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2 Timothy 3:1-2. This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves.
THERE is in the inspired writings frequent mention of what will take place “in the last days.” But in these words very different and distant periods are referred to. Sometimes they designate the time of the Christian dispensation [Note: Hebrews 1:2.]; sometimes the day of judgment [Note: James 5:3.]; and sometimes, as in our text, a season between these, when very great and important changes will take place in the Church of Christ [Note: 2 Peter 3:3.]. Immensely important changes have already taken place, as in the successful efforts of Antichrist, both in the Mahomedan and Popish powers: and still further changes we look for in their overthrow. But it is remarkable, that every event predicted, as to take place at these distant periods, actually commenced in the apostolic age: and St. John says, “Even now are there many Antichrists [Note: 1 John 2:18.].” As for the evil spoken of in my text, the Apostle declares, that, though predicted as to occur “in the last days,” it did exist at that very time, to a great extent [Note: ver. 6–9.]; and that, when it should prevail in the way that he described, very perilous and troublesome times would have arrived. For the elucidation of the subject before us, I will endeavour to shew,
What is the disposition here reprobated—
It is self-love: “Men shall be lovers of their own selves.” But we are not to imagine that every kind and degree of self-love is sinful. On the contrary, the desire which God has infused into the soul of every man to promote his own welfare, is proposed by God himself as a standard, agreeably to which we are to regulate our love to our neighbour: he calls it “a royal law,” as being established by himself; and he declares, that, in accommodating ourselves to it and “loving our neighbour as ourselves, we do well [Note: James 2:8.].” Nay, more; our blessed Lord compares with it the love which he himself bears to his own Church and people: “No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth, and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church [Note: Ephesians 5:29.].” Still, however, when it becomes inordinate, it is a very hateful disposition, evil in itself, and abominable in the sight of God. Self-love is then sinful,
When it induces a forgetfulness of God—
[God should be acknowledged by us as the only source of all good; for “from him proceedeth every good and perfect gift [Note: James 1:17.]:” and for his glory should every thing be done; as it is said, “Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:31.].” But self-love robs him in both these respects: it leads men to ascribe their success of every kind to their own wisdom and power; and at the same time to seek their own gratification only in the enjoyment of all that they possess. Now what can be more hateful, than for a man to be “sacrificing to his own net, and burning incense to his own drag [Note: Hab 1:16. 1 Corinthians 4:7.],” when he should be adoring God for the mercies vouchsafed unto him? or what more abominable, than for a man to be “living to himself,” when he should be consecrating all his powers to the service of his Creator and Redeemer [Note: Romans 14:7-8.]? In fact, what is this, but to idolize ourselves, and to put ourselves in the very place of God? Covetousness and sensuality are expressly called idolatry [Note: Philippians 3:19. Colossians 3:5.]: yet are these but branches proceeding from the root of inordinate self-love; which is nothing less than practical atheism, or a “banishing of God from all our thoughts [Note: Psalms 10:4; Psalms 14:1.].”]
When it operates to the injury of our neighbour—
[Our neighbour, in his place, has claims upon us, no less than God himself. Whoever we be, whether of high or low degree, what are we but members of one great family; yea, and members too of one body [Note: 1 Corinthians 12:20.]? Now, in a body, no member is to consult its own separate interest at the expense of others, but every one to seek its own happiness in the welfare of the whole [Note: 1 Corinthians 12:25-26.]. But self-love banishes all these considerations, and sets aside every obligation arising from them. Now, we are told, from authority, that whatever a man may possess, or whatever he may either do or suffer in the service of the Lord, “if he have not charity” towards his neighbour, so as to render unto him his dues, “he is no better than sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal [Note: 1 Corinthians 13:1.].” Whatever he may pretend, “his faith is dead;” his love is hypocritical [Note: James 2:15-17.]; his “religion is vain [Note: James 1:26.].”]
Lamentable are those times, and pitiable that society, where this disposition reigns. Consider, I pray you,
The danger attendant on it—
Consider the danger,
To those who are under its influence—
[There is no evil which will not find a ready access to their minds; nor is there any situation in which they will not betray their selfish propensities. Whether in civil or social life, they will render themselves hated and despised. Towards the state, they will be always full of murmurs and complaints. And, in their intercourse with their families and neighbours, they will be occasions of pain to all around them. They will be displeased with every person that stands in any respect in competition with them; and will quarrel with every thing that militates in the least degree against their favourite propensity. In all their transactions in business they will be straining to gain some undue advantage, and will make the minutest differences subjects for dispute. See what the Apostle connects with this character: “Men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false-accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” It is not necessary, indeed, that all these evil qualities should be combined in the same person: but there is in self-love a tendency to produce them, so far as a person’s circumstances are calculated to call them forth. Nor will there be found in such persons any redeeming quality, or any thing to compensate for these evil dispositions. Their selfishness so engrosses their minds, as to render them incapable of any noble exertion, either in a way of piety or benevolence. The lover of self will love none else, at least not in such a degree as to make any great sacrifice either for God or man.]
To the cause of Christ in the world—
[It is granted, that a man who is “a lover of his own self” may be instructed in the truths of religion, and observant of its forms: “He may have a form of godliness; but he will be destitute of its power:” nor is there any great hope of ever benefiting him by the ministration of the Gospel. The word preached either sinks not into his mind at all, or, if sown in his heart, is “choked with thorns and briers, so as to bring forth no fruit to perfection.” Nor is this all the evil that accrues from his hateful dispositions. He sets others against the Gospel; and “causes the way of truth to be evil spoken of,” and “the very name of God to be blasphemed.” Besides, by his spirit and conduct he stirs up corruption in all around him; and even foments in them, by re-action, the very dispositions exercised by himself. Hence, instead of unity in the Church, there will be dissension; and the minister will derive nothing but grief from those over whom he ought rather to rejoice. This I apprehend to be the primary idea in the Apostle’s mind, when he calls the times, of which he speaks, “perilous,” that is, troublesome, grievous, and perplexing. And certainly it must go ill with any Church where such characters abound.]
We may see, then, What is mainly to be looked to,
In estimating our own character—
[I would not undervalue religious sentiments: but they are of no worth, if they be not productive of suitable dispositions and conduct. Do not then inquire, whether you have attained a scriptural creed, and “a form of godliness;” but whether “the truth has made you free;” free from selfish principles and selfish habits. The man whose heart is right with God will account nothing of any value, any further than it can be improved for the honour of God and the good of man. Even life itself is held by him only as a victim ready to be sacrificed, whenever a proper occasion shall call for it. See how the Apostle Paul acted: he accounted not his life dear to him: on the contrary, if called to lay it down for his brethren, he regarded it as an occasion, not of grief, but of joy [Note: Philippians 2:17-18.]. Ah! brethren, see how much you have acquired of that spirit; and how much you possess of “the mind that was in Christ Jesus, who, when possessed of all the glory and felicity of heaven, emptied himself of it all for you; and for your benefit became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross [Note: Philippians 2:5-8.].” Self has by nature wholly occupied your minds. The proper effect of the Gospel is, to root out that hateful quality, and to fill your souls with love both to God and man. Let this, then, serve you as a test whereby to try your state; and assure yourselves, brethren, that a work of grace is no further wrought within you than this great change is accomplished.]
In selecting our companions and friends—
[St. Paul guards you particularly on this head: “Men will be lovers of their own selves.…from such turn away [Note: ver. 5.].” So say I, my brethren: “From such turn away.” You can get no good from such men; nor can you hope to do any good to them: and your whole intercourse with them will be productive only of pain. As Solomon says, “Make no friendship with an angry man, lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul [Note: Proverbs 22:24-25.];” so I would say in reference to a selfish man. He only will be a source of comfort and benefit to you, who is divested of self, and who lives for God, and lays himself out for the good of man. That is an honourable character, worthy to be esteemed; and an useful character, from whom you may hope to derive much benefit; and a blessed character, with whom you may hope to spend a happy eternity. If thou find such an one, take him to thy bosom: and congratulate thyself, that, in this poor vain world, God has raised up to thee such a treasure as this, that may well be dear to thee even as thine own soul.]
FORM AND POWER OF GODLINESS
2 Timothy 3:5. Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
THERE were, even in the Apostolic ages, many awful declensions from piety and sound religion: but in the last days we expect they will prevail to a far greater extent. Even at the present day, a thorough acquaintance with what is called the religious world will bring to our minds many sad characters, who do not indeed fully answer to the description given in the preceding context, but in many respects approximate to it. It is not, however, my intention to take the whole of the character here portrayed; but only the last trait of it, which I have selected for our consideration at this time.
Let me, then,
Unfold the character that is here drawn—
They “have a form of godliness”—
[By “godliness,” I understand an entire devotion of the soul to God. This must, of necessity, have forms and services wherein it must display itself: for, circumstanced as we are in the world, it is impossible to serve God without forms. The reading of the Scriptures, the attending on divine ordinances, the observance of the Sabbath, the duties of family worship, and of secret prayer, are all forms, in and by which vital godliness must display itself. Now many have, in these respects, the form of godliness: they live in the external discharge of these duties: they are conscious, that without an observance of these things they could have no credit whatever for true godliness; and therefore they fulfil their duties in these respects; and then flatter themselves that they have performed all that is required of them — — —]
But they deny its power—
[As for real delight in God, notwithstanding all their profession of religion, they are strangers to it. Their prayers are a mere service of the lip and knee; their praises are no other than cold, unmeaning acknowledgments; and the whole service of God, in the Church, the family, and the closet, is nothing but “a form,” a lamp without oil, a body without the soul. Nor does godliness pervade their souls, so as to produce the mind that was in Christ, or to transform them into God’s image. They seem not to think that religion is to operate to such an extent as this; and that, provided they observe the outward duties of religion, the tempers and dispositions of the soul may safely be overlooked. Hence their self-love, their covetousness, and their numberless evil dispositions, retain their full ascendency, and reign without controul. In fact, “they have a name to live; but in reality they are dead.”]
And now let me,
Shew in what estimation it should be held—
The Apostle says, “From such turn away.” To explain this, I will shew,
In what sense we are not to turn away from such characters—
[We are not to turn away from them in contempt. That were highly unbecoming us; who, if we differ at all, owe the whole of that difference to the distinguishing grace of God. And it would be most offensive to God, who cannot endure such hateful pride. If we say to any man, “Stand off; I am holier than thou;” God will regard us as “a smoke in his nose, a fire that burneth all the day [Note: Isaiah 65:5.]” — — — Nor are we to turn away in indifference, as though we cared not what became of them. We should rather mourn over them, as Paul [Note: Romans 9:1-2.]; and weep over them, as our Lord did over the murderous Jerusalem — — — Nor should we turn away from them in despair; for God is able to save them; and he will hear prayer in their behalf — — —]
In what sense we are to turn away from them—
[We are not, on any account, to make them our companions. We should in this respect turn away from them, for their sake, for our own sake, for the Church’s sake, and for the world’s sake. If we associate with them, we shall make them think well of themselves; when, by a becoming departure from them, we may bring them to a measure of self-diffidence and compunction — — — If we associate with them, we shall be in danger of drinking into their spirit, and of learning their ways. We shall have our zeal and ardour damped by them; who, instead of rising with us, would soon bring us down to a level with themselves — — — By associating with them, also, we should lead our weaker brethren to conceive that there is no evil in their ways — — — And we should justify the world in all their censures of religion, when, for the sake of some ungodly professors, they decry all serious religion, and represent all the servants of God as hypocrites — — —]
Those who have not even the form of godliness—
[It is a lamentable truth, that the greater part of nominal Christians live altogether “without God in the world.” Had they been born Pagans or Mahomedans, they would not, as far as Jehovah is concerned, have differed in any essential particular. Now then, I ask, if they who have a form of godliness may yet be in a state so hateful to God, what must be the condition of those who are destitute even of the form? Can it be that they should be approved of the Lord? They will indeed, and with great confidence too, affirm, that they have no ground to fear: but they awfully deceive their own souls: for to them does that declaration of God belong, in its utmost force, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God [Note: Psalms 9:17.].” O that they would be wise, and consider their latter end, ere it be too late!]
Those who have the form, but not the power—
[To what purpose is it that you “profess to know God, if in works you deny him?” In truth, if you will look into the Scriptures, you will find that real godliness is a far different thing from what you are accustomed to think it. Look at the precepts: do they extend only to forms? Examine the promises; are they limited to forms? See the examples of piety: do they rise no higher than to mere formal services? The whole of God’s blessed word declares, that God must “be worshipped in Spirit and in truth;” and that the heart, the whole heart, must be consecrated to his service. Any thing short of this is a mere mockery, and a fatal delusion.]
Those who have both the form and power of godliness—
[It is well to combine the two, yet to keep them both in their proper place. We must not elevate either, to the exclusion of the other. As we must not rest in forms, so neither must we rise above them, as though the eminence of our piety superseded the use of them. All external duties, of whatever kind, must be observed: only we must take care that we be filled with the Spirit, in the use of them. Forms are like Jacob’s ladder, by which you are to ascend to God, and God will descend to you. But see to it, that your access to God be daily more near, and your enjoyment of him more sweet: see to it, that you shew forth daily, with increasing evidence, the efficacy of his grace, and the beauty of his religion. Let your whole spirit and temper evince the power of godliness in your souls; and then not only shall all the saints turn unto you in love, but God himself will embrace you as the objects of his tenderest affection.]
A WANT OF PROFITING BY THE GOSPEL, CENSURED
2 Timothy 3:7. Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
FROM what we know of the excellency of the Gospel, we should naturally conclude that it can never produce any thing but good. And this is true. But, as the law, notwithstanding it is good, is sometimes, through the corruption of our nature, an occasion of evil [Note: Romans 7:5; Romans 7:8-13.], so the Gospel often gives occasion to the corruptions of our hearts to manifest themselves to a very awful extent. Who, for instance, would imagine that persons calling themselves Christians should be obnoxious to the charge brought against them in all the preceding context [Note: ver. 1–7.], and answer in any degree to the character there drawn? Yet is it a melancholy fact, that some did answer to that character, even in the apostolic age; and, at different periods of the Church, multitudes have fully corresponded with the description there given; yea, and not only corresponded with it themselves, but laboured also with zeal and industry to infuse into others the same malignant spirit, and taken advantage of those who were less instructed, or more easily wrought upon, to propagate it to the utmost of their power. There is reason for thankfulness, that the Christian Church is not much agitated by such turbulent and unchristian teachers at this time: but still the spirit exists to a considerable extent amongst some classes of Christians; who, whilst they are running after every new preacher, exactly answer to the character here given of them, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
To counteract this great evil, I will endeavour to shew,
What little improvement many make of the Gospel which they hear—
The Gospel, in this age, has acquired a considerable degree of popularity; so that, wherever it is preached, it is attended by multitudes who previously had shewn no regard whatever for religion: yea, to such a degree does it interest many, that their whole souls appear to be engaged in an attention to it. Yet of these, not a few may be characterized by the words before us: they are “ever learning,” losing no opportunity, whether in public or in private, of gratifying their thirst for spiritual instruction, and “yet never able to come to the knowledge of the truth,” either in principle or in practice.
[Of those who indulge a spirit of scepticism, and who make all that they hear an occasion for calling in question the truth of God, it is not my intention to speak. The persons alluded to in my text are rather those who take partial views of the Gospel; insisting on some particular truth, to the exclusion of many others; or espousing some great error, to the utter subversion of the whole Gospel. Such are they who deny the corruption of human nature, the necessity of an atonement, the divinity of our blessed Lord, and the influences of the Holy Spirit. Persons of this description find pleasure in nothing which does not foster their heretical opinions: and to diffuse their principles is as much their labour, as it was the labour of the Pharisees of old; who “compassed sea and land to make one proselyte,” whom, by their hostility to the truth, they reduced to a still more abject condition than themselves.
Nor are Antinomian heretics less zealous, or less pernicious, than they. They can hear of nothing, and talk of nothing, but God’s decrees; whilst all the fruits of Christianity upon the spirit and temper are as much overlooked as if they were of no importance whatever to the soul.
But, not to speak of those who magnify any peculiar tenet to the neglect or exclusion of other truths, a great multitude of those who hear the Gospel get only a vague and indistinct view of it; discerning nothing of its transcendent excellency, as displaying the glory of the Divine perfections, or as suiting the necessities of fallen man: so that, amidst all their zeal for the Gospel, they never get their souls duly impressed with it as “the wisdom of God in a mystery,” or “the power of God unto salvation.” I grant that a truly correct and systematic view of Christianity is not to be expected of those who are altogether illiterate, and whose opportunities of investigating truth are very contracted: but still, the crude notions which many form of it clearly prove that they have never received the Gospel aright; because, if they had really been taught of God, they could not but discern its fundamental truths; since, “what God has hid from the wise and prudent, he does clearly and most intelligibly reveal to babes.”]
[Truly it is very humiliating to see how little the preached Gospel answers the end for which it is delivered. It is intended to transform men into “the image of their God in righteousness and true holiness:” but on how few does it produce this saving change! Many love the preaching of the truth, like Ezekiel’s hearers, who heard him with delight, “as one that played well upon a musical instrument:” but, like them, they still retain all their former lusts; “their heart goes after their covetousness” and worldly-mindedness as much as ever; and their tempers are as unsubdued as ever. See them year after year; their besetting sins are still their besetting sins, with very little, if any, diminution in their power and ascendency. It is painful to think how many satisfy themselves with embracing the doctrines of Christianity, without experiencing its sanctifying effects. Would to God there were no room for this complaint! but indeed it is so: and there are many professors of religion who are as much under the dominion of unhallowed tempers as if they were utter strangers to divine truth: and, in speaking peace to themselves, they fearfully “deceive their own souls:” for, whatever they may think, “their religion is altogether vain [Note: James 1:26.].”
But there are others, who, though not left under the dominion of any particular sin, are still obnoxious to the censure in my text; because they never attain that knowledge of the truth which would introduce them into the full liberty of the children of God. They have heard and learned of men: but they have never “heard and learned of the Father, as the truth is in Jesus [Note: Ephesians 4:20-21. Joh 6:45.].” See what the truth is, as it was revealed by the Lord Jesus, and as exemplified in his life and conversation: such is that which we also ought to receive and experience: and it is a shame to us, if, after having been instructed in the Gospel for months and years, we do not, in some good measure at least, attain unto it. But many, “who, for the time that they have been instructed, ought to have been capable of instructing others, yet need again to be initiated into the very first principles of the oracles of God [Note: Hebrews 5:12-14.],” and “to be fed with milk, rather than with meat [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:1-4.],” which their feeble powers are not able to digest.]
Let me, then, go on to shew,
Whence their want of proficiency proceeds—
Many more reasons might be assigned for it than we shall have time to notice. All the different classes which we have mentioned may trace their ignorance to causes in some respect peculiar to the class to which they belong. On the other hand, there are some causes common to them all, which therefore it will be more proper for me to specify.
Men come not to the knowledge of the truth,
Because the obstacles to knowledge are not removed from their minds—
[The love of this world, and of the things thereof, casts a thick veil over the human mind, and incapacitates it for the reception of divine truth. It is like a film over the eyes, which either distorts objects, or renders the vision of them very indistinct. Our blessed Lord says, “How can ye believe who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh of God only [Note: John 5:44.]?” In the parable of the Sower, the cares and pleasures of life are represented as choking the word, and rendering it unfruitful [Note: Matthew 13:22.]: and, till the ground has been in a measure cleared from thorns and briers, it is in vain to hope that any instruction can avail for the renovation and salvation of the soul.]
Because the means of attaining it are only partially used—
[Men will hear the Gospel with an almost insatiable avidity: but if you follow them to their own homes, you will not find them meditating upon what they have heard, with an application of it to their own souls; nor praying to God to render it effectual for the ends for which it has been delivered. When they have heard the word, they think they have done their duty: but meditation and prayer are not a whit less necessary for the improvement of the mind, than either written or oral instruction. This is particularly noticed by Solomon, who tells us, that we must add prayer to study; and not only search, but “lift up our voice for understanding,” if ever we would attain it [Note: Proverbs 2:1-6.]: and if we will not use every effort to improve what we have heard, it is no wonder that the instruction we have received fails of conveying any saving benefit to our souls.]
Because the knowledge acquired is not conscientiously improved—
[Men, under the word, are made to see their own faces in a glass: but, having no desire to comply with its requisitions, they soon “forget what manner of persons they are [Note: James 1:23-24.].” If they would follow the instruction which they receive, and take it as a light to search the inmost recesses of their souls, and as a touchstone whereby to try their experience before God, what progress would they make in the divine life! How clear would their views become! how eminent their attainments! But they hear not for this end. The Gospel is not contemplated by them in this view. The ordinances are attended by them more for the amusement of their minds than for the edification of their souls. And hence, though they are “ever learning,” they never acquire that self-knowledge that shall abase them in the dust, or that knowledge of God that shall assimilate them to his likeness.]
Those who have not yet attained the knowledge of the truth—
[Consider your responsibility for so abusing the privileges you enjoy. Were it an earthly science which you could not dive into or comprehend, you might plead your incapacity to understand the things submitted to you. But no man is too weak to comprehend divine truth, if God “open the eyes of his understanding to understand it.” Seek, then, to be taught of God; and you shall not be left in darkness. There are, indeed, two keys of knowledge, which you must obtain; and they are, integrity and contrition. Get but “a honest and good heart,” with a soul truly humbled before God; and you shall be “guided into all truth,” and “be made wise unto everlasting salvation.”]
Those who think they have acquired it—
[Remember, it is not by its clearness, but by its efficacy, that you are to judge of the knowledge you have acquired — — — Remember, too, that you are still to be “ever learning.” Never, in this world, will you have arrived at a full knowledge of the truth: your views of it will be increasing through all eternity. Of its sanctifying efficacy, also, you must have a progressive experience, to the latest hour of your lives. Be careful, then, that you “grow in grace, as well as in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ;” so shall you, ere long, “see him as he is, and be like him for ever.”]
CHARACTER OF ST. PAUL
2 Timothy 3:10. Thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long suffering, charity, patience.
IN every age of the world there have been persons adverse to the truth of God, and actively engaged in frustrating his designs for the salvation of men. In the days of Moses, Jannes and Jambres sought to harden the heart of Pharaoh: and in the apostolic age, many seducers arose to draw away from the faith those who had embraced the Gospel of Christ. Against their influence St. Paul guards his son Timothy: and that this young minister might be the better able to distinguish them, the Apostle reminds him of “all that he had heard and seen in him.”
The word which, in the text, is translated, “thou hast fully known,” is in the margin translated, “thou hast been a diligent follower of.” And from this little diversity of construction, I shall take occasion to propose to you the character of the Apostle, for your investigation, that you may “fully know it;” and for your imitation, that you may “diligently follow it.”
I propose it, then,
For your investigation—
Take notice, then, what was,
[This was uniformly an exhibition of the Lord Jesus Christ, as crucified for the sins of men, and as effecting thereby our reconciliation with God — — — On this subject he maintained the utmost jealousy; suffering nothing, either in himself or others, to obscure it. When St. Peter himself had, by undue concessions, endangered the purity of this doctrine, St. Paul reproved him before the whole Church [Note: Galatians 2:14.]. And, if an angel from heaven had attempted to establish any doctrine in opposition to this, he was prepared to denounce him as accursed [Note: Galatians 1:8-9.]. All that he preached, either led to this doctrine, or arose out of it; for “he had determined to know nothing but Christ, and him crucified.”]
[This was in perfect accordance with the doctrine which he preached. “The whole manner of his life” was regulated by it; and marked a determined “purpose” to live only for the Saviour in whom he believed, and to put forth all his powers for the propagation of the Gospel of Christ. In the discharge of this duty he had shewn the utmost “fidelity [Note: This is here the import of the word translated “faith.”];” concealing nothing that could be profitable to his hearers, but boldly “declaring to them the whole counsel of God.” He knew that, “in every place, bonds and afflictions awaited him:” but “none of these things could move him:” neither counted he his life dear to him, if only he might discharge, to the satisfaction of his own conscience, the high office which had been committed to him. This was his uniform course of life, from the first moment of his conversion: and all who knew him could bear witness to it.]
[His zeal for God was duly blended with love to men. He bore with all, however weak, however ignorant, however perverse, they were: nor could the most cruel treatment divert him from his purpose. In the midst of all the injuries he sustained, he still prosecuted his labours of love with all imaginable “long-suffering, and charity, and patience;” “becoming all things to all men, if by any means he might save some;” and accounting it rather a matter of self-congratulation than of grief, if he should be called to pour forth his blood as a libation upon the sacrifice and service of his people’s faith [Note: Philippians 2:17.]. O that men would study this character, and seek to have it embodied in their own experience! For this end]
I will propose it,
For your imitation—
St. Paul himself says, “Be ye followers of me, as I am of Christ.” And so would I say to you, as in my text, Be diligent followers of him in the above respects.
Embrace his principles—
[It is observable, that the Apostle himself takes for granted that every true Christian will resemble him in his views of divine truth: for, having spoken of the sufferings which he had been called to endure, he adds, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” “The living godly in Christ Jesus” marks at once “his doctrine and his manner of life.” “A life of faith on the Son of God” is that which characterizes every Christian under heaven. Yet it is not the faith alone which so distinguishes him, but its operation on the heart and life: it is “the living godly in Christ Jesus.” The faith and practice must go together. If separated, they are of no value: faith is of no value, if not productive of works; and works are of no value, if not proceeding from faith. I wish this to be clearly and fully understood. In truth, there is not a person in the universe who can act up to this high standard, unless he live under the influence of faith. Nothing but a sense of redeeming love can constrain any man to such an entire surrender of his soul to God. But, on the other hand, no man who truly believes in Christ will ever stop short of it. Be ye, therefore, followers of Paul in this respect.]
Expect his trials—
[We are ready to think, that sufferings for righteousness’ sake were the portion of the Apostles only, or of the primitive Christians: but they are, and will inevitably be, the portion of all believers; as St. Paul tells us in the words which we have just cited; “All who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Persons may be ever so wise, and ever so prudent, and ever so blameless in the whole of their conversation; but they never can escape persecution of some kind. They may not, indeed, be called to endure the sufferings inflicted on St. Paul: through the tender mercy of our God, that measure of persecution is now prevented by the laws, which afford protection to all classes of the community: but hatred, and contempt, and obloquy, will attach to all who resemble our blessed Lord, and to all who tread in the steps of the Apostle Paul. It is in vain for any one to hope that he shall be a follower of Christ without having a cross to bear: for, “if men called the Master of the house Beelzebub, much more will they those of his household.” In this respect, therefore, as well as in his religious sentiments and feelings, every one of you must prepare to resemble this bright pattern of all that was great and good.]
Maintain his conduct—
[Imitate his zeal for God: and let it be seen that you live only for God. Let your whole manner of life be consistent. Let your determined purpose be manifest: let it be evident to all, that you have but one wish, one desire. And let nothing under heaven cause you to turn aside, even for a moment, from the path of duty. “Be steadfast, and immoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord.” At the same time, imitate his love to man. Whatever treatment you meet with in the world, be long-suffering and loving towards all; and “let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.” In all this, let your conduct be so uniform, that you may appeal to those who have the nearest access to you, and opportunities of observing you at all times, that this is the constant tenour of your way. It is an easy matter to be Christians in public: but, to preserve a perfect consistency in the whole of your deportment in private, requires an unintermitted watchfulness, and a measure of grace that is possessed by few. But, indeed, I must say, that it is by such fruits alone that the goodness of the tree can be discerned. May God enable all of us so to walk, that we may be able to make our appeal, both to God and man, without fear and contradiction; and to the praise of that God who hath wrought all our good works within us!]
THE TRUE GOSPEL HATED
2 Timothy 3:12. All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
WE are apt to imagine that persecution for righteousness’ sake was peculiar to the apostolic age: but St. Paul, reminding Timothy of the various trials which he himself had endured, tells him, that the Gospel would continue to give offence, wherever it was faithfully preached, or consistently professed; and that “all who would live godly in Christ Jesus should suffer persecution.” Now, that we may enter into the true import of these words, and see their full scope, I will shew,
What is the life which is here described—
[The Apostle does not say, “All that will live godly:” for then his assertion would not be true. A conformity to the law, under which men live, will by no means give offence to those around them. Heathens, of every class and of every caste, will admire those who are most scrupulously observant of the rites prescribed by their religious system — — — The Pharisees were held in the highest estimation on account of the self-denying ordinances which they practised. And papists are canonized for their penances and pilgrimages, and self-imposed austerities. Even amongst us, an exact attention to outward forms and to moral duties will gain for any man the admiration of all around him. This is not the life which will, in the general, expose us to persecution, whatever it may do under some particular circumstances. The life that will involve us certainly in persecution, is, “the living godly in Christ Jesus;” that is, the depending on him for all the grace whereby to serve our God, and the giving to him the glory of all that we do. This is what the Gospel invariably requires — — — and this will still give the very same offence which it gave in former days. This it was which so incensed Cain against his brother Abel. Abel offered a burnt-offering as an acknowledgment of his dependence on the sacrifice of Christ, which should, in due time, be offered: and God’s attested approbation of that offering stirred up in Cain the murderous purpose to destroy his brother’s life. St. Paul, and all the rest of the Apostles, suffered on the same account [Note: 1 Timothy 4:10.] — — — And at this day, wherever that religion is professed and exemplified, the very same hatred prevails against it — — — Other doctrines cause no divisions: but wherever salvation by faith in the atoning blood of Christ is proclaimed, there is a division among the people; “some saying of the preacher, He is a good man: others saying, Nay, but he deceiveth the people.”]
If this be so, it is of importance to shew, in reference to this doctrine,
Why it gives such universal offence—
Because it is so incomprehensible in its nature—
[A preacher of Christ crucified, whilst he calls men to the performance of good works, will maintain most strenuously the impossibility of our being ever justified by them, either in whole or in part. He requires all to seek acceptance with God through faith alone — — — Now, people in general neither do, nor can, comprehend this. If we are not to be justified by our works in any measure or degree, why need we perform them? — — — Thus they stumble at that very stumbling-stone which offended the Jews of old, and caused them to reject the salvation which the less moral Gentiles most thankfully accepted [Note: Romans 9:30-33.] — — —]
Because it is so humiliating in its requirements—
[What! must the most exemplary Pharisee, who has been “touching the righteousness of the law blameless,” renounce all his own righteousness, and come down upon the very same ground with publicans and harlots, and “enter in at the strait gate” of repentance and faith, as much as the most abandoned of mankind? Who can endure to hear that, or make up his mind to comply with it? What! after having done so many things, must I seek acceptance solely through the righteousness of another imputed to me? Such views were, in the days of old, “to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:23.]:” and such will they be judged by all, who are not truly enlightened by the Spirit of God — — —]
Because it is so exclusive in its pretensions—
[If the Apostle would have suffered circumcision to be retained by the Jews as a joint ground of hope before God, “the offence of the cross would have altogether ceased.” Or if he would have suffered the name of Jesus to be enrolled among the gods of Greece and Rome, the Gentiles would have entirely renounced their opposition to him. But he required that the whole world should abandon their various grounds of hope; and trust exclusively in “the Lord Jesus Christ, as their wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” He declared, that there was no way to heaven but through Christ; and that “if an angel from heaven should preach any other doctrine than this, he must he accursed [Note: Galatians 1:8-9.].” This is the testimony which we also bear; and which every one who receives the Gospel must accede to. And can we wonder that this rigid and immoveable purpose should give offence? Can we wonder, that, when we require every child of man to bow to this doctrine, and inflexibly to adhere to it, even though he were menaced with death for his fidelity—can we wonder, I say, that men should rise up against us, and endeavour to extinguish the light which we set before them? It cannot be but that such authoritative demands should give offence to those who have not obtained grace to comply with them — — —]
Let me then address,
Those who are intimidated by the opposition made to them—
[“Fear not man, who can only kill the body; but fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” “If you will not lay down your life for Christ, you cannot be his disciples.” We cannot lower those terms. Christ died, under the wrath of God, for you: and it is but a small sacrifice, in comparison, that he requires you to make for him.]
Those who set themselves against the truth of God—
[You can never prevail, in fighting against God: or, if you prevail in any particular instance, you only aggravate so much the more your own guilt and condemnation. It were better for you to have a millstone fastened to your neck, and be cast into the depths of the sea, than that you should offend one of Christ’s little ones.]
Those who are enabled to maintain their steadfastness in the midst of an ungodly world—
[Perhaps you have suffered somewhat for the Lord. But have you found any cause to regret it? Have not the consolations of Christ abounded above all your afflictions? You may possibly have yet more to suffer for his sake. But, for your encouragement, he has declared, that, “whilst he will deny those who deny him, he will admit all who suffer with him to reign with him in glory for ever and ever [Note: 2 Timothy 2:12.].” “Be then faithful unto death; and expect assuredly, at his hands, a crown of life.”]
THE EARLY KNOWLEDGE OF TIMOTHY
2 Timothy 3:15. From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
IN seasons of heavy trial it is of great advantage to have had a long acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures and the principles of religion. A novice is apt to be astonished, and to wonder that a change so favourable as that which he has experienced, (“from a brier to a myrtle-tree [Note: Isaiah 55:13.],”) should excite nothing but enmity in those around him. But a person conversant with the word of God, and established with his grace, has counted the cost: he knows what he is to expect: he knows what others have experienced before him; and the very storms which threaten his existence, serve only to confirm him in the truths he has professed. In this view St. Paul encourages Timothy to hold fast the profession of his faith without wavering, and to “continue in the things he had learned,” without being intimidated by persecutors, or deceived by seducers [Note: ver. 12–15.].
From his words we shall consider
The early knowledge of Timothy—
He was acquainted with the Holy Scriptures—
[By “the Holy Scriptures” we must understand, not merely the words, but the doctrines, of Scripture. Doubtless Timothy was acquainted with our fall in Adam, and the consequent depravity of our nature. He knew also the true scope of all the sacrifices as pointing to that Lamb of God who was to take away the sin of the whole world. Nor could he be ignorant of the necessity of divine influences, in order to a renovation of our hearts, and a restoration of the soul to the Divine image.
But it was not a theoretical knowledge even of these things which would have satisfied the mind of the Apostle: it must have been a practical and experimental knowledge of them. He must have felt and bewailed the plague of his own heart: he must have relied on Jesus as his only hope: he must have been renewed in the spirit of his mind by the power of the Holy Ghost: in short, he must have been “a new creature in Christ Jesus,” or else the Apostle would never have thought his knowledge a proper ground of congratulation.]
These he knew from a child—
[It is generally thought that children are incapable of understanding the mysterious truths of the Gospel. We readily acknowledge that these truths exceed the capacity, not of children only, but of the wisest philosopher; for “the natural man cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:14.].” But God can give a spiritual discernment to children, as well as to adults; and, supposing this to be given, there is nothing in the Gospel which a child may not understand as well as an adult. Children may have their affections exercised on things proper to call them forth. If God discover to them that they are sinners, and obnoxious to his wrath, they may fear his displeasure: if he shew them that he has provided salvation for them in Christ Jesus, they may hope in his mercy: if he reveal his pardoning love to their souls, they may rejoice in his salvation. The difficulty lies, not in feeling suitable emotions, but in having a practical conviction of those truths which are calculated to excite them. This practical conviction none but God can give; and he is as able to give it to one as to another. Indeed God does prefer those who are babes, in knowledge at least [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:26-28.], and sometimes also in years; for David says, that “God had ordained strength, and perfected praise out of the mouth of babes and sucklings [Note: Psalms 8:2. with Matthew 21:16.];” and our blessed Lord made it a matter of joy and thanksgiving, that his heavenly Father had “hid divine things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes [Note: Matthew 11:25.].” Do we desire instances of early conversion? Josiah sought the Lord at eight years of age [Note: 2 Chronicles 34:3.]. Samuel was devoted to him at a still earlier period of life [Note: 1Sa 2:18; 1 Samuel 2:26.]. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother’s womb [Note: Luke 1:15.]. But, if there were no other instance upon record, it would be sufficient that we are told, that Timothy knew the Holy Scriptures “from a child.”]
We shall, with the Apostle, congratulate Timothy, if we consider,
The excellency of that knowledge—
It was “able to make him wise”—
[Wisdom is that which is most of all coveted, and for the attainment of which no expense or trouble are accounted too great. Now the wisdom contained in the inspired volume infinitely surpasses all that can be collected from other books. It shews us what we were in our original formation, and what we now are. It shews us wherein the chief good consists, and how we may attain it. It shews us every thing, whether good or evil, in its true light, and enables us to form the very same judgment respecting it that God himself does. It teaches us how to fill every station and relation of life to the greatest possible advantage. It even draws aside the veil of heaven itself, and exhibits to us God in all his glorious perfections. It reveals to us the three persons of the Godhead, co-operating in the work of man’s salvation, and executing distinct offices for our eternal good. What is all the boasted wisdom of philosophers, when compared with this?]
It was able to make him “wise unto salvation”—
[All wisdom that stops short of this is only splendid folly. How vain will the wisdom of philosophers or statesmen appear, when once we are entered into the eternal world! Nothing will then be of any value, but that which led us to the enjoyment of God, and to a meetness for glory. Then the excellency of Scripture knowledge will appear in all its brightness.
But it must be inquired, How is it that the Scripture effects this? Is there any thing meritorious in the knowledge of its truths; or any thing which by its own power can save the soul? The text informs us respecting these things, and points out the precise way in which the Scriptures make us wise unto salvation. Christ is the only Saviour of sinful man. His obedience unto death is the only ground of our hope.
But how are we to be interested in him? There is but one way; and that is, by faith. “He that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life.”
From hence then it may be seen how the Scriptures make us wise unto salvation. They reveal Christ to us as the Saviour of the world. They commend him to us under every image that can convey an idea of his suitableness to our wants, and his sufficiency for our necessities. They hold forth the promises of God to those who believe in Christ; and encourage us by every possible argument to rely upon him. In this manner they work faith in our hearts: and by that faith we become interested in all that Christ has done and suffered for us.
Thus, in ascribing our salvation to the knowledge of the Scriptures, we do not derogate from the honour of Christ; since it is only by revealing his work and offices to us, and by leading us to depend upon him, that they become effectual for this blessed end. But at the same time we put an honour on the Scriptures, to which no other book has the smallest claim. Other books may be channels for conveying divine knowledge; but the Bible alone is the fountain from which it flows. The knowledge therefore of the Bible is of supreme excellence; and the earliest possible attainment of it is of unrivalled importance.]
This being a very instructive record, I propose to shew,
The instruction which his attainment of it conveys to us—
Surely it affords us matter
For inquiry respecting ourselves—
[I ask not, whether the same thing can be affirmed of you, as having taken place from your early childhood; but whether it is true concerning you at this moment? Do you know the Holy Scriptures, and the great leading doctrines contained in them? Do you know them practically and experimentally, so as really to feel your lost and undone state — — — and to be fleeing to Christ as your only refuge — — — and to be devoting yourselves to him as his redeemed people? Have you in relation to these things the very mind of God, bringing you into a conformity to his blessed will? — — — Possess what ye may, you have not attained to true wisdom, if you possess not this state of mind. No other wisdom than this will avail to your salvation: and, if you lack this, you will, to all eternity, lament and bewail your folly. I entreat you then to examine carefully whether ye be “living a life of faith in the Son of God, who has loved you and given himself for you?” Is your daily walk with God such, that the Apostle Paul would pronounce with confidence respecting you the testimony which he thus confidently bare to his beloved Timothy? Dear brethren, I beseech you, “prove your own selves;” and pray God to set his seal to the truth of this change as wrought in you, and as exemplified in the whole of your life and conversation!]
For direction respecting others—
[Parents, does not this record speak forcibly to you? Here you have an evidence that children are capable of receiving all the blessings of salvation, supposing they be taught by you, and taught of God also. Without the Divine blessing, even Paul might plant, and Apollos water, in vain: but the labours of a Lois and an Eunice [Note: 2 Timothy 1:6.] shall not be lost, if God be pleased to accompany them with his Holy Spirit to the soul. Remember, a responsibility attaches to you for their souls, similar to that which belongs to your minister in reference to your souls. I pray God, that your children may not have to reproach you in the day of judgment, and to trace it to you, that they were left to perish for lack of knowledge.
And, young people, tell me whether you do not envy Timothy the distinction here given him? Have you not in your own consciences a conviction, that his was true wisdom, and that in attaining the knowledge of salvation through a crucified Redeemer, you best answer the end of your being. Lose not then the present opportunity, before the cares and pleasures of life have hardened your hearts, and seared your consciences as with a hot iron.
To people of every age this record speaks forcibly, and says, Labour by all possible means to convey to those around you this knowledge which proved so great a blessing to this happy youth [Note: If this be delivered as a Sermon for Missions, or for Charity Schools, or Sunday Schools, or Infant Schools, an appropriate line of Exhortation must be here added, to shew what has been done, or may be done, and how richly success in one single instance will repay for all the efforts that can be used.] — — —]
THE EXCELLENCY OF THE SCRIPTURES
2 Timothy 3:16-17. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
LITTLE do men in general think how much they are indebted to God for the possession of the Holy Scriptures. This was the exclusive privilege of the Jewish nation for fifteen hundred years: and it elevated them above all other people upon the face of the earth. Their chief advantage, as St. Paul tells us, was, that “unto them were committed the Oracles of God.” In the knowledge of these Timothy was early instructed; and “by these he was made wise unto salvation.” Doubtless the way of salvation was not so clearly marked in them, as in the Christian Scriptures: but still, to any one who reads the writings of Moses and the Prophets with humility and prayer, there was every needful instruction both in relation to faith and practice. The whole Mosaic dispensation taught him this great lesson, that he must be saved by a vicarious sacrifice; and all the prophets directed his views to that great sacrifice, which should, in due time, be offered by our Lord Jesus Christ. It is of these Scriptures that St. Paul speaks in my text; and in the commendation which he bestows upon them, we see,
Their true origin—
The Scriptures of the Old Testament were “given by inspiration of God”—
[Of this there is abundant evidence, in the very nature of the things which they contain. What could Moses have known about the creation of the world, of the fall of man, and of the facts relating to the deluge, if they had not been revealed to him by God? What could he have known of the nature and perfections of God; or of the means by which fallen man was to be restored to his favour; or of the Prophet who should in due time be raised up from amongst his brethren, to be, like him. a Mediator, a Lawgiver, a Redeemer, a Governor? How could he have ever given so perfect a code of laws as those contained in the Ten Commandments; and so complicated a system of ceremonial laws, that should shadow forth, in every particular, the work and offices of the Messiah, together with the privileges and enjoyments of his redeemed people? Or if we suppose a finite creature endued with wisdom sufficient for such a work (which yet cannot for a moment be imagined), it cannot he conceived that he should impose his own inventions on the world as a revelation from God: for if he was a good man, he would never have attempted so impiously to deceive the world; nor, if he was wicked enough to execute so criminal a project, would he ever have given so holy a law, which condemned even the smallest approach to such impiety, and gave the perpetrator of it no hope of ever escaping the wrathful indignation of Almighty God. The miracles wrought by him are a farther confirmation of his divine mission, and of his being inspired of God to declare all which has been transmitted to us in his writings.
Respecting the prophets also, we may say, that their inspiration of God can admit of no doubt; since it was not possible for them, if uninspired, so minutely and harmoniously to foretell so many events, which all came to pass agreeably to their predictions.]
The same may be said in reference to the writers of the New Testament—
[Whilst the Apostles and Evangelists always refer to the Old Testament as inspired of God, and declare, with one consent, that the writers of it delivered not mere sentiments of their own, but “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost [Note: 2 Peter 1:19-21.],” they profess to be themselves inspired by that same Spirit, in all that they declare; and they wrought miracles without number in confirmation of their word. In what they wrote indeed, they expressed themselves, each in his own peculiar style, as any other writers would have done: but in the matter of what they wrote, they were inspired of God; and in the manner of expressing it they were preserved by that same Spirit from any error or mistake. So that of the whole Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament, we may affirm, that God is the Author of them, and that every part of them has been “given by inspiration from him.”]
The Apostle proceeds to declare,
Their primary use—
This is expressed in four different terms; which yet may properly be comprehended in two. The Scriptures are profitable,
For the establishment of sound doctrine—
[They declare all that is needful for us to know: and they lay down every “doctrine” of our holy religion with the utmost precision. At the same time, they enable us to “reprove,” or, as the word imports, to refute, by the most convincing mode of argumentation, every error, which ignorant or conceited men may labour to maintain. There is such a perfect unity in the system of revelation, that you cannot overthrow one part, without overturning the whole. Let the divinity of our Lord and Saviour be denied, and you entirely destroy the doctrine of the atonement also. Let the influences of the Holy Spirit be denied, and the transformation of the soul into the Divine image must fall with it. Let the merit of good works be maintained, and the whole covenant of grace is annihilated. There are indeed matters of less moment, which are less clearly revealed, and respecting which persons of equal piety may differ: but in every thing which is of fundamental importance, we find in the Scriptures the most abundant means of discovering truth, and of refuting error. To them we must on all occasions make our appeal, and by their testimony we must abide.]
For the securing of a holy practice—
[Innumerable evils obtain in the world: but every one of them is condemned in the inspired volume; whilst, at the same time, the ways of true piety are pointed out with clearness to all who desire to walk in them. There is not so much as a secret evil of the heart which does not find “correction” there, nor any attainment of true righteousness in relation to which we do not find the most explicit “instruction.” The works of the flesh, and the fruits of the Spirit, are set in contrast with each other, and are portrayed with such exactness, that there is no room left for ignorance to any one who will search the Scriptures, nor for mistake to any one that is truly upright before God.]
From these immediate uses we may easily discern,
Their ultimate design—
To render men “perfect,” is the great object of God, in all that he has revealed: and this the Scriptures are admirably calculated to effect; since they leave nothing wanting, either to ministers or others,
For their instruction—
[We cannot conceive of any good work which a person instructed out of the Holy Scriptures is not fitted to perform. Take him as “a man of God,” discharging the ministerial office: he may learn from the Scriptures how to demean himself in the Church of God so wisely and so profitably, that nothing shall be wanting to the edification of his flock. Or, take him as a private individual: take him in his secret walk with God: What needs he more than is there contained? What can any man add to the directions there given, or to the examples that are there set before us? or what further light can any creature in the universe desire? Take him in his conduct towards his fellow-creatures: What duty is there which is undefined? Let a person occupy any station, or sustain any relation of life, husband or wife, parent or child, master or servant, magistrate or subject, he will equally find such directions as shall leave him at no loss how to please God, or to approve himself to men.]
For their encouragement—
[There is not a motive capable of influencing the human mind which is not there suggested and enforced. Not only are the tremendous sanctions of heaven and hell set forth in order to work upon our hopes and fears, but all the wonders of redeeming love are there displayed in such majesty and splendour, that no person irradiated with their light can want any thing to increase their constraining influence. Besides, the promises of God contained in this blessed book are so rich, so free, so full, that nothing can be added to them: nor can a man be in any circumstances whatever, wherein suitable provision is not made for his encouragement and support; so that he is not only “furnished for every good work,” but assured of success in all that he attempts to execute: if he be called to act, he is “able to do all things through Christ who strengtheneth him;” or, if he be called to suffer, he is made “more than conqueror through Him who loved him.”]
Such then being the excellency of the Holy Scriptures, let every one of you set himself to discharge his duties in relation to them—
Refer every thing to them as your standard—
[Rest not in the opinions of men, whoever those men may be: but bring every thing to the law and to the testimony: for, whoever they be, if they speak not according to this word, there is no light in them [Note: Isaiah 8:20.]. You cannot but know, that, both in relation to faith and practice, the most grievous errors abound. Bring therefore your sentiments and your conduct to this test. See whether your views of yourself, and of Christ, agree with those which the Scriptures exhibit; and see whether your life, spirit, and conduct, be such as those of the Apostles were. I charge you, before God, to try yourselves by this touchstone. It is not a superficial view of these matters that will suffice. You may easily deceive yourselves; but you can never deceive God: and it is not by any standard of yours that he will try you, but by the standard of his own word. Oh! search and try your ways: “examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith: prove your own selves:” so shall you have the testimony of a good conscience now, and attain acceptance with God in the eternal world.]
Consult them in all things as your guide—
[Difficulties will often arise; and if you go to man for counsel, you will most generally be led astray; since none but those who have imbibed the spirit of the Scriptures themselves, can declare the sublime principles which they inculcate. Study then the Holy Scriptures from day to day, and that too with a direct view to your conduct; so that on any emergency you may have readily occurring to your mind such passages as are fitted to regulate your judgment, and to direct your paths. “Instructed by them, you will be wiser than your teachers [Note: Psalms 119:99; Psalms 119:130.],” and will be enabled to “walk wisely before God in a perfect way [Note: Psalms 101:2.].”]
Beg of God, who has revealed them to the world, to reveal them also in your heart—
[Plain as the Scriptures are, they are yet “a sealed book” to all whose eyes have not been enlightened by the Spirit of God. The natural man, how learned soever he may be, cannot enter into their spiritual import, because he has not a spiritual discernment [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:14.]. The Apostles themselves, after all the instruction which they had received, both in public and private, from their Divine Master for above three years, yet needed to have “their understandings opened by him, that they might understand the Scriptures.” So do ye need the teachings of God’s Spirit, without which you will be in darkness to the latest hour of your lives. Pray then to him, as David did; “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law!” Then shall you “be guided into all truth;” and find the Scriptures fully adequate to all the gracious ends for which they have been revealed.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17