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‘Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.’
2 Timothy 2:1
The Holy Spirit speaking through St. Paul does not say ‘be strong’ merely. That would only end in despair. It is not ‘Be strong,’ but ‘Be strong—be strengthened in the strength that is already freely given to thee.’ God has loved thee, God has baptized thee, God has marked thy forehead with His cross, God has laid His hands upon thee and made thy very body the temple of the Holy Ghost, God has poured into thee all the strength thou dost need. Does the hand feel withered? There is a power to stretch it out. Does the body, the will, feel paralysed? There is a force, not thine own, supernatural, within thee, through the indwelling of God the blessed Spirit, that shall lift thee up to go on thy way rejoicing. ‘My child, be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.’
I. Try to lay hold of this difference: on the one side it is like that saying to the branch lying in the street, ‘Rise up, bear leaves, bear flowers, bear fruit!’ The Bible teaching is, ‘Branch in that tree, branch grafted by God’s own hand into that living tree, with the sap all flowing through thee, bring forth fruit in due season.’ The one teaching is like saying to the rusty iron tossed aside into the dust-heap, ‘Send out on all sides sparks of light, and life, and warmth.’ The other is like saying to the same bit of iron in the middle of a furnace, heated by God Himself, ‘Become radiant, let the fire kindle, let the warmth diffuse that has come into thee from God, by Whom thou hast been placed in the very midst of the fire of heaven.’ That you cannot do better, of course you cannot, than the words of the text; not ‘Be strong,’ but ‘My son, my daughter, my child, let the power that is within be manifested, be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.’
II. How utterly deficient we are in this.—Who amongst us is not tempted to be satisfied with weakness when we are called to power?
( a) We are told to repent.
( b) We are called to believe.
We hold back and we lose power.
III. The power of God is ‘made perfect in weakness.’—You are feeling the reaction. You did once work with a will, you had once a bright hope, you did once find joy in the Lord: it has gone, you cannot claim it, you cannot recall it. You can! There is the power of the living God, with all the joy and the peace and the hope and the force that shall crush under thy feet every doubt of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
—Bishop G. H. Wilkinson.
‘About the fifth or sixth century, in one of the very cold climates of Europe, a great persecution was raised against the Christians. It was determined that not one single man or woman who acknowledged Christ should be allowed to live. And there forty young men, all young, all in the prime of life, and they were taken to a great castle in those northern wilds. They were led into the courtyard, and there was seen a fire blazing with all its genial warmth. And then they were led into the rooms with comfortable couches, and into great baronial halls spread with costly viands and food of every kind. And one by one they were told, “Give up your Christianity, give up Christ, let nobody know you are a Christian.” Oh, what a parable it is of the way Satan whispers, “You will fall one day; you had much better make no profession. It will be very hard to bear to be quite alone and laughed at and made the offscouring of the earth. Eat, drink, and be merry. There is the warm fire, there is the companionship of all whom you love and respect. Just give up the Crucified.” And these men said what St. Peter said in the olden time, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. We have the mark of the cross on our forehead. We belong to Jesus Christ. We are strong in the grace that is in Jesus Christ. We shall die if you like, but we keep the truth.” Oh, would to God every man and woman here would say that when they go into business tomorrow, when they go out to the world, “I am on the side of Christ.” And they went out these forty men, and the cold was piercing, and they made a rough chant to keep the circulation going. “Lord Jesus,” they sang, “here are forty warriors come out to die for Thee. Grant that forty warriors may wear the crown in paradise.” ’
THE WAR OF THE LORD
‘Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.’
2 Timothy 2:3
The good soldier of Jesus Christ!
I. Eyes fixed.—He turns neither to the right hand nor to the left. Through evil report and good report, in sunshine and in storm, in patient endurance and with earnest endeavour, he climbs the steep ascent which leads to Life, drawn onwards by the attraction of Him on Whom his faith and hope and love are fixed, the King in His beauty.
II. The hardness of which the Apostle speaks is not the petty chastisement which men may choose to inflict upon themselves, and imagine that so they are bearing the Cross of Christ. It is the hardness of actual war. Keep watch and ward over the thoughts, the words, the deeds, of every hour. Take up arms with all your heart and mind, and soul and strength, against the sin which most easily besets you; and soon you will find that your path is rough indeed, your struggle hard.
III. There are three marks by which you are to be known:—
( a) The bold confession of His Name before a world which loves Him not.
( b) Manly energy in the wars of the Lord.
( c) Faithful perseverance even to the end.
‘We are called upon to “endure hardness,” to take our part in suffering hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. The word for this duty is often used in classical writers of the fatigues, the burdens, and privations which are connected with military service; and these thoughts may be applied to the higher service of the King of kings. Christianity means to-day what it always did. There is ever a cross to carry, spiritual fatigues and privations to be borne, principles for which to contend, hardness to be endured.’
QUALITIES OF A GOOD SOLDIER
Let us think for a moment of some of those qualifications which make for a good soldier.
I. Loyalty to the Captain of our salvation.—Loyalty to the Church of which we are so justly proud; loyalty to the principles of our Church; loyalty to our baptismal or confirmation vows—this is right and good, but nothing will sustain our enthusiasm in the battle of life like loyalty to the Person of Jesus Christ. This word ‘loyalty’ involves several ideas.
(a) It involves absolute trust in our Leader and devotion to His Person. The Christian soldier does his work well in the exact degree of his devotion to Christ. This is the deep secret of a good warfare. Great leaders have ever had the power of calling forth the enthusiasm of their followers. Hannibal, Cæsar, Napoleon, and our own Wellington had this power. And ‘the love of Christ constraineth us.’ There is no power like the power of His Name to excite the enthusiasm of His people and to draw them on to battle and to victory.
(b) And loyalty to Christ involves the hatred of sin—the enemy of Christ, of goodness, of our souls. ‘Ye that love the Lord, hate evil.’ This knowledge that sin is disloyalty to our Master may often be the means of keeping us from it, as we struggle to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ.
II. Strict obedience to orders, although we may not at the time understand them.
III. A face, and never the back, turned to the enemy.
IV. A readiness to take whatever place be assigned to us in the battle without question.
V. A firm persuasion of the righteousness of the cause in which we are fighting.
—Rev. Dr. Noyes.
‘The exhortation of the text is, no doubt, addressed in the first instance to one who was an officer in the Christian army; but its application is not restricted to those only who are “stewards of the mysteries of God.” The life of every Christian is from one aspect a warfare—a warrior’s history—a fact of which we should never lose sight. It is a thought before us very frequently in the Holy Scripture, and in the Offices of our Church. When the sign of the Cross was imprinted on our brow at Holy Baptism, it was in token that we should not hereafter be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, but manfully to fight under His banner against sin, the world, and the devil, and to continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto our life’s end.’
What has the soldier which is purely good? St. Paul would point us to two things, discipline and endurance.
I. He is a man of discipline, who has taken, in the Roman phrase, a sacrament, or oath. He has chosen his side and has his Master. It is that which our dear Lord Himself praises in the first centurion of the Gospel (St. Matthew 8.). We Christians need that lesson very much. There are Christians who all their life long are wondering on which side they shall stand, and who are ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth. Let us pray our Captain, our Lord and Saviour, that we may not fall into the awful curse of those who deny Him, their Master.
II. The hardness, the endurance, of the military life.—That also is a lesson to us as a nation and a Church. In the nation there is a perilous seeking after softness, pleasure, satisfaction, ease, a longing to avoid what is hard; I speak not of luxury, I speak not of eating and drinking, of ‘lying soft and rolling swift’: those are mere specks upon the stream of our life. I speak of that general and widespread longing to avoid all that is unpleasant, to avoid the word that costs us or our neighbour pain, to avoid the manly course when we are in an awkward situation, to replace the Christian ideal of suffering and conflict by another ideal of mere release from bodily pain, of an earthly and passing peace of mind, of a health and bodily development which subjects all other interests to its own. The man who is trying to find a soft place in the world will never find one soft enough. It is from those given up to pleasure, and longing for what they call happiness, that we hear words which come near to rebellion against God Himself when they have met with one of the common troubles of life. They see endless losses in losses which are indeed real, but in which braver souls find encouragement. Fighting people find the world tolerable and joyful; it is those who recognise it as a battle who are optimists. The soft theory means a bitter heart, and the bold acceptance of God’s call to arms means a heart at peace, knowing peace under the banner of a King at war.
—Rev. P. N. Waggett.
‘St. Paul loved soldiers, and owed much to them; and, seeing their frank and brave carriage, he says, This also is what the Christian is to be: let him be the good soldier of Christ, and keep himself from all entanglements of civil life, the ordinary affairs of this life, which he must use but not be used by, in order that he may give satisfaction to Him Who has chosen him to be, not His darling, but His soldier.’
‘No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him Who hath chosen him to be a soldier.’
2 Timothy 2:4
The Roman soldier served under certain restrictions. The general principle was that he was excluded from those relations, agencies, and engagements which it was thought would divert his mind from that which was to be the sole object of his pursuit.
I. The Christian soldier is to be unentangled.—In the world—he must not be of it. He should aim at freedom from a worldly spirit. With regard to to-morrow he must have no anxious thought. His comrades should be one with him in the service of the Lord. His commercial or professional pursuits should be subordinate to the duties of his higher calling. He must not live in pleasure-seeking, or ever consider himself ‘off duty’—free to indulge in that which the service forbids.
II. The motive.—And all this ‘that he may please Him Who has chosen him to be a soldier,’ enrolled him in the Church Militant. What a grand motive is here put before us—pleasing Christ! Was not this the secret of St. Paul’s greatness? He stands in the foremost rank of those who have lived for Christ, who have fought a good fight; and do we ask, what brought him to this position, what was the reason of his success—his deep spirituality? The text is the answer. His whole life was spent with the aim and object of pleasing Christ. What, alas! is the motive in too many lives to-day in this selfish age? Is it not self-pleasing, self-gratification, self-aggrandisement? But Christ, Who pleased not Himself, said, ‘If any one will come after Me, let him deny himself,’ let him crucify self for My sake. Altruism is with too many in this twentieth century but a substitute for a truer conception of life. Love to Christ has produced more philanthropy than all other motives together. To see in every man a brother, and to aid him in his need because we love Christ, is one of the first duties of Christianity.
III. Have we been enrolled in Christ’s army?—Did we receive baptism rightly? Was our confirmation a reality? If so, the vows of God are upon us, and we are called to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. The Roman soldier renewed his oath of allegiance every year. It was his sacramentum. Not once a year only, but often we are called to renew our allegiance to our Lord. At His Holy Table, at that Holy Feast, which is the Christian’s ‘sacramentum,’ as we prostrate ourselves before Him and receive the tokens of His dying love, we shall receive fresh supplies of strength to enable us to fight manfully under His banner, and to continue His faithful soldier and servant unto our life’s end.
Rev. Dr. Noyes.
‘If a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.’
2 Timothy 2:5
Let me ask you in all earnestness whether you have seriously set before yourself the task of gaining thorough mastery over every part of your being? ‘So fight I, not as one that beateth the air.’
I. St. Paul describes no random efforts here.—His picture is of one who gets his enemy right in front of him, faces him, and then with well-directed blows, aimed straight from the shoulder, fells him. Too much of our battling with self in its many disguises is futile for lack of method and directness. Our plans of attack are often as vague as our confessions of contrition. We go to God and tell Him we have erred from His ways like lost sheep; but we keep back from Him the particular road down which we have strayed and the forbidden pastures in which we have fed.
( a) Indirectness is the death of prayer. We cannot be too explicit in laying bare the breast when in the presence of Him Who sees in secret, to Whom all hearts are open, all desires known.
( b) The same remark applies to our use of grace given. The stronger of two antagonists may be worsted by the weaker, if he relies only upon mere brute force. The one who economises his resources, whose strength is well directed and skilfully husbanded, will prove the better man of the two.
II. If we would be ‘crowned,’ we must not only put forth the strength, which God supplies, but ‘strive lawfully’ according to the rules of the combat. Method must be added to pluck and power. Consider the care with which the competitor prepares for the struggle: he subjects himself voluntarily to a fixed rule of living; so much exercise, and at such and such intervals; such a diet: he denies himself this and that luxury, this and that creature comfort. All is made subordinate to the development of his muscular powers and his physical endurance. His ‘corruptible crown’ is worth it all in his eyes, even the chance, often small, of securing it. Shall the spiritual athlete be outdone by him?
III. Self-conquest is self-expansion.—We repudiate the assertion that self-conquest is self-repression. Rather it is self-expansion. It is the repression of all that is hostile to the true expansion of our capabilities, and by true we mean their natural expansion. It is the blocking of forbidden channels that the life-stream may flow the fuller through the rest. ‘He that overcometh shall inherit all things.’ Amid such boundless gain there is no room for loss.
—Bishop A. Pearson.
‘We are striving for masteries; we have a prize to contend for; we look to be crowned at the close of the contest. We are spiritual athletes: we have to diet our souls, so to speak, to train for the struggle. The crown we strive for is not of perishing parsley or bay, such as that which rewarded the victors in the Isthmian sports. They receive a corruptible crown, we an incorruptible. A few days will suffice to see their laurels wither; to all eternity ours will be green.’
‘REMEMBER JESUS CHRIST’
‘Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my Gospel.’
2 Timothy 2:8
A heavy burden had been laid upon the young disciple to whom St. Paul so wrote. Before he had reached middle life Timotheus had been placed as the Apostle’s delegate, with episcopal authority, over the Christian community in Ephesus; and it seems clear that he was still responsible for that great trust when this letter was sent to him. It is hard to realise the strain which at that time such an office must have put upon a man’s robustness of conviction and tenacity of purpose.
St. Paul may never see Timotheus, never write to him again; well then, he will leave dinted into his mind, by a few incisive words, one commanding and sustaining Image. For it is not, as it appears in our English version, an event of the past, however supreme in its importance, however abiding in its results, that St. Paul here fastens upon the memory of his disciple; it is not the abstract statement of a truth in history or theology, however central to the faith, however vast in its consequences.
I. It is a living Person, Whom St. Paul has seen, Whose form he would have Timotheus keep ever in his mind, distinct, beloved, unrivalled, sovereign—‘Bear in remembrance Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.’ When the hardship which Christ’s true soldier must expect is pressing heavily upon you; when the task of self-discipline seems tedious and discouraging; when the day’s work seems more than you can bear, and when night, it may be, brings but little rest; when you are sick at heart to see folly and wilfulness, conceit and treachery, ruining what years of labour and devotion hardly reared, then let that ever living Form stand out before you—‘Bear in remembrance Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.’ Bear Him in remembrance as He now is, enthroned in everlasting victory.
II. Two thoughts from the counsel St. Paul thus gives:—
(a) He is trying to lodge at the heart of Timotheus’s life and work that which has been the deepest and most effective force in his own.
(b) It is the Form which has made him what he is, for life or for death, that St. Paul would with his last words, it may be, leave clenched for ever on the mind and heart of his disciple. The vision of that Form may keep him true and steadfast when all is dark, confused, and terrible around him.
III. May not we do well to take the bidding to ourselves?—We know, perhaps, that our hearts are weak, and our wills unsteady; the time in which we should have stored up strength against the day of trial may not have been used as now we wish it had been. There are signs of trouble and confusion in the air, and some faint hearts begin to fail; and some of us, perhaps, ‘see not our tokens—so clearly as we did.’ But One we may see, as we lift our eyes; it is He Who liveth and was dead; and behold He is alive for evermore; He Who cannot fail His Church, or leave even the poorest and least worthy of His servants desolate and bewildered when the darkness gathers, and the cry of need goes up; He Who may be to any one of us what He was to His Apostle.
—Bishop F. Paget.
THE TENDENCY TO FORGET
Remember Jesus Christ! ‘But,’ ask some, ‘is there any likelihood that we should forget Jesus Christ?’ Yes, there is, or this text would not have been written.
I. The tendency to forget arises from—
( a) The engrossment of things near and seen.
( b) The temptations of modern life.
II. Yet we cannot do without remembering Him.
( a) Remember Him Who forgives.
( b) Thoughts of Christ sanctify.
( c) To remember Him saves from discouragement.
( d) To remember Him keeps us up under the trials of life.
‘As the Persian fable speaks of the rose giving its own fragrance to the senseless clod which it touches, so with things Divine. Some of our souls are like senseless clods. We must get our minds, the earthen vessels, filled with the treasure of thoughts about Christ.’
WHEN AND HOW
‘Remember Jesus Christ’—when?
I. In days of health and gladness.—He can make bright things brighter, and sweet things sweeter, and if you come to Christ He will give you such joy and peace as human imagination has never dreamed of ( 1 Corinthians 2:9-10).
II. In days of sorrow.—‘In the midst of life we are in death.’ ‘The garden and the grave are not far apart.’ But ‘Remember Jesus Christ,’ and turn your tearful eyes to Him and He will teach you to ‘sing … the Psalm of life in the valley of the shadow of death.’
‘Remember Jesus Christ’—and how?
III. As ‘dead.’—Think of His atoning death. Think of His finished work. Put your whole trust in what He has done. ‘We preach Christ crucified.’
IV. As ‘Risen.’—Not an oriental Christ Who lived two thousand years ago and Who lies in His grave beneath the Syrian stars, but a Living Christ, ‘able to save to the uttermost.’ So think of Him as having died and of now being ‘alive for evermore.’
Rev. F. Harper.
‘One of the wonderful things about the Epistles is their scanty reference to Christ’s life and words. We are eager to dwell on that life of loveliness and grace. We are quick to cry, “Back to Christ: back to the Jesus of the gospel story.” We are amazed at the slight mention of that Jesus Who walked by the lake and fed the multitudes. But Paul and Peter and James and John have their hearts more set on the risen Christ, and His coming again. One event is the thing of imperishable memory. One event of the life overshadows all the rest. It is His death and resurrection. With the disciples, as with Christ, His death eclipses all else He said or did.’
‘The word of God is not bound.’
2 Timothy 2:9
It is a notable allegation, and we take occasion to direct your thoughts to certain considerations flowing from this statement.
I. The Bible is the Word of God.—What do we mean by this tremendous assertion? What should the phrase ‘the Word of God’ convey?
( a) Views of inspiration were prevalent once, which we of to-day decline to accept; and our rejection of them leaves, as we are persuaded, the Bible a more wonderful production in our esteem than before.
( b) Another consideration is offered. The shifting of the front of attack is singular. Years ago it was contended by destructive criticism that Moses could not possibly have had sufficient learning to write the Pentateuch. Now modern discoveries have conclusively proved that he would have been behind his contemporaries had he not.
II. The Bible being written by men whose thoughts were not fettered, but free, is intended for readers whose thoughts are free. ‘Uphold me,’ prays the Psalmist, ‘with Thy free Spirit.’ ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,’ writes St. Paul. We confess to little sympathy with that timid credulity (we cannot call it faith) which fears the disintegrating influence of modern criticism. It is so intensely illogical. If the Bible can be pulled to pieces, the sooner this process is accomplished the better for a hitherto deluded Christendom. But can it? Like its Lord, the Incarnate Word of God, it is on its trial.
Like its Lord, once more we say, This Book is ‘set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be spoken against.’
—Bishop Alfred Pearson.
‘St. Paul here registers his confidence in the power of the Word of God to dispense with his personal support and defence. It does not suffer from his enforced withdrawal from active service. It is not restrained in its effectual activities because for the time he is. It has within itself the secret of its own vitality and of its own spiritual successes. And this will be vindicated in the eyes of the world, while he is hidden away from observation in the Roman barrack. Said a man—and a young one—from a platform once: “I am here to-day to defend the Bible.” Perhaps his words were less modest than their meaning. Probably older people present smiled, conscious that the Bible did not need his defence or any one else’s; that a book which had survived more attacks than all other books in the world put together would survive that very young man and all the foes against which he had the purpose of defending it.’
‘If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny himself.’
2 Timothy 2:13
There is no believer in the whole world—however long he may have believed, and however strong his faith may have grown—who has not seasons of partial, if not of entire, unbelief! Who has not known those times of dimmed sight, or of clouded vision, or of dark night?
The antidote is in God.
I. God cannot contradict or deny His own word.—What He has once said, that stands for ever and ever.
II. God cannot contradict or renounce His own character.
III. ‘God cannot deny’ what He is.—It is the nature of Deity—it revolves within itself—the great I AM. Independent of all external influences or analogies. He is not ‘yea’ to-day and ‘nay’ to-morrow; but ‘yea and amen’; and every day ‘amen’ to the ‘yea’ of yesterday.
IV. Always seek your confidences rather in what God is, than in what you are.—Do not look down to the restless vacillations of your own uncertain heart; but keep your eye steadily on the eternity of God.
—Rev. James Vaughan.
‘One of the greatest of men that ever ruled on this earth—(some will say amongst the best, and some will say amongst the worst of men, that ever lived)—said, on his dying bed, words to this effect: “Was I ever converted? Did I ever love God? If I did, I die happy. God cannot change, and His work cannot fail.” There was a great truth in his words; but the last day alone can tell whether the conditions of his hope were fulfilled, and whether his conversion is now and for ever real!’
‘Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be asbamed.’
2 Timothy 2:15
Workmen we are in the high and in the holy sense, ‘fellow-workers with God.’ May God put it into my power to speak some words of encouragement, to give some words of caution, to utter some words of direction which, falling upon the soil of a prepared and loving and sympathetic heart, may bring forth fruit to the honour and glory of God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I. What is the workman’s task, set before us as Sunday-school teachers? His task is this, and simply this—the rearing of children for God; his task is this, and simply this—the arming, equipping, and preparing the young of our great cities or of our lonely hamlets with these weapons from the Divine armoury whereby they shall be able to do a good battle against sin, the world, and the devil, and to continue Christ’s faithful soldiers, and serve Him even to their life’s end.
II. The tools to be employed.
(a) First among these tools I would place, not only in order but in prominence and supremacy, the Holy Scriptures of the blessed God. Whatever else we may work at or work with, if our Sunday-school teachers are not diligent in imprinting upon the youthful nature the power and blessedness of God’s most Holy Word, their teaching and their most holy work will go for little.
(b) And let our attention be directed, too, towards the imparting of the Word of God, not as the dry bones of an ecclesiastical history, or as abstruse symbolism, or as cold and negative philosophy. Let us make the Lord Jesus the animating principle and power of every word we teach from out of the Word of God.
(c) The Prayer Book and the Catechism should form definite elements in the teaching of our Sunday-schools.
III. The workman’s character.
( a) There must be prayerfulness.
( b) There must be intelligence.
( c) There must be patience. Sometimes we get restless, impatient, and we sometimes get indignant. The moment we do our power for usefulness is almost instantaneously paralysed.
Rev. Prebendary Cross.
‘St. Paul looked down the long current of that Church’s history, and he was able to see, and because of that vision was able to enforce, with all the stern dignity of masterful power, that what that Church wanted in his day—and in all ages—was a body of men who would labour faithfully for the truth of the everlasting God; and, therefore, with almost his dying breath, with a hand not so much palsied with age as unnerved by the approaching trial that was awaiting him, he committed to writing this last, this stern and yet almost tender admonition.’
THE SPIRIT OF WORK
I want you to think about this text as it applies to our ordinary work. Our ordinary work may be simply the drudgery of life, or it may be transformed and altered and made an offering which God Almighty will accept and reward.
I. Ordinary work.—We who come to church, most of all we who are communicants, ought to do our work so splendidly that people will say when they see us doing our common work, ‘Oh, I did not think much of religion; I used to think it was a matter of form, and very good for a Pharisee, but now I see that that man or that woman who goes to church and receives the Sacrament, that that man or that woman brings a brightness and a spring and an earnestness and a thoroughness into the work which others who are not moved by the power of religion do not.’ Is that so with you?’
II. Work in our souls.—St. Paul would have me, when I read these words, think about my religion as work. Now that is just where most people do not think about religion. What I want to do with the thoughts of my Judge coming, and what I want to see you do, is this: to think perhaps if you would on your knees about your religion as work. Is it work? Now, come, be honest—is it work? Some people’s religion is merely pleasure. Some people’s religion is merely relaxation. They come to church because of the music, or come to church because of the pleasure of hearing the Word of God, and so on. But what I want about my religion is that it should be work. Now, how far is your religion work? I will tell you how far it ought to be work. Do you know anything about the struggle to be a good man? Do you know what it is to get on your knees with some horrid sin, such as temper, or worse, before you, binding you fast in its horrible chains, and working in prayer? Do you know what it is to go into this busy, noisy city, and when the temptation comes with its whole force a thousandfold stronger, perhaps, because you have been wrestling in prayer, then to fight against it and nail the temptation to the Cross of Christ?
III. Work in self-sacrifice.—There is one other way in which I would have you test yourselves, and that is about our willingness to sacrifice things for God. No man who has led a selfish life can have a share with Him Who emptied Himself of all and was bound to the rude planks of Calvary. You cannot be, as some one has said, delicate members of the thorn-crowned head. What about yourself? What do you know about sacrifice? It is hard to give up things. It is a hard thing to give up our will and our pleasure for others. It is a hard thing to give up our money to God’s cause. What do you know about sacrifice? Please God, much. Only since He is coming to give to every one according as his works shall be, since He is saying to you and to me, we must be a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, surely we will kneel down to Him and ask Him to give us more richly of the grace of sacrifice, working in order that the nails which nailed Him may nail us also to the Tree, working so that in our measure, when we come to die, we may be able to say, ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’
—Rev. Canon T. B. Dover.
PRIVILEGE AND DUTY
‘Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, Let every one that nameth the Name of Christ depart from iniquity.’
2 Timothy 2:19
The whole of a man’s peace and all his security depend upon this—What is his ‘foundation’? Therefore, I pray you now, each one, to make it an individual concern, whether or not we find the evidence, each one of us, in our own souls, of being on the Lord’s ‘foundation.’
Let us look at the seal. It has two sides.
I. The one side—privilege.—‘The Lord knoweth them that are His.’ This records that truth of truths on which the whole Gospel rests, as upon one base—that salvation is all of God’s eternal, sovereign love. This must be held by every man who wishes to enjoy the peace of God: that it was God Who ‘knew’ me, loved me, and cared for me, and drew me long before I ever had any thoughts of Him. The whole of a man’s safety depends upon this: ‘The Lord knew’ me from all eternity; ‘the Lord knew’ me when He drew me to Himself; ‘the Lord knows’ me now—all my little thoughts and works; ‘the Lord knows’ I am trying to serve Him; ‘the Lord knows’ I wish to love Him.
II. The other side—duty.—The two sides must never be divided. But as the stamp of God’s love is laid, so must the stamp of man’s obedience be laid. God’s love first, to teach that there can be no real obedience till there is first a sense of God’s love. I believe, brethren, and I am sure, that after all there is not and there cannot be any certain evidence, which any man can have, of his interest in Christ, unless he is a growing Christian. Feelings often have deceived us, and they will deceive again. But the question is, practically, Are you ‘departing from iniquity’? I speak to those ‘who name the name of Christ.’ Now, mind, to be permitted to ‘name the name of Christ’ is a very serious thing; it is a very solemn responsibility. Every time you profess—every time you name that blessed name, it is like taking a pledge, a pledge to holiness; for in that name there is such a depth—in that blessed, awful name, there is such love, that to ‘name the name of Christ,’ and then to sin, makes that sin a thousand-fold. It is this which gives sin its blackest die—you ‘name the name of Christ.’ It is this which will be your condemnation, if you are condemned at the judgment day—that you ‘named the name of Christ.’ Therefore, beware! You wear that glorious title of ‘Christian.’ It is a name for the higher heaven, or the deeper hell. ‘Depart from iniquity.’ Observe the expression. It is not one single act; but it is a gradual, progressive retiring back from evil, because, more and more, the good prevails.
Rev. James Vaughan.
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 2". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany