David and the Children
In Chapter 14, Spurgeon exegetes the verse in Psalm 34 that serves as the title for this book:
“Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” [Psalms 34:11 ESV]
NOTE: Spurgeon’s book was, of course, based on the wording of the King James Version of the Bible which is slightly different than the ESV Version.]
Spurgeon notes that this Psalm was written by David following the change in his behavior in front of Abimelech. In those events, which are related in 1 Samuel 21:10-15, David pretended to be insane before the King of Gath in order to escape from him. Spurgeon points out that, only after David had lowered himself to pretending to be a drooling madman subjected to the scorn of children did he finally discover his duty. Spurgeon explains:
“In after days, when David sang songs of praise to Jehovah, recollecting how he had become the laughing-stock of little children, he seemed to say, “Ah! by my folly before the children in the streets, I have lowered myself in the estimation of generations that shall live after me; now I will endeavour to undo the mischief,—”Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.'”
Having once rejected the sovereign protection of the Lord in favor of scorn children, David felt compelled to teach children the true nature of God.
Fear of the Lord
The second half of Psalm 34:11 reads, “I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” The implication is clear. David clearly understood that Children were, and are, quite capable of grasping the doctrine of the fear of the Lord. Spurgeon goes on to lament the unwillingness to teach the deep doctrines of God to children:
“We have heard it said by some that children cannot understand the great mysteries of religion. We even know some Sunday-school teachers who cautiously avoid mentioning the great doctrines of the gospel, because they think the children are not prepared to receive them. Alas! the same mistake has crept into the pulpit; for it is currently believed, among a certain class of preachers, that many of the doctrines of the Word of God, although true, are not fit to be taught to the people, since they would pervert them to their own destruction. Away with such priestcraft! Whatever God has revealed ought to be preached. Whatever HE has revealed, if I am not capable of understanding it, I will still believe and preach it.”
Spurgeon’s point is clear. As teachers of the Word of God, we do not have the option to pick and choose which parts of God’s Word we want to teach. We do not get to determine what is easy enough and what is too hard to teach to children. Spurgeon states unequivocally, and I agree, that there is NO doctrine which a child capable of salvation is not capable of understanding. Not only are the capable of understanding these doctrines, Spurgeon argues that oftentimes they are actually in a better position to understand these doctrines because of their young age:
“In fact, children are capable of understanding some things in early life, which we hardly understand afterwards. Children have eminently a simplicity of faith, and simplicity of faith is akin to the highest knowledge; indeed, we know not that there is much distinction between the simplicity of a child and the genius of the profoundest mind. He who receives things simply, as a child, will often have ideas which the man who is prone to make a syllogism of everything will never attain unto.”
We should never approach Children’s Ministry or enter a classroom with an idea that the children are not capable of understanding what we are trying to teach. As teachers, if we cannot make the children in our ministry understand a doctrine or concept or teaching, it is likely the result of our not understanding it ourselves. In order to teach kids, we must first understand what we are trying to teach. As teachers, if you cannot find a way to teach a child the things of God in an understandable way, we might not be fit for the task. Spurgeon holds that if the child cannot understand a lesson, it is not the fault of the child but the fault of the teacher. If you find yourself saying things like, “they just don’t get it” the first place you should look for a reason is in the mirror. Frankly, I find the process of finding ways to convey the deep truths of God to young children to be one of the most exciting parts of working with kids.
On Children Being Saved
Spurgeon next turns his attention back to a frequent refrain in this book – that children are as capable, if not more so, of attaining salvation as adults. Many people argue over the so called “Age of Accountability” – the age at which children are accountable for their actions and must accept Jesus in order to obtain eternal life. In fact, I contributed to a Children’s Ministry Think Tank on this very subject. In terms of the age at which kids are capable of understanding the gospel, Spurgeon says:
“As soon as a child is capable of being lost, it is capable of being saved. As soon as a child can sin, that child can, if God’s grace assist it, believe and receive the Word of God. As soon as children can learn evil, be assured that they are competent, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to learn good.”
Many people remain suspect of kids who claim they have been saved. Spurgeon warns that we should never look suspiciously on what he calls child-piety. As Spurgeon points out:
“It is better sometimes to be deceived than to be the means of offending one of these little ones who believe in Jesus. God send to His people a firm belief that little buds of grace are worthy of all tender care!”
Rather than being suspicious of childhood salvation, we should rejoice in it.
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 Fourteen can be found at: http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/cyc14.htm
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