It is looked upon as the indication of a kind and tender disposition to take notice of little children, and this was remarkable in our Lord Jesus, which is an encouragement not only to little children to apply themselves to Christ when they are very young, but to grown people, who are conscious to themselves of weakness and childishness, and of being, through manifold infirmities, helpless and useless, like little children. Here we have,
I. Little children brought to Christ, Mark 10:13. Their parents, or whoever they were that had the nursing of them, brought them to him, that he should touch them, in token of his commanding and conferring a blessing on them. It doth not appear that they needed any bodily cure, nor were they capable of being taught: but it seems, 1. That they had the care of them were mostly concerned about their souls, their better part, which ought to be the principal care of all parents for their children; for that is the principal part, and it is well with them, it if be well with their souls. 2. They believed that Christ’s blessing would do their souls good; and therefore to him they brought them, that he might touch them, knowing that he could reach their hearts, when nothing their parents could say to them, or do for them, would reach them. We may present our children to Christ, now that he is in heaven, for from thence he can reach them with his blessing, and therein we may act faith upon the fulness and extent of his grace, the kind intimations he hath always given of favour to the seed of the faithful, the tenour of the covenant with Abraham, and the promise to us and to our children, especially that great promise of pouring his Spirit upon our seed, and his blessing upon our offspring, Isa. 44:3.
II. The discouragement which the disciples gave to the bringing of children to Christ; They rebuked them that brought them; as if they had been sure that they knew their Master’s mind in this matter, whereas he had lately cautioned them not to despise the little ones.
III. The encouragement Christ gave to it. 1. He took it very ill that his disciples should keep them off; When he saw it, he was much displeased, Mark 10:14. “What do you mean? Will you hinder me from doing good, from doing good to the rising generation, to the lambs of the flock?” Christ is very angry with his own disciples, if they discountenance any in coming to him themselves, or in bringing their children to him. 2. He ordered that they should be brought to him, and nothing said or done to hinder them; suffer little children, as soon as they are capable, to come to me, to offer up their supplications to me, and to receive instructions from me. Little children are welcome betimes to the throne of grace with their Hosannas. 3. He owned them as members of his church, as they had been of the Jewish church. He came to set up the kingdom of God among men, and took this occasion to declare that that kingdom admitted little children to be the subjects of it, and gave them a title to the privileges of subjects. Nay, the kingdom of God is to be kept up by such: they must be taken in when they are little children, that they may be secured for hereafter, to bear up the name of Christ. 4. That there must be something of the temper and disposition of little children found in all that Christ will own and bless. We must receive the kingdom of God as little children (Mark 10:15); that is, we must stand affected to Christ and his grace as little children do to their parents, nurses, and teachers. We must be inquisitive, as children, must learn as children (that is the learning age), and in learning must believe, Oportet discentem credere—A learner must believe. The mind of a child is white paper (tabula rasa—a mere blank), you may write upon it what you will; such must our minds be to the pen of the blessed Spirit. Children are under government; so must we be. Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? We must receive the kingdom of God as the child Samuel did, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. Little children depend upon their parents’ wisdom and care, are carried in their arms, go where they send them, and take what they provide for them; and thus must we receive the kingdom of God, with a humble resignation of ourselves to Jesus Christ, and an easy dependence upon him, both for strength and righteousness, for tuition, provision, and a portion. 5. He received the children, and gave them what was desired (Mark 10:16); He took them up in his arms, in token of his affectionate concern for them; put his hands upon them, as was desired, and blessed them. She how he out-did the desires of these parents; they begged he would touch them, but he did more. (1.) He took them in his arms. Now the scripture was fulfilled (Isa. 40:11), He shall gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom. Time was, when Christ himself was taken up in old Simeon’s arms, Luke 2:28. And now he took up these children, not complaining of the burthen (as Moses did, when he was bid to carry Israel, that peevish child, in his bosom, as a nursing father bears the sucking child, Num. 11:12), but pleased with it. If we in a right manner bring our children to Christ, he will take them up, not only in the arms of his power and providence, but in the arms of his pity and grace (as Ezek. 16:8); underneath them are the everlasting arms. (2.) He put his hands upon them, denoting the bestowing of his Spirit upon them (for that is the hand of the Lord), and his setting them apart for himself. (3.) He blessed them with the spiritual blessings he came to give. Our children are happy, if they have but the Mediator’s blessing for their portion. It is true, we do not read that he baptized these children, baptism was not fully settled as the door of admission into the church until after Christ’s resurrection; but he asserted their visible church-membership, and by another sign bestowed those blessings upon them, which are now appointed to be conveyed and conferred by baptism, the seal of the promise, which is to us and to our children.