He did not wear the broad phylactery, but he had a meek and quiet spirit. He may not have been much of a speaker, else it might have been said "He has spoken good things concerning the God of Israel;" he may have been a timid, retiring, almost silent boy, but the good thing was "in him." And this is the kind of thing which we desire for every one of our friends, a work of grace within. The grand point is not to wear the garb, nor use the brogue of religion, but to possess the life of God within, and feel and think as Jesus would have done because of that inner life. Small is the value of external religion unless it be the outcome of a life within. True grace is not as a garment, to be put on and taken off; but it is an integral part of the person who possesses it. This child's piety was of the true, personal, inward kind: may all our children have some good thing in them!
We are told that this good thing "was found" in him: this means that it was discernible in him without much difficulty, for the expression "found" is used even when it does not imply any great search. Does not the Lord say, "I am found of them that sought Me not"? Zealous, child-like piety soon shows itself; a child is usually far less reticent than a man; the little lip is not frozen by cold prudence, but reveals the heart. Godliness in a child appears even upon the surface, so that persons who come into the house as visitors are surprised by the artless statements which betray the young Christian. There were many in Tirzah who could not help knowing that this child had in him some good thing towards Jehovah. They may not have cared to see it, they may have hoped that it would be crushed out of him by the example of the court around him, but still they knew that there it was, they had found it without difficulty.
Still, the expression does bear another shade of meaning: it implies that when God, the strict heart-searcher, who trieth the reins of the children of men, visited this child, He found in him somewhat unto praise and glory: "some good thing" was discovered in him by those eyes which cannot be deceived. It is not all gold that glitters, but that which was in this child was genuine metal. Oh, that the like may be true of each of us when we are tried as by fire! It may be that his father was angry with him for serving Jehovah; but whatever his trial may have been, he came out of it unharmed. The expression suggests to me somewhat of the idea of surprise. How did this good thing get into the child? "In him there is found some good thing,"—as when a man findeth a treasure in a field. The farmer was thinking of nothing but his oxen, and his acres, and his harvest, when on a sudden his plough laid bare a hidden treasure: he found it where it was, but how it came to be there he could not tell. So in this child, so disadvantageously placed, to the surprise of everybody there was found some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel. His conversion, you see, is veiled in mystery. We are not told of the grace in his heart what it was, nor whence it came, nor what special actions it produced, but there it was, found where none expected it. I believe that this case is typical of many of the elect children whom God calls by His grace in the courts and alleys of London. You must not expect that you shall jot down their experience, and their feelings, and their lives, and total them all up; you must not reckon to know dates and means specifically, but you must take the child as we have to take Abijah, rejoicing to find in him a little wonder of grace with God's own seal upon him. The old prophet, in the name of the Lord, attested the young prince as a true-hearted follower of the Most High; and in like manner the Lord sets His attesting mark of grace on regenerated children, and we must be content to see it, even if some other things be wanting. Let us welcome with delight those works of the Holy Spirit which we cannot precisely describe.
All that is said of this case was that there was in him "some good thing"; and this reads as if the Divine work was as yet only a spark of grace, the beginning of spiritual life. There was nothing very striking in him, or it would be more definitely mentioned. He was not an heroic follower of Jehovah, and his deeds of loyalty to God are not written, because by reason of his tender years he had neither power nor opportunity to do much which could be written. Inasmuch as we read that in him was "some good thing", it is implied that it was not a perfect thing, and that it was not attended with all the good things one might wish for. Many good things were missing, but "some good thing" was manifest, and therefore the child was accepted, and by Divine love rescued from an ignoble death.
We are apt to overlook "some good thing" in a bad house. This was the most wonderful thing of all, that there should be a gracious child in Jeroboam's palace. The mother usually sways the house, but the queen was a princess of Egypt and an idolater. A father has great influence, but in this case Jeroboam sinned and made Israel to sin. It strikes me as a wonder that he should make Israel to sin, but could not make his child to sin. All the land feels the pestilent influence of Jeroboam, and yet close at his feet there is a bright spot which sovereign grace has kept from the plague; his firstborn child, who naturally would imitate his father, is the very reverse of him—there is found in Jeroboam's heir "some good thing toward Jehovah, God of Israel." In such a place we do not look for grace, and are apt to pass it by. If you go to the courts of our great cities, which are anything but palatial, you will see that they swarm with the children of the poor, and you hardly expect to see grace where sin evidently abounds. In the fever-dens and pestilent alleys of the great city you hear blasphemy and see drunkenness on all sides, but do not therefore conclude that no child of God is there; do not say within yourself, "The electing love of God has never pitched upon any of these." How do you know? One of those poor little ragged children playing on a dustheap may have found Christ in the Ragged-school, and may be destined to a place at Christ's right hand. Precious is that gem, though cast amidst these pebbles. Bright is that diamond, though it lie upon a dunghill. If in the child there is "some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel," he is none the less to be valued because his father is a thief and his mother is a gin-drinker. Never despise the most ragged child. A clergyman in Ireland, ministering to a little Protestant congregation, noticed for several Sundays, standing in the aisle near the door, a very ragged boy, who listened to the sermon most eagerly. He wished to know who the boy could be, but he always vanished as soon as the sermon was over. He asked a friend or two to watch, but somehow the boy always escaped, and could not be discovered. It came to pass one Sunday that the minister preached a sermon from this text, "His own right hand and His holy arm hath gotten Him the victory," and after that time he missed the boy altogether. Six weeks elapsed, and the child did not come any more, but a man appeared from the hills, and begged the minister to come and see his boy, who was dying. He lived in a miserable hovel up in the mountains. A six-mile walk in the rain, through bogs and over hills, and the minister came to the door of the hut. As he entered, the poor lad was sitting up in bed, and as soon as he caught sight of the preacher he waved his arm and cried out, "His own right hand and His holy arm hath gotten Him the victory." That was his closing speech on earth, his dying shout of triumph. Who knows but in many and many a case the Lord's right hand and holy arm have gotten Him the victory, despite the poverty and the sin and the ignorance that may have surrounded the young convert? Let us not therefore despise grace, wherever it is, but heartily prize what we are apt to overlook.
We cannot understand that God's dear little children who love Him should often be called to suffer. We say, "Well, if it was my child I should heal him and ease his sufferings at once." Yet the Almighty Father allows His dear ones to be afflicted. The godly child of Jeroboam lies sick, and yet his wicked father is not sick, and his mother is not sick; we could almost wish they were, that they might do the less evil. Only one godly one is in the family, and he lies sick! Why was it so? Why is it so in other cases? You shall see a gracious child a cripple, you shall see a heavenly-minded girl a consumptive: you shall often see the heavy hand of God resting where His eternal love has fixed its choice. There is a meaning in all this, and we know somewhat of it; and if we knew nothing we would believe all the same in the goodness of the Lord. Jeroboam's son was like the fig of the sycamore tree, which does not ripen till it is bruised: by his sickness he was speedily ripened for glory. Besides, it was for his father's good and mother's good that he was sick; if they had been willing to learn from the sorrow, it might have greatly blessed them. It did drive them to the prophet of God. Oh, that it had driven them to God Himself'! A sick child has led many a blinded parent to the Saviour, and eyes have thereby been opened.
There is something more remarkable still, and that is that some of God's dearest children should die while they are yet young. I should have said let Jeroboam die and his wife too, but spare the child. Ay, but the child must go: he is the fittest. His departure was intended to give glory to God's grace in saving such a child, and making him so soon perfect. It was to be the reward of grace, for the child was taken from the evil to come; he was to die in peace and be buried, whereas the rest of the family would be slain with the sword and given to the jackals and the vultures to tear in pieces. In this child's case his early death was a proof of grace. If any say that converted children ought not to be taken into the church, I answer, How is it the Lord takes so many of them into heaven? If they are fit for the one, they surely are fit for the other? The Lord, in infinite mercy, often takes children home to Himself, and saves them from the trials of long life and temptation; because not only is there grace in them, but there is so much more grace than usual that there is no need for delay, they are ripe already for the harvest. It is wonderful what great grace may dwell in a boy's heart: child piety is by no means of an inferior kind, it is sometimes ripe for heaven.