“The Age of Innocence” by Reynolds is considered the most loved picture in the world. It is beautiful. The little child is depicted in sweet simplicity without any self-consciousness, and in the charm that arises from childish ignorance. She is the type of little girl that every one loves. Disintegrated and miserable must be the personality that is not attracted by the artless abandon, the prevailing confidence, of a child.
To love a tiny child is to be, in this regard, Christ-like, for He said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14).
The latent qualities of childhood attract, for they are the essence of moral beauty. These qualities we should evaluate and seek to understand.
The Qualities Of Childhood
The singleness of heart in early years is not found in adult development. The young expect every one else to be just as they, transparent. Nevertheless, they quickly detect insincerity. They recognize truth in matters within their own limited knowledge, promptly sense ulterior motives, and vigorously resist the trickery of pretence.
The Christian must meet the high demands of the child’s standards of sincerity. He must be prepared to face the critical appraisal of the youngest, and present himself to the detective child with godly transparency through which genuine love, spiritual concern, and sympathy will be manifested.
The normal child is not only sincere, but is sensitive. The infant has a consciousness of its mother before it has a knowledge of her. No one has told him who his mother is, nor introduced her to him, yet he senses her presence and cries for her touch. Her expressions of love, her kindnesses, her loving concern for his comfort has impressed him so that he grows more conscious of her every day. Names repeated in his hearing leave an impression, and in ordinary things the more he hears, sees, and feels, the more deep become the impressions. An extraordinary sight may impress the child so deeply that he will never forget its sensation of pleasure. Then again, a strikingly distasteful occurence will leave for a long time its annoyance.
Since impression upon the child’s mind is deepened by repetition, the parent and teacher must be patient.
The depth of impression may be ascertained by the visible reaction. When the attitude of the teacher is one of genuine love and sympathetic understanding, the little one will react with appreciation and affection.
Attitude is not the only power that leaves its mark upon the young; behaviour may be even a stronger force. The distinctive features of adult behaviour: its patience or impatience, its control or intemperance, its morals or indiscretions, its calmness or restlessness, its perseverance or instability deeply affect the mind of the small child.
The youngest boy and girl are given to imitation; whatever they see of good or bad they will act out in their own behaviour.
Teachers as well as parents must be not only transparent in character, but calm and self controlled in behaviour.
Little folk establish heroes in their minds. They love their teacher because he is understanding, or affectionate, or generous, and they hope to be like their hero-teacher.
Adaptability is a quality of childhood. Adults find it difficult to adapt themselves to new surroundings or to quick changes, not so the child; he quickly adapts himself to any congenial circumstance. With dexterity he suits himself to changes, to people, and to places.
The Importance Of Childhood
Let it be remembered, the man of to-morrow is the boy of to-day, and the foundation of character laid now must bear the edifice of the future. The seeds of truth sown in his heart may produce the flowers of truth in his adult life. Furthermore, the spiritual good imparted to him by the words and example of his teacher may result in his spiritual awakening and development.
“Yes,” said a servant of Christ, “we have seen fruit in ministry, one and a half lives have been saved.” “I suppose you mean a man and a boy,” replied the enquirer. “No, I mean a boy and a man,” was the retort.
The importance of the child may be seen in several relationships, for example:
To the nation: The mightiest nations are only the aggregations of individuals. It is the loyalty, the bravery, the wisdom of individuals that make nations great. The loyal citizen, brave soldier, and wise statesman of the present were children who had to learn courage, fortitude, and fidelity. The future of to-morrow’s great nations rests upon the moral and spiritual development of its children. “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34).
To the family: The presence of a baby in the family has reformed parents, stopped divorce proceedings, healed separations, and spread love, virtue, and self-denial. A child in the home is frequently the avenue through which the gospel enters the family circle.
A little girl who had been absent from home several Sunday afternoons suddenly died. A young man called to sympathize with the parents. He told them that the little one had come to his Sunday School, and in childish simplicity had accepted the Saviour. He assured them that she was now “Safe in the arms of Jesus.” In this way they first heard the gospel. Eventually the father and mother were brought to the Lord, and later the other members of the family.
To the Lord: The statement of Christ, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” impresses us with the intrinsic value of one life. No doubt the Saviour had this in mind when He took the little children into His arms to bless them. The importance of child-like simplicity is seen in that the Lord used their simple faith as an example for adults.
In the scheme of redemption, the soul of a child is of equal value to that of an adult. Our Lord gave His life a ransom for children, He blessed them, singled out their faith as an example, and taught the intrinsic worth of their souls. Yes, every child is important to the Lord.
To the assembly: Many assemblies feel that it is difficult to reach unconverted adults, and that their general evangelism is not productive enough to maintain a comparative strength of numbers. All who honestly face this problem realize that the Sunday School with its specific evangelism provides the occasion to win souls to Christ, and to add saints to assembly fellowship. The Sunday School is the greatest contributing factor in the perpetuation of local testimonies. Assemblies have ceased to exist because no effort was expended upon the children of the district.
The Moulding Of Childhood
A Sunday School teacher who has a child under his care only one hour of the week is not the sole influence that bears upon the spiritual life of that child. Unfortunately there are many and that one hour is the only beneficial influence they know. When the short time a child is in Sunday School is contrasted with the long period during the week in which he is exposed to detrimental influences, the teacher should put forth every effort to make that one short hour a mighty power in the life of each child in his class.
The teacher should solicit the help of the parents whether saved or not. Usually the evidence of genuine interest is all that is needed to secure co-operation. Never underestimate the great value of parental help and example. Seek these in all class work.
Certain features of the Sunday School affect children.
The influence of the divine presence: Children are susceptible to an atmosphere of reverence, and sense the awe of God’s presence. They sometimes do not pay attention, and do not learn the Bible lesson well; nevertheless, a constant leading of the little one into the presence of the Lord eventually proves beneficial.
The manifestation of divine power: The Lord sometimes saves a scholar in Sunday School, and the others see the energy of the Spirit of God in operation. Young lives have felt the pressure of the conversion of a class-mate to such an extent that they likewise have accepted the Saviour.
The experience of conversion: There is no other power of such importance as genuine conversion to God. In Sunday School souls have been saved, and young lives moulded that they have become vessels of honour in the Master’s hand.
The salvation of each child entrusted to him should be the objective of every teacher. So important is each child, so important each minute spent with each child, that he should never face this service morally unfit or spiritually and mentally unprepared.
While no recompense may be promised on earth, it may be that both parent and scholar will arise some day to extend their thanksgiving and blessing.
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Love is God’s essence; power but His attribute; therefore, is His love greater than His power.
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God’s might to direct me,
God’s power to protect me,
God’s wisdom for learning,
God’s eye for discerning,
God’s ear for my hearing,
God’s Word for my clearing.
—The earliest Christian hymn written in Gaelic.
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Christ was moved with compassion. Some people profess compassion but it does not move them; they still live an armchair life. Compassion moved Christ from the glory of heaven to the gloom of earth, from Judea to Samaria from Galilee to the Cross.