The Child in the Midst

On page 323 of Science and Health Mrs. Eddy declares, "Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea." What unspeakable comfort to the weary struggler toward a hitherto distant and seemingly unattainable goal, to learn that simply willingness to become as a little child enables him to be as a little child, and ushers him into the freedom and gladness of conscious filial relation with our Father-Mother God.

When our Master would offer to his disciples a merited rebuke of their self-seeking and worldly ambition, he did not voice his reprimand directly, as was and is the usual method of those who recognize the necessity of warning a wrong-doer from his mistaken course, but, as was his custom, he spoke in parables, departing therefrom only to the extent of using an animate illustration. He called a little child and set him in the midst.

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We can easily imagine this child, leaning in happy confidence against the Master's knee, looking lovingly into his face or glancing wonderingly at the changing expressions on the weather-beaten countenances of the men who circled them. We can readily conceive that Jesus may have questioned the little one, eliciting replies so artless, loving, and unselfish that they disclosed to the listeners the intent of the colloquy and enabled them to hear understandingly the later message to be uttered for their benefit. With a little imagination we may picture the scene when at length, dismissed with a loving smile, the child bounded away to rejoin his playmates, turning now and again for another glimpse of the new friend, while the Master said, "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein."

How that lesson must have gone home to the hearts of the disciples! How the gentle rebuke must have penetrated their inmost nature, revealing the ugly lurking thoughts of envy, jealousy, greed, selfish ambition, until they may have trembled at the sight and again renewed their determination to withstand the tempter and prove themselves faithful and worthy followers of him who has long been rightly termed the great Exemplar. Is it too much to imagine that the wondrous lesson of that hour was present in the memory of Peter when he was preparing his admonition to those who had purified their hearts unto unfeigned love, that they should look to it that their love remained pure and fervent; or that it formed the unannounced text of the beloved disciple when he unfolded to the world that matchless delineation of "Jesus Christ the righteous," the "advocate with the Father," and "the propitiation ... for the sins of the whole world."

The child in the midst holds for us today a far deeper significance than that of merely serving as an illustration to the Master's admonitory rebuke to his immediate followers. Pondering the incident and glimpsing somewhat of its fuller meanings, one is led to make an application of the teachings of this parable differing widely from that commonly ascribed thereto. We have all striven zealously to analyze the childlike qualities of thought which we believe the Master intended to cite to his disciples, and we have all earnestly endeavored to compass and manifest such qualities in our daily lives, in order to win for ourselves abundant entrance into the kingdom of God. And we have all come sadly short of our desire, have tasted the bitterness of frustrated effort, and the acrid dregs of discouragement have lingered on our palates for long, filling us with sorrow and self-loathing because of repeated failures.

From such an experience the writer was roused one day by the sudden recollection of the words before quoted, "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein." In reality there was nothing to strive for, but everything to receive; nothing to do, but only to be "as a little child." Further meditation brought the conviction that entrance to the kingdom was measurable only by one's receptivity of being, and that to receive as a little child one must become and be as a little child. Childishness was not the right quality; child-being was requisite.

Almost instantly came the startling thought that perhaps the Master set the child in the midst of his disciples not as a rebuke to them, but as a recognition of the child in the midst of each one of them, and that this was the true lesson of the beautiful story. Then came the memory of his tender words uttered on the shore of Galilee, just before that last precious morning meal: "Children," he called to those weary and weather-worn fishermen, "Children, have ye any meat?" And the child in the midst, instantly obedient and trustful, heeded the word of counsel and realized the abundance which had been hidden to the adult belief. Could one have a clearer corroboration of the true meaning so long obscured and so radiantly revealed? Again, we know how frequently and how tenderly John addressed the early Christians as "little children," and how his loving thought overcame the unchildlike manifestations that often grieved his gentle heart, and held steadfastly to the one thing needful, so fully expressed in his words, "Love one another," thus indicating the key to the kingdom which has in our age been so clearly revealed in our text-book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mrs. Eddy.

But what of those from whom the vision is yet holden, who still toil all night and take nothing, who have not yet penetrated the secret of receiving? Even for them shall dawn the morning, and to their famishing sense shall sound the Master's word, "Children, have ye any meat?" And because they are children at heart, despite the blinding veils of time and sense, the child in the midst of each consciousness shall ultimately respond in full obedience and trust, and in the undimmed radiance of the risen morning shall always behold the face of the Father which is in heaven.

Reflecting the omnipresence of God, the child in the midst is also ever present, perhaps hidden by unlovely traits of mortal mind's producing, and it may be deeply obscured by successive layers of selfishness, envy, greed, ingratitude, ambitious desire, ignorance of God and man and of man's inalienable birthright, and all too frequently unrecognized by those to whom has been vouchsafed a glimpse of the revealing Truth. But no phase of mortal belief can forever hold in bondage the child in the midst, to whom the divine call sounds out across the sea of mortal thought, and for whom, as we read on page 454 of Science and Health, our Father's changeless love "inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way" to the kingdom.

"Christian sermons"
January 6, 1917

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