Consecrate Our Children: G.B. Strickler

Among the addresses given to commemorate the 1888 centennial of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (which is available to read in its entirety on our Compilations page) is one by Givens Brown Strickler titled “The Children of the Covenant.” It is a brief address emphasizing the Presbyterian doctrine of covenant theology, based on the promises of God, and its outworking in the place of children within the Church. He concludes his address with an important point about the need for parents, as stewards of God’s good gift, to consecrate their children to the Lord.

Another reason for our interest in children is our belief that the Scriptures teach the duty of consecrating them to God in a covenant well ordered and sure. As we consecrate our time, and possessions, and ourselves to God, so should we consecrate our children. God never asks for the consecration of anything that He will not accept. As God accepts parents He accepts their children, and as He accepts the parents promising to be their God and Saviour, so He accepts the children as their God and Saviour. He is obliged to do so, unless we assume that God requires a consecration and then refuses to receive it. The seal of the covenant guarantees that the consecrated shall be accepted, as the rainbow that stretched across the heavens guaranteed that the world should not again be destroyed by water. So the sprinkling of the water of baptism assures parents that their consecration of their children shall not be in vain. By means like these the Presbyterian Church in every age of the world has shown its interest in its youth, and the result has been that Presbyterian children growing to manhood and womanhood have, as a rule, been characterized by clearer, stronger, and more settled views of truth than the children of any other people in the history of the world, and have been as useful, as earnest and as persevering propagators of the truth of God's Word as the world has ever seen.

A Children's Sermon by Samuel Davies

Samuel Davies once preached a sermon to youth in 1758 (260 years ago) titled Little Children Invited to Jesus Christ (reprinted by the American Tract Society in 1826). It was an argument not to delay but to come to Jesus, and to embrace him by faith.

In this sermon, Davies clarifies what he means by “coming to Christ” (based on this text: “But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little Children to come unto me, and forbid them not: For of such is the Kingdom of God,” Mark 10:14). The truths he lays out in this sermon are timeless and applicable to all, young or old.

You have a right, and that it is your duty, to Come to Jesus. Therefore, oh! come to him: come to him this very day, without delay.

But here, I hope, you start a very proper question, "What is it to come to Christ? or in what sense are we to understand this phrase, as it may be applied to us now, since he is removed from our world?"

Coming to Christ, in my text, did indeed mean a bodily motion to him: and this was practicable, while he tabernacled in flesh among men. But even then, it signified much more. It signified coming to him as a divine teacher, to receive instruction; as a Saviour, to obtain eternal life; and as the only Mediator, through whom guilty sinners might have access to God. It signified a motion of soul towards him, Correspondent to the bodily motion of coming: a motion of the desires, a flight of tender affections towards him. In this view it is still practicable to come to Christ; and it is our duty in these latter days, as much as it was theirs who were his contemporaries upon earth. It is in this view, I now urge it upon you: and in this view, it includes: the following particulars.

1. A clear conviction of sin; of sin in heart, in word, and in practice; of sin against knowledge; against alluring mercies and fatherly corrections; of sin against all the strongest incitements to duty. Without such a conviction of sin, it is impossible that you should fly to him as a Saviour: for he "came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

2. An affecting sense of danger, upon the account of sin. You cannot fly to him as a Saviour, till you see your extreme need of salvation; and you cannot see your need of salvation, till you are sensible of your danger; sensible that you are every moment liable to everlasting condemnation, and have no title at all to the divine favour.

3. A humbling sense of your own inability to save yourselves by the merit of your own best endeavours. I do not mean, that you should neglect your best endeavours; or that you should not exert your utmost strength in every good work, and in the earnest use of all the means of grace: for you never will come to Christ, till you are brought to this. But I mean, that while you are doing your utmost, you must be sensible, that you do not deserve any favour at all from God on that account, and that you neither can, nor do make any atonement for your sins by all your good works; but that God may justly condemn you notwithstanding. Till you are sensible of this, you will weary yourselves in vain, in idle self righteous efforts to perform the work which Jesus came into the world to perform, and which he alone was able to do; I mean, to make atonement for your sin, and to work out a righteousness to recommend you to God. It is an eternal truth, that you will never come to Christ as a Saviour, till you are deeply sensible there is no salvation in any other; and particularly that you are not able to save yourselves.

4. An affecting conviction, that Jesus Christ is a glorious, all sufficient and willing Saviour: that his righteousness is perfect, equal to all the demands of the divine law, and sufficient to make satisfaction for all our sins, and procure for us all the blessings of the divine favour; that he is able and willing to "save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him;" and that he is freely offered in the Gospel to all that will accept him, however unworthy, and however great their sins. Indeed it is an eternal truth, that though multitudes perish, it is not for want of a Saviour. There is a Saviour all sufficient, and perfectly willing; and this you must be convinced of before you can come to him.

5. An entire dependence upon his merits alone for acceptance with God. Sensible that you have no merit of your own; on which to depend; and sensible also that Jesus is a sure foundation, on which you may safely venture your eternal all, you must cast all your dependence and fix your entire trust on him. You will as it were hang about him, as the only support for your sinking soul, and plead his righteousness as the only ground of your acceptance with God. This is so unnatural to a proud self-confident sinner, that you must be brought very low indeed, thoroughly mortified and self-emptied, before you will submit to it.

6. A cheerful subjection to him as your ruler; and a voluntary surrender of yourselves to his service. If you come to him at all, it will be as poor penitent rebels, returning to duty with, shame and sorrow, and fully determined never to depart from it more. To embrace Christ as a Saviour, and yet not submit to him as our ruler; to trust in his righteousness, and in the mean time disobey his authority; this is the greatest absurdity, and utterly inconsistent with the wise constitution of the Gospel.

And now, my dear young friends, I hope even your tender minds have some idea what it is to come to Christ. And therefore, when I exhort you to it, you know what I mean. Come then, come to Jesus.

For the Children: Two Valuable Books that Parents Should Read

Log College Press has recently added two books to the site which will be of interest especially to parents. 

The first is The Children of the Church, and Sealing Ordinances by Lyman Hotchkiss Atwater (1813-1883). First published in the Jan. 1857 issue of The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review, then reprinted in 1858, slightly expanded and revised, as a separate volume by the Presbyterian Board of Publication, this work examines the place of children in the church and their relationship to the two sacraments which Christ has instituted for church. This is an excellent little study for parents of children of the covenant.

"It is in Zion that the children of the Church are born to newness of life. Since He has promised to be their God, it is in training them as if they were his; as if it were alone congruous with their position to walk as his children in faith, love, hope, and all holy obedience, that we are to look for that inworking Spirit, and out-working holiness, commensurate with their years, which shall seal them as sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. This is what we believe to be the blessed significance and intent of infant baptism. This is what we have at heart in writing these pages..."

The author is described by Paul C. Gutjahr thus: "Lyman Atwater enjoyed a long career at Princeton College, serving on its faculty from 1854 until his death in 1883. Although his students fondly lampooned his pear-like shape, they considered him an outstanding teacher in his courses on logic and moral philosophy. He co-edited the Repertory in its various forms from 1869 to 1878 and contributed more than 110 articles to its pages, making him one of the most prolific defenders of Old School Calvinism in the nineteenth century" (Charles Hodge: Guardian of American Orthodoxy, p. 348).

The next book contains an introduction by Atwater, but is primarily the work of William Scribner (1820-1884) (Scribner was the brother of Charles Scribner (1821-1871), who became head of the publishing firm eventually known as Charles Scribner's Sons). It is titled Pray For Your Children; or, An Appeal to Parents to Pray Continually for the Welfare and Salvation of Their Children (1873). Divided into two parts, eight reasons are given to motivate parents to desire and pray for the salvation of their children, and a further eight reasons are given to stir up parents to further pray for God's blessings upon their young ones. 

The first eight reasons are listed here to whet the appetite of parents who love the souls of their children. (Read the rest of this book here.)

  1. Pray for the salvation of your children, because their salvation is so great a prize that it is worth all the pains which your prayers to secure it for them may cost you.
  2. Pray for the salvation of your children, because few will pray for it if you do not.
  3. Pray for the salvation of your children, because none others can pray for it as you can.
  4. Pray for the salvation of your children, because your omitting to do so will be perilous to them and to you.
  5. Pray for the salvation of your children, because you will then find it easier to perform other parental duties on the performance of which God has conditioned their salvation.
  6. Pray for the renewing of the souls of your children, because prayer alone can call into exercise that divine power in their behalf which is absolutely necessary in order that the means which you may employ for their salvation may not be used in vain.
  7. Pray for the salvation of your children, because by their salvation, granted in answer to your prayers, the divine Saviour will be glorified.
  8. Pray for the salvation of your children because you have a strong encouragement and incentive to do so in the express promise of God that, if you are faithful to your trust, he will be their God, and will save them.