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riches" that is, with all things both for use and ornament. "A wise man is strong: yea, a wise man increaseth strength," Prov. xxiv. 3-5.
All these blessings are often, and with great assurance, spoken of as advantages usually attending wisdom: or as the happy lot and portion of those who value and seek it, and observe and obey its rules and directions; health and long life, riches and honour; that is, a competence, and sometimes abundance, and credit and honour therewith, safety and security, peace and quietness, and great satisfaction of mind.
V. I shall conclude all with some directions concerning the right manner of seeking wisdom. Seek it early, diligently, and with continuance, and decline the society of those who respect not the laws of wisdom.
1. Seek wisdom early, or without delay: now, immediately, apply yourselves to the study of the principles of wisdom, the rules of right conduct. Attend to the instructions given you, suitable to your age and condition, by those who are knowing, and are concerned for your welfare and prosperity, both in soul and body. And now, immediately, form in your minds a fixed purpose and resolution of living and acting by those rules which appear just, wise, and reasonable.
2. Seek wisdom diligently. Let not time run waste, without employment. Let not whole days be lost in sloth and idleness; but be concerned to make daily improvement in some part of useful knowledge. Let the rules and maxims of wisdom be thought of, and meditated upon early and late. Let her principles be familiar to your minds, and always entertaining and delightful. So will they occur to you when they should be brought into action, and when you are in danger of being seduced to act contrary to them.
3. You must also endeavour to continue in this your love and affection for wisdom, and careful attention to her, because of our natural weakness and inconstancy, and because there are temptations and tempters: and you are in danger, if you are off your guard, of being misled by the enticements, or the provocations, of those you meet with.
4. Therefore let me add: decline as much as possible familiarity and intimacy with those who show no respect to the laws of wisdom; who have little or no worth; who possess, indeed, the human shape and intellect, but aim at no improvement; who rashly and inconsiderately venture to make a jest of sin, and despise wisdom, because it is too high for them; who are pleased with the worthless trash of
sensual enjoyments: but have no taste of perfection and beauty, order and proportion, and the principles thereof, either in the natural, or the moral world; whose views and prospects are narrow and confined, low and base, like the 66 very beasts that perish," Ps. xlix. 12, 20: minding nothing but present objects, neither looking forward to future time, nor observing the consequences and tendences of things present. Reckon yourselves to be above such contemptible people; and disdain to follow either their counsel or their example.
These are they that love wisdom. These she loves. They that so seek her shall find her, and be blessed with all the precious things in her gift.
Let not, then, any immoderate love of pleasure, or ease, or much riches, or high honour and preferment, enter into the mind, to damp this reasonable principle, this excellent and becoming, this virtuous and hopeful disposition, the love of wisdom. But let this always be the prevailing, the governing, influencing principle of your minds. "Exalt wisdom and she will promote you.' Esteem and study her rules and maxims, constantly obey her precepts, and decline not from her paths. "She will, then, bring you to honour, and crown you with durable riches and righteous
LITTLE CHILDREN BROUGHT TO CHRIST.
Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray. And the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said: Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them. Matt. xix. 13, 14, 15.
IT was now near the conclusion of our Saviour's ministry and life on this earth. He was in a place beyond Jordan, from whence he went up to Jerusalem, where he suffered. This particular history being related by three evangelists, it is likely, that it contains something which may be of use for our direction or encouragement. St. John indeed has not taken any notice of it. But you are sensible, that he had seen the three former gospels before he wrote: and
therefore he very rarely gives an account of such things as had been sufficiently related already by one or more of the other evangelists.
In St. Mark's gospel this history is recorded after this manner, ch. x. 13:" And they brought young children unto him, that he should touch them. And his disciples rebuked those that brought them. 14, But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them: Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. 15, Verily, I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. 16, And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them."
St. Luke says, ch. xviii. 15: " And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them. But when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16, But Jesus called them unto him, and said: Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. 17, Verily, I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter therein."
These are the accounts which the evangelists have given us of this matter,
I shall endeavour to make an improvement of this history by_considering these several particulars:
I. Who were now brought to Christ.
II. For what end they were brought to him.
III. The reception he gave them; which at the very first view may be perceived to be kind and gracious.
IV. The declaration made concerning them, that "of such is the kingdom of heaven," or "the kingdom of God." I. The first particular to be considered by us is, who were now brought to Christ.
In St. Matthew they are styled little children. In one place of St. Mark we have, in our version, young children: but in the original it is still one and the same word; which therefore throughout those two evangelists should be uniformly rendered, little children.
In St. Luke they are called infants; a word, which, as the critics in the Greek language say, comprehends any children from the time of their birth, till they are four years of age. It is the same word which we have in another text: "Knowing, that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures," 2 Tim. iii. 15.
That these were little children may be inferred from a
circumstance mentioned in St. Mark, that Jesus “took them in his arms."
Their tender age may be argued likewise from hence: that it is not said of Christ, that he taught them, or asked them any questions.
I choose not to argue from the expression of their being brought to Christ; not thinking it sufficient to prove, that they were carried in arms. For the phrase may be used of such as are led, conducted, guided to a place or person. Upon the whole we may conclude, I think, that they were what they are called by the evangelists, little children, or infants. None of them were arrived to the full exercise of reason, and some of them might be carried in the arms of their friends.
II. The next particular to be considered by us is, what views they had who brought these little children to Jesus; or, for what end they were brought to him.
It does not appear they were brought to Jesus to be healed by him of any sickness, or weakness, which they were afflicted with; for there is nothing of that kind hinted in any of the evangelists, though no less than three of them have recorded this history. And, if that had been the case, the disciples, it is likely, would not have rebuked the persons who came with these children. For before now there had been such applications made to our Lord by many persons, not only for themselves, but for others also; for their friends, or their children, or their servants.
For what end and purpose, then, may some say, should these little children be brought to Jesus, who were so young as to have little or no exercise of reason and understanding, and must therefore have been incapable of receiving instruction?
That we may the better answer this inquiry, we should attend to the evangelists' expressions. St. Mark says, they brought little children to Jesus, that he should touch them." St. Luke: "they brought unto him also" or, even "infants, that he should touch them." But in our text, in St. Matthew, it is said: "that he should put his hands on them, and pray." And it is likely, that this is the meaning of all the evangelists; it having been common among the Jews, to lay the hand upon those whom they blessed, or for whom they prayed to God, that he would bless them. So, when Jacob blessed the two sons of Joseph in Egypt, a little before his death, he laid his hands upon each of them, Gen. xlviii. 14.
These persons therefore, here spoken of, brought these
"little children" to Jesus, that he "might lay his hands upon them and bless them." They had a high opinion of the piety of Jesus, and of his interest in the divine favour. Probably they were disciples, or believers, such as took Jesus for a prophet, and even the great prophet who was to come, the Messiah. And they were desirous that their children should receive a blessing from him.
Some may be apt to think, this must have been a superstitious and fond conceit of these persons. To which I would answer, that, probably, it was not entirely so. in that case Jesus would not have shown them such regard. It cannot be thought, that our Lord would countenance an action, that was altogether unreasonable, and quite destitute of all good foundation. And supposing that there was a mixture of some wrong views in this conduct, the Lord Jesus was more gracious than to reject these persons, or condemn their design upon that account. The twelve disciples had not been perfectly disinterested, or free from all secular views, in coming to him and following him. Yet he was well pleased with their attendance on him: and he promised them a reward for it if they continued to act as disciples with sincerity; though they still wanted a sinless perfection, and had not a wisdom void of all defects, Luke xxii. 28-30.
III. The third thing is the reception he gave these children; which, at the very first view, we plainly perceive to be kind and gracious.
The disciples rebuked those who brought them. They turned them away, as impertinent and troublesome. They refused them admission to the presence of their Master, and reproved their design in coming to him. But when Jesus perceived what had been done, he was much displeased, and said unto them, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not;" nor their friends, who would bring them to me. And those in particular, who were now brought to him, he received. Some of them he "took up into his arms," and affectionately embraced them; on all he "laid his hands, and blessed them."
How he blessed them, or prayed for them, the evangelists have not said particularly; but we may reasonably conclude, that he offered up to the Father some prayers for them, suited to the doctrine taught by him.
Possibly he presented some requests, agreeing with the prayer he had given to his disciples.
Or, he prayed for them that they might know God, and him whom he had sent, so as to obtain everlasting life.'