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- 2 Timothy
by Joseph Benson
SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO TIMOTHY.
Concenring the parentage, country, and education of Timothy, as also his conversion and appointment to the office of an evangelist, with some particulars of his life and labours, see the preface to the former epistle. That this second epistle was written while Paul was a prisoner at Rome is universally acknowledged; but whether during his first or second imprisonment, has been matter of debate. Hammond, Lightfoot, Cave, and Lardner, with several others, have maintained the former opinion; while Bishop Pearson, Whitby, Doddridge, Paley, and Macknight, with many more critics, contend for the latter: and the arguments they offer seem to be quite conclusive. The principal are the following: 1st. It appears from chap. 2 Timothy 1:8, and 2 Timothy 2:9, that when the apostle wrote this epistle he was a prisoner in bonds: but these could not be his first bonds; for then he was, in libera custodia, dwelling in his own hired house, receiving all that came to him, no one forbidding him, (Acts 28:30-31,) and his bonds being known in Cesar’s palace, and “to all others.” But when he wrote this second epistle, he was in arcta custodia, in such close confinement, that Onesiphorus was obliged to “seek him out diligently,” few knowing where he was to be found, chap. 2 Timothy 1:17. Secondly, In his first bonds, many of the brethren, being encouraged by his bonds, “were bold to speak the word without fear,” (Philippians 1:14,) but when he wrote this second epistle all men had forsaken him, 2 Timothy 4:16. Thirdly, When he wrote his former epistle he had an expectation of being soon released, and of seeing his Christian friends again, 2 Timothy 3:14; but in this epistle he not only gives no hint of any such expectation, but evidently signifies the contrary, observing, 2 Timothy 4:6, “I am now ready to be offered,” or “I am now offered,” as ηδη σπενδομαι means, “and the time” της εμης αναλυσεως εφεστηκε , “of my dissolution is instant,” or “is come.” “I have finished my course,” &c., “henceforth,” λοιπον , “what remains, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,” &c. From which words it is justly inferred, that when he wrote this he was in immediate expectation of death, either in consequence of Nero’s menaces, or of some express revelation from Christ, such as Peter also probably had a little before his martyrdom. See 2 Peter 1:14. And from hence the ancients generally concluded that this was the last epistle that St. Paul wrote.
There appears to be no certainty where Timothy was when the apostle wrote this epistle to him; but his principal design in writing it seems evidently to have been, to prepare Timothy for those sufferings to which he foresaw he would be exposed; to forewarn him of the apostacy and corruption which were beginning to appear in the church, and at the same time to animate him by his own example, and from the powerful motives which the gospel furnishes, to the most vigorous and resolute discharge of every part of the sacred office to which he had been called. The epistle has three parts: I. The inscription, 2 Timothy 1:1-2. II. An invitation, “Come to me,” variously expressed; 1. Having declared his love to Timothy, 2 Timothy 1:3-5, he exhorts him, “Be not ashamed of me,” 1 Timothy 6:0: 2 Timothy 1:6-14, and subjoins various examples, 2 Timothy 1:15-18. 2 Timothy 1:2. He adds the two-fold proposition, (1.) “Be strong;” (2.) “Commit the ministry” to faithful men, 2 Timothy 2:1-2. The former is treated of 2 Timothy 2:3-13; the latter, 2 Timothy 2:14; with further directions concerning his own behaviour, 2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Timothy 4:8. 2 Timothy 4:3. “Come quickly,” 2 Timothy 3:9. Here St. Paul mentions his being left alone, 2 Timothy 3:10-12. Directs to bring his books, 2 Timothy 3:13. Gives a caution concerning Alexander, 2 Timothy 3:14-15. Observes the inconstancy of men, and the faithfulness of God, 2 Timothy 3:16-17. 2 Timothy 3:4. “Come before winter,” salutations, 2 Timothy 4:19-21. III. The concluding blessing, 2 Timothy 4:22.
From this epistle, as well as from the first to the Thessalonians, we may draw a convincing argument in favour of the certain truth and unspeakable importance of Christianity. “The apostle had been for some time under close confinement at Rome, at the mercy of a cruel and capricious tyrant. He had seen himself deserted by his friends in his greatest extremity, and had nothing before him but the certain prospect of being called to suffer death in the same cause to which he had devoted his life. In this situation how does he behave? Does he seem to look back with concern on his past conduct, or to reset the sacrifice he had made of all his worldly interest? Can we discover any thing that betrays a secret consciousness of guilt, or even a suspicion of the weakness of his cause? Nay, does he drop a single expression that can be interpreted as a mark of fear, or discomposure of mind, in the apprehension of those gloomy scenes that lay before him? Surely if he had been an impostor, or had entertained the least doubt of the doctrines he had taught, something of this kind must have escaped him when writing to so intimate a friend, with whom he could intrust all the secrets of his breast. On the contrary, upon the most calm and deliberate survey, he expresses an entire satisfaction in reflecting on the part he had acted, and earnestly recommends it to his beloved pupil to follow his example in maintaining the glorious cause, even at the hazard of his life. He appears, throughout his epistle, to have felt a strong inward conviction of the truth of those principles he had embraced, and glories in the sufferings he endured in support of them, triumphing in the full assurance of being approved by his great Master, and of receiving at his hands a crown of distinguished lustre. A behaviour like this, in one who had so considerable a share in establishing the Christian religion, and expected in a short time to seal his testimony to it with his blood, must be allowed a strong confirmation of the truth of those facts on which our faith depends. It is at least a convincing proof that the apostle was himself sincere in what he professed to believe; and when the several circumstances of his history are considered, and impartially weighed, it will appear as evident that he could not possibly be deceived, and, consequently, that his testimony is to be admitted in full force.” Doddridge.