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grace in the heart. What say you ? Hath the seed of God's word been sown in your hearts, and formed your natures into the nature of Christ? Saints are begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Christ from the dead; by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever. You cannot own God to be your Father, unless you are followers of him as dear children : “ As he that hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation,” 1 Pet. i. 15.
4. A child comes weeping into the world; so God's children are crying children. As soon as they are born, they cry, “ Abba, Father.” “ Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father," Gal. iv. 6. O the tears, groans, and cries of a young convert ! He could willingly give himself unto prayer. It was said of Paul when he was converted, “ Behold he prayeth.” Did you but see the Christian in his closet, you would find him grieving for his sins, praying unto the Lord for grace and acceptance. As a new-born child has no way of expressing his wants, but by crying; so the Christian has no way to express his desires, but by prayer: "For this shall every one that is godly
“ pray unto thee, in a time when thou mayest be found,” Psal. xxxii
. 6. Every one that is truly godly will pray. “The .
; righteous cry, and the Lord heareth;” they wrestle like Jacob, who “ had power over the angel and prevailed: he wept and made supplication unto him.” Hos. xii. 4.
5. There is a natural instinct in children, as soon as born, to seek the mother's breast; so a gracious soul, when newly converted, desires “ the sincere milk of the word, that he may grow thereby.”. There is nothing more nourishing to an infant, or more desired by it, than its mother's breast; so panteth the true convert after God. “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?" Psal. xlii. 2. If you attempt to put a little child off with toys and fine things, it will not be pleased long, it will cry for its mother's breast; so let a man come into the pulpit with pretty Latin and Greek sentences, and fine stories, these will not content a hungry soul, he must have the sincere milk of the word to feed upon :
“ I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food,” Job xxüi. 12; as if he should say, I love it more than my meal when I am hungry; I know not how to live without it.
A poor good woman said, in time of persecution, when they took away the Christians' bibles, “I cannot part with my bible, I know not how to live without it." When a gracious soul has heard a profitable sermon, he says, methinks it does me good at my heart; it is the greatest nou
rishment I have: “I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies as much as in all riches. The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver," Psal. cxix. 14, and 72.
6. Converts resemble little children in their weakness and dependance. Nothing is so weak as an infant when it comes into the world; it is so helpless, that unless some careful nurse take care of it, it is in great danger of being lost. A young convert is so feeble in his own apprehension, that he is now sensible he can do nothing as he ought to do-can neither stand, walk, nor move one step in the way of God's commandments. It is well, saith he, I have a father in heaven to take care of me and help me. I once thought I could have shifted pretty well for myself, have prayed well, and performed duties well, but I see I cannot pray of myself; never surely was a poor creature so weak as I ! “ We are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves ; but our sufficiency is of God," 2 Cor. iii. 5. * When I am weak then am I strong,” saith Paul; we may, therefore, be glad when we are weak in our own sight, then we look for strength from God. We cannot go a step but when we lean on our God, and if we have any strength to do any thing that is good, we must receive it from God; “ I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” Phil. iv. 13.
7. There is a resemblance between little children and converts in their harmlessness. Infants are just emblems of innocence and harmlessness ; none could dash them against the stones but those who are hardened in barbarity and cruelty; so a child of God, by converting grace becomes harmless. ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lust and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another; but after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared "—this quite altered us; instead of being hateful and hating one another, we could not lift up a hand or a foot to hurt any body. “ The. wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain,” Isa. xi.
Those very persons that formerly were like wolves, leopards, and lions for fierceness and cruelty, become like lambs for meekness; though they are the same persons, yet their nature is so changed that they seem as if they were not the same men, they now are “ blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke.”
6 & 9.
Thus we have shewn wherein converts do resemble little infants, we shall now show wherein they represent children a little grown. To such-like our Saviour seems particularly to refer, in the connexion of our text; for it is said, he “ called a little child unto him.” Converts resemble such,
1. In their guileless disposition. Little children are generally plain and downright what they seem to be, and do not dissemble. A child is known by his doings, and will express his disposition. “ Esau was a cunning man,” and could hide his intent of killing his brother, but “ Jacob was a plain man." David says: “ Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile,” Psalm xxxii. 2; that is, no predominant or approved guile: if a convert finds guile in his heart, he hates, abhors, and strives against it. “I
hate and abhor lying, but thy law do I love,” Psalm cxix. 163. “ Behold an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile,” John i. 47; he is an honest, harmless, gracious man; what he seems to be. “ These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was no guile, for they are without fault before the throne of God," Rev. xiv. 4, 5. Not so liars and dissemblers, that profess something of religion, but make no conscience of secret duties and of truth; they are none of God's children.
2. Little children are of a gall-less disposition; they may be angry, but bear no malice.“Brethren, be not children in understanding ; howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men,” 1 Cor. xiv. 20. Children are sometimes angry and fall out, but soon become friends again ; so God's children are “ gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits." If a man be implacable, it is not the property or disposition of God's children. “ Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye,” Col. iii. 12, 13. Some have no gentleness towards those that have angered them, but God's children should not let the “ the sum go down upon their wrath.”
“ Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice, ; and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you,” Eph. iv. 31, 32. So also the apostle Peter : “ Love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous ; not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing;" not threatening, they shall have as hot as
they bring: if any of God's children have a rugged temper, they will pray and strive against it, and if at any time they have been overcome by it, they will be more watchful. 3. Little children are submissive to correction.
When a child has committed a fault and is made sensible of it, he submits to his father's correction. “ We have had fathers of our Aesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence : shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live?" Heb. xii. 9. The converted soul is so meekened by grace, that he does not attempt to contend with God, and therefore submits. “ It is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more: that which I see not, teach thou me; if I have done iniquity, I will do no more,” Job xxxiv. 31, 32. “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus : Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke;" that is, I think I was the most stubborn and unruly wretch that ever was yoked: but now, he saith, “turn thou me and I shall be turned ; for thou art the Lord my God;" I would lay me down at God's feet, there I would lie, there I would cry, and there I would die; if I must perish for my sins, I will submit and say, “ The Lord is righteous.” When such conduct as this is shown, then God is heard saying, “Is Ephraim my dear son ? Is he a pleasant child ? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still ; therefore my bowels are troubled for him : I will surely have mercy upon him,” Jer. xxxi. 18, 20. The converted soul is then ready to say, I bless God who has taken down my stubborn and unruly spirit; the strokes of God did me no good, till the grace of God brought me to this submissive frame and temper of heart.-Has it been thus with you?
4. Little children are full of jealousies and fears. A child fears his father's displeasure, and when he sees him angry is
, grieved ; so a child of God is more grieved to see his heavenly Father offended, than himself afflicted. It is said, Ps. cxxx. 4, “ There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared." A carnal heart would take encouragement from this to sin against God; but a gracious soul will say, if God be so tenderhearted as to forgive
my sin, I will be so tender-spirited as to fear sinning against him: I dare never offend so gracious a God; for “they shall fear the Lord and his goodness," Hosea iii. 5.
5. Little children are very affectionate. They will maintain an affection for their parents, companions, and sometimes for strangers who treat them kindly; so God's children love their heavenly Father, the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts: they love their fellow-christians, by this we “ know
that we are passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren :" these are the companions in whom is all their delight, those that fear thee, and keep thy precepts." It is a common saying, birds of a feather flock together: God's children cannot well be alone: when Paul was converted, “ he as sayed to join himself to the disciples," and when the apostles were let
go, they went to their own company.” Heaven-born souls will talk with those that are like them, and love them, but cannot love wicked men : “ As touching brotherly love, ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another,"' 1 Thess. iv. 9. Heathens were accustomed to say of the primitive Christians, “ See how they love one another."
6. Little children are very inquisitive. If a child walk out with his father into the fields, he will ask perhaps twenty questions before they come home again ; he will be inquiring, Fa ther, what is this for? Who is that yonder ? &c. Thus it is with God's children also; those whose faces are turned towards Zion will inquire: “What must we do to be saved ?" They will have something to say to a godly minister; some case of conscience to propose; it is said of God's people—“they shall ask the way to Zion;"—they will be inquiring which way they may get to heaven. The grace of God will make men inquisitive persons.
7. Little children are generally tractable. Children are apt to learn from, and imitate their parents ; it is much easier to teach some children Latin and Greek, than it is to instruct grown up persons to read English: “ Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it, Prov. xxii. 6. A new vessel is soon seasoned ; so converts are apt to learn. There is one great lesson they must all learn : “No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me,” John vi. 44, 45. They are taught by God to pray and believe, to lay hold on Christ; they are taught "the truth as it is in Jesus ;" that is, experimentally and savingly.
8. Little children do all for their parents, and acknowledge them in all they have; so the child of God does nothing for himself but for God's glory. Let me be for the Lord, says a gracious soul, I am content to be his, and acknowledge all I have is from God: “ By the grace of God I am what I am ;I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the