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Of the duty of servants, 1, 2.
Of false teachers, who suppose gain to be godliness, 3-5.
Of true godliness, and contentment, 6-8.
Of those, and their dangerous state, who determine to be rich;
and of the love of money, 9,10.
Timothy is exhorted to fight the good fight of faith, and to
keep the charge delivered to him, 11-14.
A sublime description of the majesty of God, 15, 16.
How the rich should behave themselves; and the use they should
make of their property, 17-19.
Timothy is once more exhorted to keep what was committed to his
trust; and to avoid profane babblings, through which some have
erred from the faith, 20, 21.
NOTES ON CHAP. VI.
Verse 1 Timothy 6:1. Let as many servants as are under the yoke — The word δουλοι here means slaves converted to the Christian faith; and the ζυγον, or yoke, is the state of slavery; and by δεσποται, masters, despots, we are to understand the heathen masters of those Christianized slaves. Even these, in such circumstances, and under such domination, are commanded to treat their masters with all honour and respect, that the name of God, by which they were called, and the doctrine of God, Christianity, which they had professed, might not be blasphemed-might not be evilly spoken of in consequence of their improper conduct. Civil rights are never abolished by any communications from God's Spirit. The civil state in which a man was before his conversion is not altered by that conversion; nor does the grace of God absolve him from any claims, which either the state or his neighbour may have on him. All these outward things continue unaltered. Ephesians 6:5, c. and "1 Corinthians 7:21", &c., and especially the observations at the end of that chapter.
Verse 1 Timothy 6:2. And they that have believing masters — Who have been lately converted as well as themselves.
Let them not despise them] Supposing themselves to be their equals, because they are their brethren in Christ; and grounding their opinion on this, that in him there is neither male nor female, bond nor free; for, although all are equal as to their spiritual privileges and state, yet there still continues in the order of God's providence a great disparity of their station: the master must ever be in this sense superior to the servant.
But rather do them service] Obey them the more cheerfully, because they are faithful and beloved; faithful to God's grace, beloved by him and his true followers.
Partakers of the benefit. — της ευεπγεσιας αντιλαμβανομενοι. Joint partakers of the benefit. This is generally understood as referring to the master's participation in the services of his slaves. Because those who are partakers of the benefit of your services are faithful and beloved; or it may apply to the servants who are partakers of many benefits from their Christian masters. Others think that benefit here refers to the grace of the Gospel, the common salvation of believing masters and slaves; but Dr. Macknight well observes that ευεργεσια is nowhere used to denote the Gospel. One of Uffenbach's MSS. has εργασιασ, of the service; this reading is plainly a gloss; it is not acknowledged by any other MS., nor by any version. FG, and the Codex Augustanus 6, have ευσεβειας, of godliness; a term by which the whole Gospel doctrine is expressed, 1 Timothy 4:7-8, as also in the 6th verse of this chapter. 1 Timothy 6:6
Verse 1 Timothy 6:3. If any man teach otherwise — It appears that there were teachers of a different kind in the Church, a sort of religious levellers, who preached that the converted servant had as much right to the master's service as the master had to his. Teachers of this kind have been in vogue long since the days of Paul and Timothy.
And consent not to wholesome words — υγιαινουσι λογοις Healing doctrines-doctrines which give nourishment and health to the soul, which is the true character of all the doctrines taught by our Lord Jesus Christ; doctrines which are according to godliness-securing as amply the honour and glory of God, as they do the peace, happiness, and final salvation of man.
All this may refer to the general tenor of the Gospel; and not to any thing said, or supposed to have been said, by our Lord, relative to the condition of slaves. With political questions, or questions relative to private rights, our Lord scarcely ever meddled; he taught all men to love one another; to respect each other's rights; to submit to each other; to show all fidelity; to be obedient, humble, and meek; and to know that his kingdom was not of this world.
Verse 1 Timothy 6:4. He is proud — τετυφωται. He is blown up, or inflated with a vain opinion of his own knowledge; whereas his knowledge is foolishness, for he knows nothing.
Doting about questions — He is sick, distempered, about these questions relative to the Mosaic law and the traditions of the elders; for it is most evident that the apostle has the Judaizing teachers in view, who were ever, in questions of theology, straining out a gnat, and swallowing a camel.
Strifes of words — λογομαχιας. Logomachies; verbal contentions; splitting hairs; producing Hillel against Shammai, and Shammai against Hillel, relative to the particular mode in which the punctilios of some rites should be performed. In this sort of sublime nonsense the works of the Jewish rabbins abound.
Whereof cometh envy, strife, c. — How little good have religious disputes ever done to mankind, or to the cause of truth! Most controversialists have succeeded in getting their own tempers soured, and in irritating their opponents. Indeed, truth seems rarely to be the object of their pursuit they labour to accredit their own party by abusing and defaming others; from generals they often descend to particulars; and then personal abuse is the order of the day. Is it not strange that Christians either cannot or will not see this? Cannot any man support his own opinions, and give his own views of the religion of Christ, without abusing and calumniating his neighbour? I know not whether such controversialists should not be deemed disturbers of the public peace, and come under the notice of the civil magistrate. Should not all Christians know that the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of the Lord?
Verse 1 Timothy 6:5. Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds — Disputations that cannot be settled, because their partisans will not listen to the truth; and they will not listen to the truth because their minds are corrupt. Both under the law and under the Gospel the true religion was: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength; and thy neighbour as thyself. Where, therefore, the love of God and man does not prevail, there there is no religion. Such corrupt disputers are as destitute of the truth as they are of love to God and man.
Supposing that gain is godliness — Professing religion only for the sake of secular profit; defending their own cause for the emoluments it produced; and having no respect to another world.
From such withdraw thyself — Have no religions fellowship with such people. But this clause is wanting in AD*FG, some others, the Coptic, Sahidic, AEthiopic, Vulgate, and Itala, one copy excepted. It is probably spurious.
Verse 1 Timothy 6:6. But godliness with contentment is great gain. — The word godliness, ευσεβεια, here, and in several other places of this epistle, signifies the true religion, Christianity; and the word contentment, αυταρκεια, signifies a competency, a sufficiency; that measure or portion of secular things which is necessary for the support of life, while the great work of regeneration is carrying on in the soul. Not what this or the other person may deem a competency, but what is necessary for the mere purposes of life in reference to another world; food, raiment, and lodging. See 1 Timothy 6:7. So, if a man have the life of God in his soul, and just a sufficiency of food and raiment to preserve and not burden life, he has what God calls great gain, an abundant portion.
It requires but little of this world's goods to satisfy a man who feels himself to be a citizen of another country, and knows that this is not his rest.
Verse 7. We brought nothing into this world — There are some sayings in Seneca which are almost verbatim with this of St. Paul: Nemo nascitur dives; quisquis exit in lucem jussus est lacte et panno esse contentus; Epist. xx, "No man is born rich; every one that comes into the world is commanded to be content with food and raiment." Excutit natura redeuntem, sicut intrantem; non licet plus auferre, quam intuleris; Epist., cap. ii. "Nature, in returning, shakes off all incumbrances as in entering; thou canst not carry back more than thou broughtest in." Seneca and St. Paul were contemporary; but all the Greek and Latin poets, and especially the stoic philosophers, are full of such sentiments. It is a self-evident truth; relative to it there can be no controversy.
Verse 8. Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. — αρκεσθησομεθα. Let us consider this a competency. And it is evident that the apostle considers this a competency, and by these words explains what he said 1 Timothy 6:6.
The word ακεπασματα, which we translate raiment, signifies covering in general; and here means house or lodging, as well as clothing.
Verse 9. But they that will be rich — οι δε βουλομενοι πλουτειν. The words are emphatic, and refer to persons who are determined to get riches; who make this their object and aim in life; who live to get money; who get all they can, save all they can, and keep all they get; and yet are apprehensive of no danger, because they seek to be rich by honest means; for it is likely that the apostle does not refer to those who wish to get riches by robbery, plunder, extortion, c.
By the term rich it is very likely that the apostle refers to what he had said above: Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. He that has more than these is rich in the sense in which the apostle uses the term.
Fall into temptation and a snare — του διαβολου, Of the devil, is added by D*FG, Vulgate, Itala, and many of the fathers. It is in consequence of the temptation of the devil that they have determined to be rich this temptation once received, others quickly succeed: and when they have swallowed down the temptation to the thing, then they drink in a thousand temptations to the means; and all these lead them εις παγιδα, into an unforeseen and concealed trap. παγις signifies a net, trap, gin, snare, springe, or pit dug in the ground filled with sharp stakes, and slightly covered over; so that when a man, or any animal, steps upon it, he tumbles in, and is taken or destroyed. Such a snare is that into which those who will be rich must necessarily fall. But who will believe this? See note on 1 Timothy 6:10.
And into many foolish and hurtful lusts — The whole conduct of such a person is a tissue of folly; scraping, gathering, and heaping up riches, and scarcely affording to take the necessaries of life out of them for himself. These lusts or desires are not only foolish, but they are hurtful; the mind is debased and narrowed by them; benevolent and generous feelings become extinct; charity perishes; and selfishness, the last and lowest principle in mental degradation, absorbs the soul; for these foolish and hurtful lusts drown men in destruction and perdition-the soul is destroyed by them here, and brought through them into a state of perdition hereafter. The apostle considers these persons like mariners in a storm; by the concurrence of winds, waves, and tide, they are violently driven among the rocks, the vessel is dashed to pieces, and in a moment they are all ingulfed in the great deep! Such is the lot and unavoidable catastrophe of them that will be rich, even though they should strive to accomplish their desires by means the most rigidly honest.
In this place I beg leave to refer the reader to a sermon on this text by the late Rev. JOHN WESLEY, in which the whole of this subject is treated by the hand of a master; and, for usefulness, the sermon is superior to every thing of the kind ever published. It is entitled, The Danger of Riches; and is found in his WORKS, Vol. 2, page 248, American edit.
Verse 10. The love of money is the root of all evil — Perhaps it would be better to translate παντωντωνκακων, of all these evils; i.e. the evils enumerated above; for it cannot be true that the love of money is the root of all evil, it certainly was not the root whence the transgression of Adam sprang, but it is the root whence all the evils mentioned in the preceding verse spring. This text has been often very incautiously quoted; for how often do we hear," The Scripture says, Money is the root of all evil!" No, the Scripture says no such thing. Money is the root of no evil, nor is it an evil of any kind; but the love of it is the root of all the evils mentioned here.
While some coveted after — ορεγομενοι. Insatiably desiring.
Have erred from the faith — απεπλανηθησαν. Have totally erred-have made a most fatal and ruinous departure from the religion of Christ.
And pierced themselves through with many sorrows. — The word περιεπειραν signifies to be transfixed in every part; and is an allusion to one of those snares, παγιδα, mentioned 1 Timothy 6:9, where a hole is dug in the earth, and filled full of sharp stakes, and, being slightly covered over with turf, is not perceived; and whatever steps on it falls in, and is pierced through and through with these sharp stakes, the οδυναις πολλαις, the many torments, mentioned by the apostle. See note on 1 Timothy 6:9.
Verse 11. But thou, O man of God — Thou, who hast taken God for thy portion, and art seeking a city that hath foundations, whose builder is the living God, flee these things. Escape for thy life. Even thou art not out of the reach of the love of money. How many of the ministers of religion have been ruined by this! And how much has religion itself suffered by their love of money!
Follow after righteousness — Justice and uprightness in all thy dealings with men. Godliness-a thorough conformity to the image of God and mind of Christ. Faith in Jesus, and in all that he has spoken; and fidelity to the talents thou hast received, and the office with which thou art intrusted.
Love — To God and all mankind. Patience in all trials and afflictions.
Meekness. — Bearing up with an even mind under all adversities and contradictions.
Verse 12. Fight the good fight of faith — "Agonize the good agony." Thou hast a contest to sustain in which thy honour, thy life, thy soul, are at stake. Live the Gospel, and defend the cause of God. Unmask hypocrites, expel the profligate, purge and build up the Church, live in the spirit of thy religion, and give thyself wholly to this work.
Lay hold on eternal life — All this is in allusion to the exercises in the public Grecian games: Fight, conquer, and seize upon the prize; carry off the crown of eternal life!
Whereunto thou art also called — The allusion to the public games is still carried on: Thou hast been called into this palaestra; thou hast been accepted as one proper to enter the lists with any antagonists that may offer; in the presence of many witnesses thou hast taken the necessary engagements upon thee, and submitted to be governed by the laws of the stadium; many eyes are upon thee, to see whether thou wilt fight manfully, and be faithful. Timothy's faith was undoubtedly tried by severe persecution. In Hebrews 13:23, it is said: Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty. Hence it appears that he was imprisoned for the testimony of Christ, and perhaps it was then, more than at his ordination, that he made the good confession here mentioned. He risked his life and conquered. If not a martyr, he was a confessor.
Verse 13. I give thee charge — This is similar to that in 1 Timothy 5:21 of the preceding chapter, where see the note.
Who quickeneth all things — God, who is the fountain of life, and who is the resurrection; and who will raise thee up at the last day to a life of ineffable glory, if thou be faithful unto death. And should thy life fall a sacrifice to the performance of thy duty, all will be safe; for thy life is hid with Christ in God, and when he who is thy life shall appear, then shalt thou also appear with him in glory! Thy kingdom is not of this world; remember that this good confession was made by thy Master before Pilate. Keep disentangled from all earthly things, live to and for God, and all will be well.
A good confession — The confession made by Christ before Pontius Pilate is, that he was Messiah the King; but that his kingdom was not of this world; and that hereafter he should be seen coming in the clouds of heaven to judge the quick and dead. See John 18:36-37; and Mark 14:61-62.
Verse 14. That thou keep this commandment without spot — Two things are mentioned here:
1. That the commandment itself - the whole doctrine of Christ, should be kept entire.
2. That his life should be agreeable to that doctrine. Keep it without spot - let there be no blot on the sacred book; add nothing to it; take nothing from it; change nothing in it. Deliver down to thy successors the truth as thou hast had it from God himself.
Unrebukable — Let there be nothing in thy conduct or spirit contrary to this truth. Keep the truth, and the truth will keep thee.
Until the appearing of our Lord — Hand it down pure, and let thy conduct be a comment on it, that it may continue in the world and in the Church till the coming of Christ.
Verse 15. Which in his times he shall show — Jesus will appear in the most proper time; the time which the infinite God in his wisdom has appointed for the second coming of his Son.
The blessed and only Potentate — δυναστης, Potentate, is applied to secular governors; but none of these can be styled ὁ μακαριος και μονος, the happy and only One; ὁ Βασιλευς των βασιλευοντων, the King of kings, or the King over all kings; and Κυριος των κυριευοντων, the Lord over all lords or rulers. These are titles which could not be given to any mortals. This is made more specific by the verse following.
Ver. 15. Ὁ μακαριος και μονος Δυναστης, ὁ Βασιλευς των βασιλευοντων, και Κυριος των κυριευοντων.
The supreme Being is also styled the King of kings, and the Blessed, by AESCHYLUS in his tragedy of the Supplicants:-
Αναξ ανακτων, μακαρων
Μακαρτατε, και τελεων
Ver 520. Ed. Porson.
"O King of kings! most Blessed of the blessed! most Perfect of the perfect!"
Verse 16. Who only hath immortality — All beings that are not eternal must be mutable; but there can be only one eternal Being, that is God; and he only can have immortality.
Dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto — All this is said by the apostle in three words φως οικων απροσιτον, inhabiting unapproachable light. Such is the excessive glory of God, that neither angel nor man can approach it. It is indeed equally unapproachable to all created beings.
Whom no man hath seen, nor can see — Moses himself could only see the symbol of the Divine presence; but the face of God no man could ever see. Because he is infinite and eternal, therefore he is incomprehensible; and if incomprehensible to the mind, consequently invisible to the eye.
To whom — As the author of being, and the dispenser of all good, be ascribed honour and power-the sole authority of all-pervading, all-superintending, all-preserving, and everlasting might.
The words of St. Paul are inimitably sublime. It is a doubt whether human language can be carried much higher, even under the influence of inspiration, in a description of the supreme Being. It is well known that St. Paul had read the Greek poets. He quotes Aratus, Epimenides, and Menander; this is allowed on all hands. But does he not quote, or refer to, AEschylus and Sophocles too? Scarcely any person suspects this; and yet there is such a complete similarity between the following quotations from the above poets and the apostle's words, that we are almost persuaded he had them in his eye. But if so, he extends the thought infinitely higher, by language incomparably more exalted. I shall introduce and compare with the text the passages I refer to.
Ver. 16. Ὁ μονος εχων αθανασιαν, φως οικων απροσιτον.
In the Antigone of SOPHOCLES there is a sublime address to Jove, of which the following is an extract:
Αγηρως χρονῳ Δυναστας,
Ver. 608. Edit. Brunk.
"But thou, an ever-during Potentate, dost inhabit the refulgent splendour of Olympus!"
This passage is grand and noble; but how insignificant does it appear when contrasted with the superior sublimity of the inspired writer! The deity of Sophocles dwells in the dazzling splendour of heaven; but the God of Paul inhabits light so dazzling and so resplendent that it is perfectly unapproachable!
Synesius, in his third hymn, has a fine idea on the mode of God's existence, which very probably he borrowed from St. Paul:-
"O intellectual Being! veiled in thine own effulgence!"
And a few lines after, he says,-
Συ το κρυπτομενον
"Thou art He who art concealed by thy splendours."
All these are excellent, but they are stars of the twelfth magnitude before the apostolic SUN.
See a quotation from Euripides, 2 Timothy 4:8.
Verse 17. Charge them that are rich — He had before, in 1 Timothy 6:9-10, given them a very awful lesson concerning their obtaining riches; and now he gives them one equally so concerning their use of them.
That they be not high-minded — That they do not value themselves on account of their wealth, for this adds nothing to mind or moral worth.
Nor trust in uncertain riches — πλουτου αδηλοτητι. The uncertainty of riches; things which are never at a stay, are ever changing, and seldom continue long with one proprietor; therefore, as well as on many other accounts, they are not to be trusted in: they cannot give happiness, because they are not fixed and permanent; neither can they meet the wishes of an immortal spirit; but in the living God, who is the unchangeable fountain of perfection.
Who giveth us richly all things to enjoy — Who not only has all good, but dispenses it liberally for the supply of the wants of all his creatures; and he does not give merely what is necessary, but he gives what tends to render life comfortable. The comforts of life come from God, as well as the necessaries. He not only gives us a bare subsistence, but he gives us enjoyments. Were it not for the oppression and rapine of wicked men, every situation and state in life would be comparatively comfortable. God gives liberally; man divides it badly.
Verse 18. That they do good — That they relieve the wants of their fellow creatures, according to the abundance which God has given them. The highest luxury a human being can enjoy on this side of the grave.
Rich in good works — That their good works may be as abundant as their riches.
Ready to distribute — ευμεταδοτους ειναι. That they give nothing through partiality or favour, but be guided in their distribution by the necessities of the objects presented to them; and that they confine not their charity at home, but scatter it abroad.
Willing to communicate — κοινωνικους. Bringing every poor person into a state of fellowship with themselves.
Verse 19. Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation — St. Paul seems to have borrowed this form of speech from Tobit. See chap. iv. 8, 9: If thou hast abundance, give alms accordingly: if thou hast but a little, be not afraid to give according to that little: for thou treasurest up a good reward for thyself against the day of necessity. Θεμα ραρ αγαθον θησαυριζεις σεαυτω εις ἡμεραν αναγκης. The apostle says: Αποθησαυριζοντας ἑαυτοις θεμελιον καλον εις το μελλον, ἱνα επιλαβωνται της αιωνιου ζωης "Treasuring up a good foundation to them for the future, that they may lay hold on eternal life." The sentiment is the same in both writers; the words nearly so; and the meaning is simply this, as it is judiciously paraphrased by Mr. J. Wesley in his note on this passage: "Treasuring up for themselves a good foundation, of an abundant reward by the free mercy of God, that they may lay hold on eternal life. This cannot be done by almsdeeds; yet, they come up for a memorial before God; Acts 10:4. And the lack even of this may be the cause why God will withhold grace and salvation from us." Christ has said: Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. They who have not been merciful according to their power, shall not obtain mercy; they that have, shall obtain mercy: and yet the eternal life which they obtain they look for from the mercy of God through Jesus Christ.
Verse 20. O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust — This is another repetition of the apostolic charge. (See 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:18-19; 1 Timothy 4:6-7; 1 Timothy 4:14-16; 1 Timothy 5:21; 1 Timothy 6:13.) Carefully preserve that doctrine which I have delivered to thee. Nothing can be more solemn and affectionate than this charge.
Avoiding profane and vain babblings — See note on 1 Timothy 1:4, and "1 Timothy 4:7".
And oppositions of science falsely so called — Και αντιθεσεις της ψευδωνυμου γνωσεως· And oppositions of knowledge falsely so named. Dr. Macknight's note here is worthy of much attention: "In the enumeration of the different kinds of inspiration bestowed on the first preachers of the Gospel, 1 Corinthians 12:8, we find the word of knowledge mentioned; by which is meant that kind of inspiration which gave to the apostles and superior Christian prophets the knowledge of the true meaning of the Jewish Scriptures. This inspiration the false teachers pretending to possess, dignified their misinterpretations of the ancient Scriptures with the name of knowledge, that is, inspired knowledge; for so the word signifies, 1 Corinthians 14:6. And as by these interpretations they endeavoured to establish the efficacy of the Levitical atonements, the apostle very properly termed these interpretations oppositions of knowledge, because they were framed to establish doctrines opposite to, and subversive of, the Gospel. To destroy the credit of these teachers, he affirmed that the knowledge from which they proceeded was falsely called inspired knowledge; for they were not inspired with the knowledge of the meaning of the Scriptures, but only pretended to it." Others think that the apostle has the Gnostics in view. But it is not clear that these heretics, or whatever they were, had any proper existence at this time. On the whole, Dr. Macknight's interpretation seems to be the best.
Verse 1 Timothy 6:21. Which some professing — Which inspired knowledge some pretending to, have set up Levitical rites in opposition to the great Christian sacrifice, and consequently have erred concerning the faith - have completely mistaken the whole design of the Gospel. See 1 Timothy 1:6; 1 Timothy 1:7.
Grace be with thee. — May the favour and influence of God be with thee, and preserve thee from these and all other errors!
Amen. — This word, as in former cases, is wanting in the most ancient MSS. In a majority of cases it appears to have been added by different transcribers nearly in the same way in which we add the word FINIS, simply to indicate the end of the work.
The subscriptions as usual are various. The following are the most remarkable afforded by the MSS.: -
The first to Timothy is completed; the second to Timothy begins. - DE. The First Epistle to Timothy is completed; the second to him begins. - G. The first to Timothy, written from Laodicea. - A. The first to Timothy, written from Ladikia. - CLAROMONT. Written from Laodicea, which is the metropolis of Phrygia. - The first to Timothy, written from Laodicea, which is the metropolis of Phrygia of Pacatiana. - Common GREEK TEXT, and several MSS. Instead of Pacatiana, some have Pancatiana, Capatiana, and Paracatiana.
The VERSIONS are not less discordant: -
The First Epistle to Timothy, which, was written from Laodicea. - SYR.
The VULGATE has no subscription.
The end of the epistle. It was written from Laodicea, which is the metropolis of the cities of Phrygia. - ARAB.
To the man Timothy. - AETHIOPIC.
The First Epistle to Timothy, written from Athens. - ARABIC of Erpenius.
Written from Athens, and sent by Titus, his disciple. - COPTIC.
Written from Macedonia. - AUCTOR SYNOPS.
The First Epistle to Timothy is ended. It was written from Laodicea, the metropolis of Phrygia of Pacatiana. - PHILOXENIAN SYRIAC.
There is one authority in Griesbach, Mt. c., for its being written from NICOPOLIS. This is the opinion also of Dr. Macknight.
That the epistle was not written from Laodicea nor Athens, but from Macedonia, has been rendered probable by the arguments produced in the preface, to which the reader is referred for this and the date of the epistle itself.
IN reviewing the whole of this epistle, I cannot help considering it of the first consequence to the Church of God. In it we see more clearly than elsewhere what the ministers of the Gospel should be, and what is the character of the true Church. Bishops, presbyters, and deacons are particularly described; and their qualifications so circumstantially detailed, that it is impossible to be ignorant on this head. What the Church should be is also particularly stated; it is the house of the living God; the place where he lives, works, and manifests himself. The doctrines and discipline of the Church are not less specifically noted. All these subjects are considered at large in the notes, and here nothing need be added.
Should it be said, the apostle, in giving the qualifications of a bishop, "nowhere insists on human learning," it may be answered in general, that no ignorant person in those times could have possibly got admittance into the Church as a teacher of Christianity. Every person, acknowledged as a teacher, was himself well taught in the word of God, and well taught by the Spirit of God; and much teaching of the Divine Spirit was then necessary, as the New Testament Scriptures were not then completed; and, if we were to allow the earlier date of this epistle, scarcely any part of the New Testament had then been written. The gospels had not come as yet into general circulation; and only a few of St. Paul's epistles, viz. those to the Thessalonians, and that to the Galatians, and the first to the Corinthians, had been written before the year 56. At such times much must have been done by immediate revelations, and a frequent communication of miraculous powers.
It is natural for men to run into extremes; and there is no subject on which they have run into wider extremes than that of the necessity of human learning; for in order to a proper understanding of the sacred Scriptures, on one hand, all learning has been cried down, and the necessity of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as the sole interpreter, strongly and vehemently argued. On the other, all inspiration has been set aside, the possibility of it questioned, and all pretensions to it ridiculed in a way savouring little of Christian charity or reverence for God. That there is a middle way from which these extremes are equally distant, every candid man who believes the Bible must allow. That there is an inspiration of the Spirit which every conscientious Christian may claim, and without which no man can be a Christian, is sufficiently established by innumerable scriptures, and by the uninterrupted and universal testimony of the Church of God; this has been frequently proved in the preceding notes. If any one, professing to be a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus, denies, speaks, or writes against this, he only gives awful proof to the Christian Church how utterly unqualified he is for his sacred function. He is not sent by God, and therefore he shall not profit the people at all. With such, human learning is all in all; it is to be a substitute for the unction of Christ, and the grace and influences of the Holy Spirit.
But while we flee from such sentiments, as from the influence of a pestilential vapour, shall we join with those who decry learning and science, absolutely denying them to be of any service in the work of the ministry, and often going so far as to assert that they are dangerous and subversive of the truly Christian temper and spirit, engendering little besides pride, self-sufficiency, and intolerance?
That there have been pretenders to learning, proud and intolerant, we have too many proofs of the fact to doubt it; and that there have been pretenders to Divine inspiration, not less so, we have also many facts to prove. But such are only pretenders; for a truly learned man is ever humble and complacent, and one who is under the influence of the Divine Spirit is ever meek, gentle, and easy to be entreated. The proud and the insolent are neither Christians nor scholars. Both religion and learning disclaim them, as being a disgrace to both.
But what is that learning which may be a useful handmaid to religion in the ministry of the Gospel? Perhaps we may find an answer to this important question in one of the qualifications which the apostle requires in a Christian minister, 1 Timothy 3:2: He should be apt to teach - capable of teaching others. See the note. Now, if he be capable of teaching others, he must be well instructed himself; and in order to this he will need all the learning that, in the course of the Divine providence, he is able to acquire. But it is not the ability merely to interpret a few Greek and Latin authors that can constitute a man a scholar, or qualify him to teach the Gospel. Thousands have this knowledge who are neither wise unto salvation themselves, nor capable of leading those who are astray into the path of life. Learning is a word of extensive import; it signifies knowledge and experience; the knowledge of God and of nature in general, and of man in particular; of man in all his relations and connections; his history in all the periods of his being, and in all the places of his existence; the means used by Divine providence for his support; the manner in which he has been led to employ the powers and faculties assigned to him by his Maker; and the various dispensations of grace and mercy by which he has been favoured. To acquire this knowledge, an acquaintance with some languages, which have long ceased to be vernacular, is often not only highly expedient, but in some cases indispensably necessary. But how few of those who pretend most to learning, and who have spent both much time and much money in seats of literature in order to obtain it, have got this knowledge! All that many of them have gained is merely the means of acquiring it; with this they become satisfied, and most ignorantly call it learning. These resemble persons who carry large unlighted tapers in their hand, and boast how well qualified they are to give light to them who sit in darkness, while they neither emit light nor heat, and are incapable of kindling the taper they hold. Learning, in one proper sense of the word, is the means of acquiring knowledge; but multitudes who have the means seem utterly unacquainted with their use, and live and die in a learned ignorance. Human learning, properly applied and sanctified by the Divine Spirit, is of inconceivable benefit to a Christian minister in teaching and defending the truth of God. No man possessed more of it in his day than St. Paul, and no man better knew its use. In this, as well as in many other excellences, he is a most worthy pattern to all the preachers of the Gospel. By learning a man may acquire knowledge; by knowledge reduced to practice, experience; and from knowledge and experience wisdom is derived. The learning that is got from books or the study of languages is of little use to any man, and is of no estimation, unless practically applied to the purposes of life. He whose learning and knowledge have enabled him to do good among men, and who lives to promote the glory of God and the welfare of his fellow creatures, can alone, of all the literati, expect to hear in the great day: Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.
How necessary learning is at present to interpret the sacred writings, any man may see who reads with attention; but none can be so fully convinced of this as he who undertakes to write a comment on the Bible. Those who despise helps of this kind are to be pitied. Without them they may, it is true, understand enough for the mere salvation of their souls; and yet even much of this they owe, under God, to the teaching of experienced men. After all, it is not a knowledge of Latin and Greek merely that can enable any man to understand the Scriptures, or interpret them to others; if the Spirit of God take not away the veil of ignorance from the heart, and enlighten and quicken the soul with his all-pervading energy, all the learning under heaven will not make a man wise unto salvation.
Finished correcting for a new edition, Dec. 22d, 1831. - A.C.
These files are public domain.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 6". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany