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Note the words of the text. “Spake I not unto you, saying, do not sin against the child?” (Gen. 42:22). The essence of sin lies in its being committed against God. When men are fully convinced that they have disobeyed the Lord, and that this is “the head and font of their offending,” then they are brought to a true perception of the character of sin. Hence David’s penitential psalm has for its acutest cry, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight” (Ps. 51:4). Yet the sword of sin cuts both ways, it not only contends against God but against his creatures too. It is a double evil. Like a bursting shell, it scatters evil on every side. Every relationship which we sustain involves duty, and consequently, may be perverted into an occasion for sin. We are no sooner in this world than, as children, we sin against our parents; as members of a family we sin against brothers and sisters; and against playmates and acquaintances. We launch into the outside world, and…[our] sins dash like raging billows. As our various relations are multiplied, our sins increase also: we sin against a husband or wife, against a servant or against a master, against a buyer or a seller. On all sides the roots of our soul suck up sin from the earth in which they spread. We sin in public and sin in private, sin against our poverty and against our wealth. Our sin, drops on all who come under our shadow. As the sea surrounds all shores, so sin beats with deadly waves upon all connected with our life. Our hundred-handed sin assails both heaven and earth, time and eternity, great and small, old men and children.
The text calls us to consider one particular form of sin, namely sinning against a child.… This warning may be suitable for every one of us without exception, [even] for those who are not parents, and who are not teachers of the young, of which young people make up a very considerable part. Little eyes are so quick to observe the actions of those who are grown up, that adults should be careful what they do. Every man, by his own conduct, is, more or less, educating the rising generation of the nation. If a man acteth amiss, if his speech be foul, if his conversation be polluted, he helps to educate children in the school of Belial. If, on the other hand, his ways are right, and by the grace of God he is made to act morally and to speak truthfully, he is doing something, unconsciously it may be, but still he is doing something to train up one for virtue and holiness.
The exhalations of our moral conduct sweeten or defile the general atmosphere of society, and in this children, as well as others, are partakers. I would say to every man who is giving full swing to his passions, if nothing else will check you, at any rate pause awhile when yonder fair-haired girls and lisping children are gazing upon you. If you care not for angels, stop for the sake of yon blue-eyed boy. Let not the leprosy of your sin pollute your offspring more than must be. Were you about to utter a lascivious sentence? Withhold it, I pray you, for it is not meet that little ears should so soon be desecrated by that which has become common enough to you, but will as yet be shocking to them. Were you about to blaspheme? Is it not enough to curse your Maker? Why need you bring a second curse upon that harmless little one? Why teach those lips that will be all too ready to learn to speak the hideous word? Man, if any feeling be left to you, respect the purity of childhood, and let the presence of youth, if it be not a motive for sanctity, at any rate be a reason for restraint in open sin. Do not sin cruelly and wantonly against the child.
But I would not merely put it in a light which may suit the vilest. You, dear friend, whoever you may be, owe a service to your neighbor. You are to love him as yourself — and that word “neighbor” includes all mankind: the bond of the command is not limited to those who are over one-and-twenty, and have assumed the responsibilities of manhood; when God wrote this law, He meant it to take in the whole sweep of our race. The religion of Christ is a religion of love to manhood as such: it bids us regard the babe upon its mother’s knee as well as the grey beard leaning upon his staff — to all it speaks of love to all. You are bound, therefore, by the universal law, to have a love towards children; and, as in the first place, you are to refrain from doing or saying anything which would injure their morals for this life, so are you bound, as much as lieth in you, to do all you can to train them by your own example for excellence and happiness in the path of right. I put forth God’s claim and man’s claim, this morning to all of you, a claim from which you cannot escape by any pretence whatever, a claim which cannot be forgotten without sin. We are all under obligations, both to old and young, to rich and poor, and specially I urge the claims of those who as yet cannot speak for themselves. To each and every child you are under an obligation as a member of the great human family, as a citizen in one great kingdom, to do nothing which may injure, and everything which may promote his future welfare. I summon before you all the host who gather at their mothers’ knees, and beseech you by the bowels of humanity not to drag these little ones down to hell.…
Parents, will you not pray for your children, and even today seek to hold up Jesus before them? Will we not all, God helping us, say within ourselves, that we will not longer sin against the child, but in Jesus’ name seek to gather His lambs and feed them for Him? Amen.
An excerpt from sermon no. 840 on Genesis 42:22 by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. In the public domain.