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the wrath of God, for you: and it is but a small sacrifice, in comparison, that he requires you to make for him.]
2. Those who set themselves against the truth of God
[You can never prevail, in fighting against God: or, if you prevail in any particular instance, you only aggravate so much the more your own guilt and condemnation. It were better for you to have a millstone fastened to your neck, and be cast into the depths of the sea, than that you should offend one of Christ's little ones.]
3. Those who are enabled to maintain their steadfastness in the midst of an ungodly world
[Perhaps you have suffered somewhat for the Lord. But have you found any cause to regret it? Have not the consolations of Christ abounded above all your afflictions? You may possibly have yet more to suffer for his sake. But, for your encouragement, he has declared, that, "whilst he will deny those who deny him, he will admit all who suffer with him to reign with him in glory for ever and ever." "Be then faithful unto death; and expect assuredly, at his hands, a crown of life."]
e 2 Tim. ii. 12.
THE EARLY KNOWLEDGE OF TIMOTHY.
2 Tim. iii. 15. From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
IN seasons of heavy trial it is of great advantage to have had a long acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures and the principles of religion. A novice is apt to be astonished, and to wonder that a change so favourable as that which he has experienced, ("from a brier to a myrtle-tree",") should excite nothing but enmity in those around him. But a person conversant with the word of God, and established with his grace, has counted the cost: he knows what he is to expect: he knows what others have experienced before him; and the very storms
a Isai. lv. 13.
which threaten his existence, serve only to confirm him in the truths he has professed. In this view St. Paul encourages Timothy to hold fast the profession of his faith without wavering, and to "continue in the things he had learned," without being intimidated by persecutors, or deceived by seducers".
From his words we shall consider
I. The early knowledge of Timothy
He was acquainted with the Holy Scriptures
[By "the Holy Scriptures" we must understand, not merely the words, but the doctrines, of Scripture. Doubtless Timothy was acquainted with our fall in Adam, and the consequent depravity of our nature. He knew also the true scope of all the sacrifices as pointing to that Lamb of God who was to take away the sin of the whole world. Nor could he be ignorant of the necessity of divine influences, in order to a renovation of our hearts, and a restoration of the soul to the Divine image.
But it was not a theoretical knowledge even of these things which would have satisfied the mind of the Apostle: it must have been a practical and experimental knowledge of them. He must have felt and bewailed the plague of his own heart: he must have relied on Jesus as his only hope: he must have been renewed in the spirit of his mind by the power of the Holy Ghost: in short, he must have been " a new creature in Christ Jesus," or else the Apostle would never have thought his knowledge a proper ground of congratulation.]
These he knew from a child
[It is generally thought that children are incapable of understanding the mysterious truths of the Gospel. We readily acknowledge that these truths exceed the capacity, not of children only, but of the wisest philosopher; for "the natural man cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned." But God can give a spiritual discernment to children, as well as to adults; and, supposing this to be given, there is nothing in the Gospel which a child may not understand as well as an adult. Children may have their affections exercised on things proper to call them forth. If God discover to them that they are sinners, and obnoxious to his wrath, they may fear his displeasure: if he shew them that he has provided salvation for them in Christ Jesus, they may hope in his mercy: if he reveal his pardoning love to their souls, they may rejoice in his salvation. The difficulty lies,
not in feeling suitable emotions, but in having a practical conviction of those truths which are calculated to excite them. This practical conviction none but God can give; and he is as able to give it to one as to another. Indeed God does prefer those who are babes, in knowledge at least, and sometimes also in years; for David says, that "God had ordained strength, and perfected praise out of the mouth of babes and sucklings" and our blessed Lord made it a matter of joy and thanksgiving, that his heavenly Father had "hid divine things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes." Do we desire instances of early conversion? Josiah sought the Lord at eight years of ages. Samuel was devoted to him at a still earlier period of life. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb. But, if there were no other instance upon record, it would be sufficient that we are told, that Timothy knew the Holy Scriptures "from a child."]
We shall, with the Apostle, congratulate Timothy, if we consider,
II. The excellency of that knowledge
It was "able to make him wise".
[Wisdom is that which is most of all coveted, and for the attainment of which no expense or trouble are accounted too great. Now the wisdom contained in the inspired volume infinitely surpasses all that can be collected from other books. It shews us what we were in our original formation, and what we now are. It shews us wherein the chief good consists, and how we may attain it. It shews us every thing, whether good or evil, in its true light, and enables us to form the very same judgment respecting it that God himself does. It teaches us how to fill every station and relation of life to the greatest possible advantage. It even draws aside the veil of heaven itself, and exhibits to us God in all his glorious perfections. It reveals to us the three persons of the Godhead, co-operating in the work of man's salvation, and executing distinct offices for our eternal good. What is all the boasted wisdom of philosophers, when compared with this?]
It was able to make him "wise unto salvation"— [All wisdom that stops short of this is only splendid folly. How vain will the wisdom of philosophers or statesmen appear, when once we are entered into the eternal world! Nothing
d 1 Cor. i. 26-28.
h1 Sam. ii. 18, 26.
e Ps. viii. 2. with Matt. xxi. 16.
2 Chron. xxxiv. 3.
i Luke i. 15.
will then be of any value, but that which led us to the enjoyment of God, and to a meetness for glory. Then the excellency of Scripture knowledge will appear in all its brightness.
But it must be inquired, How is it that the Scripture effects this? Is there any thing meritorious in the knowledge of its truths; or any thing which by its own power can save the soul? The text informs us respecting these things, and points out the precise way in which the Scriptures make us wise unto salvation. Christ is the only Saviour of sinful man. His obedience unto death is the only ground of our hope. But how are we to be interested in him? There is but one way; and that is, by faith." He that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life."
From hence then it may be seen how the Scriptures make us wise unto salvation. They reveal Christ to us as the Saviour of the world. They commend him to us under every image that can convey an idea of his suitableness to our wants, and his sufficiency for our necessities. They hold forth. the promises of God to those who believe in Christ; and encourage us by every possible argument to rely upon him. In this manner they work faith in our hearts: and by that faith we become interested in all that Christ has done and suffered for us.
Thus, in ascribing our salvation to the knowledge of the Scriptures, we do not derogate from the honour of Christ; since it is only by revealing his work and offices to us, and by leading us to depend upon him, that they become effectual for this blessed end. But at the same time we put an honour on the Scriptures, to which no other book has the smallest claim. Other books may be channels for conveying divine knowledge; but the Bible alone is the fountain from which it flows. The knowledge therefore of the Bible is of supreme excellence; and the earliest possible attainment of it is of unrivalled importance.]
This being a very instructive record, I propose to shew,
III. The instruction which his attainment of it conveys to us
Surely it affords us matter
1. For inquiry respecting ourselves
[I ask not, whether the same thing can be affirmed of you, as having taken place from your early childhood; but whether it is true concerning you at this moment? Do you know the Holy Scriptures, and the great leading doctrines contained in them? Do you know them practically and experimentally, so as really to feel your lost and undone
and to be fleeing to Christ as your only and to be devoting yourselves to him as his redeemed people? Have you in relation to these things the very mind of God, bringing you into a conformity to his blessed will? Possess what ye may, you have not attained to true wisdom, if you possess not this state of mind. No other wisdom than this will avail to your salvation: and, if you lack this, you will, to all eternity, lament and bewail your folly. I entreat you then to examine carefully whether ye be "living a life of faith in the Son of God, who has loved you and given himself for you?" Is your daily walk with God such, that the Apostle Paul would pronounce with confidence respecting you the testimony which he thus confidently bare to his beloved Timothy? Dear brethren, I beseech you, "prove your own selves;" and pray God to set his seal to the truth of this change as wrought in you, and as exemplified in the whole of your life and conversation!]
2. For direction respecting others
[Parents, does not this record speak forcibly to you? Here you have an evidence that children are capable of receiving all the blessings of salvation, supposing they be taught by you, and taught of God also. Without the Divine blessing, even Paul might plant, and Apollos water, in vain: but the labours of a Lois and an Eunice shall not be lost, if God be pleased to accompany them with his Holy Spirit to the soul. Remember, a responsibility attaches to you for their souls, similar to that which belongs to your minister in reference to your souls. I pray God, that your children may not have to reproach you in the day of judgment, and to trace it to you, that they were left to perish for lack of knowledge.
And, young people, tell me whether you do not envy Timothy the distinction here given him? Have you not in your own consciences a conviction, that his was true wisdom, and that in attaining the knowledge of salvation through a crucified Redeemer, you best answer the end of your being. Lose not then the present opportunity, before the cares and pleasures of life have hardened your hearts, and seared your consciences as with a hot iron.
To people of every age this record speaks forcibly, and says, Labour by all possible means to convey to those around you this knowledge which proved so great a blessing to this happy youth1
k 2 Tim. i. 6.
If this be delivered as a Sermon for Missions, or for Charity Schools, or Sunday Schools, or Infant Schools, an appropriate line of Exhortation must be here added, to shew what has been done, or may be done, and how richly success in one single instance will repay for all the efforts that can be used.