How can we account for this on the ground of infant sinlessness? Do we not all believe that suffering and death are the results of sin? Is there, can there be suffering and death where there is no sin? No; “the wages of sin is death.” But this wages is never exacted where the work of sin has not been done. The conclusion then is irresistible. The child is a sinner. It needs salvation. It must be reached by saving Grace. It must be counted in. It is one of the subjects of salvation, and must be brought into the Way of Salvation.
The Church is the Bride of Christ, the institution through which Christ brings and applies this Grace to the children of men. She must begin with the child. She must reach down to the tender infant and carry the cleansing and life-giving Grace of the Redeemer even into its sin-sick soul.
How is this to be done? How does the Lutheran Church propose to reach that child? This we shall try to answer as we advance.
ALL THAT IS BORN
OF THE FLESH MUST
BE BORN OF THE SPIRIT.
In the former chapter we have shown, from Scripture and from reason, that our Church teaches only the plain truth, when she confesses that: “After Adam’s fall, all men, begotten after the common course of nature, are born with sin.”
As a sinful being the new-born infant is not in the Way of Salvation. By its natural birth, from sinful parents, it is not in the kingdom of God, but in the realm and under the dominion of sin, death and the devil. If left to itself—to the undisturbed development of its own nature, it must miserably and hopelessly perish. True, there is a relative innocence. The Apostle exhorts: “Be ye followers of God, as dear children.” “In malice be ye children.” Our blessed Saviour, on several occasions, rebuked the vain, ambitious spirit of the disciples by contrasting it with the spirit of a little child. He said: “Of such is the kingdom of heaven,” and “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”
These passages are generally quoted by those who refuse to believe the doctrine of Original Sin, as though they taught sinlessness and entire fitness for the kingdom. But if we accept this interpretation, then the Scriptures contradict themselves; for we have seen that, in many places, they clearly teach the opposite. These passages can only mean that children are relatively innocent. Compared with the forbidding, haughty, loveless disciples, little children are much better subjects for the kingdom. While the roots of sin are there, that sin has not yet done its hardening work.
They do not wilfully resist the good. They are much more tender, docile, trustful and loving. The Grace of God has less to overcome in them. They are more easily reached, and thus are fit subjects to be brought into the kingdom of God. In this sense only can it be said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” that I may touch them, bless them, impart my Grace to them, and thus make them partakers of my kingdom. “Of such is the kingdom” because I desire and purpose to bring them into the kingdom.