“Suffer Little Children, And Forbid Them Not, To Come Unto Me” -- By: Hugh K. Wagner
BSac 65:258 (April 1908) p. 214
“Suffer Little Children, And Forbid Them Not, To Come Unto Me”
An Exposition Of Matthew 19:13-15
“It must not be dissembled that there are many real difficulties in the Christian Scriptures; whilst, at the same time, more, I believe, and greater, may justly be imputed to certain maxims of interpretation, which have obtained authority without reason, and are received without inquiry.”—Paley (from a sermon on 2 Peter 3:15–16).
With a profound conviction that, notwithstanding the lavish use which has been made of this passage of Scripture, in theological controversy and otherwise, the Word of God can yet shed light upon it, we undertake the gathering together of the rays of that light, in order that, when brought to a proper focus, they may illuminate this text with the mind of the Spirit of God, and dispel the mists and darkness of vagueness and preconceived opinion which have heretofore clouded its interpretation. We may run the risk of being thought presumptuous, but will, nevertheless, venture the assertion that no other passage of Scripture, considering the immense frequency with which it has been cited from the fathers to the present time, has received such cursory and arbitrary treatment as has this one.
The fact that it was so early in the church’s history taken as a ground for the baptism of infants, seems to have influenced all subsequent exegesis. “Ait Dominus, Nolite illos prohibere venire ad me,” was the common expression of
BSac 65:258 (April 1908) p. 215
satisfaction with the practice of infant baptism for centuries.1 That custom prevailing for many centuries, and being universal, after the time of Irenaeus, until the Reformation brought in the spirit of inquiry concerning the things of God, the passage seems to have acquired a supposititious meaning, one which sanctioned the baptism of infants, although baptism is not at all mentioned in either it or the parallel passages in the other Gospels, whilst the most ardent advocate of infant baptism would hardly contend that the little children here particularly referred to were brought to Jesus to be baptized; for John 4:2 expressly tells us that “Jesus himself baptized not.” The fact that “but his disciples” is added does not change the situation at all; for we read, also, “but the disciples rebuked them” (Matt. 19:13).
We do not, however, wish it to be thought that we purpose writing upon the subject of baptism—a fruitful cause of strife and contention...
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