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the reformation of our lives immediately. Let a new year begin a new course. Let us reflect that a year more is now gone-that the time is far spent-that now is our salvation drawing nearer-that a single year brings us nearer to the awful trial when our destiny will be fixed: nearer, not by a small and inconsiderable degree, but by a very serious and substantial portion of the whole term which we, any of us, reasonably expect to live.
2 CHRONICLES XX. 13.
And all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.
In a great and solemn act of national devotion, which was held during the pious reign of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, upon the occasion of a public danger which then threatened their country, we read that Judah gathered themselves together to ask help of the Lord; even out of all the cities of Judah, they came to seek the Lord.
Had we read no more than that Judah was gathered together, we should have been led perhaps to conclude that the assembly was made up of the king, the magistrates, and the priesthood; the heads of tribes, the masters of families, the principal persons, the aged, or at the lowest, the adult, inhabitants of the country. But the words of the text which have been read to you convey a more circumstantial, and, I think, very observable account of this great religious concourse. By them we are distinctly told, that not only those whom we have before enumerated formed the congregation which stood before the Lord, but that, together with the great body of the Jewish nation, were present also their little ones, their wives, and their children. This is a direct and decisive example for the proof of the following points; namely, the propriety and the duty
of bringing children to the public worship of God, as an act of piety and devotion on the part of those who bring them. It is an example also of very high authority, and of an authority which is strengthened by every circumstance in the history. The assembly appears to have been held in pursuance of the prayer of Solomon many ages before—that when any distress should overtake the nation, they should find their refuge in the protection of their God, when they sought it in his Temple. This prayer was accepted ; and it was particularly remembered upon the occasion of which we are now discoursing. “ If when evil cometh upon us," say they, “ as the sword, judgement, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house and thy presencefor thy name is in this house--and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help."
Afterwards it is related, as we have remarked, who they were that stood before that house and in God's presence; “ even all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.” Now the little ones and the children were there, not probably for any knowledge they could be supposed to have of the nature or extremity of the public danger, nor consequently for any part they could immediately and personally take in the subject or the devotion of the meeting, but as a proof and expression, an act and testimony of the public piety, and of the particular piety of those who brought them thither.
The service was accepted by that being to whom it was addressed. The manner of it, therefore, was such #s he approved. “ Thou wilt hear,” they said, “ and help,” God did hear and help them most effectually: their enemies were smitten and overthrown; the very people who had thus assembled in terror and suppli
cation returned soon after to Jerusalem to bless the Lord who had delivered them.
Whether, therefore, we regard the solemnity or the effect of this religious act, we see in it a pattern for our imitation, because we see in it that which, it is evident from the consequence, was favourably received by the God of Israel-who is our God, as he is of the whole human race. And indeed, what act of piety can be more natural or more becoming than to draw out in the presence of God, and to bring forward in his service, the youth of the country, whom his providence has given and committed to our care? It is an act, as hath already been observed, which doth not simply respect them, but us ; it is our piety, rather than theirs. It is but little that the best can do towards testifying their gratitude to the supreme Benefactor, their love, their zeal, their reverence: I mean, that it is very little when compared with the immensity of the obligation, the dignity of his nature, the sense of our dependence. What therefore we can, we ought. What, however imperfect, he has been pleased to approve; what, however unworthy of him, he has condescended to accept, we surely should be willing to imitate-we should rejoice to pay. When their parents brought young children to Christ that he should touch them, the action was very graciously received by him he showed manifestly, as well by his behaviour as by his discourse upon the occasion, that he approved of what was done; but it was not the children's piety-they were ignorant and unconscious of what was passing; yet did not this hinder our Lord from being pleased with the service. It was the service, thought, and piety of those who brought the children, and not the children's own, to
which he had respect; it was their motive, their affection, which he viewed. Even the bringing of children to baptism, beside the nature of the ordinance as an instituted right for the initiation of the infants themselves, is an act of worship, an expression of homage and devotion on the part of the parents. This, I take it, is a just and scriptural way of considering the subject, and we hope it will be so accepted. Upon the same principle, the bringing of children to church, beside the use of it to themselves, is an office of piety in those who do it. It is an office which springs from piety as its motive; which hath God, his pleasure, his worship, his honour, in view. There neither is, nor ever was, a parent touched with the love of God, or with any serious apprehensions upon religious subjects, who was content with attending public worship himself, without endeavouring to bring along with him his household and his children. No doubt, it is primarily and properly the duty of parents to undertake this charge : but so it is, that many parents want the attention, the thought, the care, the inclination necessary to this work; want, perhaps, a sense and knowledge of its
; importance, and of their own duty with relation to it; want sobriety, seriousness, and regularity of behaviour too much themselves, to inculcate these qualities, or any thing which belongs to these qualities, into the minds of their children ; and some, we are ready to allow, want opportunities. To make provision for these cases, and that children under such circumstances may stand before the Lord, as the language of the Old Testament so often and well expresses it, the benevolence of others must be exerted; and in whatever degree it is the duty of the parents, when they have in all respects the power