[* From D. M. Panton’s “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 Provision, 14 Castello Avenue, London, S.W. 15.  The years are 1927 to 1938, so that the drop is not due to the war.



Paul 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 world’s record - with an income of £1, 200 a year in the Philadelphia team: what was that to compare with the tens of thousands he brought to Christ as an evangelist?  “The only way to keep from falling,” says McCheyne, “is to grow”.  And what a goal! - “Godliness”.  Strive after nothing less than God; reflect no perfection less that God’s; struggle upward by the narrow, blood-stained way that leads to God.



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 READING”.  The chief Apostle who ever lived - and therefore the Church of God holds no higher example - nevertheless says, in his closing days in prison:- “The cloak that I left bring when thou comest, and the books, especially the parchments” (2 Timothy 4: 13).  Paul was inspired, yet he needed books; he had heard unutterable things in Paradise, yet he needed books; he had preached for a lifetime, yet he needed books; he had written the greater part of the New Testament, yet he needed books: therefore take heed that you read, and take heed what you read.  Study Scripture: study books on Scripture: the day when we cease to feed upon the Word of God is the day when we shall lose what we have learned.  “Place good books in a man’s hand,” says Sir John Herchel, “and you place him in contact with the best society in every period of history; with the wisest, with the wittiest, with the tenderest, the bravest, and the purest characters.  You make him a contemporary of all ages  (2) “Give heed to EXHORTATION  What we believe powerfully creates what we are, and also creates our whole body of influence over others: therefore our doctrine - the body of truth we hold and preach - is beyond everything vital.  Ideal youth is to be an embodiment of God’s truth.  “I cannot tell how it comes to pass,” says Jonathen Edwards, “but so it is - the more I read the Scriptures, and the more I familiarize myself with the Divine contents of the heavenly book, the more pure, the more peaceful, the more benevolent, and the more happy I find myself



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 (against Australia) in which C. T. Studd ever played - one of the “Cambridge Seven” - he almost shook and shivered as he went in to bat.  In his farewell speech he referred to the match and explained it, with tears in his eyes.  He said that he ought not to have played, and the deep things of life had only just entered his soul, that he was in a dream, that he was in Palestine and China, and not in Old Trafford at all.  God deserves our best.  Countless lives in the Church are made ineffective by gifts never stirred into flame.  What a tragedy, at the close of life, to discover that we had had great gifts, and never used them!  Haydn, when he was near death, said:- “I have only just learned in my old age how to use the wind instruments, and now that I understand them I must leave the world  On the other hand, at the age of seventy-six Gipsy Smith was asked if he would retire.  “Retire?” he said.  “Not I: I’m no extinct volcano.  I will retire when God tells me to, by taking away my equipment, and not before



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 God’s 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” (Rev. 20: 15), after the “book of life” is opened]: “for now is salvation nearer to us that when we first believed” (Romans 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 Corinth, or grow corrupt like Laodicea; Demas may desert, and Hymeneas and Philetus make shipwreck; the Church may darken into apostasy, and the world into midnight: Timothy must stand; and he will do it by “CONTINUING IN THESE THINGS  The flaming torch is handed on to youth, and it is youth that must pass it on down the deepening night.






Keep in mind:-



(1) “The loss of God’s 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 God’s 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





(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 delay’d;

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 one’s 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 I’ll understand

When I have reach’d the Better Land



                                         - DORIS GOREHAM.