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little children. In the present instance, their praise was peculiarly beautiful and pertinent, as it shewed that Christ's miracles were so illustrious, as to strike even youthful minds with wonder and conviction. The praise of the Redeemer, on this occasion, might, with singular propriety, be said, to be perfected out of the mouth of babes..
From the passage now illustrated, some instructions may be collected' especially pertinent to the young.
1. We here see, that real piety is not confined to men of years, or of learning. It sometimes makes a lovely appearance in children and youth.
While the pharisees and doctors of the law rejected the Redeemer, praise to him was ordained. out of the mouth of babes. Those wonderful works, which the former perversely imputed to the power of Satan, struck the latter with conviction, that Jesus was the Christ. Those doctrines of grace, which awakened the indignation of the one, touched the hearts of the other with admiration, and turned their lips to praise. The priests and scribes enjoyed the fairest opportunities to hear the doctrines, and behold the miracles of Jesus, and to observe in him the fulfilment of the prophecies concerning the Messiah. But their pride, ambi. tion, and self confidence, rendered them blind to the evidence of truth, and insensible to the power of argument. These tender minds, in which such perverse affections had not begun to operate, felt conviction, and embraced the truth, on the first proposal of its evidence.
Christ crucified, was to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but to them who were called, the power and the wisdom of God. Meek and humble minds discern that wisdom, and "feel that power in religion, which the vain and selfrighteous will not confess. Not many wise men
after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called; for God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise; the weak things to confound the mighty; and things which are not, to bring to nought things which are, that no flesh should glory in his presence.
True religion in the heart depends not on superior abilities, but on a teachable and humble spirit. Our Saviour has instructed us, that if we would enter into his kingdom, we must humble ourselves, and become as little children. The Apostles direct us, to receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save our souls; to lay apart all guile and hypocrisy, and, like newborn babes, to desire the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby.
You see, then, my young hearers, the wisdom of an early attention to religion. Certain natural qualities, favourable to religion, you have now; but you will not carry them with you through life. In the first stages of youth, there is a desire of knowledge, a sensibility of mind, a modesty and docility of spirit, which you will not retain after you have accustomed yourselves to the ways and manners of the world. When pride and hardness of heart shall have supplanted these natural dispositions; and when the perplexity of worldly cares and designs shall have banished all religious concern, you will, with greater difficulty and reluctance, bow to the gospel of Christ. If, before you can enter into the kingdom of God, you must be brought to the tempers and dispositions of children -must, in a sense, come back to what you are now, Is it not best to enter into the kingdom now, while you are children, and before you have outgrown the dispositions which at present favour your entrance?
Your natural humility, tenderness and teacha. bleness, are not real holiness; but they are certainly more favourable than the opposite tempers, to the introduction of real holiness. The scripture represents them so, and urges you to take the benefit of them, while you may
2. We see that religion, in its main substance, is adapted to the capacity of the young.
The Jewish children were easily convinced, that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah. It required no laboured reasoning, or depth of learning, to see, that no man could speak as he spake, or do the works which he did, except God were with him..
The system of religion contains, indeed, many things above the comprehension, not only of chil dren, but of mortals. These, however, are not the most essential things. What immediately relates to our duty, and concerns our salvation, is lev el to common capacities. The Apostles, considering themselves as debtors both to the wise and unwise, used great plainness of speech. They wrote to young men and little children, as well as to aged men and fathers; and they wrote with perspicuity.
Think not, then, ye youths, that you may, for the present, postpone religion, as a matter beyond your capacity. In the Saviour's day, there were children, out of whose mouths praise was perfected,
Does not every thing which you see, teach you, that there is a God; that he is powerful, wise and good; and that you are daily dependent on him, and indebted to him? Do you find any difficulty in understanding good and evil, and in determining what you ought to do, and what you ought to avoid? When you have sinned, and doubtless you know that you sin often, Is it not a plain case, that God is dishonoured and offended, and that you
mast, by repentance, apply to him for pardon The gospel teaches you that God has sent his Son into the world to redeem sinners, by suffering death for their sins. Is not this an encouragement to your hope, and a motive to your repentance? When you read the history of your Redeemer's life, and observe the meekness, humility, patience, goodness and benevolence, which appeared in him, Are you not pleased with the example, and convinced that you ought to imitate it? When you are told, that you have immortal souls, which must live in another world, and be happy or miserable there, according to the course which you now pursue, Are you in doubt to judge what is meant by all this, or what manner of persons you ought to be?
These are the great things, which immediately concern you; and I question not, but you well understand them. I am sure, that by attention, you may understand them. The obligations of religion then lie on you, as well as on others. Think not to excuse yourselves from it, as a matter too high for you. Improve the advantages given you; gain the knowledge which you may, and act according to the knowledge which you have, and you will doubtless meet the approbation of your God.
3. From the example before us, we learn, that great benefit may accrue to youth, from a stated attendance on divine institutions.
At the time of the passover, these children met with Jesus in the temple.
The passover was instituted in commemoration of the deliverance of the Jews from Egypt, and in prefiguration of the redemption of mankind by Je sus Christ. One design of this festival was, that when children in time to come should inquire,, what was meant by this service, the parents should instruct them, how God, by a mighty hand, saved VOL. I. D d
his people from bondage. As soon as children ar rived to such an age, as to bring an offering in their hands, they were to appear with their parents at the temple, and there to celebrate the feast. Luke tells us, It was the custom of the feast for children to attend it, when they were twelve years old.
The Jews, though much degenerated in our Saviour's time, generally observed the publick forms of religion. They early brought their children to the passover. Happy it was for many of them, that they were brought to this passover. Here they met with the Saviour. They saw his works, and heard his words; their hearts were warmed with love to him, and their mouths were filled with his praise. What a loss they might have sustained, had they been absent now! Christ, at appointed seasons, visited the temple. He honoured divine institutions: They who would receive his blessing, must honour them too.
Publick worship is as much an ordinance of God under the gospel, as was the passover under the law.
The example of the Jews, in bringing their children to the temple, reproves the neglect of many Christians. Do you imagine, that your children can receive no benefit from the services of the sanctuary? You know not how early the grace of God may open the heart to attend to the things which are spoken, and to receive the influence of divine truths. By a regular and constant attendance, they will be found in the way of God's blessing. If they have not capacity to follow a train of thoughts through a sermon or prayer, yet their minds may be affected with the general solemnity of the appearance. They will grow up with a sense that there is something important in religion. They will be early habituated to religious order. They will, now and then, imbibe a useful sentiment.