When Can a Child Be Saved?
March 18th, 1977 @ 7:30 PM
1 Samuel 3:1-10
WHEN CAN A CHILD BE SAVED?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 3:1-10
3-18-77 7:30 p.m.
We welcome a great throng and host of you who are listening to this service over KCBI, and this is the pastor bringing the message in keeping with the hour that is sponsored especially by our children. It is entitled When Can a Child Be Saved? And the background for the message is the first ten verses of the third chapter of 1 Samuel; 1 Samuel chapter 3:
And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli –
the old pastor, the high priest –
And the word of the Lord was precious in those days –
dear: it was very scarce –
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 –
because of his old age –
And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of God –
an image in itself of the dying away of the presence of God –
that Samuel was laid down to sleep. And that night 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 old Eli said, I called not; lie down again. And Samuel 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 Eli answered, I called not, my son; lie down again. Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord,
"Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord," there is a time when the child does not know the Lord, and this little boy 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 (the old pastor) Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child.
Isn’t that a wonderful thing, that 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 (the little boy) Samuel answered, Speak; for Thy servant heareth.
[1 Samuel 3:1-10]
What a beautiful, incomparably beautiful story. What do you think about that? Do you believe that? Do you believe that God can call a child and speak to a child? You know, as the years have passed, sometimes I think that they can hear the voice of God clearer and better than any of the rest of us. Somehow the years harden our hearts and callous our souls and dull our senses, but the child seems to be fresh from the hand of heaven, and they know God in a fullness and in a clarity that most of us have lost. Do you remember that beautiful poem of Thomas Hood, "I Remember, I Remember"? Remember, it goes like this:
I remember, I remember
The fir trees dark and high;
I used to think their pointed spires
Were pressed against the sky:
‘Twas but a childish fancy,
But now ’tis little joy
To know I’m farther away from heaven
Than when I was a boy."
That just struck a repercussion in me. When I was a boy, God seemed so near, and so dear, and so real. God was just there. Well, you know the theologians do a whole lot of things, and the preachers do a whole lot of things about children and about the church and about all the things that pertain to its theological basis and background. And one of them that I was introduced to is called the old Primitive Hardshell Baptist Church. And up there in the mountains in Eastern Kentucky, I spent a about week or two with those dear people. I had a friend who took me around and introduced me, and I stayed with them. It was a brand new revelation to me. And one of the things that they believe in is that no youngster could ever be saved. I went up there to Kingdom Come Creek where that novel was written, The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, and I visited with Drew and Hannah Frazier, who were the hero and heroine, the principal characters in that novel, and she had just been baptized. She was seventy-four years of age, and he was still waiting for the moving of the Spirit. While I was up there, I talked to a boy at a sawmill. He was nineteen years old, and I asked the lad if he was a Christian, if he’d been saved.
He said, "No."
"Why," I said, "would you like to be?"
He said, "Yes, but I am too young. I am not old enough." Nineteen years of age, and I talked to the lad and showed him the way of salvation, and I prayed with the boy, but he had been taught all of his life and still taught, even though nineteen years of age, that he was too young to be saved, to know the Lord.
Now I don’t deny that there is a time when a child is too young to experience conversion, that is, the confession of sin and the acknowledgment that "I am lost" – and before one could be saved, he’d have to be lost. If Jesus is the Savior, he necessarily would have to save us from something, and if we are not lost, there is no point in a Savior. I know, I grant, there is a time when the child does not sense that he is lost. He does not have the consciousness of sin. He doesn’t know his right hand from his left hand; he is too young to know what it is to be lost. He doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong; he is too young.
Why, I remember the beatenest thing in our house, when Cris was just a little, little thing, he came running into the house to me and said, "Oh, Granddaddy, Granddaddy, come, come, come, come, come! There is a wabbit out in the yard, there is a wabbit out in the yard!" And we lived right in the middle of this town, and that there would be a rabbit in the middle of our yard was unthinkable.
I said, "Why son, there is no rabbit."
"Yeah, Granddaddy, come, come, come, come! There is a wabbit in the yard!" So I come, come, come. I got him by the hand and I dashed out into the backyard to see the "wabbit in the yard." Man, there was the biggest rat out there I ever saw! Rat! He never had seen a rat. That thing, somebody had wounded it and it was there in the grass; great, big, long, ugly thing like that.
I said, "Cris, is that the rabbit?"
"Yeah, look Daddy, rabbit, rabbit, there’s the rabbit!" He’s too young; he didn’t know the difference between a rat and a rabbit. You see, he’s a child; just a little fellow. And all of our children are like that. There is a time when they don’t know. There is a time when they are not conscious of right and wrong, of sin and iniquity, and they don’t feel the state of being lost.
Now, but there inevitably comes a time in every life and in the life of every child when he comes to sense that there is something wrong in him and especially between him and God. That is a consciousness into which every life does grow, and every soul ultimately knows. Every one of us comes to that day, and in theology, you call it the day of accountability. That is, we are sensitive before God and know that we are lost. We could say lost sinners; we’ve done wrong in His sight. Now, one time, I was a boy. Noah and I were good friends in those days; long time ago, but there was a time when I was a boy, and I can remember all of those spiritual things in my life as poignantly now as though they happened this morning. In fact, the things that happened to me back there make a far more indelible impression upon me than the things that happen to me today.
Now I went through every syllable of this spiritual experience as a boy, and it came out like this: I never stole anything but one time in my life. One time in my life, I purposely stole something. I was six years old. We lived on a farm, and in town, I fell in with a boy who was somewhat older than I. And he said to me, "Let’s you and I go to the Fewell Variety Store and let’s steal something." "Well, what in the world would I steal?" "So," he said, "just anything." He said, "Let’s go into that store, and let’s go up and down the aisle and look around, and then let’s watch Mr. Fewell, and then when he’s not looking, let’s steal something and put it in our pocket, and then we’ll go outside." Well, I thought that was a good idea; yeah, something interesting about that. So he and I went into the store, and he went down one aisle, and I went down the other aisle. And we looked at Mr. Fewell who owned the variety store, and when he had his back turned, I reached over there and picked out something and put it in my pocket, and I left the store.
You couldn’t guess in ten thousand years what it was that I stole. You’d never guess. It was a pipe; a smoking pipe! A pipe! What under high heaven was I ever going to do with a pipe? I have no idea; I was just in there to steal something, and there was a pipe, so I stole that pipe. Well, when we went home, what in the world am I to do with that pipe? Where am I going to hide it, oh, this pipe? What am I going to do with it? So, at the foot of the steps to the side of the back of the house was a galvanized number three washtub that my mother used to wash clothes in, and it was turned upside down by the side of those steps at the back of the door, and I hid that pipe underneath that tub. Of all the dumb stupid things in the world, to put it there! Just right there!
Well, in no time at all, my mama picked up the tub to use it, and there was that pipe underneath that tub. My mother looked at that in amazement, and made a beeline to me, just like that. She said, "Son, did you put that pipe underneath that tub?"
"Well," she said, "Where did you get it?" Now what do you do? So, I lied to my mother; I lied to my mother. I said, "A boy gave it to me."
"Well," she said, "what’s his name?" I said, "I don’t know."
"Well, where does he live?"
"I don’t know."
"Well, where did he do it?" Man, she just rapid-fired questions like that. Dear me, it just killed me; just killed me, standing there, lying to my mother, one lie after another lie after another lie after another lie about that pipe. My mother threw it away, but the sense of wrong of that thing burned itself in my heart more than if I were to take a gun and steal fifty thousand dollars from a bank. I thought about that a thousand times! I was sorry about that ten thousand times! Stealing something, lying about it: and the consciousness of being wrong entered my life. That’s the first time I can remember it.
All of us have an experience of being introduced to sin. It’s the word that we speak, and it’s not a right word. It’s the thing that we do, and it’s not the right thing. It is how we are in our hearts and in our souls, and we are wrong before God, and, of course, get wrong with these who are all around us and especially with those dearest to us. So there comes a time when a child knows that he’s lost, he’s a sinner; he’s done wrong, and he’s not right with the Lord.
Now there also comes that inevitable time when God speaks to the heart of a child. There is not a little boy or a little girl that comes down this aisle ever but that I live through the experience of reaching out for the hand of the Lord, feeling in my soul and hearing with the ear of my heart God’s call to me. And God speaks to a little child, just as he did to Samuel; God speaks to a little child. Let me tell you, lest I leave these mountain people in a wrong light– let me tell you something that happened when I was holding a meeting among those people; a revival meeting.
In one of the services of the revival, there came down to the front a little girl. She looked to me to be, say, ten or eleven years of age. Made her confession of faith, and to my amazement, to my astonishment illimitable, the church received her as a candidate for baptism. And they didn’t do it summarily or indifferently; they did it with deepest emotion, feeling, people crying, moved by the coming of that little child. So when the service was over and I was alone with the pastor, I asked him about that little girl. I said, "When that child was presented to the church, there was a deep, deep feeling in the congregation, and it was an amazing thing that the church received her. There must be something beyond." And he said to me, "There is." It was this. He said, "Previously, that little girl came down the aisle at our church. And she said to the people that she had trusted the Lord as her Savior, and that Jesus had come into her heart, forgiven her sins, that she was saved. And she asked to be baptized. And the church refused her. She was too young. No child could ever have the experience of conversion, and therefore could never be received into the fellowship of the church. And the church refused her.
"Shortly after that, the little child became seriously ill, and everyone thought that the child was dying. Now those mountain people have lived up there for the generations, and they are very close. Why, world without end, they’ll stay up all night long with one another when one is sick. They’ll put in the crop if a man is ill; they’ll gather in the harvest; they are very close, close together. And the illness of that little girl and her apparent coming death brought all of the mountain community together. When they thought she was dying, they found a little note written by that little girl underneath a tray on the dresser, and the note read this: ‘If I die, I want you to know that I have been saved, and I’ll meet you in heaven. But if I live, please may I be baptized?’ That note they found underneath the tray on the dresser in the bedroom where she lay apparently dying. When all of the people of the community passed that note from one to the other, you can imagine the profound impression that it made. And God spared the little thing, and she lived, and she got well." And the preacher said, "You know the rest." She came down the aisle at the revival service and stood there presenting herself as a candidate for baptism, and the eldest deacon stood up and said, "My brethren, I make a motion we receive her." It was seconded, and the church welcomed that child into the kingdom and into the fellowship of the saints of the Lord.
That’s great! That’s great! How much we learn from little children. In fact, the Lord said, "Except you be converted, and become as a little child, ye shall in no wise enter heaven" [Matthew 18:3]. God speaks to children. God spoke to Samuel. God spoke to me. And God spoke to you. And He saved us when we were young. It’s almost an exception when we are saved beyond the days of our youth. I bless God for that, for a child not only offers his soul to Jesus, but also a life. Not a husk, but the whole full grain. God be praised that He speaks to us when we are children.
Now, with the pastor, could we bow in a prayer? "Precious Lord, there is no syllable of this sermon tonight but that I have also lived through. Hearing the call of the Lord, answering God’s call with my life, and in the years and the years that have followed in this pastoral assignment, loving to work with our children, praying with them, teaching them, and watching them flower and fruit to the glory of God. O Master, that every child might have a Christian home; a faithful mother, a dedicated, godly father, and that the youngster know no other thing than to pray, than to read the Bible, than to love the Lord, than to attend the services, to grow up in the faith. And our Master, that is our appeal tonight to fathers and mothers, that they walk before their children in the way of the Lord. And dear God, could decisions be made tonight? "I want to be saved," and that’s the word of a little boy. "I want to be saved," and that’s the word of a little girl. "And pastor, I want to put my home and my life in the circle of the church. I want to raise my children in the fellowship of God’s people."
In a moment, we are going to stand and sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing that song of invitation, if the Lord has spoken to you, would you answer tonight with your life? A child: "God has spoken to me, and I am coming tonight to accept Jesus as my Savior." "God has spoken to me; I am coming tonight asking to be baptized." A father or a mother: "We’re coming tonight, both of us," or maybe just one, "God, bless my life, my home, and my family." As the Lord presses the appeal to your heart, answer tonight.
Now, Master, in a moment when we sing, may there be the voice of the Spirit heard by the ear of faith in the heart to which God makes appeal, and tonight, give us souls. We thank Thee, Master, for the answered prayer; in Thy dear name, amen."
We are going to sing now our song of invitation, and in that balcony round, somebody you; on this lower floor, you; a family, a couple or just you; a father, a mother, or a child; a little boy or a little girl, as God shall say the word and shall make the appeal, come now. I’ll be standing right here; come to me and tell me, "Tonight, I have made that decision for Jesus, and here I am; here I come." "I want to give my heart to the Lord." "I want to come into the church." "I want to be baptized." Whatever God shall press upon your soul, come now; do it now, while we stand and while we sing.
WHEN CAN A CHILD BE SAVED?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 3:1-10
I. A time when the child is too young
1. Not know good from evil
2. Why babies saved, 1 Corinthians 15:22
3. A step toward God
II. The soul of the child quickened
1. Eli sensitive to the sins of Hophni and Phineas
2. Age of accountability recognition
III. The call of God
2. The boy breaking down
3. Seed, pebble