THE CHILD-BIRTH"When the time of purification is completed for either a son or a daughter, the woman must bring a year-old lamb for a whole burnt offering and a young pigeon or turtledove for a purification offering. She must take her offerings to the priest at the entrance of the Tabernacle. The priest will then present them to the Lord and make atonement for her. Then she will be ceremonially clean again after her bleeding at childbirth. This is the law to be followed after the birth of a son or a daughter." Leviticus 12:6-7
This chapter brings us to new fields of thought. The curtains of domestic life fall back. A mother and her new-born babe appear. Where is the mind, which can turn heedlessly away? Where is the heart, which will not pause and melt? In this event, being begins, which never can have end.—Such is the fact, and it speaks solemnly.
The cradled infant is but a tiny rill. It scarcely seems to trickle. But it must onward flow, until its waters form an ocean without bottom—without shore. A tender blade just sprouts, but roots must deepen, and boughs spread, through the expanse of an interminable age. Each birth is deathless increase to the world of spirits. A new 'eternity' gains life.
Reader, these magnitudes are yoked to every mother's babe. What scales can weigh the value of each child? Pile suns on suns—bring all the treasures, which all nature holds—ransack all mines of choicest ore, their wealth, though large, is finite. But here is a new infinity. Offspring, which once breathes, runs far beyond all time, and outlives all the glory of all worlds.
Thus solemn is the scene. Next God's voice sounds beside the Jewish cradle. Solemnity becomes more solemn. What are its accents? Is its call to gratitude and joy alone? Is its design to kindle praise for peril past, and dear addition to the family delights? Not so. It writes 'pollution' on child-bearing.
It sentences the mother, as 'unclean'. It bars her from communion of social life and pious rites. It bows her head in shame. It dooms her, as though some leprous spot was seen, to solitude's retreat. Lev. 12:2-5.
Reader, reflect. What is the moral of this rule? Is it our wisdom to enquire. True, 'ceremonial' stains have long since ceased. True, 'legal' offerings no more can cleanse. The Gospel-rays scatter all twilight mists. But principles have undying root. The cause, which then existed, still survives. Mothers in every age are virtually addressed.
But why is shame the twin of every offspring born?
Behold the infant, and receive reply. What is its nature, character, and taste? Let not fond feeling shrink from weighing it in scales of truth. Is it a little innocent? conceived in purity? and shaped in holy mold? Is its essence clean?
It is indeed a wondrous fabric. But what is the quarry, which supplies its parts? The tender frame contains the germ of countless passions—multitudinous desires and thoughts—as many as the ocean's sands. Are these the germs of godly life? Do they give promise of ripe fruit for God? If so, the birth is holy; and bearing mothers should not bear the brand of shame.
But facts show not this smiling face. The babe is sinful produce of a sinful race. Corruption's seal is fixed upon its brow.
Reader, trace back the cause. Return in thought to Eden's terrible offence. When our first parents fell into sin's mire, what a tremendous change changed their entire being! Innocence forever died in man. Iniquity, as a conqueror, claimed the captive land. The fountain-head received deep poison. No drop could henceforth issue, free from taint. The root of human life is rotten to the core. All sprouts have evil taste. Human nature was spoiled of God's fair image. What nature no more has, it can no more bestow. Its properties are guilt; and guilt alone can be imparted by it. From Adam's fatal passage into Satan's realms, each child is Satan's bondslave. Each birth now propagates corruption. Hence she, who bare, is warned to bend, as bullrush in the valley. She must sit solitary as unclean.
There is strong need to show the case, without deception's mask. Nature is prone to partial love. She sees her own with an admiring eye. She pictures infants, as fair purity's abode. But it is never gain—it rather is great loss—to trample upon truth. No flowers of profit can be plucked from error's barren branch. The wise man finds his happy seat at Scripture's feet. His only guidance is; "Thus says the Lord."
Let then, no mother, while she clasps her babe, deck it in robes of visionary innocence. Her love makes it no lovely object in God's sight. Affection's estimate is not the estimate of heaven. A soul, indeed, is born to immortality. But let its birth state be distinctly seen. It brings no soul-life with it. Nature gives various senses—but no sense of God. The heart has neither eye to see, nor ear to hear, nor foot to seek, the upward path of life. Each feeling has a bias to transgression's ways. Leave but the child to the inbred desire, and evil—only evil—will be sought. When choice can choose, it will take Satan's yoke. When hands can handle, they will grasp his tools. When lips can speak, his language will be learned. When feet can run, they will rush headlong towards hell. So wisdom teaches. So experience finds.
Will then the mother say, alas! that such a life has birth from me? Faith speaks not thus. It knows, that there is remedy for all this evil. It looks to Christ, and fears recede before hope's dawn. Apart from Christ, the babe must enter on a voyage of woe, and pass through troublous billows to the whirlpool of despair. Apart from Christ, its course must be one flow of misery; its end one gulf of ruin. But if Christ looks on it with love; if He receive it to His arms of grace; then neither thought can think, nor words proclaim, how blessed is a birth on earth!
Think what Christ grants. There is a merit in His precious blood, which wipes out all sin's stains. There is a refuge in His wounded side, which screens from wrath and curse. There is a beauty in His glorious righteousness, which is fit mantle for the courts of heaven. He can send forth the Spirit's power, to breathe new life into the dead-born soul. He can remove the blindness from the eye—the deafness from the ear—the torpor from the heart. He can convert the stone into the tender soil, in which all fruits of godliness shall spring. He can burst Satan's iron yoke. He can keep pure from all temptation's snares. He can make earth an upward flight to heaven. He can present the spirit blameless before God. Through His transforming might, that child of wrath may brightly shine a jewel in redemption's crown. Through His all-saving work, it may sing sweetly in the realms of light.
There is such hope in Christ. He is the treasury of full, rich, blessed, glorious grace. The second Adam more than repairs the damage of the first. He snatches from the lowest depths. He raises to the highest heights. He can exalt to all that heaven contains.
Prayer is the Christian mother's stronghold. It is a golden key to unlock God's treasury. Faith's importunities prevail. Mighty desires, which cannot sit down mute, spring from above, and will not fail. The Spirit pleads within such wrestling heart; and all His pleadings reflect the mind of God. The offspring of much prayer is loved in heaven, before it is loved on earth. Scripture writes not in vain, how interceding parents ever gained their suit. They cry. Christ hears, and smiles, and answers—and His answers are, Satan despoiled, and saving grace bestowed. When nursing is one strong petition, the child is nestled in Salvation's arms.
Faith next draws comfort from the baptismal font. Christ gives a special ordinance, to which new-born may come. It is a token of His early care. It is a seal of his adopting grace. Herein we read a tender Savior's tender heart. Is it His will, that infant offspring should be as outcasts in vile nature's waste? Sacramental provision slays such doubt. We see His arms out-stretched—we hear His urgent call, "Allow little children to come unto me, and forbid them not." This rite abounds in hope. It is no mocking form. It is ordained, as means of grace. Cast out the thought, that infancy excludes the Spirit's breath. If willful sin be no impervious bar; much less the fault of an inherited disease. Jeremiah's heart began to beat with sanctified pulse. The Baptist's second birth was scarcely younger than the first. The God, who blessed them, is always one. Mercy has trod this early path, and may tread it again.
Christian mother, proceed to educate your child for Christ. So soon as thoughts begin to flow, they must have channel. Why should that course be nature and not grace? What, though the tender mind be weak for argumental proof? The truths of Jesus are not arguments, but facts. The precious truths of life's high tree may fall down into childhood's lap. The tender Shepherd—seeking a lost lamb—and dying on the cross to buy it from a robber's hand—and washing it in streams from His own side—and feeding it in verdant pastures—and bearing it in His strong arms—and loving it with constant love—and raising it to a bright home, are thoughts, which weakest minds can grasp. These, when once grasped in saving power, can never be completely lost. Let the first lesson be the love of God—the grace of Christ—the Spirit's present help. Let the young eye be early turned to Calvary's dying scene. Let memory's page take its first lines from Jesus's life. Let thought's soft tendrils be entwined around truth's stem. Then, through rich mercy, there is solid hope, that the child born on earth, is born an heir of heaven. Corruption's seed will not prevail. Satan's chains will fall. The unclean will be cleansed. The Child-birth thus adds citizens to heaven.
The infant in the Jewish lap reminds of other truth. If it be son, the days of the maternal shame are less. If it be daughter, the unclean period is double. Lev. 12:2-5. We may not pass this difference unremarked. The cause seems hidden from a casual glance. But thought, which dives into the ocean of God's mind, is here soon carried back to Eden's guilt, and the first act of sin. It was the woman, who first listened to the serpent's wile. Her mind first went stray. Her will first lusted. Her hand first touched. Rebellion in the man was inexcusable offence; but woman's transgression beckoned to the snare. There is no difference in the sin. The guilt of each is infinite in dye. But there is slight difference in order of event; and a recording rite keeps this in memory's view. The stamp of lengthened degradation was fixed on each female birth. Sin's entrance was thus marked. Hence the foul misery is more abhorred. Hence the one remedy is more loved.
When the appointed days of shame are past, the excluding barrier is solemnly removed. Especial rites are ordered. Two victims are now slain. The one, as a burnt-sacrifice, blazes on the altar. The other is an offering for sin. Lev. 12:6.
The Gospel here speaks loudly. Defilement cannot cease, without blood shed. A dying Savior must atone, before sin vanishes, and the sinner is brought back to God.
Reader, you are unclean. There is no act—no word—no thought of any day, which is not dark before God's eye. But Jesus is near, and able to make pure. Wash, and be clean. Wash, and be reconciled. Wash, and be welcomed to receiving arms. Wash, and look upward to a Father's smile. Wash, and look onward to a Savior's throne!
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