hearts, and never forget His kind and tender smile.”
Some would argue that children do not have the capacity to understand the concepts presented in the Bible. Some of the most basic things we teach our kids, like the Golden Rule, the Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments are based in scripture. As Spurgeon notes:
“The words of Jesus are so childlike and so fitted for children that they drink them in better than the words of any other man, however simple he may try to be… It is true that in the Scriptures there are great mysteries, where your leviathans may dive and find no bottom; but the knowledge of these deep things is not essential to salvation, or else few of us would be saved. The things that are, essential to salvation are so exceedingly simple that no child need sit down in despair of understanding the things which make for his peace. Christ crucified is not a riddle for sages, but a plain truth for plain people: true, it is meat for men, but it is also milk for babes.”
Oftentimes, children are actually in a better position to accept these concepts than adults:
“His believing faculty has not yet been overloaded by superstition, or perverted by falsehood, or maimed by wicked unbelief… Instead of the child needing to wait until he grows up and becomes a man, it is the man who must grow down and become like a child.”
Finally, as parents, Spurgeon warns us:
“Let us not say, ‘Would to God my child were grown up like myself that he might come to Christ!’—but rather may we almost wish that we were little children again, could forget much that now we know, could be washed clean from habit and prejudice, and could begin again with a child’s freshness, simplicity, and eagerness.”
As a parent, I can’t imagine not praying for my kids virtually every single day. I pray for specific things, but every night I pray that they would grow in their wisdom and knowledge of God, and that his love would grow in their hearts and manifest itself in a desire to follow and be obedient to him. When it comes to the kids in my class, I try to pray frequently for wisdom in both teaching and shepherding them, and I also pray periodically for each child individually. I find that the latter works a lot better when I am close enough to the kids to know exactly what to pray for them. I recently read a comment from a children’s pastors about one of her professors in college who had told them you should spend at least as much time praying for your ministry each week as you do planning your lesson. With that as a measuring stick, I know that I for one have some re-prioritization that needs to be done!
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 Six can be found at: http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/cyc06.htm
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