God’s Call to little Children
July 24th, 1960 @ 8:15 AM
1 Samuel :1-10
GOD’S CALL TO LITTLE CHILDREN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 3:1-10
7-24-60 8:15 a.m.
You who listen on the radio are sharing with us the early morning service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled God’s Call to Little Children. In our preaching through the Book of Samuel, we have come to the third chapter. And if you will open your Bible to the third chapter of Samuel, you can easily follow the message of this morning hour. The reading of the Word is this: 1 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. And old Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child.
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.
You could not help but be arrested by that unusual and beautiful story. And I have many things to say about it. And I suspect they cannot be encompassed in this morning’s hour; so it has been my purpose to speak of it this day, and then the next Lord’s Day at this hour.
Eli was indulgent with his sons; and for that indulgence, in refusing to rebuke his sons Hophni and Phinehas; and because of his refusal to order the house of God in its worship according to the commandments of the Lord; and because of his winking at and overlooking the violations of the words of God regarding the house at Shiloh; because of his putting aside as though it was just something for words and not for action what his evil sons were doing; because of those things, the judgment of God fell upon the house of Eli. And the prophecy was given both by this man of God, of whom we spake last Sunday in this second chapter of the Book of Samuel, and now revealed of the Lord to this little boy Samuel. Eli’s house was refused, and its predicted end was outlined. But old Eli himself was a godly man. He was a good man, though indulgent. He was kind and generous to a fault. And he was a spiritual man; he was God’s man. He represented God to the people, and the people to God.
And in his wisdom, Eli did a remarkable thing here. When the little boy Samuel heard the word of the Lord, he was a child, and he didn’t understand, he didn’t know what was happening in his heart. You know a little child is made like a seed: on the inside of that seed, when it is formed, there is the germ of life made in it, created at the same time, an integral component, intrinsic part of it. And the little seed may look very dead, and may lie dormant all year or all winter – in fact I read one time where in some of those tombs of the Pharaoh’s wheat, that had been placed in those tombs for four thousand years was planted and it grew up on the inside of the seed there is the workmanship of God. There’s not a man, there’s not a chemist, there’s not all of the men and all the chemists in the earth that can create one little, teensy weensy, bitty seed. Maybe a mustard seed, maybe a little poppy seed, look like a little grain of sand; chemists might be able to put the thing together and make it look just exactly like that little seed. But he can’t put God in it, life in it, the germ in it. Now a child is made like a seed: when the little thing is born into this world, there is born with it down deep, hidden away in the soul and in the heart of the child, where you might not suspect, there is that seed of life. And like the little grain of mustard seed, you put it in the ground somewhere and let warmth of God’s sunlight fall on it, and let God’s sweet rain fall on it, and something will happen: it’ll begin to burst, and to break, and to move, and to grow. That’s God, and the hand of the Lord.
That identical thing is in the heart and soul of a little child. You take any child, any child, and place that child under the warm influences of the love of God, and the day will come – it will inevitably come, it will never fail to come – the day will come when there will be a movement in the soul of the child. He may not understand or know, but it’s God. The little child is beginning to be sensitive to the story of Jesus and the love of the Lord. I could not tell you the number of times little children have come to see me, in fact, most of them will, and sit there by my side and I will say, "Now, I’m so glad to have you, sonny," or little girl, "just so glad to have you. Now why have you come to see the pastor?" I know why they’ve come, but I want them to tell me. Did you know almost always their hearts will fill up, and they’ll breathe heavy, and they choke up, and then cry, and then look to mother or daddy in pitiful wanting, "You tell the pastor why I’ve come." Well, where does that come from? That’s God, the Lord moving in the heart of the child. And he couldn’t explain to you why his heart fills up, and why his soul overflows in tears. He couldn’t explain that; just like Samuel didn’t know this thing that was happening in his life.
He didn’t know the Lord, the Book says: "Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord" [1 Samuel 3:7]. He’s a little child. Now, old Eli was a wise old man. And at first he didn’t realize it. I suppose the little fellow was just young, and Eli didn’t realize how early sometimes this moving of the Spirit of God comes to a little child. So when God called in the night he had no idea; the only voice that he’d ever heard in the night there in the house of God was the voice of the high priest, Eli. So when the voice was heard, "Samuel," he thought Eli had called him. So he went to Eli, and Eli said, "Why, I did not call, lie down again." And when it happened again, and then the third time, the Book says, "And Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child [1 Samuel 3:8]. And Eli said," now look at his wisdom: Eli did not say, "Son, you just dreamed it as you slept, go, lie down again"; Eli did not say, "Son, that’s just your childish imagination, go lie down again"; Eli did not say, "Son, you’re just emotionally disturbed, some Sunday school teacher or some preacher has been talking to you. You’re just emotionally wrought up. Go lie down again."
Now I’ve met that many times in my ministry. I so well remember preaching in a revival meeting in the heart of California, years ago, when I was a young fellow. I remember that a woman came to the pastor, and she was furious. We had had a service there at the church, and her little girl had been wonderfully, gloriously converted; and converted as I was converted: with many tears. And when the little child went home from the church service, the little child, the little girl was subdued and quiet because of the spiritual experience that had swept through her soul. And the mother immediately perceived something was different with the child, and asked her; and the little thing broke down in tears as she tried to tell her mother that she had found the Lord. And it made the mother furious. So, she went to see the pastor. And the things that she had to say, all of that stirring up of her child, all of that emotional appeal, all the things that you can imagine, she laid out before the preacher. And after she got through with her tirade, he simply said, "I think that if you had been in the service, I think you would have understood. And could I ask you," the pastor said, "could I ask you to be this kind: would you come to one of the services and see for yourself what has happened to the child?" Well, the pastor was so kind and so nice, and she had been so furious and so caustic, that it kind of shamed her. And she said, "I will."
Well, I want you to know that that woman came to the service – first time she’d ever been to the church. She came to the service and attended its worship hour. And when the service was over, behold, behold, she sought out the pastor with many tears and said, "I understand. I understand. And I am happy that my little girl has given her heart to Jesus and that she wants to be baptized. And she has my full permission and blessing." It’s a wise parent; it’s a wise father and a wise mother that is able to see that. And old Eli was able to see it. He perceived that the Lord had called the child. And then when the Lord called the next time, Samuel repeated what Eli said, "I’m a’listenin’ Lord, speak; Thy servant heareth" [1 Samuel 3:10].
Now that’s the background of the story. I want to say three things. First: God calls little children to faith in Him. Second: God calls little children to special service for Him. And the third, if I have opportunity and time: God calls little children sometimes to be with Him in glory, in heaven. God calls little children.
The first avowal: God calls little children to faith in Him, to a trust in Him, to a saving committal of heart and soul to Him. Now I’ve spoken of that somewhat already. One of the hardest things for me to understand is the doctrine of our Hardshell Primitive Baptist brethren with regard to children. We are so removed from that segment of our faith and our communion that I would say practically all of the people here this morning have never been with, and have never seen or attended the services or been associated with Hardshell Primitive Baptist people. But they have a doctrine, they have a way, with regard to children that is an overwhelming thing: they do not believe that children can be saved, nor do they believe that people are saved without some marvelous vision from heaven, like the apostle Paul. I spent a month one time, in the years gone by, in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. I was up there preaching first through a summer encampment, and then the rest of the time with a young man who is now a missionary, missionary leader, in our Home Mission Board out of Nashville, Tennessee. When you go up there into that high mountainous country, by Pine Mountain, on the Virginia line, there’s a Big Cowpen River, and the Big Cowpen Primitive Baptist Church. Then go on up, and there’s the Little Cowpen River, and the little Cowpen Baptist Church. Then go on up, and there’s a little river called the Kingdom Come River; and up there at the head of Kingdom Come River there is a family. And concerning that family, a famous novelist wrote a famous book entitled The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come. When I was a boy, that was a very famous novel; and in those days I devoured novels, I read them by the dozens. I was the most romantic of all of the boys you ever saw in your life. There was no book that Zane Grey wrote that I didn’t read or all the rest of those novels in those days. So, I read The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come. And when I found out that that little Kingdom Come River was up there, and that family up there, I went with this friend of mine to see them. And I had one of the most enjoyable and unusual experiences of my life.
For example, Aunt Hannah Frasier – their names are Frasier, Uncle Drew Frasier and Aunt Hanna Frasier, that’s the old couple that were up there, the father and mother – and she had a beautiful quilt that she made, you know, like you make with your hands. Nobody this generation knows anything about that, but they used to quilt, make quilts, make them beautiful. I still have that beautiful quilt out there at the house. Well, I asked Uncle Drew if I could buy the quilt. Well, whatever his wife might have thought about it, it pleased him very much that I wanted to buy it. So, he bargained with me, and I bought it; didn’t pay very much for it, but it was a lot of money apparently, I thought, to those mountaineers up there at the head of Kingdom Come Creek. So as fortune had it, I didn’t have anything in my pocket but a twenty dollar bill. Now can you imagine a preacher having a twenty dollar bill? That’s an astonishing thing in itself. So, I said to Uncle Drew, "I’m sure you don’t have change for this, but this is all I have, just this twenty dollar bill." And I gave him the twenty dollar bill, having no idea he’d have any change at all for it. I want you to know, that mountaineer reached down in the pockets of his blue jeans, he pulled out a roll of bills that would choke a goat; I want you to know that he began to peel them down from the top, hundreds, hundreds, hundreds, fifty, fifty, fifties, twenty, twenty, twenty, ten, ten, ten, finally got down to the fives and the ones. And when he counted me out the change, he said, "Son, you’re about broke, aren’t you?" An astonishing thing; oh, the world is full of surprises.
Well, we stayed with them. I got acquainted with them. Aunt Hannah, she had been baptized just that summer, that summer. And she was seventy-five years of age. And I said to her, "Aunt Hannah, why in this earth are you just now, after seventy-five years," and they were godly people, "why are you just now joining the church and being baptized?" And her reply was, she was waiting for the vision, without which no one was really saved. Well, I asked her what the vision was, and I haven’t time to delineate it all. Up there on the top of the mountain, right back of their home, there was a little family cemetery, and her daughter who had died was buried on top of that cemetery; and she saw the vision of her daughter dressed in white robes, coming down and speaking to her and saying, "Mother, I’m waiting for you in heaven." And that was the sign that she had been converted. So she went to the church, and made her confession of faith, and was received for baptism. So I turned to Uncle Drew, and I said, "Uncle Drew, have you been baptized?"
"No, no," he said, "I haven’t seen the vision." And Uncle Drew was seventy-five years of age. "I haven’t seen the vision." So as I got acquainted with them and talked to them more, I found this out: that daughter that had died, and buried up there on the hill right back of the house, that daughter had a little illegitimate boy, and his name was Romer. And the father and the mother, Uncle Drew and Aunt Hannah, had reared the little fellow, this little baby boy that didn’t have a father. And when the boy was fourteen years old, he was out with his grandfather, whom he called Daddy; he was out with Uncle Drew in the spring plowing. And as he walked along with Uncle Drew, he said, "Uncle Drew, I won’t be with you next spring for the spring plowing." And Uncle Drew says, "Well, why not, son?" And the boy replied, "Well, I don’t know, Daddy, I just won’t be with you."
"Oh son," said the grandfather, "Sure you will, I couldn’t run this farm and I couldn’t plow without you."
"No, Daddy, I won’t be with you next spring for the plowing." Some while after that, the little fellow, out hunting, the thing accidentally went off as he was going through a fence, and the boy mortally wounded, tried to make his way to the house, and fell in the yard. And he lived several days before he died. And the little boy would comfort his grandfather, whom he loved so much, who had reared the little fellow, and he would say to him, "Daddy, don’t cry, and don’t be heartbroken. I’m going to be with Jesus. And I’ll meet you in heaven." And the boy died. And Uncle Drew, as he would tell me about it, and himself just breaking into sobs, he would ask me this again and then come back to it in a little while and ask me this thing again: "Do you believe that a fourteen year old boy could be saved?" You see, all of their theology and all of their preaching and all of their services a fourteen year old boy couldn’t be saved; too young, he hadn’t seen the vision.
"Do you think a fourteen year old boy could be saved?" To you that question is impossible. It is unthinkable! Yet to them it was an impossibility, it was the most thinkable thing that they could think of. You’re not saved unless you have a tremendous experience, like the apostle Paul. There has to be a ball of fire fall over your head. You have to be struck unconscious to the ground. You have to mourn over the burden of your sins for days and years. Have to go to the mourner’s bench for a generation. You have to cry unto God and plead with the Lord for years and years. And before you can be saved, you have to see a light from heaven, or a vision of an angel, or a daughter or a son who preceded you must come back from heaven and make a personal appearance to you. It has to be some kind of an extraneous, monstrous experience, alien to the mind of God, before you can be received as a candidate for baptism as a regenerated soul.
And did you know, a little of that drifts into our families and among our people? I could hardly tell you the number of people in my church and in my pastorates through these years that have come to me and said, "I don’t know whether I’m really saved or not. I don’t know whether I have ever been really regenerated or not." And then when I ask, why, it comes about like this: somebody has had a marvelous experience, an unusual Pauline experience, and because this one hasn’t had that kind of an experience, why, they conclude, he concludes, she concludes, "I haven’t been really saved. I haven’t been born again. I’ve never seen a vision of angels. I’ve never seen a light from heaven. I was never struck to the ground and lay unconscious under the burden of my sins. Therefore, I’ve never been saved." Whenever we identify our salvation with an experience, you’re taking your mind off of the main thing and putting it on corollaries and subsidiary circumstances. We are saved by faith in Jesus. "Look and live. And it was so that if a man was bitten by a serpent, if he’d look, he’d live" [Numbers 21:9]. Now incidentally, I may have a great experience; but it is incidental, it is not the main thing. The heart of it, the soul of it, the body of it, the corpus of it, the reality of it is always found in Christ. And some of these monstrous experiences that I hear people describe take away from Jesus. Instead of His being the all in all, Christ is all, everything, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, He loved me, He died for me, He called me, and I looked and lived, and I answered; instead of that it’s some other unusual thing that takes away from our Lord. You’re saved whether you were saved as a little boy, whether you were saved as an old man, whether you were saved as an old woman, whether you were saved as a youth; whenever you were saved, you were saved by one thing: you looked in faith to Jesus. "Lord be merciful to me, and save me. Forgive my sins, dear Lord, in Jesus’ name, in Christ’s blood and wounds and tears, Lord, remember me." And all of these other things are extraneous; they really don’t matter.
Whether you saw an angel or not is absolutely immaterial. Whether you saw a light from heaven has nothing to do with it. Whether you had a tremendous experience or not has nothing at all to do with your salvation. We are saved by trusting Jesus, looking to Jesus. And that experience can be the experience of a little boy and a little girl: by faith, trusting Jesus.
So He calls us to faith in Him. And it has been my experience that wherever people are converted, almost all of them are saved when they’re children. Let’s just test the thing this morning. How many of you were converted, you who are here in this great congregation this morning, how many of you were converted from twelve years of age down? You were still a junior. All of you who were converted from the age of twelve years and down – I was ten – with the pastor, hold up your hand? How many were? That’s almost all of us. Not all of us, of course, God is merciful and good; some of us are converted in our teens, some of us are converted in our youth, some of us are converted, of course, in manhood and womanhood; but almost all of us are converted when we’re children. And that’s the time, that’s the day, because when a child comes forward, not only offer a soul to Jesus, but a life. I can’t help but call to mind a thing Moody said. When he returned from a service, somebody asked him, "Were there any people responded? Anybody saved?"
"Yes," said Moody, "two and a half, two and a half."
"Well," said the fellow to whom Moody was talking, "two grown people and a child."
"Oh no," said Moody, "a child and two grown people; two and a half." For when the child came, the child not only brought his heart and his soul, but the child brought his life. But when an old man’s converted, it’s just a half. His heart is saved, his soul is saved, his spirit is saved; but his life has been lost in the world.
Now, next Sunday morning, we will speak of God’s call to children to fulltime special service. And then I want to speak of God’s call sometimes to little children, when they’re called to be with Jesus in heaven.
Now while we sing our song, if there’s somebody here this morning to take Jesus as Savior, somebody here this morning to put his life with us in the church, a family, or just one somebody you, while we sing this appeal will you come and stand by me? On the first note of the first stanza, come, while all of us stand and sing.