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9. The nature of the heavenly felicity, and the grounds of its conferment upon men.
You immediately perceive, my brethren, that I shall be able only to glance at these several points.
1. If ever there were a child, concerning whose future state we should doubt, in consequence of the sin of his parents, that child is the one, of whose salvation David expresses his full assurance in the text. He
. was the fruit of adultery, and the proof of the deep fall of the king of Israel. He was smitten with death, as a punishment for the guilt of his parents, and as a testimony of the divine indignation against sin. Yet, though the Lord in his sovereignty “ visited the iniquity of the father upon the child,” in this world, David knew that he would not do it in the world which is to come: and therefore, since his own pardon was now pronounced, expressed his confident belief that he should meet it in a happier state. Do you say this is only a solitary example of the child of one who, notwithstanding his awful departure from God, was still within the bonds of the covenant, and had been reclaimed by divine grace ? Look then,
2. To the general conduct of the Saviour towards little children, and listen to his discourses concerning them, and then you can scarcely doubt of their felicity; since it is his hand that removes them from earth, and his voice that awards the crown of blessedness. Whose heart has not burned within him, as he has contemplated the Redeemer, at one moment exercising the power of divinity, and at the next, taking little children in his arms, and blessing them: at one moment conversing with lawgivers, prophets, and apostles on Tabor, while the testimony given to him by the Father, resounds on this mount of transfiguration, and at the next, uttering the language of the most melting tenderness towards the feeble infant ? It is this touching union of greatness and goodness, that so endears the Saviour to the soul of the believer. Remember that incident which has been recorded by three of the evangelists, and which I merely repeat to you; for the heart alone can comment upon it. “ They brought young children to Jesus, that he should touch them; and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them." (Mark x. 13—16. Matt. xix. 13, &c. and Luke xviii. 15.) On another occasion, in order to reprove the pride and ambition of his disciples, “ Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven: and whoso shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me.
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you,
that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father, who is in heaven." (Mat. xviii. 2–5. 10.) Parents, need you tremble to commit your departed infants to such a Redeemer ? He who became the babe of Bethlehem is ready to receive the spirits of your babes, when their bodies sink in the dust. Of him, the Shepherd of Israel, it was predicted, “ He carrieth the lambs in his arms;
he beareth them in his bosom :" a declaration that is accomplished, when infant souls rest in his embraces.
3. Consider also the attributes of God, and his relation to infants. Mercy is his darling attribute ; he delights to exercise it, where it can be displayed in consistence with his character as the moral Governor of the universe. “ He willeth not the death" even of the most atrocious“ sinner.” He pardons our numberless actual sins, when we flee to him through the Redeemer. He has raised to felicity millions who had long defied his power, and trampled on his laws. He pities us in our wanderings, and cries after us, “Why will ye die?” With infinite forbearance and long-suffering, he sustains us in being, even while we are in rebellion against him, and repeats to us those offers of salvation which we have so often rejected. And will such a tender lover of souls banish infants from his presence; those infants of whom he is the Creator, and for whom he
his Son to die? It is not concerning infants, but obstinate and incorrigible sinners, that he declared, “ he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will show them no favour:” (Isa. xlvii. 11.) a declaration that is indeed most awful, but which at the same time implies that he has an affection for the work of his hands, until the infliction of misery becomes inevitable. Behold the tenderness of the affectionate mother for her child! Can God, who implanted these feelings in the heart of the mother; God, whose tenderness as far exceeds that of mortals as he is elevated above them; God, who by the precepts of his religion, and the influences of his Spirit, gives greater warmth and deeper energy to those parental feelings, which he originally interwove in the very constitution of man; can God cast from him these helpless infants, his workmanship, into everlasting burnings ? Reject the thought with indignation! To entertain it for a moment, is to reproach God.
4. In numberless passages of scripture we find the Lord expressing so tender a regard for infants, that we cannot suppose that he would banish them to outer darkness when he withdrew them from earth. When Israel entered into covenant with him, he showed his kindness for the feeblest babes : - Ye stand this day before the Lord your God, your captains, your elders, your little ones.” (Deut. xxix. 10.) When the Jews, seduced by the nations around them, immolated their offspring to Moloch, the Lord, in the reproof that he addresses to them, shows his tender regard to infants: “ Thou hast sacrificed thy sons and thy daughters to idols, and hast slain my children." (Ezek. xvi. 21.) When Jonah, jealous of his own reputation as a prophet, was angry that Nineveh was not destroyed, God assigns as one principal cause of sparing the city, the number within its walls who were in the state of infancy: “ Should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between the right hand and the left hand ?" (Jon. iv. 11.) And will he, who from pity to them withheld temporal afflictions, make them endure everlasting agonies ? When the Israelites for their frequent rebellions against God were sentenced to perish in the wilderness, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, their children were exempted from this doom : “ Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, save Caleb and Joshua; but your little ones, which
said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go
in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.” (Deut. i. 35–39; Num. xiv. 30, &c.) These words not only attest in general the regard of God to infants, but have additional force from the consideration that Canaan is constantly represented in the scriptures as typical of heaven, and the entrance into it through the wilderness made emblematical of our passage to it through this world. Considered in this view, it teaches us that while the rebellious perish, infants shall enter with those adults who, like Caleb, “ follow the Lord fully," and like Joshua are believing and fearless, into the true land of promise ; the Jerusalem that is on high.
5. A consideration of the nature and extent of redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ, authorizes the fullest assurance that those who die in infancy are received to glory. The atonement of our Saviour removed every obstruction on the part of God to the salvation of the sinner; and now in consistence with his law, his holiness, and his truth, eternal life is offered to every child of Adam. That all do not partake of this eternal life is owing, not to any defect in the sacrifice, but to the rejection of it by unholiness of life, by impenitence, or unbelief; but of this rejection those who die in infancy are incapable; and we may therefore, confidently believe, that as they became guilty by the offence of the first Adam, so they obtain everlasting felicity through that second greater Adam, who came from heaven to repair the ruins of the fall. The scriptures uniformly teach, that as all mankind were condemned in Adam, so under the gracious covenant of the gospel, they may be reconciled in Christ. It is, especially,