'And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.'
The disciples might have a reasonable excuse for repulsing the mothers of these children. They knew perhaps that it was the habit of women in that land to bring infants to an enchanter, that he might, by his word, or his touch, work a charm on them, which would drive off some disease, or secure them against disease. Their Master was no such enchanter; let not these ignorant people fancy that He was. So far well. A desire to honour the truthfulness of Jesus may have been mixed with their severity. But there mixed with it another element; one of pride in them selves, not of reverence to Him.
‘We are men; we ' can understand His parables; we can listen to His commands; what can these infants do? ‘Here is that vanity of consciousness to which I referred just now ; the secret thought — ' He is our King because we are capable of choosing Him as our King. He ' has come to save us who are so good or so fortunate as to accept Him.' Bring out the thought clearly, and the conscience of those who confess a Christ shrinks from it; but it is not brought out clearly; it puts on cunning disguises.
The simple words, 'Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God,' have done more to strip off the disguises than all arguments. They have been owned as royal words. 'These children are mine. Whatever you may think of them, I claim them. For your faith does not make me your Lord. You do not elect me to be a Sovereign. If I am not King over children, I am not King over men. If you do not receive me as children—because you are 'weak, because you cannot depend on yourselves—your faith is a contradiction. You do not mean ' what you say when you ask me to be merciful to you as sinners. That prayer is a petition to be treated as children; to be guided by the Divine Spirit because you cannot guide yourselves.’
It is on this ground, my friends, and not on any school reasoning, that the Church rests her Infant Baptism. Those who object to us for treating it as a charm should be listened to with all respect. That is a great offence against Christ. But this Baptism has been a witness for the Son of Man and the universality of His kingdom, like no other. It has taught parents that to bring children into the world is not a horrible crime. It has led them to see Christ and His redemption of humanity through all the mists of our teachings and our qualifications. It has explained the nature of His Kingdom to the hearts of the poorest. Christ has preached at the fonts, when we have been darkening counsel in pulpits.