"Except ye become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
—Matt. xviii. 3.
Of Robert Louis Stevenson Mr. Sidney Colvin writes that "it was part of his genius that he never seemed to be cramped, like the rest of us, within the limits of his proper age, but to be child, boy, young man, and old man all at once." And Jesus bids me be sure that I keep the young lamb's heart amid the full-grown flocks.
I look into the face of the child. There are no hard and haughty lines of pride, there is no blatant self-assertion, in the features. Modesty is written there. And can I get back my vanished humility? I can. God the Spirit creates it when, in my conversion, He teaches me to abhor myself. And He fosters it more and more, as He confirms in me the conviction that not for a moment dare I dispense with God my Saviour and Keeper and Friend.
I survey the mind of the child. It is teachable. It comes soon to be aware of its ignorance, and it hungers and thirsts for knowledge of every description. And is there a mind anywhere, that God has touched, which does not feel itself in the presence of problems still to be deciphered, mysteries waiting to be unfolded, great tracts of truth of which it knows little? I have parted with the delusion of my own wisdom. I sit at the feet of my Prophet Christ.
I peer into the imagination of the child. It lives in a realm of miracle. " The corn was orient and immortal wheat," says Thomas Traherne ; " I thought it had stood from everlasting to everlasting. The dust and stones of the street were as precious as gold. The gates were the end of the world." As I grow older, I pass out of the magical country. But when I listen to the Holy Ghost, I am amongst the marvels of grace ; and they are more extraordinary than the marvels I have left behind. The sense of wonder is reborn.
I remember the affections of the child. They are the shrine of love, love unbounded and enthusiastic and outspoken. By and by I am less frank and more reticent. Convention, if not cynicism, has frozen the love-look in the eyes and the love-speech on the tongue. Is there anything that will break the ice? Yes, the sight of God's grace in Christ will. That brings back the spring. That makes my heart grateful, susceptible, responsive.
I note the hand of the child. It is not feverish and unquiet. It trusts. It lies in the father's hand, certain that the father will lead it aright. To the same peace and unruffled faith the new birth should conduct me. Confiding in Christ's Father and mine, I ought to have no gloomy fears, about either my outward or my eternal well-being. My feeble hand lies in His; His mighty hand is clasped round mine.
"Behold, my childhood is dead!" St. Augustine laments. But may my childhood be begotten anew into undying life. May I tread again that ancient track.