When I call to remembrance [R.V., having been reminded of] the unfeigned faith that is in thee.
Some recorded circumstance, some spoken words, some searching test, had convinced St. Paul that Timothy at the present time was shedding no womanish tears, that his faith had revealed its strength and reality. If put to a severe strain there was now no mistake about it. His faith was not a mask of unbelief, not a mere species of personal affection for the apostle, nor was it an unpractical faith, or one dependent on circumstances. St. Paul may once have entertained some transient doubt about Timothy. His fears may have exaggerated to himself the significance of Timothy's excessive grief. The words of despair wrung from his lips at their parting may have distressed the apostle; but now the ugly suspicion is suppressed and no longer haunts his nightly intercession.
A lady and gentleman were being shown over the Mint by the Master of the Mint, who took them from the gate where the rough gold came in until they saw it going out in the form of coins to the bank for distribution all over the country. When they were in the melting-room, the Master said, "Do you see that pail of liquid?" "Yes." "If you dip your hand into it I will pour a ladleful of molten gold into your hand, and it will roll off it without hurting you." "Oh!" was the remark somewhat sceptically made. "Do you not believe me?" inquired the Master. "Well; yes, I do," replied the gentleman. "Hold out your hand, then." When he saw the boiling gold above his hand, ready to be poured out, the gentleman took a step back, and, in terror, put his hand behind his back. The lady, however, stooped down, dipped her hand into the liquid, and holding it out, said, "Pour it into my hand." She really believed, and could trust, but her friend had not the practical faith to enable him to trust.
THE PECULIAR EXCELLENCE FOR WHICH TIMOTHY 1S HERE COMMENDED — "Unfeigned faith." St. Paul goes to the root of all that was excellent in Timothy — namely, his faith. Not but that he could at other times dwell with pleasure on the fruits of that faith; especially when speaking of him to others. A beautiful specimen we have in Philippians 2:19-22
. But in writing to Timothy himself, he thinks it most profitable to insist upon the source of that excellent character — his faith.
II. THE INSTRUMENTAL CAUSE TO WHICH THE FAITH OF TIMOTHY IS HERE ASCRIBED — namely, the previous faith of his pious mother, Eunice, and of his grandmother, Lois. The only effectual cause to which unfeigned faith can be ascribed, is the grace of Christ and His Spirit. Nevertheless, in conferring this precious gift, the Lord frequently works by instruments or means. The case of these excellent women, then, may lead us to observe the special honour conferred on the weaker sex, in their being often made —
1. Foremost in faith and piety. Man fell by the woman's transgression; but it is by the seed of the woman that he is redeemed. The first convert in Europe was a woman — Lydia. In every period of the history of the Church women have been more open to conviction, more simple believers in Christ, more devoted in their zeal for His cause, than others.
2. Foremost in spiritual usefulness. Such they were in the case before us. Now this remarkable succession of piety, 1.n three generations of the same family, was a blessing from God, in honour of female faith — "unfeigned faith." "Them that honour Me," saith God, "I will honour."
All other graces do still accompany it. Where it is they all be. Faith may be compared to a prince which, wheresoever he pitcheth his tents, hath many rich attendants (1 Corinthians 13
), as love, hope, zeal, patience, etc. Faith expelleth infidelity out of the heart, as heat doth cold, wind, smoke, for they he contraries. It cannot, nor will not, admit of so bad a neighbour; it shoulders out all unprofitable guests (Acts 15:9
; Hebrews 4:2
). And besides this, faith makes our actions acceptable to God; for without it it is impossible to please God: this is that true fire which cometh down from heaven and seasons all our sacrifices (Hebrews 2:6
; Romans 14:1
). What, then, are they worthy of, that neither respect it in themselves nor others; many have no care to plant this flower in the garden of their hearts; or, if they have it, to preserve it from perishing. Jonah mourned that his gourd withered, yet we grieve not if faith be destroyed.
The world cries, What's a man without money? but I say, What's a man without faith? For no faith, no soul quickened; heart purified, sin pardoned; bond cancelled, quittance received; or any person justified, saved.
I say that to all, which I do to one, get faith, keep faith, and increase your faith. A mite of this grain is worth a million of gold; a stalk of this faith, a standing tree of earthly fruits; a soul freighted and filled with this treasure, all the coffers of silver in the whole world. What can I more say? The least true faith is of more value than large domains, stately buildings, and ten thousand rivers of oil. If the mountains were pearl, the huge rocks precious stones, and the whole globe a shining chrysolite; yet faith, as much as the least drop of water, grain of sand, or smallest mustard-seed, is more worth than all. This will swim with his master; hold up his drooping head, and land him safe at the shore, against all winds and weather, storms and tempests; strive then for this freight; for the time and tide thereof serveth but once, and not for ever.
The grandmother, the mother, and the mother's son, had the same faith; and the like fruits proceeded from them, else Paul would never have called it unfeigned, or said that it dwelt in them, or given them all three one and the same testimony. All three had faith, and unfeigned faith. For the likeness of actions were in them, and proceed from them, by the which it was called unfeigned, and equally appropriated to each particular person. And it is an undoubted position that faith produceth the like effects in all God's children; in truth, it must be understood, not in degree. For as faith increaseth, the effects are bettered. Many lanterns, with several candles, will all give light; but in proportion to their adverse degrees and quantities. Every piece hath his report, but according to the bigness, and, each instrument will sound, but variously as they be in proportion, and that for these reasons. Because faith differs not in kind, but in degree, and like causes produce like effects. Every bell hath its sound, each tone its weight, and several plants, their diverse influences; yet not in the same measure, though they may vary in kind. Again, faith is diffused into subjects, though several, yet they are the same in nature and consist of like principles. Fire, put into straw, will either smoke or burn, let the bundles be a thousand; life in the body will have motion, though not in the same degree and measure; and reason in every man acteth, but not so exquisitely. The constitution may not be alike, therefore a difference may be in operation natural, and also from the same ground, in acts spiritual. A dark horn in the lantern dims the light somewhat,
From this point we may learn how to judge of the faith in our times which so many boast of; they cry, Have not we faith? do riot we believe as well as the best? But where be the fruits of faith unfeigned? hast thou an humble and purging heart? dost thou call upon God at all times, "tarry His leisure, and rely upon His promise? art thou bold and resolute for good causes? canst thou resist Satan? cleave to God, and shun the appearances of evil? will neither poverty oppress thee by despair, or prosperity by presumption? Why, it is well, and we believe, that faith is to be found in thee, but if not, thou hast it not rooted in thee. For the tree is known by the fruit. Will not the flower smell? the candle give light? and the fire heat? and shall true faith be without her effects? Boast not too much, lest thou deceive thyself, taking the shadow for the body; and that which is not for that which should be.
Which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice
conjectured that Lois and Eunice were relatives of St. Paul. This is only conjecture. There is far more reason for believing that they were converts made by him on his first visit to Lystra. In the Jewish communities of these Asiatic towns there were elect souls who had begun to cherish larger hopes for humanity. If Lois had permitted her daughter to marry a Greek, and yet had retained her faith in the promises made to Israel, and if Eunice had so far yielded to her husband's views or habits as to have foregone for her only son the sacramental rite of admission to the Jewish nation, and yet, notwithstanding this, had diligently instructed him in the history and contents of Holy Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15
). We have a glimpse of light thrown upon the synagogues and homes of devout Israelites in Asia Minor.
is the same with the more familiar Lois; Eunice is an equivalent of the Latin Victoria.
Christian faith in its morning (Timothy), at noon (Eunice), and at the evening of life (Lois).
Like the celebrated mothers of , of , of Basil
, and of other illustrious saints of God, the life, sincerity and constancy of Lois and Eunice became vicariously a glorious heritage of the universal Church.
The infidelity of the father prevents not faith in the children. For if it had, Eunice and Timothy and many more should never have been found faithful (1 Kings 14:13
; 1 Corinthians 7:14
2. Succession of faith is the best succession.
3. Where we see signs of goodness, we are to judge the best.
4. When we give others instruction, we are first to possess them with the per suasion of our affection. For then they will take it in good part, and our words will have the deeper impression.
Among the reminiscences of a great statesman, Daniel Webster, it is related that on one occasion a public reception was given him in Boston. Thousands of his country's citizens crowded together and paid him homage. Bursts of applause had been sounding all day in his ears. Elegantly dressed ladies had thrown bouquets of the rarest flowers at his feet. But as he ascended the stops leading to his mansion, crowned with the honours of the gala day, a little, timid girl stepped up and placed a bunch of old-fashioned garden pinks in his hand. At sight of these old, familiar flowers, and their well-remembered fragrance filled the air, the old memories were stirred. Just such pinks used to grow in his mother's garden when he was a child. Instantly that sweet face of the loved mother came to his vision; her tender, gentle voice sounded once more in his ears. So overcome was he with the tide of old memories that crowded into his heart that he excused himself, and went to his apartments alone. "Nothing," said he, "in all my life affected me like that little incident." John Newton in his worst days could never forget his mother, at whose knees he had learned to pray, but who was taken to heaven when he was but eight years old. "My mother's God, the God of mercy, have mercy upon me!" was often his agonising prayer in danger, and we all know how it was answered.
If we call him great who planned the Cathedral of St. Peter, with all its massiveness and beauty; if they call the old masters great whose paintings hang on monastery and chapel walls, is not she (the mother) great who is building up characters for the service of God, who is painting on the soul canvas the beauty and strength of Jesus the Christ?
Give me a generation of Christian mothers and I will under take to change the whole face of society in twelve months.
A missionary in Ceylon writes as a "noticeable fact" that where Christian women are married to heathen husbands, generally the influence in the household is Christian; whereas, when a Christian man takes a heathen woman he usually loses his Christian character, and the influences of the household are on the side of heathenism.
We may read in the fable what the mother crab said to the daughter: "Go forward, my daughter, go forward." The daughter replied, "Good mother, do you show me the way?" Whereupon the mother, crawling backward and sidling, as she was wont, the daughter cried out, "So, mother! I go just as you do."
Sir Walter Scott's mother was a superior woman, and a great lover of poetry and painting. Byron's mother was proud, ill-tempered, and violent. The mother of Napoleon Buonaparte was noted for her beauty and energy. Lord Bacon's mother was a woman of superior mind and deep piety. The mother of Nero was a murderess. The mother of Washington was pious, pure, and true. The mother of Matthew Henry was marked by her superior conversational powers. The mother of John Wesley was remarkable for her intelligence, piety, and executive ability, so that she has been called the "Mother of Methodism." It will be observed that in each of these examples the child inherited the prominent traits of the mother.
"It was at my mother's knees," he says, "that I first learned to pray; that I learned to form a reverence for the Bible as the inspired word of God; that I learned the peculiarities of the Scottish religion; that I learned my regard to the principles of civil and religious liberty, which have made me hate oppression and — whether it be a pope, or a prelate, or an ecclesiastical demagogue — resist the oppressor."
First, for then they will remember it when they are old (Proverbs 23:13
). Dye cloth in the wool, not in the web, and the colour will be the better, the more durable. Secondly, to defer this duty is dangerous, for thou mayst be took from them. Who then shall teach them after thy departure? (2 Kings 2:24
). Thirdly, besides, what if they come to faith? Will it not be with the more difficulty? Fallow ground must have the stronger team, great trees will not easily bend, and a bad habit is not easily left and better come by. If their memories be stuffed with vanity as a table-book, the old must be washed out before new can be written in. Fourthly, what shall I more say? God works strangely in children, and rare things have been found in them; and what a comfort will it be for parents in their life, to hear their children speak of good things, and at the last day, when they can say to Christ, Here am I, and the children Thou hast given me!
Some one asked a mother whose children had turned out very well, what was the secret by which she prepared them for usefulness and for the Christian life, and she said, "This was the secret. When in the morning I washed my children, I prayed that they might be washed in the fountain of a Saviour's mercy. When I put on their garments, I prayed that they might be arrayed in the robe of a Saviour's righteousness. When I gave them food, I prayed that they might be fed with manna from heaven. When I started them on the road to school I prayed that their faith might be as the shining light, brighter and brighter to the perfect day. When I put them to sleep, I prayed that they might be enfolded in the Saviour's arms."
Rightly to train a single youth is a greater exploit than the taking of Troy.
"I owe a great deal to nay grandmother," said a young man who was courageous and true above many in his Christian life. "Why, what did she do for you? Oh, she just sat by the fire." "Did she knit?" "A little." "Did she talk to you?" "A little; but grannie was not much of a talker; she did not go in for all that, you know; but she just sat and looked comfortable, and when we were good she smiled, and when we were wild in our talk she smiled too, but if ever we were mean she sighed. We all loved her, and nobody did as much for us, really, as grannie."
A household that fears God is another joy of my life. I would rather see it than the finest landscape. I can understand why Sir Walter Scott got his seat put down in his garden, within earshot of his bailiff's cottage, that he might always hear the sound of the psalms at morning and evening worship. There never was incense sweeter from morning or evening sacrifice! A home, where the father and mother walk in the narrow way, is pretty sure to find their children accompany ing them. Not that God's gifts are hereditary, but example goes a great way, and if the parent, who is the highest on earth to the child, live a Christian life, it is very seldom the child Will not follow him. It depends on the parent. If the mother, or father, or both, be real Christians, gentle, kind, reverent, pure, the little ones grow accustomed to these graces and catch them almost unconsciously.
A few years ago a gentleman died in Germany whose name was almost unknown both in Great Britain and on the Continent. A physician by profession, and an inheritor of a title, he lived a life of comparative seclusion. He was never in the front at any pageant or ceremonial of any court. He was never known when treaties and alliances were made between reigning sovereigns. In diplomatic circles his name was never prominently mentioned. And yet no man of his time in all Europe had more influence in determining the destiny of nations than he. He was the power behind thrones. He was the intimate confidant of princes. He rendered the most important services to England and to Germany. His was one of those "suppressed lives" which are so often lives of commanding power. It was a suppressed life, expressed in kings, parliaments, and statesmen. Such lives are to be found in literary circles. It is often a matter of infinite surprise that such marvels of erudition and widest compass of reading in the domain of metaphysics, philosophy, theology, and ecclesiastical history, can be produced by a single man in the compass of so short a life as is given the world by many a German writer. But the secret is, that behind the life of the author, who may receive all the praise of the public, are scores of suppressed lives. These are the men of culture and training who are doing the toiling drudgery, wading through volumes, finding and verifying quotations. It is well known that in the business world these suppressed lives play a most important part. Many an employer is dependent upon the labours of faithful men, unknown to the world, who have mastered all the intricacies of a complex business, and upon whom they implicitly depend for advice in its management. St. Paul, after his somewhat depressing visit to Athens, found a home in the humble abode of Aquila and Priscilla, in the busy, sensual city of Corinth. In the house of this lowly artisan he found rest, refreshment, and strength. Working with him side by side, in the plebeian craft of tent-making, the great apostle to the Gentiles derived new zeal and energy for his great work from the life and conversation of this faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. In the same home the eloquent Alexandrian, Apollos, found shelter and instruction. In his life, full of eloquent thought and speech, and still more eloquent deeds, their suppressed lives found a brilliant and glorious expression. These two lives may justly stand for the lives of the great multitude of teachers in the Sunday Schools and other schools of our land. Suppressed lives mostly they are. Comparatively unrecognised is the influence these teachers are exerting upon the destinies of the millions of children intrusted to their care. In St. Paul's words to Timothy, as quoted in the text, we have the recognition of the power of suppressed lives in the charmed circle of the home. An ampler life has been opened to woman than heretofore in our day. The most thoroughgoing infidel cannot deny that Christianity above all other systems guards and glorifies the home; that it has given to the wife and the mother the unique and the peerless position they hold in the countries where the highest civilisation is enjoyed. This Bible before me loves to honour the home. Who can estimate the influence of the suppressed lives in these homes? In that obscure country rectory at Epworth lived the mother of the Wesleys. The husband was a dreamy, poetical, unpractical man. The household quiver was full and running over with children. She was the teacher of them all. John Wesley was taught by her the alphabet for the twentieth time, that. in her own language, "the nineteenth might not be in vain." She kept up with the classical studies of her boys until they went away from home to school and college. She managed her large family with the economy extolled by "Poor Richard," with "the discipline of West Point," and yet in the loving spirit of the home at Bethany. She was the constant counsellor of her once seemingly stupid but now most gifted son John, and the earnest defender if not initiator of the greatest ecclesiastical movement of our day — the coming to the front in every Christian enterprise of the laymen of the Church. She stood in her old age by the side of that son when, as the foremost religions leader of the centuries, he preached on Kensington common the memorable sermon to twenty thousand persons, and "the slain of the Lord" lay in windrows before him. The grey-haired, bent, and silent mother was speaking in the burning words and ringing tones of the great reformer. The mother of Washington lived and triumphed in the matchless deeds of the father of his country.
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