Sermon 1711. A Sermon to the Lord's Little Children
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, MARCH 18, 1883,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake." 1 John 2:12.
"I write to you, little children, because you know the Father." 1 John 2:13. (Revised Version).
PROBABLY you ask, "Why does John say, first, 'I write,' and then, in verse 14, 'I have written'?" There is a beautiful touchof nature in this speedy change of tense. John was an extremely old man and, therefore, while he says, "I write," he adds,"I have written," as if he felt that it might be the last time that he should take his pen in hand. Very soon with him, thepresent tense would change into the past-and he indicates the fact by changing his mode of speech. Perhaps he even felt that,possibly, before the letter reached the Brethren to whom he addressed it, he would be no more among the sons of men. Thereforehe says, "I write," indicating that while he was still with them, with warm and loving heart he solemnly exhorted them. Andthen he adds, "I have written," as if he had recorded his dying testimony and left it as his last legacy of love.
To us, today, John's words run altogether in the past tense-"I have written." But we need not, therefore, forget that theywere the well-considered words of a venerated father in Christ and that he wrote them as one so near to his departure thathe regarded himself as already on the move and, therefore, scarcely knew which tense to use. Ah, my Brothers and Sisters,how soon our, "I speak," will change into, "I have spoken!" Let this invest every word with solemnity. Remember, also, whatorder of man John was-that disciple whom Jesus loved, whose head had leaned on Jesus' bosom, whose eyes had seen the Kingin His beauty and whose strengthened gaze had looked within the gates of pearl! This is he who, at one time, saw the piercedheart of the Well-Beloved pouring forth blood and water! And at another beheld the Lion of the tribe of Judah prevail to takethe book and loose the seven seals thereof! It is the Apostle of Love who says to us, "I write to you," "I have written toyou."
Let us carefully note what the Spirit says to us by His servant, John. Observe that our text is addressed to the "little children."It is thought by many wise interpreters that under this term John includes the whole Church of God and that afterwards Hedivides that Church into two companies-the fathers and the young men. Those who, under one aspect, are all "little children,"but are, under another, regarded as young men or fathers. There is very much to support this view. In several instances inthis Epistle, John is evidently addressing all the saints when he speaks of them as, "my little children," as, for instance,in the 18th verse of the third chapter, and also in the closing verse, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols."
Surely, all the saints are included in these exhortations. There is a sense in which every Christian is still a little child,a sense in which he ought to be so-always dependent upon the great Father, always ready to receive the Word of the Fatherwithout question, always teachable-always restful in the Father's care and full of love to Him who is his All in All. Of necessitywe must always be children before God, for our finite capacity is so limited that we are mere babes in knowledge in the Presenceof Infinite Wisdom and as very sucklings in understanding, when contrasted with the great Father of Spirits. We know enoughto make us know that we know very little! The most advanced intellects in the Church are but as infants compared with theAncient of Days. We are of yesterday and know nothing-with all our experience, with all our study, with all our meditation,with all our illumination we remain, "little children," when measured by the boundless knowledge of the Lord.
Yes, I mean the fathers, the men who bring sinners to Jesus, the men who teach others and are, themselves, taught of God-eventhese must, each one, cry out with Jeremiah, "Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child." I
mean the young men who have overcome the Wicked One, whose holy valor sets them in the forefront of the battle where theyturn to fight the armies of the aliens. "They are strong," says John, and yet, in the Presence of the mighty God of Jacob,what are our champions and our valiant men? Are they not, still, but as, "little children"? It may do us all good to jointhe infant-class this morning, or, at least to sit with the boys in the school of grace. Even those who have made the greatestadvances in Divine Grace may do well to " become as little children," that they may more fully enter into the Kingdom of Heavenand have closer fellowship with "the Holy Child Jesus." It may even be an advance for some who have grown self-willed as theyhave advanced in knowledge, if they will say with David, "Surely I have behaved and quieted myself. As a child that is weanedof his mother, my soul is even as a weaned child." Happy childhood when it means entire submission to the Father and sweetdelight in His will!
Still, I am inclined to think that in this case John really does divide the entire Church into three classes-the babes inGrace, or the children. Or, as one of the words might properly be translated, the boys-those who have not long been born intothe family-these are an interesting company. Then follow the young men-these are the second class-and a valued body of Christiansthey are, in the fullness of their vigor. They are strong in faith, giving glory to God, mighty in prayer, vehement in action,bold in testimony! May the Lord muster among our hosts a grand army of these vigorous heroes who shall earnestly contend forthe faith once delivered to the saints! The fighting power of the Church militant must come out of them! These are they thatturn the battle to the gate. Blessed is the man that has his quiver full of them!
Then there is the third class-the fathers, the mature, the experienced. These do not quite so much delight in war as the youngmen do, but at home they diligently care for the household of faith, watching over the feeble, strengthening and comfortingthem. These are able, by their experience, to answer gainsayers and to guide the ignorant to edify the untaught. Their knowledgeis deep and they are, therefore, able to become teachers of others. They are men of spiritual force and have come to the fullstature of men in Christ Jesus. Therefore they are the solid strength of the Church! If the young men are the Church's arm,these are the Church's backbone. We need to have many such, though, alas, it is to be feared that our Churches are much likethe Apostolic ones of which Paul said, "You have not many fathers."
This morning I am going to say nothing at all to the young men, nor to the fathers, except so far as they are willing to includethemselves under the term of, "little children." And, as we have already said, there is just reason why they should do so.Little children, it is to you I speak this day-I mean you that have newly been converted, whose first cries of repentanceare still in our ears! You, I mean, whose Grace is feeble; who are new to everything in the House of God and, as yet, needto be fed with the milk of the simple elementary Truth of God. You are the little children, dear to the whole family. You,I mean, who are but little in Israel as yet-little in knowledge, little in faith, little in strength, little in service, littlein patience! You cannot, as yet, keep the watch of the House of the Lord, for you, yourselves, need to be watched over. Youtremble when you try to stand and your unaccustomed feet can scarcely bear you along the road without a helping hand. Youare very apt to tumble down and probably will do so many times before you learn to walk with the fathers, or run with theyoung men.
You little children may, by some, be thought to be a burden, but the wise among us count you a blessing-the more of you themerrier in the Church of God-for you are the blessed of the Lord and we are glad to hear your youthful voices in the streetsof the New Jerusalem! To you I shall speak this morning, as the Holy Spirit shall enable me. I would say these things to you.First, observe your privilege-"I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you." Then, note your knowledge-"Ihave written unto you, little children, because you know, or have known, the Father." And thirdly, consider the precepts addressedto you. When we get to that point I shall ask you to refer to your Bibles that we may run through the whole of this Epistleand see what John has to say to little children. May we receive the Word of God with meekness, that we may grow thereby.
I. First, I want the babes in Grace, the weak in faith, the lambs of the flock, to notice THEIR PRIVILEGE. "I write unto you,little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake." This is a privilege extremely desired by the littlechildren. They have but lately felt the burden of guilt-they still smart under the lashes of conscience. The Spirit of Godhas but newly convinced them of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. And, therefore, above everything, their prayer is,"Father, forgive me." To them the remission of sins stands out as the first and most desirable of all bless-ings-and, truly,they are right in their estimate, for what possession is there which can be called a blessing at all until sin is forgiven?
It matters not how healthy a man may be-if his conscience is worried with his sin-his inmost heart is sick. It is small comfortto him to have all the comforts of this life if his heart feels the gnawing of the undying worm of conscious guilt. "God bemerciful to me, a sinner," comes often from his breast as he beats upon it in the deep humiliation of his soul. There canbe no joy and rest for him till he hears the words, "The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die." To the freshly saved,it is a joy worth worlds to have their sins forgiven! It is a bliss akin to the Heaven of angels and this joy belongs by rightto all the saints, yes, even to the little children in the family of God!
You were only born again last Sunday, but your sins are forgiven you! Perhaps it is only this morning that you have soughtyour Savior's face and have come to believe in Him-and, by His Grace, your sins are forgiven you! This assurance is as sweetto you as a seraph's song! I could not have told you a better piece of news. The pardon of sin is as the pearl of great priceto you in your present stage of spiritual life-you would have sold all that you had in order to procure it-and now that youhave it, your heart is aglow with gratitude! The wound in your conscience, so lately raw and bleeding, makes you set a highprice upon the healing balm of free and full forgiveness! Far be it from me to stay your holy joy, and yet the Lord will showyou greater things than these!
At your stage of experience, pardon is the most prominent blessing of the Covenant. A newly converted man does not know muchabout sanctification or union to Christ. Perhaps he does not know much about election, calling, or sealing. The principalpoint he dwells upon is pardon. It is written in the Creed-"I believe in the forgiveness of sins"-and the man who has newlyfound peace with God by Jesus Christ repeats that article of the Creed with solemn emphasis. "/ believe in the forgivenessof sins," he says, for he has just realized it, and to him it is a gift so great that, like the moon and the stars, it shinesas a queen among the blessings of Grace! Pardon of sin seems to the "little children" to comprehend the whole work of Jesusand the whole work of the Holy Spirit, too!
Vast favors lie beyond, but to him who has newly crossed the Jordan, this one valley of Eschol fills all the range of visionand the soul hardly dreams of any further benediction! The newly-pardoned does not yet see the innumerable other blessingswhich come in the train of forgiveness. He is, for the present, absorbed in the hearing of that one sentence, "Go in peace;your sins which are many are all forgiven you." Well, beloved child, many more blessings await you! Pardon is but an entranceblessing, a welcome at the doorstep-there are rarer joys within the house! You have become an heir to a boundless inheritance!All things are yours! Heaven, Christ and God are yours! Yet I marvel not, that at present all your heart is taken up witha sense of pardoned sin! I will not disturb you, but I will rejoice with you. I will even sit down and sing with you-let thisbe our hymn-
"Now, oh joy my sins are pardoned! Now I can, and do believe! All I have, and am, and shall be, To my precious Lord I give."
Even the full-grown child of God highly values this gift so dear to little children and, although he has received many othermercies, besides, yet still, it is a chief part of his joy that he has been cleansed from sin and clothed with righteousness.Ah, and our elder Brothers who are now in the King's country, this is a chief point, even with them, that they have washedtheir robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb! And therefore are they before the Throne of God and serve Him dayand night in His Temple. Yes, dear little children, you have obtained a most precious favor in which you do well to rejoice-"yoursins are forgiven you for His name's sake." Here let me observe that the forgiveness of sins is assuredly the possession ofthe new beginner in the Divine Life. He is as certainly forgiven as he ever shall be. The forgiveness of sins is not a matterof degrees or of growth. It is done in an instant and done forever, never to be reversed!
The child of God who was born but yesterday is not as completely sanctified as he will be. He is not as completely instructedas he will be. He is not as completely conformed to the image of Christ as he will be. But he is as completely pardoned asthe full-grown saint! He that just now passed the Gate of Pearl-did you not hear the shout as he entered, like a shock ofcorn fully ripe that comes in his season?-he, I say, was not more truly pardoned than you who but an hour ago believed inChrist unto the salvation of your soul! The dying thief had not many minutes found mercy and yet the Lord Jesus said to him,"Today shall you be with Me in Paradise!" It is plain, therefore, that he had been perfectly cleansed in a moment!
To wash in the fountain filled with blood is not a business of weeks and months and years, nor is it to be repeated many timesand often! But he that is washed is, then and there, made whiter than snow, and there is, from then on, no
defilement upon him. "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." "I write unto you, littlechildren, because your sins are forgiven you"-they are all gone-Divine Grace has most effectually removed them from you asfar as the east is from the west! The Egyptians at the Red Sea were not destroyed by little and by little-they were not swallowedup in the flood, a regiment at a time! The eager depths which had, by miracle, been divided, for a time, leaped together andPharaoh and his hosts-all of them-were covered, to be seen no more forever! Sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously!"The depths have covered them; there is not one of them left."
The Israelites had but barely set their foot upon the other side of the Red Sea and yet all their enemies were as completelydrowned as when the people entered into the Promised Land-it is even so with you who have believed in Christ but newly-yoursins are cast into the depths of the sea! Your iniquities are subdued by the Lord Jesus who has come to save His people fromtheir sins. Therefore, little children, praise your God and sing unto His name with all your might- "Who forgives all ouriniquities; who heals all our diseases."
Note, also, that your sins are forgiven you on the same terms as those of the Apostles and the greatest of the saints- "Yoursins are forgiven you for His name's sake"-that is, for the sake of Jesus, for the sake of His glorious Person, for the sakeof His honorable offices, for the sake of His shed blood and atoning death, for the sake of His glorious Resurrection, forthe sake of His perpetual intercession before the Throne of God! Your sins are not forgiven you because of anything you areor hope to be, nor because of anything that you have done or have suffered-you are forgiven for Christ's name's sake-and allthe saints of God can say the same. This is a sure ground of hope! Quicksand there is none, but a solid rock is under ourfeet.
Had the pardon been granted for our own work's sake, it might have been reversed upon our disobedience. But as sin is pardonedfor Christ's sake, the pardon is irreversible, since there is no change in Christ! Is not this a dainty sweet for the littlechildren? How gladly do I come and sit at the children's table when I see such food placed thereon! Now notice that this isthe reason why John wrote to you, little children. People do not generally write letters to little children, but John doesbecause of these special little ones it can be said, their sins are forgiven them. The moment, then, that a man has his sinsforgiven, he is old enough to begin to understand that which is written-and he should become a Bible reader and a Bible searcher!The moment that his sins are forgiven him for Christ's name's sake, he becomes capable of exhortation-and it is his businessto attend to what is written to him.
If pardoned as criminals, we are enlisted as workers! Why, I think if my sins have been forgiven me, my Heaven-born instinctsmake me ask, "Lord, what will you have me to do? Have You done so much for me? Then set me about doing something for You!Give me, as a privilege, the opportunity of serving You." Therefore, John, knowing that the little children would be eagerto obey, has written to them, in this Epistle, certain commands, of which I will speak to you further on. Only, little children,be on the alert to begin, at once, your work of faith and labor of love.
II. Secondly, I have to speak of THE KNOWLEDGE of these little children. "I have written unto you, little children, becauseyou have known, or know, the Father." The tiniest babe in the family of God knows the Father. For, first, as we have seen,his sins are forgiven him. By whom is that pardon given? Why, by the Father, and, therefore, he that has had his sins forgivenhim necessarily knows the Father. When the poor prodigal felt the kisses of his father's love and saw the best robe adorninghis person, then he knew the Father. All the philosophers in the world do not know so much of the Father God as a forgivensinner knows!
I go a little further-if there are any that have never fallen into sin, but are like the 99 just persons who need no repentance,or like the elder brother who had never, at any time, transgressed his father's commandment, I say that these do not knowand cannot know the Father as the forgiven child does-for the Father's heart comes out most fully and expressly when He says,"Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. For this, My son was dead,and is alive again! He was lost and is found." Then, as he looks up through his tears and sees the ineffable smile of theFather's affection, the forgiven child knows the Father! The very least child of Grace, having received the forgiveness ofsins, knows the Father in this most important sense.
Moreover, this is a piece of knowledge, dear Friends, which the child of God obtains very early in his spiritual life, forwhatever a child does not know, he knows his father. Think of your dear little one at home. He cannot, as yet, read a letterin the book. He knows nothing of the things which his elder brother studies, but he knows his father! He may not know verymuch about his father-he certainly could not speak to others about his father's business or his father's
wealth-but he knows him! The child cannot help his father, or understand what his father does, but he knows his father andwould choose him out from among a thousand. See how his eyes twinkle, now that Father has come home! See him stretch out hislittle hands! See how eager he is to get into those dear arms! He knows his father and never forgets that knowledge.
Dear child of God, this is a piece of knowledge which you have, also! And in this you will yield to none of all the sacredfamily. Benjamin knows his father with an absolute certainty-he is as sure of it as Reuben is the firstborn. We go to schooland college, but long before that we know our father-the fear is lest we overlay that precious knowledge with something notworth half as much! Little children, you know God, now, in your spiritual childhood. You could not preach about Him; you couldnot write a treatise upon His attributes; you could not describe His mighty acts-but you know Him by the instinct of a child-andin you is the promise fulfilled, "Israel shall cry unto Me, My God, we know You." Little children, the result of your knowingGod as your Father is that when He is away from you, you are in the habit of crying after Him. If you cannot feel your Father'slove shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Spirit, you are miserable and you hasten to your closet and begin to pray, "Cometo me, my Father! Manifest Yourself to me, for I cannot live without You."
On the other hand, when you do get to your Father, you show that you love Him by the perfect restfulness of your spirit. InGod you are at home. Once get into your Father's arms and you feel quite safe, quite peaceful, quite happy. The Presence ofGod is the paradise of the Believer! God is the ultimatum of our desires-we speak of Him as "our exceeding joy." If in myFather's love I share a filial part, I ask no more than to know and enjoy it! We say, "Our Father which are in Heaven"-wemight as truly say, "Our Father, You are our Heaven." Hence we seek after Him. "O God, You are my God; early will I seek You."Here, then, we have a token that we know the Father, when we weep because He is absent, or rejoice because He is present.We know the Father, Brothers and Sisters, even we who are but little in Israel, for we love Him! Do you not feel that youlove God, this morning? You might not dare say so in public, and yet you would die for Him. Sooner than renounce your Godwould you not give up all that you possess? It may be you will never be tried as the martyrs have been, but if you were, canyou suppose it possible that you could part with your God? No, your inmost heart loves Him! You know it does and, loving Him,you are united to Him by bonds which cannot be severed!
Moreover, we know the Father, for we trust Him. Is it not written, "They that know Your name will put their trust in You"?Can you not trust God with everything? A child has no cares. His father cares for him. A child knows no anxiety. His fatherbears all the anxiety on his behalf. Is it not so with you? Though you are babes in Grace, do you not trust?-trust for time,trust for eternity, trust for your bodies and trust for your souls? I am sure you do! If you are what you should be, you knowthe Father, for your faith rests upon Him. It is also true that you seek to imitate Him. It is wonderful how little childrenimitate their father, perhaps more than grown-up children do, though the influence of example is also seen upon them. Thevery little ones will try to do everything exactly like Father. It must be right, it must be perfect! If father does it, theymake us smile as we see in them ourselves in miniature!
Is not this the very thing which you try to do? Though you were converted but a very little while ago, yet you wish to belike Jesus! You long to be like the Father. Would you not be perfect if you could? If you could, would you not be rid of everysin? If some painful surgical operation could take away from you the black drops of indwelling sin, would you not cheerfullybare your breast to the sharpest knife? I know you would! You would die to be rid of sin, for that is the thing you hate.This proves that you know your Father in Heaven, for you are trying to be like He is. And do you not glory in Him? Littlechildren, when they begin to talk and go to school-how proud they are of their father! Their father is the greatest man thatever lived-there never was the like of him! You may talk to them of great statesmen, or great warriors, or great princes,but these are all nobodies-their father fills the whole horizon of their being!
Well, so it certainly is with us and our Father God-
"Since no works are like Yours, None so glorious, so Divine. Since whatever gods there are, None, O Lord, are like You, Letme bow before Your Throne And exalt Your name alone."
We cannot make enough of our God! We extol Him with all our might. With the blessed virgin we sing, "My soul does magnifythe Lord." What does, "magnify," mean? Why, to make great! We feel as if we would make God's name great and would greatenHim in the minds of men and make them think what a blessed Father we have! Now, listen! This is the reason why John has writtento you, little children, because he says, "They know enough to understand my letter, for they know the Father." We do notthink of writing a letter to a little child. "Ah," says John, "but the Lord's children know their Father" and he that knowsGod is capable of any kind of knowledge! He who knows God is a fit person to be accepted as a disciple of the beloved Apostle.I cannot desire a better congregation than a congregation of men and women that know the Father.
What if they are little children? Well, they can understand anything that I, another child, can have to say, for they knowthe Father and, therefore, they have an unction from the Holy One and are able to know spiritual things! To know God is thecenter and the circumference of all knowledge! If you know the Father, do you not see the reason why John writes to you? Becausenow that you know Him, you are bound to love Him, to trust Him and to serve Him! Having received such knowledge as this, youare bound to impart it as far as you can! You are bound to live up to it and to show to all around you what a child of Godis-and how different he is from the children of darkness! Thus, out of your privilege and out of your knowledge, there arisesan obligation which I trust you will not be slow to acknowledge.
Here is a prayer for you-
"If I've the honor, Lord, to be One of Your happy family. On me the gracious gift bestow To call You "Abba, Father," too.So may my conduct ever prove My filial piety and love! While all my brethren clearly trace Their Father's likeness in my face."III. Now we come to our third division. Will you kindly follow me with your Bibles, especially you that are "little children,"while I commend to you THE PRECEPTS which John has written for your guidance. First, look at 1 John 2. "My little children, these things I write unto you, that you sin not." That is the first precept-"Little children, sin not."Children ate very apt to get into the mud. Most mothers will tell you, I think, that if there is a pool of mud anywhere withina mile, her first-born joy and comfort will find it out and get into it if he possibly can! And no matter how often a childis washed, he seems to always need washing again-if there is a method by which he can foul his hands and his face-your prettycherub is most ingenious to find it out!
I am afraid this is too much the case with the children of God. There is so much of carnality about us, so much of the oldAdam, that the question is not into which sin we fall, but into which sin we do not fall! Alas, we are apt to be proud, thoughwe have nothing to be proud of! We are prone to despond and doubt our Father, though He never gave us any cause to do so!We are inclined to be worldly, though there is nothing in the world worth loving! And we have a tendency to grow cold andchill towards God, though He is altogether lovely and ought to win our warmest affection. We are apt to speak unadvisedlywith our lips. We are apt to be full of foolish thoughts. We are apt to be self-willed. We find an angry temper rising againstsome Brother of ours whom we ought to love-and we have not long got over that before we are half-afraid to utter a word ofrebuke lest we should incur the laughter of the ungodly!
We glide from one sin to another, even as a waterfall descends from rock to rock. As weeds multiply in the soul, so do sinsspring up in our hearts. We are a mass of faults. Like the pendulum, we swing to the right hand and then to the left-we err,first, in one way and then in another-we are always inclined to evil! And, therefore, the Apostle sweetly puts it, "My littlechildren, I write unto you, that you sin not." Avoid every sin-forsake it altogether! Ask for the Grace of God to sanctifyyou wholly-spirit, soul, and body. Though you are only newly born, yet, my little children, sin not. You will soon lose yourcomfort if you do. Little children, sin will hurt you, damage you, grieve you, and displease your heavenly Father! Sin willraise a cloud, behind which His Presence will be hidden from you! It will stop your heavenly growth. It will prevent yourusefulness.
My little children, I earnestly entreat you that you sin not! Burnt child, dread the fire you have just been plucked out of,do not go back to it. Do not play with sparks! Keep clear of every kind of match that might create a flame. Seek after
holiness with all your might. Though born but yesterday, do not sin today. God help you to fulfill this holy precept. Furtheron in this second chapter, the Apostle writes to them again, and tells them (v. 18) that it is the last times and that thereare many antichrists abroad. You will have to run your eyes right down the chapter till you come to verse 24, for that iswhat he says to little children, because there are many antichrists in the world that would seduce them-"Let that, therefore,abide in you, which you have heard from the beginning."
Little children are very fickle. The toys which they cry for one day, they break the next. Young minds change with the wind.So, little children, there are many evil ones who will endeavor to seduce you from the Truth of God and, as you have a naturalinstability of mind as yet, for you are only newly converted, it is well to be on your guard against those who would misleadyou. Till we are rooted and grounded in the Truth of God, new things have great charms for us, especially if they have aboutthem a great show of holiness and zeal for God. Listen, then, dear children but newly born into the Savior's family-"Let that,therefore, abide in you, which you have heard from the beginning."
Alas, even those who are older in Grace than you are have shown a sad readiness to be duped by plausible persons who haveinvented fresh notions and methods! I have lived long enough to have seen a considerable variety of follies and manias inthe religious world. They have sprung up, grown great, declined and vanished. One day it has been one thing, another, another.I have lived to see those things justly ridiculed which, a few years before, were cried up as the wonders of the age! I thankGod I have not been moved by any of these periodical fits of frenzy, but have been content to keep to the one old Truth ofGod which I have gathered from the Scriptures and made my own by experience and by the teaching of the Holy Spirit! I havenot had to tack about, for I have been enabled to steam ahead-and I hope I shall do so to the end.
I have no respect for these upstart inventions. I regard them as so many phases of human delusion. One never knows what willcome next, but of this we are pretty sure, that every now and then a new doctrine is brought forth which turns out to be anold heresy with a fresh coat of varnish on it! Or else some new method of saving souls is found out and the work blazes awaylike a house on fire till it dies out in smoke. Let us not be carried off our feet by every wind of doctrine! We may liveto see the present craze ended and another or two after it-only be it ours to be steadfast, immovable! "Little children, letthat, therefore, abide in you, which you have heard from the beginning." Leave to others the soon exhausted novelties andyou keep to the eternal unchangeable Truth which is taught you in God's Word and in your own soul's experience.
Little children, here is a third precept for you, and I want you to put it into your bosom and carry it home (v. 28). "Andnow, little children, abide in Him." There is a Sabbath portion for you-"Abide in Him." Let the Truth of God abide in youand you abide in Christ, who is the Truth of God. Little children are very apt to stray. I have known them tempted away fromhome and to play the truant. They have gone into the fields after pretty flowers, or down by the brook to fish for minnows,and then they have fallen into all sorts of trouble. The best place for a child is at home. And for a babe in Grace the bestshelter is the Savior's bosom. "Little children, abide in Him." If you forget everything else I say this morning, lay thisup in your hearts, and let none tempt you away from simply trusting your Savior, sweetly resting in His love and humbly followingon to know more and more of Him! "And now, little children, abide in Him."
What next? Read on to chapter 3:7- "Little children, let no man deceive you." Children are very credulous. They will believeany idle tale if it is told by a clever and attractive person. Little children, believe your Savior, but be not ready to believeanybody else! Believe God's Word and stand fast to that. And if sinners entice you, do not consent to them. And if antichristwould teach you false doctrine, close your ears to it. Be as the sheep of whom Jesus said-"A stranger they will not follow,for they know not the voice of strangers." Further on, (3:18), we read-"My little children, let us not love in word, neitherin tongue but in deed and in truth." Little children are apt to let their angry passions rise till they have to be told byDr. Watts that their-
"Little hands were never made To tear each other's eyes."
And truly we have some Christian children who have been all too quick about this tearing of each other's eyes. They have seena Truth of God and some friend they meet with does not see it. Therefore they have tried to knock his eyes out to make himsee it! That is a faithful description of many Christian controversies. It is idle to attempt to compel another to think asI think by scolding him and heaping wrath upon him. Let us never do that. Let us love! If you cannot expect
anything else of a child, you do expect love, and love never seems to be more suitably enshrined than in the heart and mindof a little child. Come, you that are newly brought to Christ, love with all your might! If you cannot fight as soldiers,or work as laborers, yet love the Brotherhood! Love Christ! Love God! Love the souls of men and by love seek to win them tothe Savior who has saved you! Love not in word only, but in deed and in truth.
You have the next words in chapter 4, verse 4-"You are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater isHe that is in you, than He that is in the world." Little children are frequently timid. They are sometimes terrified whenleft alone. They are generally afraid of strangers. Hear, then, you little children, you are very weak and feeble, but donot be dismayed because of that, for there is a Power dwelling in you which is mightier than the power which dwells in theworld! Satan dwells in the world and he is mighty, but God dwells in you and He is Almighty! Therefore be not afraid-
"A feeble saint shall win the day, Though death and Hell obstruct the way." Hold on to your faith in the eternal Lord whodwells in you, and you shall never perish, neither shall any pluck you out of His hand!
The last precept to little children is at the end of the Epistle. Carefully read the last verse-"Little children, keep yourselvesfrom idols." Little children are naturally fond of toys and pretty pictures. Anything like pomp and show is sure to pleasechildren. How fond they are of soldiers, banners, processions, bands of music and all that is frivolous- these are their idols.That is the also tendency of many grown-up children that I know of. They admire a fine religion, tasteful, striking, artistic."Little children, keep yourselves from idols." I would like this text printed over the altars of our Ritualistic neighbors.I need scarcely mention others who have no taste or care for the beautiful, but their toys are all for noise-making, glitterand flash-a sort of Fifth of November all the days of the year! Do not become fascinated with their playthings. Be not ledaway from the Church of God by armies or navies.
Alas, the children must now have their play toys in the Church and their toys in the Chapel-and some must have their toysin the streets, till one would think, with their trumpets and drums, that they had just come home from the fair! "Little children,keep yourselves from idols," I do not think you are likely to fall in love with the idols of the heathen and bow down to them-butthere are plenty of other gods which are the idols of one period and the derision of the next. Keep to Christ! Ask not forpomp and show! Ask not for noise and bluster! Ask for nothing but that your sins may be forgiven you; that you may know theFather; that you may abide in Christ and be full of love to all the family of God!
Little children, may the Lord Jesus Christ be with you and may you grow in Grace till you come unto the fullness of the statureof men in Him. May His Grace be upon all them that love Him and wait for His appearing.