God Calls Little Children
May 5th, 1957 @ 10:50 AM
1 Samuel 3:1-10
GOD CALLS LITTLE CHILDREN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 3:1-10
5-5-57 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message, the 11:00 o’clock message, entitled God Calls Little Children. The reading from the Scripture is in the First Samuel 3:1-10:
And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the Word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.
And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see;
And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep;
That the Lord called Samuel: and he answered, "Here am I."
And he ran unto Eli, and said, "Here am I; for thou calledst me." And he said, "I called not; lie down again." And he went and lay down.
And the Lord called yet again, "Samuel." And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, "Here am I; for thou didst call me." And he answered, "I called not, my son; lie down again."
Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the Word of the Lord yet revealed unto him.
And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, "Here am I; for thou didst call me." –
He was a wise old pastor –
And Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child. –
How different, tragically different. You could cry over it, many of our parents –
Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, "Go, lie down: and it shall be, if He call thee, that thou shalt say, ‘Speak, Lord; for Thy servant heareth." So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, "Samuel, Samuel." Then Samuel answered, "Speak; for Thy servant heareth."
[1 Samuel 3:1-10]
What a wise, wise old pastor. When the child came to him, old Eli could have said, "Son, you’re too young to hear the voice of God. You just dreamed it as you slept. Go lie down again." When the child came back, old Eli could have said, "Son, you are too young to hear the voice of God. God doesn’t speak to children. Son, it is a childish imagination; go, lie down again." And when the child came back the third time, Eli could have said, "Son, I repeat, you are too young to hear the voice of God. He speaks but to old men and old women. Son, some preacher has disturbed you. Son, some Sunday school teacher has over persuaded you. Son, you are emotionally upset by the church; go, lie down again."
I say, he was a wise old pastor; and in age, wisdom had come to his soul. Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child [1 Samuel 3:8]. God calls little children to faith in Christ [Mark 9:42]. God calls little children into special and dedicated service.
One of the tremendous experiences that I had in the years ago was a preaching mission in the mountains of eastern Kentucky and western Virginia. I attended the services of the church that was supported and attended by practically all of those mountain people. They are old Baptists; they are Primitive Baptists. They are what we nickname "hardshell" Baptists. If that term is used in derision, it’s not applicable; it’s not correct, it’s not right. All of us used to be – our forefathers belonged to Primitive Baptist churches.
I was blessed, seated there in the church and listening to the preachers from nine o’clock in the morning until after one o’clock in the afternoon. You’d say, "Well, that’s a long time to listen to preaching." Depends on whether you’re interested or not. Now, if you’re interested in a ball game, sit there three or four hours, it’s all right; interested in a cheap television show, sit there all evening, that’s all right – just depends on what you’re interested in. If you’re interested in God and the Word of the Lord and a man whose heart’s been touched by the flame of fire, I enjoyed it. It was good. I was blessed by it seated there listening from nine in the morning till one in the afternoon.
They had a convert that day. She was a woman, seventy-five years of age. And after her confession, which was a remarkable one as she accounted, recounted a vision she had seen, I saw her baptized in the Kentucky River that flows by the Maybank Primitive Baptist Church. I visited in one of the homes. There’s a little creek that runs down Pine Mountain, big Pine Mountain, and its name: Kingdom Come – Kingdom Come Creek. There was an author who wrote a beautiful novel about this family that I visited, and that little creek that runs by their house. The title of the novel is The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come [by John Fox, Jr., 1903]. It’s written about a family. Their real name is Frasier.
And the father in the home is Uncle Drew and the mother is Aunt Hannah – Mr. and Mrs. Drew Frasier. As I visited with them, they began to talk to me – being a preacher opened their hearts. You see, they have a faith that believes that children cannot be saved, and the only one that they will accept as candidate for baptism is one who comes forward and is able to account, recount, a dramatic experience, a vision of the Lord.
Uncle Drew Frasier was not a member of the church though he was fully seventy-five years of age, and Aunt Hannah, his wife, had been baptized just the year before. And she recounted to me her experience of grace. Just beyond the mountain home, up there on the top of that closest knob, is a family cemetery; and their daughter is buried there. And she told me how her daughter, in a vision, had come to the top of that mountain dressed in robes of white and had spoken to her mother and told her mother how she was looking for her in heaven.
And by that experience, she knew that she was saved. So she went down to the church the following Sabbath day and recounted the vision. And that was the sign that God had accepted her, and she was baptized just the year before. Uncle Drew had seen no vision. Nothing had come to him. So he wasn’t a Christian, and he didn’t belong to the church.
But as I walked with that old man, he began to tell me a thing in his life, and it was this: that daughter had an illegitimate boy and the little boy was raised in Uncle Drew’s home. And his name was Roamer, Uncle Drew said. And one spring day, they were plowing out at the field, and that boy was walking by the side of Uncle Drew as he followed the handles of the plow. And the boy said to Uncle Drew, "Granddaddy, I won’t be with you next spring when it comes time to plant." And his grandfather said, "Why, son, why not?" And the boy said, "I don’t know, but I won’t be with you next spring."
And when the springtime came, surely enough, that boy, out hunting with his rifle, climbing through a fence, accidentally shot himself, and, running to the house, fell before he got to the yard. And the boy lingered for two or three weeks before he died. And in those days of lingering, he would comfort his granddaddy and tell his granddaddy that Jesus had saved him and that he was going to heaven to be with Jesus and wanted his granddaddy to meet him in heaven.
And then after Uncle Drew had told me that experience, with the most pathetic voice I think I’ve ever heard, he looked into my soul and said, "Preacher, do you believe that God can save a child? Do you believe? Do you believe that that little boy is in heaven? Do you believe a little boy could be saved?" I never saw before how the doctrine of a church could so alienate itself from the whole revelation and spirit of the New Testament and of Christ our Lord.
I think, in the goodness of God, we are pulling away from that preachment that in order for a man to be saved he must see a vision of angels, or a light, or have some dramatic, unusual experience. We are saved by trusting Christ no matter what our experience may be. There are attendant circumstances that follow it. Sometimes a man will cry when he trusts the Lord. Sometimes the battle of committing his life to Christ is a fierce war, and when he wins it and lets go to give his heart to God, it makes a tremendous repercussion in his life. Sometimes people shout when they’ve been saved, clap their hands, and just sing the praises and shout the praises of God. I’ve even seen people laugh a holy laughter when they are converted. But those attendant things are not the thing itself.
What saves us is our trusting Jesus [Ephesians 2:8-9]. What saves us is the committal of our lives and our hearts to Jesus [John 1:12]. We are never saved by a great experience or a vision of angel or some vast unusual recounting of a circumstance. Those things are not the salvation. Our salvation is in Christ [Acts 16:30-31]: "To Him be the glory" – not "Thank God for Jesus and a vision; thank God I’m here in heaven. Jesus and a great experience saved me." No. It is He and He alone [1 John 5:11-13]. "Thank God for Jesus. By His grace am I here" [John 14:6]. We are saved by trusting Jesus [Galatians 2:21].
And that possibility of confession, and experience, and committal is possible when we reach the age of accountability: to know right from wrong, to feel the need of a Savior – that God should call us to a faith and a trust in Him. And when that age comes, that experience is possible. In fact, it is God that makes the child sensitive to the Spirit of the Lord [John 6:44, 16:7-15]. God frames it. God turns it. God makes it that way. God calls little children to faith in Jesus [Matthew 18:6; Mark 10:14].
This second avowal: God calls children to special service. By special service, I mean a full-time Christian dedication to a specific task for which God did give life to the child [Jeremiah 1:5; Galatians 1:15], for which God sent the child into the world. God raises up His men and His women for these specific and called and designated tasks [Ephesians 2:10]. God does it.
In the thirty-sixth verse of the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, Paul, in one of his sermons says, "And David, after he had served his generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers" [Acts 16:31]. Then what? Then what? Any man who serves God is someday forced to the sad admission that he has a brief, and a designated, and a circumscribed ministry. He has a certain day and a certain period and a certain time. Then, beyond that, it has to lie in other hands; and God must call other voices, and other preachers, and other workers. A man must accept a limited ministry, sad to admit. It is sad to me to admit it. A man must accept a limited ministry by his own physical limitations.
If I could, I would study all night long preparing my sermons. If I could, I would work all day long trying to reach our people for God. I’d never stop, but if I do too much, and go too long, something on the inside of this physical frame just falls apart; and I’m sick. A man who serves God must accept a limited ministry. He can do just so much, just so much. And that thing is doubly true in the number of his days. A man who serves God has the privilege just so long, just so long; then age, and senility, and death take him away. Then what?
As we face the harsh realities that govern and hedge our limited lives, there are certain things that are highly apparent and certain things that God’s people must take to God in prayer. One is this: we must share our work together. No man can do it all; we must share it together [1 Corinthians 12:14-21; Ephesians 4:11-13]. "Here, Preacher, I’ll take that door, and I’ll take this door, and I’ll take this one. And, Pastor, I’ll take this task, and I’ll take this one, and I’ll be responsible for that one." We must share this great, great work together. God calls us into these shared ministries.
And then, that other and inevitable word: and God must call somebody to take our places [2 Timothy 2:1-2, 4:1-8]. God must even now, in some home somewhere, be raising up a little boy to preach the Gospel in this place. And God must raise up somewhere another little fellow to be the chairman of our deacons. And God must raise up another little fellow somewhere to be teacher of the class. And God must raise up another little fellow somewhere to lead us in our great stewardship appeal. And God must choose from another home and in another family circle a little girl to be a member of the staff and other children for the great missionary purposes of the earth.
In Westminster Abbey, in the plaque dedicated to John Wesley [1703-1791] is that famous word that Wesley said, "God buries the workman but carries on His work." Where are these preachers, and these deacons, and these teachers, and God’s Kingdom leaders tomorrow? Where are they? You saw them; they were here. They stood in this pulpit. They are those little children of today.
And God calls those little children. It takes time to prepare for a work in our modern generation. It’s a rare, rare thing that a boy could ever just give his life to the Lord in manhood and go out and preach the Gospel effectively. There are years, and years, and years of study and training as the boy pours over those Hebrew Scriptures and pours over those Greek Scriptures. And as he reads the history of church and the generations past, and as he studies theology, and as he prepares himself for the great work to which God has called him, it takes time to do that. And the days of preparation are in the days of youth, in the morning tide of life. God calls little children to special service.
I hastily come to this last word. First, God calls little children to faith in Jesus. God calls little children to special service in the ministry of Christ. And this last: shall I say it is sad? Shall I say it is a gladness? It is in the will of God – sad for us, glad for them – God calls little children to heaven. Not all, not all of the services of memorial will be for the aged; some of them will be for little children.
Then were there brought unto Him little children, that He should put His hands on them, and bless them: and the disciples rebuked them –
"What time has our busy, busy Lord with little children? Take them away" –
But Jesus said, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
And He laid His hands on them, and blessed them.
[from Matthew 19:13-15]
What if He calls your child? "Suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto Me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven" [from Luke 18:16]. In the incomparably precious vision of the New Jerusalem, in the eighth chapter of the prophet Zechariah and the fifth verse, is this little passage: "And the streets of the city were filled with boys and girls playing in the streets thereof" [from Zechariah 8:5]. God transplants from this world to the New Jerusalem that is yet to come little children.
In an old, old, book, I read an old-timey poem. It is called "The Legend of the Pitcher of Tears."
Many days a stricken mother,
To her loss unreconciled,
Wept hot, bitter tears, complaining,
"Cruel death has stolen my child!"
But one night, as she was sleeping,
To her soul there came a vision,
And she saw her little daughter
In the blessed fields Elysian.
All alone the child was standing,
And a heavy pitcher holding;
Swift the mother hastened to her,
Close around her arms enfolding.
"Why so sad and lonely, darling?"
Asked she, stroking soft her hair.
"See the many merry children
Playing in the golden fair.
"Look, they’re beckoning and calling;
Go and help them pluck the flowers,
Put aside that heavy pitcher,
Play away the sunny hours."
From the tender lips a-quiver,
Fell the answer on her ears:
"On the earth my mother’s weeping,
And this pitcher holds her tears.
"Tears that touch the heavenly blossoms
Spoil the flowers where’er they fall;
So as long as she is weeping,
I must stand and catch them all."
"Wait no longer," cried the dreamer;
"Run and play, sweet child of mine,
Never more shall tears of sorrow
Spoil your happiness divine."
Like a bird released from bondage,
Sped the happy maid away,
And the mother woke, her courage
Strengthened for each lonely day.
["The Legend of the Pitcher of Tears," by Mary Amsden Burroughs]
We have a better country, a better home, a better fellowship, a better house [John 14:1-3; Hebrews 11:10]. And, I say, it is of sadness. You wouldn’t be human if you could see little children laid away without a breaking heart, but Jesus calls them. And in an infinite knowledge into which we cannot enter, and by a way that I cannot explain, the infinite goodness of God is always expressed, and just once again, when Jesus calls our little children.
There is a glory in heaven, there’s an aurora, there’s a light, there’s a blessing that is known but to God. And in that faith, and in that committal to an infinite choice, we are to rest our weary, weary hearts. "Suffer the little children . . . to come unto Me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven" [Matthew 19:14].
May God sanctify this holy hour, and may God make us to realize once again and anew that our riches, our true inheritance, the very Kingdom of God itself, lies in these precious, precious children.
Now we sing our song. And while we sing it, a whole family to come into the church, one somebody to give his heart and life in trust to Jesus – however God shall open the door and lead the way, while we sing this song, would you come? In this balcony around, down these stairwells, and here to the pastor, from side to side, our people, as the Spirit shall lead. If it’s not of God, it is nothing; if it is of the Lord, it is everything. And while we sing this song and prayerfully wait just for you, would you come? Into the fellowship of the church, into the Kingdom of God, for any reason the Lord would send you, will you make it now while we stand and while we sing?
GOD CALLS LITTLE CHILDREN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 3:1-10
I. To faith in Christ
II. To special service
1. Physical strength
2. Number of days
3. Someone to take our place in the future
III. To heaven