the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
Timothy As a Child
Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters
IT was something like this. It was something not unlike one of our own Scottish households where the father is not a church member, and where the minister is so strict that he will not baptize the child to the mother. In which case the grandmother and the mother would say to one another-'Very well. At any rate we shall all the more see to it that if our child wants the outward ceremony he shall have that want more than made up to him in the inward substance. What he has not received in the mere sprinkling with water, he shall, if we can help it, have it more than made up to him by the Holy Spirit. For we shall give God no rest till he has had far more mercy on our innocent child than our cruelhearted minister has had.' And it was so. Till the very heathenism of Timothy's father was far better for his uncircumcised child than if that Greek father had been such a Christian father as the most of our fathers are. For just because of the father's unbelief, the faith of the grandmother and the mother became all the more unfeigned, and prayerful, and importunate. The blot they had all three had such a hand in bringing upon their innocent child, lay so heavy on the heart of his mother and his grandmother that they could take no rest till they had seen that blot more than removed by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.
With such an unfeigned faith as that the two lonely women set themselves to bring up their little fatherless son in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And they succeeded, if ever unfeigned women succeeded. And such unfeigned women as they were have always succeeded, and will always succeed, till the last of such women shall be called up to get her full wages from God. Such women, such mothers in Israel, as Hannah, and Elisabeth, and Mary, and Monica, and Halyburton's mother, and Wesley's mother, and the mother of Jonathan Edwards's children, and the mother of Thomas Boston's children, and many more. And in all those mothers it was their unfeigned faith that did it. Their unfeigned faith laid hold, first on God, and then on their children. For, not to speak of God, this kind of faith, and this kind of faith alone, takes hold of a child's heart. You cannot feign faith before your children. Even while they are still children they will find you out to their great pain and shame on account of their feigning mother. You may go on feigning faith with some success before every one else, but not before your children. You must walk with an unfeigned faith, and with a perfect heart at home, if you have such a child's eyes set on you as were set on both Lois and Eunice. Whatever the husbands and the fathers in our households may do, let all wives and mothers live a life like the lives of Lois and Eunice, and they will have their reward. At this point, and in a spare moment, I was led to take down an old favourite of mine who has always something pertinent to say on this matter now in hand. "Before all things, let the talk of the child's nurse not be ungrammatical." He is discussing the best education for an orator. "Chrysippus wished that every such nurse should be, if possible, a woman of some liberality of education. For it is his nurse the future orator first hears speaking, and it is her words and her accents he will first imitate. We are by nature tenacious of what we have imbibed in our infant years, just as the flavour with which we scent our casks when they are new, remains in them to the end." With a few changes and substitutions you have Lois and Eunice in Quintilian's First Book, and their early education of a future apostle.
It is not for nothing, you may depend upon it, that Paul gives Lois and Eunice such a first-class certificate for their first-rate methods, and for their signal success in teaching Timothy to read, and so far to understand, the Holy Scriptures. Paul always, and to everybody, both spoke and wrote like the true gentleman he was. But these are not so many mere courtesies and compliments that the aged Apostle pays to these two Bible-teaching women. There is a studied descriptiveness, as well as all his own warmth of heart, in what Paul here says to Timothy about the wise and painstaking methods that Lois and Eunice took with him over Holy Scripture. It is of his early readings of Holy Scripture at home that Paul reminds Timothy when he exhorts him to divide the word of truth rightly, both in his own family, and in his catechumen's classes, and in his expository pulpit. I see Lois putting on her spectacles an hour before she summons in Timothy from the playground. I watch her as she selects with such care the proper passage she is going to read with him. I admire her as she reads and re-reads the passage to herself, in order to make sure that she understands it herself. After which she prepares, and tries them over on her own knees, two or three petitions proper for the child to repeat after her, and to which he is to say his intelligent and hearty Amen. There is much that is full of rebuke and instruction to us all in the manse of Ettrick. But there is nothing more full of rebuke and instruction to us than the way that Thomas Boston prepared himself for family worship before he rang the bell. And as a consequence and a reward he records it again and again in his grateful diary, how, after such preparation he often got light, and comfort, and strength, and guidance for himself, as well as for his family, out of "the exercise." 'Remember the wise methods of Lois and Eunice, said Paul to Timothy, 'when you are at your own family worship at home, as well as when you are at the head of a congregation.'
But with all these most excellent preparations for it, the great change had still to come to Timothy. "Towardly child as Timothy was," says Thomas Goodwin, "he was all the time unconverted." Timothy was kept for Paul to finish the work that Lois and Eunice had so well begun. There is a great instruction here, and a great comfort. A very great comfort. For there are a great many young men among ourselves exactly like Timothy. Like Timothy they are richly talented, well-educated, religiously educated, and every way well brought up, young men. Like Timothy also they have received all that two generations of mothers of an unfeigned faith can do for them. And yet all the time they have not themselves taken the great step. And this goes on till one day their day of grace at last comes to them, as Timothy's day of grace came to him. A new minister stands in the pulpit; a skilful and urgent evangelist like Moody, or Drummond, or Kelman, or M'Neill, or George Clarke, or Mackay, visits the city and specially addresses such young men; or they are lead to read the right book at the right moment; or some special and personal dispensation of Divine Providence is sent to them. Till, in a day, in an hour, in a moment, the fine fruit that has for so long been slowly ripening falls at a touch into the husbandman's basket. Paul comes round and preaches one day at Lystra, and Timothy is converted on the spot. Keep up your hearts, Lois and Eunice. Keep up your hearts. Though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
At the same time, while I rejoice with Paul that he had Timothy for his spiritual son, I cannot but feel tenderly for Lois and Eunice in this matter. I feel for Eunice especially, that she was not blessed of God to bear her son in his second birth as well as in his first birth. Speaking for myself, I would value above all else that God can give me in this world to see all my children truly converted like Timothy. And I would rejoice to receive their conversion through any instrumentality that it pleases God to employ. A new minister; a passing-by evangelist; a good book; a dispensation of family or personal providence; or what not. But O! if it pleases God let me have all my children's souls myself! Let them all say in after days-"it was my father that did it." That would make my cup to run over indeed. And I will not despair of it. Why should I for one moment doubt of it? For He is a God that delighteth to make a man's cup to run over, in that way and in every other way. At the same time, while I most feelingly sympathise with Lois and Eunice in their loss of Timothy's soul to Paul, I have a creeping doubt in my conscience that, with all their excellent Bible-reading with him, they cannot have dealt closely enough with Timothy's very mind and heart about himself. "The Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation," is the Apostle's deep, and, as I think, significantly situated, expression. I do not altogether know why it is, but I cannot get this question put to sleep in my conscience; this question: Did Lois and Eunice, after all, do all they ought to have done, to make Timothy wise unto salvation? Did they do all they ought to have done to bring home his own salvation to the very conscience and mind and heart and imagination of their little charge? I admit much, as I must, about Lois and Eunice in their training of Timothy. But, somehow, their not getting the full seal of God set on their training of Timothy, makes me doubt if, after all, they had made their training of Timothy ready for such a seal, "Wise unto salvation." Now, tell me, did Eunice, do you think, take her son Timothy, and show him till she made it plain to him, what it would be for her and for him to be saved, and what it would be for her and for him to be lost? And did she do that with all her tenderness and with all her lovingness? Did she see it herself, and did she show it to him, how the very tones of his little voice sometimes up and down the house, and how his little looks and actions, were the very things that salvation had been sent for? Did she show him how the holy name "Jesus" came home to their house, and spake of salvation to old and young within its walls? I may be quite wrong, and I may be doing both Lois and Eunice a great injustice in all this But I am not without some compunction that they would have had Timothy's full salvation for their own wages if they had made it completely and convincingly clear to the thoughtful child, just what wisdom unto salvation would be in their case and in his case. At any rate, even if I am quite wrong in my reading of their case, it matters nothing to them now. Only, this disconcerting reading of their case may be blessed to make some of ourselves look somewhat more closely and conscientiously at our own case at home than we have ever yet looked at it. That is to say, are we at once clear-headed enough, and plain-spoken enough, and attracting and winning enough, with our children? Leave no suspicion, leave no doubt, in that direction undealt with, my brethren. Leave no stone unturned in seeking the salvation of your children. Go to the very root of the matter with them. Go to the very root of the word with them. Make them thoroughly to understand both the word, and the thing, salvation. Make them to see it. Make them to feel it. Make them to admit, and to confess to you, that you have now made them both see it and feel it. To see and to feel what it would be to be lost; and what it would be to be saved. And then when you have done that to the best of your ability, and with much prayer both with them and for them, there will be the less likelihood that some passer-by like Paul will come and carry off with him what would be the sweetest jewel in all your heavenly crown. Come, my brethren, and let us be so wise unto our own salvation, and unto the salvation of our children, that we shall be able to say to our God on that day-Here am I, and all the children Thou didst give me!
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Whyte, Alexander. Entry for 'Timothy As a Child'. Alexander Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wbc/​t/timothy-as-a-child.html. 1901.