COUNSELS FOR YOUTH*
By D. M. PANTON.
[* From D. M. Pantons The Dawn (No. 202; January 15, 1941.)]
The last letter Paul wrote before his martyrdom he addressed to the youth of all the Christian ages in the person of Timothy; and he opens with a rousing encouragement:- Let no man despise thy youth (1 Timothy 4: 12): let no man despise thy youth; therefore let no man despise thy youth. Grip the fact at once that youth is capable of the highest. There is an ardour, a devotion, a vision - supremely, a vision - in youth that can surpass much of what lies in maturer years. Therefore let no man despise thy youth: make yours a youth that no man can despise: let the quality of the life out-balance its lack of years. And what makes the counsel peculiarly impressive is that it rises, like a star, on the dark background of the Apostasy: Paul had no sooner revealed the great coming landslide from Faith than he counters with the young manhood and womanhood that must meet it - or themselves go over the precipice. The danger of youth at this moment is overwhelming. By figures recently published,* within the last decade the Free Churches have lost 33 per cent, of their Sunday scholars - that is, in another twenty years that will not be a Nonconformist Sunday school in England: in the United States, last year, the largest number of law-breakers were aged 19, and the next largest group were ages 18: in Russia and Germany the whole youth are carefully trained to be anti-God.
Statistical Study of Free Church
begins his counsel by summoning Christian youth into the gymnasium. Exercise
thyself - become a gymnast - unto
- with a view to - godliness. All
stability of character, all blessing to others, all glory to God, dwells, first
of all, in the cultivation of our own character. One of the greatest pianists of the last
generation, whose mastery of his instrument was supreme, said that he practised
six or seven hours a day, and the larger part of the time he was merely practising scales: nothing does the younger believer need more to
realize than that the constant repetition of the elementary things closet
prayer, study of Scripture, confession of Christ, work for God the constant
practice of our scales are vital to our music. Be a gymnast, Paul says: the spiritual
muscles that you have, use, until they mature into the biceps of an
athlete. Athletics - to which the youth
naturally lends itself - are profitable for fine bodily development, and for sound
health; but how sharply limited the
profit! At the most three score
years and ten. For eight years Billy
Sunday was a professional base ball player, including the making of ninety-six
stolen bases - said to be a worlds record - with an income of £1, 200 a year
The present visible goal is next unfolded. Be - become - thou AN EXAMPLE - a pattern, a model - to them that believe. So far from youth being despicable, it can be a model to all: you are to become a specimen of what a Christian can be: your life is to be the ideal in action. Act-truth, said George Macdonald, is better than fact-truth: that is, it is well to master truth as a fact, but it is still better to embody truth in an act. And how exquisite is that in which youth can be a model! Be thou an example in word - conversation - in manner of life - in behaviour - in love - love is the secret spring that feeds all the energies of the soul - in faith - if Peter took the first step on the water, he could have taken all; and the last step into glory is as possible to us as the first stem out of sin - in purity - purity in heart, in life, in attitude, in influence. It is a wonderful revelation that young manhood and young womanhood can be shining stars in the firmament of the Church.
Next Paul fastens strongly on the cultivation of the
mind, the storing of the arsenal of the spirit.
Till I come - how beautiful, if we substitute, Till He come
- give heed to reading, to exhortation
to doctrine. (1) Give heed to
Next comes work for God. Stir up the gift that is in thee
- stir up the live coals into flame; stir into fire your working power for
God. We have none of the miraculous
gifts to which Paul is referring [but we
should earnestly desire them (1 Cor.
12: 31)]; but natural gifts, and special gifts of grace,
belong to each of us: as to
each his work, our Lord says, so in each his
gift. I have
always looked upon my life, says Bishop Creighton, as an opportunity of offering myself to God. Our Lord warns us
of the peril of the hidden talent. Stagnant water can become a poison.
Be too absorbed in the task God has given you to spend energies on
worldly things. In the last match
So Paul next strongly enforces intensity, and concentration on the highest. Be diligent in these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy progress may be manifest unto all. What have you found more valuable than your soul, more important than salvation, more endurable than eternity, more desirable than heaven? (J. A. Janus). Therefore give thyself wholly to them - heart and head, body and soul, career and destiny; absorb all you are and have in them: so that your advance, your growing ripeness in grace and power, may be obvious. Never imagine that Gods heights are reached at one leap: on the other hand, remember that the pearl-diver goes down a pauper but he comes up a prince.* Have only one aim in life - absorption in the highest.
[* That is, after Death he descends into Hades (Luke 16: 23; Acts 2: 27): but at the First Resurrection he comes up from there to enter the promised Kingdom; to rule with his Lord and Saviour for a thousand years (Rev. 20: 4, R.V.).]
Paul now sums up his counsel on the shaping of the new instrument for God. Take heed to thyself, and to thy teaching. Timothy was to keep his attention fixed both upon himself and upon what he taught (Ellicott). Train your own faculties, purify your own affections, discipline your own character, Scripturalize your own theology, so that it becomes sound speech that cannot be condemned (Titus 2: 8). Take heed to thyself - for the flesh has still to be mastered: and to thy teaching - for we must never cease to learn, so as to put truth in ever fresh lights, and to encounter error that is for ever appearing in new disguises. Young people, compelled to leave their old home and plunged into a wider life, are often bewildered and stunned, if not rocked to their foundations, by finding themselves in a teaching, a practice, an atmosphere profoundly different from that of their early years; and thousands then crash. So also we must be careful of contamination - the theatre, the dance, the picture palace. A heathen philosopher once forbade his daughter to visit a frivolous girl friend of hers. You must think me very weak, the girl said petulantly. Sophronius stooped and picked up a dead ember, lying at his feet; and handed it to his daughter. Her hands were not burnt, but they were blackened. Now see, my daughter, said the old man, things which cannot burn can blacken.
So now we reach the golden conclusion of it all. CONTINUE in these things; for in
doing this thou shalt save both
thyself and them that hear thee. Salvation,
in its full Scriptural sense, is a great
deal more than simply deliverance from Hell [i.e. from the lake of fire
15), after the book
of life is opened]: for now is salvation nearer to
us that when we first
13: 11). Doing these things, Paul says, not only will regeneration burst out
around you, but others, and yourself, can reach the highest at the Advent, through you. Thou shalt save thyself and them that hear
thee: we are in the Life-boat, but we
have to take our place at the oars: work out your
own salvation, with fear and trembling (Philippians 2: 12), and unconsciously you will be working out the
salvation of others. Watering our own
souls, we water others: godliness is contagious. Churches may
be split like
Keep in mind:-
(1) The loss of Gods presence is always owing to some hidden sin. Just as pain is ordered in nature to warn of some hidden evil in the system, defeat is Gods voice telling us there is something wrong. He has given Himself so wholly to His [redeemed] people, He delights so in being with them, and would so fain reveal in them His love and power, that He never withdraws Himself unless they compel Him by [wilful] sin.
Dr. ANDREW MURRAY.
(2) I know not now why doubts and cares
Should dim my faith by haunting fears;
I know not why when needing rest
My heart remains still sore opprest;
I know not now when seeking aid
The answer is so long delayd;
I know not now why burning tears
My heart should harass through the years
I know not now why life should be
A school of discipline for me;
I know not now why grief and pain
Should check ones course and should remain:
I know not now why sore distress
The heart should fill with weariness;
I know not now why He should show
On me such marvellous grace below:
All this some day Ill understand
When I have reachd the
- DORIS GOREHAM.