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Wednesday, July 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 1

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Verses 1-2

2 Timothy 1:1-2

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.

The dignity of preachers

Preachers are to maintain the dignity of their persons. Because a good name is as precious ointment, above great riches, and more than the choicest silver and gold, to be regarded. It will rejoice the heart, whereas the contrary is a curse, and to be avoided. Otherwise, if ministers be ill reported of, their doctrine (be it never so sound or sovereign for the soul)

will be despised, rejected. If the vessel be counted unsweet, who will with alacrity taste of the liquor: The Word will not speed if the preacher be despised. And for procuring a good report--

1. Be diligent in the discharge of thy duty; avoid idleness in thy Calling.

2. Take heed thou be not justly accused of that which thou hast severely censured in others.

3. Speak not evil of others, for with what measure we mete it shall be measured to us again. Could we cover others’ infirmities, they would do the like for us.

4. Seek the glory of God in thy proceedings, for they who honour God shall be honoured of Him, whereas they who seek themselves shall be abased. The people also must take heed how they detract from the credit of their pastors. Nature, by a sacred instinct, will defend the head with the loss of the hand. Why, the preacher is the head of the people, and therefore to be respected; and it is an old axiom, “Do My prophets no harm” (Psalms 105:15). (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Life shaped by the will of God

In 1798 a child was born at Rome, N.Y. His father was a mechanic. At school he showed good talents, and his father at length consented that he might attempt to get a liberal education. His heart was set on the law, but God made him a minister, turned his thoughts towards the Holy Scriptures as a field of study, and before he died (at the age of seventy-two years) a million volumes, of which he was the author, had been sold. This is a very brief sketch of the Rev. Albert Barnes. Now, did he do all these things of his own power and wisdom? Not at all. Hear his modest and truthful statement on the subject: “I have carried out none of the purposes of any early years. I have failed in those things which I had designed, and which I hoped to accomplish. I have done what I never purposed or expected to do. I have known what it was to weep at discouragements. I have been led along contrary to my early anticipations. I can now see, I think, that while I have been conscious of entire freedom in all that I have done, yet that my whole life has been under the absolute control of a Higher Power, and that there has been a will and a plan in regard to my life which was not my own. Even my most voluntary acts, I can see, have been subservient to that higher plan, and what I have done has been done as if I had no agency in the matter.” (J. Plumer, D. D.)

According to the promise of life.

The promise of life

The specific form of the whole gospel is promise, which God gives in the Word and causes to be preached. The last period of the world is the reign of grace (Romans 5:21). Grace reigns in the Word, only as promise. Grace has nothing to do with law and requisition of law, therefore the word of that grace can be no other than a word of promise. Hence χάρις and ἐπαγγελία form an indissoluble unity (Romans 4:16). For to this end Christ is the Mediator of the New Covenant, that we might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15). The promise of life in Christ-form is the word of the New Covenant (2 Timothy 1:1). The difference between the gospel of the Old Covenant and that of the New rests alone on the transcendently greater glory of its promise (Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 11:1-40. whole). That these great and precious promises are given to us (2 Peter 1:4; 2 Corinthians 7:1) establishes the position of a Christian man; if he calls himself a son and heir, he has no other title for this except that of promise alone, purely of grace (Galatians 4:28; Galatians 3:29; Romans 4:16). That, and how God for His own sake blots out our transgressions, and remembers our sin no more (Isaiah 43:25), is the substance of the word of promise in the New Testament, and which confirms that of the Old. (J. Harless.)

Promise and payment

Satan promises the best, but pays with the worst; he promises honour and pays with disgrace; he promises pleasure and pays with pain; he promises profit and pays with loss; he promises life and pays with death. But God pays as He promises; all His payments are made in pure gold. (T. Brooks.)

Through death to life

An unusual addition to the opening formula of St. Paul’s letters, probably rising out of the sense that the promise was near its fulfilment, and that he was about to pass through death to life. (E. H. Plumptre, D. D.)

The unwavering certainty of St. Paul in respect of his call to apostleship

1. Its foundation.

2. Its noble value.

Ministry in the gospel is no function of death, but a proclamation of life in Christ Jesus. (Dr. Van Oosterzee.)

Which is in Christ Jesus.

Ministerial relation with Christ

This must teach us who have any relation with Christ highly to esteem it and greatly to rejoice in it. Think it no small thing to be an officer in His house, a labourer in His vineyard, and a member of His body, for this is true nobility, unconceivable dignity, and the direct path to eternal felicity. Paul, a preacher of Jesus Christ, is a name of greater price and praise than all human titles and time’s adjuncts (though in their nature good) in all the world. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

To Timothy, my dearly beloved son.--

Timothy, the pious youth

Timothy is one of the unblamed youths of the Bible. He ranks along with Abel, Joseph, Moses, Josiah, and Daniel.

Timothy’s book. His father was a Greek and a heathen; but his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois (who lived with them), were Jews and believers. They did their best for the godly upbringing of their bey; and they would be left to do as they liked in the matter. For heathen fathers gave more attention to their young dogs and horses than to their young children. Books were then very scarce and dear, and probably the Old Testament was the only book in their house. They used it well, and found it to be a library in itself, and the best children’s treasury.

Timothy’s home. The boy would be strongly tempted to follow his dashing heathen father, whose amusements would be such as boys most delight in; yet he sided with and took after his devout mother and grandmother. That fact speaks volumes for him. I believe that he gladly gave himself up to all the best influences of his home. Thus his mother was his mother thrice over, for she gave life to his mind and to his soul as she had given life to his body. Obedience is only one of the outward signs of the true spirit of a child. A girl once heard a sermon upon this subject. On the way home, feeling uneasy, she said, “Mother, do I always obey you?” “You know best yourself, my dear,” the mother replied. “Well. I never disobey you,” the girl continued, “I always do what you bid me, but I sometimes go slow.” The Bible shows concern chiefly about the kind and spirit of your obedience. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord.” The right feeling to parents is so like the right feeling to God that people have used one word for both. The noblest characters are found among those men who in youth yielded most to a mother’s influence. You will find many striking proofs of my view in such books as Smiles’ “Self-help” and “Character.” The reason is soon found. Boys like Timothy unite in their characters what is best in roan and woman. They are rich in spirit beyond others, for Nature gives them manly strength, to which a mother’s influence adds tenderness and sweetness. A well-known writer has said, “In my best moments I find again my mother in myself.” Usually man is the son of woman in his best gifts. “A kiss from my mother,” said West, “made me a painter.” To love your mother well, then, is a liberal education of head and heart.

Timothy’s conversion. Some, like Samuel, ramjet remember a time when they did not trust God. Their love to the Saviour is not an after-love, but a first love. Others, like Timothy, have a well-marked and a well-remembered conversion. Paul calls him “my own son in the faith … whom I have begotten in the gospel.” Often the successful preacher but reaps what the mother had sowed, and watered with her prayers, and brought to the verge of harvest. Timothy must have been a mere boy at the time of his conversion. For he was quite young when he was ordained, and even when Paul wrote his Epistle to him, he was so boyish-looking that people might easily despise his youth. His early conversion was one chief reason why Timothy did so much good, and why he still remains such an inviting example of grace. It made him like Newton, of whom Bishop Burnet says, that he had the whitest soul he ever knew, and was as a very infant in purity of mind. Than youthful piety God has no better gift for you but heaven. (James Wells, M. A.)

The useful to be chiefly instructed

Such persons as are likely to prove good and excellent instruments in the Church are principally to be instructed and encouraged. We will water that plant most, hedge about it, and prune it, which is likeliest to bring forth much and good fruit; the beast of best hopes shall be put in the rankest pasture, the other turned to run in the common field and barrenest ground. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.--

The universal need of mercy

The salutation in the three pastoral Epistles introduces between the customary “grace” and “peace” the additional idea of “mercy.” It is a touching indication of the apostle’s own humility, and reveals his deepening sense of the need of “mercy” as he drew near the glory of the unveiled Face. It records the fact that if in Ephesus, Rome, or England there are any children of God who fancy they can rise above an utterance of the cry, “God be merciful to me,” apostles and ministers of Christ, even in view of the martyr’s crown, cannot forget their profound need of Divine “mercy.” The association of Christ Jesus with God the Father as the common source of “grace,” “mercy,” and “peace” shows what St. Paul thought of his Lord. As he commenced his Epistle with this blended petition, we are not surprised to find that his last recorded words were, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” This was the sum of all blessedness, and the exalted Lord, Christ, was Himself the source of it. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)


Salutations are not for compliment, but piety. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Conduits of grace

Hear the Word, search the Scriptures, read good books, receive the sacraments, pray; confer, for these be as so many conduits whereby the Creator conveyeth grace into the soul of the creature. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Mercy and grace essential to true peace

Dream not, then, that all is peace that seems so; for what peace can a profane person have within him that wanteth faith and grace? Nay, how ever he carry the matter, he is at war within himself. The wounded deer runs and skips and leaps, yet the arrow or bullet stings, pains, torments at the very heart, and before long will cause a fall, a death. So, under a cheerful look, the soul may be sorrowful, and all that laugh in the face are not at peace within. Who, then, is he that would have true and sound peace? Let him strive for mercy and grace; for as the shadow the body, heat the fire, these follow the one the other. Many imagine they have it, yet are foully deluded, deceived. I deny not but the wicked may have a peace; but it is not worth the naming, for it runs nor from a clear fountain, it springs not from a sweet root, and therefore one drop of this we have in hand is worth a thousand of that, as a little rose-water a whole glassful of mud. It is not constant neither, but often interrupted; every thunderclap will cause such to quake, to tremble, and at the last they shall certainly be consumed. Oh that men were wise to gather grace, so should they have peace at their latter end, and in the meanwhile be, like Mount Sion, unmovable! Grant that such may have outward troubles; yet they shall have inward peace that passeth all understanding. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Verse 3

2 Timothy 1:3

I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience.

Serving God

Fifty years ago, when a poor black man of Jamaica wishing to go to Africa to tell the glad tidings of salvation, was told that, among other difficulties, he might be a slave again, he replied, “If I have been a slave for man, I can be a slave for God’.” (Anon.)

“I serve”

At the battle of Crecy, in 1346, when King Edward III. of England defeated Philip, King of France, the Black Prince led a portion of the attack. Thinking himself very hotly pressed in the midst of the combat, he sent word to his father to send him some reinforcements at once, or he would be flanked by the enemy. The king, who had been watching the pro gress of the fight from a neighbouring hill-top, sent down word as follows: “Tell my son, the Black Prince, that I am too good a general not to know when he needs help, and too kind a father not to send it when I see the need of doing so.” The historian tells us that, reassured by this promise, the Black Prince fought nobly, and put the motto Ich Dien, “I serve,” upon his crest, which is on the Prince of Wales’s escutcheon to this day. (J. L. Nye.)

Disinterested service

After the completion of his great picture of “The Last Judgment” for the altar of the Sistine Chapel (which had occupied him eight years), Michael Angelo devoted him self to the perfection of St. Peter’s, of which he planned and built, the dome, He refused all remuneration for his labours, saying he regarded his services as being rendered to the glory of God. (W. Baxendale.)

The spirit of true service

My desire is that God may be pleased by me and glorified in me, not only by my praying and preaching and almsgiving, but even by my eating, drinking, and sleeping, and visits, and discourses; that I may do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving glory to God by Him. Too often do I take a wrong aim and miss my mark; but I will tell you what are the rules I set myself and strictly impose upon myself from day to day: Never to lie down but in the name of God, not barely for natural refreshment, but that a wearied servant of Christ may be recruited and fitted to serve Him better the next day; never to rise up but with this resolution- well, I will go forth this day in the name of God, and will make my religion my business, and spend the day for eternity; never to enter upon my calling but first thinking I will do these things as unto God, because He requireth these things at my hands, in the place and station to which He hath appointed me; never to sit down to table but resolving I will not eat merely to please my appetite, but to strengthen myself for my Master’s work; never to make a visit but upon some holy design, resolving to leave something of God wherever I go. This is that which I have been for some time learning and hard pressing after, and if I strive not to walk by these rules, let this paper be a witness against me. (J. Alleine.)

True and false service

It is said of the Lacedoemonians, who were a poor and homely people, that they offered lean sacrifices to their gods; and that the Athenians, who were a wise and wealthy people, offered fat and costly sacrifices; and yet in their wars the former always had the mastery of the latter. Whereupon they went to the Oracle to know the reason why those should speed worst who gave most. The Oracle returned this answer to them: “That the Laccdcemonians were a people who gave their hearts to their gods, but that the Athenians only gave their gifts to their gods.” Thus a heart without a gift is better than a gilt without a heart. (T. Seeker.)

Deceitful service

The observation of Augustine is founded on too much truth: “There is often a vast difference between the face of the work and the heart of The workman.” (T. Seeker.)

Strength required for religious service

And to serve God, is it laborious? We must then be of good courage, gather strength, and quit us like men. He that hath a hard task will proportion his power according to the toil. The longer the ground hath lain fallow, the stronger must be the team to tear it asunder; and the farther we take a journey, the more pence must we put in our purse; so the more difficult this duty is, the more must we look about us, arm ourselves, and be prepared for the well performance of it. And for the better discharge thereof we must labour for two things: the one is knowledge, the other strength. For these are absolutely necessary for the doing of any action, the one to direct us, the other to enable us in this duty. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

With pure conscience.

The Christian profession adorned by a pure conscience

And will not a pure conscience adorn our profession, give a comely gloss to our conversation? Red, purple, and scarlet add no more gloss to a piece of fine cloth than this purity doth to the life of a Christian.


Conscience is the judgment which we pronounce on our own conduct by putting ourselves in the place of a bystander. (Adam Smith.)

Conscience has a joint knowledge of life

Conscience imparts a double or joint knowledge: one of a Divine law or rule, and the other of a man’s own action. (J. South.)

Conscience looking upon life

I am, I know, I can, I will, I ought--such are the successive steps by which we ascend to the lofty platform from which conscience looks out upon human life. (W. T. Davison, M. A.)

Conscience a delicate creature

Conscience is a dainty, delicate creature, a rare piece of workmanship of the Maker. Keep it whole without a crack, for if there be but one hole so that it break, it will with difficulty mend again. (S. Rutherford.)

Conscience in a Christian

The Christian can never lind a “more faithful adviser, a more active accuser, a severer witness, a more impartial judge, a sweeter comforter, or a more inexorable enemy.” (Bp. Sanderson.)

Conscience in everything

Trust that man in nothing who has not a conscience in everything. (Sterne.)

Conscience makes saints

Conscience makes cowards of us; but conscience makes saints and heroes too. (J. Lightfoot.)

Conscience hurt by sin

Hurt not your conscience with any known sin. (S. Rutherford.)

A good conscience independent of outside opinion

In the famous trial of Warren Hastings it was recorded that when he was put on his trial in so magnificent a manner in Westminster Hall, after the counsel for the prosecution, Burke, Sheridan, and others had delivered their eloquent speeches, he began to think he must be the greatest criminal on the face of the earth; but he related that when he turned to his own conscience the effect of all those grand speeches was as nothing. “I felt,” he said, “that I had done my duty, and that they may say what they please.” (J. C. Ryle, D. D.)

Integrity of conscience

Hugh Miller speaks of the mason with whom he served his apprenticeship as one who “put his conscience into every stone that he laid.” (S. Smiles.)

Obedience to conscience

Lord Erskine, when at the Bar, was remarkable for the fearlessness with which he contended against the Bench. In a contest he had with Lord Kenyon he explained the rule and conduct at the Bar in the following terms: “It was,” said he, “the first command and counsel of my youth always to do what my conscience told me to be my duty, and leave the consequences to God. I have hitherto followed it, and have no reason to complain that any obedience to it has been even a temporal sacrifice; I have found it, on the contrary, the road to prosperity and wealth, and I shall point it out as such to my children.” (W. Baxendale.)

Without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day.--

The inner life of St. Paul

These unstudied words tell us something of the inner life of such an one as St. Paul, how ceaselessly, unweariedly he prayed, night as well as day. (H. D. M. Spence, M. A.)

St. Paul’s delight in Timothy

The signs of the delight and satisfaction which the apostle took in Timothy, as recorded in the text. St. Paul prays for Timothy with satisfaction, uniting thanks with his prayers (verse 3). This proves what a well-grounded satisfaction the apostle felt in Timothy. The delight and satisfaction which the apostle took in Timothy are also evinced in his strong desire to see him (2 Timothy 1:4). We cannot be surprised that the apostle craved the presence of Timothy. He was now a solitary old man, and a prisoner. Of his disciples and fellow-labourers, Titus was gone unto Dalmatia, Tychicus he had sent to Ephesus, Trophimus was sick at Miletus, Mark was absent, and only Luke remained with him. Besides, ingratitude and desertion had sorely tried his affectionate spirit: Alexander the coppersmith had done him much evil; Demas had forsaken him and the faith together; and when first brought up for trial before the imperial tribunal, none of the disciples had stood by him to cheer and second him. To Timothy, therefore, and to the remembrance of his pious and unfailing affection, the apostle clung very closely; and his presence he desired as his greatest earthly solace and support. The delight and satisfaction which the apostle took in Timothy he also testified by expressing his confidence in his Christian character, but especially in his faith, the root of all which is Christian in the character of any one (verse 5). St. Paul knew him well. During fourteen or fifteen years had this friendship endured, and many were the trials to which ii had been put--trials of the constancy of Timothy’s affection, trials of the integrity of his principles. But Paul had found no decline in his affection, no instability in his Christian principles; he therefore trusted him unfeignedly.

The causes of that delight and satisfaction.

1. As the great cause, the first cause, the mover and originator of all secondary and inferior causes, St. Paul thanks God for the gifts and graces with which He had enriched Timothy.

2. But God works by means. The means which He employed, the causes to which as to instruments we must look in creating in Timothy such a trustworthy and reliable Christian character, were these three--maternal piety, early biblical education, and the ministry of the apostle. (H. J. Carter Smith, M. A.)

The Christian near heaven praying for others

I remember visiting a friend on his death-bed, who, besides being engaged in a life of business, had devoted a great amount of time and labour and thought to the benefit of his fellow-creatures. Visiting him on one occasion, he made to me this remark: “I pray but very little for myself now. It seems to me that the battle is fought and the prize is in view, and my devotions with regard to myself are not so much prayer as thanksgiving. I praise God many an hour during the wakeful night. But do not suppose I do not pray. I believe I pray more than ever I did in my life, because now I have more time to pray for my fellow-men and for the nations of the world.” He went on to describe how each day, and certain parts of every day, were devoted by him as he lay there gradually sinking to his rest to prayer for those in whom he felt a special interest, and also for those whom he had never seen.

A praying minister

The Rev. I. F. Oberlin reserved stated hours for private prayer, which became known to the people; and it was usual for carters and labourers returning from the fields with talk and laughter to uncover their heads as they passed beneath the wails of his house. If the children ran by too noisily, these working people would check them with uplifted finger, and say, “Hush! he is praying for us.” (Sword and Trowel.)


Remembrance hath in it four things--apprehension, reposition, retention, and production. A notion or thing is by the external or internal sense presented to the eye of reason; she perceives it, that’s apprehension; then it is committed unto memory as a place of conservation, that’s reposition; afterwards kept there in safety, that’s retention; and lastly, when occasion is given, it is called out again, and that’s production. A man takes a shalt in his hand, puts it in his quiver, retains it there for a time, and, when he would recreate himself, pulls it forth again, this is a plain emblem of remembrance. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Friendly love outwardly manifested

This argueth that the love of many, as Lot said of Zoar, is but a little one. So weak a spring can have no deep fountain; so small branches no great virtue in the root; and so feeble a flame no abundance of fuel; for causes produce effects proportionable to their internal power, do they not? Try, then, as the truth, so the measure of thine own and thy friends’ affection by the outward effects. He that loves much will declare it by many prayers and sundry actions. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Verse 4

2 Timothy 1:4

Greatly desiring to see thee.

Things of like nature desire union

Two flames will become one, and two rivers, if they meet, willingly make but one stream. And are not all the faithful baptized with fire, and of the like temperature and condition? A faithful man affecteth nothing above the Lord; His image is the only object of his love; and does not every good man in part resemble that, and carry it about with him? Do not the sparkles of grace and wisdom appear in their faces? Is there not a kind of Divine influence in their speeches? They in some measure resemble their father, as dear children; and from the contrary ground the wicked are an abomination to the just. They will build up one another in their holy faith, consult for the good of the Church, and tell one another what the Lord hath done for their soul; yea, the very sight of a good man in the morning, a dream of him in the night, will make one walk with more cheerfulness all the day following. The face of the faithful is like the loadstone, it conveyeth strength to many, and yet is never the weaker, poorer; and as the one is reputed a great wonder in nature, so is the other as great a wonder in grace. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

The coming of an absent friend

The chilling cold of winter makes the summer’s sun more pleasant; so doth long absence a friend’s personal presence. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

The faithful found in companies

And here may the profane learn a lesson or two, if they please, for this is the true cause why the faithful, like pigeons, flock to the house of God, and are to be found there in troops and companies. Is not that the congregation of the saints, and the royal exchange, where they all meet together? Again, they may see why some sigh in soul and desire to be loosed. For their best friends be gone to heaven before them, and Christ is absent from them (Philippians 3:20). (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Mindful of thy tears.


He seems not merely to speak of the former tears of Timothy shed at bidding Paul farewell (for tears are usually elicited at parting, comp. Acts 20:37), but of his habitual tears under the influence of pious feeling. In this respect also he had him like-minded (Philippians 2:20) with himself. Tears, the flower of the heart, indicate either the greatest hypocrisy or the utmost sincerity. (J. A. Bengel.)

The power of tears

There is no power that man can wield so mighty as that of genuine tears. The eloquence of words is powerful, but the eloquence of tears is far more so. What manly heart has not been often arrested by the genuine sobs of even some poor child in the streets. A child’s tear in the crowded thoroughfare has often arrested the busy merchant in his hurried career Coriolanus, who defied “all the swords in Italy and her confederate states,” fell prostrate before the tears of his mother: “Oh, my mother, thou hast saved Rome, but lost thy son.” (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Tears described

Tears have been described as the blood of the wounds of the soul, the leaves of the plant of sorrow, the hail and rain of life’s winter, the safety-valves of the heart when too much pressure is laid on, the vent of anguish-showers blown up by the tempests of the soul.

Verse 5

2 Timothy 1:5

When I call to remembrance [R.., having been reminded of] the unfeigned faith that is in thee.

Unfeigned faith

Some recorded circumstance, some spoken words, some searching test, had convinced St. Paul that Timothy at the present time was shedding no womanish tears, that his faith had revealed its strength and reality. If put to a severe strain there was now no mistake about it. His faith was not a mask of unbelief, not a mere species of personal affection for the apostle, nor was it an unpractical faith, or one dependent on circumstances. St. Paul may once have entertained some transient doubt about Timothy. His fears may have exaggerated to himself the significance of Timothy’s excessive grief. The words of despair wrung from his lips at their parting may have distressed the apostle; but now the ugly suspicion is suppressed and no longer haunts his nightly intercession. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)

Unfeigned faith practical

A lady and gentleman were being shown over the Mint by the Master of the Mint, who took them from the gate where the rough gold came in until they saw it going out in the form of coins to the bank for distribution all over the country. When they were in the melting-room, the Master said, “Do you see that pail of liquid?” “Yes.” “If you dip your hand into it I will pour a ladleful of molten gold into your hand, and it will roll off it without hurting you.” “Oh!” was the remark somewhat sceptically made. “Do you not believe me?” inquired the Master. “Well; yes, I do,” replied the gentleman. “Hold out your hand, then.” When he saw the boiling gold above his hand, ready to be poured out, the gentleman took a step back, and, in terror, put his hand behind his back. The lady, however, stooped down, dipped her hand into the liquid, and holding it out, said, “Pour it into my hand.” She really believed, and could trust, but her friend had not the practical faith to enable him to trust. (J. Campbell White.)

Timothy’s faith

The peculiar excellence for which Timothy 1s here commended--“Unfeigned faith.” St. Paul goes to the root of all that was excellent in Timothy--namely, his faith. Not but that he could at other times dwell with pleasure on the fruits of that faith; especially when speaking of him to others. A beautiful specimen we have in Philippians 2:19-22. But in writing to Timothy himself, he thinks it most profitable to insist upon the source of that excellent character--his faith.

The instrumental cause to which the faith of Timothy is here ascribed--namely, the previous faith of his pious mother, Eunice, and of his grandmother, Lois. The only effectual cause to which unfeigned faith can be ascribed, is the grace of Christ and His Spirit. Nevertheless, in conferring this precious gift, the Lord frequently works by instruments or means. The case of these excellent women, then, may lead us to observe the special honour conferred on the weaker sex, in their being often made--

1. Foremost in faith and piety. Man fell by the woman’s transgression; but it is by the seed of the woman that he is redeemed. The first convert in Europe was a woman--Lydia. In every period of the history of the Church women have been more open to conviction, more simple believers in Christ, more devoted in their zeal for His cause, than others.

2. Foremost in spiritual usefulness. Such they were in the case before us. Now this remarkable succession of piety, 1.n three generations of the same family, was a blessing from God, in honour of female faith--“unfeigned faith.” “Them that honour Me,” saith God, “I will honour.” (J. Jowett, M. A.)

The worth of faith

All other graces do still accompany it. Where it is they all be. Faith may be compared to a prince which, wheresoever he pitcheth his tents, hath many rich attendants (1 Corinthians 13:1-13. ult.), as love, hope, zeal, patience, etc. Faith expelleth infidelity out of the heart, as heat doth cold, wind, smoke, for they he contraries. It cannot, nor will not, admit of so bad a neighbour; it shoulders out all unprofitable guests (Acts 15:9; Hebrews 4:2). And besides this, faith makes our actions acceptable to God; for without it it is impossible to please God: this is that true fire which cometh down from heaven and seasons all our sacrifices (Hebrews 2:6; Romans 14:1-23. ult.). What, then, are they worthy of, that neither respect it in themselves nor others; many have no care to plant this flower in the garden of their hearts; or, if they have it, to preserve it from perishing. Jonah mourned that his gourd withered, yet we grieve not if faith be destroyed. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Faith the chief thing

The world cries, What’s a man without money? but I say, What’s a man without faith? For no faith, no soul quickened; heart purified, sin pardoned; bond cancelled, quittance received; or any person justified, saved. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Get faith

I say that to all, which I do to one, get faith, keep faith, and increase your faith. A mite of this grain is worth a million of gold; a stalk of this faith, a standing tree of earthly fruits; a soul freighted and filled with this treasure, all the coffers of silver in the whole world. What can I more say? The least true faith is of more value than large domains, stately buildings, and ten thousand rivers of oil. If the mountains were pearl, the huge rocks precious stones, and the whole globe a shining chrysolite; yet faith, as much as the least drop of water, grain of sand, or smallest mustard-seed, is more worth than all. This will swim with his master; hold up his drooping head, and land him safe at the shore, against all winds and weather, storms and tempests; strive then for this freight; for the time and tide thereof serveth but once, and not for ever. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Faith works like effects in divers subjects

The grandmother, the mother, and the mother’s son, had the same faith; and the like fruits proceeded from them, else Paul would never have called it unfeigned, or said that it dwelt in them, or given them all three one and the same testimony. All three had faith, and unfeigned faith. For the likeness of actions were in them, and proceed from them, by the which it was called unfeigned, and equally appropriated to each particular person. And it is an undoubted position that faith produceth the like effects in all God’s children; in truth, it must be understood, not in degree. For as faith increaseth, the effects are bettered. Many lanterns, with several candles, will all give light; but in proportion to their adverse degrees and quantities. Every piece hath his report, but according to the bigness, and, each instrument will sound, but variously as they be in proportion, and that for these reasons. Because faith differs not in kind, but in degree, and like causes produce like effects. Every bell hath its sound, each tone its weight, and several plants, their diverse influences; yet not in the same measure, though they may vary in kind. Again, faith is diffused into subjects, though several, yet they are the same in nature and consist of like principles. Fire, put into straw, will either smoke or burn, let the bundles be a thousand; life in the body will have motion, though not in the same degree and measure; and reason in every man acteth, but not so exquisitely. The constitution may not be alike, therefore a difference may be in operation natural, and also from the same ground, in acts spiritual. A dark horn in the lantern dims the light somewhat, (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Unfeigned faith manifested

From this point we may learn how to judge of the faith in our times which so many boast of; they cry, Have not we faith? do riot we believe as well as the best? But where be the fruits of faith unfeigned? hast thou an humble and purging heart? dost thou call upon God at all times, “tarry His leisure, and rely upon His promise? art thou bold and resolute for good causes? canst thou resist Satan? cleave to God, and shun the appearances of evil? will neither poverty oppress thee by despair, or prosperity by presumption? Why, it is well, and we believe, that faith is to be found in thee, but if not, thou hast it not rooted in thee. For the tree is known by the fruit. Will not the flower smell? the candle give light? and the fire heat? and shall true faith be without her effects? Boast not too much, lest thou deceive thyself, taking the shadow for the body; and that which is not for that which should be. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice.

Lois and Eunice

Origen conjectured that Lois and Eunice were relatives of St. Paul. This is only conjecture. There is far more reason for believing that they were converts made by him on his first visit to Lystra. In the Jewish communities of these Asiatic towns there were elect souls who had begun to cherish larger hopes for humanity. If Lois had permitted her daughter to marry a Greek, and yet had retained her faith in the promises made to Israel, and if Eunice had so far yielded to her husband’s views or habits as to have foregone for her only son the sacramental rite of admission to the Jewish nation, and yet, notwithstanding this, had diligently instructed him in the history and contents of Holy Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15). We have a glimpse of light thrown upon the synagogues and homes of devout Israelites in Asia Minor. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)


is the same with the more familiar Lois; Eunice is an equivalent of the Latin Victoria. (H. D. M. Spence, M. A.)

The day of Christian faith

Christian faith in its morning (Timothy), at noon (Eunice), and at the evening of life (Lois). (Dr. Van Oosterzee.)

Celebrated mothers

Like the celebrated mothers of Augustine, of Chrysostom, of Basil, and of other illustrious saints of God, the life, sincerity and constancy of Lois and Eunice became vicariously a glorious heritage of the universal Church. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)


1. The infidelity of the father prevents not faith in the children. For if it had, Eunice and Timothy and many more should never have been found faithful (1 Kings 14:13; 1 Corinthians 7:14).

2. Succession of faith is the best succession.

3. Where we see signs of goodness, we are to judge the best.

4. When we give others instruction, we are first to possess them with the per suasion of our affection. For then they will take it in good part, and our words will have the deeper impression. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Memories of a mother

Among the reminiscences of a great statesman, Daniel Webster, it is related that on one occasion a public reception was given him in Boston. Thousands of his country’s citizens crowded together and paid him homage. Bursts of applause had been sounding all day in his ears. Elegantly dressed ladies had thrown bouquets of the rarest flowers at his feet. But as he ascended the stops leading to his mansion, crowned with the honours of the gala day, a little, timid girl stepped up and placed a bunch of old-fashioned garden pinks in his hand. At sight of these old, familiar flowers, and their well-remembered fragrance filled the air, the old memories were stirred. Just such pinks used to grow in his mother’s garden when he was a child. Instantly that sweet face of the loved mother came to his vision; her tender, gentle voice sounded once more in his ears. So overcome was he with the tide of old memories that crowded into his heart that he excused himself, and went to his apartments alone. “Nothing,” said he, “in all my life affected me like that little incident.” John Newton in his worst days could never forget his mother, at whose knees he had learned to pray, but who was taken to heaven when he was but eight years old. “My mother’s God, the God of mercy, have mercy upon me!” was often his agonising prayer in danger, and we all know how it was answered. (Great Thoughts.)

Mother’s influence

If we call him great who planned the Cathedral of St. Peter, with all its massiveness and beauty; if they call the old masters great whose paintings hang on monastery and chapel walls, is not she (the mother) great who is building up characters for the service of God, who is painting on the soul canvas the beauty and strength of Jesus the Christ? (A. E. Kittredge.)

Christian mothers

Give me a generation of Christian mothers and I will under take to change the whole face of society in twelve months. (Lord Shaftesbury.)

Woman’s influence

A missionary in Ceylon writes as a “noticeable fact” that where Christian women are married to heathen husbands, generally the influence in the household is Christian; whereas, when a Christian man takes a heathen woman he usually loses his Christian character, and the influences of the household are on the side of heathenism.

Parental example

We may read in the fable what the mother crab said to the daughter: “Go forward, my daughter, go forward.” The daughter replied, “Good mother, do you show me the way?” Whereupon the mother, crawling backward and sidling, as she was wont, the daughter cried out, “So, mother! I go just as you do.” (Family Churchman.)

Mother and child

Sir Walter Scott’s mother was a superior woman, and a great lover of poetry and painting. Byron’s mother was proud, ill-tempered, and violent. The mother of Napoleon Buonaparte was noted for her beauty and energy. Lord Bacon’s mother was a woman of superior mind and deep piety. The mother of Nero was a murderess. The mother of Washington was pious, pure, and true. The mother of Matthew Henry was marked by her superior conversational powers. The mother of John Wesley was remarkable for her intelligence, piety, and executive ability, so that she has been called the “Mother of Methodism.” It will be observed that in each of these examples the child inherited the prominent traits of the mother. (J. L. Nye.)

Mother’s influence

“It was at my mother’s knees,” he says, “that I first learned to pray; that I learned to form a reverence for the Bible as the inspired word of God; that I learned the peculiarities of the Scottish religion; that I learned my regard to the principles of civil and religious liberty, which have made me hate oppression and--whether it be a pope, or a prelate, or an ecclesiastical demagogue--resist the oppressor.” (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Children to be taught young

First, for then they will remember it when they are old (Proverbs 23:13). Dye cloth in the wool, not in the web, and the colour will be the better, the more durable. Secondly, to defer this duty is dangerous, for thou mayst be took from them. Who then shall teach them after thy departure? (2 Kings 2:24). Thirdly, besides, what if they come to faith? Will it not be with the more difficulty? Fallow ground must have the stronger team, great trees will not easily bend, and a bad habit is not easily left and better come by. If their memories be stuffed with vanity as a table-book, the old must be washed out before new can be written in. Fourthly, what shall I more say? God works strangely in children, and rare things have been found in them; and what a comfort will it be for parents in their life, to hear their children speak of good things, and at the last day, when they can say to Christ, Here am I, and the children Thou hast given me! (J. Barlow, D. D.)

The secret of a good mother’s influence

Some one asked a mother whose children had turned out very well, what was the secret by which she prepared them for usefulness and for the Christian life, and she said, “This was the secret. When in the morning I washed my children, I prayed that they might be washed in the fountain of a Saviour’s mercy. When I put on their garments, I prayed that they might be arrayed in the robe of a Saviour’s righteousness. When I gave them food, I prayed that they might be fed with manna from heaven. When I started them on the road to school I prayed that their faith might be as the shining light, brighter and brighter to the perfect day. When I put them to sleep, I prayed that they might be enfolded in the Saviour’s arms.” (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Training the young

Rightly to train a single youth is a greater exploit than the taking of Troy. (Melancthon.)

A good grandmother

“I owe a great deal to nay grandmother,” said a young man who was courageous and true above many in his Christian life. “Why, what did she do for you? Oh, she just sat by the fire.” “Did she knit?” “A little.” “Did she talk to you?” “A little; but grannie was not much of a talker; she did not go in for all that, you know; but she just sat and looked comfortable, and when we were good she smiled, and when we were wild in our talk she smiled too, but if ever we were mean she sighed. We all loved her, and nobody did as much for us, really, as grannie.” (Marianne Farningham.)

A godly household

A household that fears God is another joy of my life. I would rather see it than the finest landscape. I can understand why Sir Walter Scott got his seat put down in his garden, within earshot of his bailiff’s cottage, that he might always hear the sound of the psalms at morning and evening worship. There never was incense sweeter from morning or evening sacrifice! A home, where the father and mother walk in the narrow way, is pretty sure to find their children accompany ing them. Not that God’s gifts are hereditary, but example goes a great way, and if the parent, who is the highest on earth to the child, live a Christian life, it is very seldom the child Will not follow him. It depends on the parent. If the mother, or father, or both, be real Christians, gentle, kind, reverent, pure, the little ones grow accustomed to these graces and catch them almost unconsciously.

Suppressed lives

A few years ago a gentleman died in Germany whose name was almost unknown both in Great Britain and on the Continent. A physician by profession, and an inheritor of a title, he lived a life of comparative seclusion. He was never in the front at any pageant or ceremonial of any court. He was never known when treaties and alliances were made between reigning sovereigns. In diplomatic circles his name was never prominently mentioned. And yet no man of his time in all Europe had more influence in determining the destiny of nations than he. He was the power behind thrones. He was the intimate confidant of princes. He rendered the most important services to England and to Germany. His was one of those “suppressed lives” which are so often lives of commanding power. It was a suppressed life, expressed in kings, parliaments, and statesmen. Such lives are to be found in literary circles. It is often a matter of infinite surprise that such marvels of erudition and widest compass of reading in the domain of metaphysics, philosophy, theology, and ecclesiastical history, can be produced by a single man in the compass of so short a life as is given the world by many a German writer. But the secret is, that behind the life of the author, who may receive all the praise of the public, are scores of suppressed lives. These are the men of culture and training who are doing the toiling drudgery, wading through volumes, finding and verifying quotations. It is well known that in the business world these suppressed lives play a most important part. Many an employer is dependent upon the labours of faithful men, unknown to the world, who have mastered all the intricacies of a complex business, and upon whom they implicitly depend for advice in its management. St. Paul, after his somewhat depressing visit to Athens, found a home in the humble abode of Aquila and Priscilla, in the busy, sensual city of Corinth. In the house of this lowly artisan he found rest, refreshment, and strength. Working with him side by side, in the plebeian craft of tent-making, the great apostle to the Gentiles derived new zeal and energy for his great work from the life and conversation of this faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. In the same home the eloquent Alexandrian, Apollos, found shelter and instruction. In his life, full of eloquent thought and speech, and still more eloquent deeds, their suppressed lives found a brilliant and glorious expression. These two lives may justly stand for the lives of the great multitude of teachers in the Sunday Schools and other schools of our land. Suppressed lives mostly they are. Comparatively unrecognised is the influence these teachers are exerting upon the destinies of the millions of children intrusted to their care. In St. Paul’s words to Timothy, as quoted in the text, we have the recognition of the power of suppressed lives in the charmed circle of the home. An ampler life has been opened to woman than heretofore in our day. The most thoroughgoing infidel cannot deny that Christianity above all other systems guards and glorifies the home; that it has given to the wife and the mother the unique and the peerless position they hold in the countries where the highest civilisation is enjoyed. This Bible before me loves to honour the home. Who can estimate the influence of the suppressed lives in these homes? In that obscure country rectory at Epworth lived the mother of the Wesleys. The husband was a dreamy, poetical, unpractical man. The household quiver was full and running over with children. She was the teacher of them all. John Wesley was taught by her the alphabet for the twentieth time, that in her own language, “the nineteenth might not be in vain.” She kept up with the classical studies of her boys until they went away from home to school and college. She managed her large family with the economy extolled by “Poor Richard,” with “the discipline of West Point,” and yet in the loving spirit of the home at Bethany. She was the constant counsellor of her once seemingly stupid but now most gifted son John, and the earnest defender if not initiator of the greatest ecclesiastical movement of our day--the coming to the front in every Christian enterprise of the laymen of the Church. She stood in her old age by the side of that son when, as the foremost religions leader of the centuries, he preached on Kensington common the memorable sermon to twenty thousand persons, and “the slain of the Lord” lay in windrows before him. The grey-haired, bent, and silent mother was speaking in the burning words and ringing tones of the great reformer. The mother of Washington lived and triumphed in the matchless deeds of the father of his country. (S. Fallows.)

Verse 6

2 Timothy 1:6

Stir up the gift of God which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.

The graces of God’s Spirit are of a fiery quality

And here we must all learn a double lesson. First, to get this fire; and next, to keep it from quenching. This is that one thing necessary; and how should we rejoice if it be already kindled! For without it we are blind, corrupt, cold, yea, stark dead. We must make our hearts the hearth to uphold it, and our hands the tongs to build it; it must lodge with us daily, send out flame from us, and our lamps must be continually burning; then shall we glorify our God, give light to others, walk safely, as walled about with a defence of fire, in this pilgrimage; and the Lord, at length, shall send us fiery chariots to carry us to heaven, where our lamps shall burn day and night, and shine as the sun in the clear firmament for ever and ever. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

The gifts of God are to be stirred up within us

For if they be not, will they not perish? Have you not heard that they are of a fiery quality, and therefore subject, without stirring, blowing, to decay and be extinguished? The things that put out the fire of the spirit in us, are--first, evil cogitations; as smoke weakeneth the eye, cold frosts nip the tender bud, and stinking smells damp and dull the purest spirits, so do bad thoughts disturb, impoverish, and enfeeble the gifts of God that be in us. [Secondly, corrupt speech; that troubleth the fountain, and stoppeth the spirit’s spring; it shakes the young plants of grace, as the boisterous winds do the late grafted scions: this will cause the new man to die before his time, and the best fruits he beareth to become blasted. Thirdly, wicked works; they raze the foundation, and, like the boar of the wood, root up all; when these break forth into action, then falls grace suddenly into a consumption; for they do not only wither the branches and change the complexion, but also kill the body, devour the juice of life, and destroy the constitution. Fourthly, loud company; this doth press down and keep under the gifts of God, that they cannot shoot up and spring; as water to fire, green wood to dry, this quencheth all; one grain of this leaven leaveneth the whole lump. Let the Israelites live among the Egyptians, though they hate the men, yet they will learn their manners; and Peter will grow cold if he warm his fingers at Caiaphas’ fire. Fifthly, the prosperity of the wicked; that will buffet the soul, wound the very spirit, and make grace to look pale and wan. How have the faithful fainted to see this, and the strongest foot of faith reeled, staggered! This mud hath made the men of God almost to turn out of the way. Sixthly, and finally, the pampering of the flesh. It will impoverish the spirit, and make it look lank and lean. If the one be cherished, the other will be starved. When one of these buckets is ascending the other is descending. Paul knew it well, therefore would beat down his body, and keep it in subjection. These be the greatest impediments that hinder the gifts of grace from stirring, growing. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Private helps to stir up grace

First, reading either the Scriptures or other holy writings. This being done in a corner will refresh the spirit. It is like food to the fainting passenger. Secondly, meditation. He that sits long by the fire shall have his body to grow hot, and his cold spirits to become active, nimble. Let this be done thoroughly, and it will make grace to stretch itself beyond its ordinary wont, and the Christian to be rapt out of himself. Thirdly, prayer. Who ever in his secret chamber went to God by earnest prayer but he was ravished in mind, and in the strength of that action spent all that day without weariness? God giveth the greatest gifts in secret; and, like man, revealeth Himself apart. Yea, private prayer doth both stir up and increase grace mightily; and as secret meals make a fat body, so doth that a well-liking mind. Fourthly, observation, and that of the daily acts of God’s providence. Fifthly, examples: not the worst, but the most excellent. Set before thine eyes the cloud of witnesses, that have far outstripped thee. Think what a shame it is for thee to come so far behind them. Will not a comely suite make some leap into the fashion? Sixthly, resolution; which must consist in propounding to ourselves a higher pitch of perfection. He that would shoot or leap further than before will cast his eye and aim beyond the mark. But if all these will not stir up this fire, then consider what a loss it is to be a dwarf and bankrupt in this grace. How God may forsake us, an evil spirit possess us, and Satan seek about to apprehend us, as the Philistines did Samson; so shall we pluck up our spirits, stir up our strength, rise out of this lethargy, and fly for our lives. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

The ordinances of God are not without profit, if rightly practised

It is not a trade, but the well using of it; not a farm, but the well husbandry of it, that will enrich the one and the other. Wherefore, be steadfast, immoveable, and abundant in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Increase of grace

First, there may be an increase of grace in the best Christians. For Timotheus was an excellent man before this time; and were not his gifts now augmented? Secondly, that a minister hath need of more grace than a common Christian. This is the reason his gifts were increased. Thirdly, that the more worthy calling God sets us in, the greater portion of His spirit will He pour upon us. He did so by Timothy. Fourthly, that preachers may (above others) depend upon God for a blessing. For, are they not consecrated with great care and solemnity? enriched with extraordinary gifts and graces? Think on this, O ye, men of God, and in contempt of the world let the honour of your calling, and hope of good success in the faithful execution, comfort your souls, and breed an un-daunted resolution in you. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

St. Paul’s concern about St. Timothy

The letter is a striking but thoroughly natural mixture of gloom and brightness … The thought which specially oppresses (the apostle) is “anxiety about all the Churches”--and about Timothy himself. Dark days are coming. False doctrine will be openly preached and will not lack hearers; and utterly un-Christian conduct and conversation will become grievously prevalent. And, while the godly are persecuted, evil men will wax worse and worse. This sad state of things has already begun; and the apostle seems to fear that his beloved disciple is not altogether unaffected by it. Separation from St. Paul or the difficulties of his position may have told on his over-sensitive temperament, and have caused him to be remiss in his work, through indulgence in futile despondency. The words of the text strike the dominant chord of the Epistle and reveal to us the motive that prompts it. The apostle puts Timothy in rememberance “that he stir up the gift of God which is in him.” Again and again he insists on this and similar counsels (see 2 Timothy 1:8; 2 Timothy 1:14; 2 Timothy 2:8; 2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:14). And then, as the letter draws to a close, he speaks in still more solemn tones of warning (2 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 4:5). Evidently the apostle is anxious lest even the rich gifts with which Timothy is endowed should be allowed to rust through want of use. Timidity and weakness may prove fatal to him and his work, in spite of the spiritual advantages which he has enjoyed. The apostle’s anxiety about the future of the Churches is interwoven with anxiety about the present and future conduct of his beloved delegate and successor. (A. Plummer, D. D.)

Grounds of St. Paul’s appeal to St. Timothy

In encouraging Timothy to stir up the gift that is in him, and not suffer himself to be ashamed of the ignominy, or afraid of the hardships, which the service of Christ entails, the apostle puts before him five considerations. There are the beautiful traditions of his family, which are now in his keeping. There is the sublime character of the gospel which has been entrusted to him. There is the teaching of St. Paul himself, who has so often given him a “pattern of sound words” and a pattern of steadfast endurance. There is the example of Onesiphorus with his courageous devotion. And there is the sure hope of “the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” Any one of these might suffice to influence him: Timothy cannot be proof against them all. (A. Plummer, D. D.)

Watching the heart flame

The Greek word rendered “stir up” literally means to kindle up, to fan into flame. We know that St. Paul frequently uses for his illustrations of Christian life scenes well known among the Greek heathen nations of the Old World, such as the Greek athletic games. Is it not possible (the suggestion is Wordsworth’s) that the apostle while here charring Timothy to take care that the sacred fire of the Holy Ghost did not languish in his heart, while urging him to watch the flame, to keep it burning brightly, to fan the flame if burning dimly--is it not possible that St. Paul had in mind the solemn words of the Roman law, “Let them watch the eternal flame of the public hearth”? (Cicero, De Legibus 11.8). The failure of the flame was regarded as an omen of dire misfortune, and the watchers, if they neglected the duty, were punished with the severest penalties. (H. D. M. Spence, M. A.)

A neglected gift enkindled

Dr. Paley’s great talents were first called into vigorous exercise under the following circumstances:--“I spent the first two years of my undergraduate-ship,” said he, “happily, but unprofitably. I was constantly in society, where we were not immoral, but idle and rather expensive. At the commencement of my third year, however, after having left the usual party at rather a late hour in the evening, I was awakened at five in the morning by one of my companions, who stood at my bedside, and said, ‘Paley, I have been thinking what a fool you are. I could do nothing, probably, were I to try, and can afford the life I lead; you could do everything, and cannot afford it. I have had no sleep during the whole night on account of these reflections, and am now come solemnly to inform you, that if you persist in your indolence, I must renounce your society.’ “I was so struck,” Dr. Paley continued, “with the visit and the visitor, that I lay in bed great part of the day and formed my plan. I ordered my bed-maker to prepare my fire every evening, in order that it might be lighted by myself. I arose at five; read during the whole of the day, except during such hours as chapel and hall required, allotting to each portion of time its peculiar branch of study; and just before the closing of gates (nine o’clock) I went to a neighbouring coffee-house, where I constantly regaled upon a mutton-chop and a dose of milk-punch. And thus on taking my bachelor’s degree, I became senior wrangler.” (Life of Paley.)

Individual gifts

What if God should command the flowers to appear before Him, and the sunflower should come bending low with shame because it was not a violet, and the violet should come striving to lift itself up to be like a sunflower, and the lily should seek to gain the bloom of the rose, and the rose the whiteness of the lily; and so, each one disdaining itself, should seek to grow into the likeness of the other? God would say, “Stop foolish flowers! I gave you your own forms and hues, and odours, and I wish you to bring what you have received. O sunflower, come as a sunflower; and you sweet violet, come as a violet; let the rose bring the rose’s bloom, and the lily the lily’s whiteness.” Perceiving their folly, and ceasing to, long for what they had not, violet and rose, lily and geranium, mignonette and anemone, and all the floral train would conic, each in its own loveliness, to send up its fragrance as incense, and all wreathe themselves in a garland of beauty about the throne of God. (H. W. Beecher.)


Every man has two educations--that which is given to him, and that which he gives himself. Of the two kinds, the latter is by far the most valuable. Indeed, till that is most worthy in a man, he must work out and conquer for himself. It is this that constitutes our real and best nourishment. What we are merely taught seldom nourishes the mind like that which we teach ourselves. (A. Tynman.)

The stirred up will

It seems worth our while to remind ourselves that the source of all holy or vicious conduct is a virtuous or a depraved WILL.

Next, in the review of our daily practice, it may be regarded as certain that we are wanting in our use of the most ordinary helps to a holy life, if we are infrequent and irregular in prayer, and in our study of the bible.

The present may further be a very fitting season for a strict examination of ourselves with reference to all those seemingly indifferent habits, on which (as a very little attention shows) the vigour of our spiritual, life mainly depends. It is a point often overlooked by thoughtless persons, that a slow and undecided manner--habits of procrastination--sloth--want of punctuality and method--that these things, and the like of these, are fatal to the operations of the best-regulated will. (J. W. Burgon, M. A.)

The Christian exhorted to stir up the gift of God that is in him

We must infer from this language that Timothy had become somewhat remiss since the departure of St. Paul, and needed a word of admonition and rebuke. But we must remember also, in justice to Timothy, that his position in Ephesus was an unusually trying one for a man of his age. He had been left in the city for the purpose of checking the outgrowth of heresy add licentiousness which had just begun to manifest itself. His ordinary duties were anxious and heavy: he had to rule presbyters, most of whom were older than himself; to assign to each a stipend in proportion to his work; to receive and decide on charges that might be brought against them; to regulate the almsgiving and the sisterhoods of the Church, and to ordain the presbyters and deacons. But, in addition to all this, there were leaders of rival sects in the city--Hymenaeus, Philetus, and Alexander--men, probably, of considerable intellectual power, and certainly wielding great influence in the Christian community, who would exert themselves to oppose and to thwart the youthful bishop, and who would find in the absence of St. Paul their best opportunity of doing so with effect and success. Now Timothy, as it appears, was a man of a gentle and sensitive temperament. Lacking in the sterner fibre of character, he shrank from opposition and conflict. But although no mistake was made, as the sequel proved, the weaker nature of Timothy required on occasions the support and stimulus which the robust mind of the great apostle of the Gentiles was calculated to afford. One such occasion we have before us now. There came a visible slackening in the energy and vigour with which the youthful disciple held the reins of ecclesiastical government. St. Paul beard of this declension, and immediately spoke. The old man, ready to be offered, standing just on the confines of martyrdom, and just within reach of his crown, might well speak to his younger associate. And very touching are his words, The first thought ell which we shall enlarge will be this--that there is a “gift of God” abiding in every one who names the name of Christ, and that this gift is “a spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” The second thought will be this--that the gift in question may be permitted, through carelessness and neglect, to fall into decay; and that when this is the case, measures must immediately be taken to “stir up the gift”--to impart to it, by the use of suitable means, the vitality and vigour which it seems to have lost.

Now, according to St. Paul, a christian is one in whom the spirit of God--the personal Spirit, God the Holy Ghost--has taken up his abode, and become, as it were, a resident and inmate. What constitutes a temple is the inhabitation of Deity. It is just so with ourselves. Excellence of character and beauty of disposition are not things to be despised, but they only constitute the empty habitation; and the man is not a Christian unless the Spirit of God is dwelling within him. But, again, according to St. Paul, the Spirit of God does not supply to us the place of our spirit; but leaving the man in his completeness, pervades, animates, directs, that part of his nature by which he holds communion with the Divine. This gift of God “which is in us” is in the direction of “power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” What does he mean? He means this. The office of God the Holy Ghost is to take of the things of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to “show” them to the true disciple. In other words, the Holy Ghost imparts to the soul a right understanding, a correct perception of Christian truth, and enables us to realise our own personal concern and interest in the things that are explained.

The apostle tells us that this gift of God within us may be allowed to wane--may require to be “stirred up.” Yes; interest abates; novelty ceases to be novelty; variety is sought for; the first flush of early love passes away; the impulse which set us a-going is expended; duties become wearisome; regularity is monotonous. And are we always aware of the process that is going on within us? Not always. We attribute it to others--to causes that are outside ourselves. I have frequently visited consumptive patients. The poor fellow, with his wasted frame, and hectic flush, and racking cough, tells you that he is a little worse to-day--A little feebler; but then he knows how to account for it--he sat inadvertently in a draught yesterday. On the occasion of your next visit he is worse; but then--he took something at one of his meals which disagreed with him. The next time he is still worse; but he sat up too late--he overstayed his usual hour of retiring to rest. He has always a reason to assign that is not the real, the right, the true one. You, watching him pityingly, can give a better account of the matter. You know that the bodily frame is decaying,--that death is stretching on with rapid strides to claim his victim. So with the symptoms of spiritual declension. The man has one excuse or another to account for his decaying interest, for his waning spirituality, for his neglect of Bible study, for his less frequent attendance at the house of God or at the table of the Lord. “Business has increased”; “his health is not what it used to be”; “the preaching is not so interesting as it once was.” Well, that is his account of the matter, as the poor consumptive patient has his account of the matter. You, looking on, know that the chill torpor of worldliness has seized upon the soul, and is threatening to bring it into the icy stillness of spiritual death. I fear we are all of us subject to the waning of the life within us. Let us be on our guard, then. The “gift of God” may be in us still; but it may need “stirring up.” (G. Calthrop, M. A.)

Our gifts, and how to use them

I suppose that Timothy was a somewhat retiring youth, and that from the gentleness of his nature he needed to be exhorted to the exercise of the bolder virtues. His was a choice spirit, and therefore it was desirable to see it strong, brave and energetic. No one would wish to arouse a bad man, for, like a viper, he is all the worse for being awake; but in proportion to the excellence of the character is the desirability of its being full of force. There are many kinds of gifts. All Christians have some gift. Some have gifts without them rather than within them--gifts, for instance, of worldly position, estate, and substance. These ought to be well used. But we must go at once to the point in hand;--“the gift that is in you,” we have now to speak of.

First, then, what gift is there in us? In some there are gifts of mind, which are accompanied with gifts of utterance. The stones in the street might surely cry out against some religious professors who make the Houses of Parliament, the council-chamber, the courts of justice, the Athenaeum, or the Mechanics’ hall ring with their voices, and yet preach not Jesus--who can argue points of politics and the like, but not speak a word for Christ--eloquent for the world, but dumb for Jesus. If you have the gift of the pen, are you using it for Christ as you ought? I want to stir up the gift that is in you. Letters have often been blessed to conversions; are you accustomed to write with that view? Another form of gift that belongs to us is influence. What an influence the parent has. Many of the elder members of the Church have another gift--namely, experience. Certainly, experience cannot be purchased, nor taught; it is given us of the Lord who teacheth us to profit. It is a peculiar treasure each man wins for himself as he is led through the wilderness. May you be of such a sort as a certain clergyman I heard of the other day. I asked a poor woman “What sort of man is he?” She said, “He is such a sort of man, sir, that if he comes to see you you know he has been there.” I understood what she meant: he left behind him some godly saying, weighty advice, holy consolation, or devout reflection, which she could remember after he had left her cottage door. Another gift which many have is the gift of prayer--of prayer with power, in private for the Church and with sinners. There is another gift which is a very admirable one. It is the gift of conversation, not a readiness for chit-chat and gossip--(he who has that wretched propensity may bury it in the earth and never dig it up again)--but the gift of leading conversation, of being what George Herbert called the “master-gunner”; when we have that, we should most conscientiously use it for God.

And this brings us, secondly to the consideration of--how we are to stir up our gifts.

1. First, we should do it by examination to see what gifts we really have. There should be an overhauling of all our stores to see what we have of capital entrusted to our stewardship.

2. The next mode of stirring up our gift is to consider to what use we could put the talents we possess. To what use could I put my talents in my family?

3. But, next, stir it up not merely by consideration and examination, but by actually using it.

4. And then, in addition to using our gift, every one of us should try to improve it.

5. And then pray over your gifts: that is a blessed way of stirring them up--to go before God, and spread out your responsibilities before Him.

Why is it that we should stir up the gift that is in us?

1. We should stir up the gift that is in us, because all we shall do when we have stirred ourselves to the utmost, and when the Spirit of God has strengthened us to the highest degree, will still fall far short of what our dear Lord and Master deserves at our hands.

2. Another reason is that these are stirring times. If we are not stirring everybody else is.

3. And then, again, we must stir up our gift because it needs stirring. The gifts and graces of Christian men are like a coal fire which frequently requires stirring as well as feeding with fuel.

4. If we will but stir our selves, or rather, if God’s Holy Spirit will but stir us, we, as a church, may expect very great things. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

A missionary sermon: Our gift, and the Divine claim on it

What is in us or in our possession through the Divine benevolence? And what is the call made upon us in Divine providence and by the Divine Spirit, for the exercise of that gift, in order to the enlightenment and salvation of our fellow-men?

The ethnic or race gift. No people can have enjoyed a larger gift in this regard than our own. “God hath not so dealt with any nation.” See how this island-race is spreading over the earth! God has said to this nation, “Stir up the gift which is in thee--in thee by the slow deposit of My providence, by the sewings of centuries--stir up that gilt, and use it for the world’s good.”

There is also the family gift. All men receive from their ancestors something which goes into and becomes part of themselves, and this something has in it both help and hindrance. But to us, to most of this Christian assembly, the balance is largely on the side of help. It might have failed; for faith is not something mechanical, nor is it essentially and of necessity transmitted with the natural life. It might have failed, but it has not--“And I am persuaded that in thee also.” “First in thy grand mother.” Young men and maidens are apt to smile at the name of “grandmother.” But the Scriptures glorify old age. So do the great poets. Seventy years ago some one lived, and loved, and was wedded, and listened to the music of her children’s feet, from whom you have inheritance. Something lived in her which lives in you. “Stir up the gift which is in thee.” Let the good thoughts of that far-off time live again. Let the tears then shed be a present tenderness in your breast. Let all the love of the old time have fulfilment and transmission, so that your children and your children’s children may arise to call you blessed. In this life you are not atoms, units, severed personalities; but branches, links, conductors; receiving and giving, reaping and sowing, reaching back to the Eden behind you, and forward to the day of God that is coming.

There is to each one a gift from God distinctly personal. There is something given to each, inhering in his own nature alone, not diffused, not shared by others, not flowing through his life from lives behind to lives before--something that begins and ends with himself. It is himself--the inner real self which presides over all outer relations of hereditary and historical kind. Stir up this gift of immortal life that is in thee by the creating Spirit, by the personal inbreathing of God. Be thyself. When a man is born, God gives him power to be something for his fellow-creatures and his God. That something may be like treasure “hid in a field,” but never found. We know how certain great men have lived; how they became great by developing the inward energy. How then can a man truly and in the highest sense stir up his personal gift? Attila the Hun, “the scourge of God,” had from God the gift which he developed, so that his life became like a stream of scorching fire. Napoleon had all that was masterly in his spirit from the God who made him; but the apostle would not have allowed that he stirred up his gift aright. And now, society is vibrating through and through with the action of various human gifts; statesmen striving against each other, and serving their country in the strife; prolific writers, working up to the full bent of their genius; merchants, making a very science of their commerce, and reaping ample harvest of the same. But beyond the stir and strife lies the question of spiritual motive, aim, tendency. From what fountain springs all this activity? To what goal is it tending?

The Christian gift. It is expressed in such a word as this: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Or this: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Or this: “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away, and all things are become new.” And: “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” Full religious development must take the form of Christian consecration. How much a mad--any one of you young men--might do, would, I believe, be a discovery even to yourself. Now and again God gives us to see this, to see how much one can do, not by great original powers, not by the help of favouring circumstances, but just by consecration, by stirring up the gift--it may be a gift composed of many gifts, a general capacity of service. What in you is its measure? How far will it reach? How long will it last? How much will it achieve? I cannot tell, no more can you, until you try. Timothy the lad in Lystra knows nothing of Timothy the bishop of Ephesus. We all go on to meet, and as we go we make, our future selves. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

Christian enthusiasm

What Timothy seems to have wanted most was fire. St. Paul could have no doubt as to his gifts, nor of the fidelity with which he would use them. But the work and the times demanded something more than talent and conscientiousness; they required enthusiasm. Hence the apostle urges his friend to “stir up the gift that was in him,” or, as his words might be better rendered, “kindle the gift that is in thee into flame.” For the want of this enthusiasm men of splendid parts prove splendid failures, and, although otherwise qualified to fill the highest places and to lead the grandest enterprises, are never heard of, from sheer inability to push their way. But our subject is not enthusiasm in general, hut Christian enthusiasm in particular; and our text, with its context, supplies us with some useful hints respecting its subject, its nature, and its motive.

Its subject. To be enthusiastic it is obvious that we must have something to be enthusiastic about, and something worthy of our enthusiasm. The enthusiasm of the Christian worker, like that of the poet, may be “fine frenzy,” but, like the poet’s, again, it is not aimless frenzy. It gathers round a definite object, which has sufficient force o! attraction to draw towards it the whole interest and strength of the man over whom it throws its spell. In Timothy’s case this subject was a gift for the office of bishop and evangelist. Notice, then, that this capacity is--

1. “The gift of God.” We take the greatest pride in the products of our independent genius and industry, or in the purchases of our wealth. But here we have, as the bestowment of a generous benefactor, what all our money could not buy, and what all our skill could not fabricate. We serve God just because God has given us the ability to serve Him. In Christian work, therefore, boasting is shameful, and vanity ridiculous.

2. A constitutional gift. God has invested us with two classes of gifts--gifts external and gifts internal--gifts which go to make up what a man has; gifts which constitute him what he is. Our capacity for Divine service is one of the latter class. It is “in” us. It is a soul faculty. It entered into the original plan of our being. Further, this capacity--

3. Assumes different forms. It is a common gift, but the idiosyncrasies of the individuals to whom it is given invest it, in each case, with a peculiar shape. Thus painting and architecture, music and science, philosophy and poetry, statesmanship and wealth; that subtle thing called influence, and that dreadful thing called war, that prosaic thing called trade, and that humble thing called home, have each and all been pressed into the service of illustrating our text. And so Raffaelle in the Cartoons, Wren in St. Paul’s, Handel in the “Messiah,” Newton in the “Principia,” Bacon in the “Novum Organum,” Milton in the “Paradise Lost,” Wilberforce in his Parliamentary achievements, Peabody in his munificent benefactions, Shaftesbury in the example he set before society, Gordon in the heroism with which he defended Khartoum, Moore in his work in the London warehouse, Susannah Wesley in hers in the Epworth rectory, and others in what they have done in the house, in the shop, or in the field, all seem to say, “There, that is what I mean by the gift that is in me.” And that we should ascertain what our special talent is, and in what our capacity should be employed, is of the utmost importance for many reasons. How often do we hear the remark applied to some social failure--and true it is--“he has missed his calling.” A man who might have made something out in a walk in life for which he was suitably endowed, makes nothing out, because he has chosen one for which he is totally unqualified. Once more, this capacity--

4. Is intended for and must find employment in the service of the Church. St. Paul’s injunction carries with it the broad principle just laid down, but we must remember that the apostle had in view the interests of Christ’s Church, and urged Timothy to promote those interests in the way for which he was Divinely qualified.

Its nature. We have the gift; with what shall we kindle it?

1. Like the capacity it has to kindle into flame, Christian enthusiasm is the gift of God. No man ever purchased it; no man ever created it. It is not from beneath and human, it is from above, and Divine; “God hath given us the spirit … of power, of love, and of a sound mind.” And that a Divine person should provide the materials for the kindling of a Divine gift arises out of the necessities of the case. Like produces like, and fire kindles fire. You have in your grates blocks of a cold black mineral, the last things in the world, as far as appearances go, from which you would expect light and heat. But you know that fire lies imprisoned and slumbering there. And you know, also, that neither the most careful arrangement of the coals, nor the most vigorous use of the fire irons, will be of the least service in awakening the element and setting it free. What you do, however, is to apply a light, and then the cold black mineral becomes fervent and radiant heat. Eighteen hundred years ago a few weak and unlettered peasants formed all that there was of the Christian Church. Who would have given them credit for a world-converting capacity? But within them lay dormant the Divine gift. They formed no elaborate organisation; they made no violent stir. They simply waited and prayed; and by: and by fire from without met its counterpart within. The Holy Ghost fell upon them, made them enthusiasts for Christ, and thus enabled them to kindle their gift into flame.

2. Christian enthusiasm is not “the spirit of fear.” This is obvious. Until that spirit is laid there can be no enthusiasm. It can only be conquered by the Divine Spirit, who, as He subdues the craven or the diffident temper, will make us instinct with that Christian enthusiasm which is--

(1) The spirit of power. And being this, it is distinguished from excitement, which is the spirit of weakness. The two may, indeed, be confounded for a time, just as a meteor may, at first, be mistaken for a star. No; Christian enthusiasm is not a transient spasm of excitement; it is power, and that means stability, persistence, inexhaustible resources, unwearied and inextinguishable force. The spirit of power, however, although the first and basal element in Christian enthusiasm, is not the only one. For power, by itself, will make a man not an enthusiast, but a fanatic. Fanaticism is by no means weakness, it is force, often of the most vigorous kind, but force without regulation and control. Christian enthusiasm is, therefore--

(2) The spirit of love. We all know the mighty part that love has sustained in the purest human enthusiasms. Love of children; for what heroisms has that not qualified the weakest of mothers? Love of country; what flames has that not kindled in the most phlegmatic of citizens? Love of man; for what endurance and what effort has that not nerved some of the feeblest of our race? Analyse any given case of noble enthusiasm, and you will find the very life of it to be love; either the love which manifests itself in devotion to a person, or the love which finds expression in consecration to a cause. In Christian enthusiasm both of these loves find play, for it is first devotion to a person. Christian love is love to God, and if I love God I must cling to Him. But Christian enthusiasm is also

(3) The spirit of a sound mind--A fact that is most frequently overlooked. Hence, by many, it is regarded as a symptom of goodness of heart, possibly, but certainly of weakness of head. In the world the enthusiast is not a mad speculator or simple dreamer; he is the man who, by the sagacity with which he lays his plans, the common sense lines on which he works them, the alertness with which he seizes every opportunity, and the tenacity with which he retains his hold on every advantage, builds up a colossal business and amasses a vast fortune. And we refuse to recognise as a Christian enthusiast the man who, by his wild vagaries neutralises the good of which he might have been otherwise capable, or the man whose sanguine temperament is imposed upon by impossible ideals. We claim for Christian enthusiasm rational as well as emotional qualities. It demands the consecration of the intellect at its freshest and its best, that it may help the body to render “a reasonable service.” And what is this sound-mindedness? It is the self-control which conserves its energies, the patience which bides its time, the discernment which perceives that its time has come; it is the knowledge that understands its work, the judgment that determines where the work can be best done, the wisdom that suggests how to do it in the best way; it is the prudence which prepares for difficulties, the resolution which faces them, the tact which threads its way through them, or turns them to its own account. In one word, it is the mind in full health, in the health which consists of the wholeness, vigour, and harmonious activity of all the rational faculties; the intellect filled with the Holy Spirit of God.

Its motives. We have the gift; by what considerations are we urged and encouraged to kindle it?

1. Timothy was reminded of his responsibility in the very terms of our text.

2. Timothy was reminded of his ancestral traditions. Men of noble lineage are supposed to have stronger motives to do nobly than those of meaner origin. They have a family as well as a personal reputation to sustain.

3. Timothy was reminded of his share in the great salvation. That we might kindle our gift, God, if I may so say, kindled His.

4. Lastly, Timothy was reminded that he had been honoured with a Divine call to stir up his gift. He was “called with a holy calling.” There was nothing meritorious in him, as the apostle is careful to remind him, to occasion this call. It was of God’s grace, and God, who had entrusted him with the gift, now laid formal claim to the use of His own. (J. W. Burn.)

An ordination sermon

They that think that every Christian may be a preacher, and that the ministry, considered as a distinct calling or employ, is nothing but usurpation, and some ambitious men’s affecting a superiority over their brethren, like the cynic of old trampling upon Plato’s cloak, make themselves guilty of greater pride than that which they pretend to condemn. The church is called a building, and we know that every flint or pebble is not fit to be a foundation or corner-stone, much less to be set into the ephod, and there to shine in oracles and responses. It is called a body too, and this hath various members, and these various offices, which cannot be all eyes and overseers; if they were, where would be the hearing? An ecclesiastical jurisdiction lodged in Timothy, an overseer constituted and appointed by St. Paul, even by the laying on of his hands, whereof he puts him in mind in the text, and of the gift that was bestowed upon him by that imposition of hands, and of his duty to exercise it. And here, before I enter upon the apostle’s exhortation, or the duty contained in it, I cannot but take notice of the softness and gentleness of his address, “I put thee in remembrance.” Practical discourses and salutary admonitions to men of learning and good education are a refreshing of their memories rather than teaching or illuminating their understandings. Discourses of this nature may put you in remembrance of a duty, which multiplicity of business would not suffer you to think of, or contemplations of other matters tempted you to overlook.

What the gift is which was in timothy, and may still be supposed to be in all those whom God calls to the same office. I shall particularise, the gift communicated to Timothy; and if we take St. Paul for our guide, we shall find this gift was a Divine power vouchsafed to this man of God, which enabled and disposed him to teach, and live, and act, and do, answerable to the duties incumbent upon him, as a governor of the house of God. The apostle in the following verse calls it the spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind; the spirit of Christian fortitude, of charity, and of sedateness and tranquillity of temper.

1. The spirit of fortitude, which consists in being undaunted at danger, fearless of the frowns of men while we do no more than our duty, and a steady freedom to vindicate the truth of the gospel and the honour of Christ Jesus, whatever may be the effect or consequence of it.

2. The spirit of love. It was not without very great reason that our Saviour asked St. Peter thrice, “Lovest thou Me?” and “Lovest thou Me more than these?”

3. The spirit of a sound mind. This seems to be a temper able to curb the passions, inordinate lusts, desires, and perturbations of the mind, an admirable spirit! To know when to be angry, and when to be calm; when to be severe, and when to be moderate and gentle. The mind is then sound when it keeps the lower faculties in good order, and it is an argument of wisdom to judge of things without heats, or prejudice, or prospect of self-interest, and to keep the wild desires of corrupted nature in awe, and to do things with prudence and moderation.

How this gift was anciently and is still bestowed and communicated. By the putting on of my hands, saith St. Paul; and in 1 Timothy 4:14 he adds, by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, i.e., of the whole apostolical college, or the greater part of the apostles, who it is like were present upon the place. This rite or ceremony of imposition of hands on a person designed for Church offices and the service of the tabernacle, Isidore and others derive from Isaac’s blessing his son Jacob, which they suppose was done by the Patriarch’s laying his hands upon Jacob’s head; from Jacob’s laying his hands on his grandchildren and blessing them; from Moses’s laying his hand on Joshua, and communicating part of his spirit to him. The ancient Romans used to lay their hands upon their slaves when they made them free; and Numa Pompilius had hands laid on him when he was made High Pontiff; but it is probable that even these fetched it from the Jews. The Christian Churches, who retained what was good and praiseworthy among the Jews, seeing nothing in this rite but what was grave, and decent, and solemn, and serious, adopted it into their service. In sacrificing beasts to the honour of God the priest laid his hands on the victim’s head, to show he dedicated it to God, and from common, separated it to a holy use, and dismissed it from the service of men into that of the most high God; all which significations did wonderfully well agree with the end of the ministerial function under the gospel, and therefore the Christians had no reason to reject this useful and decent custom. This imposition of hands was no physical cause of conveying the Holy Ghost, but an external assurance, that as surely as the hands were laid on the head of the person ordained, so surely would the spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind, light upon his soul if he did not obstruct it by wilful departing from the living God. That this rite hath lasted in the Church from the apostles’ time unto this day is what the concurrent testimonies of all ages witness.

How this gift is to be stirred up, and what is the best and most proper way to do it. In the original it is ἀναζωπυρε͂ιν, which is as much as stirring up the fire, or blowing the coals, and making the fire burn that lies mingled with the ashes. So that the Spirit of God conferred upon sacred persons by the imposition of hands is lodged in the soul, as the treasure in the gospel was hid in the field, which required digging and searching to make it useful. It is like gold in the ore, which requires melting, and cleansing, and purifying; like a stock of money which requires improvement by trading; like seed sown in the ground, which requires watering and other labour and industry to make it come forth, and grow, and spread, and yield fruit, and strengthen man’s heart. This stirring up of the gift of God respects either the means that are to be used, or the duty itself. The means hinted in this and the preceding Epistle are chiefly three--prayer, reading, meditating.

1. Prayer. Who can live without it? Who can act or do anything of moment without the assistance of this spiritual engine? Nature teaches mankind to begin their works of concernment with God; grace therefore must be supposed to press this duty infinitely more, on you particularly, the heirs of Timothy’s office, in order to this stirring up the gift of God that is in you, by the imposition of hands. God that gives you talents intends not that you should bury them in the earth, or lay them up in a napkin, but occupy and traffic with them, and be gainers by them; and to do this His help is necessary, who gives strength to the weak and power to the feeble; and this help is not to be had without importunate cries and solicitations. These prayers must have fire; it is their fervour that unlocks the secret cabinet of the Almighty.

2. Reading. This the apostle expressly recommends to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:13) in order to his stirring up the gift of God. Reading what? No doubt the Holy Scripture, and therefore our Church proscribes, delivering a Bible into the hands of the person upon whom episcopal hands are laid. The great examples you meet with here, the industry of Moses, the zeal of Elijah, the fervour of St. Paul, the vigour of St. Stephen, the courage of St. Peter, the assiduity of Apollos, the sincerity of Barnabas, what are these but so many motives to stir up the gift of God that is in you? Add to all this the glorious, the precious, the large, the sweet, the wonderful promises, promises of Christ’s assistance, promises of comfort, of support, of eternal life and glory, which will animate and enliven, and prompt you to blow up the fire of the sanctuary and the coal of the altar, that it may consume the dross and tin, not only that which cleaves to your own souls, but that also which sticks to others, that see and hear you, and converse with you.

3. Meditating. This is also urged among the means, not to neglect the gift of God. “Meditate upon these things, give thyself wholly to them” (1 Timothy 4:15). The bare reading will make no great impression. Meditation digests and rouses the soul from her slumber. This quickens the faculties, sets all the wheels a-going, incites to labour, prompts to industry, and moves and even compels us to imitate the great examples set down in the Word of God, and to follow their faith, and wisdom, and hope, and love, and charity. But in what doth the stirring up of the gift of God consist? Chiefly in these three particulars.

1. Feeding the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind, neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. Ye are the captains, the generals in Christ’s army, while you bear the heat and burden of the day, detract no labour, spare no pains, live like faithful stewards of the mystery of God, vindicate your Master’s honour, act like persons who have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, and by manifestation of the truth commend yourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God; you make good the glorious titles and the names which are given you, such as angels, and stars, and lights of the world, and the salt of the earth, and a city set on a hill, etc.

2. Labouring and making it your business to reform abuses.

3. Enduring hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, a duty very warmly recommended to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:3). In discharging your duty faithfully, you must expect obloquy, and slanders, and reproaches, and other inconveniences. (A. Horneck, D. D.)

The latent spiritual force in man

That there is in man some spiritual force which is in a special sense “the gift of God.” Indeed, our very existence, with all its physical and mental attributes, is His gift. But this spiritual force is something special, and it may be said to comprehend at least three elements.

1. The sentiment of religious worship.

2. The sentiment of moral obligation. He has an inbred feeling that there is an authority over him to which he owes allegiance, that there are laws which he should recognise and obey.

3. The sentiment of social love. The social love is something more than gregariousness, than mere animal sympathy, which seem to belong to all sentient life. It is benevolence, a well-wishing for the race. Indeed, our life, with all its attributes, is His gift, but this spiritual force is especially so. It is bestowed upon man only; it is something greater than intellect, imagination, genius. These it works as its instruments. It is in truth the substratum of his moral being, the former of his character, the controller of his destiny.

That the urgent duty of man is to rouse this spiritual force into right action. To “stir up” into right action this spiritual force is every man’s paramount self-obligation. He has to rouse up into right action the spiritual power that lies within him and which is God’s greatest gift. The command implies--

1. That man has the power to do so. Every righteous obligation implies the existence of adequate power of obedience. But how can man do it?

(1) How can he “stir up” the sentiment of worship into healthy action? By devout meditations on the moral excellencies of the one true and living God.

(2) How can he “stir up” the sentiment of obligation? By contemplating the Divine will, which is the supreme law of life.

(3) How can he “stir up” into right action the sentiment of holy love? By a devout study of the claims and needs of his fellow men. In this way every man can “stir up” this spiritual force, the gift of God that is within him.

2. On doing this depends his true dignity and bliss. Man can only become great by the right use of his great powers, by bringing out into right action all the great forces of his spiritual nature. The man who has not thus risen, has only risen as the stone has risen which has been hurled up into air, it must come down to the earth again. But he who rises by developing the spiritual forces of his nature, ascends heavenward, as the eagle that guides itself up from earth to heaven through clouds and sunshine. Conclusion: Man attend to thyself, not selfishly, and occasionally, but generously and constantly. There is an exhaustless field lying within thee fraught with countless germs of life and power. Throughout nature there are latent forces--fire mighty enough to burn up the universe sleeps in every atom of dust and drop of water. Powers sleep in the acorn sufficient to cover continents with majestic forests, and there is a spiritual force within us, rightly directed, that will build us into angels and lift us to the highest heavens of being. Let us, therefore, “stir up” this spiritual force, this “gift of God” within us. (David Thomas, D. D.)

Latent spiritual power

What is the course of the development of this spiritual gift, or, better, this gift of the Spirit? What is the manifestation and unfolding of this new energy of God in the highest branch of man’s nature? It is quiet and gentle as all God’s operations are in the hearts that yield to Him; only an earthquake does it become when opposed by rocky natures, a desolating whirlwind among the stubborn oaks and cedars. It unfolds in willing hearts as seed in congenial soil, always with a promise of more and more; the blade, the ear, the full corn in the ear; the full corn in the ear multiplied thirty, sixty, an hundredfold, and each corn the promise and potency by a similar method of a hundred more. See how it increases. A young convert begins in an unobtrusive way to speak to a few wild boys whom he gathers together, one and another of whom become Christians; the number grows, and with growth of responsibility the convert receives increase of power. The class becomes a congregation; the few trembling, kind words he managed to speak at first become the powerful address; the boys are joined by men and women; the address becomes a sermon. That may be one way in which the gift of God may be developed and displayed. It is only one. For I hold the gift of the Spirit, which comes at conversion, to be also a gift for service. It is the same grace working through us to produce in other hearts precisely the fruits He has produced in us--repentance through our repentance, faith through our faith, love through our love, hope through our hope. The regenerated soul brings forth graces after their kind, just as the earth grass, and herb, and tree, yielding fruit whose seed is in itself, after its kind. But if all require His presence and help, none so manifestly require them as the minister who has to feed the flock of God. His nature ought to lie open to Divine influence at every point, and every call of his ministry should be a call to try and prove what the Spirit of Christ which is in him can accomplish for him and through him. He sometimes finds out the vastness of his supernatural resources through being made painfully conscious of the inadequacy of his natural powers for the work to be done. He sees the truth dimly, and therefore seeks for the light of the Spirit to be shed upon it and irradiate it. And here I would say that I am free to admit, as has been always held by those who intelligently believe that the God who created our natural powers is the same as He who sanctifies them and works through them, “that the greater the gifts by nature and cultivation, the greater the number of points at which the Holy Spirit may move us, and that Divine power is conditioned by human receptivity.” The gift of the Spirit to Timothy was the same as to Paul; and yet since Timothy’s measure was not as capacious as Paul’s, and, perhaps, because he did not so diligently stir up his gift as Paul, his lifo, beautiful and useful though it was, lacked the luxuriant fruitfulness of Paul’s. The condition of our doing our best is that we allow God to do the best He can through us. And be our other gifts few or many, brilliant or humble, the reason for stirring up the flame of the great gift is just the same in all cases. For you would not have your poor gift without the fire that can make even it glow with fervour, as I have often seen the lips of poor, illiterate, feeble-minded men burn with rapture which gave beauty and charm to all they said. And you would not have your finer gifts, if you possess such, bereft of that energy which is a touch of omnipotence, nor left without that inspiration which is a pulse of the heart of infinite love. No one can tell the wealth of his gift in the possession of the Spirit of God. Let us put ourselves in remembrance that we may stir up the gift of God. Let us remember the day of our first submission, and how it ought to have implied a life-long submission, a continual yielding up of self and self-will. Let us remember the day of our consecration, the hopes which then gleamed in our heaven, the vows which then trembled on our lips. If the promise of these times has been blasted or dimmed, let us seek the renewing of our hearts by the Spirit which dwelleth in us. If the promise has been fulfilled, or even more than fulfilled, still let us honour the Spirit by whom we have been kept, sanctified, and used. (J. P. Gledstone.)


The poet Keble said on one occasion that he wished he could attend an ordination service every year of his life, that he might be reminded of first principles.

The Nemesis of neglected gifts

There is a terrible penalty attached to the neglect of the higher faculties, whether intellectual or moral; a penalty which works surely and unerringly by a natural law. We all of us have imagination, intellect, will. These wonderful powers must have an object, must have employment. If we do not give them their true object, viz., the glory of God, they will find an object for themselves. Instead of soaring upwards on the wings supplied by the glories of creation and the mercies of redemption, they will sink downwards into the mire. They will fasten upon the flesh; and in an atmosphere poisoned by debasing associations they will become debased also. Instead of raising the man who possesses them into that higher life, which is a foretaste of heaven, they will hurry him downwards with the accumulated pressure of an undisciplined intellect, a polluted imagination, and a lawless will. That which should have been for wealth becomes an occasion of falling. Angels of light become angels of darkness. And powers which ought to be as priests, conseorating the whole of our nature to God, become as demons, shameless and ruthless in devoting us to the evil one God’s royal gifts of intellect and will cannot be flung away, cannot be left unused, cannot be extinguished. For good or for evil they are ours; and they are deathless. But, though they cannot be destroyed, they can be neglected. They can be buried in the earth till they breed worms and stink. They call be allowed to run riot, until they become as wild beasts, and turn again and rend us. Or, in the spirit of power, of love and of discipline, they may be chastened by lofty exercise and sanctified to heavenly uses, till they become more and more fit to be the equipment of one, who is for ever to stand “before the throne of God, and praise Him day and night in His temple.” (A. Plummer, D. D.)

Verse 7

2 Timothy 1:7

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Energy within right limits

The first characteristic stands opposed to faint-heartedness: the two other qualities are added, apparently, by the apostle, so that it may be distinctly manifest that he recommends no wild, rough exhibitions of force, but only such as were confined within legal limits. The ἀγαπή renders us capable for the offering of the greatest sacrifice for the cause of the Lord; the σωφρονισμός is that Christian self-control which imparts power to a wise bearing in action, and in all things knows how to keep within true bounds. (Dr. Van Oosterzee.)


A sound mind, rather self-control, which keeps “a constant rein on all the passions and desires” (Trench), and would thus keep in check timidity and undue despondency. Some take “sound mind” to signify here “correction” of others, Church discipline, a meaning which the word will bear, but which is out of harmony with the other two elements of the special gift here enumerated, both of which are personal graces, not official powers. (Speaker’s Commentary.)


The Spirit of God, by supplying us with power and love, launches within us forces which are capable, if they are not well adjusted, of producing either arrogance or laxity; and which need, therefore, the central controlling energy of true self-mastery to harmonise them and save them from mutual destruction. We do not desiderate a neutral, colourless result, but a higher perfection, one in which both these forces have full play. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)

The spirit of discipline

If it be asked whether the discipline be that which Timothy is to enforce in ruling others, or that which he is to practice in schooling himself, we may answer “Both.” The termination of the word which is here used (σωφρονισμός) seems to require a transitive meaning; and slackness in correcting others may easily have been one of the ways in which the despondency of Timothy showed itself. On the other hand the whole context here speaks of Timothy’s treatment of himself. To take a more lively interest in the conduct of others would be discipline for himself and for them also. There may be as much pride as humility in indulging the thought that the lives of other people are so utterly bad that it is quite out of the power of such persons as ourselves to effect a reformation. This is a subtle way of shirking responsibility. Strong in the spirit of power, glowing with the spirit of love, we can turn the faults of others, together with all the troubles which may befall us in this life into instruments of discipline. (A. Plummer, D. D.)

Christian courage

These words, though originally addressed to a bishop, and with reference to the ministerial office, yet need not be limited in their application. For of all who are duly baptized into the faith of the Lord Jesus, it is unquestionably required that they manfully fight under His banner against sin, the world, and the devil, and continue His faithful soldiers and servants unto their lives’ end; wherein is implied, to say the least, that we strive earnestly and habitually to get rid of all mean cowardly fears, and go on in the path marked out for us by our Heavenly Guide, with all energy of conduct, and charity of heart, with such caution, too, and self-possession, as become persons who know what they are about. “First of all,” says St. Paul, “God has not given us the spirit of cowardice”--for that is the proper meaning of the word, which in the original is not the same with that which is generally translated “fear,” but quite different. It is used also, in a few other places, in the New Testament; as, e.g. (St. Mark 4:40), when, after repeated demonstrations of the Almighty power and infinite compassion of the holy Jesus, His disciples were still weak and wavering, and alarmed at apparent danger, His gentle yet solemn rebuke was, “Why are ye so fearful [cowardly]? how is it that ye have no faith?” Whence we learn that this spirit of cowardice is so inconsistent with the character, as even to prove a want of faith, so far as it influences the heart. Again, on another occasion (John 14:27), when our blessed Lord was encouraging and cheering the fainting spirits of His disciples, perplexed and alarmed: at the prospect of His leaving them: “Let not your heart be troubled,” said He to them; “neither let it be afraid” (cowardly).

“Ye believe in God, believe also in Me.” And again, in the description of those who shall be judged liable to the second death, the first-mentioned are (in our translation “fearful,” but originally) the cowardly, and then next, the unbelieving (Revelation 21:8). These are all the places where the word is used in the New Testament. The spirit of cowardice, then, is opposed to the spirit of faith. But, says the inspired apostle, God hath not given us--us Christians--this spirit of cowardice--this base unworthy disposition is not from Him, nor among the fruits of His blessed Spirit. Rather we are taught to expect from that heavenly source a spirit most opposite to that of cowardice--A spirit of energy, charity, prudence; enabling us to proceed and go forward in our Christian course under every circumstance, to serve the Lord without distraction, to oppose men’s errors without enmity to their persons, to walk warily as in days of danger and perplexity. That the word here translated “power” has this meaning, viz., of inspired energy and courage, we may know as from other passages in the New Testament, so from these two. In Acts 6:1-15. it is said of the holy martyr--“Stephen, fall of faith and power”--as far as possible from any distrust or apprehension as to the holy cause of the gospel which he had undertaken. And in the Revelation of St. John, the Divine message to the Bishop of the Philadelphian Church, was, “Thou hast a little strength, and hast kept My word, and hast not denied My name;” a little strength, energy, or power--as not having like some others, altogether fallen away through indolence, or faint-hearted cowardly fear. Hence, we infer, that the spirit by which the faithful Christian is actuated is one of energy, resolution, and steady perseverance; and inferring this, we are hound to put it closely to our consciences, as follows:--Whether our life is one of diligence and activity, and this diligence and activity, not limited to this world, but actually in the cause and service of Almighty God. Whether we avoid, as much as possible, mixing in idle company, reading vain and trifling books, or other publications, indulging in useless, idle, unprofitable thoughts. Whether we try to knew, and feel, the value of our precious, irreparable time. Whether we endeavour, from day to day, in that state of life to which it has pleased God to call us, to do our duty--i.e., what in God’s sight is expected of us; for very often much less will satisfy the world, and our own easy consciences. Whether we pray habitually, to be enabled to accomplish these our respective duties with resolution, steadiness, and perseverance; neither alarmed by danger, if it should happen, nor moved by scorn and contempt; but expecting such trials as part of God’s discipline, to bring our hearts into a fit state for our admission into the everlasting habitations. We may further observe that the mean spirit of cowardice is always found in effect (in whatever way it is to be accounted for), a great hindrance to the growth of true charity, love for God and man. “The fear of man bringeth a snare”--even so great a snare as to withdraw the heart from loving and trusting Almighty God. Cowardice is a selfish feeling, makes men think only of themselves, their own present interests and comforts--A state of mind quite repulsive of true charity and love. Hence (says St. Paul), “God gives not His servants the spirit of cowardice, but of power, and also of love,” leads them both to be zealous and earnest in fulfilling their high duties, and at the same time tempers their zeal with meekness and love. If we would then know, whether we are such in heart and life as Christians ought to be, we must ask ourselves, not merely whether we are earnest in our religion, but also whether “all our things are done with charity,” love to God and man. Again, you will observe that St. Paul intimates to us in the passage now considered, that it is not enough for the Christian to be zealous in his duty, even though his zeal be tempered and guided by love; unless also he be cautious and on his guard, so as in every emergency to retain his presence of mind, and always (as every person should who has any important matter in hand) to know what he is about. This, I say, is the spirit and disposition which as Christians we are still to labour and pray for, nor shall we seek it in vain--for to His faithful servants God gives, not only the spirit of power, and of love, but also of a sound mind; whilst by His grace He enables them to be harmless as doves, He would have them also wise as serpents, ever on their guard; on their guard, i.e., not so much against their earthly as their spiritual foes. (Plain Sermons by Contributors to “Tracts for the Times.”)

The threefold gift

Our text presents to our view a striking contrast between that which constitutes the religion of a worldling, and that which constitutes the religion of a Christian. The religion of a worldling is a religion of slavish fear, but the religion of a Christian consists of a threefold gift, as specified in the language of my text. If you go to Pagan lands you will find all the Pagan tribes in possession of a religion of slavish fear; they fear their priests, and therefore they bow down to them as ii they were a superior race of beings to themselves. They fear the devil, and, therefore, they worship him lest he should do them hurt, for theirs is a religion of slavish fear altogether. There are three words, or three features, of our subject, so distinctly marked that I want your attention to them separately. “God hath given us the spirit of power”--there is efficiency. “God hath given us the spirit of love”--there is attraction. “God hath given us the spirit of a sound mind”--that is a treasure in our vessels of infinite value.

“God hath given us the spirit of power.” I would have every person who is moved with the idea that God sends him to preach, “tarry at Jerusalem, until he has been endued with power from on high.”

Now a word or two about the attraction in the “spirit of love.” You will recollect reading that all the law is said by our blessed Lawgiver to be couched in this one word, “love”; and sure I am that all the gospel is couched in it, for “God is love.” Hence it is the grand principle insisted on all through the New Testament.

Now glance at the treasure in possession in earthen vessels, called a sound mind. It is one of the rarest things in existence--A sound mind. I can meet with puerile minds, I can meet with frantic minds, I can meet with enthusiastic minds, I can meet with fickle and varying minds, not a few, and some of these bad and sad qualities even among Christians; I lament over them. A sound mind--what is it There is not a child of Adam that possesses it until he gets it from above; it must be inspired. I grant that there are many men who have sound minds in temporal things; sound minds to judge rightly and consistently of worldly matters, so as seldom to make a mistake in matters of business; a sound mind to rule their house properly, to manage things with keenness and propriety, and with success; but, mark, I make a distinction between a sound mind, as the gift of God in a spiritual point of view, and a sound mind as existing in nature. A sound mind, as existing in nature, only regards natural things, and can rise no higher than its own level. I never knew a man of sound mind in spiritual things, until the Holy Ghost inspired it. (Jos. Irons.)

Christianity: what it is not and what it is

What genuine Christianity is not. It is not a “spirit of fear.” The spirit of fear is that of a criminal and a slave. It haunts the minds of the guilty, and is only a prelude to those awful feelings which harrow up the soul that dies in a state of final impenitence. Such is not the spirit by which Christians are actuated. The great end for which our Saviour came into the world was to deliver men from their awful situation of exposure to the Divine wrath, and the fear consequent upon a knowledge of this state. But how are we to reconcile this passage with others, in which the spirit of fear is highly spoken of? Such as, “Blessed is the man that feareth always”; “I will put My fear in their hearts,” etc. They are to be reconciled in this way. That spirit of fear which is not given to the people of God is a fear arising from a sense of guilt, a conviction that God is their enemy. But that fear which is implanted in the hearts of His people is a filial fear--A holy jealousy, lest by sin they should provoke the Lord to anger.

What is the nature of genuine Christianity?

1. Genuine Christianity is powerful and efficacious. “God hath given us the spirit of power.” In 1 Corinthians 4:20 this apostle says, “The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power”--it is not in anything external, but in the experience of all the powerful effects of the gospel. The gospel is powerful to the salvation of all that believe.

2. Genuine Christianity is benevolent and kind. “God hath given us the spirit of love.” This enters most essentially into the system of Divine truth, and also into the experience of every child of God. This spirit is not natural to man. Whatever obtains the name of love is only a selfish principle. But by grace it is overcome, and a contrary spirit is bestowed. “We love Him, because He first loved us.” Where this love is felt in the heart, it is impossible but a reciprocal feeling of love to God must spring up within us. And not only love to God, but to all that bear His image--our brethren in Christ. But the love of the Christian is not confined to his brethren in the Lord; it extends to all mankind.

3. Genuine Christianity is in the highest degree rational, and peculiarly suited to the exigencies and circumstances of mankind. When a sinner is called out of darkness into light, he often becomes an object of derision; he is represented as an enthusiast, and beside himself. This was the case with Paul; but with respect and justice he repelled the charge; and this every child of God may do; for He has conferred upon him “the spirit of a sound mind.” What is enthusiasm? It is the power given to the mind by some sublime conceptions which have broken in upon it. We praise this in many things--we praise it in the artist; and one once said, when fault was found with him for having employed so much of his time, “Art is a jealous thing, and requires the whole man.” And is not eternity, is not religion a jealous thing? Does it not require the whole man? That the Christian is acting a most rational part is evident, if we consider what are the principles by which the prudent men of the world are guided; they are the same as those by which the Christian is guided, only changing the motives and the ends. These are indemnity for the past, enjoyment of the present, security and provision for the future. (J. Henderson, D. D.)

The spiritual endowment of the Christian Church

The Church of Christ is endowed with the spirit of courage.

1. In being a disciple at all courage was demanded.

2. In proclaiming the gospel of God courage was manifested.

3. In enduring hardness courage was developed,

The Church of Christ is endowed with the spirit of power.

1. The power of holy utterance is a spiritual gift.

2. The power of Christian legislation is a spiritual gift.

3. The power of righteous resolute volition is a spiritual gift.

The Church of Christ is endowed with the spirit of love.

1. Love Of kindred is a spiritual gift of the Inspirer.

2. Love of country--patriotism--is a Divine spiritual gift.

3. The love of Christ and of God is an endowment of the Spirit of God.

The Church of Christ is endowed with the spirit of soundness of mind or of health.

1. The capacity and consequent appetite for knowledge are spiritual endowments.

2. The energy of habitual holy action is a spiritual endowment.

3. The restoring power of a righteous life is a spiritual endowment. (W. R. Percival.)

The great purpose of Christianity

Why was Christianity given? Why did Christ seal it with His blood? Why is it to be preached? What is the great happiness it confers? I read the answer to them in the text. There I learn the great good which God confers through Jesus Christ. “He hath given us, not the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” The glory of Christianity is, the pure and lofty action which it communicates to the human mind. It does not breathe a timid, abject spirit. If it did, it would deserve no praise. It gives power, energy, courage, constancy to the will; love, disinterestedness, enlarged affection to the heart; soundness, clearness, and vigour to the understanding. It rescues him who receives it from sin, from the sway of the passions; gives him the full and free use of his best powers; brings out and brightens the Divine image in which he was created; and in this way not only bestows the promise, but the beginning of heaven. This is the excellence of Christianity. In reading the New Testament I everywhere learn that Christ lived, taught, died, and rose again, to exert a purifying and ennobling influence on the human character; to make us victorious over sin, over ourselves, over peril and pain; to join us to God by filial love, and above all, by likeness of nature, by participation of His Spirit. This is plainly laid down in the New Testament as the supreme end of Christ. In the prophecies concerning Him in the Old Testament, no characteristic is so frequently named as that He should spread the knowledge of the true God. Now I ask, what constitutes the importance of such a revelation? Why has the Creator sent His Son to make Himself known? I answer, God is most worthy to be known, because He is the most quickening, purifying, and ennobling object for the mind; and His great purpose in revealing Himself is, that He may exalt and perfect human nature. God, as He is manifested by Christ, is another name for intellectual and moral excellence; and in the know ledge of Him our intellectual and moral powers find their element, nutriment, strength, expansion, and happiness. To know God is to attain to the sublimest conception in the universe. To love God is to bind oneself to a Being who is fitted, as no other being is, to penetrate and move our whole hearts; in loving whom we exalt ourselves; in loving whom we love the great, the good, the beautiful, and the infinite; and under whose influence the soul unfolds itself as a perennial plant under the cherishing sun. This constitutes the chief glory of religion. It ennobles the soul. In this its unrivalled dignity and happiness consist. I fear that the world at large think religion a very different thing from what has been now set forth. Too many think it a depressing, rather than an elevating service, that it breaks rather than ennobles the spirit, that it teaches us to cower before an almighty and irresistible being; and I must confess that religion, as it has been generally taught, is anything but an elevating principle. It has been used to scare the child and appal the adult. The main ground of the obligation of being religious, I fear, is not understood, among the multitude of Christians. Ask them, why they must know and worship God? and, I fear, that were the heart to speak, the answer would be, because He can do with us what He will, and consequently our first concern is to secure His favour. Religion is a calculation of interest, a means of safety. God is worshipped too often on the same principle on which flattering and personal attentions are lavished on human superiors, and the worshipper cares not how abjectly he bows, if he may win to his side the power which he cannot resist. I look with deep sorrow on this common perversion of the highest principle of the soul. I have endeavoured to show the great purpose of the Christian doctrine respecting God, or in what its importance and glory consist. Had I time, I might show that every other doctrine of our religion has the same end. I might particularly show how wonderfully fitted are the character, example, life, death, resurrection, and all the offices of Christ to cleanse the mind from moral evil, to quicken, soften, elevate, and transform it into the Divine image; and I might show that these are the influences which true faith derives from Him and through which He works out our salvation. Let me only say that I see everywhere in Christianity this great design of liberating and raising the human mind. (W. E. Channing, D. D.)

A Whit-Sunday Sermon

Many readers of this passage, I doubt not, place the emphasis on the word us. They suppose St. Paul to say, “An ordinary man, who occupied the position which you occupy, the overseer of a society which is composed of various and contradictory elements, in which strange doctrines are appearing, which is exposed to all the influences of a commercial and corrupt city, would fear and tremble. It is your privilege to be as free from fightings and terrors as I, your spiritual father, am.” What encouragement, then, could he give to Timothy? Precisely that which he had found necessary in his own case, precisely that to which he had been driven by the experience he has described to us. His spirit might be palsied with fear; but there was a Spirit near him and with him which was not a spirit of fear, to which he could turn as the Deliverer from fear, the Restorer of energy, the Quickener of hope. That Spirit had been given not to him (Paul), but to the Family of which he was a member;-if in any special sense to him, to him only because he was a servant of that Family, because he needed powers that were not his own, to make his ministries for it effectual.

I suppose we have all felt tempted, at times, to use language which is just the reverse of the apostle’s. We have read in records of the past--we have known on a larger or smaller scale among cur contemporaries--such instances of strange panic and cowardice, of counsel and heart failing just when the need for them was the greatest, that we have been ready to exclaim, “Surely there is something Divine in this! We cannot attribute such a loss of nerve and energy to the pressure of outward circumstances; these often evoke the greatest courage when they are most appalling. We cannot attribute it merely to a natural want of courage; those same men, or bodies of men, at other crises, showed that they were capable of manly effort. Their fear is surely supernatural. God has given them this spirit of fear.” Such a mode of speaking is not uncommon; it is not without strong excuse. But I think also that our consciences wilt tell us that we pervert such passages of Scripture if we set them in opposition to the doctrine of St. Paul in the one now before us. We need not study the records of the past, or the actions of our fellow-men, to learn what the spirit of fear or cowardice is. Each has, perhaps, known something of that cowardice which springs from self-distrust, from the apprehension of lions in his path, from doubtfulness, which of several paths he should choose, from the foretaste of coming evils.

The Spirit of God is said to be a Spirit of power. Consider the different kinds of power before which men bow, and those which they covet most to exercise. There is none more familiar or more wonderful than that of the orator. There is another power mixed frequently with this, but yet different in its direction and its nature, which also can be limited to no country, or circumstances, or stage of cultivation. The physician, the healer, is welcomed in all lands by different titles, but always for this reason, that he can in some way act on the life of men, can oppose the powers that are threatening life. In some regions his functions are hardly distinguished from those of the priest, because he too is conversant about life and death, a life or death that may continue when the resources of the ordinary physician are exhausted. The most simple, naked exhibition of human power is in that royal Will, which obtains supremacy by claiming it--which compels individuals and nations, they know not how, to own that it is meant to rule them, and that they must needs obey. That such a force as this exists, it is as idle to deny as to deny the force of sea or wind. We are certain that the most settled, organised tyranny is still a rebellion, and must end as rebellions end. What is the warrant for this conviction? Whit-Sunday says it is this, that the highest power, the all-ruling Will, was manifested in One who took upon Him the form of a Servant. It says that His noblest gift to men is His own Spirit of Power. It says that to that Spirit all spirits must at last bow; that any will which is mere arbitrary will--which does not seek to deliver and to raise those whom it rules--must be broken in pieces; that the only effectual power will be proved at last to be that which can give up itself.

If the world was to be instructed that nil power of speech, of imparting life and wisdom to men, of governing societies, is of God, and is tits gift to His creatures, certainly no teachers could be so suitable as those Galileans. And yet I know not whether there was not something even more wonderful in the selection of these men to show that all Love is of God; that His Spirit is the author of whatever love men are able to exhibit in acts or to feel within. For as Jews they had learnt to despise and hate all the uncircumcised; as Galileans they must often have been jealous of that more favoured part of their own race, which looked down upon them. They had been chosen, indeed, by a Teacher who bore all their narrowness and ignorance; who educated them by a careful and gracious discipline for the work to which He had destined them. Their affection had been drawn out towards Him; that affection had been a bond to each other, though interrupted by continual desires in each of them to be the chief in His kingdom. But their affection had been tried, and had broken down. It had failed towards the Master; what strength could there be in it towards any of their fellows? If love was their own, or had its springs in them, it must be utterly dried up. Then reflect how it burst forth, how it poured itself out first upon Jews, who scorned them; next upon Gentiles, whom it had been part of their religion to scorn; to see what it could endure. So they were trained to understand that there must be about them and with them a Spirit of over-living, long-suffering love, the heights and depths of which they could never measure--of which they could only say, It is the Spirit of Him who died upon the Cross, and who in that death manifested the very nature of His eternal Father and His purposes to men. What is the original falsehood of all who speak of their love to God and man? This: they take credit to themselves for a love which is moving them to noble thoughts and good deeds, but which has another source than their hearts; which is Divine, not earthly; universal, not partial.

Finally, this Spirit is said to be the Spirit of a sound mind. You cannot make any estimate or guess of the wildness and madness into which man may be led. And therefore you cannot provide the remedy for this wildness and madness, or any adequate protection against it. Do you think you know of some adequate remedy or protection? Perhaps you will say it lies in the Church. May not this be, after all, the one security against these excesses? May not the Spirit of God keep better watch over those minds which He has taken into His guardianship, than you can keep? A Spirit who knows how all are tempted--who knows what temptation is strongest for each--who is seeking to unite them in a common fellowship--who is guiding them to the same haven--who will suffer none who would act rightly to be without the necessary aids to action, none that would seek truth to be lost in falsehood; who will continually assist the desire to do right in those who are conscious of the inclination to wrong--who will for ever kindle afresh the zeal for truth in those who feel that they are beginning to acquiesce in plausible lies? To tell men that such a guiding Spirit of Power, of Love, of a Sound Mind, has been given them, and is with them--this is not dangerous, but safe. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)

On soundness of mind in religion

The expression, sobriety, or soundness of mind, is used in the Scriptures in various senses. Sometimes it is opposed to madness; as where the demoniac was found sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. Madness disposes men to act irregularly, furiously, and extravagantly. Soundness of mind, therefore, implies recollection, calmness, and discretion, the guidance and control of reason. In other places, soundness of mind is opposed to levity and impropriety, as where women are required to adorn themselves in modest apparel, with sobriety; or to intemperance and sensuality, as where young men are exhorted to be sober minded, and, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, to live soberly. Sometimes it is contrasted with pride and self-conceit: thus the apostle forbids the Romans to think extravagantly of themselves, instead of thinking soberly, as they ought to do. In my text the same expression is used in a more general and comprehensive sense. The general characteristic of all unsoundness of mind may be said to be false perceptions. He whose mind is in this state dares not see things as they really are; they appear to him extravagantly magnified or diminished, distorted, or confounded with different objects. A sound mind, on the contrary, forms a just view of the subjects presented to it; it estimates correctly the relative value and importance of different subjects, and is not governed by prejudice, caprice, or idle imaginations.

Soundness of mind is opposed to credulity. Credulity arises from a misapprehension of the nature and value of evidence. The credulous man believes on insufficient authority. He does not perceive the proportion which different kinds of evidence bear to each other. How many in the Church at this day receive the doctrines of Christianity, not on account of the evidence by which they are supported, nor because they are plainly delivered in Scripture, but because this or that particular man has held them! A man of sound mind will not indeed despise human authority, and, in the spirit of innovation, doubt a tenet because it has been generally maintained; but he will be very careful to found his faith upon the truth of Scripture rather than upon the opinions of men.

Soundness of mind is opposed to superstition. A person in the dark sees nothing distinctly, and is therefore very apt to form confused and erroneous ideas of every object around him, his imagination giving to them what form and colour it pleases. Such is the situation of a superstitious man with respect to all objects of a spiritual or religious kind--he sees nothing in its proper form and proportion. A frequent and dangerous superstition is that which lays an undue stress on mere external religious observances. A man, therefore, of a sound mind, while he attributes to forms and ceremonies their true value, will not substitute them for more substantial good. He will manifest the soundness of his mind by preferring the substance to the form, and by endeavouring to possess the spirit of religion rather than the mere shadow of it.

Soundness of mind is opposed to enthusiasm. Enthusiasm consists in unwarranted ideas of the nature of the relation between us and our Creator, A man of sound mind will cherish no extravagant notions of Divine communications. An enthusiast entertains lofty notions of himself, and degrading conceptions of the Deity; he conceives that the course of nature is to be regulated with a view to his interest. The ordinary rules, even of morality, must yield to his convenience. He and his immediate connections have a peculiar dispensation: they are the particular favourites of God, and all things are to minister to their exclusive good.

Soundness of mind is opposed to scepticism or infidelity. I am well aware that infidels arrogate to themselves the distinction of being the only sound reasoners, and charge believers with credulity and superficial views. But the charge may justly be retorted on themselves: they do not possess a sound mind; for the body of evidence by which Christianity is established is incomparably superior to that by which any historical fact, or any other tenets whatever, have been supported,

Soundness of mind is opposed to insensibility, or indifference to the great objects of religion. If you saw a man bartering his estate for a childish toy, or labouring to accomplish some object in its nature evidently unattainable, or using the greatest exertions and the most powerful means to effect some frivolous or contemptible purpose; or, on the other band, struggling to accomplish some end really important by means wholly inadequate, you would say, without hesitation, that such a man had not a sound mind. The great doctrines which religion teaches must be either false, or doubtful, or true. That they are false can never be positively proved. “Surely,” says Pascal, “in a doubtful point of this most tremendous consequence, it is the duty of every rational person to endeavour, if possible, to obtain a solution of his doubts, and to remain no longer in suspense about a question of such immense consequence, in comparison of which all the sorrows or happiness of this life will not bear so much as a single moment’s comparison. Yet we see persons, professing, too, to be wise, and raised above the vulgar herd, who not only doubt upon these points, but appear to be easy and composed, nay, declare their doubts with perfect indifference, and perhaps gratify their vanity in professing them. What words can be found to fix a name for such unaccountable folly? Yet you see the same persons quite other men in all other respects. They fear the smallest inconveniences: they see them if they approach, and feel them if they arrive. They pass whole days and nights in chagrin and despair for the loss of their property, or for some imaginary blemish in their honour; and yet these very same persons suppose they may lose all by death, and remain without disquiet or emotion. This wonderful insensibility with respect to things of the most fatal consequence, and that, too, in a heart so nicely sensible of the meanest trifles, is an astonishing prodigy, an unintelligible enchantment, a supernatural blindness and infatuation.” You believe the Scriptures; you believe that there is a future life, in comparison of which this is a mere point; sit down and contemplate the duration of it. Yet, O strange absurdity I we see everything reversed: persons not at all interested about these fleeting moments, on account of their relation to eternity, but very anxious about them in themselves! The Bible informs us of our danger, and must be our only guide how to escape it. Here, then, is folly and unsoundness of mind in the highest degree, that men will not search the Scriptures and be guided by the Word of God. (J. Venn, M. A.)

Power in the Christian

And here is condemned those, both preachers and people, who have it not themselves, neither can endure it in ethers. We commend the deep-mouthed hound, the shrill sound of the trumpet, the loud report of the piece; yet cannot away with, care not for the spirit of power and resolution in a Christian. Is not power appropriated to God? Did not Christ speak with authority and power, and not as the Scribes? For can a soldier be too strong? a traveller over-well limbed? then may a Christian be too well fenced, armed. Must he not wrestle with principalities and powers? combat with the sons of Anak? tread upon the lion and the ape? And who can tell what weight may be put on his shoulders for time to come? Will we not provander our beast for a long journey? rig our ships for a rough passage? build them strong for a long voyage? bead our staff before we leap? And shall we never fortify the inner man, repair the battered bark of our souls, nor try the truth of that stilt which must help us to heaven? Wherefore, gather spiritual greatness, strive for this strength, and purchase this power by all means possible, and that thou mayest do these things. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Sinful fear of God

One of our poets gives a grim picture of a traveller on a lonesome road, who has caught a glimpse of a frightful shape close behind him--

“And having once turned round walks on,

And turns no more his head.”

The dreadful thing is there on his very heels, its breath hot on his check; he feels it though he does not see, but he dare not face round to it; he puts a strong compulsion on himself, and, with rigidly fixed face, strides on his way, a sickening horror busy with his heart. An awful image that, but a true one with regard to what many men do with their thoughts of God! They know that that thought is there, close behind them. They feel sometimes as if its hand were just coming out to be laid on their shoulders, and to stop them. And they will not turn their heads to see the Face that should be the love, the blessedness, the life of their spirits, but is--because they love it not--the terror and freezing dread of their souls. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

A sound mind

Dr. Arnold, of Rugby, gives, in one of his letters, an account of a saintly sister. For twenty years, through some disease, she was confined to a kind of crib; never once could she change her position for all that time. “And yet,” said Dr. Arnold, and I think his words are very beautiful, “I never saw a more perfect instance of the power of love and of a sound mind. Intense love, almost to annihilation of selfishness; a daily martyrdom for twenty years, during which she adhered to her early-formed resolution of never talking about herself; thoughtful about the very pins and ribbons of my wife’s dress, about the making of a doll’s cap for a child, but of herself--save as regarded her improvement in all goodness--wholly thoughtless; enjoying everything lovely, graceful, beautiful, high-minded, whether in God’s works or man’s, with the keenest relish: inheriting the earth to the fulness of the promise; and preserved through the valley of the shadow of death from all fear of impatience, and from every cloud of impaired reason which might mar the beauty of Christ’s glorious work. May God grant that I might come within one hundred degrees of her place in glory!” Such a life was true and beautiful. But the radiance of such a light never cheered this world by chance. A sunny patience, a bright-hearted self-forgetfulness, a sweet and winning interest in the little things of family intercourse, the Divine lustre of a Christian peace, are not fortuitous weeds carelessly flowering out of the life-garden. It is the internal which makes the external. It is the force residing in the atoms which shapes the pyramid. It is the beautiful soul which forms the crystal of the beautiful life without.

Latent power in churches

It is impossible to over estimate, or rather to estimate, the power that lies latent in our churches. We talk of the power that was latent in steam--latent till Watt evoked its spirit from the waters, and set the giant to turn the iron arms of machinery. We talk of the power that was latent in the skies till science climbed their heights, and, seizing the spirit of the thunder, chained it to our surface, abolishing distance, outstripping the wings of time, and flashing our thoughts across rolling seas to distant continents. Yet what are these to the moral power that lies asleep in the congregations of our country and of the Christian world? (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

True fearlessness

When young Nelson came home from a birds’-nesting expedition, his aunt chided him for being out so far into the night, and remarked, “I wonder fear did not make you come home.” “Fear,” said Nelson, “I don’t know him.” Fit speech for a believer when work ing for God. “Fear? I do not know it! What does it mean?” The Lord is on our side? Whom shall we fear? “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Unwarrantable fearlessness

When William Rufus heard of a rebellion at Le Mans, he flung himself, at the news of it, into the first boat, and crossed the channel in the teeth of a storm. When his followers remonstrated with him, he contemptuously replied, “Kings never drown.” (H. O. Mackey.)

Christian courage

Some of the Indian chiefs having become the open enemies of the gospel, Mr. Elliot--sometimes called the Apostle of the American Indians--when in the wilderness, without the company of any other Englishman, was at various times treated in a threatening and barbarous manner by some of those men; yet his Almighty Protector inspired him with such resolution, that he said, “I am about the work of the great God, anal nay God is with me; so that I fear neither you nor all the sachims [or chiefs] in the country. I will go on, and do you touch me if you dare.” They heard him and shrank away. (W. Baxendale.)

Intellectual virtues

1. Intelligence, which is that act of reason whereby we understand every particular concerning everything.

2. Science, which is that act of reason whereby we know all truth in all things.

3. Sapience, which is that act of reason whereby we understand and perceive what will follow from everything.

4. Prudence, which is that act of reason whereby we observe the fittest opportunities for the effecting of all things.

5. Art or skill, which is that act of reason whereby we know how to effect everything most skilfully. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

A sound mind not easily attained

We may perceive that sound minds are not easily come by, whatsoever the world may judge. Some think themselves wise with a little wit, as others do themselves rich with no great wealth. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Power, love, and a sound mind are of absolute necessity for a resolute Christian, preacher, or private person

For power without love can work, but will not. Love without power would work, but cannot. And power and love can and will, but a sound mind is requisite to guide both. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Contagion of fear

Speaking of his experiences in battle, a soldier-writer says, “How infectious fear is; how it grows when yielded to; and how, when once you begin to run, it soon seems impossible to run fast enough; whereas, if you can manage to stand your ground, the alarm lessens, and sometimes disappears.” (H. O. Mackey.)

Needless fear

A lady was wakened up one morning by a strange noise of pecking at the window, and when she got up she saw a butterfly flying backwards and forwards inside the window in a great fright, because outside there was a sparrow pecking at the glass, wanting to reach the butterfly. The butterfly did not see the glass, but it saw the sparrow, and evidently expected every moment to be caught. Neither did the sparrow see the glass, though it saw the butterfly, and made sure of catching it. Yet all the while the butterfly, because of that thin, invisible sheet of glass, was actually as safe as if it had been miles away from the sparrow.” It is when we forget our Protector that our hearts fail us. Elisha’s servant was in great fear when he awoke in the morning and saw the city of Dothan eocompassed with horses and chariots and a great host; but when his eyes were opened at the prayer of the prophet, his fears vanished, for he beheld the mountains full of horses and chariots of fire. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.” “The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth and for evermore.” (James Inglis.)

Love casting out fear

The love of God casts out all other fear! Every affection makes him who cherishes it in some degree braver than he would have been without it. It is not degrading to this subject to remind you of what we see away far down in the scale of living beings. Look at that strange maternal instinct that in the lowest animals out of weakness makes them strong, and causes them to forget all terror of the most terrible at the bidding of the mighty and conquering affection. Look at the same thing on the higher level of our own human life. It is not self-reliance that makes the hero. It is having the heart filled with passionate enthusiasm born of love for some person or for some thing. Love is gentle, but it is omnipotent, victor over all. It is the true hero, and martyr if need be, in the human heart! And when we rise to the highest form of it--namely, the love which is fixed upon God--oh I how that should, and if it be right, will, strengthen and brace, and make every man in whom it dwells frank, fearless, careless of personal consequences. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Power of love

Some time ago a poor fellow, who had been in penal servitude many years, came back to Manchester. He called on an old friend, a teacher of a ragged school, and in course of conversation said, “Can you tell me where Mr. Wright lives?” The teacher replied, “Did you know Mr. Wright?” The man answered “Yes; after I was sent to prison I was hardened; I cursed God, and the judge and jury; I cursed myself, and I cursed the prison; and in my rage I tried to commit suicide; but that day Mr. Wright came into my cell, and knelt down and prayed for me. I would not kneel at first; but when I saw the old gentleman kneel down, and saw his tears trickling down his cheeks, I could not help myself, and I also knelt down and prayed; and that day I gave God my heart. When I came out of prison, I made up my mind to seek him and thank him for his kindness to me.” The teacher said, “Ah, my friend, Mr. Wright has been dead a long time.” The converted thief exclaimed, “Dead! Mr. Wright dead!” The teacher said, “Yes, he is dead; but the same Spirit which prompted him to kneel down in your cell is in a Person whom I know, who can bless you in every time of need.” He exclaimed, “Please tell me his name?” The teacher said, “is name is Jesus Christ.” (W. Birch.)

Verse 8

2 Timothy 1:8

Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner.

Not ashamed of Christianity

It was natural and right that an old warrior whose armour was worn with use should charge the young soldier to bear himself bravely in the war. Cowardice is bad always, whether in the physical heroisms of the battle-field, or the moral heroisms of common duty. We are cautioned against being ashamed! And shame is the child of doubt as well as the child of fear!

We should not be ashamed of a testimony for Christ, because Christianity gives the true reading of our moral nature. What are we? Apart from Christ, the world is just as much divided in its philosophical schools on this question as ever it was. The Utilitarian moralists enthrone the selfish instinct, and make the foundation of morals mere utility, or the greatest happiness principle; they test the morality of actions by their consequences, as if it were possible to trace them through all their sequences to their ultimate results, as if a man could thus judge, unless all the future ages were before him. But in setting up this standard, with one sharp and almost contemptuous sweep, they cut away the entire moral nature of man. Conscience has no place in their creed. “My own belief,” says Mr. Mill, “is that the moral feelings are not innate, but acquired.” Surely a fearful reading of human nature! “Let us make man in our image” becomes only a morbid dream of some early dramatist of creation! How this theory of human nature would, if adopted, ultimately affect society may perhaps best be understood by another sentence of Stuart Mill--“The proper limit to self-indulgence is that one shall neither hurt himself nor hurt others.” Imagine this, a man is not to consult conscience, or the sense of right and wrong, he is neither to be cheered by conscience nor to be scourged by remorse, but is suffered to take his stand amongst his fellow-beings, as a mere conscience-less, calculating machine, weighing not the moral wrong, but the outward harmfulness of self-indulgence. If I turn from the school of Buckle and Mill to the modern scientific school, if captivated by the discoveries of modern science, I sit as a disciple at the feet of Huxley or Darwin, my power to realise any lofty conception even of this present life is gone! I feel like a man who has saved his purse and lost his gold, or who has kept safely the golden frame but lost the portrait it contained. Let us look at their position! We are declared to be the last and noblest form of a long series of developments; we trace these back to the elementary types of life. It may constitute a theory of physical nature, it cannot constitute a theory of human nature. It has no explanation whatever of the past of our race. Yes, the gospel makes us feel the grandeur of life as life; its rewards here are moral, its punishments the same. Instead of bidding us to think alone on consequences, it reminds us that God searcheth the heart. Its garland of victory is the well done of conscience, its scourge of woe is the agony of remorse.

We should not be ashamed of Christianity, because it gives the true reading of man’s religious nature. Man must worship. We all admit that. History proves it. A nation without its altars is as undiscoverable as a firmament without its stars! But what says Paul to Timothy?--“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” “This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy.” Yes! Yes! this was the message! Christ the Saviour of men! This it is that comes home to the heart and conscience of humanity everywhere. This is the great message we preach in the face of all modern endeavours to give the gospel only a place in the religions of the world. Yes! how that meets the soul-needs of man! Conscience is at rest beneath that cross where Christ the Lamb of God taketh away the sins of the world. Pardon, virtue, self-denial, sacrifice, peace, hope, joy, love, these are the growths of the Christian life--these blossom on no other tree but the Tree of Life.

We should not de ashamed of Christianity, because it gives the true reading of man’s human life. Whatever the old theologies may have said, human life is divine. I mean by that, that the world into which we are born finds place and play for all our varied human faculties. It is manifest that man’s nature is a mistake, and the world a mistake, if a man is to move on in a region of Asceticism, or a transcendental region of Mysticism. Take this life! I say this is a beautiful world to live in. It is a world of colour! It is a world of sound! It is a world of mystery! It is a world of enterprise! It is a world of motion! It is a world of taste! It is a world, in fact, full of manifestations of adaptation to the being to be placed upon it by God. Now, if it were worldliness to touch all these things, then we are tempted to worldliness every hour, every moment, and the world is a cruel enchantress, that meets us at every step. Surely you know well that this is not worldliness, that Christ did not teach us it was worldliness. Man’s nature too would be a mistake. He has not only eyes to lift to heaven and knees to bend to earth, he has hands to toil with, a home to care for, a country to serve, and a whole round of earthly duties to discharge. Still it is a charge brought against Christianity that it is indifferent to human culture and affection. Now, I do admit this, that a man’s personal relation to God is the first question which the gospel of Christ deals with: he is to be brought nigh by the blood of Christ, to be a temple of the Holy Ghost, to rejoice in a spiritual sonship. But it is also true that all other duties and relationships are lifted into higher spheres, and ruled by higher motives. Christianity is not responsible for the perversion of ascetics, nor is it responsible for the abuse of worldlings. The Christians of Apostolic times must keep themselves unspotted from the world, not by avoiding the very possibility of its stains, but by a life in God which preserves them from the power of evil. And so must we: the difficulties of the case are the difficulties of moral life. Christianity consecrates the life of the family, the life of the city, the life of the state.

We should not be ashamed of a testimony for Christ, for Christianity gives a true reading of life, in Christ Himself. Christ is not only a Teacher; Christ is not only a Saviour; though He is both these. Christ is Christian life! He is His own religion alive and in action! When we study Christianity, we not only study the Evangels and the Epistles; we study Christ, Christ’s life is the ideal of all Christian life! As such I ask you to mark its practical side; its human side; its relation to all the interests, physical, social, and divine of the world Christ came to ransom and to save. Christ’s hours of prayer occupied much of His earthly life, but He was not one-sided in His life. How active He was--“He went about doing good.” How reasonable He was--He reasoned with the Jews out of their Scriptures. How home-loving He was--He abode at the house of Martha, and her sister Mary. How life’s cheerful pleasures found Him a sharer in them--His first miracle was wrought at the marriage feast of Cana in Galilee. How social He was--He dined at the house of the Pharisee. How actively compassionate He was--“He healed all their sick.” How wonderfully He carried the golden thread of the heavenly through the warp and woof of the earthly life. Oh! it is something beautiful indeed to possess that life. In all your experiences of emotion, awe, reverence, tenderness, it is not enough to feel the thrill of mere sensation. As Christ was consecrated to His Father, so must we be to Him!

We should not be ashamed of the testimony of Christ, for Christianity neglected wrongs our nature. All truth neglected wrongs our nature! I mean scientific truth, as well as religious truth. If I believe the world goes round, and if to propitiate priests, or to’ provide for some supposed protection of the Church’s creed, I say the world does not go round, I wrong my mind. If I reject religious truth, I wrong my mind in the worst sense; I wrong my conscience and my heart. That man is to be pitied who bears about with him the murdered body of truth! There are such men, they know the gospel, they need no further commendations of it to the conscience and the heart. I say Divine demonstration has been made to the faculty of judgment, and to the faculty of feeling. And yet as the apostle says, “They know not the truth.” They perpetuate that hideous immorality of bartering their souls for ease, pleasure, and sin! “Verily he that knew his Lord’s will and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.”

We should not be ashamed of a testimony for Christ, because Christianity in all these scenes stands alone. Its position is unique! This one thing we know, that a Saviour such as I have been speaking of, is none other but Christ. If there is, and we are to be confronted with some new Saviour, it is time that the criticisms of the day gave us a new Christ. We exhaust other subjects, but we never exhaust Christi With admiring and adoring homage we take our stand behind the Cross, and say to a world that wants a Saviour--“Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.” “Produce your cause,” says the Most High to all who would now declare His Anointed One! “Beside Me, there is no Saviour!” (W. M. Statham, M. A.)

Power of personal testimony

Mr. Blackwood was the means of my conversion twenty-four years ago. And what was it that laid hold of me? I was then as worldly a young man as any in London, but I went to hear him speak at Streatham, having given a promise to do so to the young lady who was afterwards my wife, and is now in heaven. The sermon did not produce much impression upon me, but afterwards Mr. Blackwood walked up to me, and put his hand on my shoulder, and in his own loving way said: “Dear friend, I do not think that I have seen you at this meeting before. Are you a Christian? I know Christ; I have proved Him; do you know Him?” I had to say, “No, I do not.” What the sermon did not do that testimony did, and I had no peace until I found the Saviour two days afterwards. Twenty-four years have passed since then; eighteen of them I have spent amongst the poor of the East of London, and I am more persuaded than ever that what the Church of Jesus Christ needs is not mere oratory, mere eloquence, mere wealth, but men who not only bear Christ’s name, but come right out for Him, so that no one in their senses can doubt their being children of God. (A. G. Brown.)

Cowardice rebuked

Thirty years ago, more or less, there was a boy in Scotland who would go to sea. His name was James, and his father was a respected citizen of a good town six miles from the sea. On James’s first voyage to Calcutta he kept up the habit of praying in the forecastle before turning in to his hammock, for he had been accustomed to do so regularly at home. Nobody said anything to him on the matter, but Bob Shearer, an able seamen, watched him. In Calcutta some of the seamen left the ship, and others were engaged in their place to work the ship home. One of these was a “rough,” whose name was Robert. Hence he was called English Bob, and Shearer was called Scotch Bob. One night, soon after the homeward voyage began, James was on his knees, when the eye of English Bob happened to fall on him. “I declare,” he cried, with an oath, “here’s a younker praying. Did you ever?” And thereupon he flung a heavy shoe at his head with excellent aim. Before James had time to rise Scotch Bob had the coward by the throat and told him to come upstairs and settle with him at once. The result was that English Bob got soundly and wholesomely thrashed. That night James went into his hammock without praying. But he had not time to fall asleep before Scotch Bob came and pitched him out. “What do you mean, you young coward? Say your prayers like a man! Do you think I’m going to fight for you and be disgraced in this way?” And so James never again failed to kneel before he slept, and feels to this day that his being ashamed of his Father in heaven and of the Saviour who died for him was well rebuked by the friendly courage of Bob Shearer. Long after, when his name had a title before it, and he was at the head of his profession, James had pleasure in finding Bob Sbearer’s mother, and bringing her to visit the mother who had taught him to pray. This story is related by James himself.

True friendship

Let me ask you a question. “What would you take for the greatest proof of downright friendship a man could show you?” “That is too hard a question to answer all at once.” “Well, I may be wrong, but the deepest outcome of friendship seems to me, on the part of the superior at least, the permission, or better still, the call, to share in his sufferings.” (Geo. Macdonald.)

Definition of a friend

What is a friend but one whom I can trust; one who, in sorrow’s hour, will mingle his tears with mine; one on whose support I can reckon when my back is at the wall! (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

According to the power of God.

What power of God? has been asked. Not according to the power we get from God, but according to the power which God has displayed towards us in our calling and in our marvellous salvation. In other words, God with great power has succoured us; surely we may be confident that He will never leave us, never desert us; but in the hours of our sorest trouble incurred for Him will keep us and will bring us safely through it. (H. D. M. Spence, M. A.)

Verse 9

2 Timothy 1:9

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling.

The people of God effectually called in time

We may, in the first place, inquire wherein this heavenly and holy calling is, or what such are represented in scripture as called to.

1. They are called, in the first place, it is said, “out of darkness into marvellous light.”

2. And then they are said, again, to be “called to the obtaining of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.” But then they are called to the knowledge of Jesus as “the way” to eternal life, and to simple and humble faith in Him, and to see such glory in Him as shall lead them to find Him to be to them everything they can need, and possessed of everything they can receive and enjoy here and for ever.

But then how is this accomplished? We say, by the Spirit; it is the Spirit’s work. But then He condescends to work by means, though He can work without means or by means, as He pleases. Generally speaking, the means is the Word of God, applied by His own almighty power and influence to the soul.

But then how are we to trace this? The text teaches us to trace it, not to anything in the creature, or any thing that distinguishes those who partake of that heavenly calling from those who never partake of it, but to the sovereign and rich and distinguishing grace of the great Jehovah. “Not according to our works, but according to tits own purpose and grace which was given us” long before we were born or had any existence, “given us in Christ Jesus” our spiritual Head, “given us in Him before the world began.” You will find this great change described by emblems, which imply altogether the incapacity of man to accomplish it, and imply that he can have nothing in him to deserve it or merit it. It is called, you know, in one place, a resurrection--what none but God can possibly accomplish. (W. Wilkinson, B. A.)

Effectual calling, with its fruits

The nature and extent of the gospel-call.

1. We read in Scripture of an universal or general call, directed to all that live under the gospel. The invitation runs in the most comprehensive terms, that none may think themselves excluded. Salvation by faith in Christ was first proposed to the Jews, but upon their peremptory refusal it was offered without distinction to the Gentiles, who received it gladly; from which time the partition-wall has been broken down, and in every nation, they that fear God and work righteousness may be accepted of Him. But here, it must be carefully observed, the gospel-call is of a moral nature, and addressed to our reasonable powers. The blessed Jesus does not force men into His service by offering violence to their understanding and will; but convinces the former by setting the important truths of religion before it in a just and amiable light; and influences the latter by motives and arguments proper to dispose it to act agreeable to such conviction. If men complain their powers are broken, and that of themselves they cannot comply with the calls of God in His Word, He has directed them where to seek for necessary assistance, and has exalted His Son Jesus to give repentance, as well as remission of sins. So that if men finally refuse the gospel salvation, it will appear to have been owing more to a want of will than of power.

2. Besides this general call of the gospel, there is a more particular and personal call, when the Holy Spirit shines into the mind with such irresistible light as convinces the judgment, awakens the conscience, and engages the will to a compliance with every part of its duty’.

We are to inquire into the author of effectual calling, which my text says is GOD. If ministers had the tongues of angels, they could not of themselves prevail with sinners to believe and obey the gospel. By the representation the Scripture gives of the deplorable condition of fallen man, it is further evident that his effectual calling must he from God; for it says, that his under standing is darkened, and “alienated from the life of God.” That his will and affections are under invincible prejudices against virtue and goodness, and strongly biassed to sin and folly; nay, that he is a slave to the devil, and carried captive by him at his pleasure. Is it not reasonable to conclude the necessity of a Divine agency, in order to accomplish the mighty change? Besides, effectual calling is compared in Scripture to those wonderful works that are peculiar to God Himself. It is called a New Creation, and a resurrection from the dead; nay, ‘tis compared to the mighty power of God, which was wrought in Christ when He was raised from the dead (Ephesians 1:19).

We are now to consider the properties by which this call of the spirit is described.

1. It is secret, God does not call sinners wish an audible voice, but by secret and powerful impressions upon their souls.

2. It is a personal call; ministers draw the bow at a venture, but the Spirit of God directs the arrow to the breast, where it is to enter.

3. Effectual calling is under the direction of She sovereign will and pleasure of God, as to the time, and manner, and means of it. Some are called into the vineyard at the third hour; others at the sixth, and others not till the eleventh hour. The manner of God’s calling men into the kingdom of grace is no less various. The like variety may be observed in the means of effectual calling. Some have been awakened by a sermon, others by remarkable providence. Some by reading the Holy Scriptures, or heel,s of devotion; and others by religious conversation, meditation and prayers.

4. Effectual calling is without any regard to our works: so says the apostle in the text, “He has called us not according to our works.”

5. The effectual calling of the Holy Spirit is always successful.

We are to consider the fruits and consequences of effectual calling. Before their conversion they were in a state of darkness, slavery, corruption and death; now they are delivered from all this misery, and made partakers of the privileges of the children of God. But the more immediate consequences of effectual calling may be comprehended under these three particulars.

1. The first is, regeneration, or the new nature.

2. Sanctification by the Holy Spirit is another consequence of effectual calling.

3. A certain prophet of salvation. (D. Noel.)

Effectual calling

I am to show what the effectual call in the general is. All effectual call is opposed to an ineffectual one. An effectual call is the call that gains its real intent; that is to say, when the party called comes when called. To apply this to our purpose, all that hear the gospel are called; but,

1. To some of them it is ineffectual, and these are the most part of gospel-hearers, “For many be called, but few chosen” (Matthew 20:10). They are called, invited; but it is but the singing of a song to a deaf man that is not moved with it (Proverbs 1:24).

2. To others it is effectual, and these are but few (Matthew 20:16).

I come now to show who they are that abe thus effectually called. The text tells us that this effectual call is according to God’s purpose and free grace in Christ.

1. It is men, and not fallen angels, that are called.

2. It is some men, and not others, that are called effectually, and these naturally in as bad and sinful a condition as others (Ephesians 2:12).

3. It is for the most part those who have the least advantages as to their outward condition in the world (1 Corinthians 1:26-28).

I proceed to show whence and whither they are called who are effectually called.

1. Called out of the world that lieth in wickedness (1 John 5:19). And hence the Church has its name in the prophetical and apostolical writings, Ekklesia; i.e., a company called out from among others, a gathered congregation.

2. Called unto Jesus Christ, and through Him to the blessed society of another world.

I proceed to show what makes the call effectual to some, when it is not so to others. Negatively.

1. It is neither the piety, parts, nor seriousness of those who are employed to carry the gospel-call to sinners (1 Corinthians 3:7).

2. Neither is it one that uses his own free will better than another does (Romans 9:6). Positively. We may say in this case, “Not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord.”

It may be asked, what necessity is there for their being thus called? The necessity of it is manifest to all that know their natural case.

1. They are far off (Ephesians 2:13), far from God, and Christ, and all good (Ephesians 2:12). Hence the call is, “Draw nigh to God.”

2. They are hard and fast asleep, and they need this call, “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:14).

3. If they were awakened they know not where to go to (Acts 2:37).

4. If they did not know where to go to, they are not willing to go thither (John 5:40).

5. If they are willing to go to Christ, yet being awakened, they dare not venture, guilt so states them in the face, “Thou saidst, There is no hope” (Jeremiah 2:25).

6. If they durst come, yet they cannot come, unless they be drawn (John 6:44).

I shall more particularly explain the nature of effectual calling. It is the work of the Lord’s Spirit.

1. On the understanding.

(1) An illumination of the soul from Mount Sinai.

(2) An illumination of the soul from Mount Zion.

2. On the will of the sinner. This faculty of the soul needs also a saving work of the Spirit thereon, being fearfully depraved in the state of nature (Romans 8:7). Now, the Spirit’s work on the will is, the renewing of it (Ezekiel 36:26). (T. Boston, D. D.)

Salvation altogether by grace

It is somewhat remarkable--at least it may seem so to persons who are not accustomed to think upon the subject--that the apostle, in order to excite Timothy to boldness, to keep him constant in the faith, reminds him of the great doctrine that the grace of God reigns in the salvation of men.

Very carefully let us consider the doctrine taught by the apostle in this text.

1. The apostle in stating his doctrine in the following words, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,” declares God to be the Author of salvation--“Who hath saved us and called us.” The whole tenor of the verse is towards a strong affirmation of Jonah’s doctrine, “that salvation is of the Lord.” To say that we save ourselves is to utter a manifest absurdity. We are called in Scripture “a temple”--A holy temple in the Lord. But shall any one assert that the stones of the edifice were their own architect? No: we believe that God the Father was the architect, sketched the plan, supplied the materials, and will complete the work. Shall it also be said that those who are redeemed, redeemed themselves? that slaves of Satan break their own fetters? Then why was a Redeemer needed at all? Do you believe that the sheep of God, whom He has taken from between the jaws of the lion, could have rescued themselves? Can the dead make themselves alive?

2. We next remark that grace is in this verse rendered conspicuous when we see that God pursues a singular method--“Who hath saved us and called us.” The peculiarity of the manner lies in three things--first, in the completeness of it. The apostle uses the perfect tense and says, “who hath saved us.” Believers in Christ Jesus are saved. This completeness is one peculiarity--we must mark another. I want you to notice the order as well as the completeness: “who hath saved us and called us. What I saved us before He called us? Yes, so the text says. But is a man saved before he is called by grace? Not in his own experience, not as far as the work of the Holy Spirit goes, but he is saved in God’s purpose, in Christ’s redemption, and in his relationship to his covenant Head; and he is saved, moreover, in this respect, that the work of his salvation is done, and he has only to receive it as a finished work. In the olden times of imprisonment for debt, it would have been quite correct for you to step into the cell of a debtor and say to him, I have freed you, if you had paid his debts and obtained an order for his discharge. Well, but he is still in prison. Yes; but you really liberated him as soon as you paid his debts.

3. When a speaker desires to strengthen his point and to make himself clear, he generally puts in a negative as to the other side. So the apostle adds a negative: “Not according to our works.” The world’s great preaching is, “Do as well as you can, live a moral life, and God will save you.” The gospel preaching is this: “Thou art a lost sinner, and thou canst deserve nothing of God but His displeasure; if thou art to be saved, it must be by an act of sovereign grace.”

4. My text is even more explicit yet, for the eternal purpose is mentioned. The next thing the apostle says is this: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our worlds but according to His own purpose.” Mark that word--“according to His own purpose.” Do you not see how all the merit and the power of the creature are shut out here, when you are saved, not according to your purpose or merit, but “according to His own purpose”?

5. But then the text, lest we should make any mistake, adds, “according to His own purpose and grace.” The purpose is not founded on foreseen merit, but upon grace alone. It is grace, all grace, nothing but grace from first to last.

6. Again, in order to shut out everything like boasting, the whole is spoken of as a gift. Do notice that, “purpose and grace which He gave us”--not “which He sold us,” “offered us,” but “which He gave us.”

7. But the gift is bestowed through a medium which glorifies Christ. It is written, “which was given us in Christ Jesus.” We ask to have mercy from the well-head of grace, but we ask not even to make the bucket in which it is to be brought to us; Christ is to be the sacred vessel in which the grace of God is to be presented to our thirsty lips.

8. Yet further, a period is mentioned and added--“before the world began.” Those last words seem to me for ever to lay prostrate all idea of anything of our merits in saving ourselves, because it is here witnessed that God gave us grace “before the world began.” Where were you then? What hand had you in it “before the world began”?

Show the uses of this doctrine. I would that free grace were more preached, because it gives men something to believe with confidence. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

God’s plan for man’s salvation

The origin of our salvation. Three facts claim our notice.

1. It is with God. The last clause of the preceding verse shows to whom the pronoun “who” refers--“According to the power of God.” It is God the Father to whom the apostle alludes. The Bible everywhere preserves the distinction between the origin and the means of our salvation. The last it invariably ascribes to God the Son: the first it as invariably ascribes to God the Father. In Ephesians 2:4-7 we have a striking instance of this. In verse 5, it is “with Christ”; verse 6, “by Christ”; verse 7, “through Christ.” But all these expressions are introduced by the statement in verse 4, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith tie loved us,” etc. And so, in the text, the apostle says it is “in Christ Jesus”; but it originates so entirely with God the Father, that He is said to have “saved us.” This Scripture distinction does away with the only apparently plausible objection that has been raised against the atonement of Christ--viz., that it represents the Father as unwilling to save sinners, or as needing to be appeased. The eternal Father, and the suffering Son, are united in one ascription of praise. In all our doctrinal statements, and in all our expressions of praise, let us give honour to both.

2. It is in His own purpose and grace. The idea of a purpose resulting from grace alone is prominent here. Our salvation not only originates with God, but in His gracious purpose alone.

(1) It is not the result of necessity. Even acts of grace are sometimes necessary. The public voice demands them--the interests of the empire require them--the weakness of the government renders them expedient. Nay, the claims of justice itself may be satisfied, and grace steps forward. No voice in heaven--on earth--in hell--could have demanded salvation for guilty men. Believer, your damnation would not have tarnished His glory. Your salvation originated in His own purpose and grace.

(2) It was not from the impulse of others. A generous heart is sometimes sluggish. It needs to be excited. One word from another has often stirred to benevolent action. Our merciful God needed no stimulus. It was not the offer of Jesus to die for us which roused Him to save us--ii only met His own gracious desire. No pleading of angels or of men impelled Him. His loving heart did not wait for either. A few years ago a vessel was wrecked on the coast at Scarborough. It was in the night. The signals of distress aroused the crew of the lifeboat; the men were on the cliff, looking out and pitying; but the danger was so great that they stirred not. As soon as it was light crowds gathered on the spot. One voice was heard. It was the voice of a stranger. Pointing to the wreck, it appealed to the lifeboat’s crew. It reached the hearts of the men. The boat was launched and manned. Soon it returned, bearing the saved ones to the shore. About the same time another wreck occurred on the same coast. It was the dead of night. A daughter and her father were sleeping in the lighthouse. The signal of distress awoke the young woman. She saw the peril. No voice was near to stir her to the deed of mercy. She aroused her father. Solitary and unstimulated they entered the boat--the wreck was reached--the wrecked ones were borne back in safety. Both deeds were noble; but you see the difference. The impulse from another stirred the crew of the lifeboat. No impulse was needed to stir the heart of Grace Darling. All illustrations must fail us; but we are speaking of Him who needed no impulse--waited for none--but acted at once from His own gracious purpose.

(3) It was not by the counsel of others. The phrase “His own purpose” here is expressive. The generous heart is sometimes perplexed. It needs no stimulus, but it needs counsel. Difficulties stand in the way of following out its own promptings. Its language often is--“Oh! tell me what I can do to save him.” How gratefully it welcomes the happy thought which removes all its perplexities. David’s heart yearned towards Absalom, but his kingly office stood in the way of indulging a father’s wishes. How welcome were the counsels of the woman of Tekoah, when she threw herself in his way to plead for the guilty one. But God was His own counsellor in man’s salvation. He had no counsellor in creation--no architect. He was His own. He has no counsellor in providence. He needs no minister to advise, or privy council to deliberate--He is His own. It was yet more true as to man’s salvation. It is “the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure, which He hath pursued in Himself” (Ephesians 1:9). He had no counsellor. No one can divide the honour with Him.

3. It is not according to our works. The apostle here intends to put good works in their right place; not to set them aside. By “good works” he invariably means not charities alone, however benevolent--nor prayers alone, however devout: he includes the whole works of a holy life. The daughter of Jairus was raised by Jesus. Think you not that, as the thrill of returning life passed through her veins, her first emotion would be that of love to Him who had rescued her from the grave, and that ever after she would be anxious to show it by every act which gratitude prompted? But Jesus raised her from His own gracious purpose. Her subsequent acts were the effect, not the cause.

The means or method of our salvation. Three facts deserve attention.

1. It is in Christ. Paul teaches this: It is “according to His own purpose and grace”; but he adds, “which was given us in Christ Jesus.” No views of God’s purposes are right, then, which separate them from Christ Jesus. God has revealed no purpose except in Him. His very mercy, full as it is, knows no channel except through Him. Most men are ready to be saved--nay, wish it. The hard lesson for some to learn is, salvation by Christ. Strange that it should be so. The method which most honours God is the most suited to us.

2. It is by God’s calling.

3. This calling is holy. The Apostle Paul has clearly explained his own meaning (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). We pause not now to reason with those who would make it a salvation to sin, and not from sin. The text points higher than this. It is not enough to say that we are saved in the way of holiness: our very calling is holy--holy in its design, and holy in its spirit. It breathes spiritual purity, as well as life into the soul--A portion of the pure atmosphere of heaven itself. There is no calling by God which is not a holy calling. He stamps His own image as His own mark upon every soul He calls and saves. There are three classes to whom we wish especially to apply these statements.

(1) To those inquiring after the way to salvation. Inquirer; we compared our text to a miniature map of the way of salvation. Take care that you follow it. John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim” found his way out of the City of Destruction easily enough when alarmed. But his own mistakes, and the misleadings of others, led him into many perils. Nor was it until Evangelist met him the second time, and set him right, that he found the wicket gate, and the only way to the Celestial City. Take this verse with you at the beginning of your journey. Study it well. It will preserve you from serious perils to your salvation.

(2) To those who object to God’s plan of salvation. Our reference now is to those who object on the ground of its supposed tendency. It is thought by some that a salvation so arranged will check a holy life. If rightly viewed, it stimulates to it. If holiness be not always the result of the doctrine, the cause of failure is not in the truth, but in the heart on which it falls. When the soft fertilising shower has fallen on your garden, old flowers give fresh signs of life, and new flowers begin to open their buds. Nay, the seed hitherto buried, but invisible appears. And yet in one part of the garden you look, and although the same pure rain has fallen upon it, and the same seed lies buried beneath it, no flowers appears. The cause is not with the rain, but the soil. It was the doctrine of salvation by grace which transformed the frivolous dissipated young soldier of Corfu into the consistent, holy, religious hero of the Crimea--Captain Hedley Vicars.

3. To those who despise or neglect this salvation. Does its simple easy method offend you? How is this? The accomplishment of great ends by the simplest means is usually regarded as the greatest achievement of wisdom. This plan is the result of Divine wisdom alone. No other wisdom could have devised it. (Samuel Luke.)

A holy calling

St. Peter (1 Peter 1:15) gives the full force of this epithet: “As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.” (Speaker’s Commentary.)

God’s call

The voice of Divine grace prevailing upon the will. This is the ruling meaning of “call,” “calling,” etc., in the Epistles; while in the Gospels it means no more, necessarily, than the audible invitations of the gospel (see, e.g., Matthew 22:14)

. (H. C. G. Moule, M. A.)

A holy calling

1. For the causes of it are holy; God, Christ, the Spirit, and the Word are all said to be holy. And the ministers, for the most part, are holy, who be instruments in this action.

2. And in regard of the end too, and the subjects from which we are called, and to which we be called, it is a holy calling. For first, We are called from darkness to light. Secondly, From uncleanness to holiness. Thirdly, From wicked men and devils, to the communion of saints and angels. Fourthly, We are called from earth that is polluted, unto heaven the holy mountain of the Lord.

3. In the last place, this is to teach such as are called on this manner to walk worthy of their calling. Is it a holy calling? live thou holily. Shall a prince plod in the mire, defile his clothes, and pollute his person, by the base offices of poor subjects? How unseemly then is it for these holy brethren. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Christianity a holy religion

To a young infidel who was scoffing at Christianity because of the misconduct of its professors, the late Dr. Mason said, “Did you ever know an uproar to be made because an infidel went astray from the paths of morality?” The infidel admitted that he had not. “Then don’t you see,” said Dr. Mason, “that, by expecting the professors of Christianity to be holy, you admit it to be a holy religion, and thus pay it the highest compliment in your power?” The young man was silent.

Grace does not lightly esteem

There is sometimes the thought that grace implies God’s passing by sin. But no--quite the contrary; grace supposes sin to be so horribly bad a thing, that God cannot tolerate it. Were it in the power of man, after being unrighteous and evil, to patch up his ways, and mend himself so as to stand before God, there would then be no need of grace. The very fact of the Lord’s being gracious shows sin to be so evil a thing, that man, being a sinner, his state is utterly ruined and hopeless, and nothing but free grace will do for him--can meet his need. (Anon.)

Salvation by grace

The late Rev. C. J. Latrobe visited a certain nobleman in Ireland who devoted considerable sums to charitable purposes; and, among other benevolent acts, had erected an elegant church at his own expense. The nobleman, with great pleasure, showed Mr. Latrobe his estate, pointed him to the church, and said, “Now, sir, do you not think that will merit heaven?” Mr. Latrobe paused for a moment, and said, “Pray, my lord, what may your estate be worth a year?” “I imagine,” said the nobleman, “about thirteen or fourteen thousand pounds.” “And do you think, my lord,” answered the minister, “that God would sell heaven, even for thirteen or fourteen thousand pounds?”

Grace and free will

Mrs. Romaine was once in company with a clergyman at Tiverton, who spoke with no little zeal against what he called “irresistible grace,” alleging that “such grace would be quite incompatible with free will.” “Not at all so,” answered Mrs. Romaine; “grace operates effectually, yet not coercively. The wills of God’s people are drawn to Him and Divine things,. just as your will would be drawn to a bishopric, if you had the offer of it.” (W. Baxendale.)

The sovereign grace of God

Henry IV., King of France, was in every point of view a great man. It is said that on an anniversary of his birthday he made the following reflection: “I was born on this day, and no doubt, taking the world through, thousands were born on the same day with me, yet out of all those thousands I am probably the only one whom God hath made a king, How peculiarly am I favoured by the bounty of His providence!” But a Christian, reflecting on his second birth, may, with greater reason, adore the free and sovereign grace of God.

Verse 10

2 Timothy 1:10

But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death.

The appearing

Remarkable as the only passage in the New Testament in which the word ἐπιφανεία ( = manifestation) is applied to the incarnation of our Lord. (E. H. Plumptre, D. D.)

The simple act of the Incarnation by no means covers the “appearing.” The “appearing” (Epiphany) here includes not only the birth, but the whole manifestation of Christ on earth, including the Passion and the Resurrection. (H. D. M. Spence, M. A.)

Living in the days of Christ’s appearing

Seeing that the days wherein we live are better than the days of old, we must thrive, and be better also. The more choice diet we feed on, the fatter and fairer should we be; the clearer light, the cleaner must we keep ourselves from pollution, contamination. When trees are removed to a more fertile soil, do we not expect that they should spread further, and be more fruitful than before? when cattle are put into a better pasture will we not look for better growth, more labour at their hands? Shall not we then grow strong, work mightily in the Lord’s vineyard, and resolutely run the ways of His commands? Is not our light brighter, our spiritual food better, and our journey shorter? then why is there not some equal proportion? These things must be thought upon, made use of, or else our account one day will be the greater, the heavier; for unto whom much is given, shall much be required. They who have greater means for grace than others, must strive to be more gracious than others, or look for the more heavier reckoning. Our fathers were led in the night, the moon was their conductor; we are now in the day, when as the sun guideth us, shall we not then go faster, farther, with less fear, and more resolution, greater boldness? But alas! who taketh knowledge of these things maketh the true use thereof? We have the sun shining, yet sleep; or if awake, we cry, want we not light? I say no more, but with that our idleness cause not the Lord to remove our candlestick. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Who hath abolished death.

Death abolished

The article is used here emphatically and designedly. The article is often used to express a thing in the abstract. Death, not merely in some particular instance, but in all its aspects and bearings, and in its very essence, being and idea is abolished. (James Bryce, LL. D.)

Death of none effect

Christ Jesus is not only a living embodiment of the Eternal purpose and love of the Father, but He is also declared to be the Saviour who made death of none effect, abolished or rendered inoperative that death which is the universal curse of man, which “has passed through upon all men” (Romans 5:12), and is grimly symbolised to us in the dissolution of the body. The Lord declared that those who lived and believed in Him should never die. St. John could never have recorded these words of the Master (John 11:26) when a whole generation of Christians, including all the apostles, with the exception of himself, had passed away and come under the tyrannous sway of the last enemy, unless he had supposed the words to imply something far more and other than the death of the body. Wiesinger, Huther, Ellicott, and others are right in understanding by the word thanatos, “death,” the entire antithesis to zoe? or “life.” Surely it is the entire principle of decay, corruption, and separation from God instituted by sin. It includes all the animosity that a living, self-conscious being feels against God for bringing him into a dying world, all the resistance to and departure from His supreme will. It is this otherwise irremediable curse, and painful looking for of condign punishment, this moral death and dissolution, which Christ has disarmed and rendered inoperative. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)

Death abolished

Everybody can feel the fitness of saying that sin and death are two of the greatest enemies of the human race. Expressive and appropriate is the habit we derive from Scripture of speaking of them as persons, hostile powers, who make war on us. Between the two there is a terrible alliance. They are in league against us; and though, if we are even victorious over them, we are told that death will be the last to be destroyed, yet sin was the first, and sin is the greatest. Not that, except for sin, these material bodies would be immortal. Eventual dissolution and decay into their elements belong to their constitution, as much as to that of vegetables in autumn. “We all do fade as a leaf.” “All flesh is as grass.” But though dissolution seems a characteristic of human bodies, the doubt and terror which accompany death are due to sin, which has estranged us from our Maker, whom, in consequence, we have ceased to think of as our Father. Thus the sting of death is sin. The voyage across the Atlantic is one thing to the slave, hurried by a captor, he knows not whither, and quite another to the traveller returning home. These, then, are the two greatest evils which afflict humanity; and, now, is there any remedy for them--any deliverer from them? Christianity professes to bring a remedy,--to announce a Deliverer both from sin and death. Hence, its message is called the gospel--the good news. “The Son of man was manifested, to destroy the works of the devil”; and “our Saviour Jesus Christ hath abolished death.”

Death made of none effect. Such is the meaning of “abolished.” Not to do away with altogether, but to render imperfect, and in that sense to destroy. The entire destruction spoken of in the fifteenth chapter of the First of Corinthians will come later. Christianity has made no difference in regard to the dissolution and decay which befall all mortal bodies. It is still true that “all flesh is as grass.” Its language, however, is not “Death shall never again strike down a human being, or make a happy home a house of mourning,” but “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” “To die is gain.” So death is made of none effect.

Jesus Christ, our savior from death. We may well ask, “By what rare enchantment can the king of terrors be transformed thus into an angel of light?” Who “can make a dying bed seem soft as downy pillows are?” Even he who said to a sister weeping at a brother’s grave, “I am the Resurrection and the Life: whosoever liveth, and believeth in Me shall never die!” “To depart is to be with Christ, which is far better.” But how so? Was He not the man Christ Jesus? And did He not Himself die in anguish? And was He not Himself laid in the tomb? Truly, if He was no more than man, our Christian hope of immortality is a baseless imposture. But the good news from God is that Jesus Christ was more; that He is the Lord of life, the King immortal and eternal, who wrapped Himself awhile in perishable human clay, but whom it was not possible that death should hold. And the reason of His coming is thus expressed in Scripture: “Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same, that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death.”

Through death He abolished death. By Himself passing down into the dark valley, into the silent tomb, He disarmed the grave of its terrors. And as we saw that death and sin are closely allied,--death the wages of sin, and sin the sting of death,-they are allied in regard to our deliverance from them. Our Saviour from the one, is our Saviour from the other.

Life and incorruption brought to light. A great shadow was spread over the world, and it lay the deepest over human life. Now, the great light, which the people who sat in darkness have seen in Christ, brings to view the novel and glorious fact of life associated with immortality, or incorruptibility. (T. M. Herbert, M. A.)

Death abolished

He must have had strong faith who, writing amidst the signs of death ever near him in a populous city, could write, Jesus Christ hath abolished death. He felt within him the inspiration of an immortal life; and it gave a new character to all things around him. In his prison in Rome, heaven was his home. Adhering to a religion whose first preachers were martyrs, he saw no death in martyrdom. Having finished his course, and ready to be offered up, his time of departure--not of death--was at hand. Let us meditate upon this great subject, and see if we can understand the apostle. There is one doctrine of Christianity to which our hearts have not done justice, because our faith has not felt its power; that doctrine is, that “Jesus Christ has abolished death.”

The fact--“Jesus Christ hath abolished death.”

1. If you observe the connection, you will see this was the consequence of an everlasting purpose of grace. See the preceding verse. This glorious truth is not a thought of yesterday, not a thought that entered the mind of God on occasion of the fall of man, but a purpose made before man fell, before the world began. And this everlasting purpose is the firm and immutable rock on which rests the whole fabric of our salvation. I know some persons are afraid to think of an everlasting purpose, an immutable decree of God, as if it were an awful, an unapproachable mystery. It is, indeed, awful, as is every attribute of Him who dwells in light inaccessible, but it need not be terrible. Observe the words: “according to His own purpose and grace.” The purpose and the grace are intimately associated. The grace is as old as the purpose. Both are from everlasting. The purpose flows out of the grace, for the grace is the nature of the eternal God from which His purpose flows, and must be gracious like Himself. What is there to fear in a purpose of grace? Would you not be comforted in the trials of life, if you found in every emergency that your earthly father had made ample provision by a kind purpose before you were born? If for your infancy comforts were provided at his expense by a mother’s care; and if you found a fund set apart to pay the expense of your good education, should any casuality deprive you of his immediate care; and when you came of age you found a sum insured at your birth to enable you to commence business with respectability and good success; and everywhere else, as parental forethought and love could foresee, a purpose appeared in a present supply of your wants;--would not all this he an assurance and perpetual memorial of your father’s good will? would it not endear him the more to your heart? and would you not cherish the memory of him who with so much forethought had provided for you with affectionate and loving regard? Just so with the gracious purpose of God.

2. But the fact of the abolition of death, connected with an everlasting purpose, was manifested in time by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ. But how was it manifested? Wherein did Christ appear to abolish death? When did He accomplish this gracious purpose? We naturally look for the answer to His own death. Was that not really death? Was it a departure rather than a death? Did He ever say with regard to Himself that death was abolished? Did He meet death as if He had already destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil? Go to Calvary and observe. What signs are there but true signs of death? He died, He tasted death. But, then, in dying He abolished death for all believers. It is as if He absorbed all the venom of the sting of death into His own soul and left none to distress the souls of His people; so that death, so dreadful to Him, is to them without a curse, without a sting, and but a shadow. Scripture has found for it a new name, a name of pleasant association, and calls it sleep (1 Thessalonians 4:14). In saying Jesus really endured the pains of death, I refer not chiefly to the extreme bodily sufferings which He endured, but to the mental conflict and agony which to Him were the bitterness and curse of death. Christ hath abolished death, as every spirit in heaven feels with delight; and if we know it not now, we shall know it hereafter with rapturous delight. But must we wait till we reach the blissful life of heaven before we can say in the fulness of a joyful heart, “Our Saviour Jesus Christ hath abolished death”? Well, I fear we must--at least, many of us. Our faith seems as if it could not grasp and feel this great text. We are but sorry Christians if thus we pass our lives grovelling in clay, in bondage through fear of death. Worldling! you are right in fearing death, for it will strip you of all your beloved and prized possessions. Unpardoned sinner! you are right in fearing death, for to you it will be the dreadful doom and beginning of endless woe. Lover of pleasure! you are right in your fear, for it will turn your pleasure into pain, remorse, consternation, anguish. Worshipper of Mammon! you are right, for it will take away your gods, and what have you left? But Christians, are we not ashamed of ourselves? Christians, unworthy of the name, are you afraid of death? Do you not believe that Christ hath abolished it? Yes, you believe it as a fact; at least, you say so, and you think so. But do you know it as an experience--A truth of the heart as well as of the creed--A truth in which you rejoice as the conquest of the last enemy?

The experience that our saviour Jesus Christ hath abolished death. Paul rose out of these earthly shadows, awoke from these carnal dreams; saw the world, not as we see it, a substantial form, but as an evening cloud whose tints were fading, as a flickering flame whose glory was passing away. New light from the excellent glory came around him and gave new colour and character to all things about him. His prison was fading, and he scarcely saw it in the surrounding glory; his chain was melting off his hand and he scarcely felt it, for the day of his great deliverance was rising. Caesar’s tribunal, its attendants, pomp, lictors, sergeants, soldiers, executioners, what were they all in the full light of the great salvation all around him? They were virtually abolished too. Heaven was near, he could hear its sweet music. Eternal life was within him, he could feel its power. Immortality was brought to light, he could see it and rejoice in it. There was no more death, to obscure that light of unfading glory. They could not kill him, could not destroy that which he had learned to call himself, and which felt and knew everything in its relation not to time but to eternity. And there have been many others like him. (R. Halley, D. D.)

Christ abolishing death

“All men,” says St. Paul,” are all their life- time, through fear of death, subject to bondage.” And every one, who has at all watched his own mind, knows that this is true. The very heathen, as our missionaries teach, tell us how death is known and feared, and looked forward to, with fearful expectation, as the great and universal enemy. Thus the fear of death is felt by all men, and is the fly in every pot of ointment, that, once found there, spoils and mars it: it is the sword hung overhead, whose keen point and sharp edge glitter ominously and threateningly in the light of every banquet; it is the hollow skull, with its eyeless sockets and its melancholy emptiness, that spoils every marble monument.

Men always did and still do all they can to keep off the unwelcome thought. The Greek and Roman, as they bound their heads with the wreath of roses, and stretched their limbs on the soft moss under the green arbutus, and drank off their goblets of wine, tried to forget that all this would soon be over, and that there would come one day the last disease. But it always was vain, and always will be, to attempt to quench the thought, though it may he staved off; the wine and flowers and song cannot last for ever.

But what 1s it that thus makes death an object of universal apprehension and dread? Is it always the act of death? is the mere dying always a dreadful thing? No! it is sin; it is the sense of accountability, and the solemn expectation of the account we have to render; it is “the fearful expectation and looking-for of judgment”: it is these which make death dreadful and dreaded, so that, “through fear of death men have been subject to bondage.”

Our text says that Christ “hath abolished death.” is, then, death dead? That cannot be. I see Christians die as well as other men. But the sting of death is drawn; for sin is taken away. Death, therefore, is not the summoner of God’s court of trial, but the usher to call him into God’s glorious presence-chamber. The Christian does not die when his body and his soul are for a time divided. He has in his spirit, that is, in himself, his truest self, a life which is eternal; from the moment he believes and trusts in Christ, from that moment “he hath eternal life.”

But, is it only the Christian to whom death is thus abolished? “The fathers, where are they?” Did life and immortality begin with Christ? Were Christians the first to share and to enjoy them? Righteous Abel, when he fell by a brother’s hand, and his fainting soul departed from his mangled body, took possession of the paradise of God. Noah and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, David and Hezekiah, the glorious company of the prophets, the whole line of penitent believers--however unknown to men, yet known to God--inherited at death the same life that the Christian now inherits. But they did not know, as we know, the life and immortality which they received. Life and immortality existed as surely then, as now; but they then were “in the dark.” The light had not risen: it was night with them; and only the stars threw a trembling light on the things beyond the grave. The heathen had, indeed, their Elysian fields; but that shadowy world was only a reproduction of the most pleasing portions of this present life, where, as the Indian hopes to use his bow and arrows to hunt the shadowy deer, as the Chinese hopes to employ the ghost of his loved paper money in that spectral world, so the heathens of Greece and Rome saw their heroes engrossed in the employments and amusements of this world--throwing the quoit, or driving the chariot, or reposing on beds of roses, in those fields of their own creation. And the views of the pious Jews and patriarchs were dim and obscure. “A land of darkness, as darkness itself, and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness” (Job 10:22; Isaiah 38:10-11; Psalms 88:4-5). (W. W. Champneys, M. A.)

The death of death

The evil in question--It is death. We should suppose that this subject was very familiar to the thoughts of men, were we to judge from the importance and frequency of the event. But, alas! nothing is so little thought of. Let us examine what Nature teaches us concerning death; and then go to the Scripture for additional information.

1. Suppose then there had been no revelation from God--what does Nature teach us concerning death?

(1) It sees plainly enough that it is a cessation of our being. The lungs no longer heave; the pulse ceases to beat; the blood pauses and congeals; the eye closes; the tongue is silent; and the hand forgets her cunning. We are laid in the grave, where worms feed upon us.

(2) It also teaches us the universality of death.

(3) Nature teaches us that death is unavoidable.

(4) Nature sees also that death is irreparable. It cannot, produce a single specimen of posthumous life.

(5) We may also learn from it that death is uncertain an its circumstances; and that no man knows the place, the time, the manner, in which he shall expire. If it be objected that the generality of the heathen have had some other views of death than those which we have conceded, and had even notions of an existence beyond the grave--let it be observed, that the world always had a revelation from God; and that when mankind dispersed from the family of Noah, they carried the discoveries along with them; but as they were left to tradition, they became more and more obscure; yet they yielded hints which led to reflections that otherwise would have never occurred. And if wise men, especially from these remains of an original revelation, were led into some speculations bordering upon truth, it should be remembered that in a case like this, as Paley observes, nothing more is known than is proved: opinion is not knowledge; nor conjecture principle.

2. But how much more does the Scripture teach! Here we learn--

(1) Its true nature. To the eye of sense death appears annihilation; but to the eye of faith it is dissolution.

(2) Its true consequences. Very little of death falls under the observation of the senses; the most awful and interesting part is beyond their reach. It is the state of the soul; it is the apprehension of it by devils or angels; it is the transmission of it to heaven or hell.

(3) Its true cause. The Scripture shows us that man was not created mortal; and that mortality is not the necessary consequence of our original constitution; but is the penal effect of transgression.

(4) The true remedy. What! Is there a remedy for death? Who said to His hearers, “If a man keep My sayings, he shall never see death”? He hath abolished death. But let us--

Consider this DESTRUCTION--for does not death continue his ravages? Does he not fall upon the people of God themselves? Where then is the proof of this abolition? It is undeniable that Christians themselves are subject to the stroke of death, as well as others.

1. He abolishes death, spiritually; that is, in the souls of His people. To all these, without exception, it may be said, in the words of Paul to the Ephesians, “You hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.”

2. He abolished death by His miracles while He was on earth.

3. He abolished death in His own person. His own rising from the dead is very distinguishable from all the former instances of resurrection. The ruler’s daughter, the widow’s son, Lazarus, and the saints in Jerusalem, were raised by the power of another; but He rose by His own power. They rose as private individuals: but He as the head and representative of His people: and because He lives, they shall live also.

4. He abolished death penally. Thus He has destroyed death as to its sting. He has not abolished going home, and falling asleep, and departing; but He has abolished death. This leads us to observe, that He has--

5. Abolished death comparatively: I mean as to its terror. This is not the same with the foregoing particular. That regards all the people of God, and extends even to those who die under a cloud of darkness, and a load of depression; it belongs to a Cowper, who died in despair, as well as to a Hervey, who said, “Lord, now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.” All believers die safely; there is no curse for them after death, or in death. In this sense, their end is peace; peace in the result, if not in the passage. But their end is generally peace in experience as well as in result. There are, however, cases of constitutional infirmity that may not only exclude joy, but even hope. Sometimes the nature of the disorder is such as to hinder sensibility, or expression. Sometimes, too, God may allow the continuance of fear, even in those He loves, as a rebuke for loose or irregular walking; and as a warning to others.

6. He will do this absolutely. He will abolish the very state: “He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (W. Jay.)

Death abolished

That we may feel the true impression of this Divine declaration, it will be necessary first to show what it is not intended to teach. The state of fact, no less than the express averments of Holy Writ, forbid us to entertain the thought, that the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ has arrested the progress of that law of mortality which followed in the train of disobedience. Our present relations are formed but to be dissolved; death, like a canker worm, preys at the root of all our comforts. We “have here no continuing city”; and soon “the place that now knows us shall know us no more for ever.” Philosophy may attempt to solve this mysterious problem; may tell us that mortality is a law of our nature; may point us to the analogies of creation around us. But withdraw from our view the inspired record which connects death with Adam’s sin, and which exhibits it in the light of a penalty entailed upon transgression, and philosophy has no satisfactory reason to assign for a catastrophe so overwhelming and so universal. It may, indeed, affirm the state of fact, and argue from thence that it is the nature of man that he should die; but how much more satisfactory is the philosophy of Scripture (which no sound philosophy ought to exclude), which tells us that man was made for life, that death is the forfeit of disobedience, and that but for sin the struggle of mortality would never have been beheld in our world!

In our text we are taught to look upon death as in some practical sense a vanquished foe; and since it cannot be in the sense of staying its inexorable reign in our world, it becomes us to show the true and only sense in which it can be affirmed that “our Saviour Jesus Christ hath abolished death.” The expression is very remarkable; and the doctrine it contains is animating in the highest degree to all who embrace it with a realising faith. The idea conveyed by the original word is that of such an effectual counteraction of death, as involves a complete victory over it.

1. When the apostle asserts that “Christ hath abolished death,” we must understand him, first of all, as proclaiming Christ’s own personal victory over it.

2. But we must not forget that the victory which our Saviour Jesus Christ achieved in His own person over death was intimately connected with the nature and ends of that “decease which He accomplished at Jerusalem.” Death, we must never forget, entered our world as the mark of apostasy, as the penalty of transgression; if ever, then, it was to be “abolished,” it must be by some dispensation which should effectually provide for the remission of sin, and for the restoration of apostate man to the favour and image of his God. In the hour of Messiah’s deep agony, “the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all”; and when with His last breath He exclaimed, “It is finished,” the mighty work was then performed upon which depended the reconciliation to peace and life of untold millions of the human race. Having “finished the work which the Father gave Him to do,” met every demand which devolved upon Him as the sinner’s Surety, it was impossible, upon all the principles of the Divine government, upon all the arrangements of covenanted love, that He should be holden of the bands of death.

3. When the apostle asserts that “our Saviour Jesus Christ hath abolished death” we may assure ourselves that the real members of His body, all true Christians, will share His own triumph. Of this joyful fact there is a series of progressive evidence. The moment that any sinner is quickened to spiritual life, he is “quickened together with Christ,” and is brought to feel in that conversion “the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings,” and is “made conformable unto His death.”

4. The next stage of the proof that death shall be abolished will he supplied when believers are “absent from the body and present with the Lord.” The fruition of the celestial paradise will divest them of every doubt or misgiving as to the resurrection of their mortal bodies. Every time they gaze on the glorified humanity of Him in whose presence they stand they will exult in the thought of that mighty exercise of power and love which shall quicken their tabernacles of clay, and unite them as spiritual bodies to their emancipated and happy spirits. They are waiting in glorious hope “for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of their bodies”; and, having received the first-fruits, they are looking forward to the harvest of the earth, when the number of God’s elect shall be accomplished, and when all the objects of celestial hope shalt be fully realised. At last the bright moment of perfected bliss shall arrive when death shall be literally “abolished”; when all the regions of mortality shall be divested of their spoils; when the whole redeemed Church shall stand complete in her glorified Head; when all shall be perfectly conformed in body and soul to the image of Him whets “the first-born among many brethren.”

5. But there is one view of this subject which yet remains to be taken by us: it is the proof which is so often afforded of the truth of the apostle’s declaration that death is “abolished,” in the feelings with which departing saints are often enabled to look forward to their great change. Some there are, indeed, of God’s servants who “through fear of death are all their lifetime subject to bondage”; their minds are perplexed with doubts and fears, and they cannot realise their title to the everlasting inheritance. But it is matter of great joy and thankfulness when faith is triumphant in the dying moment; when it can sing with an unfaltering tongue, “O death, where is thy sting,” thy boasted sting? “O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (J. Morison, D. D.)

Death abolished

The question is, therefore, in what sense hath death been abolished by Christ. It means that He hath made death of none effect. In order to explain this we lay down three propositions.

That the felt power of death over man is according to the state of his soul. The power of death over man is not in the unconsciousness which he produces. So far as unconsciousness is concerned there is death in every sleep. Not in the dissolution it produces. For physical dissolution is going on every day in the body. Where then is the power of death? It is in the state of our souls in relation to it. Let us suppose that we had no capacity for forming any idea of death. What power would death have over us? None until it came; like the beast or the bird we should lie down on the green turf, and breathe out our last breath without one regretful or apprehensive thought. Or, let us suppose that we had ideas concerning death, all of which were of a pleasing character. What power would death have over us in this case? None. We should rejoice in it.

That the state of a depraved man’s soul gives death its felt power.

1. All the affections of his soul are confined to earthly objects. All men whose natures are unchristianised love the world and the things of the world. All they love, all they plan and toil and hope for, are here.

2. He has terrible forebodings as to the consequence of death to him.

That Christ hath abolished this depraved state of soul in his disciples. How does He accomplish this? Not merely by the revelation of a future life, but by the impartation of a new spiritual life--A life of conscious pardon and of spiritual sympathy. This new life--

1. Has a stronger sympathy with the spiritual than the material. The affections are set not on things below, but on things above. Hence, where is the dread of death to the true Christian? This new life.

2. Has a stronger sympathy with the failure than the present. Christ turns the hearts of His people to the future as their heaven. Who, therefore, would dread the dawn of the future into which the heart has gone? This new life--

3. Has a stronger sympathy with the Infinite Father than with any other object. Christ sets the heart of His disciple upon the Infinite Father. Can death or any other event fill him with dread who loves the Infinite supremely? From this subject we learn--

(1) The value of Christianity.

(2) The test of godliness. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The victor vanquished

We have here--

1. An agent referred to by the word “Who,” that is Jesus Christ.

2. We have a work which He has done--“abolished death.”

3. A glorious disclosure which He has made, “brought life and immortality to light.”

4. The means by which this revelation is made known--“the gospel.”

The agent. When men have an important work to do, it is of great consequence to find a properly qualified person to do it. The Lord Jesus Christ possessed all the requisite qualifications for the great work of atoning for sins and reconciling man to God, since He was both God and man. Not merely that men might be pardoned and set free, but that they might be restored to the favour of God, and the long interrupted harmony and union between God and man re-established.

Now let us glance at what he has Done--“abolished death” (Romans 5:12). But there is a threefold division of death: Temporal, or the death of the body; spiritual, or being dead to spiritual things; and eternal death, or the separation of soul and body from God for ever. Death is represented as a sovereign exercising dominion over the world, for it is said “death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgressions.” “Death reigned,” says the apostle. The figure is a bold and striking one. It represents Death as a monarch exercising dominion or power. His reign is absolute. He strikes whom and where he pleases, there is no escape. All must bow beneath his sceptre. His reign is universal. Old and young, rich and poor, high and low, are alike the subjects of his gloomy empire, and but for the gospel, his reign would be eternal. The dominion of the gloomy tyrant has been shattered, and death itself has, as our text says, been abolished. Its terrors are abated and its sting removed. We come to consider how, and in what measure, this has been done. What is it to abolish anything? It is to cause it to cease, to put an end to it. Thus slavery was abolished in the British Empire and the United States. Its abolition cost Britain much, and cost the United States thousands of lives and millions of money. This whole accursed system of man-stealing, and all the horrors connected with it, is wiped out and destroyed. So has the Lord Jesus done with death. He has destroyed the stern tyrant by destroying that which is the cause of death--sin (Hebrews 2:9). Thus death was destroyed by dying; by His becoming obedient to the death of the Cross, He broke the empire and dominion of death for ever, and opened to man “the door of eternal life” and His resurrection was proof that God’s justice was completely satisfied with the ransom offered. “Who hath abolished death.” The apostle here seems to speak in some measure by anticipation. Sometimes the sacred writers represent things which are certain to be done as if they were clone already. Sin, which is the cause of death, has been atoned for, and so death’s empire has there received a fatal blow. Every evil habit, desire, and disposition overcome, every temptation to evil successfully resisted, every good word and work, all tend to lessen his power and wrest from Death his dominion. Thus life has prevailed over death so far as the gospel has made its way into the homes and hearts of men. So in various ways and on every side death has been losing his sway, and his empire is waning. Nowhere is the fact that “death has been abolished seen in a clearer light than in the triumphant departure of God’s children. Dr. Payson, a little before he breathed his last, said, “The battle’s fought, the battle’s fought, and the victory is won--won for ever. I am going to bathe in an ocean of purity and benevolence, and happiness to all eternity, Why should I murmur,” said John Howard, the noble Christian philanthropist, when ending his journey in a strange land, “Heaven is as near to Russia as it is to England.” “My head is in heaven” (said the wife of Philip Henry, the Commentator); “my heart is in heaven, another step and I shall be there too.” “Almost well, and nearly at home,” said the saintly Richard Baxter, when asked by a friend how he did shortly before he died. And a lady, describing the last hours of that venerable patriarch of science, Sir David Brewster, says, “The sight was a cordial from heaven to me. I believed before, but now I have seen that Christ has truly abolished death.”

Now observe the next thing christ has done for us. He has “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (J. Reid.)

Of the immortality of the soul as discovered by nature and by revelation

In the handling of these words I shall--

Open to you the meaning of the several expressions in the text.

1. What is here meant by “the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ”? The Scripture useth several phrases to express this thing to us. As it was the voluntary undertaking of God the Son, so it is called His coming into the world. In relation to His incarnation, whereby He was made visible to us in His body, and likewise in reference to the obscure promises and prophecies and types of the Old Testament, it is called His manifestation, or appearance.

2. What is meant by the abolishing of death. By this we are not to understand that Christ, by His appearance, hath rooted death out of the world, so that men are no longer subject to it.

3. What is here meant by bringing “life and immortality to light.” Life and immortality is here by a frequent Hebraism put for immortal life; as also, immediately before the text, you find purpose and grace put for God’s gracious purpose. Tile phrase of bringing to light is spoken of things which were before each either wholly or in a great measure hid, either were not at all discovered before, or not so clearly. I proceed--

To show what Christ’s coming into the world hath done towards the abolishing of death, and the beinging of “life and immortality to light.” I shall speak distinctly to these two:

1. What Christ’s appearance and coming into the world hath done towards the abolishing of death, or how death is abolished by the appearance of Christ.

(1) By taking our nature upon Him He became subject to the frailties and miseries of mortality, and liable to the suffering of death, by which expiation of sin was made.

(2) As Christ, by taking our nature upon Him, became capable of suffering death, and thereby making expiation for sin, so by dying He became capable of rising again from the dead, whereby He hath gained a perfect victory and conquest over death and the powers of darkness.

2. What Christ hath done towards the bringing of “life and immortality to light.” It will be requisite to inquire, What assurance men had or might have had of the immortality of the soul, and consequently of a future state, before the revelation of the gospel by Christ’s coming into the world. And here are two things distinctly to be considered. What arguments natural reason doth furnish us withal to persuade us to this principle, that our souls are immortal, and consequently that another state remains for men after this life. But before I come to speak particularly to the arguments which natural reason affords us for the proof of this principle, I shall premise certain general considerations, which may give light and force to the following arguments: By the soul we mean a part of man distinct from his body, or a principle in him which is not matter. By the immortality of the soul I mean nothing else, but that it survives the body, that when the body dies and falls to the ground, yet this principle, which we call the soul, still remains and lives separate from it. That he that goes about to prove the soul’s immortality supposeth the existence of a Deity, that there is a God. The existence of a God being supposed, this doth very much facilitate the other, of the soul’s immortality. For this being an essential property of that Divine nature, that He is a Spirit, that is, something that is not matter; it being once granted that God is, thus much is gained, that there is such a thing as a spirit, an immaterial substance, that is not liable to die or perish. It is highly reasonable that men should acquiesce and rest satisfied in such reasons and arguments for the proof of any thing, as the nature of the thing to be proved will bear; because there are several kinds and degrees of evidence, which all things are not equally capable of. Having premised these general considerations to clear my way, I now come to speak to the particular arguments whereby the immortality of the soul may be made out to our reason. And the best way to estimate the force of the arguments which I shall bring for it will be to consider beforehand with ourselves what evidence we can, in reason, expect for a thing of this nature.

(1) That the thing be a natural notion and dictate of our minds.

(2) That it doth not contradict any other principle that nature hath planted in us, but does very well accord and agree with all other the most natural notions of our minds.

(3) That it be suitable to our natural fears and hopes.

(4) That it tends to the happiness of man, and the good order and government of the world.

(5) That it gives the most rational account of all those inward actions which we are conscious to ourselves of, as perception, understanding, memory, will, which we cannot, without great unreasonableness, ascribe to matter as the cause of them. If all these be thus, as I shall endeavour ¢o make it appear they are, what greater satisfaction could we desire to have of the immortality of our souls than these arguments give us?

1. The immortality of the soul is very agreeable to the natural notion which we have of God, one part whereof is, that He is essentially good and just.

(1) For His goodness. It is very agreeable to that to think that God would make some creatures for as long a duration as they are capable of.

(2) It is very agreeable to the justice of God to think the souls of men remain after this life, that there may be a state of reward and recompense in another world.

2. Another notion which is deeply rooted in the nature of man is, that there is a difference between good and evil, which is not founded in the imagination of persons, or in the custom and usage of the world, but in the nature of things. To come then to my purpose, it is very agreeable to this natural notion of the difference between good and evil, to believe the soul’s immortality. For nothing is more reasonable to imagine than that good and evil, as they are differenced in their nature, so they shall be in their rewards; that it shall one time or other be well to them that do well, and evil to the wicked man.

This principle, of the soul’s immortality, is suitable to the natural hopes and fears of men. To the natural hopes of men. Whence is it that men are so desirous to purchase a lasting fame, and to perpetuate their memory to posterity, but that they hope that there is something belonging to them which shall survive the fate of the body, and when that lies in the silent grave shall be sensible of the honour which is done to their memory, and shall enjoy the pleasure of the just and impartial fame, which shall speak of them to posterity without envy or flattery?

This doctrine of the immortality of the soul does evidently tend to the happiness and perfection of man, and to the good order and government of the world. This doctrine tends to the happiness of man considered in society, to the good order and government of the world. If this principle were banished out of the world, government would want its most firm basis and foundation; there would be infinitely more disorders in the world were men not restrained from injustice and violence by principles of conscience, and the awe of another world. And that this is so, is evident from hence, that all magistrates think themselves concerned to cherish religion, and to maintain in the minds of men the belief of a God, and of a future state.

The fifth and last argument is, That this supposition of the soul’s immortality gives the fairest account and easiest solution of the phenomena of human nature, of those several actions and operations which we are conscious to ourselves of, and which, without great violence to our reason, cannot be resolved into a bodily principle, and ascribed to mere matter; such are perception, memory, liberty, and the several acts of understanding and reason. These operations we find in ourselves, and we cannot imagine how they should be performed by mere matter; therefore we ought, in all reason, to resolve them into some principle of another nature from matter, that is, into something that is immaterial, and consequently immortal, that is incapable in its own nature of corruption and dissolution. I come now to the second thing I propounded, which is to show what assurance the world had, de facto, of this great principle of religion, the soul’s immortality, before the revelation of the gospel. First, what assurance the heathens had of the soul’s immortality.

1. It is evident that there was a general inclination in mankind, even after its greatest corruption and degeneracy, to the belief of this principle; which appears in that all people and nations of the world, after they were sunk into the greatest degeneracy, and all (except only the Jews) became idolaters, did universally agree in this apprehension, that their souls did remain after their bodies and pass into a state of happiness or misery, according as they had demeaned themselves in this life.

2. The unlearned and common people among the heathen seem to have had the truest and least wavering apprehensions in this matter; the reason of which seems to be plain, because their belief followed the bias and inclination of their nature, and they had not their natural notions embroiled and disordered by obscure and uncertain reasonings about it, as the philosophers had, whose understandings were prefixed with infinite niceties and objections, which never troubled the heads of the common people.

3. The learned among the heathen did not so generally agree in this principle, and those who did consent in it were many of them more wavering and unsettled than the common people. Epicurus and his followers were peremptory in the denial of it: but, by their own acknowledgment, they did herein offer great violence to their natures, and had much ado to divest themselves of the contrary apprehension and fears. The stoics were very inclinable to the belief of a future state; but yet they almost everywhere speak very doubtfully of it. Secondly, What assurance the Jews had of the soul’s immortality and a future state.

And of this I shall give you an account in these following particulars:

1. They had all the assurance which natural light, and the common reason of mankind, does ordinarily afford men concerning this matter; they had common to them with the heathens all the advantage that nature gives men to come to the knowledge of this truth.

2. They had by Divine revelation a feller assurance of those truths which have a nearer connection with this principle, and which do very much tend to facilitate the belief of it; as, namely, concerning the providence of God, and His interesting Himself particularly in the affairs of the world. And then, besides this, the Jews had assurance of the existence of spirits by the more immediate ministry of angels among them. And this does directly make way for the belief of an immaterial principle, and consequently of the soul’s immortality.

3. There were some remarkable instances of the Old Testament which did tend very much to persuade men to this truth: I mean the instances of Enoch and Elias, who did not die like other men, but were translated, and taken up into heaven in an extraordinary manner.

4. This was typified and shadowed forth to them by the legal administrations. The whole economy of their worship and temple, of their rites and ceremonies, and Sabbaths, did shadow out some farther thing to them, though in a very obscure manner: the land of Canaan, and their coming to the possession of it, after so many years’ travail in the wilderness, did represent that heavenly inheritance which good men should be possessed of after the troubles of this life. But I shall chiefly insist on the general promises which we find in these books of Moses, of God’s blessing good men, and declaring that He was their God, even after their death.

5. Toward the expiration of the legal dispensation there was yet a clearer revelation of a future state. The text in Daniel seems to be much plainer than any in the Old Testament: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

6. Notwithstanding this, I say that the immortality of the soul, and a future state, was not expressly and clearly revealed in the Old Testament, at least not in Moses’ law. The special and particular promises of that dispensation were of temporal good things; and the great blessing of eternal life was but somewhat obscurely involved and signified in the types and general promises.

And so I proceed to the second thing I propounded, which is to show what farther evidence and assurance the gospel gives us of it than the world had before: what clearer discoveries we have by Christ’s coming, than the heathens or Jews had before.

1. The rewards of another life are more clearly revealed in the gospel.

2. The rewards of another life, as they are clearly and expressly revealed by the gospel, so that they may have the greater power and influence upon us, and we may have the greater assurance of them, they are revealed with very particular circumstances.

3. The gospel gives us yet farther assurance of these things by such an argument as is like to be the most convincing and satisfactory to common capacities; and that is, by a lively instance of the thing to be proved, in raising Christ from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).

4. And lastly, the effects which the clear discovery of this truth had upon the world are such as the world never saw before, and are a farther inducement to persuade us of the truth and reality of it. After the gospel was entertained in the world, to show that those who embraced it did fully believe this principle, and were abundantly satisfied concerning the rewards and happiness of another life, they did, for the sake of their religion, despise this life and all the enjoyments of it, from a thorough persuasion of a far greater happiness than this world could afford remaining in the next life. (J. Tillotson, D. D.)

Life and immortality brought to light by the gospel

But, supposing Moses or the law of nature to afford evidence for a future life and immortality, it remains to be considered in what sense the words of the text are to be understood, which do affirm that life and immortality were brought to light through the gospel. To bring any thing to light may signify, according to the idiom of the English tongue, to discover or reveal a thing which was perfectly unknown before: but the word in the original is so far from countenancing, that it will hardly admit of this sense, φωτίζειν signifies (not to bring to light, but) to enlighten, illustrate, or clear up anything. You may judge by the use of the word in other places: ‘tis used in John 1:9 --“That was the true light which lighteth [or enlighteneth] every man that cometh into the world.” Jesus Christ did not by coming into the world bring men to light; but He did by the gospel enlighten men, and make those who were dark and ignorant before wise even to salvation. In like manner our Lord did enlighten the doctrine of life and immortality, not by giving the first or only notice of it, but by clearing up the doubts and difficulties under which it laboured, and giving a better evidence for the truth and certainty of it, than nature or any revelation before had done. If we consider how our Saviour has enlightened this doctrine, it will appear that He has removed the difficulty at which nature stumbled. As death was no part of the state of nature, so the difficulties arising from it were not provided for in the religion of nature. To remove these was the proper work of revelation. These our Lord has effectually cleared by His gospel, and shown us that the body may and shall be united to the spirit in the day of the Lord, so that the complete man shall stand before the great Tribunal to receive a just recompense of reward for the things done in the body. (T. Sherlock, D. D.)

Immortality brought to light

Our Lord hath given us a clearer knowledge than without him we could ever have acquired of our state after death. For, first, the best arguments which human reason suggests for the immortality of the soul are founded upon right notions of God and of morality. But before the gospel was revealed the common people among the Gentiles had low and imperfect notions of these important truths, and consequently they were not persuaded upon good grounds of their future existence. The proofs of the soul’s immortality, which are taken from its own nature, from its simplicity, spirituality, and inward activity, are by no means to be despised, they have much probability, and they never were or will be confuted. The moral arguments, as they are called, in behalf of the soul’s immortality, as they are more familiar and intelligible, so are they more satisfactory. Now, it cannot be supposed that God, who is perfectly wise, would endue the soul of man with a capacity of well-doing, and of perpetual improvement, unless He intended it for other purposes than to live here for a very short space, and then perish for ever. He did not create the sun to shine for one day, and the moon to shine for one night, and then to be turned out of being. These sort of arguments, obvious and persuasive as they are, yet were usually overlooked in the Pagan world; polytheism, vice, and ignorance lind made men insensible of their force; these arguments shone forth along with Christianity, and were in a great measure owing to the gospel. They who argued justly enough to conclude from the nature of God and of man that it was reasonable to believe the immortality of the soul, and to hope that a future state of happiness should be the reward of a well-spent life, yet could not hence fairly draw any conclusions to their own full satisfaction. Many who believed the immortality of souls believed also a continual and successive removal of souls from one body to another, and no fixed state of permanent happiness. Our Lord hath opened to us a better prospect than this, promising us an incorruptible body, a life that shall not be taken from us, an unchangeable state, and a house eternal in the heavens. Some who in words acknowledged the immortality of the soul seem in reality to have taken it away, by imagining that the human soul was a part of the great soul of the world, of the Deity, and that upon its separation from the body it was reunited to it.

1. The gospel assures us that we shall rise again.

2. We are assured that the happiness of the good shall be complete, unchangeable, and endless.

3. We have also reason, from some places of Scripture, to suppose that the souls of the good are not deprived of thought, but are in a place of peace and contentment during their separation from the body.

The second thing which we proposed to prove is, that Christ, by His resurrection, hath fully assured us that He can and will raise up his servants to eternal life. If it be certain that Christ arose from the dead, the consequence is plain and unavoidable that the religion taught by Him is true. I have only a few inferences to lay before you.

1. Our Lord hath taught us that our souls are immortal.

2. Our Lord hath taught us that death is only the death or sleep of the body, that the souls of the good live to God, and that at the last day, when He shall appear, they shall be clothed with immortal and glorified bodies, and dwell for ever with Him. And to confirm these truths, He arose Himself in power and splendour, and became the first fruits of them that sleep.

3. The resurrection of Christ contains in it the strongest motives to cast off our sins, and to prepare ourselves for the glories which shall be revealed, and to take off our affections from this world, and to set them on things above. (J. Jortin, D. D.)

Life and immortality brought to light by the gospel

By the plain revelation of this state of immortality--

1. Is most illustriously manifested to us the transcendent goodness and indulgence of our most merciful Creator, in that He will be pleased to reward such imperfect services, such mean performances as the best of ours are, with glory so immense, as that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor can it enter into the heart of man to conceive the greatness of it.

2. By this revelation of immortal life is farther demonstrated the exceeding great love of our blessed Saviour, who, by His death and perfect obedience, not only purchased pardon for all our past rebellions and transgressions, not only redeemed us from hell and destruction, to which we had all rendered ourselves most justly liable, which alone had been an unspeakable favour, but also merited an everlasting kingdom of glory for us, if with true repentance we return to our duty.

3. This especially recommends our Christianity to us, which contains such glad tidings, which propounds such mighty arguments to engage us to our duty, such as no other religion ever did or could.

To those who would seem to doubt of this fundamental doctrine of a future life.

To those who profess to believe it, but not fully and heartily.

To those who do really and constantly believe it.

Let us for once be so kind to the sceptical disputers against religion as to suppose what; they are never able to prove--that it is a very doubtful thing whether there will be another life, after this. We ought to believe and live as if all these doctrines of religion were most certainly true; for every wise man will run as little hazard as he can, especially in such things as are of the highest concernment to him, and wherein a mistake would be fatal and undoing.

To those who profess to believe this immortal life, but yet do it not really and heartily. And this I fear is the case of the generality of Christians amongst us. Are any of those good things which men here court and seek after so desirable and considerable as the glories and joys of heaven? Or are there any evils in this world that can vie terrors with hell?

To those who do heartily and constantly believe this great truth of another life after this; who not only assent to this doctrine with their understandings, but have made this future happiness their ultimate choice and desire. This will fortify our minds against all the temptations we may meet with from this world, or any of its bewitching enjoyments. This faith will inspire us with strength and activity, and carry us out even beyond ourselves; will animate us with such courage and resolution, as that we shall despise all dangers and difficulties, and think eternal happiness a good bargain, whatever pains or trouble it may cost us to purchase it. This conquers the love of life itself, which is most deeply implanted in our natures; for what will not a man give or part with for the saving of his life? Yet they who have been endued with this faith have not counted their lives dear to Him, so that they might finish their course with joy. This faith by degrees moulds and transforms the mind into a likeness to these heavenly objects; it advances and raises our spirits, so that they become truly great and noble, and make us, as St. Peter tells us, partakers of a divine nature. It filleth the soul with constant peace and satisfaction, so that in all conditions of life a good man can feast himself with unseen joys and delights, which the worldly man neither knows nor can relish. Nay, this faith arms a man against the fear of death; it strips that king of terrors of all his grim looks: for he considers it only as God’s messenger to knock off his fetters, to free him from this fleshly prison, and to conduct him to that blessed place, where he shall be more happy than he can wish or desire to be, and that for ever. (Dr. Callamy.)

Life and immortality revealed in the gospel

Life and immortality here seem to refer both to the soul and the body, the two constituents of our person. As applied to the body, life and immortality signify that though our bodies are dissolved at death, and return into their native elements, yet they shall be formed anew with vast improvements, and raised to an immortal existence: so that they shall be as though death never had had any power over them; and thus death shall be abolished, annihilated, and all traces of the ruins it had made for ever disappear, as though they had never been. It is in this sense chiefly that the word “immortality,” or “incorruptibility” is made use of in my text. But then the resurrection of the body supposes the perpetual existence of the soul, for whose sake it is raised; therefore life and immortality, as referring to the soul, signify that it is immortal, in a strict and proper sense; that is, that it cannot die at all, or be dissolved like the body. In this complex sense we may understand the immortality of which my text speaks. Now it is to the gospel that we owe the clear discovery of immortality in both these senses. As for the resurrection of the dead, which confers a kind of immortality upon our mortal bodies, it is altogether the discovery of Divine revelation. As for the immortality of the soul, Christian philosophers find it no difficulty to establish it upon the plain principles of reason. But it should be considered that those are not the arguments of the populace, the bulk of mankind, but of a few philosophic studious men. But as immortality is the prerogative of all mankind, of the ignorant and illiterate, as well as of the wise and learned, all mankind, of all ranks of understanding, are equally concerned in the doctrine of immortality; and therefore a common revelation was necessary, which would teach the ploughman and mechanic, as well as the philosopher, that he was formed for an immortal existence, and, consequently, that it is his grand concern to fit himself for a happiness beyond the grave as lasting as his nature. Now, it is the gospel alone that makes this important discovery plain and obvious to all. It must also be considered that mere may be able to demonstrate a truth, when the hint is hut once given, which they would never have discovered, nor perhaps suspected, without that hint. Persons may be assisted in their searches by the light of revelation; but, being accustomed to it, they may mistake it for the light of their own reason; or they may not be so honest and humble as to acknowledge the assistance they have received. The surest way to know what mere unassisted reason can do is to inquire what it has actually done in those sages of the heathen world who had no other guide, and in whom it was carried to the highest degree of improvement. Now we find, in fact, that though some philosophers had plausibilities and presumptions that their souls should exist after the dissolution of their bodies, yet that they rather supposed, or wished, or thought it probable, than firmly believed it upon good evidence. What a vast inheritance is this, unalienably entailed upon every child of Adam! What importance, what value, does this consideration give to that neglected thing the soul! What an awful being is it! Immortality! The highest angel, if the creature of a day or of a thousand years, what would he be? A fading flower, a vanishing vapour, a flying shadow. When his day or his thousand years are past, be is as truly nothing as if he had never been. It is little matter what becomes of him: let him stand or fall, let him be happy or miserable, it is just the same in a little time; he is gone, and there is no more of him--no traces of him left. But an immortal! a creature that shall never, never, never cease to be! that shall expand his capacities of action, of pleasure, or pain, through an everlasting duration I what an awful, important being is this! And is my soul--this little spark of reason in my breast--is that such a being? I tremble at myself. I revere my own dignity, and am struck with a kind of pleasing horror to view what I must be. And is there anything so worthy of the care of such a being as the happiness, the everlasting happiness, of my immortal part? (S. Davies, A. M.)

Immortality brought to light by the gospel

Let us first advert to what may be called the physical state, and then to the moral state of the mind; and under each head let us endeavour to contrast the insufficiency of the light of nature with the sufficiency and fulness of the light of the gospel.

An argument for its immortality has been drawn from the consideration of what we should term the physics of the mind--that is, from the consideration of its properties, when it is regarded as having a separate or substantive being of its own. For example, it has been said that spirit is not matter, and therefore must be imperishable. We confess that we see not the force of this reasoning. We are not sure by nature of the premises; and neither do we apprehend how the conclusion flows from it. Now, in the recorded fact of our Saviour’s resurrection, we see what many would call a more popular, but what we should deem a far more substantial and satisfactory, argument for the soul’s immortality than any that is furnished by the speculation which we have now alluded to. To us the one appears as much superior to the other, as history is more solid than hypothesis, or as experience is of a texture more firm than imagination, or as the philosophy of our modern Bacon is of a surer and sounder character than the philosophy of the old schoolmen. Let it be remarked that the word which we render “abolished” signifies also “made of no effect.” The latter interpretation of the word is certainly more applicable to our first or our temporal death. He has not abolished temporal death. It still reigns with unmitigated violence, and sweeps off its successive generations with as great sureness and rapidity as ever. This part of the sentence is not abolished, but is rendered ineffectual.

But another argument for the immortality of man has been drawn by philosophers from the moral state of his mind; and more especially from that progressive expansion which they affirm it to have undergone in respect of its virtues as well as of its powers. Still we fear that, in respect of this argument too, the flowery description of the moralists has no proof, and more particularly no experience to support it. Yes! we have heard them talk, and with eloquence too, of the good man and of his prospects; of his progress in life being a splendid career of virtue, and of his death being a gentle transition to another and a better world; of its being the goal where he reaps the honourable reward that is due to his accomplishments, or being little more than a step in his proud march to eternity. This is all very fine, but it is the fineness of poetry. Where is the evidence of its being any better than a deceitful imagination? Death gives the lie to all the speculations of all the moralists; but it only gives evidence and consistency to the statements of the gospel. The doctrines of the New Testament will bear to be confronted with the rough and vigorous lessons of experience. They attempt no ornament and no palliation. I cannot trust the physician who plays upon the surface of my disease, and throws over it the disguise of false colouring. I have more confidence to put in him who, like Christ the Physician of my soul, has looked the malady fairly in the face--has taken it up in all its extent, and in all its soreness--has resolved it into its original principles--has probed it to the very bottom, and has set himself forward to combat with the radical elements of the disease. This is what the Saviour has done with death. He has plucked it of its sting. He has taken a full survey of the corruption, and met it in every one quarter where its malignity operates. It was sin which constituted the virulence in the disease, and He hath extracted it. He hath expiated the sentence; and the believer, rejoicing in the assurance that all is clear with God, serves Him without fear in righteousness and in holiness all the days of his life. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)

Life and immortality brought to light by the gospel

First let us consider the evidence which the world had for this doctrine prior to the advent of Christ. The general and continued prevalence of this opinion, even admitting it to have originated in revelation, must be traced ultimately to the natural sentiments of the human heart. We are all naturally desirous of immortality. We naturally love our being, and of consequence naturally desire its continuance. The thought of being reduced into nothing is revolting to a rational soul. Numerous considerations tend to give it a rational support, and to some of these suffer me to direct your attention.

1. I observe that the very nature of the human soul itself, so far as we are capable of comprehending it, affords a strong presumption in favour of its immortality. It is perfectly distinct and essentially different from the earthly tabernacle in which it is enshrined; for we know that it thinks and acts independently of the body, and even when the body is at rest.

2. So far is this from being the case, that there is a strong probability, arising from the analogy of nature, of the continuance of our existence after the great change of death has passed upon us. All nature dies to live again.

3. This anticipation is still further confirmed by a consideration of man as a moral and accountable being.

4. If, from considering man, we turn our attention to God, whose creatures we are, and of whose government we are the subjects, the evidence in favour of immortality rises still further in its importance and strength. These evidences, however, are not to be represented, as has been done by some, as of so decisive and complete a character as to supersede the necessity of Divine revelation. To be convinced of this, we need only consider the case of those sages of the heathen world, who had no other light than that of unassisted reason to guide them. We find many of the best and greatest amongst them filled with doubts and perplexities on the subject. Brutus, a man of rigid and stoical virtue, was, by the principles of his sect, an assertor of a future state; but, finding his own cause and that of his friends unsuccessful, he sunk into despair, and, in the immediate prospect of his departure, made this extraordinary exclamation: “I have worshipped virtue as the supreme good, but have found it to be only an idol and a name.” Socrates, who was confessedly the brightest character in the heathen world, seems to have possessed much clearer views of immortality than any other individual among the Greek philosophers. Yet even his opinions are not delivered without much hesitation and doubt, and are far from being either uniform or consistent. At one time we find him affirming it to have been his deliberate opinion, after the most dispassionate inquiry, that the good and wise had every reasonable hope of happiness in a future state of existence. And yet this conviction, though he distinctly avows it, was not so firmly settled in his own mind as to prevent him taking his last leave of his friends by these most impressive words: “It is time that I should go away to die, and that ye should return to the active business of life. Whether you or I have the better portion, is known only to the immortal gods, but I think cannot be known with certainty by any individual man.” Cicero, though one of the most enlightened men of all antiquity, and one that wrote more on this subject than any other individual, yet seems to have no settled or deliberate opinion with regard to it; and, in one particular passage, in which he refers to the perplexing and contrary views entertained by philosophers, we find him declaring: “But of these doctrines which is to be received as true, some god must declare unto us; which is the more probable even, is extremely doubtful.”

Let us now examine the superior evidence which the Gospel gives us on this subject.

1. In the gospel we have an express confirmation of the hope of nature, that the souls of men survive the dissolution of their bodies, and continue capable of exercising those powers and faculties which are essential to them.

2. Besides assuring us of the continued existence and consciousness of the spirit after death, the gospel informs us that the tabernacle of clay in which it was lodged, but which now lies mouldering in the dust of the earth, shall in due time be raised up in unfading life and activity, and re-united to its former spirit.

3. We are further assured in the gospel that the grand event of the resurrection will be the introduction to a state of retribution, which will admit of neither termination nor change.

4. While the gospel thus reveals to us a future state of inconceivable and endless bliss, it at the same time clearly points out the only certain way in which we can attain to the enjoyment of it. (P. Grant.)

Death abolished, and life and immortality brought to light

In discoursing upon these words, it shall be my endeavour to show what Jesus Christ has effected--

In His own person. Referring to the text, we find mention made of “Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death.” It wilt, I doubt not, be readily admitted that, if the cause be removed, the resulting effects must necessarily cease. What, then, is the cause of death? It is a melancholy and humiliating reflection that man--the lord of this lower world, the vicegerent of the great Supreme on earth--should die, as do the brutes over whom he holds a delegated sway. Yet it is not more melancholy and humiliating than it is true--“His life is but as a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” Yet it was not always so. The mortality of man is the direful effect of sin. And when it is stated that Jesus Christ “hath abolished death,” it cannot mean that we are consequently exempt from paying the debt of our fallen nature. By no means; “it is appointed unto all men once to die.” The most merciless tyrants have, at some particular seasons, shown signs of a merciful and yielding disposition; and the tears of imploring loveliness have pierced even their hard and cruel hearts. But not all the fascinations of beauty can arouse one kindly feeling in the breast of the king of terrors, or make one single impression on his relentless nature. By the term “death” here, we are not to understand merely natural death, but the corruption and decomposition which take place in consequence of it; and, though we must allow it a short and momentary triumph, yet in the end it will be totally “abolished.” And how has this been brought to pass? By Jesus Christ. By His righteousness and atoning sacrifice, satisfaction has been made for the sins of the whole world; by His resurrection and ascension, proof is given that the power and dominion of death must eventually terminate. Let us now proceed to consider what the same gracious Saviour has effected for us--

By means of the gospel. He has brought life and immortality to light. The literal translation of the original is: “He hath illustrated life and immortality by the gospel.” This doctrine had never been illustrated and demonstrated before; it existed in promise, but had never been practically exhibited. But through what medium are we assured of this? It is the gospel alone which brings immortal life to light. It is this which rouses, extends, enlarges, and refines our limited views and sentiments. (T. Massey, A. B.)

Immortal life

We will consider three things--first, the great subject “brought to light,” “life and immortality”; secondly, the revelation--“He hath brought life and immortality to light”; and, thirdly, we will glance at the means by which this glorious subject is placed in the light of open day--it is “by the gospel.”

Immortality naturally and essentially belongs to God alone, “who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man approach unto; whom no man hath seen nor can see.” By “life and immortality,” in the language of the text, we simply understand immortal life, or existence incapable of decay. Human existence, or existence in the present world, is not, strictly speaking, immortality; it is liable to decay. The natural powers are liable to decay, and the natural members crumble into dust; and the intellectual powers are also liable to decay, in consequence of their being encased in, and connected with this crumbling and mouldering tabernacle. The gospel has brought to light this glorious fact: that there is an existence in another state for creatures such as we are, incapable of decay. By which we understand that it is an existence without sin; for in sin is involved and included all the elements of destruction, and nothing can remove the elements of destruction but the removal of sin. All the powers shall be cleansed, nicely balanced, rightly directed, and constantly employed; and they shall be raised beyond the reach of that which might tarnish, sully, deprave, or injure them for ever. As it is a state of existence without sin, so, consequently, it is a state of existence without sickness. And as there will be no sickness, as a matter of course there will be no pain. And that fear, which is such a source of torment, will be done away. And then as to gratification; there is nothing that can gratify a perfected intellect or a purified heart, but we shall possess it in all its fulness and purity, in order that we may enjoy it for evermore. “Life,” with holiness; for as holiness is the principal perfection of God’s nature, so holiness will be the principal characteristic of the Lord’s people in a better state. “Life,” with knowledge; for immortal life stands virtually in connection with spiritual knowledge. Hence Christ says: “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” It will be life, with peace in perfection, and life in the possession of joy; and all the future will be the anticipation of perfect satisfaction. It is, we may observe, life with God--we shall be “for ever with the Lord”--life in the presence, life in the possession, and life in the enjoyment of God. We may remark that it is life of the most perfect kind, in the highest degree. Now we know not what life in perfection is. I conceive that the highest kind of life will, in all the experience of the Lord’s holy ones, be wrought up to the highest degree of perfection, and, in that state, it will be spent to reflect His honour, to perpetuate the glory of His grace, and for the honour of His glorious perfections, for ever. For, in other words, we may say it is life in employment and in enjoyment. We associate these two together, for in our minds they always are associated: we can conceive of no suitable employment without enjoyment.

The revelation: “life and immortality are brought to light,” intimating that immortal life was obscure before. The heathen had some idea of a state of immortal existence for the soul, but not for the body; although, according to the gospel, immortality is intended for the body equally with the soul.

1. He “brought to light,” the purpose of God, which was to be wrought out through all the opposition of sin and Satan, and of man under their influence, that He would have a people possess an immortal existence incapable of decay--A life of the highest kind, in the most perfect degree.

2. He not only “brought to light” the purpose, but the promise. How frequently and how plainly does our Lord refer to this, particularly in the Gospel of St. John. We can refer but to one passage--the sixth chapter and the fortieth verse--“This is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

3. He not only “brought to light” the promise, but He was Himself the example. You know He yielded to the death upon the cross. He came forth in the possession of immortal life, with an immortal body and an immortal soul.

4. He exhibited eternal life, as a blessing promised to the Church. “This,” says the apostle John, with emphasis--“this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.”

5. He not only exhibited it to us as a blessing promised, but as a prize to be gained; for there is nothing in the gospel to sanction indolence.

6. It is represented as the end which grace has in view. Hence the apostle, drawing the parallel between the two heads, or public representatives, says (Romans 5:20). It was “brought to light” as the great object of hope, upon which the eye of hope is to be fixed from time to time. And what made primitive Christians so cheerful, and dauntless, and bold, and courageous, was just this: they “were living,” says St. Paul, “in hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began.”

The means by which this blessing is “brought to light” is “the Gospel,”

1. Now, in one view of it, the gospel is a kind of telescope, without which it is impossible to look so far into the distance as to see immortal life. There it is in the distance, but our faculties are so weakened by sin, and the mists of ignorance have so gathered between us and it that it is necessary there should be something to bring the mind’s eye into contact with it. The gospel is that something. It brings the subject near, just in the same way as a telescope seems to bring the distant object near; so that we can look at it, gaze upon it, examine it, admire it, and enjoy it.

2. The gospel brings “life and immortality to light,” because it shows us how we may get rid of sin, the cause of death.

3. The gospel not only tells how we may get rid of sin, the cause of death, but how we may obtain justification, the title to life.

4. As it tells us how to obtain justification, which is the title to life, so it informs us how we may surmount every obstacle that would keep us from the possession and enjoyment of it. It brings to our help the power of God, the wisdom of God, and the Spirit of God; in other words, it presents to us the Saviour, in all His fulness, and tells us how to every believer in Him He “is made wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” (James Smith.)

Eternal life

By what means has Jesus Christ brought life and immortality to light? I bring a triple reply. By His teaching, by His redemption, by His resurrection. Let us touch upon each of these points.

1. By His teaching, I said; but I must explain my thought. Do I mean that Jesus Christ brought to men logical arguments in order to prove eternal life, that He made of them a learned, rigorous, invincible demonstration, that He gave to the proofs which the philosophers employed before Him an irrefutable value, that He Himself added new proofs which convinced the reason for ever? Never, brethren; I will not say that, because I do not think it. Jesus Christ never undertook to prove the future life, and you will seek in vain on His lips for a single scientific reasoning which had that aim: the gospel no more demonstrates the future life than it demonstrates the existence of God. Brought it to light! How? What must be done in order to bring immortality to light? Ah! I understand you. The mysterious veil must be removed which hides the invisible world from us, that it may be penetrated and its secrets told to us. We ourselves are fatally arrested on the shores of the formidable ocean of death, and we do not know whether any new land shines there, beyond the flood, on the mysterious horizon. Darkness covers its waves; we try to throw light upon them, to direct the rays of our thought upon their depths; but that thought, which can follow the stars in their courses and calculate the laws of the world, is exhausted in the haze. We listen, and we hear only the monotonous noise of the billows in which the groanings of all past generations seem to be mingled, swallowed up in the common shipwreck which awaits us all. No one has come from that world, we say, to relate its secrets to us. But let some one appear, let him satisfy our ardent curiosity, let him tell us what heaven is, let him depict its beauties, let him recount the life which is the lot of the happy in glory, and our thirst will at least be appeased. Now, has Jesus Christ done that? Has He related to us what passes in heaven? Has He unveiled its mysteries to us? So little, as has been often remarked, that the gospel yields nothing here to our curiosity. If to bring immortality to light signifies to relate the secrets of the invisible world, it must resolutely be said, Jesus Christ has not done that. How striking does that moderation appear when we think that Jesus Christ could so easily have inflamed the souls of His disciples, and encouraged them to die, by depicting to them the splendours and the enjoyments of the world beyond! Recall the many founders of religion and false prophets who sent their disciples to death, intoxicating them with the promise of the delights which paradise reserved for them. In the teaching of Jesus Christ there is nothing like that. We see what Jesus Christ has not done, and what we might have expected from Him. I come back to my question: How has He, by His teaching, brought life and immortality to light? To solve it, to understand the novelty of His teaching as to this, let us see what ideas Jesus Christ found reigning around Him on this point. What did the hook of the Jews, the Old Testament, teach on this matter? I hear it affirmed to-day that the idea of the future life is foreign to the Old Testament. In support of that idea the silence of the Old Testament is alleged as to the point. Let us examine it. I open the Old Testament, that book to which the idea of immortality has remained, so it is said to us, almost unknown, and in its first pages I see announced the startling fact that death was not in the first intention and will of God; that it is a disorder, an overthrow, fruit of that moral overthrow called sin. Whence this conclusion is imposed on us, that man, created in the image of God, is made by Him for immortality. And in the pages which follow, speaking of a patriarch who walked in the ways of God, the Bible tells us of Enoch, as farther on it tells of Elijah, that he returned to God without passing through death. I come to the law of Moses. There is no mention made in it of eternity, I acknowledge this without hesitation; but I beg to remark that the question here is of a code addressed to a people, and that peoples do not live again as peoples. Legislation relates only to the present life; when even it should have to do with a religion like that of Moses, it would have to do with it only by its visible sides. The sole sanctions which it could promise are temporal sanctions; it has not to penetrate into the world beyond, for its mission expires there. After the law come the Psalms and the prophets. The Psalms--ah! I know they often express, with a bitter sadness, the idea that the activity of man ends at the tomb; but, to-day, could you not catch on the lips of a Christian similar expressions, when he thinks of the brevity of life, of the little time which is given him here below to serve his God? In addition to which, by the side of those longings, those presentiments of eternity, there are, I acknowledge, doubts, anxieties, uncertainties, in the presence of death among the believers of the Old Testament. It is still the age of twilight; shadows are everywhere mingled with the light. We can now imagine the state of beliefs in the centre where Jesus Christ appeared. What did Jesus Christ do? He sanctioned by His Divine authority belief in the Resurrection; He openly combated Sadduceeism; He returned unceasingly to the great thought of a last judgment; but is that all? If I wish to sum it up in one word, I do not hesitate to say that Jesus Christ has founded the faith in eternal life. And how? It was not always in simply supposing it, in illuminating all His teachings with that light, it was not only in speaking of heaven, as Fenelon has so admirably put it, as a son speaks of the house of his father; it is still, it is above all, in revealing to us an ideal of life to which our conscience is forced to subscribe, and which is a mockery if it should not continue and expand in eternity. What do all those words teach me? Eternal life. Listen “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted! Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled! Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth! Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy!” Say if each of those words does not open before your gaze like a splendid vista into eternity itself. Tell me if each of those words does not end by stretching into eternal life. This simple example shows, in a striking manner, how Jesus Christ has founded faith in the future life. He has founded it on the human soul itself, interrogated in its deepest and truest instincts. Taught by that reflection, let us now take His teaching in its central and ruling thought. Indeed, how shall we seek the kingdom of God, if eternity is a vain word? How shall we pursue the ideal righteousness, if we ought to content ourselves with what the earth can give us? How shall we follow after holiness, if we must negative our living some day freed from that law of sin which we carry in our members? How shall we love, ill short, how shall we give our heart to God and to all Divine things, if we should not some day find God, and in Him possess all in eternity? Jesus Christ interrogates the human soul, and evokes in its depths those aspirations which eternity alone can satisfy. Hence, then, this is how the question shall be put: Faith in eternity will be faith even in the kingdom of God. The more we believe in the triumph of righteousness, of truth, of goodness, the more we shall believe in eternal life; the more satisfied we are with the present life, the less we shall understand that eternity is necessary. Instead of saying then, as the mystics will do after Christ, “Let your imagination lose itself in ecstasy, and you will see heaven”; instead of saying, as philosophers had said before Him, “Gather in your reason all the proofs which demonstrate immortality,” Jesus Christ simply said, “Love, sanctify yourselves, thirst after righteousness; the more you do that, the more will eternity be necessary to you, the more you will love it, the more you will believe in it; for to live for holiness is to enter already, even here below, into eternal life.” So, for Jesus Christ, eternal life begins, even here below, for every soul submissive to God; that word is used forty times in the New Testament, and it always designates the state of a soul which has entered into communion with God. There alone is true life in reality. Eternity embraces the present and the past as well as the future. Eternity, we are in eternity. For him who has entered into the plan of God, the heavenly kingdom begins even here below; only, while here below, everything is subjected to the blast of instability: in that other economy which we call heaven, life will be full and lasting, and joy will be there for ever.

2. That is how Jesus Christ, by His teaching, has founded faith in eternal life; but even that teaching had never sufficed to found that belief, if the work of redemption had not followed and crowned it. Eternal life is communion with God. But is it sufficient to tell us so? No, we have gone out from communion with God. Have we not all violated the law of the heavenly city, and can we enter it without a restorative act--without a holy pardon giving us access to it? The road which leads us to God passes the foot of a cross, and if that cross had not been planted that road would never have been opened to a single person. Without redemption there is no eternal life. It is by His Cross as much as by His teaching that Jesus Christ has brought immortality to light.

3. But would the Cross itself have had that efficacy if the Resurrection had not followed it? Listen to St. Paul. When he wrote to Timothy that Jesus Christ had conquered death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, on what, before all, did he place the accent if it was not on the resurrection of the Lord? What would remain of the gospel without the Resurrection? “The person of Jesus Christ and His teaching,” you reply, “His life and His words, will always shine with the same lustre. What could a miracle add to the sublimity of His discourses, or of His character?” The reply seems plausible; and yet, I would ask your attention here to a fact. We have heard in our days many men holding the same language, who wanted a Christ without miracles and without a resurrection, who asked us what such prodigies added to His holiness. Years have passed, we have seen those men following the current of their thoughts; little by little the perfect holiness of Christ is obscured in their eyes; they have discovered blots in His life; His Divine aureole has grown pale; they see no more in Him to-day than the sage of Nazareth, sublime, but ignorant, and a sinner like all the children of men. In reflecting on this, I have found that the result of an irresistible logic was there. The person of Christ is one like His teaching. You cannot arbitrarily strike off such or such parts. All holds together in Him; His life, His words tend to the Resurrection as to their natural fulfilment; everything in Him supposes a victory over death; if that victory has not been obtained, His authority is shaken, His words lose something of their serene certitude, His ideal grandeur grows dim. As we have said, facts prove it every day. Let us suppose, however, that it is not so. Let us admit that Christ, conquered by death like all men, remains as grand, as holy. Have you reflected on the other side of the question? Have you asked yourself if faith in the future life would not for ever be shaken on the day when the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ should have disappeared from history? (E. Bersier, D. D.)

The reasonableness of life

It may at first be thought that in the words of the text St. Paul has overstated the originality of his gospel in its doctrine of immortality. For, on the one hand, we find the tokens of firm belief in a life beyond the grave among the very lowest savages: it is shown in their legends, in their accounts of dreams, in their customs of burial. But St. Paul does not, could not, deny that the expectation of an eternal life and the suspicion of immortality were astir among men before Christ rose from the dead, the first-fruits of them that slept: what he does claim is that through the gospel of the Resurrection God has brought the truth to light, and substituted for the shifting glimpses, the twilight hope, the unfinished prophecy of the past, a fact as stable as his prison walls, a fact which brings immortality itself into the broad light of day, and sets it, for those who believe that Christ is risen, among the steadiest axioms of life. He is satisfied that his eyes have seen the form, his ears have heard the voice of One who liveth, and was dead, and is alive for evermore. The expectation of a future life had indeed long been in the world: but it had been a very different thing from this. In the infantile mind of the savage it had been little mare than the mere inability to imagine how he could cease to be: it cost him less effort to think of the present as continuing than as stopping: he had not fancy or energy enough to conceive an end. It was impossible that a state of mind so purely negative should long take rank as an expectation among civilised men: in their higher and more active souls it must either become positive or pass away. It does become positive to the Greek and to the Jew: but at the same time it loses something of that unfaltering certainty with which it swayed the savage. Even David wonders “What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit?” even Hezekiah cries to God, “The grave cannot praise Thee; death cannot celebrate Thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for Thy truth.” Whatever Christianity has done, or failed to do, this at least we need not fear to claim for it: that it has availed to plant the belief of our immortality among the deepest and most general convictions o( our race: that it has borne even into the least imaginative hearts the unfailing hope of a pure and glorious life beyond the death of the body: that it has shot through our language, our literature, our customs, and our moral ideas the searching light of a judgment to come and the quickening glory of a promised Heaven; that it has sustained and intensified this hope through countless changes of thought and feeling in centuries of quickest intellectual development: and that it is now impossible to conceive the force which could dislodge from so many million hearts the axiom which they have learned from the gospel of the Resurrection. But is there in this achievement any evidence that that gospel is true? Let us seek some answer to this question. And first, may not this be said with truth: that there are some conceptions of our life, of ourselves, and of this present world, which, as moral beings, we have no right to entertain? We have no right, for instance, to entertain, still less to impart, the theory that there is any sin which men cannot avoid, any vice which they had better practise: we have no right to say to ourselves or others that our humanity is naturally vile or brutal. Conscience can condemn a thought as distinctly and authoritatively as it can an act: and there are abstract views of ourselves and our life which can only be accepted by doing ruinous violence to the moral sense. Such, and so criminal, is or would be the belief that this present life is all unreal and meaningless, a thing to be mocked at or despised as silly and abortive: as though all its interests and issues, even when they seem most free and hopeful, were really in the relentless grip of a blind or cruel force, and its government or anarchy, with all that we call law and right and reason, a mere amusement for some scornful spectator of our manifold delusion. We have no right, even in thought, so to jeer at ourselves: no man, being rational and moral, may think so meanly of his manhood. We live then, we go on working, upon the belief that the main and dominant element in life is reasonable and righteous: it is a belief which morality inculcates as a duty; without which effort and progress are words drained of all meaning. But does this world, indeed, display the character which we are thus forced to impute to it, if all the issues of a human life are finished all its drama played, its accounts all balanced, and its story closed, when the frail body dies; if life and immortality indeed have not been brought to light? But there are unnumbered souls for whom only the hope which Christianity has given them can justify the patient continuance of life, or arrest the quick growth of disappointment towards despair and madness. (F. Paget, D. D.)

The argument for immortality

It seems to me a very striking evidence of the pressure of the burden of life in our times that so many thoughtful and cultivated men and women outside the pale of our Churches are not only indifferent to, but contemptuous of, immortality. I trace the present terrible questionings, to use no stronger word, of the fundamental realities of our being, our relation to God as a living Being and our personal immortality, to no ignoble source. I believe that they are mainly due to the increased pressure of the burden of life under our present conditions of highly developed sympathies and lofty views of duty. Hence life seems full of sadness and confusion, and the doctrine is rather welcomed which finds many able, though sad, preachers in these days that at death we have done with it for ever. The doctrine of immortality is not so much formally asserted in Scripture as assumed throughout as the basis of its appeals, and of its treatment of the questions of conduct, of duty, with which it occupies itself. It is no new truth Which the New Testament discovers and makes known; an old truth, the oldest truth, old as the constitution of man’s nature, is “brought to light by the gospel.” The dim form of it is brought out into the daylight, and all men not only feel, but see, it to be a truth of God. Here, in the Bible, is the strong confirmation and assurance of the doctrine. No man can accept this revelation as containing God’s counsel, and deny or question man’s immortality. But while our faith rests securely on the revelation and the history which the ages have handed down, it is deeply important to consider how far the truth is supported or discredited by all that we can gather from other sources of the nature, the constitution, and the destiny of man. How far does the study of man’s nature and history help or hinder our belief in immortality? The argument is as follows: The belief that Christ, the risen Christ, was reigning with almighty power, and subduing all things to Himself, was a thought ever present with the men of all classes, orders, and callings, who wrought most mightily on the reconstitution upon a Christian basis of human society. I say, reconstitution on a Christian basis of human society. I wish I had time to go into the question; I think it would not be difficult to show that human society within the civilised area was literally perishing of moral corruption, when the light and truth which Christianity brought into the world restored it at the very spring. Nothing is more marked in the apostolic age than the contrast between the despondent, despairing tone of the noblest pagan literature, which utters its deepest wail over the hopeless corruption of society, and the tone of vital animation, of buoyant, exultant hope which pervades the whole field of the intellectual and spiritual activity of the Christian Church. The one is manifestly the wail of a world settling into death, the other the joyful cry of a world new-born, and conscious of a vigorous, aspiring life. And behind the latter, its inspiring idea, its moving force, was the reign of the risen and living Lord. It was not the tale of Calvary simply, the history of the martyrdom of martyrdoms, mighty as was the influence which that could not but wield over men. It was distinctly belief in Christ as a reigning King: one who was a present and transcendent force in the government of all human affairs. I do not say that the result of this vision of the reigning Christ was such heavenly order on earth as reigns on high. Alas! no. Man’s passion, selfishness, vanity, and lust are too strong. But I do affirm that this was the strongest principle, the conquering principle of resistance to all that had been wasting and destroying heathen society before Christ appeared. It was this which created the stern conflict against sin, vice, and wrong which has been fought out through all the Christian ages. So from the open tomb, whose bars the Saviour burst as He arose, a flood of glorious, kindling light streamed forth; it spread as dawn spreads in the morning sky; it touched all forms of things in man’s dark and dreary world with its splendor, and called man forth from the tomb in which his higher life seemed buried to a new career of fruitful, sunlit activity, opening a wondrous depth of meaning in the Saviour’s words, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” The exceeding readiness and joyfulness with which a truth so transcendently wonderful, so far out of and above the visible order of things, was welcomed everywhere, penetrating men’s hearts as though they were made for it, as sunlight penetrates the darkness of the world, would be utterly inexplicable, except on the theory that they were made for it; that there was that in their nature which was pining and longing for it; which was made to live and rejoice in the light of it, as flowers drink in the light and the dew. They received the truth as truly the most natural of all things, according to the order of the higher nature; and they lodged it at once as an unquestionable verity in the treasury of their beliefs and hopes. It is easy to say in answer to this that it was a fascinating doctrine, and won its way easily by the promise which it appeared to hold forth to mankind. No wonder, it is said, men naturally long for immortality, and catch easily at any doctrine, however delusive, which seems to respond to their longing and justify their hope. “Man naturally longs for immortality.” Let us look at it a little, and ask ourselves why he longs; how the idea could rise and take such firm possession of the strongest and most progressive races of our world. If he longs, it is somehow because he was made to long. Out of something in his constitution the longing springs. Now nature through all her orders seems to have made all creatures contented with the conditions of their life. The brute seems to rest with full contentment on the resources of his world. His soul shows no sign of being tormented by dreams; his life withers under no blight of regret. All creatures rest in their orders, and are content and glad. Violate the order of their nature, rob them of their congenial surroundings, and they grow restless, sad, and poor. Rob a flower of light or moisture, and it struggles with something like agonising earnestness in quest of them. This well-known tendency in perverted things to revert to the primitive type seems to be set in nature as a wonderful sign that things are at rest in their natural conditions--content with their life and its sphere; and that only by ways of which they are quite unconscious, and which rob them of no enjoyment of or contentment with their present, they prepare for the farther and higher developments of life. This restless longing in man, then, for that which is beyond the range of his visible world, this haunting of the unseen by his thoughts and hopes, this “eager hope, this fond desire, this longing after immortality,” what does it mean? Has Nature, which makes all things, in all orders, at rest in their sphere, wantonly and cruelly made man, her masterpiece, restless and sad? We are driven to believe by the very order of Nature that this insatiable longing, which somehow she generates and sustains in man, and which is the largest feature in his life, is not visionary and futile, but profoundly significant, pointing with the surest, firmest finger to the reality, the solid enduring reality, of that sphere of being to which she has taught him to lift his thoughts and aspirations, and in which he will find, according to the universal order of the creation, the harmonious completeness of his life. It spread, then, the belief in this truth, rapidly, joyfully, irresistibly, not by art, not by fraud, not by force, but because it was of the nature of light which inevitably conquers and scatters darkness. Men saw themselves and their life, their present, their future, in the light of it, and the revelation was convincing. We have here, not the longing only, but, to carry it no further, we have the life of Christendom for eighteen centuries built on it; we have it as the mainspring of human progress for incomparably the most civilised, developed, and progressive era of human history. How did it come there? Either--

1. This result grew by natural development out of the precedent states and conditions of life, ascending under the guidance of what, for want of a better understanding of things, men call Nature--the vital force which is behind all the movement and progress of the world--through the successive stages of creature existence to the height of man. In that ease, what men call Nature would be responsible for it--and then this would result. There is no freedom or intelligent choice in Nature, according to the materialists. Everything that is grows out of its antecedents by inexorable law. But what it is impossible to believe is that Nature, the vital force, call it what you will, has pressed on the development up to man, and endowed man with this propulsive movement of his whole being towards the sphere of the spiritual, the immortal, the eternal, and then confesses its failure to carry it further, leaving its noblest child a prey to aimless longings and barren hope. Is there everywhere glorious progress up to man, while for man the way onward and upward, which Nature has somehow taught him to look for and to struggle towards, is finally and for ever barred? Is a broken column the perfect emblem of this great universe? Is its highest achievement a sad, wistful, hopeless life? For that is what man’s life inevitably becomes when he is cut off from God and immortality. Nature does nothing in vain in the creation. All works into a sublime procession of progress. Let no one tempt you to believe that the procession halts, and that the progress which stretches through the whole chord of being, from a nebula to a constellation, from an atom to a world, from a cell-germ to a man, is broken off in man and dies out for ever.

2. Still more impossible is it to believe that this hope has no substance behind the veil to which it clings, and in which as an anchor of the soul it holds, on the other hypothesis, that the order of things is the work of a Divine hand, that the wisdom and power of God are at work on all developments and progresses of life. It seems blankly impossible to believe that God could have created man to imagine, to frame to himself, a picture of a whole universe of being behind the veil of sense, and beyond the river of death; could serenely watch him as he imagines it, and pleases himself with forecasting it as the theatre of his immortal life; could use it as an instrument to stir and stimulate his sluggish nature, and keep his faculties on the strain of effort by hope, when it is all a wretched illusion. Can it be believed for a moment that a wise Being can so have arranged His world that His loftiest creatures in nature and endowment can only live the lower life by dreaming about a higher, which is but a dream? If that is your scheme of the great creation, with man to head it, what kind of demon do you make of your God? No! Whether we look at this aspect and attitude of man towards the eternal as the last outcome of the vital pressure, be it what it may, which is working through creation, or as the fruit of the design of an intelligent Creator, who saw this end from the beginning of the processions of life--equally we are driven to the conviction which revelation makes sure, that man on the topstone of the material creation plants his foot on the threshold of a higher, a spiritual, an eternal world. (J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)

Death abolished--life brought to light

If the railway runs to a particular station and there stops, we call that station a terminus; and the association of finality springs up in our mind with regard to it, which has an influence upon our thoughts and feelings during the whole of the journey, and especially towards its close. “That is the station where we all stop and leave the carriages, having exhausted the value of our tickets.” But if a new length of line be added, although the station remains, it is a different fact; its terminal character is abolished; the association of finality is dissolved from henceforth in our minds, and we think of the station no longer as a place where we must all come to a standstill, but as a point of brief tarrying on the way to other destinations. Now Christ, by His revelation of life and immortality, has added a line of indefinite length to the great human journey; it stretches away through prospects of vast extent and inconceivable grandeur; in the thought of life the terminality of death is lost, and it becomes only a fresh starting-point beyond which the noblest scenery begins to open. Let us, then, trace out some of those common experiences of our minds which lead us up towards Christ’s revelation, which predispose us beforehand to expect that such a revelation would be given to us, and enable us the better to appreciate its evidences and welcome its reality when it arrives.

1. Take first our natural reluctance at the thought of death as a terminus. It is easy to see that wherever men have thought seriously, felt keenly, loved deeply, acted nobly, they have known this reluctance against death which reason could not overcome. Take as illustration those plaints which break out again and again in the sad, sweet music of the Book of Job. Listen again to this strain of King Hezekiah on his recovery from a dangerous sickness: “I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave; I am deprived of the residue of my years. I said, I shall not see the Lord, even the Lord in the land of the living … The grave cannot praise Thee, death cannot celebrate Thee; they that go down into the pit cannot hope for Thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise Thee, as I do this day.” We are struck, in these examples, with the complete vacancy with regard to the future. Apparently men had no power to conceive of death in any other aspect than a terminus. They could not get the idea of continuation into their thoughts; we cannot get it out of ours. The explanation is that it has pleased God to reveal truth to the world by degrees; and the want of some one great truth leaves the mind helpless. It cannot see what is to be seen. If we look at a Chinese picture we perceive that the artist does not understand the truths of light and distance and gradation. He sees nature as a fiat screen, and pains her so. He cannot make the eye travel away into the background of limitless distance, as our great masters do. He wants the knowledge of a few truths which would at once alter his whole conceptions of nature and mode of representing it. I have stood in a gloomy chamber, where my vision was bounded by its walls; but suddenly a sliding door has been drawn, and there has burst upon me a glorious view of rushing stream, and rock, and woodland, arched by the blue sky, and suggesting enchanting distances. If ever I enter that pavilion again, I shall not look upon the dead wall with a blank and baffled gaze; I shall already seem to pierce it in imagination before the door is drawn, and be gazing out on the bright scene beyond. Men in those early days were groping for that sliding door unconsciously. The sadness and impatience at the bounding line of death impelled their thoughts to question whether it was really a bounding line. Their growing intelligent faith in the goodness of God worked in the same direction with the natural reluctance against death, till the first spark of the nobler truth was at last struck out; the first lines of gold appeared along the horizon, heralding the coming of the Divine Light-Bringer.

2. Next, we may note the great deterrent which the idea of immortality has proved to be in human life. When once an inkling of the great truth had entered men’s minds it held them, and held them with increasing tenacity. It appears to be one of those truths which, once glimpsed, can never again be wholly lost sight of. There are, we know, to be found those who stoutly deny in words a future life; but it may be questioned whether they can shake off the yoke of the thought from their deliberations. No man can be certain there is not a future life, and this uncertainty is quite sufficient, as Shakespeare says in a well-known passage, to “puzzle the will,” and make the man draw back from the verge of a crime. There are certain conditions of the human mind which appear to require the check supplied by the belief in immortality. It seems to be needed to ballast the temper under great sufferings and great temptations. Under the Roman Empire suicide was sadly common, because, there being no powerful belief of immortality, men thought themselves at liberty to dispose of their lives as they pleased. And we may justly argue that the full revelation of life and immortality by our Saviour Jesus Christ was called for by the saddened, wearied, dejected mental condition into which the world, with all its thought and civilisation, had fallen. The belief in a future life is doubtless an immense restraint upon wickedness, even although many do not know, or will not admit, what it is that restrains them. One of the keenest judges of human nature (Dr. Johnson) once said: “The belief in immortality is impressed upon all men, and all men act under an impression of it, however they may talk, and though, perhaps, they may be scarcely sensible of it.” To this the reply was made that some people seemed to have not the least notion of immortality; and a distinguished man was mentioned as an example. “Sir,” the great moralist replied, “if it were not for the notion of immortality, he would cut a throat to fill his pockets.” History and human life in general show us that the nature of men requires repression; and that human laws and government are not sufficient for the purpose, although they act upon the same powerful principle of fear. Whenever and wherever the awful idea of a future has been pressed home upon men, there has been a speedy lessening of violence, ferocity, and crime.

3. Lastly, let us think of the belief of immortality as a needed incentive in human nature. We need stimulus, as well as repression. The one fact is as clear and constant as the other. We are naturally indolent except in the pursuit of our desires, tastes, interests. It is doubtful whether any man loves and pursues goodness purely for its own sake; at all events, to any considerable extent. The revelation of a future life comes in to meet this requirement; for all that goads and stirs up our spiritual energies draws its power from immortality, and from nowhere else. We are promised in an especial manner that we are to enjoy the sense of power and victory; and every pure and powerful instinct of our nature is offered its appropriate gratification in a state where God hath prepared for them that love Him things which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive. (E. Johnson, M. A.)


The message of Easter, the gospel of the Resurrection, is the revelation of the Divine continuity of life, which shows us what life is already, with its mysterious connections and conflict; it shows us how we may conceive of life hereafter in its final consummation; it shows us how we may even now gain for the fulfilment of our appointed work the support of a Divine fellowship. The revelation of the risen Christ is the revelation of life present. Believers are undoubtedly to blame for allowing it to be supposed for a single instant that their faith deals only, or deals mainly, with the future. The clear voice of apostolic teaching is, “We have passed out of death into life.” We have passed, and not we shall pass hereafter. “This is eternal life” in actual fruition, and not this will bring life as a later reward. “Our citizenship is in heaven.” “We have come to Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” And, indeed, a gospel to be real must be present. No one can look upon the phenomena of life without feeling its oppressing riddles. We need some light upon them. Earthly life is, and it must be, fragmentary, sorrow-laden, sinful. Who has not asked at some still moment, “How is my brief span of years crowded with little cares and little duties, relating to that past out of which it came, and to that future into which it will soon pass”? In the risen Christ we see the coherence, the unity of all action, and the real significance of simple work done in silence and obscurity. Tile manhood which Christ raised to heaven was enriched by the heritage of long ages, and matured in the fulfilment of the humblest offices of duty. 4. brief ministry only revealed what had been slowly shaped in unnoticed and forgotten ways. Looking to Him, living in Him here and now, we know that each human life is one in all its parts, and is essentially Divine; we know that it is one by the subtle influences which pass on from year to year, and from day to day; one by the continuous action of the will which shapes the fabrics of our character. We know that it is Divine; Divine in its present, if unseen, influence, Divine in the assurance of its future consummation. We know also that the unity of each single life is an image of the larger unity in which each single life is included. In the risen Christ we see the outcome of suffering; we cannot admit that in His life, closed to the eyes of men in betrayal, desertion, torture, there was one useless pang, one shadow of failure. All ministered to the same end. In the issue, even as we see it now, human judgments have been reversed. In the risen Christ we see the overthrow of sin. The end of sin is death, and Christ made death itself the way to life. The resurrection of Christ is thus a revelation of life present, disclosing the unity and the grandeur of the cause to which, with great services or small, we all minister, drawing joy, the joy of the Lord, out of our transitory sadnesses and disappointments, and pains, bringing the assurance that our last enemy shall be destroyed. It is also a revelation of life future. It is indeed a revelation of the future, because it is a revelation of the present. Future and present are essentially combined in the eternal. Under this second aspect the Resurrection conveys a two-fold lesson: it reveals the permanence of the present in the future; it reveals also in the future, as far as we can gain the thought, a form of life, fuller, better, more complete than this of our separated personalities. In Him, the representative of humanity, we see that the perfection of earthly life is undiminished by death; we see that what seems to be dissolution is only transfiguration; we see that all that belongs to the essence of manhood can exist under new conditions; we see that whatever be the unknown glories and the unimaginable endowments of the after life, nothing is cast off which rightly claims our affection and our reverence in this. This, however, is not all. Beyond this revelation of the ennobled permanence of the present in the life of the Resurrection, further depths of thought are open to us. Here on earth our lives are fragmentary and isolated; we are all separated one from another, and we are weakened by the separation. Our material frames are not, as we are tempted to think, the instruments of our union, but the barriers by which we are divided. The most active fellowship is at last irrevocably interrupted; the most intimate sympathy leaves regions of feeling ununited; but in the risen Christ we seem to have held out to us the image of a diviner life, in which each single believer shall be incorporated and yet not absorbed; the unity which is now foreshadowed in the unity of will with will is hereafter, as it seems, to be realised in a unity which shall embrace the whole being; each one will consciously share in the fulness of a life to which he has given himself, and will serve that by which he is maintained. To he in Christ is now the description of our vital energy; it will then be the sum of our existence; the body of Christ will then be no longer a figure, but a reality beyond all figures. And so it is given us to feel, even in the midst of our conflicts and estrangements, that the saddest differences of our mortal state are lost, as we are reminded by the most moving epitaph in our abbey: “Lost in the hope of the resurrection.” (B. F. Westcott, D. D.)

Life and immortality brought to light

If on a starlight night we undertake a journey On foot, and we know the general bearings of the country along which we pass and the general direction of the course we must take to reach the desired goal, we may with care and painstaking come to the end of our journey in safety. The moon is shining in the heavens, the constellations are glittering over our heads, and by the aid of the stars travellers can cross the trackless desert. But there are disadvantages in taking the journey by night which do not exist in the full light of day. With care we may keep the beaten path by night, yet sometimes there are difficulties in so doing. Mr. Forbes tells us that in his long night ride in South Africa he was obliged to alight from his horse to feel the ground, that he might be sure of the waggon-track. Then there are finger-posts here and there, but the light at night will not enable us to decipher the inscriptions. We pass by pleasant orchards and gardens, and in the daytime we see the fruits and flowers, but these are hidden in the night. There are avenues of trees whose boughs and branches interlace, which cast dark shadows in the night, bat which in the day form cool resting-places. The beauty of the landscape is for the most part lost in the night, but in the day we look upon it with pleasure. The night journey is not so convenient and pleasant as the journey by day. Now, the journey by night represents to us the life of the saints of God before the advent of the Saviour into the world, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The journey by day represents the life of God’s children living in the broad daylight of the Christian revelation. Christ said of Himself, “I am the light of the world.” Before His coming it was the night-time of Divine revelation. God’s saints must walk by faith, as men walk in the night by the light of the moon and stars. When He came, the Sun of Righteousness arose to bless the world with His light. There were dark shadows for the ancient saints where we find quiet resting-places. There were mysteries which they could not decipher, which are clear to us in the light of Christ.

Consider Christ abolishing death.

1. Christ removed the uncertainty that hung over death. If we go down into the catacombs of Rome, the subterranean passages beneath the city, we may see the remains of heathen and Christian lying side by side. Over the heathen dead are inscribed words of hopeless sorrow. A Pagan mother writes words of bitter despair over her child, as if the handful of ashes were all that remained of the darling she once fondled and cherished. The ancient writings and funeral inscriptions of the heathen world, with few exceptions, corroborate the words of the Apostle Paul that they lived without hope, and that their sorrow for their departed friends was without hope. On the other hand, the words written over the Christian dead speak of the departed as being at rest with God. Over them we might write the words inscribed over the entrance to the catacombs of Paris, “Beyond these bounds they rest in peace, looking for the blessed hope.” We must not attribute the same hopelessness to the Hebrew patriarchs, prophets, and righteous men of the elder dispensation. They seem to have had a persuasion of a life beyond the present. But a comparison of the words of the Old Testament saints with those of the apostles will present to us a contrast. “To die is gain.” “Our home is in heaven, from whence we look for the Saviour.” “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.” Christ removed the uncertainty and obscurity which hung over death, and asserted the resurrection of all the dead, both of the just and the unjust.

2. Christ gives assurance of the full remission of sins and of the Divine favour to all who believe on Him. “The sting of death is sin.”

Jesus Christ hath brought life and immortality to light. Mark the force of the words “life” and “immortality.” Life, as will be seen by comparing the passages in which the word occurs in the New Testament, represents the highest blessedness to which we can attain. If we are in Christ, a new life has been implanted within us by the Holy Spirit, and that life will grow and expand until we reach the highest of which our nature is capable. This term includes all the blessedness to be found in communion with God, from the open vision of the Saviour and His glory, from the society of God’s redeemed people, from the study of God’s works in creation, providence, and redemption, from the fullest and most perfect service of God; in one word, all that we sum up in the word heaven. The word immortality completes the conception of the better life, showing that it is without decay or death. Whilst everything around us is suggestive of decay, the life of the Spirit is one of immortality. (W. Bull, M. A.)

Life and immorality brought to light by Jesus Christ

Death, as a physical fact, is inevitable and universal. The history of our race is a succession of generations; which march, with unceasing tramp, across life’s narrow stage, each treading on the heels of its hurrying predecessor. Like the leaves of the forest in spring, they come; only to be soon swept away again, like the leaves of the forest in autumn. They chase one another to destruction, like snowstorms scudding across the insatiate ocean’s breast. No man can hope that he will be one solitary leaf, which the autumn’s blast will spare; or one solitary snowflake, which will not melt among the billows. Therefore are all men, “through fear of death, all their lifetime subject to bondage.” But Jesus has “abolished death”--has robbed him of his terrors, and broken the horn of his power. He has illumed the dark recesses of the tomb; and by a most Divine camera, pictured on the disc of faith the distant future to our gaze. He has connected that future with our present life; and has thus restored to the latter its true dignity and significance, while He has for ever dissipated the notion that man’s doom is annihilation.

Before the appearance of Christ life and immortality were concealed in deepest darkness. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, Persians, and Chaldeans, seem to have had no idea of a future life whatever. Their wise men were merely students of nature. The materialism of the Chinese was, if possible, still more blank and absolute. In India the loftiest reach of speculation produced only the doctrine of Divine absorption. In Greece, philosophy, which means the study of religion, began about six centuries before Christ. Thales was born at Miletus, in Asia Minor. He ranked among the seven wise men. He lived to a good old age, and enjoyed a high reputation for virtue. He first uttered that magnificent aphorism “Know thyself.” This reveals to us a man of solitary meditation. He was wont to wander along the pebbly beach of the muttering sea; and it seemed to him that water, by which all things are nourished and kept alive, was the prime source of creation. The gods were made of this element. So was every human being, and at death the soul is soaked up by the parent earth. How mournful the reflection, that our race had gone so far astray from wisdom and from God, as to invent only so poor and crude an hypothesis through the most intense thinking of its noblest sage! Next came one to say that the soul was air; another, that it was fire. Neither of these conjectures allowed a future life. Pythagoras, a mathematician, conceived that numbers were the beginning Of creation. This mystical dogma was soon rendered more intelligible by one of his followers, an enthusiastic musician, who imagined that the human body was an instrument of music, and the soul but the symphony of its playing. When the chords of the lyre were snapped by death, then of course the melody departed, the soul became extinct. We now come to the prince of all Pagan religionists, Xenophanes. He was born in Ionia some five hundred years before Christ. He renounced all worldly grandeur, and applied himself, with most zealous devotion, to studies about God and man. He apprehended the Infinite One as a self-existent and eternal Spirit. But when he sought to know the truth about his own soul and its destiny, he was completely baffled. He bitterly complained that “error is spread over all things,” and declared, in declining age, that he was yet, “hoary of years, exposed to doubt and distraction of all kinds.” Time would utterly fail to tell of others, who sought with similar non-success to solve this great problem, “If a man die shall he live again?” None ever advanced one step beyond Xenophanes. He may fairly be taken as the type of man at his best state, with regard to religious knowledge, so far as the gospel is unknown. As to our own country, let me remind you of an anecdote about our druidical ancestors, which most beautifully and pathetically exhibits their utter ignorance of futurity. Their chieftains sat together in their council-hall, consulting about peace and war. It was the darkest hour of night. Resinous torches, rudely fastened against the walls, shed a few ghastly rays upon the grim countenances of the perplexed warriors. As they sat thus in deliberation, a poor bird, scared by some alarm and attracted by the light, suddenly fluttered into their midst through a small side window. More frightened than before, it hastily flew across to the opposite side, and escaped again, through another opening, into the darkness from which it had so transiently emerged. “Ah!” said the orator then speaking, “how like is our miserable life to that poor bird’s passage! We come out of darkness, and know not why we are here: and then we are hurried into darkness again, not knowing whither we go.” I have now established our position that, save for Christ and His gospel, men have ever been ignorant of life and immortality. It is so still. Without ranging over the heathen world, we may just state, that precisely the same questions are being agitated in Germany at this moment as were discussed in ancient Greece; and, apart from the Bible, with no better means of solving them, with no better hopes of success. “The united force of thousands of intellects, some of them among the greatest that have made the past illustrious, has been steadily concentrated on these problems without the least result. Centuries of labour have not produced any perceptible progress.” But let us now turn to Christ and His gospel: and--

Consider how He has brought life and immortality to light, thereby abolishing death. In explication of this delightful topic, we must declare, first, what Christ has taught, and, secondly, what He has done, in relation to our immortal life.

1. He has taught us the truth concerning the future. The Saviour’s doctrine of immortality comprises four particulars:

(1) That men are spiritual and immortal creatures.

(2) That their future state will be one either of perfect happiness or of unmitigated woe.

(3) That the decision of this alternative, in every case, will depend upon personal moral character; and

(4) That the acquisition and formation of this character is confined to the term of our earthly life.

2. We are to state what He has done to secure for us individually an immortality of blessedness. It would not have been enough merely to inform us about the future. We need to be guided into it with safety. If others could have demonstrated to us a final world of blessedness, they could not have made it ours; but Jesus has procured for us a title to the felicities, whose existence He has proved. He has undertaken to be to us “the Way, the Truth, the Life.” We were guilty--He takes away our sin, having “died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.” We were polluted--He is our sanctification, purifying our souls “with the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” We were undeserving, but He achieves for us a title to heaven. “The gift of God is eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That He may actually lift us up to the mansions above, is the reason why He has enlightened us concerning them. (T. G. Horton.)

The discoveries made in the gospel with respect to a future state

The vale of death is a road in which all men must travel; a path in which our fathers have gone before, and we ourselves must soon follow. It is therefore natural, and indeed of great importance, to inquire, whither it leads and where it will bring us.

The gospel has confirmed the evidence and assured us of the certainty of a future state. Our Saviour has done much more than merely confirmed the truth of a future state.

As He has assured us of a life to come, so He has revealed the manner of our deliverance from death, by a blessed and a glorious resurrection. This is the greatest and most important discovery that was ever made to the world.

Our Saviour has revealed in the gospel not only the resurrection but also the glorification of the body. It is at present mortal, tending constantly to dissolution, and, at last, crumbling into dust; but it will be raised incorruptible, and capable of lasting through immortal ages, like the soul to which it is to be united.

Another important discovery made by the gospel is the general judgment by Jesus Christ. This article of faith, as well as the two former, is matter of pure revelation. Whether God would sit in judgment Himself, or delegate that office to another; whether the judge would make a visible appearance, or remain invisible in judgment; and whether our fate should be decided by a particular trial of every person at death, or by a public and general judgment of the world, were unknown to mankind. To reveal these important circumstances was reserved for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light by the gospel. Our Saviour’s information extends beyond the future judgment.

He has intimated to us the general nature of the heavenly felicity, and the principal sources from which it will spring. The gospel plainly intimates that in the heavenly state good men shall be delivered from the natural evils of this life, which fall heavy on some, and from which none are entirely exempted; that they shall be delivered from the injuries of evil men; nay, that they shall be delivered from the sufferings which they frequently bring upon themselves here, by the irregularity of their passions, and the folly of their own conduct. In the future state, the gospel informs us, the understanding will be enlarged, and made capable of extensive acquisitions; the heart will be completely purified, and rendered susceptible of the finest feelings, especially of love; and, to give scope to these affections, we shall be admitted into the noblest society, and enjoy a delightful intercourse with angels and saints, with Christ and God, with all that is great and good in the universe.

To complete the discoveries of the gospel, our Saviour has informed us that the future happiness is eternal. As the joys of heaven are complete and satisfactory, so they are permanent and perpetual; subject to no abatement, to no interruption or decay; not only large as our wishes, but lasting as our immortal souls. (Andrew Donnan.)

Immortality is the glorious discovery of Christianity

I say discovery, not because a future life was wholly unknown before Christ, but because it was so revealed by Him as to become, to a considerable extent, new doctrine. Before Christ, immortality was a conjecture or a vague hope. Jesus, by His teaching and resurrection has made it a certainty. Again, before Christ, a future life lent little aid to virtue. It was seized upon by the imagination and passions, and so perverted by them as often to minister to vice. In Christianity this doctrine is wholly turned to a moral use; and the future is revealed only to give motives, resolution, force to self-conflict and to ,-. holy life. My aim, in this discourse, is to strengthen, if I may, your conviction of immortality; and I have thought that I may do this by showing that this great truth is also a dictate of nature; that reason, though unable to establish it, yet accords with and adopts it, that it is written alike in God’s Word and in the soul. It is plainly rational to expect that, if man was made for immortality, the marks of this destination will be found in his very constitution, and that these marks will grow stronger in proportion to the unfolding of his faculties. I would show that this expectation proves just that the teaching of revelation, in regard to a future life, finds a strong response in our own nature. This topic is the more important, because to some men there seem to be appearances in nature unfavourable to immortality. To many, the constant operation of decay in all the works of creation, the dissolution of all the forms of animal and vegetable nature, gives a feeling, as if destruction were the law to which we and all beings are subjected. It has often been said by the sceptic, that the races or classes of being are alone perpetual, that all the individuals which compose them are doomed to perish. Now I affirm that the more we know of the mind the more we see reason to distinguish it from the animal and vegetable races which grow and decay around us; and that in its very nature we see reason for exempting it from the universal law of destruction. When we look around us on the earth we do indeed see everything changing, decaying, passing away; and so inclined are we to reason from analogy or resemblance, that it is not wonderful that the dissolution of all the organised forms of matter should seem to us to announce our own destruction. But we overlook the distinctions between matter and mind; and these are so immense as to justify the directly opposite conclusion. Let me point out some of these distinctions.

1. When we look at the organised productions of nature we see that they require only a limited time, and most of them a very short time, to reach their perfection, and accomplish their end. Take, e.g., that noble production, a tree. Having reached a certain height, and borne leaves, flowers, and fruit, it has nothing more to do. Its powers are fully developed; it has no hidden capacities, of which its buds and fruit are only the beginnings and pledges. Its design is fulfilled; the principle of life within it can effect no more. Not so the mind. We can never say of this, as of a full-grown tree in autumn, it has answered its end, it has done its work, its capacity is exhausted. The mind, by going forward, does not reach insurmountable prison-walls, but learns more and more the boundlessness of its powers, and of the range for which it was created.

2. I now add, that the system of nature to which the tree belongs requires that it should stop where it does. Were it to grow for ever it would be an infinite mischief. But the indefinite expansion of the mind, instead of warring with and counteracting the system of creation, harmonises with and perfects it. One tree, should it grow for ever, would exclude other forms of vegetable life. One mind, in proportion to its expansion, awakens and, in a sense, creates, other minds. It is an ever-enlarging source of thought and love.

3. Another distinction between material forms and the mind is, that to the former destruction is no loss. They exist for others wholly, in no degree for themselves; and others only can sorrow for their fall. The mind, on the contrary, has a deep interest in its own existence. In this respect, indeed, it is distinguished from the animal as well as the vegetable. An improved mind understands the greatness of its own nature, and the worth of existence, as these cannot be understood by the unimproved. The thought of its own destruction suggests to it an extent of ruin which the latter cannot comprehend. The thought of such faculties as reason, conscience and moral will, being extinguished--of powers akin to the Divine energy, being annihilated by their Author--of truth and virtue, those images of God, being blotted out--of progress towards perfection, being broken off almost at its beginning--this is a thought fitted to overwhelm a mind in which the consciousness of its spiritual nature is in a good degree unfolded, In other words, the more the mind is true to itself and to God, the more it clings to existence, the more it shrinks from extinction as an infinite loss. Would not its destruction, then, be a very different thing from the destruction of material beings, and does the latter furnish an analogy or presumption in support of the former? To me, the undoubted fact that the mind thirsts for continued being, just in proportion as it obeys the will of its Maker, is a proof, next to irresistible, of its being destined by Him for immortality.

4. Let me add one more distinction between the mind and material forms. I return to the tree. We speak of the tree as destroyed. We say that destruction is the order of nature, and some say that man must not hope to escape the universal law. Now we deceive ourselves in this use of words. There is in reality no destruction in the material world. True, the tree is resolved into its elements; but its elements survive, and still more, they survive to fulfil the same end which they before accomplished. Not a power of nature is lost. The particles of the decayed tree are only left at liberty to form new, perhaps more beautiful and useful combinations. They may shoot up into more luxuriant foliage, or enter into the structure of the highest animals. But were mind to perish, there would be absolute, irretrievable destruction; for mind, from its nature, is something individual, an uncompounded essence, which cannot be broken into parts and enter into union with other minds. I am myself, and can become no other being. My experience, my history, cannot become my neighbour’s. My consciousness, my memory, my interest in my past life, my affections, cannot be transferred. If in any instance I have withstood temptation, and through such resistance have acquired power over myself and a claim to the approbation of my fellow-beings, this resistance, this power, this claim, are my own; I cannot make them another’s. I can give away my property, my limbs; but that which makes myself, in other words, my consciousness, my recollections, my feelings, my hopes, these can never become parts of another mind. In the extinction of a thinking, moral being, who has gained truth and virtue, there would be an absolute destruction. (W. E. Channing, D. D.)

The Christian view of death

It is noticeable how small a space is given to death in the New Testament, as if our Lord Jesus made light of it! His idea of it is sleep. How full of peacefulness is this idea! There is nothing dreadful about it. “Lord, if he sleep he shall do well!” Beautiful and benign sleep! Our little children, when the time comes and the parent commands it, go to sleep. They laugh as they climb the stairs; there is a short silence as they kneel; then we hear them singing as the last evening sunbeams brighten the room, till sleep nestles down on their eyelids and they know nothing more till the morning’s sun wakes the birds outside, and another day is here! Thus shall it be with God’s children when they die. Their Father will, at the proper time, bid them put there work aside and go to rest. Not unwillingly, but with cheerful love they obey. Amid the evening glow of that Divine kindness which has brightened their working hours they will say “good-night” to their friends and the world and peacefully “sleep in Jesus,” “until the day break and the shadows flee away.” (I. E. Page.)

Life enlarged by death

A child that has been penned up in narrow quarters, with few playthings, and in constrained circumstances, has a grandfather and grandmother living in the country. There is the farmhouse full of rude abundance; there are the ample grounds; there is the brook, with fish in it; there is the big barn; and there are all manner of things in the barn-yard. The child has been out there once; and he had such liberty, and found his grandma such a dear old grandma, and his grandpa such a kind old grandpa, that the days were not long enough. He had so much sport, and was made so much of, and was never scolded, and never sent to school, and had nothing to do or to think of but to play, play, play all the time, that he would have liked to abide there. But he has been taken back to the city, and he lives in a narrow house, and has to go to school, and has to do this thing and that which are irksome to him, and is put through all the paces which are thought necessary for his education and development; and he longs for his country experience again. When spring comes round once more, the father and mother say to the little fellow, “Now, if you are a good boy, next June we are going to take you out to grandpa’s.” The idea of going out of the city to grandpa’s! The child’s mind is filled with all manner of delights. Ah, what perfect ecstacy he feels! He dreams about going, and rejoices in the thought. He does not analyse the intermediate steps, nor think much about them. His grandpa’s is the place where, to his thought and affection, centres everything that is most heavenly--for a boy on earth, that is. I suppose that comes nearer to representing the feelings which the primitive disciples, the early Christians, had about dying, than any other illustration that you could well make. It was to go and be with the Lord. (H. W. Beecher.)

A great may be

Rabelais, when dying, said, “I go to seek a great may be.” (T. Carlyle.)


Renan is unquestionably one of the most distinguished among those who deny the existence of a creative will and personal God. Yet Renan cannot make up his mind that he has lost for ever his beloved sister; that she has passed into the night of nothingness. He dedicates his “Life of Jesus” to her memory;…and invokes “the pure soul of his sister Henriette, who died at Byblos, September 24, 1861, to reveal to him, from the bosom of God in which she rests, those truths which are mightier than death, and take away the fear of death.” (J. H. Rigg, D. D.)

The lighted valley of death

In India a dreaded pass stretches between high rocks which frown from either side, as if ready to entomb the traveller who walks below. But when, towards evening, the sun in its westward journey reaches the head of the defile and pours its rays directly into it, the whole aspect of the valley is changed, The sun, standing there, brightens the gloom into light and beauty. Who now would dread to pass that way? Thus shall it be with those who die in Christ. The living have always dreaded the gloom of the dark valley; but what if, as we pass, the Sun of Righteousness shall shine overhead? (I. E. Page.)

“Now open your eyes”

As one, taking his friend up a hillside in Scotland, that he might have a glorious view of Loch Lomond, bade him close his eyes, and led him by the hand till he could say, as the splendour of the landscape lay before him, “Now open your eyes,” so Christ has a glory of heaven to show His people; but ere its full revelation they must close their eyes in death and clasp His hand for a few steps in darkness, to open them at His bidding amid the glories of heaven, and behold for themselves what “He hath prepared for them that love Him.” (I. E. Page.)

Verse 11

2 Timothy 1:11

A preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.

I. A public preacher is one who may discharge his office ever in one and the same place.

An apostle goes about everywhere; but he would have fully satisfied the requirements of his apostolic office if he had once for all declared his message.

Teacher. Here we have in addition diligence and perseverance in teaching: from which arose suffering. (J. A. Bengel.)

The preacher a crier

It is an argument, that the preacher brings not stolen stuff nor bad commodity. He whose fruit is best, as we see in cities, crieth loudest. A low voice in the street argueth either an ill-commodity or a false way of obtaining it. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Not to cavil with the preacher

Again, this must teach the auditors not to cavil with the crier, but to hear the words of exhortation patiently. Some, like Festus, tell Paul, if he cry aloud, that he is beside himself; reputing the preacher rude, indiscreet, passionate. Why? Can a bell have too shrill a sound? a hound too deep or bass a mouth? a piece give too great a report? or a crier extend his voice too high? Shall not the shepherd shout when the sheep are wandering, or ready to be devoured by the wolf? Will ye not ring the bells awake, when the city is on fire? Discharge the greatest cannon, when the ship is in distress, and in danger to be lost in the haven? And shall not the preacher cry, roar, and, as John, bellow like an ox (for so the word is read), when men sleep and sink in sin, and be in hazard to be drowned and devoured by Satan, that cruel wolf, and pirate of the soul? (J. Barlow, D. D.)

The servants of God take delight to dwell and discourse of good things

(Acts 20:7):--It’s no burden or wearisomeness to the saints to enlarge their speech on heavenly subjects. A traveller when he hath taken a view of the situation of many towns and countries, beheld the rare monuments that he hath met withal, rejoiceth to make relation thereof unto his friends after his return; and so is it with a Christian, who is a spiritual traveller: when he hath seen into the mysteries of religion, found out the great secrets therein contained, by the painful travel of his mind, he maketh it the joy of his heart largely to discourse thereof unto his brethren. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Love makes teachers

But did they love the gospel they neither would or could be silent; for their word, like fire in straw, would burst forth. Will not the soldier speak of his wounds, the huntsman of his hounds, and the husbandman of his cattle and grounds? And shall we love the gospel and never make mention of it? No, no: this little speech of heavenly things argueth that the love of many is but cold. Love the word once, and say nothing of it, if thou canst. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

A gospel preacher

Bramwell was a plain preacher in the States, and to some extent an uncultivated preacher; but he was frill of faith and zeal, and his ministry was attended with marvellous power. He was preaching in a little village on one occasion, and the German minister, Trubner, was induced to go and hear him. Trubner was a very cultivated scholar, and a profound critic; and when some of Bramwell’s friends saw him there they said, “Alas! alas! for poor Bramwell, how Trubner will criticise him!” Precious little did Bramwell care for him, or for all the philosophers under the sun. He preached, and set before his audience the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, and when Trubner went out of the church one of his friends said to him, “How did you like him? Don’t you think he wanders a good deal in his preaching?” “Oh, yes,” said the old Lutheran, “he do wander most delightfully from de subject to de heart.” (The Teacher’s Cabinet.)

Verse 12

2 Timothy 1:12

I also suffer these things.

Pride in the profane causeth good men to suffer for well-doing

The Pharisees were zealous for the law and ceremonies, and Paul preached the gospel, called them beggarly and impotent rudiments; told that if they were circumcised Christ profited them nothing. Why, this so took down the pride of man, that he should not be justified by his own works, but by another’s, that Paul was persecuted, and hardly intreated of his own countrymen. If a skilful tailor take measure of a crooked and misshapen person, and fit the garment proportionable to the pattern, a proud piece of flesh will pout, swell, and wrangle with the workmen; so let the ministers and men of God do good, divide the Word aright, high and lofty spirits will be muttering, for they cannot endure the light, or to be told of their deformities. Thus Paul was reputed aa enemy for telling them the truth. A counterfeit and false glass is the fittest for old, withered, and wrinkled curtizans to view themselves in; for if it should show them their right shapes, all things to nothing, they split it against the walls. (Jr. Barlow, D. D.)

For I know whom I have believed.

The foundation of the Christian’s hope

One ground of the apostle’s assurance was a persuasion that Christ is able to keep the souls committed unto him.

1. It is implied that Christ is able to bring the soul into a state of salvation.

2. This persuasion of the apostle implied that Christ is able also to preserve the soul in a state of salvation. He added, as the other ground of his assurance--

A consciousness that he had himself committed unto Christ his own soul. However firmly he might be persuaded of Christ’s ability to save the souls committed to Him, he yet could not be assured that He would save his soul unless he felt conscious of the fact, that it was really committed unto Him. Let us now see what things this consciousness also implied.

1. It implied that he had knowingly given up all thoughts and hopes of saving himself by his own merits and doings.

2. It was further implied in it, that he now knowingly placed all his hopes and dependence on the sacrifice and mediation of Jesus Christ alone.

3. But it was also implied in it that, from the time in which he had thus renounced his own righteousness, and by faith had hoped in the righteousness of Christ, he had lived and acted consistently with such a faith and hope. (E. Cooper.)

The Christian’s confidence in Christ

The faith of the Christian is here seen.

In its object “I know whom I have believed.”

In its character. It is seen in many noble qualities and bearings, inseparably connected with each other in the triumphant profession made by the apostle.

1. Knowledge is here the foundation of faith “I know whom I have believed.” Yes, he knew by irresistible demonstration--such as extracted the venom of his heart against Jesus of Nazareth, and filled it with inextinguishable love and fervent devotedness to Him.

2. As knowledge is the foundation of faith, so faith is the reposing of an absolute trust--“I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.”

In its consummation--“against that day.” There is to be a consummation--when we shall receive “the end of our faith, even the salvation of our soul.” The province of faith is but for a season, and it shall give place to the vision and fruition of God. (W. B. Collyer, D. D.)

The internal evidence of experience

The evidences for revelation have been commonly divided under two heads, external and internal. Under the head of external evidence, we may class all those proofs, which, though relating to what is found in the Scriptures, are nevertheless exterior to the Word of God; such, for instance, as the authenticity of the Books of Scripture, and the genuineness of their authorship, the miracles by which the truths that the apostles delivered were attested, and the sufferings and persecution which they underwent. But then the internal evidence is not less important. We might, first, take the internal evidence of Scripture which we gather from the Word of God itself--the harmony of one portion of it with another, and the circumstance that in our investigation of its bright and blessed pages, they seem at once to commend themselves, as what we might expect to come from the God of truth. And then there is the internal evidence, which may be gathered from the Christian’s own experience--the attestation, so to speak, of a Christian’s own experience to the truths which he finds revealed in the Scriptures of God. Now we believe that it is to evidence partaking of this character that the apostle alludes in our text. There was no confounding of his principles; there was no putting down of the truth which he maintained; nothing was able to terrify him out of what he had embraced as the truth of God. “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” Now this class of evidence, we believe, will, more or less, be the evidence of every believer in the Lord Jesus.

The first point which is presented for our consideration is that the apostle believed the gospel. This is the first act of the sinner with respect to Jesus.

But the believer goes further. He does not rest with dependence upon the promise, that the Lord will be with him unto the end of the world; but he is assured of this, because he finds that so far as he had trusted the promise, God has actually been with him. He has found Him true to His word by positive experience.

The confidence which Paul had in the future gathered from his experience of the past. (H. W. McGrath, M. A.)

The believer’s confidence in the prospect of eternity

The awful period. It is not mentioned by name; but the apostle only calls it “that day.” What day? The day of death, when “the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns unto God who gave it”? Or the day of judgment? Doubtless the day of judgment. This is often in the Scripture called “that day,” in order to show us that it is a very important, a very remarkable, a very distinguished day.

What the apostle did in the prospect of this period. He deposited something in the Redeemer’s hands; “that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” What, now, was this deposit? You evidently see it was something personal, in which he acted as a believer. And it is not necessary, as far as I know, to exclude anything from the transaction; but principally we are to understand the eternal concerns of his soul. And if this required any confirmation, it may be derived from the example of poor Stephen, who, when he was dying, said, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit”--and from the experience of David, who in an hour of danger said, “Into Thy hand I commit my spirit; Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth!” It means, therefore, simply believing. The apostle’s representation of faith here will remind us of several things.

1. The committing our eternal all into His bands implies conviction. The man before was deluded by error and blinded by ignorance; but now “the eyes of his understanding” are opened.

(1) Now he is convinced of the value of his soul.

(2) He is now convinced of the danger of the soul.

(3) And now, too, he is convinced of his inability to save his soul.

2. And this act implies also a concern for its security and welfare.

3. The act of committing the soul to Christ also implies application to the Redeemer for the purpose of salvation.

4. It implies submission,

The satisfaction felt in the review of the transaction.

1. You see what the satisfaction is derived from: and, generally considered, you observe that it takes in the apostle’s acquaintance with the great Depository himself--“I know whom I have believed.”

2. You have seen the satisfaction generally expressed; but here is a particular reference with regard to it. “And I am persuaded,” says he, “that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” (W. Jay.)

Acquaintance with Christ the Christian’s strength

Since the same source from whence Paul had all his high attainments is as open in all its fulness to each of us, as it was to him, let us consider the way in which that inexhaustible fountain was made available to him to draw supplies according to all his need, whether for support under the discouragement of his trials, or for direction under the perplexity of his difficulties. One word of the text will open the whole of this to us: “I know”;--“I know whom I have believed,” says he. Knowledge was the substance of his power. Nay, then, says the unlearned Christian, it is too difficult for me. Such knowledge is too wonderful and excellent. It is high, I cannot attain unto it. It is not for me. How discouraging! will the poor and busy man say. I have neither the leisure nor the means and opportunity of gaining it. How heartless the attempt, then, will the weak-minded and humble Christian say, conscious of his weakness. How can I ever hope to reach even a measure of that, when I feel my weakness and inability every step I take. But to the most unlearned, to the busiest, to the most feebleminded, I say, that this knowledge and all the power it contains is for you. Mark the text. The apostle does not say, I know the support I shall receive, or the direction that will be given me, for I am wise and experienced, but, “I know whom I have believed.” His knowledge was not of things, but of a person, and that but one.

Here is mentioned his knowledge of the trustee. Let us consider some particulars of the more obvious but important kind, wherein the apostle knew, and we should know Him.

1. He knew that He was faithful, therefore he believed Him.

2. He knew Him to be able.

3. He knew Him to be willing.

4. He knew Him to be all-wise, both to see his trouble, and the best way to get him out of it.

5. Nay, though clouds and darkness surrounded him, Paul staggered not at this, for he knew the ways of the Lord, that this is His method of dealing with His children. In a word he knew Him to be the sum of all happiness, the source of all strength, the pledge and faithfulness of all the promises, the depository of all power, the ruler of all events, the head over all things to His people, the Saviour both of soul and body.

What was it that the apostle committed to him? What was that deposit (as it is in the original), he was persuaded He was able to keep? I answer in one word, his treasure. But that would assume many forms under different circumstances.

1. When the guilt of sin would come upon his conscience, it would be the salvation of his soul.

2. When the power of temptation would come over him, it would be his integrity in serving God.

3. When personal dangers surrounded him, and left him no way of escape, it would be his self-preservation.

4. When assailed by the malicious insinuations of false apostles, and attacks upon his motives, as at Corinth, it would be his character.

5. When he heard of the entering in of grievous wolves into the flock he had fed so carefully, it would be the care of all the churches. Whatever it was, in short, that at the moment most occupied his thoughts and attention, that was what he had deposited for safe-keeping in the hands of Christ, and which he was persuaded He was able to keep against all assaults until that day, when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed, and every man shall have his praise of God. (G. Jeans, M. A.)

Grounds of confidence in the Saviour’s ability

We have here a strong expression of his confidence in the Saviour: let us consider, first, the nature, and then the ground of this confidence.

Its nature. Some suppose the deposit, which the apostle mentions as committed to him, to denote the gospel trust in general: and this view is favoured by the similar expression in the context, “that good thing, which was committed to thee, keep--hold fast the form of sound words.” But it seems more probable that he refers in the text to the interest of his salvation, the trust of his whole being, his body, soul, and spirit, which he had confidently committed to Christ, as Him who had “abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light.” In the near view of martyrdom, dissolution, and eternity, his confidence remained unshaken. This is a trust unfit to be reposed in any created arm. No potentate can hold back his own spirit, much less another’s, a moment from death no angel could under take such a trust; he would abjure it. Some portion of our interests we commit to others, but never think of committing our whole spirit to a creature. Hence we infer that Jesus Christ is truly God: else it were highly improper, and indeed accursed, thus to trust Him.

The grounds on which the apostle trusts the Saviour. He saw that in His character which warranted such confidence, and he had a conviction of His ability. There was some peculiarity in Paul’s case, to which we may advert, but which we need not anxiously separate from the general case of Christians.

1. The first ground, peculiar to Paul, is his vision of Christ at Damascus: this penetrated him with reverence and attachment for the glorious person then revealed: his heart was melted like wax, and he cried, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”

2. He was confirmed in his trust by his subsequent experience of the favour and power of Christ. His eyes were opened by Ananias at Christ’s command. Miraculous powers of great variety were conferred on himself; so that he did perhaps even greater wonders than Christ had done. He was inspired to preach with power and boldness: “the power of Christ rested on him.” In his soul such a renovation took place, as only Divine power could have effected: he was purified with humility and enlarged with love; his prospects were extended far beyond time: and all this was the effect of Christ’s ascension, and His gift of the Holy Spirit.

3. Jesus Christ had wrought the great salvation, and reconciled it with all the attributes of God.

4. The rank which Jesus Christ holds in heaven assures us that He “is able to keep that which is committed to Him.”

5. As Jesus Christ is the appointed Judge of all, so eternal life is at His disposal in His judicial character. (R. Hall, M. A.)

A funeral sermon

The sacred deposit which the apostle had made. All that concerned his soul, his hopes and his desires, his deliverance from guilt, and the enjoyment of the eternal favour of his God, comprised the whole amount of that deposit he had committed to the custody of his Redeemer. Now this transaction intimates--

1. The perfect consciousness of a separate and immortal existence.

2. A deep sense of the supreme value of the soul.

3. A powerful conviction of the awful nature of death.

The high satisfaction he felt with regard to its safety.

1. He knew Him in the power of His arm.

2. He knew Him in His sacred relation to the Church, as Prophet, Priest, and King.

3. He knew Him, in all the promises of His Word.

4. This persuasion was founded upon the certain return of the Saviour as the Judge of all. Hence he speaks of his soul being kept in safety against that day. (J. E. Good.)

The confidence of St. Paul

His knowledge expressed--he knew whom he believed. It was not in himself he trusted, nor on his own foundation that he built; he staked nothing on his own reason or imagination or self-begotten opinions; nor had he any reliance on his own merits, or a high notion of the worth of his exertions, even for the cause of his fellow-creatures, or for the glory of God. It was not the world or the world’s opinion that he trusted or followed, or any human judgment or conclusion that he rested upon, as apart from God’s revelation.

1. He knew Him as the revealed Saviour spoken of and promised from age to age.

2. He knew Him as the Almighty Saviour, the eternal Son of the Father, fully sufficient for the wants of fallen man, and entirely adapted to the very work of redemption which He came from heaven to fulfil.

3. And he knew and believed this on the personal experience of that power in his own heart; the presence of the Spirit of Christ in his own soul, having already revived and quickened him from the death of his former corrupt and blinded state.

The trust he reposed in the object of his faith--“I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.” There was a persuasion, or, as the original describes it, a full reliance and settled repose in his mind on the object of his faith--the Saviour whom he believed. It is perhaps here a question, whether the apostle meant to say in these words, that Christ could and would keep that which he had committed to Christ; or, that which Christ had committed to him. Doubtless there is an interchange, as it were, an intercommunion between Christ and the soul of the believer; so that something is committed from Christ to the soul of His servant, and something also committed from the soul to Christ; and both are kept by the power of Christ alone. Christ committed His truth, His word, His gospel to the apostle, to be received in the heart and proclaimed throughout the world; and the apostle committed himself, his all, to Christ. By His grace alone could the purity and perpetuity of Divine truth be upheld in the world; and by His Spirit alone could the apostle be himself upheld amidst the shocks of temptation and the inroads of time and the world, and conducted surely forward unto that day. It was in the former sense perhaps that, in a following verse, the apostle said to Timothy--“That good thing which was committed to thee, keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” But take the text rather in the view given to us by our own translation, and we shall find that apostle had been persuaded, and not in vain, to entrust to Christ and His grace, his credit, his peace, his soul for ever.

1. His credit. He had to go forth truly, to Jew and Gentile, to preach what might seem a new religion--the one truth of God, hidden from ages and generations, and new made manifest by the gospel; and he had to pledge himself that it was true, and worthy their acceptance. He was persuaded Christ could keep the word he had given, and fulfil the promises he had made,

2. He committed to Christ his peace. Peace, such as the world valued and sought after, the apostle was not very likely ever to ensure: he had to meet danger and want, to face enemies and bear insult. Happiness under such circumstances must have been very different from what the world calls happiness: but it was not the less so for that, nor could he the less confidently trust his inward peace and even outward circumstances to Him who judged and maintained his cause, and who had said “Peace I leave with you; not as the world giveth give I unto you.”

3. To Him, in fine, the apostle committed, doubtless, his soul, his all, for time and eternity. He acted here in the full spirit of his fellow-apostle St. Peter (1 Peter 4:19). (C. J. Hoore, M. A.)

Faith illustrated

The grandest action of the Christian’s life. The apostle says, he committed himself into the hands of Christ. I saw the other day a remarkable picture, which I shall use as an illustration of the way of salvation by faith in Jesus. An offender had committed a crime for which he must die, but it was in the olden time when churches were considered to be sanctuaries in which criminals might hide themselves and so escape. See the transgressor--he rushes towards the church, the guards pursue him with their drawn swords, all athirst for his blood, they pursue him even to the church door. He rushes up the steps, and just as they are about to overtake him and hew him in pieces on the threshold of the church, out comes the bishop, and holding up the crucifix he cries, “Back, back! stain not the precincts of God’s house with blood! stand back!” and the guards at once respect the emblem and stand back, while the poor fugitive hides himself behind the robes of the priest. It is even so with Christ. The guilty sinner flies to the cross--flies straight away to Jesus, and though Justice pursues him, Christ lifts up His wounded hands and cries to Justice, “Stand back! stand back! I shelter this sinner; in the secret place of My tabernacle do I hide him; I will not suffer him to perish, for he puts his trust in Me.” The apostle meant that he did make a full and free surrender of himself to Christ, to be Christ’s property, and Christ’s servant for ever. I must add, however, that this act of faith must not be performed once only, but it must be continued as long as you live. As long as you live you must have no other confidence but “Jesus only.” You may take Him now to-day, to have and to hold through life and in death, in tempest and in sunshine, in poverty and in wealth, never to part or sunder from Him. You must take Him to be your only prop, your only pillar from this day forth and for ever.

The justification of this grand act of trust. Confidence is sometimes folly; trusting in man is always so. When I exhort you, then, to put your entire confidence in Christ, am I justified in so doing? “I have not trusted to an unknown and untried pretender. I have not relied upon one whose character I could suspect. I have confidence in one whose power, whose willingness, whose love, whose truthfulness I know. I know whom I have believed.” Paul not only knew these things by faith, but he knew much of them by experience. Our knowledge of Christ is somewhat like climbing one of our Welsh mountains. When you are at the base you see but little; the mountain itself appears to be but one half as high as it really is. Confined in a little valley you discover scarcely anything but the rippling brooks as they descend into the stream at the base of the mountain. Climb the first rising knoll, and the valley lengthens and widens beneath your feet. Go up higher, and higher still, till you stand upon the summit of one of the great roots that start out as spurs from the sides of the mountain, you see the country for sonic four or five miles round, and you are delighted with the widening prospect. But go onward, and onward, and onward, and how the scene enlarges, till at last, when you are on the summit, and look east, west, north, and south, you see almost all England lying before you. Yonder is a forest in some distant country, perhaps two hundred miles away, and yonder the sea, and there a shining river and the smoking chimneys of a manufacturing town, or there the masts of the ships in some well-known port. All these things please and delight you, and you say, “I could not have imagined that so much could be seen at this elevation.” Now, the Christian life is of the same order. When we first believe in Christ we see but little of Him. The higher we climb the more we discover of His excellencies and His beauties. But who has ever gained the summit? Paul now grown old, sitting, grey hair’d, shivering in a dungeon in Rome--he could say, with greater power than we can, “I know whom I have believed!”--for each experience had been like the climbing of a hill, each trial had been like the ascending to another summit, and his death seemed like the gaining of the very top of the mountain from which he could see the whole of the faithfulness and the love of Him to whom he had committed his soul.

The apostle’s confidence. “I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.” See this man. He is sure he shall be saved. But why? Paul! art thou sure that thou canst keep thyself? “No,” says he, “I have nothing to do with that”: and yet thou art sure of thy salvation! “Yes,” saith he, “I am!” How is it, then? “Why, I am persuaded that He is able to keep me. Christ, to whom I commit myself, I know hath power enough to hold me to the end.” Martin Luther was bold enough to exclaim, “Let Him that died for my soul, see to the salvation of it.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)


THE OBJECT OF FAITH--“I know whom I have believed.” Well, now, whom have you believed? Have you believed Juggernaut? Have you believed the Hindoo Brahmins? The glorious covenant Head of His Church--I have believed Him. “He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not hath not life.” Where there is no believing of a saving description upon the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no salvation. It is in vain to tell me of all the excellencies of the creature, of all the attainments of moral philosophy, and of all the pride of superstition, it only just makes a pious road to hell for those who pretend to pursue it. There is no such thing as salvation, no such thing as safety, for time or for eternity, but by believing on the Son of God. “I know.” I beseech you to mark the positive nature of the assertion. It is not, “I hope, or trust”; it is not, “I can, or shall, or may, believe in Him”; but, “I know whom I have believed.” I do not like anything less than “I know,” even in things temporal. If I were to ask my servant whether such and such a matter is safe, or right, or done properly, and I were to receive for an answer, “I think so,” or “Probably it may be so”; “Do not tell me that,” I should say, perhaps somewhat angrily; “Do you know it? is it really so?” Surely, then, if I should require this in temporal matters, what should I look for in things spiritual You tell me God is merciful, and I shall do as well as others in the end. “I know whom I have believed.” The question might be put to the persons who make such an assertion, “What do you know of Him?” “Well, I will tell you. I know very well that He is truly, properly, essentially, eternally God. I know enough of Him to be quite sure that He is truly, and properly, and sinlessly man. I know for certain of Him, that He is, in His complex character, as God and man, Mediator, Surety, Daysman for His Church, in official standing.” Do you know all this? Do you know Him personally? Can you say, “I know that in His office He has accomplished all that is requisite for the salvation of His Church.” Look at the word “believe” before we quit this part of our subject. “I know whom I have believed.” What is believing? In the margin of our Bible we read “trusted.” Well, believing is trusting, and trusting is believing.

The nature of faith’s actings--“that which I have committed to Him.” There is something about this which enters at once into the daily experience of a child of God, and I think if it were more extensively practised in our experience, we should be happier Christians--the committing of everything to Him. I have committed to Him my soul’s concerns; I have committed to Him the affairs of time; and I committed to Him His visible Church, which neither legislators nor monarchs care anything about, but to distract and to destroy. Look at these things for a few moments. I have committed to Him my soul’s concerns. And these are of two descriptions; my soul’s concerns for security, salvation, eternal life; and my soul’s concerns in regard to spiritual existence, and spiritual prosperity, in my way to glory. I commit both to Him. Now the nature of faith’s actings is to commit all to Jesus, in both these respects. If the filthy effluvia of human nature’s risings annoy me, I shall cry, “Lord, subdue all my iniquity.” I commit them all to Him; cannot do anything without Him, and I am sure it is no good talking about it. “Lord, conquer my depravity. Lord, fulfil Thy promises, that ‘sin shall not have dominion.’“ Then go on to mark, that it is faith’s province to commit the affairs of this life to Him. They are not too little, they are not too mean for Him to notice, nor for Him to manage, and it may be viewed as the peculiar privilege of the Christian to carry to the throne of grace, and commit to Christ, every arrangement He may make, every bargain into which He may enter, every association He may form, and every companion He may choose. So with all His successes--to commit them all to Him, remembering that it is He who giveth power to get wealth. So, again, with regard to losses and crosses, painful events.

The expectation of faith. “He is able to keep “it; and that is the point which fixes upon my attention. Blessings on His name, that He is as willing as He is able! He is interested in it. But this statement implies great danger or difficulty, or the Divine keeping would not be necessary. It implies that our beloved Zion is surrounded with every description of enemies and dangers, or it would not be said that it needs Divine keeping. Moreover, there seems in this expectation of faith enough to nourish assurance itself. “He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.” Well, then, assurance may lift up its head, and say, “If it be the soul’s concerns, I have nothing to doubt--I trust it all in His hands. If it be the affairs of my family, or my business, I have nothing to harass me concerning them.” One word more. “Against that day.” We might mention the day of the termination of that trouble, the day of the accomplishment of that desire, the day of the consummation of a certain purpose or scheme in God’s providence, relative to our spiritual or temporal affairs; but I must hasten to that day the apostle had immediately in view, “that day” when Christ shall claim His own; “that day” when all the election of grace shall appear before Him, and be presented to the Father “a perfect Church, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.” (J. Irons.)

The grounds of the believer’s confidence

What a noble picture have we here! Elsewhere we are told that the apostle was “in presence weak, and in speech contemptible”; but he does not appear so now. We see in him a courage and calmness more than human. “What though my departure from this world be marked by infamy, and violence, and scorn--what though friends forsake, and the world revile, and foes pursue me with unresting hatred, I have one treasure of which they cannot rob me, one refuge to which I can always fly, one Friend who ‘having loved me, will love me unto the end.’“

The terms in which the apostle makes this noble declaration of his confidence. The apostle does not say, “what I have believed,” as if his hope stood in his creed, which might be very exact--or in his Church, which might be Very true--or in his labours, which were incessant and self-denying--or in his life, which was without reproach and blameless; but he says, “The proper object of my confidence is a Person; my religion consists in having found a Friend--A Friend with whom all my interests for time and for eternity may be entrusted. I cleave to a living, infallible, Divine Protector. ‘I know whom I have believed.’” The expression, as you perceive, is in true keeping with the entire spirit of New Testament theology. When a sinner awakes to the first sight of his danger, the first words to be addressed to him are, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” This is a principle of the Divine procedure which would commend itself were it only for its beautiful and pure simplicity. When pressed with the terrors of a guilty conscience, when despair and fear seem to be coming in upon me like a flood, I want something to fly to at once; I want to he directed immediately to an altar of safety. Tell me not of things to be believed, or learned, or sought for, or done, but tell me of one simple act which shall bring me within reach of mercy. Do not lose time in considering how “life and immortality are to be brought to light”--take Him as “the life.” A convinced sinner cannot do better than embrace a theology of one article--“I know whom I bare believed.” Again, let us look at the word “believed.” In the writings of St. Paul the expression stands for the highest form of moral persuasion. It implies the strength of an all-pervading practical conviction--the reposing of a loving, perfect, and confiding trust. The advance of this upon a mere intellectual faith you will perceive--for not only is it believed that Christ came for man’s salvation, but that this salvation has become individually applied to ourselves. “I know whom I have believed.” My faith rests upon my knowledge, just as my knowledge reacts upon my faith. I am not making a plunge into eternity in the dark. I have looked to the soundness of my Rock to see whether it will bear me; I have “tasted that the Lord is gracious,” and therefore am “confident of this very thing, that He that hath begun a good work in me, will perform it unto the day of Christ.” The word points out to us the danger of taking our religion on trust; the duty of subjecting our opinions to a diligent and inquiring search. An uninvestigated faith can never be a happy faith. Christ’s work for us must be believed, but Christ’s work in us must be proved. Let us take the next words, showing to us the nature of the Christian’s deposit--“I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” To the trust here spoken of we can place no limit. How great the privilege of having this treasure locked up in safe Custody, feeling that whatever else is taken from us, our souls are enclosed in the sanctuary of heaven--that our Jesus puts His hand upon these and says, “These souls are Mine”--“Mine to be kept, Mine to be watched over, Mine to be purged from all dross and defilement, and to be rendered back each to his own,” at that day!” And the apostle mentions this day, in preference to the day of his death, because although the earlier period would abundantly vindicate the Saviour’s faithfulness, yet the other is the day when Christ shall formally give up His great trust--when, in the presence of all the intelligences of heaven, He shall show how carefully He has watched over souls, through the conflicts of life, through the terrors of death, through the tong repose of the grave, now to hold them up as His jewels, and reward, and crown at “that day.”

The grounds on which the apostle rests his confidence. These, as we should suppose, must consist in the personal qualifications of Him who was the subject of such trust, in the attributes of His holy nature, in the efficacy of His atoning work, in the virtue of His meritorious obedience, in the continued exertions of His resumed Divinity now that He is seated at the right hand of God. Thus, let us look at the attributes of His nature--at His power, for example; does He not say, “All things are delivered into My hand”; “all power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth”; “I open, and no man shutteth; I shut, and no man openeth!” Who, then, can harm us, if we have secured such a Friend as this? But, further, we know Paul would have a ground of persuasion in the work of Christ, in the sufficiency of His obedience, in the infinite reach of His atonement. The apostle was one who felt painfully the greatness of his own deficiencies. His language ever was “‘In the Lord Jehovah have I righteousness and strength’ My only trust is ‘that I may be found in Him.’” But once more, the apostle would find a comforting ground of persuasion in the thought that the Saviour in whom he believed, lived for ever. It is a sad reflection with regard to our earthly friends, that however cherished or however tried, death will soon take them away. (D. Moore, M. A.)

A safe deposit

We sometimes believe in men whom we do not know. We think we know them; but we are mistaken. We may inquire; we may observe; we may ask for testimony and receive it: we may even put men to severe test: still we are sometimes mistaken and deceived, and we have to confess, “I did not know the man whom I trusted.” The case presented by the text is the opposite of that. In this instance we have trust leading to increased and enlarged knowledge--knowledge strengthening trust, and both producing the expression of full assurance. You observe that the language of the text is somewhat metaphorical. We have certain facts in the Christian life put before us here under the figure of a deposit--A depositor--A depositary, and the confidence of the depositor.

What is this deposit? Was it the soul of the writer? Was it the well-being of Paul in his persecution, the getting good out of his sorrow (1 Peter 4:19). Was it the work of his salvation--that work to which he himself refers, when, addressing some of his converts, he says, “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it”? Was it his future crown--the crown of righteousness? Was it his converts, for whom he was perpetually praying? Was it his apostolate? Was it the welfare of the Churches? Was it the truth, and the proclamation of the truth? The great care of a man on a dying bed is himself, and this should be our great care in life; yet to take charge of himself no man is capable. Whatever capacity a man may have had, or human nature may have had before the fall, the loss of capacity which sinfulness and transgression have occasioned is immense; and there is a fearful loss of position. The soul is guilty, and needs pardon, righteousness, and restoration. The spirit is polluted, and it is dark, dim, dull, and deathly, through its pollution--it wants light and life. A physician is needed to whom this soul, conscious of its guilt and of the disease of sin, may commit itself. A priest is needed, who can undertake the work of atonement; and an advocate, who can make intercession. Such an advocate, such a priest, such a physician, Paul had found in Jesus Christ; and to Him, who unites in His own person all that a sinner needs to find in a Saviour, Paul had given up himself.

The depositor. This is Saul of Tarsus. Did Gamaliel teach him this? Some of Gamaliel’s strongest and most prominent lessons were self-reliance. The tendency of his teaching was to lead the young Saul to depend upon himself, and he had, as we know, from the story of his life, an immense amount of self-confidence. There is nothing committed to God to keep--the man only talks of his own virtues and good deeds, comparing himself with another. This is not Saul the Pharisee, it is Saul the Christian. It is Saul, but it is Saul born again, it is Saul born from above, it is Saul a new creation, old things have passed away, behold all things have become new! New, this confidence in another; old, that self-confidence. “I can take care of myself,” would have been his language a few years ago; “my prayers and alms-giving, and good works will save me,” he would then have said; now, he is entirely changed, and he represents the state of his heart in writing, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” Saul of Tarsus took charge of himself, but Saul the Christian committed himself to another. And who is that other?

The depositary. Does Paul here refer to God, whose name he mentions in the eighth verse, or to our Saviour, Jesus Christ, whom he introduces to us in the tenth verse? We think he refers to our Saviour, Jesus Christ--not, of course, that we can separate God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ--because “God is in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” The depositary, mark, is Christ; the anointed Keeper of souls; one upon whom the unction of the Holy Ghost was poured out without measure, that He might take charge of souls; Christ--observe, Jesus Christ, the divine and devoted Keeper of souls. Now, to “Jesus Christ, our Saviour, who hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light”; to the “Word made flesh,” “God manifest in flesh,” “God over all blessed for evermore,” to Him did Paul commit himself. It is in vain that you try to mingle these things--taking the responsibility of life upon your shoulders and committing yourself to another. You cannot do this; you must either madly and vainly try to bear the burden alone, or you must commit the whole to your Saviour, and all then that you are responsible for is, doing what He tells you, and not doing that which He forbids you. But, as to the charge, the charge is His; and as to the responsibility, the responsibility is His; and as to the care, all the care is His. Is there any danger of your abusing these truths? Is it possible that any of you can say, “Well, if this be the case, I have certainly asked Christ to take the charge of my soul, and I may be as careless as I please.” When you put yourself into the hands of a physician, you feel that you are accountable for obedience to his instructions, and that his resources are made available to you just as you are submissive to his treatment. Just so with our Saviour Jesus Christ.

The confidence of the depositor. “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” The confidence of Paul relates to four objects:--

1. The general character of the depositary. “I know what He is, and what He can do; I see and I appreciate all the attributes of His nature; I know that He has an eye that never slumbers nor sleeps, an arm that is never weary, a working hand that is stretched out still, a heart of love--the extent and energy of which surpass knowledge.

2. Then it rests in the ability of the depositary with respect to this particular trust. “He is able to keep”--able to keep. Few men had so seen the dangers of this world as Paul. God keeps some souls in a blissful, childish ignorance of their dangers, and they go through life with an amount of simplicity which is extraordinary, and which we cannot account for except upon the principle that God does literally hide them as in His pavilion. But there are others whose spiritual senses are so quickened, that they see almost every thing relating to their religious life--at least the many of the spiritual and evil influences to which they are exposed.

3. This confidence relates to the continuousness of the present assurance. “He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.” The fires of that day shall burn the wood, hay, stubble, and shall develop in grand contrast the gold, and the silver, and the precious stones. “Against that day. ‘He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.’ He knows what the test of that day will be, and against that day He is able to guard my trust, and nothing that I have committed to His hands, shall even in that day be lost.”

4. Further, you observe, the apostle rests very much in the accuracy, and in the soundness of his own experience. “I know,” he says, “whom I have believed.” And how did he know? Did he know through having received the testimony of the prophets, who all bore witness to the Saviour? Did he know simply through having listened to Christian teaching, or to the teaching of such an one as Ananias? No; from these sources he did derive information, but he knew through following Christ, that He was able to keep that which he had committed to Him--he knew through taking advantage of Christ, that He was able--just as you know what a physician can do, by his attendance at your sick bed, or as you may know what a legal adviser is able to do, by the counsel he gives you in some time of temporal perplexity, or just as you may know a friend by his aid in the hour of adversity. He had, again and again, put Jesus Christ to the proof, and the proof had shown that not even God’s words had fully described the Saviour. (S. Martin.)

Christian confidence

Let us look, first of all, at this persuasion, which I want you to be the subject of; and then we will see the ground on which it rested; and then the consequences of which it was productive.

1. “I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” You see, it amounts to a perfect persuasion of security here; here is absolute safety, and the experience of it. The word “persuaded” is as strong as possible. It was the deep inwrought conviction of his soul; it was not liable to be disturbed; it was a settled fact, as you dispose of a thing, and say, That is done, it is settled. It was the persuasion of his mind, that all was safe for eternity. Observe the remarkable use in this text of the word that by the apostle, which is very instructive. He says, “I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” He uses the word, you see, twice, with no antecedent in either case exactly, and no specific object mentioned to which it refers. There is something very striking about that. He takes for granted, that all will understand it; that no mistake can possibly exist about it; that no man will read the verse, and not at once interpret to what the word “that” refers in both instances. “Keep that!” Why, no child here doubts what he means. “My soul.” “Against that day!” No child can doubt what day--the great day of His own coming. They are the two things in comparison with which everything else sinks into absolute, utter insignificance. The beauty of this passage, I think, is in that word “commit.” As expressive and explanatory of the meaning of the word faith, I do not know any more beautiful term. People seem at a less to understand what is meant at last by faith. The best interpretation, I think, is to be found in the idea which that word “commit” conveys. You commit your goods to a person you can trust; you commit your body, your life, all you have got, exactly in proportion as you have grounds for trusting a man--your welfare, your character, your reputation, your honour. You say, “I can leave my honour in your hands.” That is exactly the meaning of the word here: “I have committed.” There is something very beautiful in it, and it seems practically to be this. I have put the matter out of my hands into His.” Now, I wish you would quietly enter into that idea, and thoroughly understand it. I do not know anything that could positively give real comfort to a man, like the certainty that he has put his soul’s interests out of his own hands into safe keeping. I think this word “commit” implies not only the apostle’s sense of the value of the soul, but a man’s practical inability to keep his own soul. Why do you commit your property to some one to keep? Because you feel that you cannot keep it yourself, for some reason--never mind what. Why do you commit your health into the hands of a physician? Because you feel that you cannot cure yourself. And so on with regard to anything else. You commit your child to an instructor, because you feel that you have more confidence in the instructor. So that the fact of committing anything to another supposes some inability on our part to do the thing. Just so with the soul. I dwell on that with unspeakable comfort. There is a relief to my soul in this idea, that with its tremendous responsibilities, with the awful destinies before it, I can hand it over into Jesus Christ’s keeping, and that He will keep that which I commit unto Him.

2. But on what ground did the apostle arrive at this supposition--because there must be some ground for it? For instance: if I were to say to you to-morrow, “Go and commit your property and your interests into the hands of some man,” you would say, “Why that man? On what grounds? I know nothing about that man.” But if I were to say, “That man that you know thoroughly well,” and you were thoroughly alive to his capability and power, what would you say? You would say, “Yes, I know whom you call upon me to believe; I am persuaded that he is able to keep that, if I do commit it to him.” You see, it would altogether depend upon the knowledge you have of the man. So Paul says here: “I know whom I believe; therefore I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” Now, then, what do we know about Him? What kind of knowledge is it that would warrant Paul, or that will warrant you and me, that we can commit all to Jesus Christ? There might be, of course, endless particulars specified. This is the reason why I call upon you so much to study the whole work and character of Christ. It is, depend upon it, being thoroughly acquainted with the work of Jesus Christ, it is having an intelligent understanding of all that He has done, that gives this kind of unqualified assurance and happy confidence. Therefore we read, “This is eternal life, to know Thee.” It is not just a sort of glimpse; it is not merely saying, “I believed Christ died”; but it is understanding and knowing these things. I often tell you, and I am persuaded of it, that throughout eternity our study will be the cross of Christ. “Against that day”--that is, right on from the present moment till that day comes. You will observe, that implies the state after death, as well as our present state. I have nothing to suffer in the intermediate state--no purgatory--no difficulties of any kind. He has kept me through life; He will keep me afterwards, for He will keep that which I have committed unto Him to that day. It runs on from the moment a man commits his soul to Christ. The expression is very striking here. It seems to teach us, and to prove by implication, that after that day there is no danger. Then security will not be a matter merely of promise, but of circumstances. When I am perfected in body and soul, where will be my danger? When I am in mansions where there is a gulf betwixt the mansions and hell where Satan is, and he cannot ferry it, all will be perfectly safe. Therefore we are to be as pillars in the temple of God, and to go no more out for ever.

3. Now, then, what was the consequence of it? “I am not ashamed.” Why was he not ashamed? Because he was the subject of that glorious persuasion that all was safe. And I want you to believe, that there is the closest connection between boldness in a Christian’s career and assurance in a Christian’s heart; that no man will take the walk of a Christian, and occupy the path as he ought to do, boldly and consistently and in a straightforward way, unless he feels that all is safe with regard to his everlasting state. He says, “For which cause I suffer.” For what cause? Because “I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles; for the which cause I suffer.” When Paul was first brought to God, what did the Lord say about him? He said, “I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” It is very remarkable, He did not say, “I will show him what great things he shall do,” but “what great things he shall suffer.” If we are consistent followers of God, we must be sufferers. Having alluded to his sufferings, he says, “I suffer”; but he adds, “I am not ashamed.” “I stand manfully forward and confess Him.” Now, what is the ground? I have already mentioned it. It is because of that persuasion. That is the antidote. (C. Molyneux, B. A.)

The use and abuse of dogma

A good man at the present day, writing a letter, with death staring him in the face, to an intimate friend, would be likely to write, not, “I know whom I have believed,” but, “I know what I have believed.” It comes more natural to us to express our religious convictions so--to think more of the “what” than of the “whom”--to cling rather to the creed, or doctrinal system, than to the Living Person, to whom system and creed bear witness. Of course, the doctrinal system implies the Living Person; but the system is nearer to our thoughts than the Person. With St. Paul it was otherwise. To him the Living Person--God our Father, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour--was everything, was all in all; the system was nothing--nay, we may say, had no existence. Therefore it is, that, in view of death and judgment, and all that is most trying to human faith and courage, he writes, “Nevertheless I am not ashamed”--I feel no fear for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.” Now this is a matter which both requires and deserves the most careful elucidation. It has a very important hearing upon present difficulties and pressing questions of the day. St. Paul was trained up, as a boy and a young man, m an elaborate religious system, of which the Scribes were the expositors, and the Pharisees the devoted adherents. He was at one time, as he tells us, an enthusiastic votary of finis system himself. But the moment came at last when he found himself compelled to renounce this system utterly, to cast himself at the foot of the cross, and to consecrate his whole life to the love and the service of Jesus Christ. From that moment Christ was everything to him. Strictly speaking, he no longer had anything that could be called a religious system. All was Christ. Take one or two of his most expressive phrases, and you will feel how true this is: “To me to live is Christ.” “I am crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me.” We, too, have been trained up, more or less carefully, in an elaborate religious system. Must we break with this system, as St. Paul broke with the religious system in which he had been educated, in order to find, as he found Christ? Must we learn to say with him, in the sense in which he said it, “What things were gain to me, these I counted loss for Christ”? Or is it given to us to travel by a road which was denied to him--to preserve unbroken the continuity of religious thought. Here we are in fact touching what I have called one of the most pressing questions of the day, the use and abuse of dogma. And here we find ourselves in presence of two conflicting tendencies--two tendencies which run absolutely counter, the one to the other; one, an impatience, a fierce intolerance of dogma; the other, an equally fierce insistance upon dogma, as almost the one thing needful for these latter days, and the sole antidote for their disorders. You know the battle-cries of the two contending parties; one, demanding definite, distinctive, dogmatic, Church teaching; the other, demanding not dogma, but religion. Observe, then, first of all, that it is impossible for us to put ourselves exactly in St. Paul’s position, or to get at his result precisely in his way. Eighteen centuries lie between us and him--eighteen centuries of controversy, of division, of development. Dogma is an inevitable growth of time, as every one may learn from his own experience. The opinions of any person who thinks at all, and in proportion as he thinks, pass with lapse of time out of a semi-fluid state into one that is fixed and solid. Such conclusions are to the individual thinker what dogmas are to the Christian Church. St. Paul had never formulated to himself the dogma of the Trinity in Unity: but in the lapse of centuries that dogma became a necessity of Christian thought. But then, this development of dogma--necessary as it is, beneficial as it may be--must never be confounded with the reality of spiritual worship--the worship of the Father in spirit and in truth. It moves along a lower level altogether--the level of the understanding, not of the spirit or of the soul. Herein lies the peril of that vehement insistance upon dogmatic teaching, which is so common in these days. Unless it be most carefully guarded, it leads straight to the conclusion that to hold the right dogmas is to be in the way of life. The light of life, the light which quickens, the light which is life, can be ours only on condition that we follow Christ. Dogmatic developments, then, are one thing; the religious or spiritual life of the soul is another thing. And the former may, certainly, be so handled and used, as to give no help to the latter. Yet there is, undoubtedly, a relation between the two; and the former may be made to minister to the latter, it we will. And the question is, What is this relation? and, How may the dogmatic development be made subservient to the spiritual life? Christ says, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Life, eternal life, salvation, redemption, righteousness: such words as these express the first and the last thought of the gospel of Christ, the aim of which is ever to touch and quicken and heal the souls of men. First in the historical order, and first in the order of thought, comes the spiritual reality, “the word of life”; afterwards the dogmatic form and framework. The latter is, as it were, the body, of which the former is the soul. The words of Jesus are, as we should expect they would be, the purest conceivable expression of spiritual truth, with the slightest possible admixture of anything extraneous and unessential. For this very reason it is often exceedingly difficult to grasp their import--always quite impossible to exhaust their fulness. When we pass from the words of Jesus to the words of His apostles, we trace the first beginnings of that inevitable action of the human intellect upon spiritual truth, of which the growth of dogma is the result. It could not be other wise. The disciple could not be altogether as the Master. But though we may thus trace in the Epistles of the New Testament the development of the first “organic filaments,” out of which in time would be constructed the full-grown body of Christian dogma--the shooting of the little spikes of ice across the waters of life and salvation, which would eventually lead on to the fixity and rigidity of the whole;--yet are they so full of light, from proximity to the Fountain of all light, that the spiritual always predominates over the intellectual, and the spiritual elements of their teaching are visible on the surface, or scarcely below the surface, of the words in which it is couched. But, as time went on, the intellectual form began more and more to predominate over the spiritual substance; until, at last, it has come to be often no slight task to disentangle the one from the other, and so to get at that which is spiritual; and which, being spiritual, can be made food and refreshment and life to the soul. So far we have been dealing with the questions: “What is the relation of dogma to religion?” and “How may the dogmatic development be made to minister to the religious life?” And our answer to these questions may be summed up thus: Christ’s own words, first and before all, go straight to the springs of the religious life, that is, the life of faith and hope and love, of aspiration and endeavour; and, after these, the words of His apostles. Christian dogma grows out of the unavoidable action of the human intellect upon these words, and upon the thoughts which they express. In order to minister to the soul’s true life, such dogma must be translated back, by the aid of the Holy Scriptures, into the spiritual elements out of which it has sprung. When it becomes the question of the truth or falsehood of any particular dogmatic develop ment, the testing process with reference to it will take two forms. We shall ascertain whether, or no, it can be resolved or translated back into any spiritual elements--into any rays of that light, of which it is said, “I am the light of the world.” And, again, we shall ascertain, if possible, what are its direct effects upon human conduct and character. Does it tend, or not, to produce that new life, of which Jesus Christ is the pattern? If it does; then, unquestionably, there are in it rays of the true light, though mixed, it may be, with much error, and crossed by many bands of darkness. It must be our endeavour to disengage the rays of light from the darkness which accompanies them. Each generation of Christendom in turn has seen something of those riches, which was hidden from others. No one generation has yet seen the whole. Now, that this should be so, has many lessons for us; one or two of which we will set down, and so bring our subject to a conclusion. First of all, it devolves upon each generation in turn a grave responsibility; for each in turn may be put to the necessity of revising the work of its predecessors--such revision being rendered necessary by the peculiar circumstances of the generation in and for which the work is done. And whilst saying this, and claiming this our lawful liberty, we can also do full justice to the generations which have preceded us, and recognise the immense debt of gratitude which we owe to them. They have registered, for their own benefit and for ours, that aspect of the “unsearchable riches,” which it was given to them to see. Every succeeding generation is bound to take full and reverent account of the labours of its predecessors, on pain of forfeiting something--some aspect of truth--which it would be most perilous and damaging to lose. And this, last of all, teaches us a much-needed lesson of humility, charity, and tolerance. (D. J. Vaughan, M. A.)


In analysing those words I find three distinct ideas:--The faith of St. Paul expressed by the words, “I have believed”; the object of his faith which he recalls by saying whom he has believed; the certainty of his faith marked with so much strength and serenity by this expression, “I know whom I have believed.”

What is faith? Consult, on this subject the most widely spread opinion of this time and country. You will be told that faith is an act of intellectual submission by which man accepts as certain the teachings of religious authority. Faith would thus be to the intellectual sphere what obedience is to the practical. This idea early appears in the Church with the decline of Christian spirituality. Faith being thus understood, it resulted that the more numerous were the articles of faith which the believer admitted the stronger seemed his faith, and that the more difficult those articles were to admit it was the more meritorious. According to this way of seeing, he would be pre-eminently the man of faith who, refusing to know anything, to wish anything, to judge anything of himself, could say, “I believe what the Church believes,” and he would have no other rule but absolute submission, without reserve, to the authority speaking by the voice of his spiritual director. I ask you if you there recognise the teaching of Scripture, if that is the idea which it gives us of faith? You have read those admirable pages in which the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews passes in review all the believers of the ancient covenant, all those men of whom the world was not worthy. Now, in all those examples, is faith ever presented to you as an abdication of the intelligence, as the passive acceptation of a certain number of truths? Never. I know, however, and God preserve me from forgetting, that there is an element of submission and of obedience in faith, but at the same time I affirm that all of faith is not included therein. Faith, according to Scripture, is the impulse of the soul grasping the invisible God, and, in its highest sense, the faith which saves is the impulse of the trusting soul apprehending in Jesus Christ the Saviour and the Son of God. Why talk to us of abdication? In the impulse of faith there is all the soul--the soul that loves and thinks, the soul with all its spiritual energies. It is said to us, one must be weak in order to believe. Are you quite sure? Take, if you will, one of the most elementary acts of faith, such as every honest man has performed in his life. Before you is easy enjoyment, but selfish and guilty; it is the pleasure which attracts you--go on, it is yours. But, just on the point of yielding, the cry of your conscience rouses you, you recover yourself and you assert your duty … What are you doing then? An act of faith, for you assert the invisible; for duty neither is weighed nor is touched, for, to him who denies it, there is no demonstration that can prove it. Well! is that always an easy victory? Is it promised to the feeble? Is it necessary to abdicate to obtain it? In this example faith is not raised above moral evidence; but do you penetrate beyond, into the sphere of spiritual realities? Imagine a life entirely filled with the thoughts of God, entirely illuminated with His light, wholly inspired with His love, in one word, the life of St. Paul; when you contemplate it, are you not struck by the heroism it contains? Is there in the faith which is the moving spring of it only a passive submission, an intellectual belief in a certain number of truths? No; in this assertion of the invisible world there is a force and a greatness which lays hold on you; never, perhaps, does the human soul wrest from you a sincerer admiration than when you see it taking flight into the unknown, with no other support than its faith in the living God. In showing what it is we also answer those who say, “Of what good is faith?”

Whom shalt i believe? To this question I reply with St. Paul, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ? and why? To believe, I have said, is to trust. The question is to know to where I shall trust the destinies of my soul. It is my whole future which I am to suspend on the word of a man; it is the inmost life of my heart, it is my eternal hopes. And if I am deceived, if it is found that I have built on the sand, if one day all this inward edifice of my life should fall to pieces! We must see clearly here. No illusion, no over-exciting of the imagination, no effervescence. Why? I will try and say it again in a few words. I will repeat what those millions of adorers, for eighteen centuries, have confessed, who have been able to say with St. Paul, “I know whom I have believed.” Whom shall I believe? I have said it in the depth of my darkness, and have seen rising up before me the Son of Man. Alone amongst all He said, “I know whence I come, and I know whither I go.” Alone, without hesitation, with sovereign authority, He showed the way which leads to God. He spoke of heaven as one who descended from it. Everywhere and always He gave Himself out to be the Sent of the Father, His only Son, the Master of souls. I have listened to His voice, it had a strange accent which recalled no other human voice; beautiful with a simplicity which nothing approaches, it exercised a power to which nothing can be compared. What gave it that power? It was not reasoning, nor human eloquence, but the radiance of truth penetrating the heart and conscience; in listening to it, I felt my heart taken possession of; I yielded to that authority so strong and sweet; in proportion as He spoke it seemed as if heaven opened and displayed itself to my eyes; I beheld God as He is, I saw man as he ought to be. An irresistible adhesion to that teaching rose from my heart to my lips, and with Simon Peter I cried” To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” Was it only my soul which vibrated at that speech? I looked, and, around me, hanging on the lips of Christ, I saw an ever-growing multitude assembled from all places, coming out from all conditions on the earth; there were poor and rich, ignorant and wise, children and old men, pure spirits and defiled spirits, and, like me, all were impressed with that word, all found, as I did, light, certainty, and peace. Can I let my whole destiny depend on a word of man, and have I not the right to ask Him who thus leads me on in His steps what entitles Him to my confidence, and how He can prove to me that He comes from God? “O Thou who callest Thyself the witness of God, Thou who speakest of heaven as if it had been Thy dwelling-place, Thou who enlightenest the mystery of death to our gaze, Thou who pardonest sin, show us that Thou art He who should come.” Jesus Christ has replied to this demand of our soul. We ask Him if He comes from God, and He has done before us the works of God; I do not speak of His miracles, although they are still unexplained in their simple grandeur, in their sublime spirituality, in that indescribable truth which marks them with an inimitable seal. Jesus has done more than miracles, He has revealed God in His person; He has given the proof of His Divine mission in His life. It is holiness before which conscience perceives itself accused and judged. The more I contemplate it, the more I experience a feeling of adoration and of deep humiliation; and when at last men come and try to explain this life, and to show me in it an invention of mankind, I protest, I feel that the explanations are miserable, I feel that the reality breaks all that framework. Then, by an irresistible logic, I feel that if Christ is holy, He must have spoken truly, and ought to be believed. Is that all? Yes, if I only needed light and certainty; but there is a still deeper, more ardent, more irresistible instinct in my soul: I feel myself guilty, I thirst for pardon and for salvation. St. Paul felt himself a sinner, condemned by his conscience; he sought salvation in his works, he was exhausted in that sorrowful strife; he found salvation only on the cross. There he saw, according to his own words, the Just One offering Himself for the unjust; the Holy One bearing the curse of the sinner. In that redeeming sacrifice, St. Paul found assuagement for his conscience; the love of God as he recognised it in Jesus Christ penetrated his heart and life; is it not that which overflows in all his epistles, in all his apostolate? Is it not that which inspires, which inflames all his life? Is it not that which dictated to him these words, “I know whom I have believed”? It is also that which makes the foundation of Christian faith; it is that which millions of souls, led, like Paul, to the foot of the cross by their feeling of misery, have found in Jesus Christ; it is that which has transformed them, taken them out of themselves, conquered for ever by Jesus Christ.

The certainty of faith! Do not these words rouse a painful sentiment in you? No one will contradict me if I affirm, that there is in our epoch a kind of instinctive neglect of all that is firm and exact in points of belief and Christian life. Let us examine it. We are passing through a time of grave crisis where all the elements of our religious faith are submitted to the most penetrating analysis, and whatever may be our degree of culture we cannot escape from it. So, something analogous to the artistic sentiment is made for the religious sentiment. In music, for example, no one, assuredly, preoccupies himself with truth. The most varied, the most opposed styles are allowed, provided that some inspiration and some genius are felt in them. One day, people will applaud a sombre and dreamy symphony; others will prefer a composition brilliant with force and brightness; others, again, the softened charm of a melody full of grace: as many various tastes as art can satisfy. Now, it is just so that to-day it is claimed religion should be treated. It is wished that man should be religious; it is said that he who is not so is destitute of one sense, as he to whom painting or music is a matter of indifference; but this religious sense should, it is said, seek its satisfaction there where it finds it. To some a stately worship is necessary, to others an austere worship; to some the gentleness of an indulgent God, to others the holiness of the God of the Bible; to some an entirely moral religion, to others dogmas and curious mysteries. Do I need to ask, what becomes with that manner of looking, of the certainty of faith and religious truth? Hence that sad sight of souls always seeking and never reaching to the possession of truth, always in quest of religious emotions, but incapable of affirming their faith, and, above all, of changing their life. Nothing is more contrary to St. Paul’s certitude, to that firm assurance which makes him say, “I know whom I have believed.” Can we be astonished that such a religion should be without real force and without real action? It could not be otherwise. It might be able, I acknowledge, to produce fleeting movements, vivid emotions, and sincere outbursts, but lasting effects never. I affirm, first, that it will convert nobody. And why? Because conversion is the most deep-seated Change in the affections and life of man, and he will never exchange the known for the unknown, real life with its passions, its pleasures, however senseless they appear, for the pale and cola abstractions of a belief with no precise object and for the worship of a vague and problematic God. To fight against passions and lusts and refuse the compensation of satisfied pride, to bend the will, to conquer the flesh, and to submit life to the austere discipline of obedience, that is a work which a vague, indecisive religion will never accomplish. Without religious certainty there is no holiness and, I add also, no consolation. Let us also add that a religion without a certainty is a religion without action, without progressive force. How can it advance? Will it lay the foundations of lasting works, will it know how to conquer, will it send its missionaries afar? Missionaries, and why? Is it with vague reveries and floating opinions that they set out, like the apostles, to conquer the world? The life of St. Paul is the best explanation of his faith. Supported by his example, and by the experience of all Christians, I would say to you, “Do you wish to possess that strong immovable faith which alone can sustain and console? Fulfil the works of faith. Serve the truth, and the truth shall illuminate you; follow Jesus Christ, and you will believe in Christ.” “There is no royal road to science,” said an ancient philosopher to a prince who was irritated at finding study so difficult; so in my turn I would say, “There is no demonstration of Christianity, no apology which dispenses with obeying the truth, and with passing through humiliation and inward renunciation, without which faith is only a vain theory.” The best proof of the truth of Christianity will always be a proof of experience; nothing will outvalue that irrefutable argument of St. Paul. (E. Bersier, D. D.)

Assured security in Christ

In the style of these apostolic words there is a positiveness most refreshing in this age of doubt. “I know,” says he. And that is not enough--“I am persuaded.” He speaks like one who cannot tolerate a doubt. There is no question about whether he has believed or not. “I know whom I have believed.” There is no question as to whether he was right in so believing. “I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.” There is no suspicion as to the future; he is as positive for years to come as he is for this present moment. “He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.” Where positiveness is the result of knowledge and of meditation, it becomes sublime, as it was in the apostle’s case; and being sublime it becomes influential; in this case, it certainly must have been influential over the heart of Timothy, and over the minds of the tens of thousands who have during these nineteen centuries perused this epistle. It encourages the timid when they see others preserved; it confirms the wavering when they see others steadfast. The apostle’s confidence was that Christ was an able guardian.

1. So he meant that Jesus is able to keep the soul from falling into damning sin.

2. But the apostle did not merely trust Christ thus to keep him from sin, he relied upon the same arm to preserve him from despair.

3. Doubtless the apostle meant, too, that Christ was able to keep him from the power of death.

4. The apostle is also certain that Christ is able to preserve his soul in another world.

5. Paul believed, lastly, that Christ was able to preserve his body. “I cannot talk like that,” saith one; “I cannot say, ‘I know and I am persuaded,’ I am very thankful that I can say, I hope, I trust, I think.’”

In order to help you to advance, we will notice how the apostle Paul attained to such assurance.

1. One main help to him was his habit, as seen in this text, of always making faith the most prominent point of consideration. Faith is twice mentioned in the few lines before us. “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.” Paul knew what faith was, namely, a committal of his precious things into the custody of Christ. He does not say, “I have served Christ.” No; he does not say, “I am growing like Christ, therefore I am persuaded I shall be kept.” No; he makes most prominent in his thought the fact that he believed, and so had committed himself to Christ.

2. The next help to assurance, as I gather from the text, is this; the apostle maintained most clearly his view of a personal Christ. Observe how three times he mentioned his Lord. “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.” He does not say, “I know the doctrines I believe.” Surely he did, but this was not the main point. No mere doctrines can ever be the stay of the soul. What can a dogma do? These are like medicines, but you need a hand to give you them; you want the physician to administer them to you; otherwise you may die with all these precious medicines close at hand. We want a person to trust to.

3. The apostle attained this full assurance through growing knowledge. He did not say “I am persuaded that Christ will save me, apart from anything I know about Him”; but he begins by saying, “I know.” Let no Christian among us neglect the means provided for obtaining a fuller knowledge of the gospel of Christ. I would that this age produced more thoughtful and studious Christians.

4. Once, again, the apostle, it appears from the text, gained his assurance from close consideration as well as from knowledge. “I know and am persuaded.” As I have already said, persuasion is the result of argument. The apostle had turned this matter over in his mind; he had meditated on the pros and cons; he had carefully weighed each difficulty, and he felt the preponderating force of truth which swept each difficulty nut of the way. How many Christians are like the miser who never feels sure about the safety of his money, even though he has locked up the iron safe, and secured the room in which he keeps it, and locked up the house, and bolted and barred every door! In the dead of night he thinks he hears a footstep, and tremblingly he goes down to inspect his strong-room. Having searched the room, and tested all the iron bars in the window, and discovered no thief, he fears that the robber may have come and gone, and stolen his precious charge. So he opens the door of his iron safe, he looks and pries, he finds his bag of gold all safe and those deeds, those bonds, they are safe too. He puts them away, shuts the door, locks it, bolts and bars the room in which is the safe and all its contents; but even as he goes to bed, he fancies that a thief has just now broken in. So he scarcely ever enjoys sound, refreshing sleep. The safety of the Christian’s treasure is of quite another sort. His soul, not under bolt and bar, or under lock and key of his own securing, but he has transferred his all to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, our Saviour--and such is his security that he enjoys the sleep of the beloved, calmly resting, for all is welt. Now to close, what is the influence of this assurance when it penetrates the mind? It enables us to bear all the obloquy which we may incur in serving the Lord. They said Paul was a fool. “Well,” replied the apostle, “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed; I am willing to be thought a fool.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)


It surely is evident that while justification is all that is necessary for safety, an assured knowledge of our justification on our own part must be necessary to give us the comfort and the joy of safety. Further, it is clear that the character of all our subsequent experiences must very largely depend upon such an assured knowledge; for I cannot feel, or speak, or act as a justified man unless I not only am justified, but know that I am justified. Nor can I claim my proper privileges, and enjoy the blessed results of my new relationship with God, unless I know certainly that this relationship exists. For our position is, that, though it be possible that you may be safe in God’s sight, and yet not be safe in your own, you cannot lead the life that God intends you to lead unless you know of this your safety. First, you cannot draw near to Him with the filial confidence which should characterise all true Christian experience, and enter into the closest relations of true and trustful love. Next, you cannot learn from the happy results of this first act of faith the great life-lesson of faith. Then again you lose those mighty motives of grateful, joyous love which should be the incentives to a truly spiritual life, and instead of these there is certain to be an element of servile bondage even in your very devotion, and you must forfeit the glorious liberty of the child of God; and last, but not least, there can be no power in your testimony; for how can you induce others to accept a benefit of the personal effects of which you yourself know nothing? If your religion leaves you only in a state of uncertainty, how is it ever likely that you will have weight with others in inducing them to turn their backs upon those “pleasures of sin for a season” which, although they may be fleeting and unsatisfactory, are nevertheless a certainty while they do last. On the other side, let me point out that this knowledge of salvation is the effect and not the condition of justification. It would be absurd to teach that men are justified by knowing that they are justified. Of course they can only know it when it has happened, and to make such knowledge the condition of justification would involve a palpable contradiction. Indeed it would be equivalent to saying you must believe what is false in order to make it true. Look at these words of St. Paul; they sound bold and strong; yet just reflect for a moment. Would anything less than such a confidence as is indicated here have been sufficient to enable him to lead the life that he did? Would he ever have been fit for his life’s work if his assurance of his own personal relations with God through Christ had been more dubious, and his standing more precarious? Would anything less than this settled conviction have enabled him fearlessly to face all the odds that were against him, and have borne him on through many a shock of battle towards the victor’s crown? But now let us look more closely into this pregnant saying, and endeavour to analyse its meaning. On looking carefully at the words you will find that in stating one thing St. Paul really states three. First, he tells us that he has assumed a distinct moral attitude, an attitude of trust towards a particular person. Next, that the assumption and maintenance of this attitude is with him a matter of personal consciousness; and next, that he is acquainted with and thoroughly satisfied with the character of the person thus trusted. Let us consider each of these statements severally; and turning to the first, we notice that St. Paul represents his confidence as being reposed not in a doctrine, or a fact, but a person. “I know whom I have believed.” Many go wrong here. I have heard some speak as if we were to be justified by believing in the doctrine of justification by faith. Let me say to such what common-sense should have let them to conclude without its being necessary to say it, that we are no more justified by believing in the doctrine of justification by faith than we are carried from London to Edinburgh by believing in the expansive force of steam. Knowledge of the laws of the expansion of vapour may induce me to enter a railway train, and similarly, knowledge of the doctrine of justification may induce me to trust myself to Him who justifies; but I am no more justified by believing this doctrine than I am transported from place to place by believing in the laws of dynamics. Others seem to believe that our faith is to be reposed upon the doctrine of the Atonement, and not a few upon certain particular theories which are supposed to attach to that doctrine. But surely it is clear that our views of doctrine may be never so orthodox and correct, and yet our hearts may not have found rest in Him to whom the doctrine witnesses. Once again, some seem to regard our salvation as dependent upon belief in a fact; but surely it is possible to accept the fact, and yet come no nearer to Him who was the principal actor in that fact. Faith rests on a person, not a doctrine, or a fact; but when we believe in the person, this undoubtedly involves faith in the doctrine (so far as it is necessary for us to understand it) and in the fact. For if I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe in Him as God’s express provision to meet the case of fallen humanity, and this involves the doctrine. Once again, if I believe in Christ, I believe in Him as having accomplished all that was necessary to meet the case of fallen humanity, and this involves the fact. The doctrine and the fact both meet in Him; but apart from Him neither is of any real spiritual value to me. Nay, I will go so far as to say that my apprehension of the doctrine, and even of the fact, may be very inadequate and incomplete, yet if with all my heart I rest upon the person, my confidence can never be disappointed. Now let us consider this statement that St. Paul makes as to his moral attitude towards Christ. He tells us that he knows whom he has believed. The phrase is especially deserving of attention, and yet, curiously enough, it is generally misquoted. How commonly do we hear it quoted as if the words were, “I know in whom I have believed.” I fear that the frequency of the misquotation arises from the fact that men do not clearly discern the point to which the words of the apostle as they stand were specially designed to bear witness. The phrase, as St. Paul wrote it, points to a distinctly personal relation, and the words might, with strict accuracy, be rendered, “I know whom I have trusted.” The words, as they are misquoted, may be destitute of this clement of personal relation altogether. If I were to affirm of some distinguished commercial house in this city that I believed in it, that would not necessarily mean that I had left all my money in its hands. If I were to say that I believed in a well-known physician, that would not lead you to conclude that he had cured, or even that I had applied to him to cure, any disease from which I might be suffering. But if I stated that I had trusted that firm or that physician, then you would know that a certain actual personal relation was established between me and the man or the company of men of whom I thus spoke. How many there are who believe in Christ just as we believe in a bank where we have no account, or a physician whose skill we have never proved, and our belief does us as much good in the one case as in the other. But perhaps the true character of trust is, if possible, still more strikingly brought out by the word which St. Paul here employs in the original Greek. It is the word that would be used by any Greek to indicate the sum of money deposited, in trust, in the hands of a commercial agent, or, as we should say, a banker; in fact, the words used here simply mean “my deposit.” If you carry about a largo sum of money on your person, or if you keep it in your house, you run a certain risk of losing it. In order to ensure the safety of your property you make it over into the hands of a banker; and if you have perfect confidence in the firm to which you commit it, you no longer have an anxious thought about it. There it is safe in the bank. Even so there had come a time when St. Paul’s eyes were opened to find that he was in danger of losing that beside which all worldly wealth is a mere trifle--his own soul; for what indeed “is a man profited, if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Nay, it was not only that his soul was in danger amongst the robbers, it was actually forfeited to the destroyer, and then it was that, in his helpless despair, he made it over into another’s hands--that other who had a right to preserve it and keep it alive, because He had ransomed it from the destroyer, and from that time forward there he had left it safe and secure, because He to whom he had entrusted it was trustworthy. Now have you done the same? Have you not only believed in Jesus, but have you trusted Him? Then this must lead us to the second of the three things that we saw St. Paul here affirms. Evidently St. Paul knew, and was perfectly sure, of his own moral attitude towards God; and here he explicitly asserts that his faith was a matter of distinct moral consciousness, for “I know whom I have believed” certainly contains within itself “I know that I have believed.” Now turn this over in your mind. Surely it is reasonable enough when we come to think of it; for if we have something weighing on our minds that seems a thing of great importance, surely if we make it over into the hands of another, and leave it with him, we can hardly fail to be conscious of having done so. The question sometimes may be asked--and indeed it often is asked--“How am I to know that I have believed?” I confess that it is not easy to answer such an inquiry; but there are a good many similar questions which it would be equally hard to answer if people ever asked them, which, however, as a matter of fact, they never do. If I were to ask you to-night, “How do you know that you hear me speaking to you?” the only answer you could return would be--one that may sound very unphilosophical, but for all that one that is perfectly sufficient--“Because I do.” If you answer, “Ah! but then that is a matter of sense,” I reply, “Yes, but is it otherwise with matters that don’t belong to the region of sense-perception at all?” If I were to ask you, “How do you know that you remember, or that you imagine, or that you think, or that you perform any mental process?” your answer must still be, “Because I do.” You do not feel either able or desirous to give any further proof of these experiences; it is enough that they are experiences--matters of direct consciousness. But we need not in order to illustrate this point go beyond this question that we are at present considering. You ask, “How may I know that I believe?” This question sounds to you reasonable when you are speaking of Christ as the object of faith. Does it sound equally reasonable when you speak in the same terms of your fellow-man? How do you know, my dear child, that you believe in your own mother? How do you know, you, my brother, who are engaged in commerce, that you believe in your own banker? You can only answer in each case, “Because I do”; but surely that answer is sufficient, and you do not feel seriously exercised about the reality of your confidence, because you have no other proof of it excepting an appeal to your own personal consciousness. Let us now notice, further, that he knew well, and was perfectly satisfied with, the character of the person whom he did believe. Herein lay the secret of his calm, the full assurance of his faith. You may have your money invested in a concern which, on the whole, you regard as a safe and satis factory one, yet when panics are prevailing in the city, and well-known houses are failing, you may be conscious of some little anxiety, some passing misgiving. You have faith in the firm, but perhaps not full assurance of faith. It is otherwise with the money that you have invested in the funds of the nation; that must be safe as long as Great Britain holds her place amongst the nations of the world. Clearly our sense of comfort in trusting, our full assurance of confidence lies in our knowledge of, and is developed by, our contemplation of the object upon which our trust is reposed--if indeed that object be worthy of it--and feelings of peace and calm will necessarily flow from this. (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

I know whom I have believed

“Whom” Paul says. Quite another thing from “what.” “I know what I have believed”; that is good. “I know whom I have believed”; that is better--best. Such believing has easily its advantages, several of them. When the thing we believe is a person, our believing, creed, becomes simple and coherent; the lines of our thinking all gather at a point, our creed is made one, like grapes growing in one cluster from one stem. I am interested on occasion to ask Christian people what their Christian belief is. It is instructive to note the wide divergence of answer. One believes one thing, another, another thing. “I know whom I have believed.” To be a Christian is to believe in Christ. And what is it to believe in Christ? We reach too high for our answers; necessary truth grows on low branches. The boy says--“I believe in my father.” All is told that needs to be told. Another thing about this creed with a person in it is, that it gives something for all our faculties to do. “I know what I believe.” Such a creed is only intellectual; it is an affair of thinking, reasoning, inference. Theological thought and discussion works so far only on the same lines as scientific. Mind only works; no heart, nothing volitional. A creed that gathers directly about person yields keen thinking, but yields much beside. It starts feeling, sets the affections in play, draws out the will and puts it to work. We each of us have one or more men that we believe in, with all our mind, heart and strength--men that are so far forth our creed; and they stir and stimulate us in every way, clearing our ideas, to be sure, but firing our hearts and making our resolutions sinewy and nervy. Christ made Paul a man of profound thinking, but a man of fervid passion and giant purpose--gave every faculty in him something to do. He was great all over. A third and consequent advantage in a personal creed is that it is the only kind that can produce effects, and work within us substantial alteration. I am not criticising creeds. It is an excellent thing to know what we believe, and to be able with conciseness and effect to state it. Paul does not say 1 know what I believe, but I know whom I believe, which goes wider and higher. Such a creed is not one that Paul holds, but one that holds Paul, and can do something with him therefore. No quantity of correct idea about the sun can take the place of standing and living where the sun shines; and standing and living where the sun shines will save from fatal results a vast amount of incorrect ideas about the sun. Belief in person works back upon me as an energy, alters me, builds me up or tears me down--at any rate never leaves me alone; it works as gravity does among the stars; keeps everything on the move. Such belief is not mental attitude, but moral appropriation; it is the bee clinging to the clover-blossom and sucking out the sweet. It is regulative and constructive. We are determined by thee person we believe in. Belief makes him my possession. Belief breaks down his walls and widens him out till he contains me. His thoughts reappear as my thoughts; his ways, manners, feelings, hopes, impulses, motives, become mine. I know whom I have believed. We make our ordinary creeds, and revise and amend and repeal them. Personal creeds make us, and revise, amend and repeal us. No picture of a friend can be accurate enough to begin to take the friend’s place or do the friend’s work. No idea of a person can ever be enough like the person to serve as substitute. Knowing what God is to perfection would never become the equivalent of knowing God. If we bring this to the level of common life, its workings are simple and manifest. It is in the home. The mother is the child’s first creed. He believes in her before he believes what she says, and it is by his belief in her that he grows and ripens. If we cannot tell it all out in words what this believing in a mother or father means, we feel the meaning of it, and the deep sense is worth more than the wordy paragraph, any time. Education is an affair of person--person meeting person. Pupils do not become wise by being told things. Wisdom is not the accumulation of specific cognitions. It is men that educate. Person is the true schoolmaster. Even an encyclopaedia does not become an educator by being dressed in gentlemen’s clothes. What best helps a boy to become a man is to have somebody to look up to; which is like our text--“I know whom I have believed.” And out on the broader fields of social and national life we encounter the same principle over again. The present wealth of a people depends largely upon its commerce and productive industries. The stability of a people and its promise for the future, depends quite as much upon the quality of the men upon whom the masses allow their regards to fix and their loyalty to fasten. “I know whom I have believed.” And believing in Christ in this way to begin with, issued in Paul’s believing a host of particular facts in regard to Christ, and Paul’s theology is his blossomed piety. No amount of faith in Christ’s words will add up into faith in Him. You must have noticed bow full all Christ’s teachings are of the personal pronoun “I.” Paul’s Christianity began on the road to Damascus. The only man that can truly inform me is the man that can form himself in me; that is what information means--immensely personal again, you see, as everything of much account is. And it is so everywhere. Religious matters, in this respect, step in the same ranks with other matters. The grandest convictions that we receive from other people are not constructed in us by their logic, but created in us by their personal inspiration. The gospel is not the Divine book, but the Divine Man, and a great many miniature copies of that gospel are around us, working still effects along personal lines. We make Christianity hard by crumbling it up into impersonal propositions. It is no part of our genius to like a truth apart from its flesh and blood incarnation in some live man. It is a hard and awkward thing for me to believe in the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, for instance. I do not like the doctrine; my intellect abhors it. No logic could persuade me of its truth, and I should never think of trying to syllogise anybody else into a possession of it. But my father is immortal and I know it. Your mother is immortal, and you cannot start in your mind a suspicion to the contrary. From all this we gather that a man who gets called an unbeliever, and even calls himself such, may believe a great deal more than he suspects. Unconscious orthodoxy is a factor of the times that needs to be taken into earnest account. There are quantities of unutilised and unsuspected faith. You do not believe in immortality. Did you ever see anybody that you had some little idea had about him something or other that death could not touch? Let alone the abstract and come close to the concrete and personal, and let it work. You reject the doctrine of a change of heart; and it is a doctrine repugnant to our natures and a conundrum to our intelligence. Did you ever see anybody who stopped being what he had been and commenced being what he had not been? If you find it hard work to square your opinions with the catechism, see whether you do not draw into a little closer coincidence with men and women whose lives transparently embody the gospel, and then draw your inference. To another class of uncertain hearers I want to add, Do not try to get your religious ideas all arranged and your doctrinal notions balanced. There is a great deal of that kind that is best taken care of when it is left to take care of itself. There is no advantage in borrowing some one’s else opinion and no use in hurrying your own opinion. Begin with what is personal, as he did--“I know whom I have believed.” Try to know the Lord. Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” There is no other way of beginning to be a Christian but the old way--“Come unto Me.” And you and I, fellow Christians, owe it to these unsettled people among us and about us to help them to strong anchorage upon Christ; and our qualifications for the work will be our own thorough rest in and establishment upon Christ and an ineffable commixture of love and tact, and fact considered not as a natural talent, but as a heavenly grace. In our relations to these people, there is another thing fur us to remember of a more positive character, which is, as we have seen, that there is nothing that tells upon men and their convictions like life. Men believe in the personal. Truth pure and simple goes but a little way, except as it is lived. Abstractions are not current outside of the schools. The best preaching of a change of heart is a heart that is changed. These people are not going to he touched by anything that has not breath and a pulse. Living is the best teaching. So that if you and I are going to help these people to be conscious and pronounced Christians, we are not going to accomplish it by merely telling them about Christ and compounding before them feeble dilutions of Divine biography, but by being ourselves so personally charged with the personal Spirit of God in Christ that in our words they shall hear Him, in our love they shall feel Him, in our behaviour they shall be witnesses of Him, and in this way He become to them the Way, Truth and Life, all-invigorating power, all-comprehensive creed. (C. H. Parkhurst.)

Nothing to hold by

An infidel was dying, and his infidelity beginning to give way, was rallied by his friends, who surrounded his dying bed. “Hold out,” they all cried, “don’t give way.” “Ah!” said the dying man, “I would hold out if I had anything to hold by, but what have I?” (Anon.)

Confidence in Christ

The Christian has in his possession a treasure.

1. It is his greatest treasure.

2. At his own disposal.

3. Involves his whole welfare for ever.

The Christian has entrusted his treasure to the protection of Christ.

1. It is in danger of being lost.

2. Man cannot secure its safety himself.

3. Christ is the only Preserver.

The Christian has entrusted his treasure to Christ with unbounded confidence. Because of his faith in Christ’s--

1. Power.

2. Promises.

3. Prestige.

The Christian’s consciousness of the safety of his treasure in Christ, is a source of great peace in the troubles of life.

1. Because the greatest interest is secured.

2. Because trials will farther this interest.

3. Because trials will soon end. (B. D. Johns.)

Knowledge conducive of assurance

This must move us all to get knowledge of God, if we would have faith in Him, yea, the best must grow herein; for the better we know Him the more confidently shall we believe in Him. For it is so in all other things. When I know the firmness of the land I will the better rest my foot on it; the strength of my staff, the rather lean my whole body upon it, and the faithfulness of a friend, put and repose my confidence in him. And we must know God. First, in His power, how that He is able to do whatsoever He will. This confirmed Abraham’s faith, and moved him to offer his son. Secondly, we must know Him in His truth and justice. Thirdly, we are to know God in His stability. How that time changeth not His nature, neither altereth His purpose. Fourthly, we are to understand that God is Sovereign Lord, that there is none higher than He; for if we should trust in an inferior we might be deceived. Fifthly, We must know God in Christ. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

It’s all real

A Bible class convert, who subsequently became a teacher, accidentally injured himself through lifting a heavy weight, and his sufferings in consequence were very severe. Yet, notwithstanding his pain and poverty, he was extremely happy, and clung to Christ with a triumphant faith. This poor fellow’s dying testimony was very striking, and one of his last desires has never been forgotten. When just about crossing the river of death, he broke out into this expression, “Oh, Mr. Orsman, I would like to get well again, if only for one day, just to go round to my old companions, and tell them it’s all real.” (Sword and Trowel.)

The love of Christ stronger than the terrors of death

At the conclusion of an evening service in a fishing village, a young man stood up, and with great earnestness began to address his fellows. He said, “You all remember Johnnie Greengrass?” There was a murmur of assent all over the gathering. “You know that he was drowned last year. I was his comrade on board our boat. As we were changing the vessel’s course one night, off the Old Head of Kinsale, he was struck by the lower part of the mainsail and swept overboard. He was a good swimmer, but had been so disabled by the blow that he could only struggle in the water. We made all haste to try and save him. Before we got seated in the punt, we heard Johnnie’s voice, over the waves beyond the stern, singing the last line of his favourite hymn, “If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.’ We made every effort to find him, but in vain. He was drowned; but the last words which we had heard from his lips assured us that the love of Christ had proved stronger ‘than the terrors of death. He knew that neither death nor life could separate him from the love of Christ, and so he sank beneath the waves, singing, ‘If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.’” (T.Brown, M. A.)

Venturing on Christ

The Rev. Dr. Simpson was for many years tutor in the college at Hoxton, and while he stood very low in his own esteem, he ranked high in that of others. After a long life spent in the service of Christ, he approached his latter end with holy joy. Among other ex pressions which indicated his love to the Redeemer, and his interest in the favour of God, he spoke with disapprobation of a phrase often used by some pious people, “Venturing on Christ.” “When,” said he, “I consider the infinite dignity and all-sufficiency of Christ, I am ashamed to talk of venturing on Him. Oh, had I ten thousand souls, I would, at this moment, cast them all into His hands with the utmost confidence.” A few hours before his dissolution, he addressed himself to the last enemy, in a strain like that of the apostle, when he exclaimed, “O death, where is thy sting?” Displaying his characteristic fervour, as though he saw the tyrant approaching, he said, “What art thou? I am not afraid of thee. Thou art a vanquished enemy through the blood of the Cross.”

Trusting Christ entirely

I have sometimes used the following experience as an illustration of salvation. For fifteen years I lived by the seaside, and was a frequent bather, and yet never learned to swim. I would persist in keeping one foot upon the bottom, for then I felt safe. But one day, in a rough sea, a great wave fairly picked me off my feet, and I struck out for dear life. I awoke to the fact that I could swim, that the waves would bear me up if I trusted them entirely, and I no longer clung to my own way of self-help. Even so does Christ save. How often the trying to help one’s self keeps from peace and rest! and when the soul first abandons all to Christ, ventures wholly on Him, that soul finds, to its own astonishment, that Christ indeed bears up and saves him. (H. W. Childs.)

Jesus sufficient

An old lady who lately died in Melbourne said to her minister, “Do you think my faith will hold out?” “Well, I don’t know much about that,” replied the man of God, “but I am sure that Jesus Christ will hold out, and that is enough for you. ‘Looking,’ not to our faith, but ‘unto Jesus.’” (T. Spurgeon.)

The safety of believers

The grounds upon which this comfortable persuasion is built.

The manner in which this pebsuasion is produced and promoted in the souls of true believers.

1. The knowledge of Christ, which is necessary to produce and promote the comfortable persuasion expressed in the text, is partly derived from testimony.

(1) God the Father has in all ages borne witness to the power and faithfulness of His own beloved Son, our blessed Saviour. This He did of old time by visions and voices, by prophecies and typical ordinances.

(2) Christ Himself likewise thus testifies concerning His own power and readiness to save (Matthew 11:28).

(3) Nor must the testimony of the Holy Spirit be forgotten. “It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.”

(4) All the saints who lived in former times, the whole company of the faithful, all the patriarchs and prophets, the apostles and martyrs, bear testimony to this interesting fact. They all died in the faith of its comforting truth.

(5) Our fellow-Christians, likewise, in the present day, may be produced as witnesses to the power and faithfulness of the Redeemer. They live in different and distant places; their cases are various, and their attainments unequal; but they all will unite in declaring that ever since they were enabled to commit their souls to Christ, they have found a peace and joy to which they were strangers before, and that not one word of all that He hath spoken hath failed to be accomplished.

2. That this knowledge is likewise in part derived from the believer’s own experience (see John 4:42).

Concluding reflections:

1. How much are they to be pitied, who have no interest in the Saviour, who have never been thoroughly convinced of their wretched condition as sinners, and who, consequently, have not committed the momentous concerns of their souls into the hands of Christ.

2. That we may abound more and more in this hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost, let us study to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. Have we committed our immortal interests into the hands of Christ, and shall we not trust Him with all our lesser concerns?

4. Let us look forward with believing expectation to the day when it will appear with Divine evidence, how faithfully Jesus has kept all that has been committed unto Him. (D. Black.)

Nothing between the soul and its Saviour

When Dr. Alexander, one of the professors of theology in Princeton University, was dying, he was visited by a former student. After briefly exchanging two or three questions as to health, the dying divine requested his old disciple to recite a verse of the Bible to be a comfort to him in his death struggles. After a moment’s reflection the student repeated from memory that verse--“I know in whom I have believed, and that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him unto that day.” “No, no,” replied the dying saint, “that is not the verse: it is not ‘I know in whom I have believed.’ but ‘I know whom I have believed.’ I cannot allow the little word ‘in’ to intervene between me and my Saviour to-day, I cannot allow the smallest word in the English language to go between me and my Saviour in the floods of Jordan.”

The folly of not trusting Christ

I was busy at work during the deep, still hush of a hot July noon, when my attention was suddenly drawn to a fluttering sound in the room where I was sitting. A little bird from the neighbouring woods had entered by the open window, and was dashing wildly to and fro in its frantic efforts to escape again. I did not move at first, unwilling to increase its alarm, and hoping it would soon find its way out. But when after a little I again looked up, I saw that the little creature was circling round and round in desperate alarm; and, moreover, that the low, whitewashed ceiling was being streaked all over with blood from its poor head, which it grazed incessantly in its endeavours to get farther away from me. I thought it was time for me now to come to its help, but all my endeavours only made matters worse. The more I tried to aid its escape, the more blindly and swiftly did it dash itself against the walls and ceiling. I could but sit down and wait till it fell helpless and exhausted at my feet. The water stood in my eyes as I took it up and laid it in a safe place, from which, when recovered, it could fly safely away. “Poor foolish thing,” I said, “how much alarm and suffering you would have been spared could you only have trusted me, and suffered me to set you at liberty long ago. But you have been to me a lively picture of the way in which we sinners of mankind treat a loving and compassionate Saviour.”

God a good Keeper

God hath all the properties of a good keeper. First, He is wise. Secondly, powerful. Thirdly, watchful. Fourthly, faithful. He hath given laws to be faithful, and then shall not He?

The certainty of salvation

When the soul is settled that person will be resolute in every good course. A faint-hearted soldier, were he resolved beforehand that he should escape death and danger, conquer his foes, and win the field, would he not put on his armour, gird his sword upon his thigh, and march furiously against his adversaries? And shall not then the Christian soldier, who is persuaded of victory, to have the spoil, and possess a crown of righteousness and glory, go on with an undaunted courage in the face of the devil, death, and hell? This doctrine reproveth those that for the most part never mind this duty. We see many who settle their houses on a good foundation, establish their trees that the wind shake them not, and by a staff to underprop their feeble bodies that they catch not a fall, the which we in its kind commend. But how few spend any time to have their souls settled in the certainty of salvation. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Faith and feeling

Dr. Archibald Alexander, eminent for learning and for consecration, when asked by one of his students at Princeton whether he always had full assurance of faith, replied, “Yes, except when the wind blows from the east.” (T. de Witt Talmage.)

Christian faith

Christian faith is the faith of a transaction; it is not the committing of one’s thought in assent to a preposition, but it is the trusting of one’s being to another Being, there to be rested, kept, guided, moulded, governed, and possessed for ever. (H. Bushnell.)

Christian faith

is a grand cathedral with divinely-pictured windows. Standing without, you see no glory, nor can possibly imagine any. Nothing is visible but the merest outline of dusky shapes. Standing within, all is clear and defined, every ray of light reveals an array of unspeakable splendours. (J. Ruskin.)

Faith a personal relation to Christ

If the object of faith were certain truths, the assent of the understanding would be enough. If the object of faith were unseen things, the confident persuasion of them would be sufficient. If the object of faith were promises of future good, the hope rising to certainty of the possession of these would be sufficient. But if the object be more than truths, more than unseen realities, more than promises; if the object be a living Person, then there follows inseparably this, that faith is not merely the assent of the understanding, that faith is not merely the persuasion of the reality of unseen things, that faith is not merely the confident expectation of future good; but that faith is the personal relation of him that believes to the living Person its object, the relation which is expressed not more clearly, but perhaps a little more forcibly to us by substituting another word, and saying, Faith is trust. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Trust in Christ supported by cumulative evidence

I do not pretend to have a scientific knowledge of Divine things, or to rest my convictions upon a scientific demonstration; but I can venture to say that “I know whom I have believed.” Such a belief will be supported by collateral evidence, acquiring from age to age a cumulative and converging force; but its essential virtue will in all ages be derived from the vital sources of personal love and trust. (H. Wace, D. D.)

Character entrusted to God

When John Wesley was going over all the country proclaiming a crucified Saviour for sinners, the magazines and papers of the day slandered him as those of our day do God’s servants still, in one paper there was an article so abusive and slanderous that a friend determined to contradict it. He laid the article and its reply before Wesley, who said, “When I gave my soul to Jesus, I gave Him my character to keep as well. I have to do my work and have no time to attend to it.” Christians who are doing the Lord’s work should go on with it, leaving themselves and their character in His hands.

The soul entrusted to Christ

St. Paul says, “that which I have committed unto Him.” This meant his soul. Suppose you have a precious jewel worth fifty or a hundred thousand dollars. It is so valuable that you are afraid you may lose it, or that some one may steal it from you. And suppose you have a friend who has a safe that is fire-proof and robber-proof. You take your jewel to this friend, and say to him: “Please take charge of this jewel, and keep it for me in your fire-proof.” He takes it and locks it up there. And now you feel comfortable about that jewel. You know your friend is faithful, and your jewel is safe. Yen do not worry about it any more. You are ready to say about your jewel what St. Paul said about his soul, because you feel sure that it is safe. (Richard Newton.)

Knowing Christ

There are two ways in which we are used to know persons. Sometimes it means to know them through some other person. Sometimes it means to know them ourselves. There is evidently a world-wide difference between the two. Let me illustrate it thus: We all know our Sovereign, her character, her state, her prerogative, her powers. But very few know the Queen. Yet it is very evident that those who have been admitted to her presence, and who have actually spoken and conversed in friendship with her, will have very different feelings towards her, and repose in her, and that their whole hearts will go out to her immensely more than those who know her only at a distance, and through the ordinary public channels. It is so with Christ. Some of you know Christ by the education of your childhood; some by the testimony of others; some by the reading of your Bible. Others have felt His presence. They have communed with Him. They have presented petitions, and they have had their answers from Himself. They have laid burdens at His feet, and He has taken them up. He has accepted their little gifts and smiled at their small services. They have proved Him. Isn’t He another Being, isn’t He another Christ to that man? They know Him. And what do they know of Thee, O blessed Jesus? They know Thee as the most loving and the loveliest of all--all grace, full of tenderness and sympathy, stooping to the meanest, and kind to the very worst. Our Brother, our Light, our Life, our Joy--who has taken away all our sins and carried all our load. That knowledge can never begin but in one way--by a certain inner life, by a walk of holiness, by the teaching of sorrow, in the school of discipline, from heavy leanings, by acts of self-abandonment, by goings down into the dust, by the grand influence of the Spirit, by Jesus revealing Himself. But once known--and from that moment it will be as hard not to trust as it is now difficult to do; as impossible for the heart to doubt as it is to that poor, prone heart now to question everything. If you really know, you cannot help believing. “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, ‘Give Me to drink,’ thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.” But there is a truth in St. Paul’s words which I am very anxious to press upon you. See where the great apostle, the aged believer, the ripe saint, found all his argument and all his stand, as it were. Not--and if any man might he might--not in anything which had been worked by him; not in anything in him; not in his acts; not in his feelings; not in his faith; not in his conversion, however remarkable; not in his sanctification, however complete; but simply and absolutely and only in God. “I know”--as if he cared to know nothing else, all other knowledge being unsatisfactory or worse--“I know Him whom I have trusted.”’ It may seem a strange thing to say, but it is really easier to know God than it is to know ourselves. It is remarkable that the Bible tells us a great deal more about God than it does about our own hearts. The great end of reading the Bible is to know God. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Confidence and concern

First, observe what Paul had done.

1. He had trusted a person--“I know whom I have believed.”

2. Paul had gone farther, and had practically carried out his confidence, for he had deposited everything with this person. A poor idiot, who had been instructed by an earnest Christian man, somewhat alarmed him by a strange remark, for he feared that all his teaching had been in vain. He said to this poor creature, “You know that you have a soul, John?” “No,” said he, “I have no soul.” “No soul!” thought the teacher, “this is dreadful ignorance.” All his fears were rolled away when his half-witted pupil added, “I had a soul once, and I lost it, and Jesus found it; and so I have let Him keep it.”

The next thing is, what did Paul know? He tells us plainly, “I know whom I have believed.”

1. We are to understand by this that Paul looked steadily at the object of his confidence, and knew that he relied upon God in Christ Jesus. He did not rest in a vague hope that he would be saved; nor in an indefinite reliance upon the Christian religion; nor in a sanguine expectation that all things would, somehow, turn out right at the end. He did not hold the theory of our modern divines, that our Lord Jesus Christ did something or other, which, in one way or another, is more or less remotely connected with the forgiveness of sin; but he knew the Lord Jesus Christ as a person, and he deliberately placed himself in His keeping, knowing Him to be the Saviour.

2. Paul also knew the character of Jesus whom he trusted. His perfect character abundantly justified the apostle’s implicit trust. Paul could have said, “I know that I trust in One who is no mere man, but very God of very God. I have not put my soul into the keeping of a priest, like unto the sons of Aaron, who must die; but I have rested myself in One whose priesthood is according to the law of an endless life--A Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. He upon whom I confide is He without whom was not anything made that was made, who sustaineth all things by the Word of His power, and who at His coming shall shake both the heavens and the earth, for all fulness of Divine energy dwells in Him.”

3. But how did Paul come to know Christ? Every page of Scripture, as the apostle perused it, revealed Jesus to him. This book is a royal pavilion, within which the Prince of peace is to be met with by believers who look for Him. In this celestial mirror Jesus is reflected. Paul also knew Jesus in another way than this. He had personal acquaintance with Him; he knew Him as “the Lord Jesus, who appeared unto him in the way.” He knew the Lord also by practical experience and trial of Him. Paul had tested Jesus amidst furious mobs, when stones fell about him, and in prison, when the death-damp chilled him to the bone. He had known Christ far out at sea, when Euroclydon drove him up and down in the Adriatic; and he had known Christ when the rough blasts of unbrotherly suspicion had beaten upon him on the land. All that he knew increased his confidence. He knew the Lord Jesus because He had delivered him out of the mouth of the lion.

Thirdly, let us inquire--what was the apostle persuaded of?

1. Implicitly Paul declares his faith in our Lord’s willingness and faithfulness.

2. But the point which the apostle expressly mentions is the power of Christ--“I am persuaded that He is able.” He that goes on board a great Atlantic liner does not say, “I venture the weight of my body upon this vessel. I trust it to bear my ponderous frame.” Yet your body is more of a load to the vessel than your soul is to the Lord Jesus. Did you ever hear of the gnat on the horn of the ex which feared that it might be an inconvenience to the huge creature? Oh, friend! you are but a gnat in comparison with the Lord Jesus, nay, you are not so heavy to the ascended Saviour as the gnat to the ox. You were a weight to Him once, but having borne that load once for all, your salvation is no burden to Him now. Well may you say, “I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him.”

3. What was this which Paul had committed to Christ? He committed to Him everything that he had for time and for eternity; his body, his soul, his spirit; all fears, cares, dangers, sins, doubts, hopes, joys: he just made a clean removal of his all from himself to his Lord. Those of you who are acquainted with the original will follow me while I forge a link between my third division and my fourth. If I were to read the text thus it would be quite correct--“I am persuaded that He is able to keep my deposit against that day.” Here we have a glimpse of a second meaning. If you have the Revised Version, you will find in the margin “that which He has committed to me”; and the original allows us to read the verse whichever way we choose--“He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him”--or “that which He has committed unto me.” This last expression, though I could not endorse it as giving the full sense of the text, does seem to me to be a part of its meaning. It is noteworthy that, in the fourteenth verse, the original has the same phrase as in this verse. It runs thus--“That good deposit guard by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” Inasmuch as the words are the same--the apostle speaking of “my deposit” in the twelfth verse, and in the fourteenth verse speaking of “that good deposit”--I cannot help thinking that one thought dominated his mind. His soul and the gospel were so united as to be in his thought but one deposit; and this he believed that Jesus was able to keep. He seemed to say, “I have preached the gospel which was committed to my trust; and now, for having preached it, I am put in prison, and am likely to die; but the gospel is safe in better hands than mine.” The demon of distrust might have whispered to him, “Paul, you are now silenced, and your gospel will be silenced with you; the Church will die out; truth will become extinct.” “No, no,” saith Paul, “I am not ashamed; for I know that He is able to guard my deposit against that day.”

This leads me on to this fourth point--what the apostle was concerned about. The matter about which he was concerned was this deposit of his--this everlasting gospel of the blessed God. He expresses his concern in the following words--“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.”

1. He is concerned for the steadfastness of Timothy, and as I think for that of all young Christians, and especially of all young preachers. What does he say? “Hold fast the form of sound words.” I hear an objector murmur, “There is not much in words, surely.” Sometimes there is very much in words. Vital truth may hinge upon a single word. The whole Church of Christ once fought a tremendous battle over a syllable; but it was necessary to fight it for the conservation of the truth. When people rail at creeds as having no vitality, I suppose that I hear one say that there is no life in egg-shells. Just so; there is no life in egg-shells, they are just so much lime, void of sensation. “Pray, my dear sir, do not put yourself out to defend a mere shell.” Truly, good friend, I am no trifler, nor so litigious as to fight for a mere shell. But hearken! I have discovered that when you break egg-shells you spoil eggs; and I have learned that eggs do not hatch and produce life when shells are cracked.

2. The apostle was anxious, not only that the men should stand, but that the everlasting gospel itself should be guarded. “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” It were better for us that the sun were quenched than that the gospel were gone. I believe that the moralities, the liberties, and peradventure the very existence of a nation depend upon the proclamation of the gospel in its midst. How are we to keep the faith? There is only one way. It is of little use trying to guard the gospel by writing it down in a trust-deed; it is of small service to ask men to subscribe to a creed: we must go to work in a more effectual way. How is the gospel to be guarded? “By the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” If the Holy Spirit dwells in you, and you obey His monitions, and are moulded by His influences, and exhibit the result of His work in the holiness of your lives, then the faith will be kept. A holy people are the true body-guard of the gospel. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 13

2 Timothy 1:13

Hold fast the form of sound words.

Systematic knowledge of the gospel

While Paul was passing through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the Churches, he came to Lystra, where he found a certain disciple, named Timothy, who was highly esteemed by the Christian brethren in that city. This recommended him to the notice and acquaintance of the apostle; who being fully persuaded of his unfeigned piety and promising talents, determined to take him with him, and prepare him by proper instruction to preach the gospel. Timothy gratefully received and wisely improved this precious privilege, made great proficiency in theological knowledge, and soon became acquainted with the whole scheme of religious sentiments which the apostle embraced and taught. This form of sound words, or rather this system of sound doctrines, the apostle taught Timothy, and exhorted him to hold fast as a necessary and indispensable qualification for the gospel ministry. The opinion and practice of the apostle in this instance naturally leads us to conclude that a systematical knowledge of the gospel is still necessary to qualify other pious young men as well as Timothy for the same sacred office.

1. Young men who are preparing for the ministry should understand the harmony and connection which run through all the peculiar and essential doctrines of the gospel. These are so intimately connected that they cannot be clearly understood separately considered.

2. A systematical knowledge of the principal doctrines of the Bible is necessary in order to understand and explain the true meaning of the Scriptures in general.

3. Young men who are preparing for the ministry should have a systematical knowledge of the gospel, that they may be able to guard themselves against the religious errors to which they are peculiarly exposed.

4. It is necessary that those who are preparing for the ministry should have a systematical knowledge of the gospel in order to be able to refute as well as to avoid religious errors.

5. A systematical knowledge of the gospel is no less necessary in order to qualify pious young men to preach both the doctrines and duties of Christianity in the most plain, instructive, and profitable manner.

It now remains to point out some things which seem naturally to flow from the subject.

1. The first thing suggested by the subject is that there can be no reasonable objection against all human systems of divinity. It is said that systems of divinity tend to promote religious controversies, which are highly prejudicial to practical religion. But it is very evident that they do not give rise to religious disputes, because religious disputes have always given rise to them. It is said that systems of divinity tend to prevent men from forming any real opinions of their own and to infringe upon their right of private judgment. No man can be said to have a real opinion upon any subject which is not derived from evidence; and if it be derived from evidence, it is totally immaterial whether he derives the evidence from his own investigation, or from conversation, or from reading, or from public or private instruction. It is said that systems of divinity are often the engines of designing men, and intended to propagate error instead of truth. It is not denied that theological systems may have been designed and employed to serve such an evil purpose. But it must be acknowledged, on the other hand, that they may have been designed and employed to counteract the baneful influence of error and to promote the cause of truth.

2. If the leading sentiment in this discourse has been sufficiently supported, we must conclude that it is generally improper for those to undertake to preach the gospel who have never acquired a systematical knowledge of it. In the next place, it appears from what has been said, that both an academical and theological education is highly necessary to qualify pious young men for the work of the ministry.

3. The whole train of the observations which have been made in this discourse now converge to a single point, and unitedly press the important duty of assisting pious and promising youths to furnish their minds with that literary and theological knowledge which is indispensably necessary to prepare them for the gospel ministry. (N. Emmons, D. D.)

The form of sound words

The numerous and conflicting creeds, confessions of faith, and systems of divinity which are spread over the religious world are but of human authority. What volumes of needless controversy, what angry passions, what words of strife, and what deeds of violence had the world escaped by attention to this simple, obvious, all-important principle! But does it follow from this statement that we ought to have no system of religious opinions whatever; or that, having a system, it is a matter of indifference what that system is? By no means. We are not indeed to assume infallibility, either for ourselves or for the peculiarities of our creed; but it does not follow we should have no fixed creed at all. He who has no creed has nothing which he believes; and he who has nothing which he believes is an unbeliever, an infidel. The evil lies not in having a creed, but in having a wrong one; or in holding and propagating that which we have with tempers that are unkind and by measures that are unchristian. What we design at this time is a brief and plain summary of those religious principles avowed by the community of professing Christians with which we are more especially connected. If, on examination, the form of words we lay before you should be proved “sound,” we may be allowed to admonish you in the words of the apostle to “hold it fast.”

1. There exists an Infinite Being, the great first cause, whom we call God. There is but one God; but this one God subsists in three personalities or modes, commonly distinguished as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

2. The Holy Scriptures are the only sufficient and authorised rule of faith and practice. It is not intended to be affirmed that nothing is true but what is made known in the sacred writings; but that what is not there revealed cannot be required as an article of faith.

3. Man came out of the bands of his Creator in a state of perfect rectitude, holiness, and felicity. But man was at the same time constituted a moral agent; that is, he was put under a command or law which he had the power and liberty to obey or disobey. He disobeyed; and in consequence of that act of infidelity and rebellion fell from his primeval excellency; his nature became morally defiled; and that moral defilement he transmitted to all his posterity.

4. But mankind were not left to perish in this fallen, sinful, and wretched state: a great plan of redemption and salvation has been originated, and is now in actual existence and operation. This plan took its rise in the boundless benevolence of the eternal Jehovah; and the execution of it was laid on one that is mighty--on our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

5. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind and the founder of our holy religion, is very God. Rut for us men and for our salvation the eternal Word became flesh and dwelt among us, so that the Saviour of the world is Man as well as God, or, in the style of the Scriptures, “God manifest in the flesh.”

6. The sufferings and death of the man Christ Jesus are a proper and full satisfaction and atonement for the sins of mankind.

7. In that form of words which this Christian community has embraced, it is essential, not only that the blessed Jesus died for sin, but also that He died for the sins of all men; that in the design and appointment of Almighty God, the blood of the covenant extends its saving efficacy wide as the human race; and that, in consequence of the shedding of that blood, salvation is actually put within the grasp of every human soul.

8. We are justified before God and accepted into His favour, not by works of righteousness that we have done, but through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and through that alone.

9. It is the privilege of all who are thus accepted of God to have the assurance of it by the witness of the Spirit in their hearts.

10. As the nature of man is corrupt and sinful, before he can be admitted into the everlasting abodes of purity and bliss, he must undergo a great moral change--A change of disposition and desires--A change of heart and soul. This spiritual, happy revolution we are accustomed to express by such terms as “regeneration,” “conversion,” “the new birth,” etc.

11. This regeneration and whatever else is necessary to the holiness and spiritual life of the soul is effected through the interposition and agency of the Holy Spirit.

12. The soul of man is immortal.

13. Perhaps no discovery of revelation is more stupendous or more consolatory than the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.

14. “God hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.”

15. Finally, the solemnities of that great and final day of God will issue in the eternal blessedness and glory of the righteous, and in the endless punishment and misery of the wicked. Having thus submitted to you “the form,” the plan, draught, or outline, as the word signifies, of what we consider “sound words,” we solemnly request that it may be examined by that only proper test of religious truth, the Word of God. If it accord not with that standard, reject it; but if it do, then attend to the admonition in our text, and “hold fast the form of sound words.”

In the meantime, on this general admonition of the apostle, we may venture to establish the following exhortations.

1. Beware and do not exchange “the form of sound words” for the uncertainties and delusions of infidelity.

2. Beware of error in your religious doctrines. The mode of faith, the class of doctrines we espouse, cannot be a matter of indifference; for, as truth exerts an influence holy and happy, so the tendency of error is impure and destructive.

3. Finally, beware of holding “the truth in unrighteousness.” Truth itself is of no value only as it influences to an upright, holy, and benevolent practice. (J. Bromley.)

The sconce of the Scriptures

In these words there is--

1. The character of Scripture-doctrine; it is sound words--sound and pure in itself, and sound in its effect, being of a soul-healing virtue (Ezekiel 47:9).

2. The sum of it, faith, showing what we are to believe; and love, what we are to do (1 John 5:8; John 14:15). This love has a particular relation to Christ, all our obedience being to be offered unto God through Him, as our faith fixes on God through Him. This was what the apostle preached.

3. Our duty with respect to it; to hold fast the form of sound words. This signifies--

(1) To have a pattern of the doctrine in our minds, to which all that ministers teach must be conformable.

(2) To hold it fast; to cleave to, and keep hold of it, without flinching from it, whatever dangers or difficulties may attend the doing so. Both these senses are implied in the words.

Let us consider the nature of that faith and obedience which the scripture teaches, with the connection betwixt the two.

1. As to faith. Divine faith is a believing of what God has revealed, because God has said it, or revealed it. People may believe Scripture-truths, but not with a Divine faith, unless they believe it on that very ground, the authority of God speaking in His Word. And this Divine faith is the product of the Spirit of God in the heart of a sinner, implanting the habit or principle of faith there, and exciting it to a hearty reception and firm belief of whatever God reveals in His Word. Hence we may infer--

(1) That there can be no right knowledge of God acquired in an ordinary way without the Scriptures (Matthew 22:29).

(2) That where the Scriptures are not known, there can be no saving faith.

(3) That there is nothing we are bound to believe as a part of faith but what the Scripture teaches, be who they will that propose it, and whatever they may pretend for their warrant.

2. As to obedience, it is that duty which God requires of man. It is that duty and obedience which man owes to God, to His will and laws, in respect of God’s universal supremacy and sovereign authority over man; and which he should render to Him out of love and gratitude.

(1) That there can be no sufficient knowledge of the duty which we owe to God without the Scriptures.

(2) That there can be no right obedience yielded to God without them.

(3) That there is no point of duty that we are called to, but what the Scripture teaches (Isaiah 8:20). As to the connection of these two, faith and obedience are joined together, because there is no true faith but what is followed with obedience, and no true obedience but what flows from faith. Faith is the loadstone of obedience, and obedience the touchstone of faith, as appears from James 2:1-26.

I proceed now to consider the manner of the scripture’s teaching.

1. The Scripture teaches some things expressly in so many words; as, “Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” etc.

2. The Scriptures teach but externally. It is the Spirit that teaches internally.

I come now to consider the sense of the scripture. The sense of the Scripture is but one, and not manifold. (T. Boston, D. D.)

The credenda of Christianity

Let us consider the object of tenacious preservation: “the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me.” What is this form of sound words?

1. I should answer explicitly, and without hesitation, in the first place, the whole of God’s inspired truth, contained in the writing of the Old and the New Testament. In the Scriptures are contained all things necessary to be known and practised; and, therefore, this Book must be held with a firm and a tenacious grasp.

2. By “the form of sound words,” in the next place, it is not at all unreasonable to suppose that the apostle might intend a certain formulary, or system of Divine truth, which he might have given to Timothy, his “son in the faith,” and a younger teacher in the Church.

I say some formulary, or system of Divine truth, in which the great principles of the gospel might be condensed and epitomised. We have warrant in Scripture for such formularies, both in the Old Testament and in the New; and though, indeed, as composed by mere human minds, they are not the object of a Divine faith, any farther than they are found in strict coincidence with the Holy Scriptures; yet they are, nevertheless, profitable and desirable.

1. In the first place, it is of great advantage to have a concise, harmonious, connected view of the truth as it stands revealed in Holy Scripture.

2. In the next place, order is known to be a powerful assistant of the memory.

3. In the third place, it is well to have a summary of Christian truth, in order that our testimony among our fellow creatures may be clearly understood and explicitly declared.

4. And finally, that those who are enemies either to the truth or the practice of Christianity, may have that which can be lifted up as a standard against them, so that they cannot mutilate, corrupt, or destroy, “the truth as it is in Jesus.” It cannot be doubted but that these systems and formularies of Divine truth, rightly exhibited, and sustained by Holy Scripture, have proved in every age a mighty bulwark to the faith of the Christian Church.

The duty which the Christian owes to the object which we have considered: to hold it fast with a firm and with a determinate grasp. And this implies the following things--

1. An accurate acquaintance with the truth which they embody and exhibit. The understanding must be employed in ascertaining the sense and meaning of Holy Scripture, in comparing evidence, in deducing just conclusions from authentic premises, in tracing the harmony, the connection, and the bearing of one truth upon another, so that the various links of the chain may be held in their unbroken connection.

2. There must be a full persuasion of the truth.

3. Finally, there should be a conscientious determination to preserve the truth of the gospel at all hazards, and whatever consequences may possibly ensue with respect to ourselves, or our worldly interests.

The manner and the spirit in which the tenacity of the truth is to be attempted. It is added, “in faith and love, which is in Christ Jesus.” For there is always some danger lest human passion and infirmity should mix themselves even with our conscientious regard to the truth of God. We have to guard against the wrath of the angry polemic; the bitterness of the prejudiced bigot; visionary and fanatic wildness of the enthusiast.

1. First, we are to hold fast the truth in faith, because faith is the only ground upon which we receive and retain the truth. We do not receive it by tradition from our fellow-men; we do not receive it upon the authority or credit of any merely human teacher, however much that teacher may be valued by us; but we receive it on the ground of God’s authority. He has revealed it. We find it in His Book; a book of which the evidences fully substantiate the Divine original. Then we have a witness which is more valuable, in point of fact, than ten thousand theories, or ten thousand merely speculative arguments. This is the inward evidence which every real Christian derives from his own state of mind, his feeling, his character, his conduct; and by which he is able to demonstrate the truth of the blessed gospel. Then we are to maintain the truth in love--“love which is in Christ Jesus.” I must show this determined and this courageous attachment to the truth, first, for the love of Jesus Christ, who came into the world both to reveal and to confirm it. I must maintain it from love to my own soul. Love to the souls of others should impel me to this courageous maintenance of the truth of the gospel. Could we conceive of a readier method of destroying the entire population of a city than by poisoning the aqueduct, or the fountain, from which they were supplied with their daily drink? What should we think of the guilt of that man who would knowingly drop poison into a living spring, that all who went to quench their thirst, instead of meeting with refreshment and health, should meet with their bane and their destruction? And I never can suppose that man to be under the influence of a candid, generous, and benevolent spirit, who sacrifices the truth, and fails to maintain that which is of infinite importance to God’s honour, to the salvation of the soul, and to the existence of Christ’s kingdom amongst men, based, as they are, upon the everlasting and immutable truth of the gospel. (G. Clayton, M. A.)

The form of sound words

I do not suppose that by this it is intended that Paul ever wrote out for Timothy a list of doctrines; or that be gave him a small abstract of Divinity, to which he desired him to subscribe his name, as the articles of the Church over which he was made a pastor. If so, doubtless that document would have been preserved anti enrolled in the canons of Scripture as one of the writings of an inspired man. I can scarce think such a creed would have been lost, whilst other creeds have been preserved and handed down to us. I conceive that what the apostle meant was this:--“Timothy, when I have preached to you, you have heard certain grand outlines of truth; you have heard from me the great system of faith in Jesus Christ; in my writings and public speakings you have heard me continually insist upon a certain pattern or form of faith; now, I bid you, my dearly beloved son in the gospel, Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”

What is a “form of sound words”? Ten thousand persons will quarrel upon this. One will say, “my creed is a form of sound words”; another will declare that his creed also is sound, if not infallible.

1. We will not, therefore, enter into all the minutiae which distinguish creeds from each other, but just simply say, that no system can be a form of sound words unless it is perfectly Scriptural.

2. But since it is said that texts may be found to prove almost everything, we must remark that a form of sound words must be one that exalts God and puts down man.

3. We think, also, that we may judge of the soundness of doctrine by its tendency. We can never think a doctrine sound, when we see plainly upon its very surface that it has a tendency to create sin in men.

4. We shall, perhaps, be asked, what we do regard as a form of sound words, and what those doctrines are which are Scriptural, which at the same time are healthful to the spirit and exalting to God. We answer, we believe that a form of sound words must embrace, first of all, the doctrine of God’s being and nature, we must have the trinity in unity, and the unity in trinity.

5. Now, we hold, that a form of sound words must look upon man aright as well as upon God aright; it must teach that man is utterly fallen, that he is sinful, and for his sin condemned and in himself altogether hopeless of salvation.

6. And next, we think that a doctrine that is sound must have right views of salvation, as being of the Lord alone,

Now let me show you the necessity of holding fast this form of sound words, and keeping it for your own sake, for the church’s sake, for the world’s salve.

1. First, for your own sake, hold it fast, for thereby you will receive ten thousand blessings; you will receive the blessing of peace in your conscience.

2. “Hold fast the form of sound words,” because it will tend very much to your growth. He who holds fast the truth will grow faster than he who is continually shifting from doctrine to doctrine.

3. I would beseech you to hold it fast for your own sakes, from a remembrance of the great evils which will follow the contrary course. If you do not “hold fast the form of sound words,” listen to me while I tell you what you will do. In the first place, every deviation from truth is a sin. It is not simply a sin for me to do a wrong act, but it is a sin for me to believe a wrong doctrine. If it be a sin of ignorance, it is nevertheless a sin; but it is not so heinous as a sin of negligence, which I fear it is with many.

4. “Hold fast the form of sound words,” because error in doctrine almost inevitably leads to error in practice. When a man believes wrongly, he will soon act wrongly.

5. And now, for the good of the Church itself, I want you all to “hold fast the form of sound words.” Would you wish to see the Church prosperous? Would you wish to see it peaceful? Then “hold fast the form of sound words.” What is the cause of divisions, schisms, quarrels, and bickerings amongst us? It is not the fault of the truth; it is the fault of the errors. There would have been peace in the Church, entire and perpetual peace, if there had been purity--entire and perpetual purity--in the Church. Going down to Sheerness on Friday, I was told by some one on board that during the late gale several of the ships there had their anchors rent up, and had gone dashing against the other ships, and had done considerable damage. Now, if their anchors had held fast and firm, no damage would have been done. Ask me the cause of the damage which has been done to our Churches by the different denominations, and I tell you, it is because all their anchors did not hold fast.

6. Keep to your faith, I say again, for the Church’s cake, for so you will promote strength in the Church. I saw lying between Chatham and Sheerness a number of ships that I supposed to be old hulks; and I thought how stupid Government was to let them remain there, and not chop them up for firewood, or something else; but some one said to me, those ships can soon be fitted for service; they look old now, but they only want a little paint, and when the Admiralty requires them, they will be commissioned and made fit for use. So we have heard some people say, “There are those old doctrines--what good are they?” Wait; there is not a doctrine in God’s Bible that has not its use. Those ships that you may think are not wanted, will be useful by-and-bye. So it is with the doctrines of the Bible. Do not say, “Break up those old doctrines, you can do without them.” Nay, we want them, and we must have them.

7. “Well,” says one, “I think we ought to hold the truth firmly; but I do not see the necessity for holding the form of it; I think we might cut and trim a little, and then our doctrines would be received better.”

8. Again, I say, “hold fast the form of sound words,” for the world’s sake. Pardon me when I say that, speaking after the manner of men, I believe that the progress of the gospel has been awfully impeded by the errors of its preachers. I never wonder when I see a Jew an un-believer in Christianity, for this reason, that the Jews very seldom see Christianity in its beauty. For hundreds of years what has the Jew thought Christianity to be? Why, pure idolatry. He has seen the Catholic bow down to blocks of wood and stone; he has seen him prostrating himself before the Virgin Mary and all saints; and the Jew has said, “Ah I this is my watchword--Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord; I could not be a Christian, for to worship one God is the essential part of my religion.” So the heathen, I believe, have seen a false system of Christianity, and they have said, “What! is that your Christianity?” and they did not receive it.

And now, let me warn you of two dangers. One is, that you will be very much tempted to give up the form of sound words that you hold, on account of the opposition you will meet with. But the greatest obstacle you will have is a sort of slight and cunning, trying to pervert you to the belief that your doctrine is the same with one which is just the very opposite.

I am to tell you of the great holdfasts, whereby you are to hold fast the truth of the gospel,

1. If I might be allowed to mention one or two before coming to those in the text, I should say, in the first place, if you want to hold fast the truth, seek to get an understanding of it. A man cannot hold a thing fast unless he has a good understanding of it. I never want you to have the faith of the collier who was asked what he believed; he said he believed what the Church believed. “Well, but what does the Church believe?” He said the Church believed what he believed, and he believed what the Church believed; and so it went all the way round.” Let me exhort you, parents, as much as lieth in you, to give your children sound instruction in the great doctrines of the gospel of Christ. I believe that what Irving once said is a great truth. He said, “In these modern times you boast and glory, and you think yourselves to be in a high and noble condition, because you have your Sabbath-schools and your British schools, and all kinds of schools for teaching youth. I tell you,” he said, “that philanthropic and great as these are, they are the ensigns of your disgrace; they show that your land is not a land where parents teach their children at home. They show you there is a want of parental instruction; and though they be blessed things, these Sabbath-schools, they are indications of something wrong, for if we all taught our children there would be no need of strangers to say to our children, ‘Know the Lord.’“ I trust you will never give up that excellent puritanical habit of catechising your children at home. Any father or mother who entirely gives up a child to the teaching of another has made a mistake.

2. But then, Christian men, above all things, if you hold fast the truth, pray yourselves right into it. An old divine says, “I have lost many things I learned in the house of God, but I never lost anything I ever learned in the closet.” That which a man learns on his knees, with his Bible open, he will never forget.

3. But the two great holdfasts are here given--faith and love. If ye would hold the truth fast, put your faith in Jesus Christ, and have an ardent love towards Him. Believe the truth. Do not pretend to believe it, but believe it thoroughly. And then the second holdfast is love. Love Christ, and love Christ’s truth because it is Christ’s truth, for Christ’s sake, and if you love the truth you will not let it go. It is very hard to turn a man away from the truth he loves. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Service of the Church of England.

Of the system of Divine truth which Timothy was, and, consequently, all faithful ministers of the gospel are, to “hold fast,” we remark, in the first place, that it is called a form. The great truths of revelation are scattered over the whole of the oracles of God; and in order to present those truths in a comprehensive manner to the bulk of mankind, who have neither time nor inclination to seek them out themselves, the Church has, in all ages, retained a summary of Christian doctrine like that which we call the Apostles’ Creed. The apostles themselves knew well, that if they had left the doctrines of Christianity unguarded, or had depended on oral traditions to convey those doctrines uncorrupted to future generations, the Word of God would have been lost in an ungodly world, as was well-nigh the case with the Jews, who had made the Word of God void by their traditions. As it is, the truths of the gospel have had (if we may so speak) a narrow escape from the polluting hands of men. If our Reformers had not rescued the “form of sound words” from the errors of ten preceding centuries, we should not now be exhorting you, with St. Paul, to “hold fast the form of sound words which you have heard of us in faith and love.” But whilst we see in the writings of St. Paul an authority for forms, we are far from attaching, any importance to a form as such. To recommend itself to the heart and conscience of a believer, it must not be a mere form of words, but it must be a “form of sound words”--“sound speech that cannot be condemned.” In different places, and at different times, forms have been obtruded on the Church, framed according to man’s device, and some peculiar interpretations of God’s truth. But for a form to be worthy of being called “sound,” it must be of sound words. We set up no standard of truth but the pure Word of God; but we do think that a form of doctrine taken from that Word is the readiest mode of preserving the faith; and the best and most precious legacy we can leave to our children is that sound form of words, in which we have been instructed--that sound form of worship, which, after all, is the glory of our land, and a powerful means of upholding Christianity amongst us.

On what principle, and in what spirit our adherence to our forms is to be maintained. Timothy was to “hold fast the form of sound words” heard of Paul, on the principle of faith, and in the spirit of love, “that is in Christ Jesus.” The strongest objection we have ever heard against forms, even admitting them to be of “sound words,” is, that they are liable to impart a false security to the worshipper, and to become lifeless to the greater number of those who profess adherence to them. We cannot deny but that there is a danger here: we must admit, that the very best system which could ever be devised for maintaining God’s truth will be sure to have something in it to object to. But this is not owing to the form: we are always too ready to find the blame that belongs to us in anything but our own hearts. A man who holds fast a form, merely because it is respectable, and that other persons may be assured of his orthodoxy, does not hold fast the form on a right principle. He should hold it in faith. It should be something that has life, and not a mere body without a form. Unless we get to that which is within the ark, it matters but little to look at the bending cherubim. Unless our faith is exercised upon the object of all our hope, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ, our forms will but serve to condemn us. But, lastly, we speak of the spirit in which we should adhere to our forms. They are not to be held fast in the spirit of bigotry and exclusion. This is not the spirit in which St. Paul taught Timothy to “hold fast the form of sound words”: he was to maintain his principles and his system of doctrine “in love”; in love no doubt to his Saviour who had loved him to the death, but of charity towards all those who might differ from him on certain points. (R. Burgess, B. D.)

The Prayer-book a ready help in drawing near to God

The Book of Common Prayer, which has guided the devotions of so many millions, in all lands, to-day, and which has been the comfort of a great multitude which no man can number, in ages past, has been welt described as “The Sanctuary of our Faith and our Language.” Its words are familiar in every ear, and its ancient forms hallow our daily life. The Prayer-book speaks to us most tenderly of birth, baptism, marriage, and death. Forms of prayer and praise were used in the Jewish Church, by God’s own appointment, and liturgies have given shape and permanence to the worship of the Christian Church since apostolic times. Our own Prayer-book is especially rich in its ancient treasures, from the fact that it embraces the choicest selections from those heirlooms of the past. It was not the work of a day, nor of a generation, but the legacy of saints and martyrs and confessors; and the words now uttered by God’s children in this distant age were once spoken by those who faced the rack and the devouring flames, and whose only abiding-places were the dens and caves of the earth. The Communion Service, by itself, is a compact and complete summary of the Christian’s belief, and a powerful and persuasive sermon enforcing holiness of life. In our every-day, struggling, checkered existence, the Prayer-book bears an important part. When Archbishop Cranmer had resumed his manly courage, and was ready to seal with his blood his faithfulness to the truth of God, he reverently began his dying testimony by reciting the Apostles’ Creed. John Rogers, as he was led in handcuffs through weeping crowds, to be burned at the stake, chanted, with loud and unfaltering voice, the thrilling words of the Miserere. The gentle and gifted Lady Jane Gray nerved herself to lay her head upon the fatal block by reciting the same sweet words, exchanging, in a moment, the earthly crown, with its thorns and trials, for an immortal diadem of glory. St. Augustine and St. Ambrose rise up before us when the grand Te Deum recalls the memorable baptism at Milan. Recent as are the historical records of the Church in this Western world, they are by no means lacking in interest and significance. On the sultry August day in 1583, when Sir Humphrey Gilbert landed on the craggy shores of Newfoundland, to take possession of the continent for England’s queen, the Cross of Christ was set up, and the solemn offices of the Prayer-book were duly celebrated. Well may we rejoice that this Book of Common Prayer, so powerful for good, has been preserved, by God’s kind providence, as the heritage of His people! The morning sun, as he rises successively on the nations of the earth, is ever followed by these prayers and praises of martyred saints, and he sinks, at close of day, behind no mountain nor plain nor ocean wave where these holy offices are not heard. After even so brief a summary of what might be said concerning this, the only meet companion volume for the Holy Bible, does not every one among us feel disposed to yield cheerful obedience to the apostle’s direction concerning the preservation of the casket of sacred truth, “Hold fast the form of sound words”? The dying Hammond, amidst the most excruciating pains, stopped his friends, who were praying for him in irregular and unpremeditated words, saying, “Let us call on God in the voice of His Church!” When the saintly George Herbert was asked what prayers should be offered in his death-chamber, he answered, With warmth, “The prayers of my mother, the Church of England; there are no prayers like them!” Hannah Moore records her testimony that “never, in the most rapturous moments of the saintliest minds, have they failed to find in the Prayer-book their most soaring and sustaining wings.” The most devoted Churchman is not disposed to place the Prayer-book above the Bible, but, like the moon in the heavens, it is only a satellite of the Church, borrowing all its light from Christ, the Sun of Righteousness. (J.N.Norton.)

The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England

The words which I have chosen for the text intimate to us the great importance of the words by which our religious ideas are expressed. The Scriptures, indeed, as indited by the Spirit of God, contain words, of all others, the soundest and the best, by which to express such truths as are necessary for mankind to believe or know. The great God being the author, He has, without doubt, expressed everything there, in a manner of all others the most fit and proper. Nothing else would be consistent with infinite wisdom and goodness, and whatever words we employ, are either true or false, sound or corrupt, as they agree or disagree with the words of the Scriptures. But still there never has been any error, or heresy, or schism in the Church, but its authors have pretended to ground it on the Scriptures. In this all heretics, Greek and Latin, old and new, agree. They all plead Scripture for what they say, and each one pretends that his opinion, be it never so absurd and ridiculous, is in accordance with the words there used. This at first may seem strange, but on further reflection it is not to be so much wondered at; it arises partly from the Scriptures being written in different languages to those with which most men are familiar; so that, if in the translation (admirable as that translation on the whole is) there be any word that seems to favour an erroneous opinion to which men may be inclined, it is too readily concluded that the Scriptures favour it. This arises partly again from the circumstance, that though others are acquainted with the original languages in which the Scriptures are written, they yet are not so fully acquainted with them as to clearly understand the full meaning of every expression. Then again, the rites and customs of countries far distant, and ages far remote, were so different to our own, that they occasion difficulties and obscurities. A large part of the Bible is also written in the highest poetical language, and abounds with metaphors and figures. All classes of individuals have therefore been agreed on the desirableness of some form of sound words, based on the Scriptures. Every one of the foreign churches, I believe, possesses such a form of its own; and those who in our own country left our own Church, also had such a form drawn up for themselves by the assembly of divines at Westminster, and still employ it as their catechism. There is, therefore, no difference of opinion as to the propriety of this--the necessities of the Church have established the approval of it. There are three especial excellencies in the articles, which deserve to be noticed, and which, perhaps, render them pre-eminent among all formularies of faith which have yet been drawn up. They are most eminently evangelical, moderate, and protestant. Evangelical in doctrine, moderate in discipline, and protestant in ceremonials. (J. Garwood, M. A.)

The morning exercise methodised

“Hold fast”--Greek, Εχε. The word hath a double signification, namely, “to have,” and “to hold,” and both of these the apostle commends to Timothy, namely--

1. To have such a form or collection of gospel-doctrines, as a type or exemplar to which he should conform in his ministry.

2. To hold it, that is, to “hold it fast,” not to swerve from it in the course of his ministry, but pertinaciously to adhere to it, not to suffer it to be corrupted by men of erroneous principles, nor to part with it upon any terms in the world, but to stand by it, and own it, against all opposition and persecution whatsoever. Doctrine

Methodical systems of the main and special points of the Christian religion are very useful and profitable both for ministers and people. In the managing of the doctrinal part of this observation, I shall only give you two demonstrations:

1. Scripture-pattern;

2. The usefulness of such modules.

Demonstration 1. Scripture-pattern. The whole Scripture is a large module of saving truth. The Word of God is full of such maps and modules of Divine truths necessary to salvation. The whole gospel, in general, is nothing but the great platform or standard of saving doctrine. But now, more particularly, we may observe that, beside this great universal map or synopsis of Divine truth, there are to be found in Scripture more compendious abstracts containing certain of the main heads and points of saving doctrine, methodised into lesser bodies and tables, for the help of our faith and knowledge; and we find them accommodated, by the penmen of the Holy Ghost, to two special ends and purposes.

1. To inform the Church in the principles of religion. The Ten Commandments, a brief abstract of the whole law. Three modules delivered by Christ in His first sermon. The first module contains the beautitudes; a list of particulars wherein man’s true and chiefest happiness doth consist (Matthew 5:3-11). The second module contains a list of duties; things to be done by every one that would be saved. This our Saviour doth by asserting and expounding the moral law (Matthew 5:17-48), confuting and reforming the false glosses which the scribes and Pharisees had put upon the Ten Commandments, thereby “making the law of God of none effect.” (Matthew 15:6). And these we may call the facienda, “things to be done.” The third module contains a list of petitions, which (Matthew 6:9-15) He commends to His disciples, and in them to all succeeding generations of the Church, as a form or directory of prayer. The holy apostles tread in our Saviour’s steps. You may observe in all their epistles, that in the former part of them they generally lay down a module of gospel-principles, and in the latter part a module of gospel-duties.

2. A second sort of modules, or a second end and design of such modules, is to obviate errors, and to antidote Christians against the poison and infection of rotten, pernicious principles: for no sooner had the good husbandman sowed his field with good seed, but the envious man went out after him, and began to scatter tares (Matthew 13:25). In opposition whereunto, the apostles in their several epistles were careful to furnish the Churches with such modules and platforms of truth as might discover and confute those “damnable heresies” (2 Peter 2:1).

Demonstration 2. The advantages of such modules. Advantage

1. For the ornament of the truth. Whether it be delivered from the pulpit or from the press, in such systems and platforms the hearer or reader may, as in a map or table (sometimes of one sort, sometimes of another) behold Divine truths standing one by another in their method and connection, mutually casting light and lustre upon each other.

2. Such types and exemplars of Divine truths are of great help to the understanding. As the collection of many beams and luminaries makes the greater light, so it is in the judgment, a constellation of gospel-principles shining together into the understanding, fills it with distinct and excellent knowledge.

3. Such patterns and platforms, whether of larger or of lesser compass, are a great help to memory. In all arts and sciences, order and method is of singular advantage unto memory. We do easily retain things in our mind, when we have once digested them into order.

4. Such modules serve to quicken affection. Sympathy and harmony have a notable influence upon the affections.

5. It is a marvellous antidote against error and seduction. Gospel-truths in their series and dependence are a chain of gold to tie the truth and the soul close together.

6. Growth in grace is one blessed fruit of such systems and tables of Divine truths. When foundations are well laid, the superstructures are prosperously carried on.


1. In the first place, it serves to justify the practice of the Churches of Jesus Christ, which have their public forms and tables of the fundamental articles of the Christian faith drawn up by the joint labour and travail of their learned and godly divines, after much and solemn seeking of God by fasting and prayer; in the solemn profession whereof they all consent and agree.

2. It serves to show us the benefit and advantage of public catechisms.

3. Hence also I might commend to young students in divinity the reading of systems and compendious abstracts and abridgments.

4. It serves to commend methodical preaching.

5. It commends (not least) constant and fixed hearing. Especially when people sit under a judicious and methodical ministry. “Loose hearing may please, but the fixed will profit,”; skipping hearing, for the most part, makes but sceptical Christians.

6. From hence give me leave to commend to you the benefit and advantage of “the morning exercise.” (T. Case, M. A.)


There is a fourfold keeping of this pattern, and all here meant. The first, in memory, not forgetting. Secondly, in faith, not doubting. Thirdly, in affection, not hating. Fourthly, in practice, not disobeying. And there can be none of the four without the first. Some read have; others, hold the pattern: all one in effect. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

The pattern

It is by some termed the true pattern, or perfect pattern, or form. It seems to be a word borrowed from a painter, who first draws but after a pattern, or from a carpenter that works by rule. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Of sound words

A thing may be said to be wholesome or sound four ways. First, when it’s sound in itself. Secondly, when it works soundness in another thing; or thirdly, preserves it being wrought; and fourthly, when it is a sign of soundness (John 3:12). And all these be in the words of this pattern. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Wholesome doctrine

For if the words be not sound, the pattern cannot but be unsound. When poison is mixed with good meats and wines it spoils all; so when the words be not wholesome, the pattern and form of doctrine is defective. One rotten post maketh a weak building. We must be transformed into the doctrine; and as the spirit in the meat we eat is turned into ours, so must the word we read or hear be converted into us (Romans 6:17). And if our spiritual food be not wholesome, our souls will grow sick and die. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

“I pray you to fasten your grips”

This sentence I met with in one of those marvellous letters which Samuel Rutherford left as a priceless legacy to the Church of God in all ages. Truly he hath dust of gold. I thought it would make a capital text for a prayer-meeting address, and so I jotted it down. It gripped me, and so I gripped it, in the hope that it might grip you, and lead you “to fasten your grips.” But do not imagine that I have taken a text from Rutherford because I could not find one in the Bible, for there are many passages of Scripture which teach the same lesson. As for instance, that exhortation, “Lay hold on eternal life,” or that other, “Hold fast that thou hast,” or that other, “Hold fast the form of sound words.” The things of God are not to be trifled with, “lest at any time we let them slip.” They are to be grasped, as Jacob seized the angel, with “I will not let thee go.” Faith is first the eye of the soul wherewith it sees the invisible things of God, and then it becomes the hand of the soul, with which it gets a grip of the substance of “the things not seen as yet.” A man has two hands, and I would urge you to take a double hold upon those things which Satan will try to steal from you. Take hold of them as the limpet takes hold upon the rock, or as the magnet takes hold of steel. Give a life grip--A death grip. “I pray you to fasten your grips.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Faith in the minister

Whatever is held forth in the palsied hand of unbelief is itself made to quiver. Scepticism is a smoking lamp, which, while it gives no light, loads the atmosphere with a thick darkness, if not with a stench. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Creed and life

I have heard people say that it cannot matter much what a man believes, so long as he lives up to right moral principles. They might as well remark that it does not matter if the beams of a house are rotten, so long as the door-plate is bright. Where will be the doorplate when the house falls? A hazy creed means a mazy life. A man’s faith is the mainspring of his actions. He who believes nothing will do nothing, till the devil finds him work. I record as my own experience that when the foundations of faith rocked the superstructure of practice reeled. (Edwd. Garrett.)

Men of unsettled creed

“I shape my creed every week,” was the confession of one to me. Whereunto shall I liken such unsettled ones? Are they not like those birds which frequent the Golden Horn, and are to be seen from Constantinople, of which it is to be said that they are always on the wing, and never rest? No one ever saw them alight on the water or on the land; they are for ever poised in mid-air. The natives call them “lost souls,” seeking rest and finding none. Assuredly men who have no personal rest in the truth, if they are not unsaved themselves, are, at least, very unlikely to save others. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Faith and love

So that faith is necessary to keep the pattern; for it purifieth the heart inwardly, and is the true ground of all outward and acceptable obedience. And for love, that’s needful also. For love helpeth attention, strengtheneth the memory, setteth the will at work, uniteth to God and man, and therefore it is rightly said that by love we fulfil the law, for without this affection our best actions neither please the Creator, nor be profitable to the creature. Would we then practise the apostle’s doctrine? then let us strive for faith and love. These two support the estate of a Christian, as the two pillars did the house of the Philistines. If these be removed, the foundation of our obedience and salvation fail and fall. He that would soar to heaven wanting either of these may as soon see a bird mount on high and take her stand who wanteth one wing. Faith, like the hand, takes hold on Christ, and love, like the feet, must carry us to Him. Thou wilt say, how may I know when an action is done in faith and love? If it be done in faith: First, Thou must be in the faith, that is, in Christ, and Christ in thee (2 Corinthians 13:5). Secondly, It must be guided by the rule of faith (2 Peter 1:19). Thirdly, It must be done with faith, not doubtingly (Romans 14:23). Fourthly, It must be done to the object of our faith, viz., in obedience to God in Christ, and for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). If an action be done in love: First, It is done so freely that there is not the least expectation of any future recompense (Genesis 23:15.) Secondly, So secretly that (if possible) none might ever come to the knowledge thereof. Thirdly, So cheerfully, as there is equal (or rather greater) joy in the doing, than receiving of the like favour. Fourthly, so affectionately, that the more good we do to any, the more we find our hearts enflamed with the love of that person. Which is in Christ Jesus. From the fourfold interpretation we may note so many doctrines.

That faith and love are given to man of God through Christ Jesus.

That faith and love in Christ should stir us up to keep the pattern.

That the object of faith and love is Christ Jesus.

That faith and love are comprehended in Christ Jesus.

And whereas our apostle hath now brought in this phrase five several times in this short chapter, we may note divers things worthy our instruction.

That we are hardly brought to believe that all grace and mercy come through Christ Jesus. Divine truths are not easily believed.

That the best things may often, for good ends, be mentioned.

That when we speak of any grace or favour received, we should consider through whom it is conveyed to us, viz., Christ Jesus.

That the often repetition of the same thing is profitable.

That what the people most naturally are prone to doubt of, that is principally and often to be preached.

That a holy heart is not weary in writing on speaking the same things often. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Verse 14

2 Timothy 1:14

That good thing which was committed unto thee.

The sacred trust

The charge,--the truth, the Word of God, which--

1. Unfolds the true God.

2. Proclaims life and salvation through the Redeemer.

3. Brings life and immortality to light.

The duty. We should have--

1. A correct knowledge of the Word.

2. A devoted attachment to it.

3. A desire to preserve it in its integrity.

4. A willingness to communicate it freely to others.

5. An abiding sense of its responsibility.

The assistance.

1. Our necessities are connected with the Holy Spirit’s ability.

2. Rejoice in His readiness to help. (A. Reed, D. D.)

Good things

Here are those reprehended who never had any care to possess these worthy things. Nothing in man, or out of him, that is of greater worth, and nothing less regarded. We do count that person blessed that hath his house hung with rich arras, his chests full of gold, and his barns stuffed with corn; and yet we never have esteem of these excellent and rare things. Truly, the least degree of faith is more worth than all the gold of Ophir; a remnant of true love than all the gay garments in the world. Hope of heaven will more rejoice the heart of David than his sceptre and kingdom. But men do not think so, neither will they have it so; yet the day of death, like an equal balance, shall declare it to be so. Are they worthy things? Then put them to the best uses, and abuse them not. And, in the last place, seeing these be worthy things, let us all labour to possess them, for of how much more value a thing is, by so much the more we should strive to obtain it. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Grace once gotten is to be preserved

Because, if grace grow weak, the pattern will not be practised. When all the parts of the natural body be in a consumption, can we walk and work in the duties of our particular callings? And if the new man wax pale, and pine away, the paths of God’s commands will not be run or trodden. For, as all natural actions proceed from the body’s strength, and the purest spirit, so do all spiritual from the vigour of grace and the new man. When men have got some competency of wealth, they lie long in bed, and will not up to work, and so their riches waste. In like manner it falleth out with God’s children; for when they have attained to some competency of gifts, they are highly conceited, grow idle, neglect the means, and so are over taken with spiritual poverty, than the which what greater loss? We must then learn here, not only to get grace, but to keep it. We will mourn if we lose our money, grieve if we be deprived of our corn, natural strength and earthly commodities. And shall the loss of grace never pinch us, pierce us? Shall Jonah be so dejected for his gourd, and we never be moved when grace is withered, ready to perish? Shall the earthworm sigh at the loss of goods, and we never shrink at the shipwreck of heavenly gilts? No greater damage than this, none less regarded, more insensible. Let our plants begin to pine, our hair wax grey or fall, it will make some impression. But grace may decay, the spirit faint, and few be wounded in heart. Yet to such a time shall come of great mourning. Then get grace, keep grace; so shall corruption be expelled, extenuated, and the pattern of sound words observed, practised. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

The Holy Spirit dwells in man

But He is infinite, therefore in all persons. True, yet He is in the faithful in a peculiar and special manner, both by His working and presence. Secondly, He is incomprehensible, notwithstanding, as we may say the sun is in the house, though a part of the beams be but there; so the Spirit is said to be in man, although He be not wholly included in him. We account it a fearful thing to pull down or batter a prince’s palace, it is death to wash or clip the king’s coin, and shall we not tremble to wrong and injure this building, for such cannot escape the damnation of hell. This is for the comfort of the faithful. For what greater honour than this, to have the high God to dwell in our hearts? Should our sovereign but come into a poor man’s cottage, he would rejoice, and good reason, for that all his life long. And shall the King of Glory dwell with the sons of men make His chamber of presence in their hearts, and they want hearts to solace themselves in the remembrance of that? And here let man learn a lesson and wonder. Is it the spirit of God in Paul and others, where the spirit of all uncleanness not long before ruled? Admire His humility that would descend so low as to dwell in so mean a habitation. He that dwells in that light that none can attain unto, now dwelleth where was a palpable darkness. Thirdly, where He takes up His lodging there is holiness. This fire purifieth the heart, cleanseth the inward man, though never so full of filthiness in former time (1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:18). Thou wilt say, Sir, by what way may I come to this thing? Why, thou must get a new heart, for He will never lodge in the old, for that’s naught. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit

The author of life.

1. Before Be dwells in us He quickens us (Ephesians 2:1; John 3:5-6; John 6:63).

2. Believers are temples of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16).

3. True of all believers (Romans 8:9).

4. Christ’s promise respecting it (John 14:16-17).

The source of unity.

1. His indwelling makes that unity a fact (Ephesians 4:4; 1 Corinthians 6:17; 1 Corinthians 12:13-20).

2. That fact to be recognised and cherished (Ephesians 4:3).

3. One building inhabited by one Spirit (Ephesians 2:22.)

The pledge of glory.

1. The salvation bestowed and the salvation yet to be revealed. Grace and glory (2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 1:5; Psalms 84:2).

2. The indwelling Spirit the earnest of our inheritance (2Co 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:14).

3. Recognise His presence.

4. Honour and obey Him (Ephesians 4:30). (E. H. Hopkins.)

Real Christianity

The providence of God requires all Christians and all Churches to show what Christianity really is. Christianity is a larger and better thing than Christendom yet knows. Still the Holy Spirit dwells in the apostolic succession of the whole true Church of Christ, showing it what the things of Christ are, and helping it realise them in Christianity. How, then, are we to understand what the Christianity is, which we are still called to make real on earth?

The Christianity which the world needs probably transcends any single definition of it which we shall be likely to give. Philosophers have tried many times to define the simple word “life,” and at best they have had only clumsy success with their definitions of what every one knows by his own healthy pulse-beatings. The definition is not made easier when we prefix the adjective Christian to the word “life.” If we labour to define in words so large and divine a reality as Christianity, we shall be sure to narrow it in our verbal enclosures, and we can hardly fail to leave whole realms of Christianity out when we have finished our fences of system and denomination.

Christianity is a larger thing than any one particular aspect or exemplification of it which men may be tempted to put in the place of it. Christianity, as a whole, is greater than the parts of it which men have hastily seized upon, and contended for as the faith of the saints. Christianity is that good thing which all the Churches hold in common, and it is greater than all. The Christianity of Christ is that good thing committed unto us, which is large enough to comprehend all the ideals of Christian prophets, and prayers of devout hearts, as well as the works of faith which have been done on earth. It would be easy to illustrate from current life and literature the natural tendency of the human heart to substitute some favourite part of Christianity for the divine whole of it. And the unfortunate contentions and hindrances to the gospel which follow from this mistake are all around us. Thus one class of persons are called to benevolent works by the Divine charity of Christ, but in their zeal for man they may not realise sufficiently that the charity of God is the benevolence of universal law, and the Christ is the Life because He is also the Truth. Others, on the contrary, impressed by the order and grandeur of the truths of revelation, repeatedly fall into merely doctrinal definitions of Christianity; and, even while defending from supposed error the faith once delivered to the saints, they narrow that faith into a theological conception of Christianity which may have indeed much of the truth, but little of the Spirit of Christ.

Christianity is that good thing which we have received from Christ. In other words, Christianity is not a spirit merely, or idea, or influence, which we still call by the name of Christ, but which we may receive and even enhance without further reference to the historic Christ. Christianity is more than a spirit of the times, more than a memory of a life for men, more than a distillation in modern literature of the Sermon on the Mount, more than a fragrance of the purest of lives pervading history and grateful still to our refined moral sense. Jesus once said before the chief among the people, “I receive not honour from men”; and the patronage of culture cannot make for our wants and sins a Christ from the Father. Christianity is the direct continuation of the life and the work of Jesus of Nazareth in the world. Hence, it would be a vain expectation to imagine that the world can long retain the influence of Christ, the healing aroma of Christianity, and let the Jesus of the Gospels fade into a myth. Christianity, uprooted from its source in Divine facts of redemption, would be but as a cut flower, still pervading for a while our life with its charity, but another day even its perfume would have vanished. The Christianity of Christ is a living love.

Christianity is a changed relationship of human souls to God through Christ. Go back to the beginning of Christianity to find out what it is. It began to exist on earth first upon the afternoon of a certain day when the last of the Hebrew prophets, looking upon Jesus as He walked, said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” And two of his disciples beard him speak, and they followed Jesus. These men are now like new men in another world; in Christ’s presence all Divine things seem possible to them; they are changed from the centre and core of their being; they are verily born again, for they live henceforth lives as different from their former lives before they came to Christ as though they had actually died out of this world, and come back to it again with the memory in their hearts of a better world. After a few years in Jesus’ companionship, after all that they had witnessed of His death and resurrection, they are themselves as men belonging to another world, citizens of a better country, sojourning for a brief season here. “Old things are passed away,” says the last-born of the apostles; “Behold, all things are become new.” This, then, is Christianity--Peter, and John, and other men, living with Christ in a new relationship to God. It is a happy, hopeful, all-transfiguring relationship of human souls to God. Christ giving His Spirit to the disciples, disciples witnessing of the Christ--this, this is Christianity. What, then, is Christianity? It is, we say, the doctrine of Christ. What is the doctrine of Christ? Men sound in the faith; men made whole, men living according to Christ. The doctrine of Christ is not a word, or a system of words. It is not a book, or a collection of writings. He wrote His doctrine in the book of human life. He made men His Scriptures. His doctrine was the teaching of the living Spirit. The doctrine of Christ--lo! Peter, the tempestuous man, strong one moment and weak another, become now a man of steady hope, confessor, and martyr--he is the doctrine of Christ! The son of thunder become the apostle of love--he is the doctrine of Christ! The persecutor becomes one who dies daily for the salvation of the Gentiles--he is the doctrine of Christ!

Christianity is the company of disciples in new relationship with one another, and towards all men, through Christ. The new redeemed society is Christianity. A man cannot be a Christian, at least not a whole Christian, by himself alone. To seek to live a Christian life by one’s self, in the secrecy of one’s own heart, is an endeavour foreign to the original genius of Christianity. Christianity, when it is finished, will be the best society gathered from all the ages, the perfect society of the kingdom of heaven. How can a man expect to fit himself for that blessed society by neglecting here and new to enter into the fellowship of believers who seek to prepare themselves for that final society of the Lord by meeting and breaking bread together at His table? To be a Christian, therefore, is to be actually a follower of Christ with His disciples. And to make real and not merely nominal work of it We shall need often with deliberate resolution to give ourselves up to our own faiths, to throw ourselves manfully upon their current, and to let them catch us up and bear us whither they will. (N. Smyth, D. D.)

A sufficient endowment

“The influence of Mr. Moody is wonderful,” said a lady to her minister; “he is not intellectual, nor eloquent, nor learned, and his appearance is not prepossessing.” “Ah!” replied the minister, “but he has the Spirit of God in him.” “Yes,” she responded, “and that is all.” “All!” exclaimed the minister; “is not that everything?”

An essential provision of Christianity

Is not this power of God, through the Holy Ghost, an essential provision of Christianity? Could the Word of God be “a living Word” without it? We can no more conceive of Christianity as destitute of this Divine influence than as destitute of Christ. We look upon the face of nature and perceive that all its external forms are based upon one common principle of life; and were this withdrawn all things must die. So in like manner, looking upon external Christianity--its doctrines, its Sabbaths, its worship, its points of holiness, joy, and moral excellence, produced in perfect uniformity in all ages and amongst all classes--we perceive that there must exist beneath the surface some uniform power; and what can this be but the power of God through His Holy Spirit? And this belongs to the system, is inherent, permanent, certain. By the impulses of this power the “Word of God” effects its glorious triumphs; and, when it is withdrawn, Christianity sinks into the condition of an empty form. (J. Dixon, D. D.)

Verse 15

2 Timothy 1:15

All they which are in Asia be turned away from me.

To revolt and turn from our former profession is a foul fault and great offence

For Paul doth complain against it, and sets it down as a sin to be abandoned of all men (John 6:66; 1 Timothy 1:19; 1 Timothy 5:11-12). For in so doing we dishonour God; yea, no way more. For will not profane men judge that there is no profit or comfort in serving the Almighty when such forsake their profession? For thus they will reason: if that religion had been good, they and they would never have cast it off. Again, we weaken, as much as in us lies, the Church of Christ; for cut off a member, will not the body be the less powerful? And it gives the devil and his instruments the more encouragement. What? and may such cedars shake, totter, and fall? Then let the weak willows and poplar take heed of the wind. For blessed is he whom other men’s harms do make to beware. And it shall not be amiss here to lay down some causes of falling away. And they be either, first, inward, or, secondly, outward. The inward be four especially.

1. Weakness. Thus many have fallen of infirmity.

2. Some affection not mortified. For one such a Jonah in the ship will unsettle all.

3. Infidelity. When men want faith, they are unstable in all their ways.

4. Want of experience of that secret comfort which the Lord enfuseth into the hearts of such as stand resolutely for His truth in an evil time.

The outward causes are principally these:

1. Persecution. This hath turned millions backward, who in the days of peace had their faces to Sion-ward.

2. Some wrongs or injuries.

3. Scandal, or offences taken at some doctrine. “From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him” (John 6:66).

4. The example of great men. Doth any of the rulers or pharisees believe in Him? This is a cord that pulleth thousands from the true path and rule (John 7:48).

5. When men have expected great promotion, but seeing their hopes frustrate, they turn aside. This is a great loadstone to draw an iron heart from the path to heaven.

6. Too much familiarity with men unsettled in the truth. Fearfully have some fallen by this stumbling-block. These be some of the main causes, both inward and outward, that have moved many to become back sliders. So that he that will go on constantly and with resolution must have an eye to all these things. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Fickle friendship

What is sweeter than a well-tuned lute, and what more delightful than a faithful friend--one who can cheer us in sorrow with wise and affectionate discourse? Nothing, however, is sooner untuned than a lute, and nothing is more fickle than human friendship. The tone of the one changes with the weather, that of the other with fortune. With a clear sky, a bright sun, and a gentle breeze, you will have friends in plenty; but let fortune frown and the firmament be overcast, and then your friends will prove like the strings of the lute, of which you will tighten ten before yea will find one that will bear the tension and keep the pitch. (Christian Age.)


The flounder is an ill-looking, dark-coloured, flat fish, which creeps close along the bottom, and frequents, for the most part, banks of mad, from which it is almost indistinguishable. Mr. Agassiz has experimented upon young flounders and their power of changing colour. Placing them upon blackish tiles, they quickly turned mud-colour; moved thence to the “sand” tiles, only a few minutes elapsed before their leaden skins had paled to dull, yellowish white; transferred to the mimic “sea-weeds,” in less than five minutes a greenish hue overspread their skins, which would have served well in their native element to keep them unobserved against a mass of algae. (H. O. Mackey.)

Necessity of constancy

Without constancy there is neither love, friendship, nor virtue in the world. (Addison.)

Great wicked men fall by couples

(1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 2:17):--For the devil in all things seeks to imitate the Lord. If God have a Moses and an Aaron, he will have a Jannes and a Jambres. If Christ send out His true disciples by two and by two, Antichrist will do the like. We read of Joshua and Caleb, and of Sanballat and Tobiah: of Paul and Timothy, and of Philetus and Alexander. Because one will toll on and tempt another; for sin uniteth sinners, as grace doth the godly; and by couples they seem to be the less faulty, the more able to defend their false cause. Learn we hence to rise by couples; turn we and allure others to return. For woe to him that is alone when two strong men oppose him or a true cause. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Verse 16

2 Timothy 1:16

The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus.

Onesiphorus of Ephesus

The man who now steps upon the scene does not reappear. One Epistle only mentions him, and in the Acts his very name is unrecorded. Let us mark, however, what letter it is which contains these references. It is the last of all the Epistles of Paul, written during his second imprisonment, and not long before his death. He is again at Rome, but not, as on the former occasion, in his own hired house, with liberty to receive whom lie will, and to speak all that is in his heart. Cold, and worn, and ill, Paul the aged lies in his prison cell; and, of all his many companions, only Luke is with him now. So it happens that the very epistle which is full of the moat, heroic confidence in Divine protection, is marked by the tenderest yearings after human sympathy; and the heart of the apostle is swayed like the sea before the rough wind of unkind desertion, and again under the soft breeze of faithful solicitude and care. Onesiphorus, it is clear, was an Ephesian; for Timothy was at this time resident at Ephesus, and there this man’s household dwelt. There, then, Paul and he had made acquaintance, during the long-continued campaign of the apostle in the city, now ten years ago. That earlier time is not, forgotten. Every one knew, and Timothy had often heard, of what value his friendship had been. His house was one of the many which had opened to Paul and made him welcome. Children were there, now grown to manhood, who were taught to run to the door at his approach and to draw him joyfully in. Years passed, and they had not met. Business of some kind brings Onesiphorus at last to Rome. Paul is at Rome too, a prisoner, in close confinement, and it is not easy to get access to him. “No man stood by me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it be not laid to their charge.” This good Ephesian, however, is made of sterner stuff. He applied to the brethren, and, to his astonishment, they have nothing to tell about the apostle. He goes to the government offices and inquires there; there information is scornfully refused. He makes his way, nothing daunted, to the prisons, and gets referred from one jailer to another, till he is almost tired out; but he perseveres, and at last here is a man who can tell him. But does he know the risk to his own liberty, perhaps to his own life? He knows; he is prepared to face it, if only he may see Paul. “He sought me out very diligently, and found me”--found the solitary old man with the chains on his hands, and the damp, dark prison walls round him. What a meeting must that have been! Sunshine pouring into the mouth of a cave is a poor emblem of what the sight of that brave and cheerful countenance must have been to Paul. It was not, then, in vain, that Jesus had left the word on record for His disciples, “I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.” Christian sympathy will find a way through every difficulty, and a key for every prison door. Paul has no silver or gold to give; he is so poor that he cannot buy a cloak to keep off the cold; but he has something to be prized far more--A good man’s prayers. Those prayers he offers both for Onesiphorus himself and his family. “The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus.” “The Lord grant it unto him.” Nor is it Onesiphorus alone for whom Paul would pray. Let his household, too, be saved. Those sweet children, to whom he had so often spoken of the love of Jesus; those faithful servants, who had their master’s example to guide them; the kinsfolk, who came to visit him; may they all be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord their God! See how great the blessing is of belonging to a godly home. Onesiphorus has been abundantly recompensed in time and in eternity for all that tie had done and dared for Paul. Need we fear to be overlooked? We have the servants’ prayers, We have the Master’s promise. “Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” (W. Brock.)

The brother born for adversity

A good man in these verses counts up what his friend had done for him, and then, to the best of his ability, he makes a payment.

What had Osesiphorus done for Paul?

1. “When he was in Rome he sought me out very diligently.” We cannot tell what it was that took Onesiphorus to Rome. Perhaps he was a merchant, and went there to buy and sell. Perhaps he was a scholar, and went there to listen to its poets and orators, and to acquaint himself with its works of art. But whatever he went for, he resolved to see his friend. It is possible that he was not at once successful. But he grudged no time, he spared no effort. And at length he succeeded. He found Paul. Some, perhaps, had they been in the place of Onesiphorus, would have been equally well pleased not to have found Paul. They would have reported to the Church, at their return home, that they had made various efforts, and had failed, and that probably the apostle was either dead or had been removed to another city. Their consciences would have been quieted, and perhaps their friends satisfied. But Onesiphorus was not anxious merely to quiet his conscience. What had Onesiphorus done for Paul? He had gone to see him not once, but many times. “He oft refreshed me.” Perseverance in sympathy or in active kindness is more difficult than the being once sympathising, or once kind. Yet, though difficult, how valuable it is I

2. There is one characteristic of Onesiphorus’ visits to Paul which is well worth noticing. The apostle was refreshed by them. “He oft refreshed me.” Visits to the sick and the poor may be very depressing. We may go to tell them our own troubles instead of listening to theirs, or we may go to chide and scold--to tell how that, if we had been in their places, debts would not have been contracted, nor sicknesses taken, or we may go and “talk good,” and that by the hour, while the weary or the bereaved one listens in submission. And the intention in all this may have been very kind. We went--for we felt it was our duty to go--and we did our best. But, alas! our visits healed no wound--they brought no sunshine. Yet how refreshing are the visits of some, and among them those of Onesiphorus. “He oft refreshed me.” Do the words suggest to us any other visitant who comes in dark moments with “thoughts of peace and not of evil”? Is there not One who says, “Come unto Me, all ye that travail, and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.”

3. Further, says the apostle, “he was not ashamed of my chain.” If our friends are under reproach, our going to visit them, or in any manner permitting their names to be associated with our own, is a proof of our constancy. Most men are willing enough to worship the rising sun. If we hear of any one, with whom we have a casual acquaintance, becoming suddenly distinguished by a literary production, or a work of art, or an act of heroism, we are very swift to put forth our claims to recognition or companionship. But if a friend become poor, how prone we are to “cut” him, or, if he be dishonoured, to deny him. Onesiphorus despised the shame.

4. And be it observed that what was now done at Rome had been done elsewhere. For, says the apostle, “In how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.” Perhaps at Ephesus the apostle had slept under his roof, had eaten, and that oft, at his table, had been helped by his purse, his time, his money. And now he shows that he had not become wearied in well-doing. And so he illustrated Solomon’s proverb, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

And now we will look at the payment the apostle rendered. “The Lord,” says he, “give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus.” May children, and wife, and servants--all who dwell within the house or cluster round it--share the Divine bounty. May mercy engirdle its walls and canopy its reel May it fall each night upon them that dwell therein as the soft dew. May it rise on them each morning as the blessed sun. In each breast may it settle like a gentle bird; in each car may it ring like the chime of church bells. May mercy take the ham] of each and guide him, and watch over the plans of each and prosper him, and light up the prospects of each and cheer him. And, at last, may mercy make the pillow of caeca soft and easy, and enable each to close his eyes in the conviction that all beyond is well; that the strange land to which he is going is still a land of mercy, and that in it there is a welcome waiting from Him who is the “Father of mercies and the God of all consolation.” But a particular period is named to which the apostle’s prayers pointed. “The Lord grant that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day.” How blessed will it be to find mercy of the Lord in that day, and to find it as the kindly recompense for deeds done in days gone by. Who would have thought that there was any connection between those visits paid by Onesiphorus to a lonely man in irons in a gloomy prison, in a gloomy street, in the capital of the Caesars, and the transactions of that period when the throne should be set and the books opened? What thread of connection is there between these? Only this: that seed bears its appropriate crop, that certain consequences follow certain antecedents to the end of time--yes, and after time! (J. F. Serjeant, M. A.)


Onesiphorus comes into view as a ship appears upon the ocean when she crosses the pathway of the moon. Very little is known of his life before or after this brief contact with the life of Paul. The radiance which the apostle casts upon the page of history makes Onesiphorus visible. In this light the beauty of a noble character, whose gentle ministrations were the solace of one of God’s servants, is evident. The moon discovers the model of a ship, and also her course; and an acquaintance is formed with a stranger of the ancient time because he stands near to, and sympathises with, a notable man. So true is it that life depends for its efficiency and its estimate upon the relations which it sustains, and that obscurity and fame are determined by the perspective. The apostle was a prisoner in a Roman dungeon. The comforts of “his own hired house” were no longer his. Nero was the Emperor. Christianity had been charged with political designs. The sword of the persecutor was red with blood. There was little hope of a favourable verdict at the bar of Caesar. One companion after another had found it convenient to leave Paul. “Only Luke is with me,” was the sad announcement which Timothy read when he opened the last letter of his honoured friend. It was not safe to visit such a prisoner. He was a marked man. The caprice of the Emperor was ready to seize upon any protest. His spies filled the city. A single word from his lips meant instant death. He had determined to hold Christianity responsible for a great disaster which befell Rome upon the 19th of July, in the year 64. For then a fire broke out in a valley between the Palatine and Caelian Hills, and marched steadily on its downward course for six days and seven nights. Some one must be punished, and Nero selected the Christians as the victims of his wrath. While Christianity was thus enduring persecution, Onesiphorus, an Ephesian, who had befriended Paul in his own city, reached Rome. He learned that the apostle, aged now and infirm, was in prison and in chains. He determined to go to his relief. His courage was equal to his sympathy. As we read these few sentences of Paul’s letter to Timothy, we are impressed with the unfailing courtesy of the apostle. He appreciates the attentions of his friends, and he never fails to acknowledge them with great delicacy. His letters are models of correspondence, so dignified, so sincere, so frank, so affectionate! They are filled with personal allusions, which exhibit the social character of this eminent man. “The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day!” How heart-felt! How genuine! How delicate! This sturdy soldier of the cross, whose valour has been displayed upon many a battlefield, commends the truth of the gospel by his courtesy. He does not repel men, but wins them. One of the wise sayings of Hillel, the distinguished Jewish Rabbin, was this: “Be thou of Aaron’s disciples, loving peace and seeking for peace, loving the creatures and attracting them to the Law!” Hillel himself was a beautiful illustration of his own teaching. His gentleness of manner was associated with firmness of principle and strength of conviction. Paul, as a Pharisee, must have been familiar with the many traditions which were current among the Jews concerning the renowned teacher, and his own character must have been somewhat affected by his admiration for one whose virtues were praised in the schools of Jerusalem. “Let a man be always gentle like Hillel, and not hasty like Shammai,” was an oft-repeated injunction. Gamaliel, the teacher of Saul of Tarsus, was the grandson of Hillel, and the school which the future apostle entered was pervaded with aa atmosphere of courtesy. Then, when our Lord taught that zealous Pharisee, and led him to realise the sinfulness of his mistaken zeal which had made him a persecutor, and gave him a new appreciation of the excellence of humble service and gentle ministrations, he advanced to a new recognition of the duty and the opportunity of courtesy. I regard courtesy as one of the efficient graces of the Christian life. It is the polished mirror which reflects the most light. Bluntness, coarseness rudeness, are not evidences of strength. The courtesy of Lord Chesterfield is not the courtesy of Paul. For Chesterfield, in his letters to his son, exhibits his lack of sincerity, his want of principle. His courtesy is only a thin veneer, which has received constant rubbing until it is worn out. Paul’s courtesy is the real wood, which is solid down to the heart. The Christian heart is always ready to sustain the Christian manner; and the Christian manner is Christ’s manner. He commended truth by his address. Can you wonder that such courtesy as his secured him many friends among the poor and suffering? Does it seem strange that a similar courtesy has led mankind as with magnetic power? And yet we carry too little of it with us into the practical work of daily life. There is many a man whose business hours never hear a single kind word--A “thank you,” an “if you please.” Service becomes drudgery. The rich and the poor draw apart. Hostile camps are organised. Men who should be friends look angrily at one another. There is a better way for the home, the shop, and the counting-room. It is Christ’s way, and Paul’s way, and the way of all who manifest with them the true spirit of love. There is something very fine about this conduct of the large-hearted Ephesian. He was evidently a man of substance, for he had the means at his command which enabled him to help Paul in Ephesus and in Rome. Yet, when he visited the imperial city, where a money value was placed upon almost everything, he went about through the streets and among the prisons to find a despised Jew--one Saul of Tarsus--whose name had become a by-word and a reproach. Social life needs an illustration such as this. We are apt to forget--alas! we are apt to despise--the poor. Yet but for the poor--God’s own poor--social life would perish in its corruption. It is well for us to appreciate the intimacy of this dependence which it obtains. Spiritual treasures are to be regarded as wealth. We must traffic more. Gold and silver must be exchanged for sympathy and prayer. The material blessings of this life are to be distributed just as the spiritual blessings are. The rich are to live for the poor, and the poor are to live for the rich. The man whose talents qualify him to command armies is to be the protector of the weak, aim the man whose appreciation is sensitive is to be the teacher of the ignorant; the man who has this world’s goods is to supply his brothel’s need, and the man who can prevail with God is to realise his responsibility in prayer. The ministrations of Onesiphorus exhibit the watchfulness of God, which is exercised through His servants. The poor saints understand this better than the rich saints can. Their poverty affords many occasions for the manifestation of special providences. And in their lives these special providences are very numerous. God feeds them, as He did Elijah by the brook Cherith. There is a wonderful adaptation of supply and demand. Nor should we fail to discover the dignity which is ours when we are selected by God as His messengers. Subjects always appreciate the preference of a sovereign. God honours us if He makes us His almoners. Let us appreciate the honour, and let us seek to discharge such duties with considerate love. “Blessed,” says the Psalmist, “is he that considereth the poor.” This is something more than giving; for it includes the manner of the giving. England has forgotten many of the leaders of fashion who were in favour thirty years ago, but she will never forget that cultured woman who went as nurse to the soldiers of the Crimea. Florence Nightingale once wrote that “the strong, the healthy wills in any life must determine to pursue the common good at any personal cost, at daily sacrifice. And we must not think that any fit of enthusiasm will carry us through such a life as this. Nothing but the feeling that it is God’s work more than ours--that we are seeking His success, and not our success--and that we have trained and fitted ourselves by every means which He has granted us to carry oat His work, will enable us to go on.” Christianity waits for such service. When Onesiphorus came into helpful contact with the life of Paul, he secured an unconscious immortality. His is not a principal figure in the Scriptures. He is of secondary rank or importance. But he has secured a grand immortality, while other men, greater, wiser, more conspicuous then than he, are forgotten; and this immortality was secured by self-forgetfulness on the part of Onesiphorus. If we cannot work unless we are sure of a recognition, we shall have no part in the sweet charities which make life tolerable. We must learn of the coral insect, whose instinct teaches it to build until it dies, and which, by building, slowly lifts an island out of the seas, upon which flowers may bloom, and trees may wave, and man may find a home. This, my friends, is our immortality, sure and blessed. “We are labourers together with God.” It may be that we can do but little. Never mind. We will do what we can. (H. M. Booth, D. D.)

Was Onesiphorus dead?

The only ground for the hypothesis of the death of Onesiphorus appears in the further reference to his household, rather than to himself, in the final salutations (2 Timothy 4:19). This might easily be explained on another supposition, as well as on that made by the advocates of the “prayer for the departed.” If Onesiphorus of Ephesus had business in Rome, he may have had reasons for “visiting Corinth, or Thessalonica, or Alexandria, or Spain, and may have been at too great a distance to receive personally the apostle’s salutations. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)

The balance of probability is decidedly in favour of the view that Onesiphorus was already dead when St. Paul wrote these words. There is not only the fact that he speaks here of “the house of Onesiphorus” in connection with the present and of Onesiphorus himself only in connection with the past; there is also the still more marked fact that in the final salutations, while greetings are sent to Prisca and Aquila, and from Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia, yet it is once more “the house of Onesiphorus,” and not, Onesiphorus himself, who is saluted. This language is thoroughly intelligible if Onesiphorus was no longer alive but had a wife and children who were still living in Ephesus; but it is not easy to explain this reference in two places to the household of Onesiphorus, if he himself was still alive. In all the other cases the individual, and not the household, is mentioned. Nor is this twofold reference to his family, rather than to himself, the only fact which points in this direction. There is also the character of the apostle’s prayer. Why does he confine his desires respecting the requital of Onesiphorus’ kindness to the day of judgment? Why does he not also pray that he may be requited in this life? that he “may prosper and be in health, even as his soul prospereth,” as St. John prays for Gaius (3 John 1:2)? This, again, is thoroughly intelligible if Onesiphorus is already dead. It is much less intelligible if he is still alive. It seems, therefore, to be scarcely too much to say that there is no serious reason for questioning the now widely accepted view that at the time when St. Paul wrote these words Onesiphorus was among the departed. (A. Plummer, D. D.)


Like the sea anemone, which feels the first returning wave upon the rock, and throws out all its tendrils, so the tender nature of some individuals will give forth all its sympathies at the slightest intimations of woe. (J. Everett.)

Sympathetic men

What a blessing are rest-giving men and women! People upon whose strong sense and deep and delicate sympathy we can fling ourselves as on to a welcome couch! People into whose presence the worries and irritabilities of life seem afraid to enter! Cathedral-like souls, full of softened lights and restful shadows! Oh, what a refreshment to meet with such! Large, deep natures which have found for themselves rest in God, and whose very presence brings over others what Christ’s word brought over the Sea of Galilee--A great calm. Souls that are like a vast forest, rich and cool, filled with speaking silences and peopled solitudes, where one can recline for hours or wander for days a stranger to the heat that wearies and withers outside! Such, in some measure, we can all be, and the need for such service to humanity is not sufficiently insisted on. (J. Dawson.)

Prison fellow ship

Who has not read the story of Picciola; how the prisoner knelt down and nursed the little flower which sprung up between the flagstones in his walk--how, in his loneliness, he talked to it as though it had a soul that could speak hack to him--and how, at length, the strong heart was broken within him, when, with the heat of the sun, it at last withered and died? Or that stranger illustration of the prisoner of the Bastille who knit his affections to a spider, weaving his web in a corner of the cell, and then wept, as one weeps for his first-born, when it was killed through the wanton cruelty of the gaoler? Far beyond this is the joy we have in the fellowship of our own kind.

Religious friendship

Onesiphorus means “bringing profit.” The man’s life was true to his name. He brought profit to himself, others, God. A model minister’s friend.

Religious frieindship is eminently practical in its service.

1. Invigorating. “Refreshed me.” Like dew to shrivelled grass and drooping flower.

2. Painstaking. “Sought,” etc.

3. Courageous. “In Rome.” “Not ashamed of my chain.” False friends are swayed by the signs of the times. Like a shadow, they leave us when we pass out of the sunshine. True friendship, based on character, not circumstances, hence unalterable.

4. Continuous.

5. Personal.

6. Proverbial. “Thou knowest very well.” The true man loves to recount deeds of kindness.

7. Immortal. Kindness is undying.

Religious friendship is highly distinguished in its reward.

1. It gained for him the influence of the mightiest Christian power.

2. It gained for him the influence of prayer for the best blessing “Mercy.”

(1) The most needed blessing.

(2) Involves every other.

3. It gained for him the influence of prayer for the best blessing on the most momentous occasion. “That day”--the judgment--the day of destiny--the final day of mercy. (B. D. Johns.)

Refreshing the poorest

And here the best may be taxed for omitting of the present occasion, or poor man’s necessity. We are prone to commit sin instantly, and to put off good and charitable duties from time to time, and to do them lingeringly. But, beloved, this should not be so; we gather fruit when it is the ripest; cut down corn when it is the hardest; let blood when it groweth rankest; and shall we not refresh our brethren being poorest? (J. Barlow, D. D.)

The needy not to be neglected

We may run from the poor, and his homely bed and cottage; but God and His swift curse will one day overtake us. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

A welcome visitor

“I have read recently that in one of the English prisons there was at one time an underground cell, which was used as a place of punishment. Its remoteness, loneliness, and darkness made it a place greatly dreaded. Among the prisoners there was a man of refinement and nervous temperament, to whom the horror of this penalty was a fright that haunted him day and night. At length there was some alleged offence against the prison discipline, for which he was sentenced to four and twenty hours in this dungeon. He was led by the wardens to the place; the door was opened and he had to go down the stairs into its depths. The door was shut. The steps of the wardens died away in the distance; the outermost door was heard as its slamming echoed in the hollow places. Then all was still--A stillness that oppressed with terror amidst a darkness that could be felt. Nervous and full of imagination, the man sank down paralysed with fear. Strange and hideous shapes came out of the gloom, and pointed at him. His brain throbbed as with fever, and mocking voices seemed to come from all sides. He felt that before long the terror must drive him mad. Then suddenly there came the sound of steps overhead; and in a quiet tone the chaplain called him by name. Oh, never was any music so sweet! ‘God bless you,’ gasped the poor fellow. ‘Are you there?’ ‘Yes,’ said the chaplain, ‘and I am not going to stir from here until you come out.’ The poor man could not thank him enough. ‘God bless you,’ he cried. ‘Why, I don’t mind it a bit now, with you there like that.’ The terror was gone; the very darkness was powerless to hurt while his friend was so near--unseen, but just above.” And so beside us all ever is the unseen yet loving presence of our Master and Friend, and darkness and danger have no longer any power to frighten us. (G.R. Dickenson.)

Was not ashamed of my chain.

Chains worth wearing

Here was Paul, in that large, grand company of men who, in all the ages, have been the victims of great ideals, of noble inspirations, of truth, of virtuous impulses, of high and generous purposes that reach out and beyond him; and there were a thousand men of all sorts coming against Paul’s life, who appreciated his nobility, his gifts, his eloquence, his scholarship, his Judaism; and they saw nothing else in Paul or upon Paul but his chain, and then they walked away half ashamed and so sorry that so good a man as Paul had to wear a chain. There never was such jewellery in all the ages as that chain of Paul’s. Never did any goldsmith melt together the rarest pieces from the mines and put them in such delicate and beauteous relationships with one another, as did the Providence of God, when, through countless years and by various circumstances, the prophecies worked out that chain for Paul. Here is a mother, and if she is really a mother she is far more certainly chained than the woman by her side who tosses her little head, for such heads are always small, and has no thought of responsibilities and cares; no thought about those relationships of life which ought to be the most sacred in the world. Here is a young man who has started out to make himself intelligent. He has only a few hours in which to do it. He takes those hours and by all the severe exactions of his noble spirit he is bound so to that ideal that he cannot do this, and he has not an evening for that, and he hurries to his work a chained man, but oh, how grand! Here is a girl who thinks, perhaps, that tomorrow she will begin to sew again, wearily but happily, chained to her work, because yonder in some lowly place in this city her mother is working and waiting, prayerfully doing what she can, for death to take her. But this brave girl is carrying that aged mother upon those weary arms as once the mother carried her, chained, but not with a chain bought at a jewellery store. She has not the kind of jewellery upon her that sparkles upon you at the great reception. No, her jewellery is made by Almighty God; it was mined in the vast secrets of goodness; it was brought out by the heat and fire of that eager life; and God has given her this chain as the mark that she belongs to that grand race of aristocrats. And I care not whether that girl lives in a garret, or lives in a mansion, she belongs to the aristocracy of heaven. In what contrast to these chains appear the chains that have rattled as you came here, my friend; for there are other chains of the most coarse and ignoble kind that bind us. Here is a man who comes and feels, when he sees the picture of that young man earnestly trying to become intelligent, that he is ignorant, and he never knows how much of a chain there is attaching itself to him. Other people do. His smartnesses are simply exhibits of his chain; every time he tries to perpetrate a joke the chain rattles and people see how bound he is to utter ignorance. Here are men and women bound by chains of selfishness. To save your life you cannot conceive of a noble inspiration, The other day, when somebody told you of some one giving some money to a great cause, you sneeringly measured your own soul when you thought you were measuring his, and you said: “Well, he wanted to be advertised!” You know that is the way you would feel under the circumstances. Your chain rattled, and it rattled so awfully that those who were round about you saw the awful depths of selfishness into which you were about to fall. Here are men who are chained by habit. To save your life, you can’t get home without feeling the pulling of a chain which you would rather break than to accomplish anything else in the world. But how different are these chains from the ones which Paul wore, as he stood there in the face of Israel and the whole world! That chain was rattling when he spoke, and he uttered that word with such eloquence that it has resounded through the centuries. “For the hope of Israel,” he said, “I am bound with this chain. Other men have been bound to the past; I am bound to the future. Other men have been bound to iniquity; I am bound to righteousness. Other men have been bound to low ideals; I am bound to lofty ideals. Other men are in slavery, abject slavery, to those carnal purposes of life that debase; I am in slavery which is sublime, to the true and lofty ideals that exalt. For the hope of Israel, I am bound with that chain.” (F. W. Gunsaulus, D. D.)

Verse 18

2 Timothy 1:18

The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day.

St. Paul’s prayer for Onesiphorus

Mercy is a word we are often using, especially in our prayers. But there are some of us, perhaps, who have no very clear ideas of what mercy is. I must remind you again, that it is not mere kindness or goodness. To ask God to show us mercy is not simply to ask God to do us good. Such a petition includes in it a confession of our wretchedness and our guiltiness; for observe, misery is the proper object of mercy. Mercy, in the strict sense of the word, is kindness exercised towards the wretched; but then there is another use of the term and a more common one. Because our guilt is our greatest misery, mercy often signifies in Scripture pity shown to the guilty; in other words the forgiveness of our sins. In some respects mercy resembles goodness. It is indeed the very same thing, only its object is different. God is good to all, and always has been so; but He was never merciful, till misery appeared needing His compassion. He is good in heaven; every angel there feels and proclaims Him such: but there is no mercy in heaven, for there is no guilt there or wretchedness. And then again mercy is closely allied to grace. If it differs from it at all, it is in this--when we speak of grace, we have respect chiefly to the motive of the giver; when of mercy, to the condition or character of the receiver. Look at God, and then we call mercy grace; look at a man, poor, abject, guilty man, and then we call grace mercy. You see, then, that mercy is the perfection of the Divine goodness. It is that branch or exercise of it, which goes the farthest and does the most. It is goodness blessing us when we merit cursing, and saving us when we are well-nigh lost. Hence, God is said in the Scripture to “delight in mercy.” His goodness can expand itself in it. He finds in it the freest scope, the largest indulgence, of His benevolence. It is not merely the work, it is the enjoyment, the feast and triumph, of His love. And you see also here another fact, that no man can ever deserve mercy. We often put these two words together, but we ought not to do so; there is a positive contradiction between them. Mercy is grace. It is kindness towards one who has no claim whatever to kindness and is totally undeserving of it.

Let us pass on now to the day the apostle speaks of. And observe--he does not describe this day; he does not even tell us what day he means: but there is no misunderstanding him: he means the last great day, the day when God will raise the dead and judge the world.

1. The apostle’s thoughts were often dwelling on this day; it was a day very frequently in his contemplation. His mind had evidently become familiar with the prospect of it, and so familiar, that he could not help speaking of it as he would of any well-known and much thought of thing. And so it seems really to have been in the early ages of the Christian Church. We put the day of judgment far from us; we regard it as a day that will certainly come, but after so great an interval of time, that the thought of it need not press on us; but not so the first believers. Their minds were fastened on this day. They “looked for” it; that is, they were like men looking out anxiously in the east for the first dawn of some long wished for day, like men climbing the lofty mountain to get the first sight of the rising sun on some festal morning. They “hastened unto” it; that is again, they would have met it if they could. But there is something else implied in this expression.

2. It intimates also that this day is a most important one. There is the idea of pre-eminence contained in his language. We feel as soon as we begin to think, that we cannot estimate as we ought the importance of this day. It will affect every body and every thing on the face of the earth, and to the greatest possible extent. Other days are important to some, but this wilt be important to all.

Turn now to his prayer. He brings together in it, you observe, the mercy and the day we have been considering. We cannot enter into the spirit of this prayer, unless we keep in mind throughout the character of this Onesiphorus. He was evidently a real Christian. And these kind offices, we may fairly presume, he rendered to the apostle for his Master’s sake. This kindness under such trying circumstances, this steadfastness and boldness in the face of shame and danger, were the fruits of his faith in Jesus. They are evidences that he was not only a sincere believer in the gospel, but a man of extraordinary faith and love. The inference, then, that we draw from this prayer is this obvious one--our final salvation, the deliverance of even the best of men in the great day of the Lord, will be aa act of mercy. It is sometimes spoken of as an act of justice, and such it really is, if we view it in reference to the Lord Jesus. Before he made His soul an offering for sin, it was promised Him that this stupendous sacrifice should not be made in vain. And the Scripture speaks of our salvation as a righteous thing in another sense--the Lord Jesus has led His people to expect it. But look to the text. The apostle implores in it mercy in that day for his godly friend; and what does he mean? If he means anything, he means this--that after all it must be mercy, free and abounding mercy, that must save that friend, if he is ever saved. He can talk of justice and of righteousness as he looks at his Master on His throne, and remembers what He has done and promised; but when he looks on a fellow-sinner, he loses sight of justice altogether, and can speak of mercy only. And observe, too, how this is said. It is not cold language. It is language coming warm from a most tender and deeply grateful heart. The good works of this man were all before Paul at this time--his boldness in Christ’s cause, his steadfastness, his kindness; the apostle’s mind was evidently filled with admiration of him, and his heart glowing with love towards him; yet what in this ardour of feeling does he say? The Lord recompense him after his works? No; he sees in this devoted Christian of Ephesus a miserable sinner like himself, one going soon to Christ’s judgment-seat, and his only prayer for him is, that he may find mercy there.

1. We all still need mercy. There is a notion that a sinner once pardoned, has done with this blessed thing; that he may cease to seek it, and almost cease to think of it. It is error, and gross error. We can never have done with mercy As long as we are in the way to heaven; or rather, mercy will never have done with us. And notice also this remarkable fact--in all his other epistles, the salutation of this apostle to his friends is, “Grace unto you and peace”; but when he writes to Timothy and Tiros, men like himself, faithful and beloved, eminent in Christ’s Church, he alters this salutation. As though to force on our minds the point I am urging--A conviction that the holiest of men still need God’s mercy--he adds this word “mercy” to the other two. In each of these epistles his salutation runs, “Grace, mercy, and peace.” (C. Bradley, M. A.)

Paul’s prayer for his friend

To the Christian mind the painful feelings occasioned by the recollection of violated friendship become unspeakably more poignant and intense, when we discover that the claims of friendship and the obligations of religion have been cast off together--that he whom we loved has made shipwreck at once of his faith and of his affection--of his duty to his God and to his friend. An affecting instance of this kind is recorded at the fifteenth verse of the chapter. Was it wonderful, therefore, that from the cold, cruel, and treacherous conduct of these men, he should turn with such a glow of kind and grateful emotion to the faithful and affectionate Onesiphorus?

There is a day coming, which, from its transcendent importance, merits the emphatic designation of “that day.” And does not this day deserve the emphatic mention which is here made of it? Compared with every other period in the history of the universe, does it not stand out in unparalleled importance? There are days in the life of every one which, from the event s that transpire in them, are invested with great and merited importance to the individual himself--such as the day of his birth, and of his death. But there is something in the day of final and universal retribution that sinks into obscurity any other eventful period in the history of man. The day of our birth introduces us into a scene empty and shadowy, both in its joys and sorrows, and proverbially brief and transitory in its duration; that day ushers us into a state of being, in which we shall be conversant no more with the dreams only, but with the living realities of perfect felicity or woe, and conversant with them through a duration endless as the reign of the Eternal itself. The day of our death is chiefly interesting to ourselves, and to the little circle who have been connected with us by the ties of kindred or love; the day of judgment is supremely interesting to any rational being who has lived and breathed on the face of our world--A day when the eternal destiny of the whole human race shall be determined with unparalleled publicity and solemnity. How important are those days, in the opinion of men, which have witnessed the fall or the rise of empires. How important was the day that dawned on the tribes of Israel marching from under the yoke of their Egyptian bondage--A day that ever afterwards was held sacred to commemorate their deliverance! How eventful that day that rose on the fall of the Assyrian monarchy, and beheld the empire of the East pass from Belshazzar and his impious race into the hands of the mild and virtuous Cyrus! How painfully memorable, at least to the nation immediately concerned, was the day that beheld the final destruction of Jerusalem, and the rejection and dispersion of its devoted race! How important to these lands of our nativity, and how worthy to be held in grateful remembrance, that day which witnessed the consummation of the glorious struggle that terminated in the vindication and establishment of our civil and religious liberties! But do you not feel that all these days, whether of transient or permanent importance, are so utterly insignificant, when viewed in relation to that day, that the comparison involves in it a kind of incongruity, and is truly a lowering of the awful dignity of the subject? There are but two periods in the history of the world that can be consistently compared, in point of importance to men, with that day--the day that dawned on the creation of our race, which was hailed by the sweet acclaim of the angelic hosts and the day that shone on the birth of the Son of God. In every aspect in which we can view them, these were days big with consequence to the human family; but they were only the introductory scenes to the consummation of the mightiest drama that ever was, or will be, performed on the theatre of the world.

On that day the mercy of the lord will de regarded by all as unspeakably precious. The mercy of the Lord is, in this world, regarded in a very different light by the various classes of men, if we may judge of their sentiments and opinions from their uniform practice. The great mass of mankind demonstrate by their conduct that, whatever may be their occasional fears and desires, the prevailing habit of their mind is an utter indifference either to the mercy or vengeance of God. But there are a few who are honourably distinguished by different sentiments, who avow it as their opinion, and evince their sincerity by a corresponding practice, that they esteem everything under heaven as utter vanity compared with the mercy of the Lord. And they who have practically esteemed the mercy of the Lord so highly in this world, will value it the more at that terrible day. With all their successful efforts, by the grace of God, to prepare their souls to meet the Lord in peace, and to be found without spot and blameless at His coming, they will impressively feel themselves still to be the objects of His mercy. Yes, and at that day Paul and his fellow-believers will not be singular in prizing the mercy of the Lord. Much as sinners have despised the mercy of the Lord here, they will then despise it no more.

In the mind of a Christian, that day possesses tremendous consequence, and towards it his eye is habitually directed. Such consequence did this day possess in St. Paul’s view, that the importance of everything on earth was estimated by its remote or immediate relation to it. Did he, from the hour of his conversion, despise all distinctions of wealth and honour when brought into competition with the knowledge of Christ? It was, that by any means he might attain to a blessed resurrection on that day. Did he practise the most painful and persevering self-denial; or, to use his own words, did he keep under his body and bring it into subjection? It was, that he might not be found disapproved on that day. Was he not ashamed of the sufferings he endured for the gospel? It was because he knew in whom he had believed, and was persuaded that He was able to keep that which He had committed unto him against that day. Did he labour in season and out of season, warning every man, and teaching every man? It was that he might present every man perfect in Christ on that day. Did he muse on the number and steadfastness of his converts? He thought of them as his hope and joy and crown of rejoicing in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coining at that day. Did he engage in prayer for his converts? It was that the Lord might make them to increase and abound in love, to the end that He might establish their hearts unblameable in holiness at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, with all His saints, on that day.

Enlightened Christian affection is especially solicitous about the eternal well being of its objects. Deeply did the grateful and generous heart of Paul feel the kindness of Onesiphorus. There is no doubt he loved him before as a disciple, and very likely as a personal friend; but his conduct, when he visited Rome, awakened still deeper emotions of gratitude and affection towards him in the bosom of the apostle. And how did he express this sense of the kindness of Onesiphorus? Did he employ all his influence to improve the temporal fortune of his benefactor? Did he request his noble converts in the palace--for some such there were of the emperor’s household--to exert their power to procure for Onesiphorus some post of honour and emolument in the civil or military establishment of Rome? Or did he write to the Ephesian Church, to which this person probably belonged, enjoining them to prepare some temporal reward, to be given to their deserving countryman for his kindness to himself? No; Paul attached too much importance to the solemnities of the last day and its immediate consequences; he was too much influenced by the scenes of the world to come, to ask for his beloved comforter so poor, so miserable a recompense. He loved him too well to solicit for him a fading, when he might ask for him an unfading crown. He knew too well the worth of his soul, the importance of an eternal well-being, to overlook these for the trifles for an hour, in his desire to reward him.

Genuine saints have it ever in their power to reward their benefactors. Looking at Paul as a poor despised prisoner in Rome, accused before the emperor of heresy and sedition, befriended by none but by a proscribed and despised sect, which was everywhere spoken against, with all the prejudice of the emperor, and the influence of the Jewish nation strenuously exerted against him--looking at Paul in this light one would speedily conclude, on the principles of the world, that he was a very unlikely person richly to reward his benefactors. But ten thousand times rather would I have laid this poor and apparently helpless captive under obligations to me by kindness to him, than have merited, by the most splendid civil or military services, the gratitude and reward of him who wore the imperial purple. What could Nero, even with a world at his nod, have conferred upon me? He might have lavished upon me all the favours of the imperial court. He might have made me the idol of fortune, and the envy of the proudest of the Roman nobility. He might have given me the conduct of the most honourable expeditions. He might have invested me with the command of the richest of the provinces. Paul had no imperial power or influence; he had even no imperial favour; but he was a favourite in a higher court, where he was every day, almost every hour, an acceptable visitant. He was one of those whose effectual fervent prayer reached the heavenly temple, and, through the channel of the atonement, drew down eternal blessings on his soul, and on the souls of those for whom he interceded. In conclusion, there is one inference very naturally suggested by the last remarks: If these statements are true, how wise it is, setting aside the pure love of benevolence altogether, to be kind to the people of God, especially to the pious poor! (J. Mc Gilchrist.)

Mercy in that day

That there is a day coming, in which to find mercy of the Lord, will be our only consolation and security.

1. The day here meant is the day so frequently mentioned in Scripture; and in which we are all most deeply concerned. It is described by many different names, as “the Day of Judgment,” “the Day of the Lord,” “the Last Day,” “the Day of Wrath,” “the Day in which God will judge the world.” In that day, then, what will be our only consolation and security? The text reminds us, “To find mercy of the Lord.” Mercy is another word for grace. It is an act of free and unmerited favour. Men sometimes say that such a person deserves to have mercy shown to him! But this is a very incorrect and careless way of speaking. A man can never deserve mercy. There may be some circumstances in his case, which may make him more particularly an object of compassion. When a criminal by his offence has forfeited his life, and is condemned to die; the king, from pity to the offender, or from some other consideration best known to himself, may grant a pardon and remit the sentence. Here is mercy, an act of free, unmerited grace to the undeserving and the guilty. But to say that there could be anything in the criminal which gave him a claim to mercy, would be to talk absurdly. The very idea, then, of mercy naturally shuts out all idea of merit. These two things are totally contrary to each other, and can never exist together. It is to be feared that many, when they talk of hoping to find mercy, mean in fact to say that they hope to find justice in that day; and that their hopes of being favourably received then are built not on God’s free mercy, but on their own merits, and on their secret claims to reward.

That there will be some who in that day will not find mercy of the Lord. St. Paul, when he prays that Onesiphorus may find mercy in that day, clearly intimates it to be possible that he may not find it. And if it were not certain that Onesiphorus would find it, it is not certain that others will find it. Indeed, the Scriptures plainly tell us that all will not find it. We are expressly told that in that day some will say, “Lord, Lord, open to us”; to whom He will say, “Verily, I know you not.” Let us see what the Scriptures teach us concerning those who will find mercy of the Lord in that day.

1. They are now seeking mercy, and seeking it in that one way, in which alone God has promised to bestow it.

2. They are duly affected and properly influenced by the views and hopes which they have of the rich mercy of God in Christ. There is a sad propensity in man to abuse the Divine mercy, and to take occasion, from this most glorious perfection of the Almighty, to run the farther and continue the longer in sin. How differently did a sense of God’s mercy work on the pious David! Hear what he says, “O Lord, there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared.” He felt that the goodness of God led him to repentance. The rich mercy of the Lord, far from hardening his heart, softened and overcame it. (E. Cooper.)

Mercy in that day

Let us consider the language of the text as showing that the exercise of mercy towards us, especially in the proceedings of the final day, is an object of highest desire and hope.

1. The very nature of the occasion shows it to be so: the day of the end of the world. This will differ from all other days. On numbers of the days that are past, our eyes were never opened; they appeared to our forefathers, but fled away ere we had our being; while the days which we behold, they do not witness, for the darkness of death and the grave overshadows them. Thus different in their importance, ordinary days may be to different persons. The day of one man’s prosperity may be the day of another man’s adversity. For ancient days we are not responsible, and yet those days were concerned in the accountability of millions who have no concern with our own. But the day referred to in the text will be common to all the sons of Adam. If, then, we consider the period which it occupies, both as to what it follows and what it precedes, how manifest the need of mercy at that day. What recollections of time, what apprehensions of eternity will fill the mind!

2. As it will be the period when God will display the effects of His probationary dispensations, the worth of mercy will then particularly appear. Such effects will be strictly discriminative of character and condition. Events will have reached their issues; moral consequences will be brought together in vast accumulation, and will bear with all their weight upon the mind. Fruits will be reaped in kind and in degree, according to what we have sown. And while these effects will be so concentrated at that day, they will also be looked upon in their character of perpetuity.

3. As it will be the period when the Lord will reward His servants for all they have done in His name, the apostle could entreat mercy for his friend at that day.

4. It is also to be observed that the importance of an interest in Divine mercy at that day appears in the fact that if it be not then enjoyed the hope of it can be cherished no more. (Essex Remembrancer.)

Mercy in “that day”

Whence arises our need of mercy?

1. Our need of mercy arises from our guilt, for mercy is kindness or favour shown to those who are undeserving of it. Our guilt arises from our personal disobedience to the Divine law. We inherit a depraved nature, but it is not for this that God holds us responsible. We are responsible not for what we have inherited, but for what we have done, and therefore it is not by our depraved nature but by our actions we shall be judged.

2. Guilt exposes to the retributive justice of God. There is always the feeling that sin deserves punishment at the hands of God. We know indeed from Scripture that it does so. Nothing could be plainer or more solemn than its statements, than the sinner is even now under the curse of the law which he has broken, and that hereafter he will come under a righteous retribution. But it is not to Scripture that I would now appeal. A man who has violated the laws of his country knows that he deserves to suffer their penalties. It is right, he says, I have sinned, and must bear the punishment. So the sinner against God feels that he deserves to be condemned, and that if God’s justice were to deal with him he could not escape. From this indissoluble connection between sin and punishment arises our need of mercy. Therefore it is, that the prayer of the publican is the universal prayer of poor, sinful, and perishing humanity. Therefore it is, that in the presence of God’s holiness, or confronted with His law, or in the near prospect of an eternal world, we shrink back appalled at the consciousness of our guilt.

Whether it is possible to obtain mercy? This is a question of grave importance; easily answered with the Bible in our hands, but, apart from it, filling us with strange perplexity.

1. Without a Divine revelation, we do not know that God is merciful at all. Granting that there is much to excite our hopes, there is as much to awaken our fears. We are ready to say, “God is good--His tender mercies are over all.” But when the pestilence is abroad in the city, and the tempest in the field--when the rivers overflow their banks, and the mildew blights the precious fruits of the earth--when the crimson tide of war rolls through a land--when men’s faces are black with famine--when the sea is strewn with wrecks--then we are filled with alarm, and say, “When I consider, I am afraid of Him.” Think again: What are the conceptions which have been formed of God by those who are destitute of revelation? One of the best and wisest of the heathen doubted whether it was possible for “God to forgive sin.” The sceptre of the Supreme God was a thunder-bolt--He was cruel, harsh and vindictive Again: When we reflect on the nature of moral government, we perceive serious difficulties in the way of the exercise of mercy. Certainly this is not the end of government. The great object for which it exists is the administration of justice; that it may “render to every man according to his works.” If mercy, not justice, be its ruling principle, it is not easy to understand why it should exist at all. The highest praise that can be given to an earthly ruler is, that he is “the terror of evil-doers and the praise of them that do well.” Now apply this to the Divine government. Why does it exist?--whence its language and its laws? Is it not for the maintenance of order?--for the well-being of the creatures whom God has made? And, as far as we have an opportunity of observing, are not the laws of this government strictly carried out--in every case, sooner or later, exacting penalties from the disobedient? If you violate a physical law, there is no mercy for you.

2. But when we turn to the Scriptures, the subject is presented before us in a different light.

(1) We learn, in the first place, that God is merciful in Himself.

(2) We learn that this mercy is displayed to sinners through the atonement of Christ.

Why is it that at the day of judgment we shall especially require the exercise of mercy? It is the day that will terminate this world’s history. Whenever it dawns, time will cease, the world will be burnt up, the heavens will pass away, there will be “no more sea.” Wonderful was the day of creation, when God called things that were not as though they were, and His Spirit moved over the chaos, and light dawned, and the earth appeared. But more wonderful still will be that day when the purpose for which the world has been created shall have been accomplished, and, like a faded vesture, it shall be folded up. Then the world’s history will end--its sad tragedies of sorrow, its scenes of suffering; and its works of nature, its wonders of art, the monuments of God’s power, the trophies of man’s skill, shall pass away.

1. Its absolute certainty.

2. Its scrutiny will be so strict. God will set our iniquities before Him--our secret sins in the light of His countenance. And that which we had forgotten shall be remembered; that which appeared to us but trivial shall assume a magnitude which will fill us with profound alarm; that which we supposed none had witnessed shall be proclaimed.

3. The award will be just and final.

4. It will come unexpectedly. All the representations given of the judgment-day describe it as a sudden and unlooked-for event. But what shall we say of the worldly, the ungodly, the profane? What sudden, destruction will overtake them! Where Pompeii was disinterred, there was discovered in the buried city the remains of those who still preserved the very attitude in which death had overtaken them. There was a skeleton before a mirror, another behind a counter; in the theatre, in the forum, in the temples, at a banquet, in every attitude and position they were found. It was the work of a moment, the burning lava fell, and they died. You are looking forward to many years of life, but the Judge may even now be standing at the door. Who then will find mercy? Those who have sought it and found it now--those who have confessed and forsaken sin--those who humbly rest on the merits of the Saviour’s sacrifice. (H. J. Gamble.)

Paul’s good wish on behalf of Onesiphorus

. Men are all advancing towards a solemn and momentous period.

At that period men will stand in need of mercy. When the apostle expresses a wish that his friend may receive mercy, it must be evident to every one that of course he needs it--that without its communication it is impossible that he can be happy. Another inference to be dragon from this principle is, that, in consequence of this transgression by which we are characterised, we are, of course, in danger of punishment by that great Almighty Being whom, in this manner, we have offended. But now, you must at once perceive the whole force of the statement from which these particulars have been deduced. For the purpose of escaping the condemnation of the last great day, there must be a communication of the mercy of the Lord.

The mercy of God is diligently to be sought in the present world.

1. A portion in the provision of Divine grace ought to be sought by you as a matter of intense and impassioned desire.

2. A portion in the full provision of Divine grace should be sought in the spirit of fervent and importunate prayer. We must remark--

To receive mercy is to possess the enjoyment of a vast and incalculable blessing. I scarcely dare venture for a single moment to occupy your time by attempting to describe the blessed consequences of having the Judge for your friend on that day of eternal retribution, feeling, as I do, that the grandeur of the property may appear diminished by the feebleness of the description.

Those who have the hope of mercy should desire its participation by others. It has already been observed, that the prayer of the apostle is that peculiar form of prayer which is known by the name of intercession. Here is a beautiful example of that spirit which we, as the possessors and heirs of mercy, should cultivate towards those in whom we feel an interest. (James Parsons.)

Mercy in the day of judgment

“that day.” Its date is not given. It would but gratify curiosity. Its length is not specified. It will be long enough for the deliberate judgment of all men. Its coming will be solemnly proclaimed. Ushered in with pomp of angels, sound of trumpet, etc., none will be ignorant of it. Its glory, the revelation of Jesus from heaven upon the throne of judgment this will make it most memorable. Its event, the assembly of quick and dead, and the last assize. Its character, excitement of joy or terror. Its personal interest to each one of us will be paramount.

The mercy. To arouse us, let us think of those who will find no mercy of the Lord in that day:--Those who had no mercy on others. Those who lived and died impenitent. Those who neglected salvation. How shall they escape? Those who said they needed no mercy: the self-righteous. Those who sought no mercy: procrastinators, and the indifferent. Those who scoffed at Christ, and refused the gospel. Those who sold their Lord, and apostatised from Him. Those who made a false and hypocritical profession.

To-Day. Remember that now is the accepted time; for you are not yet standing at the judgment bar. You are yet where prayer is heard. You are where faith will save all who exercise it towards Christ. You are where the Spirit strives. You are where sin may be forgiven, at once, and for ever. You are where grace reigns, even though sin abounds. Today is the day of grace; to-morrow may be a day of another sort, for you at least, and possibly for all mankind. The Judge is at the door. Seek mercy immediately, that mercy may be yours for ever. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Going to receive mercy

When Thomas Hooker was dying, one said to him, “Brother, you are going to receive the reward of your labors.” He humbly replied, “Brother, I am going to receive mercy.”

The Christian manner of expressing gratitude

The enemies of Christianity, while stating its supposed defects, have asserted that it recognises neither patriotism nor friendship as virtues; that it discountenances, or at least does not encourage, the exercise of gratitude to human benefactors; and that its spirit is unfriendly to many of the finer feelings and sensibilities of our nature. But these assertions prove only that those who make them are unacquainted with the religion, which they blindly assail. Nothing more is necessary to show that they are groundless than a reference to the character of St. Paul. We readily admit, however, or rather we assert it as an important truth, that his religion, though it extinguished none of these feelings, modified them all. It infused into them its own spirit, regulated their exercises and expressions by its own views, and thus stamped upon them a new and distinctive character. It baptized them, if I may be allowed the expression, with the Holy Ghost, in the name of Jesus Christ. Hence, the apostle expressed neither his patriotism, nor his friendship, nor his gratitude, precisely as he would have done, before his conversion to Christianity. These remarks, so far at least as they relate to gratitude, are illustrated and verified by the passage before us, in which he expresses his sense of obligation to a human benefactor. He did not idolise his benefactor; he did not load him with flattering applauses; but from the fulness of his heart he poured out a prayer for him to that God who alone could reward him as the apostle wished him to be rewarded. It is more than possible, that to some persons this mode of expressing gratitude will appear frigid, unmeaning, and unsatisfactory. They will regard it as a very cheap and easy method of requiting a benefactor; and were the case their own, they would probably prefer a small pecuniary recompense, or an honorary reward, to all the prayers which even an apostle could offer on their behalf. It is certain, however, that such persons estimate the value of objects very erroneously, and that their religious views and feelings differ very widely from those which were entertained by St. Paul. But what is the precise import of the petition--that he might then find mercy--and what did it imply? To pray that any one may find mercy of him at the judgment day, is to pray that he may then be pardoned, or saved from deserved punishment, and accepted and treated as if he were righteous. St. Paul, when he prayed that Onesiphorus might find mercy of his Judge at that day, must then have believed, that he would at that day need mercy or pardon. And if so, he must have believed that, in the sight of God, he was guilty; for by the guilty alone can pardoning mercy be needed. The innocent need nothing but justice. A distinguished modern philosopher, Adam Smith, well known by his celebrated treatise on the Wealth of Nations, has some remarks relative to this subject, which are so just and apposite, that you will readily excuse me for quoting them. “Man,” says this writer, “when about to appear before a being of infinite perfection, can feel but little confidence in his own merit, or in the imperfect propriety of his own conduct. To such a being he can scarce imagine that his littleness and weakness should ever seem to be the proper object either of esteem or regard. But he can easily conceive how the numberless violations of duty of which lie has been guilty should render him the object of aversion and punishment; nor can he see any reason why the Divine indignation should not he let loose without any restraint upon so vile an insect as he is sensible that he himself must appear to be. If he would still hope for happiness he is conscious that he cannot demand it from the justice, but that he must entreat it from the mercy of God. Repentance, sorrow, humiliation, contrition at the thought of his past conduct, are, upon this account, the sentiments which become him, and seem to be the only means which he has left of appeasing that wrath which he has justly provoked. He even distrusts the efficacy of all these, and naturally fears, lest the wisdom of God should not, like the weakness of man, be prevailed upon to spare the crime by the most importunate lamentations of the criminal. Some other intercession, some other sacrifice, some other atonement, he imagines, must be made for him, beyond what he himself is capable of making, before the purity of the Divine justice can be reconciled to his manifold offences.” It may perhaps be said, if the apostle’s views were such as have now been described, if he believed that justice must pronounce a sentence of condemnation on all without exception, on what could he found a hope that either himself, or his benefactor, or any other man, will find mercy of the Lord at that day? These questions are perfectly reasonable and proper, and it would be impossible to answer them in such a manner as to justify the apostle, were not a satisfactory answer furnished by the gospel of Jesus Christ. That gospel reveals to us a glorious plan, devised by infinite wisdom, in which the apparently conflicting claims of justice and mercy are perfectly reconciled. (E. Payson, D. D.)

Remember the reckoning day

What shall we think of such who never mind this day? Verily, they are much affected with earthly pleasures and profits, and have little regard of the greatest good. Many men in the inn of this world are like the swaggerers and prodigals in a tavern, who call freely, eat and drink, laugh and are fat, but never mind either the reckoning or the time of harvest; for they have sown no good seed, neither have wherewith to dis charge the shot: therefore suffer these things willingly to slip and absent them selves out from their minds, because they have or can expect no commodity by either. But the faithful man is of a contrary mind; for he is sparing in expense, and hath scattered much good grain, the which will bring a goodly crop at his Master’s appearing, the great day of reaping, both of which cause him often to look upward. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Mercy on the judgment day

An important season. “That day.” The day is that which is elsewhere called “the last day,” because then the end of this world’s history, as a place of trial at least, will be come; it is called also “the great day,” because then scenes unparalleled before in grandeur will be unfolded, and affairs that have never been surpassed in magnitude will be transacted--such scenes and affairs as will throw into the shade the most splendid spectacles and momentous transactions of time.

An important blessing. For a man to find mercy even now, amid the trials and changes and imperfections of this present life, is to be truly blessed. It is to have guaranteed to him all that is included in eternal life--that gift of God--that munificent donation of infinite mercy. Nor will the largess be diminished, or the security invalidated, on the day of judgment.

1. There are many considerations besides which go to illustrate the high importance and exceeding desirableness of mercy on that day; and one of these is, that it will then be felt to be peculiarly needful.

2. Another consideration, tending to enhance the value of the blessing, is that it will not be shared in by all. This is obviously implied in the apostle’s intercessory petition. If the mariner who is saved from the wreck, when all his shipmates are lost, estimates his preservation more highly than he who has returned to the desired haven with them all in safety, must it not seem a glorious benefit to appear as “vessels of mercy prepared unto glory,” when many fellow-sinners are found to be “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction”?

3. Another consideration still, which may well exalt the blessing in our eyes, is that if mercy be not found then, it will never be found.

4. And yet another circumstance which magnifies the value of the blessing is, that the condition of those by whom mercy shall not then be found will be pre-eminently wretched. Not to find mercy on that day is to be undone, altogether and eternally undone.


1. If mercy is to be found at last, it must be sought now.

2. Again, if mercy is to be found at all, it must be sought through the mediation of Christ.

3. And, in fine, if mercy is to be found of the Lord, it must be sought in His service. (D. Davidson.)

The requited of friendship

Paul was the friend of Onesiphorus, and how did he manifest his friendship? In carcerated and enchained, poor and destitute, he could not requite, in kind, his benefactor’s generosity. But another mode of expressing friendship was left him, and as he was shut up to it by circumstances, so he turned to it with fondness. As the waters of a spring, when prevented from flowing forth in their natural channel, mount forcibly up towards heaven--as the portion that is prevented, by exhalation, from diffusing fertility along the course of the stream, descends afterwards in fertilising showers; so the emotions of his overflowing heart, being pent up in one direction by the tyranny of man, ascended in devout aspiration to God, and though seeming to vanish in the vapour of fruitless wishes, entailed the communication of invaluable blessings. (D. Davidson.)

The value of a good man’s prayers

I would rather have the gift of a brother’s faithful prayers than of his plentiful substance. And I feel that when I have given to a brother my faithful prayers I have given him my best and greatest gift. (Edward Irving.)

Prayers for the dead

That Onesiphorus was dead is a gratuitous assumption. The fact that Paul nowhere else prays for the dead is fatal to the notion here. (J. Bryce, LL. D.)

In case even that Onesiphorus were really dead at the time of the writing of this Epistle, still the Roman Catholic interpreters are in error when they find in 2 Timothy 1:18 a proof of the lawfulness and obligation for intercessory prayers for the dead. The case here was altogether special, and cannot, without great wilfulness, be applied as the foundation of a general rule for all the dead. On the other side, it is often forgotten that the gospel nowhere lays down a positive prohibition to follow with our wishes and prayers, if our heart impel us thereto, our departed while in the condition of separation; and hence, in any case, it is well to distinguish between the Christian idea which lies at the foundation of such inward needs, and the form of later Church rite and practice. (Dr. Van Oosterzee.)

Beneficent wishes for the dead

On the assumption already mentioned as probable (that Onesiphorus was dead), this would, of course, be a prayer for the dead. The reference to the great day of judgment falls in with this hypothesis. Such prayers were, as we know from 2Ma 12:41-45, common among the Jews a century or more before St. Paul’s time, and there is good ground for thinking that they entered into the ritual of every synagogue and were to be seen in the epitaphs in every Jewish burial-place. From the controversial point of view this may appear to favour the doctrine and practice of the Church of Rome, but facts are facts apart from their controversial bearing. It is, at any rate, clear that such a simple utterance of hope in prayer, like the Shalom (peace) of Jewish, and the Requiescat or Refrigerium of early Christian epitaphs, and the like prayers in early liturgies, though they sanction the natural outpouring of affectionate yearnings, are as far as possible from the full-blown Romish theory of purgatory. (E. H. Plumptre, D. D.)


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Timothy 1". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/2-timothy-1.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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