Of despising children

Of despising children

Of little Children. Our duties towards them.

(The Gospel History, Section 75)

See that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

Of despising children

(The Saviour of the World, Vol IV Book IV Poem LXXI)

Take heed that ye despise not one of these!
Behold, I shew you a mystery; children come,
Not all divorced and separate from Him,
Their Eternal Father; not given o’er to men
To use as shall please them, cherish or neglect;
Continual commerce holds the Father still
With His children, lent to men; for every child
Hath his angel who beholds the Father’s face,
Bears quick report of all the little one’s state
And carries instant back the Father’s love
To wrap the child, invuln’rable, from the world,—
Shield from the rubbing harshness of men’s use
As invisible mantle,—down of mother bird;
Then, how despise ye them God cherisheth?”

Manoah’s Sacrifice by Rembrandt

The Disciples heard; with eyes ope’d wide in awe

They gazed on th’ child in their midst as they had seen,

Sudden, a glorious angel standing there,

Still shining radiant from the face of God:

Then, gathering courage, spake they:—“Lord, make plain

To us, how we despise Thy little ones

Nor know our offence at all? Sure, we, Thy Jews,

Have ever cherished offspring—brought them up

In the fear of God, abiding in the Law,

And precious to us as the gift of God?

Remember we how Eli spoiled his sons,

How Solomon bade use the rod betimes,

How Manoah and his wife the angel prayed,

‘How shall we order the child?’ E’en so do we,

Our Nation by its families, importune!”

“Aye, cherish ye the children, as one holds

His own possessions precious,—kine in field

Or jewel in its casket,—so the child!

Said I not to you,—Ye shall not despise

Or think to possess a child, who yet is God’s—

The while he sheds his radiance in your ways?

Which then is more—a man or his possessions,

E’en the costliest he hath? So ye’re assured

That each of you is greater than a child;

That what ye give must needs be his increase;

That what ye say with wisdom edifies!

And so the child,—one greatest in the Kingdom,

Graced with nobility in heavenly courts,—

Is taught to frame his life on mean exemplar,

To covet baubles, think your shallow thoughts!

Ye deem the child has nought but what ye give,
Ye, or the ancestors ye reckon yours;
That while he’s little, he may scarce do well,—
‘Wait till he’s grown’—become as good as a man!
So, lax, ye rule him, ‘What knows he of law,
A silly child, unknowing right or wrong!’
Despise ye so the children, nor perceive
That God hath writ on th’ heart of every child,—
‘Obey, and thou shalt live; transgress, and die:’
The infant child still sucking at the breast
Knows this thing,—till ye teach him to despise,
As ye yourselves despise, the Law of God:—
Idle, ye bid him do some idle task
Nor heed when ’tis not performed. The child comes, meek,
Beholding you as gods to whom right and wrong
Are as ye choose to name them. Quick, he learns
To do as ye do, transgress as ye allow,
And day by day forsakes him that fine sense
Whereby discerning good and evil came he.
Thus, ye despise the children.

Ye think, ye wise ones, ye alone can know
If ye be learnéd, all the ways of God,
If ye be crafty, all the hearts of men:
‘The little child, great thoughts are not for him’—
So think ye in your arrogance, and provide
Baubles and petty trinkets to amuse
Him whom his Father thought on from the first,
And planned a playground filled with various joys—
Where little feet may wander, hands take hold,
Cool fancies play, as glinting sunshine falls,
And the little child and his angel walk with God!
But ye fill all his days with paltry boons,
Poor thoughts, unworthy aims; that sacred place,
The altar of a child’s pure heart, defile;
Thus ye despise the children.

Intrude not on his thoughts, his springs of love
And fear, the impulses that move, and all that store
He gathers to him to build his house of soul:
Let your communication be ‘Yea, yea:
Nay, nay:’ and let your ‘yea’ be full assured,
Your ‘nay’ be just and final: wary, walk warily,
Nor trespass on the child as were he clay
And you the forming potter: he is more;
See you, he comes with mind to comprehend;
With thoughts unformed, unplumbed, aware of all;
So filled with love from the pure Source, that toy
Of rag or stone or stick wakes tenderness,—
Behold, he hath transfigured the poor thing,
Made it yielding, loving, beauteous as himself!
Think you, he knows not God for he has no words
To tell you what he knows? E’en you, grown stale
In the world’s uses, how can you discover
To any the deep thoughts which move you most?
Ye think him ignorant of right and wrong,
An unlettered sheet ’tis your part to inscribe?
On fleshly tablet are the commandments writ—
The child’s obedient heart!

See ye to it

That children are honoured ’mongst you; that I see,
At play in city streets, no little child
Made common by your usage,—hard and vain,
Wilful and greedy, loving but himself;—
Because ye say, forsooth, ‘He is but small—
What matters aught a little child may do?’
Verily, it matters much; your Father wills
That all these little ones be kept in love
And guileless as He sent them;—souls uplift
To God as flowers uplift their face to the sun:
Not one would God have perish, learn deceit,
And that alien worship where He hath no place—
Self-consciousness, which hedgeth as a wall,
Shutting out God and life and needs of men!

I charge you, guard the little ones, and know,—
To keep them humble, innocent, as they grow,
Your chiefest care—task by the Father set!”

St. Matthew xviii, 10.