FEEDING CHRIST’S LAMBS
“Come, ye children, hearken unto me: and I will teach you the fear of the LORD!” [Psalm 34:11]
The best of the church are none too good for this work. Do not think because you have other service to do that therefore you should take no interest in this form of holy work, but kindly, according to your opportunities, stand ready to help the little ones, and to cheer those whose chief calling is to attend to them. To us all this message comes: “Feed My lambs!” To the minister, and to all who have any knowledge of the things of God, the commission is given. See to it that you look after the children that are in Christ Jesus. Peter was a LEADER among believers, YET HE MUST FEED THE LAMBS!
The LAMBS are the young of the flock. So, then, we ought to look specially and carefully after those who are YOUNG IN GRACE. They may be old in years, and yet they may be, mere babes in grace as to the LENGTH OF THEIR SPIRITUAL LIFE, and therefore they need to be under a good shepherd.
As soon as a person is converted and added to the church, he should become the object of the special care and kindness of his fellow-members. He has but newly come among us, and has no familiar friends among the saints, therefore let us all be friendly to him. Even should we leave our older comrades, we must be doubly kind towards those who are newly escaped from the world, and have come to find a refuge with the Almighty and His people. Watch with ceaseless care over those new-born babes who are strong in desires, but strong in nothing else. They have but just crept out of darkness, and their eyes can scarcely bear the light; let us be a shade to them until they grow accustomed to the blaze of gospel day.
Addict yourselves to the holy work of caring for the feeble and despondent. Peter himself that morning must have felt like a newly-enlisted soldier, for he had in a sense ended his public Christian life by denying his Lord, and he had begun it again when he “went out and wept bitterly.” He was now making a new confession of his faith before his Lord and his brethren, and, therefore, because he was thus made to sympathize with recruits, he is commissioned to act as a guardian to them. Young converts are too timid to ask our help, and so our Lord introduces them to us, and with an emphatic word of command He says, “Feed My lambs!” This shall be our reward: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these—you have done it unto Me!”
However young a believer may be, he should make an OPEN CONFESSION of his faith, and be folded with the rest of the flock of Christ. We are not among those who are suspicious of YOUTHFUL PIETY: we could never see more reason for such suspicions in the case of the young, than in the case of those who repent late in life. Of the two we think the latter are more to be questioned than the former: for a selfish FEAR OF PUNISHMENT and dread of death are more likely to produce a COUNTERFEIT FAITH than mere childishness would be. How much has the child missed—which might have spoiled it! How much it does not know—which we hope it never may know!
Oh, how much there is of brightness and trustfulness about children when converted to God which is not seen in elder converts! Our Lord Jesus evidently felt deep sympathy with children—and he is but little like Christ who looks upon them as a trouble, and treats them as if they must needs be either little deceivers or foolish simpletons. To you who teach in our schools is given this joyous privilege of finding out where these young disciples are, who are truly the lambs of Christ’s flock, and to you He says, “Feed My lambs!”; that is, instruct such as are truly gracious, but young in years.
It is very remarkable that the word used here for “feed My LAMBS” is very different from the word employed in the precept, “feed My SHEEP.” I will not trouble you with Greek words, but the second “feed” means exercise the office of a shepherd, rule, regulate, lead, manage them, do all that a shepherd has to do towards a flock; but this first feed does not include all that: it means distinctly FEED, and it directs teachers to a duty which they may perhaps, neglect—namely, that of INSTRUCTING children in the faith.
The lambs do not so much need keeping in order, as we do who know so much, and yet know so little: who think we are so far advanced that we judge one another, and contend and strive. Christian children mainly need to be taught the DOCTRINE, PRECEPT, and CHRISTIAN LIVING: they require to have Divine truth put before them clearly and forcibly. Why should the higher doctrines, the DOCTRINES OF GRACE, be kept back from them? They are not as some say, bones; or if they are bones—they are full of marrow, and covered with fatness! If there is any doctrine too difficult for a child, it is rather the fault of the teacher’s conveyance of it—than of the child’s power to receive it, provided that child is really converted to God. It is ours to make doctrine simple; this is to be a main part of our work. Teach the little ones the whole truth and nothing but the truth; for instruction is the great need of the child’s nature.
A child has not only to LIVE as you and I have—but also to grow; hence he has double need of food. When fathers say of their boys, “What appetites they have!” they should remember that we also would have great appetites if we had not only to keep the machinery going, but to ENLARGE it at the same time. Children in grace have to grow, rising to greater capacity in knowing, being, doing, and feeling, and to greater power from God; therefore above all things they must be FED. They must be WELL fed or instructed, because they are in danger of having their cravings perversely satisfied with error! Youth are susceptible to false doctrine.
Whether we teach young Christians truth or not, the DEVIL will be sure to teach them ERROR. They will hear of it somehow, even if they are watched by the most careful guardians. The only way to keep CHAFF out of the child’s little measure—is to fill it brimful with good WHEAT. Oh, that the Spirit of God may help us to do this! The more the young are taught the better; it will keep them from being misled!