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.

Christ is More Willing to Save

The Puritans used to say that Christ was more willing to save, than sinners are willing to be saved by Him. "I may say that Jesus Christ is more willing to save sinners, than sinners are to be saved by him!" (William Bridge, "Evangelical Repentance" in Works, Vol. 4, pp. 434-435). "We should trust our salvation on Jesus Christ, not only as on him only that can save, and that is able to save perfectly; but as on him that hath more good-will to save, than we can have willingness to be saved by him. None had ever been saved by him, none had ever been brought to heaven, unless Christ had had more willingness to bring them thither, than they had to be led thither by him" (Robert Traill, Sermon 3 in "Sixteen Sermons on the Lord's Prayers" in Works, Vol. 2, p. 46). 

Southern Presbyterian "worthy" (see John M. Wells, Southern Presbyterian Worthies, for an excellent biographical sketch) Givens Brown Strickler concurs, as we can see in a powerful sermon titled "Christ's Willingness to Save." Taking John 6:37 for his text ("And him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out"), expounds the Scriptural truth that men too often fail to appreciate the willingness of Christ to save sinners, and how a right understanding of this point is crucial to the invitations He gives to come unto Him and be saved, that is, what we call the free offer of the gospel. 

One evidence that they do not fully appreciate the willingness of Christ to save is found in the fact that they imagine that they are more willing in the great matter than He is. They imagine, many of them, that they are perfectly willing to be saved; to be delivered from the presence and the power and the guilt and all the consequences of their sins, and that the only reason why they have not already been thus delivered is that Christ has not been willing to interpose in their behalf. But if they saw His willingness as it is revealed in His word, they would see that they could hardly labour under a more unfortunate and mischievous misapprehension than when they imagine that their willingness here exceeds His.

Now, because men do not properly appreciate His willingness to save, and because it is not appreciated by Christians as it should be, your attention is called to this text. You observe that it not only asserts His willingness to save, but asserts it in the most emphatic way: "Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out."

Strickler also calls our attention to the invitations of Christ to sinners to come to Him and be saved. 

Do you want an invitation so comprehensive that you may be sure that you are embraced in its wide compass? There are a number in the Scriptures, as for instance, "The Spirit and the Bride say come, and let him that heareth say come, and let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Can you conceive of an invitation that would more certainly include you than that invitation does, if you desire to be saved? Why, if you had an invitation addressed to your own name and to your present place of residence, you could not be so certain that it was intended for you as you may be that that invitation is intended for you, for while there may have been no one of your name in the past living just where you now do, there might be such a one in the future, and, therefore, you could not be sure but that the invitation might be intended for him instead of yourself; but when the invitation is to "whosoever is willing," and you are conscious that you are willing, you know that it is your privilege to accept it. Richard Baxter, it is said, thanked God that the invitations of the Scriptures were not addressed to Richard Baxter, for he did not know how many Richard Baxters there were in the world; and, therefore, they might be intended for some other Richard Baxter instead of for himself; but he rejoiced that they were addressed to "whosoever is willing," for he was conscious that he was willing, and therefore was sure that it was his privilege to embrace them. The invitations, then, are a strong proof of Christ's willingness to save.

Christ is indeed willing to save reluctant sinners. Strickler lays out many demonstrations of this fact. Let this be an encouragement to sinners, who typically over-estimate their own willingness to come to the Savior and under-estimate the Savior's willingness to embrace sinners. to avail themselves of the grace of God in Christ Jesus - there will never be a better, and a more sincere and willing, offer of salvation.