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whether exhibited by the great or the lowly—by the sage or the stripling-not only invites affection, but challenges veneration and esteem. It is a character, however, which only those can realize who have been “converted” by the Gospel of Christ. The principles of the world are opposed to every particular of it. It can only be maintained in perfection and consistency, by the man who has overcome the world--by him from whose eyes the scales of selfishness have been purged away, so that he can look steadily beyond the interests of this life, to that eternal state which Christ has laid open both to him and to his brethren.
Amiable and admirable then-nay more---important and indispensable as is this childlike character, it is doubly incumbent upon us to be thankful to God; in the first place, that he hath implanted a feeling in our hearts, which predisposes us to love the pattern held out for our imitation ; and in the next, because that pattern is nothing rare and recondite,
nothing which it requires diligence to discover, and study to appreciate ; but is obvious and familiar, something which meets us at every turn, and offers, though it does not obtrude its lesson, every hour of our lives.
When Jesus called a little child unto him, and placed him in the midst of his disciples, he directed their attention to an object which they could not but behold with interest and pleasure, spite of the selfish and angry feelings by which their minds were agitated.
Thus an opening was made for the lesson, which it was the Saviour's wish to inculcate. “ Ye look upon this child with complacency and affection-unless ye be converted, and become like him in artlessness and innocence, ye shall not enter into my kingdom.” Let it be our endeavour, my brethren, to turn the same lesson to the same practical account. Look childhood with interest we must, unless we determine to do violence to the best feelings of our nature. But though it is natural, and amiable to do this, yet (so
Look upon wide is the range of Christian responsibility) we shall have fallen short of our duty, if we go thus far, but no farther. Jesus Christ has given to infancy a language which speaks to all, whatever their age, and whatever their degree. We love childhood. It is well ; but we must ask ourselves, why do we love it! For its guilelessness and simplicity ?-We are reminded, then, that if we would enter into the kingdom of heaven, we must be guileless and simple also. For its meekness and gentleness ?-Meekness and gentleness, therefore, must be found in all those who would be greeted as children by the Father which is in heaven. Or do we admire the docility, the tractableness, the submissive obedience of the young ?-Does not this remind us that the same dispositions must be acceptable also in the sight of God? and that they must be cultivated till they be made our own, if we wish to be admitted into the number of those who shall walk in the courts of his house ? Thus it is not pleasure only, but profit, and that of the most important kind, which is to be derived from the contemplation of " little children.”
And, lastly, consider farther, how constantly these lessons are read to us; with what force and frequency they are urged upon our attention-above all, how they avail themselves of those seasons and opportunities, in which our minds are in the fittest state to be influenced by their appeals. It was an interesting, and perhaps we might say, a beautiful feature in the otherwise monstrous systems of heathen superstition, which imagined the existence of household gods. If ever the breasts of those deluded worshippers were warmed by a single spark of genuine piety, it was not kindled, we may be well assured, by the vain pomps of the procession, by the gorgeous mockeries of the temple, nor by the lusts and licence of the riotous festival. But it was produced in the sacred quietness of home. It was lighted at the altar of those inferior deities, as they were called, whose presence consecrated the hearth, and hallowed all the offices of domestic privacy. And if these moments of retirement are peculiarly calculated for the reception and improvement of religious impressions, Christianity, the religion of every hour, has provided a powerful means of exciting them. Then it is that “the little children" are in the midst of us. Then it is that Jesus exclaims more emphatically, and with greater effect perhaps than at any other time, “Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
“See then, my brethren, that ye despise not one of these little ones." See that ye neglect not the lessons which they teach, out of contempt or disregard of the little preachers who enforce them. They are not despicable in themselves, for it has been said of them, and of all Christians who resemble them, “that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of the Father 1.” They are not
1 Matt. xviii. 10.