"He is able to guard that which I have committed unto Him against that day. . . . That good thing which was committed unto thee, guard through the Holy Ghost."—2 Timothy i. 12,14 (R. V.).
"That which I have committed unto Him" is expressed in the original by two words, which are translated in the margin of the Revised Version by "my deposit." The same word is employed in the second of the clauses at the head of this paper, and with its accompanying adjective is rendered in the margin, "the good deposit." Now, "my deposit" may mean either what I have committed to some one or what some one has committed to me. Accordingly, both of these clauses have been taken to refer to what God had put into His servant's charge. But surely it is unnatural to represent the giver of a trust as its guardian. It is the receiver of it who has to look after it, and seeing that in the first of these verses God is the guardian, the propriety of the figure requires that in it He should be the receiver, whose business it is to take care of what is entrusted to Him. If so understood, the former verse refers to what Paul had committed to God, and the latter to what God had committed to Timothy.
We have, then, two Trusts. "I am persuaded." The original word is stronger than "persuaded" has come to mean with us. It implies an irrefragable conviction. "I am absolutely certain that He is able to keep my deposit"—what I have put into His hands—" and to keep it against that day." Paul trusted something to God manifest in Christ. What was it? Christ's word on the cross may help us to answer: "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit," in which the word rendered "commend" is cognate with that here used for "deposit." So what Paul entrusted to God was himself. Our richest treasure is ourselves; and we cannot keep ourselves, nor manage ourselves; so, if we are wise, we shall turn to God in Christ, and put the wealth of our souls into His hands. We commit ourselves to Him, when we cease to try to be our own redeemers and are content to owe our salvation to Christ. We cannot save ourselves any more than we can lift ourselves by our own arms alone. To learn our helplessness is the first step towards abandoning reliance on ourselves, and when we despair of ourselves we are in a disposition to trust in God.
We commit ourselves to God by accepting His appointments as to outward things, or, as Peter says, committing the keeping of our souls to Him in welldoing as unto a faithful Creator. That will lead to our yielding of our wills to His commands. We shall roll the burden of circumstances and provision for bodily needs and protection on God. He is responsible for what is entrusted to Him, as a banker is for the money deposited with him. If we are wise, we shall by faith deposit our most precious possession, ourselves, in the strongly built and guarded treasure-house in heaven. Defenceless peasants flock into a fortress, with their poor belongings when the enemy is ravaging the open country. If we do the like, and "commit the keeping of our souls to God in well-doing," the treasure will be safe, and "where the treasure is there will the heart be also," and will possess the undisturbed repose, the tranquil blessedness, that come from denuding ourselves of ourselves, that we may find ourselves glorified, greatened, tranquillised and defended by Him.
If we honour God by trusting our treasure to Him, He will honour us by trusting His to us. What was the good thing committed to Timothy? God's self manifested in God's Gospel. We give ourselves to Him, and He gives us Himself in the revelation of His grace in Jesus Christ. "You give me yourselves to take care of," He says; "now I give you this—take care of it for me."
That great Gospel is entrusted to every Christian. It is a token of God's confidence in us, of His love to us, and of the gladness with which He accepts the responsibility which we have thrown upon Him, that He throws in return a kindred responsibility on us. The two trusts react on each other. The more we fling our weight on God, the more shall we feel the responsibility of our stewardship of the Gospel; and the more we recognise our responsibility as His stewards, the more shall we cast ourselves, with the wealth that has been entrusted to us, on our Guardian's protective care.
There are two Guardings. The word rendered to keep is often used for guarding as armed men do. God, as it were, mounts guard on what we put into His hands, and He expects us to do the same with what He puts into ours. He comes to us in no mere metaphor, but in the deepest reality of the spiritual life, to guard us, to deliver us from our own evil and from outward evils, to be a wall of fire around us, and to keep us "against that day," with all its mysteries and terrors. Paul was expecting martyrdom. He was living in the momentary anticipation that the end might come at once. And towards the close of this letter, he speaks about his certainty that he had finished his course; and that there was nothing left now except the reception of the crown of glory. And yet he says, in almost the same breath, that "God will save" him "into His heavenly kingdom." That triumphant hope is parallel to the saying here: "He will keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." Nero might rage; the flame of persecution might wax hot, the chain that bound him to the legionary might chafe and rub and make a sore; the sword might be sharpened, and the block all but fixed on which his decapitation was to take place. Still he says, "He will keep that which I have committed to Him against that day." Our hearts and anticipations go beyond the dark end of life; and we think of all the mysteries which, though they be magnificences, strike a chill of strangeness into our hearts, and we wonder what is to befall us out yonder in the darkness where we have never been before, and about which we know little except that the throne is to be set, and the books opened. Paul says to us, "He is able to keep against that day." So guarded in life, shielded from all real evil, preserved from temptation and from snares, brought unharmed through the hurtling of the pitiless storm of death, and shepherded in the fold beyond the flood, the soul that is committed to Him is safe. In that act of giving ourselves utterly up to God, lie the secret of blessedness and the guarantee of immortality. He is not going to lose the treasures committed to His charge. He prizes them too much. And because we have said to Him, "My flesh and my heart faileth, but Thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever," therefore He will guide us by His counsel, and afterwards receive us to glory. His hand will not let the deposit entrusted to Him slip, and He will say at the last what Christ said in the Upper Room, only with a diverse application, "That which thou hast given me I have kept, and none of it is lost," and our souls will be safe in His hands.
Our guarding is related to the divine guarding much as the two trusts are. When He guards us, then we can guard both ourselves and His Gospel. How do we guard what is committed to us? By saturating our minds and hearts with the Gospel, by living according to its precepts, and by helping to spread it. It is not enough to have committed ourselves to Him. What are we doing with what He has committed to us? The burden, which we have shifted from our own shoulders and laid upon God, brings on us more weightily the responsibility of keeping that which He has lovingly laid on us.
There is an old legend about an Egyptian monarch that had his treasure-house built, as he thought, so as to be impregnable against thieves. But the architect had built a stone into one corner of the wall, which revolved upon a pivot, and could be pushed round so as to give access; and he left the secret, when dying, to his sons. So night after night the sons crept in and brought away some of the hoarded wealth; and when the king, fancying his coffers to be still full, went in to count his treasures, he found them half gone. That is the kind of thing that happens to many Christians. They think that the deposit is safe, and unseen hands have filched it away. God keeps us, and we have to keep what He has entrusted to us; and for one man that loses it by some great crash, there are a hundred from whom it dribbles away in little unknown quantities, and who instead of keeping that good thing which was committed to them, by some means let it slip. "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God; looking for the mercy of the Lord Jesus unto eternal life."