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STRENGTH IN THE GRACE OF CHRIST
2 Timothy 2:1. My son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
HOW shall it be that all of us, who are assembled here this day, should ever get to heaven, so weak as we are, and so corrupt, and in the midst of so many and great dangers? I look back to the Apostle’s days; and find, that when he was in prison at Rome, “all the converts that were of Asia, turned away from him;” but that one pious man, “Onesiphorus, sought him out with great diligence,” to relieve his necessities, and to comfort his soul [Note: 2 Timothy 1:15-18.]. Now, if reduced to such straits as the Apostle Paul was, for the Gospel’s sake, how should we hope to stand? How should we avoid the apostasy of the many, and retain the fidelity of the few? This instruction the Apostle gives to his beloved Timothy: “Thou, therefore, my son, (seeing how hard it is to stand in times of severe trial,) be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus:” that is, ‘know that there is grace treasured up for thee in Christ: and, in dependence upon that, thou shalt be able to sustain all the trials that shall come upon thee.’
To elucidate these words, I will shew,
What a fulness of grace there is treasured up for us in Christ—
But how can I present this to your minds in any intelligible shape? Methinks it can be done only in a way of illustration. Take, then, some scriptural illustrations; by means of which you may apprehend, in some considerable degree, the mysterious truth which I wish to submit to you.
Consider Christ, then,
As a Vine—
[This is our Lord’s own suggestion: “I am the Vine; ye are the branches [Note: John 15:5.].” Now we know, that every branch derives all its sap and nourishment from the vine; and that, if separated from the vine, it can bring forth no fruit whatever. This, then, will convey a very just idea of the connexion that subsists between Christ and his people; and of their entire dependence on him for every fresh supply of grace — — —
But an husbandman prunes the luxuriant branches of his vine; lest the sap being too widely diffused, its influence be weakened, and its fructifying power be abridged. In this, therefore, the image altogether fails: and we must look for one more suitable, by regarding Christ,]
As a Sun—
[This supplies the whole universe with light: and every individual of mankind, when exposed to its rays, enjoys as much of it as if he alone existed upon earth. Nor has he the less of its influence from its being extended to all the millions of mankind. Thus has every believer as much of Christ’s gracious influence as his soul can need; having it neither increased by the paucity of those who partake of it, nor diminished by the numbers — — — “The Sun of Righteousness” is alike sufficient for all — — —
Yet the sun affords us not the same genial warmth in winter, as in the summer months; and at night it is altogether hid from us. In these respects, therefore, this image also fails. But we shall find an illustration more complete, if we consider Christ,]
As a Fountain—
[Under this character our blessed Lord commends himself to us: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” But especially is he compared with the rock smitten in the wilderness, “from whence gushed rivers of water,” for the supply of all the people of Israel; and which followed them in very abundant streams, through all their journeying in the wilderness [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:4.]. Here then we have a more appropriate image: for as He is the only source of grace to every living soul, so may every one have access to him at all times, to obtain a supply fully commensurate with his utmost necessities. And in this does this image pre-eminently display the fulness that is in Christ Jesus, and the benefit to be derived from it; because “every soul that drinks of that living water has within himself a well of water, springing up to everlasting life:” so that, having Christ within him, he can never thirst again, nor want any other source, either of strength or comfort [Note: John 4:13-14; John 7:37-38.] — — —
Without attempting to give any further illustration of what, after all, can never be adequately comprehended, I will only observe, that the representation is truly scriptural; since we are expressly told, that “it hath pleased the Father that in Christ should all fulness dwell [Note: Colossians 1:19.],” and that all his people are said to “ receive, out of his fulness, grace for grace [Note: John 1:16.].”]
Let us then consider,
Our duty in relation to it—
We are to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus;” that is,
We are to apply to him for it with simplicity—
[We should have it as a settled principle in our minds, that there is no strength in man, nor any other source of grace than Christ Jesus: and without hesitation we should go to him from day to day, and from hour to hour, to receive it out of his fulness. We should not dream of meriting it at his hands, or of earning it by any thing that we can do: we should receive it as freely as the Israelites did the waters that issued from the rock; and should go to it as the only source of all that we need. Did the Israelites, think you, attempt to dig wells in the wilderness, when they had access to that stream? So then should we go to Christ for grace continually, and derive from him all that our necessities require — — —]
We are to rely upon it with confidence—
[We should never, for a moment, entertain doubts or fears respecting Christ’s sufficiency to supply our wants. Whatever dangers threaten us, we should say, “There be more with us than with them [Note: 2 Chronicles 32:7.]:” and, “If God be for us, who can be against us [Note: Romans 8:31.]?” He has told us, that, whatever be our necessities, “his grace is sufficient for us:” and therefore, instead of dreading trials, lest we should be vanquished by them, we should “take pleasure in them, that the power of Christ may rest upon us, and his strength be magnified in our weakness [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:10.]” — — — “ Knowing in whom we have believed,” we should look upon “our enemies as bread for us [Note: Numbers 14:9.],” and view their assaults as preludes only to victory and triumph — — —]
Let me now add,
A word of caution—
[The circumstance of there being such a fulness treasured up for you in Christ does not in the least degree supersede the necessity for exertion on your part; no, nor of fear and watchfulness. To your latest hour you must be like Paul, who “kept his body under, and brought it into subjection; lest by any means, after having preached to others, he himself should be a cast-away [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:27.].” You will see in the context, that you are to “endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ [Note: ver. 4.]:” and your strength in Christ is not to render you forgetful of, but to fit you for, the warfare, which he has called you to maintain [Note: Ephesians 6:10-11.] — — —]
A word of encouragement—
[Now, for eighteen hundred years has grace been flowing from the Lord Jesus for the supply of all his people. But do you suppose that his power to communicate is therefore lessened? When “virtue went forth from him,” in the days of his flesh, “to heal all the multitudes that waited on him,” was there less virtue in him than before? or has the sun lost any of its splendour by all the rays that it has emitted these six thousand years? Know, then, that Christ is still as able to save as ever, and that the very weakest amongst you all is authorized to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me [Note: Philippians 4:13.].”]
2 Timothy 2:7. Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
HERE we behold a parent addressing his beloved son: here we behold an Apostle addressing the whole Church of God. In like manner would I now, with an union of parental love and apostolic authority, address you, my brethren: and I pray you to consider what I say: and may the Lord “give you understanding in all things!” The points to which I would draw your attention are,
The things proposed for Timothy’s consideration—
Of course, we must look to the preceding context, to see what the Apostle had been saying. He had been urging Timothy to a performance of his ministerial duties: and to ministers the subject primarily belongs. But the duties are also of general import: and we may all consider ourselves as included under the different images that are here set before us:
[In soldiers are required energy and devotion; such energy as will bear them up under all difficulties; and such devotion, as supersedes every other engagement, and determines them fully to approve themselves to the commander under whom they fight. Now, my beloved brethren, to this character all of us, both ministers and people, are to be conformed. We are all engaged to “fight the good fight of faith,” and to “war a good warfare,” under “the Captain of our salvation.” For every one of us is armour provided, even “the whole armour of God; which we are to put on,” and by means of which we are to withstand all our enemies. But in this warfare we must, of necessity, meet with great trials, yea, and must sustain many afflictions. For, where is there a Christian who has not “his cross to bear, whilst following his Lord?” A soldier, by his very profession, expects to encounter difficulties: and his mind is made up to bear whatever evils he may meet with in the discharge of his duty: and precisely thus must we, having once girded on the sword, be prepared for privations, exertions, conflicts; and we must never think of rest, till all “our enemies are bruised under our feet.”
As for other occupations, the soldier feels that he has no time for them. He cannot alienate his time and attention from the duties of his calling. The concerns of agriculture and commerce he leaves to others: and he concentrates all his energies in the more immediate duties of his profession; having no wish, no desire, but to approve himself faithful to his commander and his king. Thus, my brethren, it must be with us: with ministers in a more especial manner; because for them, by divine appointment, is a provision made, in order that they may be able to give themselves wholly and exclusively to the service of the sanctuary: and it is greatly to be regretted, that, in our Church, the provision made is so small as to render a compliance with God’s appointment in this respect, in many instances, impracticable. But I hesitate not to say, that for a minister to “entangle himself in the affairs of this life” beyond what is necessary, is not the way to “please Him who has chosen him to be a soldier.” And the same would I say, to a certain degree, respecting Christians in general. They have, it is true, and must have, their temporal employments, to which it is their duty to pay very diligent attention. But yet these must all be subordinated to the higher duties of religion: they must “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness;” and disregard “the meat that perisheth,” in comparison of that which “endureth to everlasting life.” Every man must perform his duties in social and domestic life: but we must be “without carefulness:” and, whilst our heads and our hands are occupied with earthly pursuits, “our affections must be altogether set upon things above.” To please our God must be, at all times and under all circumstances, our one concern.]
[The Apostle often takes his illustrations from the Grecian games. Here he compares us with wrestlers, who, however much they might exert themselves, were not crowned, unless they conformed exactly to the rules which were prescribed to the contending parties. Now we, both ministers and people, are called to “wrestle, not with flesh and blood only, but with all the principalities and powers of hell:” and we have laid down for us, in the inspired volume, rules, to which we must rigidly adhere in all our conflicts. It is not sufficient that we put forth all our strength: we must put it forth in God’s appointed way. For instance: Are we assaulted with evil? We must “not render evil for evil,” but rather “do good to them that hate us;” and must persevere in this contest even to the end; “not being overcome of evil, but overcoming evil with good.” Our blessed Lord has “set us an example,” under every species of conflict and of suffering: and we are “to follow his steps.” St. Paul, also, is a pattern which we should follow. He was “a man of like passions with us:” and therefore we may hope, that the grace which wrought so powerfully in him will work effectually in us also; and enable us “to be followers of him, as he was of Christ.” A soldier never thinks of following his own mind or will in any thing. He looks to the orders issued by his commander; and to them he strictly adheres. Thus also must we, having not so much as a thought or wish to follow our own will, but a full determination to conform, in every particular act, and in the whole state and habit of our mind, to the revealed will of God. In a word, “we must strive lawfully,” and in the precise way that God has marked out for us: and it is in that way alone that we can hope to have the crown of victory accorded to us.]
[We all know that the husbandman prosecutes his labours with a patient expectation of a distant, but rich reward. He does not expect the seed to produce a harvest the instant that it has been sown. He looks for many changes of the weather; and passes through many alternations of hope and fear; but he is sustained, through all, by a humble hope, that, in the end, God will give to him the fruit of his labours. Thus also must we, both ministers and people, go on in the work assigned to us; and, “by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory and honour and immortality.” We must not be discouraged because events do not turn out according to our wish or expectation. We must “wait the Lord’s leisure;” and “let patience have its perfect work, that we may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.” “He that believeth, must not make haste.” “Every vision is for an appointed time: and if it tarry, we must wait for it, assured, that it shall come in due season, and not tarry one instant beyond it.” God had promised to Abraham to bring his posterity out of Egypt, at the distance of four hundred and thirty years: and had they been kept there one day longer, his promise would utterly have failed. But that self-same day that the period was completed, he brought them forth. So, however long we may have to wait for a successful issue of our labours, we must “never faint or be weary in well-doing;” but must proceed with cheerfulness, assured, that “in due season we shall reap,” and “our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.”]
Now then attend, I pray you, to,
The injunction given him in relation to them,
First, says the Apostle,
“Consider what I say”—
[No good can be hoped for, even from apostolic instructions, if they be not duly and attentively considered. Now then let all of you consider, How vast and arduous are your duties. In the preceding context you have seen how all the offices of a soldier, a wrestler, and a husbandman, are combined in you: and, in fact, there is not any office sustained by any man on earth, from the king upon the throne to the meanest slave, that is not concentrated in you. You are called “a royal priesthood:” and if you, every one of you, are “kings and priests unto God,” you may well suppose that every subordinate employment must find its counterpart in you. Conceive, then, all the diversified occupations of all the human race to devolve on you, so far at least as to have their respective energies required at your hands; and then you will form some notion of the duties to which you are called.
But “consider,” also, how great and indispensable are your obligations to fulfil them. Ministers, doubtless, are bound by the most solemn ties to “fulfil their ministry;” not only because they have been most solemnly called to this office, and have pledged themselves to the performance of it, but because the souls of their people will be required at their hands. But every Christian, in his baptism, has consecrated himself to God: and every one, inasmuch as he professes to “have been bought with a price,” acknowledges himself bound to “glorify God with his body and his spirit, which are his.” Now then, consider this. Consider what that price is with which you have been redeemed, even with the precious blood of your incarnate God; and is there any service which you will account too arduous to engage in, or any suffering too heavy to endure, for the honour of his name? It was well said by St. Paul, “I beseech you by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, as your reasonable service:” and truly this is your reasonable service, that, as the burnt-offerings were wholly consumed upon the altar in sacrifice to God, so should every faculty of your souls be wholly and exclusively devoted to your God.
Yet one thing more I beg you to “consider;” and that is, How rich is the recompence that awaits you. Look at the husbandman toiling at his work in the midst of winter; what a hopeless task does he, in appearance, perform! but look at his fields in the time of harvest, and you will say he is richly compensated. Thus will a minister find all his labours and sufferings abundantly repaid, when he shall bring before his Lord “those whom he has begotten by the Gospel;” saying, “Here am I, and the children thou hast given me.” And how richly will every Christian be recompensed, when he shall hear, from the lips of his adored Lord, those glorious words, “Come, ye blessed children of my Father! inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Go, survey the glory and blessedness of heaven; and then say, my brethren, whether any thing can be too much for us either to do or suffer, in the prospect of such a recompence. Would you but consider these things as you ought, you would think that all the labours of the most devoted soldier, all the exertions of the most strenuous wrestler, and all the patience of the most laborious husbandman, are but faint representations of what may well be required at your hands.]
Seek of God an experimental acquaintance with them—
[Truly it is God alone that can bring you to such a state as this. He alone can enable you to discern even the necessity of if, and much less its excellency. The unenlightened man would account such a life as this “foolishness;” and a person aspiring after it would be condemned as a weak enthusiast, that was “righteous over much.” To long for it, as the perfection of your nature, and as a heaven upon earth, is a feeling which no man on earth can possess, till he is born again, and renewed in the spirit of his mind by the Spirit of the living God. It is altogether a new creation in the soul of man.
Moreover, God alone can guide you in such a path as this. Whether a person be a minister or a private Christian, he shall find, that, in this high and heavenly course, there are situations wherein no human wisdom could guide him aright. There is a film over the eyes of man which obstructs his sight, and a bias in his heart that perverts his judgment. Never, till God has opened the eyes of our understanding, shall we see our way. When God has given us “a single eye, our whole body will be full of light;” but till then, “the light that is in us will be all darkness.” See the situations and circumstances to which St. Paul was often reduced; and think how an unenlightened man would have acted in his place: and you will soon see that, however “man may devise his way, God alone can direct his steps.”
Once more:—It is God alone that can uphold us in the discharge of such duties. Recall to mind all that has been set forth under the images to which my text refers; and then say, “Who is sufficient for these things?” Who can support the soul, so as that neither the world with all its temptations, nor the flesh with all its corruptions, nor the devil with all his wiles, shall be able to divert it from the path of duty, or to obstruct its progress in the heavenly life—who can do this but God alone? I say then, look to God to give you these high attainments, and to “fulfil in you all the good pleasure of his goodness.” Limit not either his power or his grace; but “open your mouth wide, and he will fill it.”
I conclude with repeating the injunction in my text: “Consider what I say; and the Lord will give you understanding in all things.”]
PAUL’S LOVE TO THE ELECT EXEMPLIFIED
2 Timothy 2:10. I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
THE labours of faithful ministers are, for the most part, but ill requited by a wicked and ungrateful world. But, in the midst of all the opposition they meet with, they have the consolation to know, that all efforts to stop the progress of the Gospel shall be in vain. This was St. Paul’s comfort, when imprisoned at Rome for the word’s sake, that, however he might be bound, the word was not; and “therefore” he submitted the more cheerfully to his troubles, being assured, that his endeavours to save the souls of his fellow-creatures would be crowned with success.
This subject leads us to consider,
St. Paul’s love to the elect—
Notwithstanding the word “elect” has passed into a term of reproach, there most assuredly is an elect people, “a remnant according to the election of grace [Note: Romans 11:5.],” whom “God has chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:13.].”
Towards these St. Paul felt a peculiar regard—
[He loved all, even his very enemies, and would gladly have submitted to the heaviest afflictions for their sake [Note: Romans 9:1-3.]. But his love to the elect was both more exalted in its nature, and more abundant in its degree. He considered them as the special objects of God’s love; as children of the same heavenly parent; as members of the same mystical body; and as fellow-heirs of the same glory. Hence they were all engraven on his very heart: and hence he exhorts us, while we do good unto all men, to do it more especially unto the household of faith [Note: Galatians 6:10.].]
For their sake he willingly endured every trouble that could come upon him—
[No man ever endured so much as he in his Master’s cause. This we may see from the long catalogue of his troubles which he himself has left us [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.]. But, says he, “None of these things move me [Note: Acts 20:24.]:” “I rejoice in my sufferings for the elect’s sakes [Note: Colossians 1:24.];” “most gladly will I spend and be spent for them, though the more abundantly I love them, the less I be loved [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:15.]:” I am so “affectionately desirous of them, that I am willing to impart to them, not the Gospel only, but my own soul also, because they are dear unto me [Note: 1 Thessalonians 2:8.]:” “yea, if I be offered (and my blood be poured out as a libation) upon the sacrifice and service of their faith, I joy and rejoice with them all, and desire them also to joy and rejoice with me [Note: Philippians 2:17.];” for, so far am I from looking forward to it with fear, or accounting it an occasion of grief, that I esteem it a blessed subject of mutual congratulations.]
How amiable and praiseworthy was this heavenly disposition!
[Certainly the love of Christ in dying for us, infinitely exceeds all that ever was manifested by any human being. But, next to Christ, St. Paul seems to have most abounded in love to man. He was indeed a very bright resemblance of his Divine Master. And what a world would this be, if all were actuated by the same spirit and temper! Even those who cultivate least of this spirit themselves, must confess, that the universal prevalence of it would make a very heaven upon earth.]
But the Apostle’s regard to the elect was not a mere carnal affection, as we shall see, if we consider,
The end he aimed at on their behalf—
The happiness provided for the elect, is exceeding great and glorious—
[For them is reserved “salvation,” even salvation from sin and Satan, death and hell. It is, moreover, a salvation “with glory;” not a mere exemption from punishment, but an unspeakable felicity in the immediate vision and fruition of their God. Nor is it ever to come to an end: its duration will continue as long as the soul itself shall exist. To crown the whole, it is a salvation in Christ Jesus, not merely as it is purchased by his blood (though that will infinitely enhance its value) but as it is treasured up in him, and shall be enjoyed in and through him, as the one medium of its communication for ever and ever.]
That they might obtain this, was the great object of his desires, the one scope of his labours—
[He had no doubt at all respecting his own salvation [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:1.]. But could he be content to go to heaven alone? No; he would gladly have drawn all he could along with him [Note: So the church. Song of Solomon 1:4.]. It was for this end that he became all things to all men [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:22.]: and to this he looked forward as his joy, his hope, his crown of rejoicing [Note: 1 Thessalonians 2:19.]. There was not one weak, but he sympathized with him; not one turned aside, but he burned with an ardent desire to restore him [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:29.]. To such a degree was his soul bound up in the welfare of the elect, that he could say, “Now I live, if ye stand fast in the Lord:” nor did any thing appear too great for him either to do, or suffer, provided he might be instrumental in accomplishing this blessed end [Note: 1 Thessalonians 3:7-9.].]
What reason have most professors of religion to be ashamed of their attainments!
[Beyond a doubt, the Apostle’s spirit ought to be the spirit of all Christians [Note: 1 John 3:16.]. But how little of it is seen in the Christian Church! How many are there who are ready to “bite and devour one another,” instead of being willing to lay down their lives for each other! And how little self-denial is there even in the best of us! How little will we do, or suffer, either for the temporal or spiritual welfare of our brethren! Let us blush at our want of love; and labour henceforth to benefit the bodies, and more especially to save the souls, of all around us.]
How infatuated are they who have no concern for their own souls!
[Wherefore was Paul so earnest for the salvation of others, but because he knew somewhat of the value of a soul? He knew its happiness, if saved; and its misery, if lost. Shall another then be more concerned for us, than we for ourselves? Shall another be ready to do and suffer all things for us, and we be unwilling to do or suffer any thing for our own good? Let us remember, that no present gratifications can compensate for the loss of salvation; and that eternal glory will infinitely over-balance all that can be endured in the pursuit of it.]
How must they be blinded by the devil, who oppose the salvation of their fellow-creatures!
[There are too many who scoff at piety, and endeavour, by ridicule or persuasion, to turn men from the practice of it. Alas! what an awful contrast do their characters form with that of the Apostle! Let such consider the warning given them by our Lord, that it were better for them to have a millstone hanged about their neck, and to be cast into the sea, than they should offend one of his little ones [Note: Luke 17:2.].]
THE EQUITY OF GOD’S PROCEDURE
2 Timothy 2:11-14. It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: if we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. Of these things put them in remembrance.
STRANGE as it may seem, it is no uncommon thing for men to arraign the equity of God, and to accuse him of undue severity in the execution of his judgments. The Jewish people of old complained, “The ways of the Lord are not equal:” and God, for his own honour’s sake, was constrained to vindicate his character in this respect; which he did in an open appeal to their judgment, and a candid exposition of the modes of his procedure. “O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal?” ‘If a man have sinned and repent, I forgive him: but if he turn back to his former wickedness, I make no account of his temporary reformation, but visit all his iniquities upon his head. Is this unequal? Is it not consonant with strict justice [Note: Ezekiel 33:17-20.]?’ In like manner St. Paul declares, in the passage before us, that God will act towards men as they act towards him; requiting with good his faithful servants, and marking the disobedient as objects of his displeasure. And that he may the more deeply impress this truth upon our minds, he introduces it with assuring us, that “it is a faithful saying.”
From his words we shall be led to consider,
The rule of God’s procedure in reference to our future destinies—
The whole Scripture declares that he will deal with men according to their works; that “to those who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; but that to them that are contentious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there shall be indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, even upon every soul of man that doeth evil [Note: Rom 2:7-9].
To this effect we are here told how God will deal,
With the godly—
[It is here supposed that the godly will “die with Christ, and suffer with him.” And it is true, that all his faithful followers are “crucified with him [Note: Galatians 2:20.],” and “dead with him.” As he died for sin, so they, in conformity to him, and by virtue derived from him, die to sin: they no longer suffer it to act without controul, as once they did, but they “mortify it in all their members,” and “crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts [Note: Galatians 5:24.].” In acting thus, they of necessity condemn the “world around them, who are lying in wickedness [Note: 1 John 5:19.],” and ordering their course agreeably to the will of Satan, who worketh in them [Note: Ephesians 2:2.], and “leads them captive at his will [Note: ver. 26.].” In consequence of this, they are hated, reviled, and persecuted, as their Saviour was; and are called to “suffer,” even as he suffered. There is not one of them who has not his cross to bear. Times and circumstances may cause a difference as to the degree in which they shall suffer: but there is no exception whatever to that declaration of the Apostle, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution [Note: 2 Timothy 3:12.].”
Now how will God deal with these? Will he overlook them as unworthy of his notice? Will he afford them no succour, and recompense them with no reward? Far be it from him; for “if we be dead with Christ, we shall also live with him;” that is, he will enable us to execute our holy purposes, and to rise superior to all our spiritual adversaries, even as he did when he rose again from the dead. This is the explanation which St. Paul himself gives us: “If we have been planted in the likeness of his death,” says he, “we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. But he that is dead, is freed from sin. Now, if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him: for, in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord [Note: Romans 6:5-11.].” The same Apostle also gives it as his own actual experience: “We are always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body: for we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:10-11.].” Thus does the Lord Jesus fulfil the promise which he made in reference to this very point; “Because I live, ye shall live also [Note: John 14:19.].”
Moreover our God engages, that, “if we suffer with Christ, we shall also reign with him.” Our services shall not be forgotten. There is “a crown of glory prepared for all them that love him [Note: 2 Timothy 4:8. 1 Peter 5:4.]:” even on that very throne which Christ himself occupies, shall they be seated with him [Note: Revelation 3:21.]. Yes; it is a faithful saying, that “they who suffer with him shall also be glorified together [Note: Romans 8:17. 1 Peter 4:13.].”
This then will be the mode of God’s procedure towards his faithful people: and according to the same rule will he proceed,]
With the ungodly—
[These are here designated as “those who deny him.” Now there are two ways in which this may be done; namely, either by an open and avowed rejection of his Gospel [Note: 2 Peter 2:1.], or by a timid concealment of our convictions. Of the former we shall have no occasion to speak, because it is the latter class only that are referred to in our text; and because all that we shall have occasion to say respecting the latter, must of necessity be in a yet stronger degree applicable to the former: for, if those who do believe in Christ, but through fear of persecution are deterred from confessing him openly, will be disapproved by him, much more will they who impiously blaspheme his name, and pour contempt upon all the wonders of his love and mercy.
Our Lord requires, that we should confess him openly before men. But there are many, who, “when persecution or tribulation ariseth because of the word, are offended [Note: Matthew 13:21.],” and dare not face the obloquy, or encounter the perils, that await them. And how will the Lord Jesus Christ deal with them? Will he take no account of their cowardice? Will he be satisfied with such a mode of requiting all his love? No; he will deal with them in the way that they deal with him: “they are ashamed of him; and he will be ashamed of them, in the day that he shall come in the glory of his Father, and of all his holy angels [Note: Mark 8:38.]:” “they deny him; and he will deny them [Note: Matthew 10:33.].” And this is nothing but what they may reasonably expect: for if their love to him is so small, that they will not endure a little shame, or submit to some trifling loss, for his sake, how can they expect to be approved as good and faithful servants? How can they suppose it possible that they should partake of that felicity which is reserved for those who fought the good fight of faith, and “loved not their lives unto death [Note: Revelation 12:11.]?” This indeed would be unequal: such inequality shall never be found in the judgments of our God: for “they who loved their lives, shall lose them; and they only who are willing to lose their lives for Christ’s sake, shall save them unto life eternal [Note: Mark 8:31; Mark 8:35.].”]
That no doubts on this subject may rest upon our minds, I will go on to state,
The assurance we have that he will proceed according to this rule—
The declarations of God on these subjects do not obtain the credit they deserve—
[Many of the godly are apt, through the weakness of their faith, to yield to doubts and fears. When feeling the depth of their corruptions, they think it almost impossible that they should ever be able to subdue them: and, when menaced with heavy trials, they doubt whether they shall ever be able to support them.
The ungodly, on the other hand, boldly question whether God ever can proceed with them according to his word. They do not hesitate to say, that such a procedure would be cruel and unjust. ‘If indeed they were to abandon themselves to all manner of wickedness, they might then expect the Divine judgments: but when they can have no gross evils laid to their charge, is it to be supposed that God will punish them to all eternity, merely because they do not (as they will call it) make a parade of their religion? That is nothing but a conceit of enthusiastic zealots: God is too good to act in such a way, or to visit with such unmerited severity what, at the worst, can only be deemed an excess in the exercise of prudence’ — — —]
But, whether believed or not, they shall all be fulfilled in their season—
[”Our unbelief will not make the truth of God of none effect [Note: Romans 3:3.].” Whatever he has spoken, he will surely execute; as it is said, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent. Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good [Note: Numbers 23:19.]?” Were he to reverse his word for us, he would cease to be a God of truth. He has pledged himself for the accomplishment of every word that he has spoken: and “he cannot deny himself.”
True it is, that he is not pleased with the weakness of his people’s faith. He complained of it in Peter: “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” But he will not on this account neglect to fulfil to them his promises. He has engaged in behalf of those who die unto sin, that “his grace shall be sufficient for them [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.];” that “their strength shall be according to their day [Note: Deuteronomy 23:25.];” and that “they shall be more than conquerors, through Him that loved them [Note: Romans 8:37.].” Their doubts and fears will indeed distress their minds, and weaken their efforts, and subject them to many anxieties from which a stronger exercise of faith would have freed them: but still he will not cast them off because they are weak: “he will not break the bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax; but will bring forth judgment unto victory [Note: Matthew 12:20.].” And in the last day he will recompense into their bosom all that they have done or suffered for him. He will say, “Thou hast been faithful in a few things; be thou ruler over many things [Note: Matthew 25:23.]: and the precise measure of their glory shall be proportioned to the labours and sufferings to which in this life they had submitted for his sake [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:17.].
In like manner, to the ungodly he will award a sentence of condemnation proportioned to their deserts. It will be to no purpose that they expostulate, and ask, as if aggrieved by his sentence, “Lord, have we not in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?” He will be altogether inflexible; and will say, “Depart from me; I never knew you, ye workers of iniquity [Note: Matthew 7:22-23.].”]
The importance of this subject appears from the solemn charge with which St. Paul enjoins Timothy to “put his hearers in remembrance of it.” The same charge is in fact given to every minister of God’s word: “Put your people in remembrance of these things.” In compliance with this command I will now proceed yet further to remind you of them,
For your conviction—
[It is to no purpose to dispute against God. A criminal may dispute against human laws if he will, and may determine beforehand that they can never be executed against him. But the only effect of his confidence will be, to deceive his own soul, and to involve himself in irremediable ruin. Let him be ever so assured of impunity, he will not be able to stop the course of the law, or to prevent its execution upon him. How much less then can we suppose that the arm of God’s justice shall be arrested, and the very truth of God violated, to rescue a man from perdition, merely because he will not believe that God will fulfil his word. I must declare to you, that all such hopes are groundless: and I call upon you carefully to examine the state of your own souls. Are you “dead to sin,” to all sin, so that no iniquity whatever is suffered to have dominion over you? — — — Are you openly confessing Christ before men, so that it is seen and known “whose you are, and whom you profess to serve?” Are you “following him without the camp, bearing his reproach [Note: Hebrews 13:13.];” and not bearing it only, but “rejoicing that you are counted worthy to suffer for his sake [Note: Acts 5:41.]?” In a word, are you Christians, not in word only, but in deed and in truth? These are the inquiries which you must make; for by them alone can you ascertain your state before God. Say not, that, in requiring these things, we require too much: for if God require them, and will receive to mercy those only in whom these requisites can be found, it will be to no purpose to contend with him. Be wise in time: and so endeavour to approve yourselves to God now, that he may approve of you in the day of judgment.]
For your comfort and support—
[The workings of unbelief have harassed many who were truly upright before God: and therefore we should not write bitter things against ourselves, merely because we possess not a full assurance of faith. David on some occasions was quite overwhelmed with doubts and fears. Hear his complaints: “Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?” But whence arose all this? Had it any foundation in truth? No: he immediately acknowledges, “This is mine infirmity [Note: Psalms 77:7-10.].” So then do ye say, when doubts and fears assail your minds. Remember, God is a faithful God, and not one jot or tittle of his word shall ever fail. “Of those whom the Father gave to Jesus, he lost none [Note: John 17:12.];” nor will he ever lose one: “not the smallest grain of true wheat shall ever fall upon the earth [Note: Amos 9:9.];” nor “shall one of God’s little ones ever perish [Note: Matthew 18:14.].” Only commit yourselves to God, and leave the issue of events to him. Your part is to be seeking a conformity to Christ in his death and resurrection; and his part is to carry on and perfect his work within you. Be ye intent on your part; and leave His to him: and you shall be able at the last to say with Joshua, that “of all the good things which the Lord your God hath spoken concerning you, all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed [Note: Joshua 23:14.].”]
THE STABILITY OF THE COVENANT
2 Timothy 2:19. The foundation of God standeth sure, having this teal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity.
GOD has a people whom he will preserve from apostasy: but he will keep them by the instrumentality of their own care and watchfulness. There were some in the apostolic age seduced from the faith, and led to think that the resurrection was passed already. But St. Paul entertained no fears for the ark of God. He was persuaded that God would keep his faithful people: “they overthrew the faith of some: nevertheless,” &c.
What is meant by the foundation of God—
It does not seem to refer to the doctrine of the resurrection. The context indeed mentions this doctrine; but the immediate connexion of the text is with the apostasy that had prevailed. The “foundation” relates rather to the covenant of grace. In some respects Christ is the only foundation [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:11.]. Nevertheless the covenant of grace may be represented in this light—
It is the foundation of God’s dealings towards us—
[From a regard to it he bears with us in our unconverted state [Note: Ezekiel 36:21-23; Ezekiel 36:32.]: from a regard to it he effects our conversion [Note: 2 Timothy 1:9. Jeremiah 31:3.]: from a regard to it he endures our backslidings after conversion [Note: 1 Samuel 12:22.]: from a regard to it he restores us after we have fallen [Note: Luke 22:32.].]
It is also the foundation of our hope towards God—
[We have no claim upon God independent of the covenant; but in his covenant with Christ, and with us in him, he has engaged to give us all that we want [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:22-23.]. We receive spiritual blessings, only as being parties in it [Note: Romans 8:29-30.]; the continuance of those blessings to us is only in consequence of our interest in it [Note: Romans 9:16.].]
This foundation standeth sure.
Wherein its stability consists—
The foundation of God is represented as having a seal [Note: There is no confusion of metaphor here, because foundation stones often have σφραγῖδα, an inscription (as the word means, Revelation 9:4.) But there is peculiar propriety in the metaphor of a seal as applied to a covenant.]. This seal is God’s unchanging love; “God knoweth them,” &c.
[Knowledge is here, as in many other places, put for love [Note: Psalms 1:6.]: in this sense it is represented as a seal of the covenant. Love is stamped, as it were, on every part of the covenant, gives a kind of validity to it, and is inseparable from it.]
This unchanging love is the stability of the covenant—
[We should continually forfeit our interest in it: no believer whatever, if left to himself, would be steadfast in it. Our daily transgressions are sufficient to exclude us from it for ever; but God’s love changeth not [Note: James 1:17. Romans 11:29.]. He betroths us to himself in faithfulness for ever [Note: Hosea 2:19.]”. He loves and keeps us, not for our sake, but for his own name’s sake [Note: Deuteronomy 7:6-8.]: hence all our security arises [Note: St. Paul considers the steadfastness of the foundation as connected with, and depending on, God’s immutable regard for his people; and to this is their final salvation to be ascribed, Malachi 3:6.].]
The covenant, however, does not make void our obligations to holiness,
The improvement we should make of it—
The privileges of Christians are exceeding great: but we are in danger of turning the grace of God into licentiousness. Hence the Apostle cautions us against abusing this covenant [Note: If καὶ were translated “but” the sense would be incomparably more clear: it has this sense in many places; and is so translated, 2Ti 3:11 and 1 Corinthians 16:12.]—
[They “who name the name of Christ” are those who profess Christ’s religion; and that profession supposes them to be interested in the covenant. But continuance in sin would be inconsistent with that profession: the covenant prohibits the indulgence even of the smallest sin. It provides strength for the mortification of every lust; it secures holiness to us as well as salvation; it engages for our salvation only in a way of holiness. Let it not then be made a ground of presumptuous security: let it rather operate as an incentive to diligence; let it incline “every one” to stand at the greatest distance from sin [Note: Ἀποστήτω ἀπὸ.].]
What rich consolation is here for every true believer!
[There ever have been some apostates from the Church of Christ; but their defection does not disprove the stability of God’s covenant. The reason of their departure is accounted for by St. John [Note: 1 John 2:19.]— Let not then any be dejected when they see the falls of others. God “knows his sheep, and will suffer “none to pluck them out of his hands.” Nor need any despond on account of their indwelling corruptions: it is not sin lamented, but sin indulged, that will destroy the soul. Let every one be more anxious to lay hold on this covenant: it will be found at last, that it is “ordered m all things and sure.”]
SAINTS, VESSELS OF HONOUR
2 Timothy 2:20-21. In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.
IT was said by a heathen poet, and the truth and importance of the sentiment are strongly marked by its being cited by an inspired Apostle, that “evil communications corrupt good manners.” But there is by no means such attention paid to this aphorism as its importance demands. Men will indeed caution their friends against the society of those who are dissolute and profane; but, against those who may distract our minds with matters of doubtful disputation, or lower our standard of Christian duty, no one judges it necessary to put us on our guard. But St. Paul, that vigilant watchman, that faithful servant of the Most High God, has taught us to shun every thing which may pervert our judgment, or corrupt our minds, or in any way impede our progress in the Divine life. In the words which I have now read to you, he shews us,
What we must guard against, as injurious to our souls—
Two things he mentions, as necessary for us to be purged from;
Error in principle—
[Even in that early age of the Church, there were many, who, instead of upholding the faith, sought, by all imaginable subtilties, to turn men from their adherence to it. False teachers there were in great numbers, who “strove about words which were of no real profit, but tended only to the subverting of the hearers [Note: ver. 14.].” Against these St. Paul strongly guarded his son Timothy: “Shun profane and vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness, and their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenζus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred; saying, that the resurrection is passed already; and overthrow the faith of some [Note: ver. 16–18.].” Now such persons there have been in the Church, from that day even to the present hour. Some will magnify beyond due bounds the importance of some favourite doctrine, to the utter exclusion of other doctrines which have a different aspect. Others will dwell upon the circumstantials of religion, to the neglect of the points that are most essential. Others, again, will attack the fundamentals themselves; “bringing in damnable heresies, and denying the Lord who bought them.” Some, like the Pharisees of old, will make all religion to consist in the observance of rites and ceremonies: others will cast off every kind of ritual, and divest religion of every outward form. Some will discard from religion every thing that is mysterious or spiritual; whilst others will spiritualize every thing, and involve the most common truths of Scripture in mystery and allegory, like those who reduced the doctrine of the resurrection to the mere introduction of another dispensation, or the moral change that is wrought on the hearts of Christian converts. In fact, there is no end of the absurdities which men will introduce into religion, according to their respective fancies: and their zeal for their respective peculiarities will be considered by them as the best proofs of their zeal for religion. But it will be our wisdom “to purge ourselves from all such persons and sentiments; and to hold fast, with childlike simplicity, the truth as it is in Jesus.” For, in fact, these dispositions and habits are the fruits of vain conceit; and they gender nothing but strife and contention. In a word, they all “eat like a gangrene;” which, if not healed, will gradually destroy the whole body.]
Corruption in practice—
[This is invariably connected with the former: for the very alienation of heart, both from God and man, which controversial habits generate, must, of necessity, give advantage to Satan for the infusion of all manner of evil into our souls. Hence St. Paul, in his advice to Timothy, combines with a caution against error, a caution against sin also: “Flee youthful lusts; but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace with all them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart: but foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes [Note: ver. 22, 23.].” Amongst youthful lusts we must doubtless, in the first place, number those corrupt propensities which are so powerful in the time of youth: but we must also number those which are more nearly allied with heresies, whilst yet they are peculiarly influential on the youthful mind; such as, a love of novelty, a fondness for disputation, a desire after notoriety and distinction. The tempers which these habits generate are extremely hateful to God, and injurious to man. “The filthiness of the flesh,” as the Apostle speaks, is, in appearance, more opposite to true religion than what he calls “the filthiness of the spirit:” but it is not so in reality: and we must be purged from this, no less than from the other, if ever we would serve God acceptably, or be approved by him in the day of judgment. The beauty of all true religion consists in a childlike spirit, which is the very reverse of that conceit and forwardness which characterize the controversialist and vain disputer. I must therefore guard you, with all earnestness, against every thing which may corrupt your mind from the simplicity that is in Christ, or weaken the influence of real piety in your souls.]
And, that my exhortation may have the greater weight, let me proceed to shew,
What benefit we shall derive from this care—
In a great house, the Apostle observes, there is a great variety of vessels; some of purer, and others of baser, materials; some to honour, and others to dishonour. So also, in the Church of Christ, there is a great variety of persons; all indeed in some way or other subserving his interests, and widely differing from each other in their value, their use, and their ultimate destination.
Now those who are infected with evil principles or practice are of no estimation before God.
[Their spirit is hateful to him, as is their conduct also; nor are they of any use in the Church of God. They tend rather to corrupt others, than to benefit their souls; and to dishonour their profession, rather than adorn it. In fact, they are base in themselves, and subserve only base purposes: and “their end will be according to their works.”]
But “those who are purged from these will be regarded by him as vessels of honour, meet for their Master’s use.
[Under this image, the Apostle means to suggest, that persons of simple minds and pure habits shall be favoured with God’s peculiar regard, be set apart for his special service, and be made use of for his honour and glory. These are the distinctions conferred on “vessels of gold and silver in a great house or palace;” whilst the vessels of wood and of earth are disregarded and despised. Now, those nobler vessels are polished with care, in order that they may appear worthy of their owner, and of the uses to which they are applied: so are the godly “sanctified” by the Holy Ghost, and “prepared for every good work” to which they are destined.
Now, I would ask, is not this a great encouragement to us to keep ourselves pure? Is not this honour an abundant recompence for all the self-denial we can exercise, and all the caution we can maintain? See the golden vessel in the hand of the prince; its beauty, its symmetry, its splendour, admired by him; yea, and his own honour, as it were, advanced by it: and can you contemplate yourself thus in the hands of the God of heaven, and not feel a desire to be accounted worthy of that honour? I say, then, “purge yourselves from” every thing which, in a way either of principle or of practice, may defile you, and this honour shall be yours.]
Now, then, say whether there be not in this subject abundant matter,
For anxious inquiry—
[To which of these widely-different vessels may you be compared? Which of them do you resemble, in their essential qualities, or in their habitual use? Are you of gold or silver, or of the baser materials of wood or earth? Are you altogether consecrated to God? or are you occupied solely about the things of time and sense? To assist you in this inquiry, I must observe, that no man possesses, by nature, those higher qualities: they are all the fruits of grace: by nature we are earthly, sensual, devilish: it is by grace alone that we become heavenly, spiritual, divine. And, to judge whether this change have been wrought in us, we must not look to our outward conduct merely, but to that inward purification from erroneous principles and corrupt affections. See, then, whether you have yet been brought to humble yourselves before God, as guilty and undone sinners: see whether you are living altogether by faith on the Lord Jesus Christ, as your only source, either of righteousness or strength; and see whether you are devoting yourselves, unreservedly, to God in all holy obedience: this is the proper test of conversion: all other conversions are of no value: you may go the whole round, from one Church to another, espousing every one of them in succession, and zealously maintaining every distinction, whether in principle or practice, and yet be vessels in which God can take no pleasure, and which shall finally be hid from his eyes as objects of shame only and dishonour. Let this then be, as in truth it ought to be, a matter of anxious inquiry amongst you all: for I must again declare, that they only shall be approved of their God who correspond with the character drawn of them in our text.]
For necessary distinction—
[Here, you perceive, are “vessels of gold and of silver, as also of wood and of earth;” and, though all of one common origin, and alike of base materials, yet destined, some to honour, and others to dishonour. You perceive, also, that it is God alone who makes the difference between them; changing the nature and end of some, whilst others are left to their original worthlessness and debasement. Against this our proud hearts would be ready to rise; just as that of the objector did, when St. Paul declared, that “God had mercy on whom he would have mercy; and whom he would he hardened.” Hear the Apostle’s statement of the objector’s argument; and his reply to it: “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? for who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory [Note: Romans 9:18-23.]?” This is the answer which I also must make to any one who shall object to the statement which has been before made. I grant, yea, I assert, that all, as born into this world, are base in their nature, their use, and their end: and it is grace alone, even the sovereign grace of God, that changes them so that they become vessels of honour for his use. I assert, too, with the Apostle, that the same power which the potter has over the clay, our God has over all the works of his hands. But there is a distinction which the Apostle has made, and which we must ever bear in mind, that, though it is God alone who prepares any for glory, yet man fits himself for destruction: so that, whilst the godly have no ground for boasting, the ungodly have no reason whatever for complaint [Note: See the Greek of the fore-cited passage.]. To all eternity must those who are vessels of honour ascribe the glory to their God; but the vessels to dishonour will, through all eternity, be constrained to take all the shame to themselves.]
For grateful adoration—
[Let any one contemplate the state of a pious soul in glory. Let him see the feast that is there spread, at which God himself presides. Let him behold the vessels of gold and silver, polished to the utmost possible perfection, the ornament of the feast, the honour of their God; and every one of them filled to the utmost brim with all the richest effusions of blessedness and joy: then let him contrast with these the vessels of wrath, filled with the overflowings of God’s wrathful indignation: let any one, I say, contemplate the contrast; and then determine, whether those monuments of grace and mercy have not grounds for gratitude and praise? I trust, that to many of this description I am now addressing myself; and to them I would say, See to it that nothing which can defile, be admitted within you: see also that you be more and more polished every day and hour, that you may grow in a meetness for the honour that awaits you. And be looking forward to the time when your final destiny shall be awarded to you; and you shall, as objects of God’s love, and monuments of his grace, be for ever “filled with all the fulness of your God.”]
THE GREAT ENDS OF THE MINISTRY
2 Timothy 2:25-26. In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
THE work of the ministry is arduous in the extreme, not only on account of the labours in which a pastor has to engage, but on account of the opposition he meets with from those whose welfare he seeks. He has to call men from all which by nature they affect, and to stimulate them to much for which they have an utter distaste. But the hope of ultimately benefiting immortal souls is sufficient to carry him forward; and, if he be himself of a becoming spirit, he will persevere with patience and long-suffering, “meekly instructing those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure may give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth.”
To enter fully into the subject before us, I must set before you,
The state of unconverted men—
I am not aware that there is any other passage of Holy Writ that places this matter in a more humiliating view, than that which we have just read.
The unconverted man is altogether a slave of Satan—
[The agency of Satan is but little thought of by us, though it occupies a very prominent place in the Scriptures of truth. His influence over Judas and Ananias shews what he can effect, if God see fit to withdraw the restraints which, from love to mankind, he has imposed upon him. This malignant fiend is, in fact, “the god of this world;” and all mankind, whilst in their unconverted state, are his vassals — — — Yet it is not by force that he reigns over them, but by subtilty. He “takes them captive;” but it is by “snares” that he allures them, and draws them into his net. He knows what is suited to each, as a fowler or a fisherman does to the taste and appetite of the different creatures he would decoy: and he finds the whole human race ready enough to yield to his devices, and to surrender up themselves to him according to his will — — — To persons in early life he offers the gratifications of sense; and to those at a more advanced period the acquisition of wealth and honour. Nor is he more anxious to ensnare them, than they are to swallow the bait which he has laid for their destruction — — — In truth, if they were to form a deliberate purpose to serve Satan as far as they possibly could consistently with the preservation of a good character among men, they could not do it more effectually than they already do. Satan would not wish them to live in a more entire neglect of God and of eternity than they do: nor could he wish them more habitually to cheat themselves with a mere name and form of godliness than they do — — —]
And this is the state of all, without exception—
[Men have their different tastes: one loves gross immorality, whilst another prefers a self-complacent round of outward duties. But these are only the baits which they affect: their radical neglect of God and of his Christ is the same in both. The Apostles themselves, not excepting St. Paul in his unconverted state, were once subjects of this great usurper: “We ourselves,” says St. Paul, “were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures [Note: Titus 3:3.].” And by whose influence they were kept in this awful condition, he tells us in another place: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind [Note: Ephesians 2:1-3.].” Here, you perceive, they were actuated by their own lusts; yet did they most effectually accomplish the will of the great deceiver [Note: Revelation 12:9.] — — — “His they were, and him they served;” and from that kingdom of darkness must all be delivered, if ever they would “be translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son [Note: Colossians 1:13.].”]
The directions given to Timothy, for the regulation of his conduct towards them, leads me to notice,
The efforts of ministers in their behalf—
Ministers are appointed of God to instruct the world in the things which belong to their everlasting peace.
They are to rescue men, if possible, from the power of Satan—
[They find men sleeping in security, and, like persons in a state of intoxication, unconscious of their danger [Note: Acts 26:18. This seems to be implied in the term ἀνανήψωσιν.]: and they endeavour to awaken them. With this view they cry, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give thee light [Note: Ephesians 5:14.].” They call the poor unhappy victims to “repentance, and to an acknowledgment of the truth as it is in Jesus.” They set forth the claims of their God and Saviour to their allegiance, and the evil and danger of continuing in rebellion against him. They declare, that if they will submit themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ, he will forgive all their past sins, and bring them into the glorious liberty of the children of God — — — This they do, to lead the poor captives to cast off the yoke of Satan, and serve the living God — — —]
But their only hope of success is in God alone—
[They know how vain it would be for them to engage in this warfare, if God himself do not interpose to give them the victory. They know, that though “Paul should plant, and Apollos water, God alone can give the increase.” Nor are they sure that he will work by them: much less do they know for whose particular benefit they may be sent. They can only “draw their bow at a venture,” and leave it to God to direct the shaft. A mere “peradventure,” however, is quite sufficient to stimulate their exertions. If they be but the happy instrument of delivering one soul from Satan’s yoke, they will account it an ample recompence for a whole life of labour. With their ministrations to men, therefore, they unite their supplications to God; if peradventure he may “give to any a repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” Only let the gifts of repentance and faith be given to any soul, there will be an end of Satan’s power over them. Their chains and bars shall all give way before them: and, like Peter, they will come forth out of their prisons, as monuments of the Redeemer’s power, and as witnesses for him to an ungodly world — — —]
Let me offer two requests:
Acknowledge your state to be as God has described it—
[It is so, whether ye will acknowledge it or not — — — And, O submit no longer to such a degrading vassalage. Awake from your intoxication, and contemplate the issue of your present bondage — — — And may God of his mercy overcome the resistance which you have hitherto made to our ministrations, and turn you, even by our feeble efforts, “from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God [Note: Acts 26:18.]!”]
2. Unite your own efforts with ours, for your deliverance—
[There must be a concurrence on your part for your ultimate deliverance. We cannot effect it: and God will not, without your own cordial co-operation. Doubtless it is he that must give you both to will and to do: but still you must “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Though you are “drawn by God, and made willing by him in the day of his power,” you are “drawn by the cords of a man,” and from thenceforth act as willingly as ever you did in the ways of sin. Arise then to the work of repentance, and to an open acknowledgment of the truth: so shall your chains be broken, and “Satan himself be bruised under your feet shortly.”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 2". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter