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PREACHED IN DEDHAM, NEW ENGLAND.
ON A DAY SET APART
PRAYER WITH FASTING,
(SOME TIME AFTER) IN PRIVATE, TO A CONSIDERABLE NUMBER OF YOUNG PERSONS IN THE AFORESAID TOWN, AND AT THE EARNEST
DESIRE OF SEVERAL OF the hearerS, PUBLISHED.
BY JOSEPH BELCHER, M. A. 4.1723
PASTOR OF THE CHURCH IN DEDHAM.
"I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thy offspring."—Isa. xliv. 3.
PRINTED BY B. GREEN, FOR SAMUEL PHILLIPS, AT THE BRICK
SHOP IN CORNHILL. 1710.
MATTH. xix. 13.
"Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them-"
THERE is more especially a threefold reference which the duties incumbent on the children of men have; a reference to GOD, a reference to ourselves, and a reference to others. And these duties which we have lying on us towards others may not improperly be considered, either as such which respect others in general, or such as respect those who are more nearly related unto us in particular. And among the particular economical relative duties which are to be attended, and persons are to see to it, that they apply themselves to, those of parents towards their children, are very emphatical, and no little care is to be exercised (by those that sustain a parental charge) in the discharge and performing of them. Even the brute creatures, and those that are most savage, are carried by a natural instinct towards those that issue and proceed from them. They feed and nourish, and take care of, and protect their young ones. And therefore the Jewish women of old in the famine are spoken of, as being worse than these, as being cruel like the ostrich, into whom God has not put that care and providence, and affection towards her young ones, as he has been pleased to implant in other birds and beasts. (Lam. iv. 3.) "Even the sea monsters draw out the breasts, they give suck to their young ones. The daughter of my people is become cruel like the ostriches in the wilderness." The sea monsters, or sea calves, or whales, or dragons, or whatever they were, they gave suck to their young; but the daughter of Sion acted towards her little ones, like the ostrich, concerning whom we read, (Job xxxix. 14-16.) "That she leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in the dust, and forgetteth that the foot may crush them; or that the wild beast may break them; she is hardened against
her young ones as though they were not hers." And if it were so criminal and matter of such complaint for mothers to neglect the bodies of their children, what is it for parents to be careless about the souls of their children? It is certain that the soul of man is the most excellent part of the man; and spiritual blessings are the choicest of blessings. And since the immortal souls of children are committed by God to the parents' charge, however there is a care to be exercised by them in providing for the outward man, yet their greatest solicitude is to discover itself in this; to wit, that they may prosper in their souls. The soul-desires of parents should be principally for soul-mercies for their children, that they may be blessed with "spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ." Most proper therefore is it to carry them unto Christ for this, as they did their little ones in our text, when our Saviour was on earth that he would put his hands on them.
The words have no connection with, or dependence on any thing that precedes or goes before them, for they begin a particular paragraph of the chapter: That section of it which contains our Lord Jesus Christ's blessing of little children.
And in them there are two things, in the general, which may be observed.
1. Here is an account of a solemn action performed unto children, viz. they were brought unto our Lord Jesus Christ. "Then were there brought unto him little children."
The persons here said to be brought are termed little children : in Mark x. 13, they are called young children: in Luke xviii. 15, they are styled infants. The words signify, children, young children, sucking children. But I shall not restrain or limit it unto such; but consider it with respect to children in general.
Again, as the persons here said to be brought were little children; so the person to whom they were brought was our Lord Jesus Christ. There were brought unto him. - Though our blessed Saviour met with manifest and shameful rejection from multitudes, yet there were some that owned him, that looked upon him as a prophet, a great prophet, the great prophet; and accordingly brought their little ones to him, to be benefited by him.
And once more, as the person to whom they were brought, was our Lord Jesus Christ; so those by whom they were brought, were (without doubt) their parents. Who else would have had such care of them? would have discovered such affection to them? It is most rational to conclude, that this was done for them by their parents, or those to be sure who had the care and charge of them.
2. In the words, as here is an account of a solemn action performed unto children, so here is the end of this action, and this was, That our Saviour should put his hands on them; that is,
That he would bless them: for laying on the hands was a usual rite, as in the conferring of offices, so in the giving benedictions. It was an ancient accustomed ceremony in blessing. Thus did Isaac in his blessing of Jacob, Gen. xxvii. 21–23. And so did Jacob in his blessing of Joseph's two sons, Gen. xlviii. 14-16. And that these brought their children to our Saviour for his blessing, is most evident from what our Saviour did which though in the following words, verse 15, we have his blessing them only implied in the external ceremony, He laid his hands on them and departed: Yet in the parallel place, Mark x. 16, it is expressed how that he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them and blessed them. And this practice of theirs was proper and commendable; our Lord approves of it, and was offended with the disciples for their rebuking of them. And it is as proper and necessary for us now, as it was for them then ; and blessed be God that we may : As they brought their children to Christ in the days of his flesh; so we may and ought now to carry ours to him in the arms of our faith, now he is in his exalted state. If we do it aright we may hope he will not disregard us. Though our great High Priest be passed into the heavens, yet he is not an high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Though the days of his passion are at an end, yet not of his compassion. He has as tender a respect for children now, as he had when he tabernacled, and dwelt among us.
The proposition or doctrine therefore which I shall endeavor (by the help of Heaven) to unfold, and apply, is this,
Doctrine. That it is a duty very proper and necessary for parents, to carry their children unto Christ, in order to their partaking of special blessings from him.
The method I shall go in, in the handling of this, shall be, I. To consider what these special blessings are, which children may partake of, and which their parents should carry them to Christ for.
II. I shall consider how parents are to carry their children unto Christ, in order to their partaking of special blessings from him. III. Consider why parents should do thus. IV. Make some application of the whole.
I. Let us consider what these special blessings are, which children may partake of, and which their parents should carry them to Christ for?
Answer. And the account of this may be in one word to wit, all the blessings of the new covenant. Whatsoever is comprised in that covenant. Our Lord tells his disciples in the reprimand which he gives them, in the verse following our text. That of