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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

1 Timothy 4

Verses 1-16

1 Timothy 4:1 . Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, “learnedly, openly, perspicuously, and not in shadows, as was the manner of the ancient prophets.” THEOPHYLACT. See the note on 2 Thessalonians 2:1. By the Spirit we understand the same Spirit which inspired the ancient seers.

That in the latter times some shall depart from the faith. By apostasies near at hand, Timothy was apprized of more general defections in the later ages. In Paul’s time some departed from the faith to judaism, and others to the splendid dreams of gentile philosophy.

Giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons. Satan’s attempt was upon the Godhead of Christ. If thou be that Son of God, which the voice has declared, command that these stones may be made bread. Satan knew that the Messiah, or Word of the Lord, created the heavens and the earth, according to Psalms 33:6. And ministers being the pastors whom the sheep obey, he allures them to be the first corrupters of the faith, and the great agents of all the turbulent controversies that have rent the church.

1 Timothy 4:2 . Speaking lies in hypocrisy. They not only spake falsely of the apparitions of saints, of miracles wrought at the tombs of martyrs, but they knew that they spake falsely; and thus their conscience, burning at first with guilt, gradually became seared by the habit of lying and seduction.

1 Timothy 4:3 . Forbidding to marry. Antichrist thus exalts himself above all that is called God, even the great Creator, who had blessed the happy pair, and said, be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth. The christians favoured the exiles who had returned home after the storms of pagan persecution had subsided, by allowing them to live as solitaries, having acquired that habit in exile. Thus the monastic habits obtained, and spread at first through the east. In later ages monasticism was encouraged in all parts of the west, the nations then having but little foreign trade to demand their attention.

In England, during the wars of the bloody Saxons and Danes, the monks were almost the only men that cultivated letters, and caused Roman and Saxon literature to flourish. The venerable Bede, born on the banks of the Tyne in the year 701, and who died, according to Baronius, at the age of a hundred and five, was the common father of the monastic orders in this Durham, York, Fountains Abbey, Sherborne, Glastonbury, and numerous Kirkstal Abbey, three miles West of Leeds, I can speak with some degree of certainty, Mr. Bramley having lent me a Latin manuscript, written by one of the monks immediately after its sequestration.

Lacey being sick, about the year 1100, made a vow on his recovery to build a monastery, and obtained a grant of land from the king in the lovely Kirkstal. It was a daughter of Fountains Abbey, two miles from Rippon, the residence of monks of the sequestration, those fathers possessed four thousand sheep, two hundred and fifty head of horned cattle, and an equal number of yearlings and encreased, for every man of landed interest was in a manner obliged to leave them an ox-gang, or two hides of land, to enfeebled the state, and were altogether unsuited to a commercial nation. And in St. Paul’s ideas, it would seem, that to deny existence to the human Paul’s advice was that the young women should marry, and guide the house: 1 Timothy 5:14.

Commanding to abstain from meats. particularly the langtein, and support of the nation, and is contrary to the law of nature, every creature of the Lord being good, and sanctified by prayer.

Bodily exercise profiteth little, To persons of voluptuous habits, bodily exercise may be profitable, and so may depletion, but not the superstitious observances here referred to.

Among people, however, where temperance is a daily habit, fasting is needful, except it be on special occasions to seek the Lord by earnest prayer.

But godliness, ευσεβεια , “piety” as described Ephesians 3:14; Col 1:28 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; is profitable to all things, God, and makes us partakers of the divine felicity. Piety exalts our privileges which the church enjoys. Piety produces domestic happiness, and places our children in the way of enjoying all the good promised to them, as well as to their fathers. Yea, it leads to riches and honour. Psalms 112:3. Piety is the grand support of the mind in the time of sickness and manifold afflictions; it stays with us, and brightens when earthly comforts are withdrawn. In the hour of death especially, it swells the soul with divine ardours, to inherit the promises of immortality and eternal life. Religion is the heritage which the poor may enjoy in all its plenitude of hope and consolation.

1 Timothy 4:9-10 . This is a faithful saying, an assured truth, as illustrated in 1 Timothy 1:15. Therefore, for the hope of obtaining the promise of the present life, and also of that which is to come, we both labour and suffer reproach. We likewise continue in those labours, and support those conflicts, because we trust in the living God, who is, σωτηρ , the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe. The term Conserver of all men, does not fully express the apostle’s meaning; “for unless a man believe that God willeth all men to be saved,” says Theophylact, “how should he sustain all those conflicts for their salvation? Timothy is excited here to endure sufferings, and not relax in duty, nor seek help in afflictions from any other source, but hope in him who ever lives, and who is the only Saviour.”

1 Timothy 4:12 . Let no man despise thy youth. The people do not expect in young ministers the wisdom of grey hairs; they are pleased when they see a promise of it. But there are some extraordinary young men, as Fenelon remarks, whose wisdom equals that of the aged, consummate in virtue. La sagess extraordinaire de quelques jeune hommes, qui egalent les vieillards, consommés en virtu. Telem. livre 8.

Timothy was now little turned of thirty years, and the more aged presbyters might have their feelings on seeing so young a bishop placed over them. But his word in the sanctuary, his conversation in private, his charity in all her divine forms; his spirit, full of ardour and zeal; his faith and courage, like Paul’s, who had seen the Lord, superior in conflicts; his purity irreproachable, would cause the church to see that he filled the place which heaven had designed.

1 Timothy 4:13 . Give attendance, be attentive to reading. The jews deeply lament the loss of their books. Augustine also laments, that though the writings of the first ages were innumerable, yet few had come down to them. All however are not lost; we have invaluable remains of antiquity, and of the moderns we have more than we can read. A minister must spend his mornings with his books, especially the works of the fathers. “To be ignorant,” says Cicero, “of what was done before we were born, is always to live children.” An aged minister, the Rev. Robert Hopkins, once advised me, in reading my morning chapter, to expound it as though a congregation were before me: this, he said, would make me “apt to teach.”

1 Timothy 4:14 . Neglect not the gift that is in thee. All natural, all divine, and all acquired endowments require cultivation. The expanse of thought can find no limits. Heaven feeds the flocks in fresh and green pastures.

By the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Erasmus’s note here is, “so some copies have it; but the more ancient coincide with the Greek, which hath πρεσβυτεριου , that is, presbyters, and not presbytery.” Ambrose also reads, sic quidam habent codices. According to these fathers, unction and benedictions attend those offices. Acts 13:3.

1 Timothy 4:15-16 . Meditate upon these things. Dwell upon every thing which belongs to the ministry. Give thyself wholly to them, with the enthusiasm of painters, poets, and of all who study the fine arts. If they do it for an earthly crown, how much more shall ministers do it for the heavenly crown? Take heed then to thyself in all moral, and all mental qualifications, because thy own salvation, and that of thy hearers, is connected with these improvements.


The apostle having stated the pillar and ground of the truth to consist in the Godhead of Christ, justified in his claims by miracles wrought by the Holy Spirit, and discovered incarnate to angels, here adds, that from this faith many should apostatize, and dishonour and rob him of his glory by the worship of dead men, here called angels or demons. The apostle called the gods of the gentiles demons, when addressing the Athenians, Acts 17:18, which was also a common name in their poets. But ah, how was this strange calamity brought upon the church? Why did her watch-men slumber? It was occasioned much in the same way as idolatry was brought upon the sons of Noah at Babel. They deified Belus after his death, the Baal of Israel, the Bel of Babylon, and the successor of Nimrod. They paid divine honours to ancient princes and patriarchs, and supposed them to be their guardians and protectors. In the primitive church, when the heathens accused the christians of impiety in not honouring departed merit, Eusebius replies, that they did worship or hold their assemblies at the sepulchres of the martyrs. Præp. Euang. lib. 13. So far all was harmless, though on the verge of danger. But gradually, as offerings came from a half pagan church, especially utter the time of Constantine, and as the clergy lost the spirit and power of religion, being corrupted with the times, they first winked at divine honours being paid to the statue of the martyr in each church, and then, as gain and corruption encreased, they began to enjoin the worship of saints. They accounted the souls of martyrs as the Mahuzzims, or towers of their city and church. Daniel 11:38. Now the pope and his cardinals, with all canons, councils, and clergy, really accounted by protestants the apostate church, are guilty of systematically framing and enforcing this idolatry in the grossest sense. The chaste bride of Christ is become the whore of Babylon, a mystical name for Rome, which tyrannized in the west, as Babylon once did in the east.

It was foretold that the apostate church should be distinguished by hypocrisy and lies, by signs and lying wonders; and whoever reads Daillè on the right use of the fathers, will see that to support the supremacy of Rome and image worship, they corrupted the early writings of the church, forged new ones, feigned myriads of miracles to be wrought at the tombs of the martyrs, and wrote legendary lives of the martyrs, uniting facts to fiction, to make their plea complete, and to draw simple souls to idolatry. All christians are therefore bound to shun their worship, in which they cannot unite without giving countenance to idolatry. Like Paul at Lystra, we should be ready to rend our garments at a deed which gives the glory of God’s omnipresence to a creature, by supposing the blessed Virgin, or the martyr, to be present in all christian assemblies, and in heaven also at the same time. What is this but ascribing divine attributes to mere creatures, though the Lord himself has said, my glory will I not give to another. Protestant martyrs refused to bend the knee at the shrines of idolatry, and preferred rather to suffer at the burning stake.

The forbidding to marry and to eat various kinds of meats, is a farther mark of antichrist. No priest, no monk, no friar, no nun, can marry, under the penalty of excommunication. God has said, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth; but this armillum improbum, this armed wicked one, this man of sin, this antichrist, has exalted himself above all that is called God, by forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats. Decrees of this kind are made efficient to supersede the canon of scripture. Thus error and interest combined in the mystery of iniquity to form the antichristian hierarchy, which God has sentenced, as the punishment of apostasy, to afflict and oppress the church for twelve hundred and sixty years. Revelation 12:6.

It is of great consequence also to note, that the apostle delivered this luminous comment on the prophecy of Daniel 11:36-39, for the good of Timothy, and of all the ministers under his care, that being warned, they might be nourished up in the words of faith and of sound doctrine. Woe then to those watchmen who first suffered the pure and apostolic faith to be corrupted. Their base supineness produced the long and grievous mischiefs which have since afflicted the church. Let us abide by the scriptures, the sweet fountains of life: the bible and the bible only contains the religion or faith of the protestant world.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.