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2 Timothy 3:1
Perilous times shall come.
I. The manner of the warning.
“This know also.”
1. It is the duty of ministers to foresee and take notice of the dangers which the churches are falling into.
2. It is the great concern of all professors and believers to have their hearts very much fixed upon present and approaching dangers.
3. Not to be sensible of a present perilous season is that security which the scripture so condemns; and I will leave it with you under these three things--
(1) It is that frame of heart which of all others God doth most detest and abhor. Nothing is more hateful to God than a secure frame in perilous days.
(2) A secure person, in perilous seasons, is assuredly under the power of some predominant lust, whether it appears, or not.
(3) This senseless frame is the certain presage of approaching ruin.
II. The evil itself. “Perilous times”--times of great difficulty, like those of public plagues, when death lies at every door.
III. The manner of introduction--“Shall come.” Our great wisdom then will be to eye the displeasure of God in perilous seasons, since there is a judicial hand of God in them: and we see in ourselves reason enough why they should come.
IV. The time and season of it--“In the last days.” You may take it in what sense you will: the last days, the days of the gospel; the last days towards the consummation of all things; the last days following the days of the profession of churches; and the last days with many of us, with respect to our lives.
1. The first thing that makes a season perilous is, when the profession of true religion is outwardly maintained under a visible predominancy of horrible lusts and wickedness (see 2 Timothy 3:2-5).
(1) Because of the infection.
(2) Because of the effects. When predominant lusts have broken all bounds of Divine light and rule, how long do you think human rules will keep them in order?
(3) Because of the consequences--the judgments of God (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11).
2. A second perilous season is, when men are prone to forsake the truth, and seducers abound to gather them up that are so; and you will have always these things go together. If it be asked, how we may know whether there be a proneness in the minds of men in any season to depart from the truth? there are three ways whereby we may judge of it.
(1) The first is that mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:3. When men grow weary of sound doctrine, when it is too plain, too dull, too common, too high, too mysterious, one thing or other that displeases them, and they would hear something new, something that may please.
(2) When men have lost the power of truth in their conversation, and are as prone and ready to part with the profession of it in their minds. Do you see a man retaining the profession of the truth under a worldly conversation? He wants but baits from temptation, or a seducer to take away his faith from him.
(3) The proneness to depart from the truth, is a perilous season, because it is the greatest evidence of the withdrawing of the Spirit of God from His Church.
3. A third thing that makes a perilous season is, professors mixing themselves with the world, and learning their manners. Such a season is dangerous, because the sins of professors in it lie directly contrary to the whole design of the mediation of Christ in this world. Christ “gave Himself for us, that He might purge us from dead works, and purify us unto Himself a peculiar people” (Titus 2:14). “Ye are a royal nation, a peculiar people.”
4. Another perilous season is when there is great attendance on outward duties, but inward, spiritual decays.
5. Times of persecution are also times of peril.
1. Let us all be exhorted to endeavour to get our hearts affected with the perils of the day wherein we live.
(1) Consider the present things, and bring them to rule, and see what God’s Word says of them.
(2) If you would be sensible of present perilous times, take heed of centring in self. Whether you pursue riches, or honours, while you centre there, nothing can make you Sensible of the perils of the day.
(3) Pray that God would give us grace to be sensible of the perils of the day wherein we live. Use
2. The next thing is this, that there are two things in a perilous season--the sin of it, and the misery of it. Labour to be sensible of the former, or you will never be sensible of the latter. Use
3. Remember there is a special frame of spirit required in us all in such perilous seasons as these are. And what is that? It is a mourning frame of spirit. Use
4. Keep up church watch with diligence, and by the rule. When I say rule, I mean the life of it. Use
5. Reckon upon it, that in such times as these are, all of us will not go free. (John Owen, D. D.)
Perilous times in the last days
1. The notification of an event as future--“Perilous times shall come.”
(1) Times wherein it will be hard for people to keep their feet, to know how to carry themselves, to keep out of danger, and keep a good conscience.
(2) “Shall come.” They will be on men, in the course of providence, to try what metal they are of; as darkness comes on after light, and adversity after prosperity; in their turn.
2. The time of that event--“In the last days.” The days of the gospel are the concluding period of time. In these last days are several particular periods; the first of which was the last time of the Jewish state, beginning from the time of our Saviour, to the destruction of Jerusalem; and more periods followed, and some are yet to come; but from the time of our Saviour to the end of the world, is “the last days.”
3. The notice to be taken of that event--“This know also”; rather, “Now know this”; consider it duly, and lay it to heart, that being fore warned, ye may be armed against the “perilous times.”
I. We shall consider “the days of the gospel as the last days.” And so we may take them up in a threefold view.
1. As the last days of the world, the latter end of time. With rela tion to them that oath is made (Revelation 10:6). The morning and forenoon of the world are over; it is afternoon with it now, and drawing toward the evening.
2. As the days of the last dispensation of grace towards the world, with which God’s dealing with sinners for reconciliation shall be closed (Revelation 10:7). There have been three dispensations of grace in the world: the Patriarchal dispensation in the first days; the Mosaical dispensation in the middle days; and now the Christian dispensation in the last days. The first two are now off the stage, and shall never come on again; the third now is; and after it there shall never be another.
3. As the best days of the world in respect of the greatest advantages attending them. The last works of God are always the greatest, as ye may see in the account of the Creation (Genesis 1:1-31.); so the circumstances of the world to come are greater than those of this. The gospel-dispensation far excels the other two, in clearness, extensiveness, and efficacy, through a larger measure of the Spirit.
II. The difficult and perilous times that come on in gospel days. We must inquire what makes these perilous times.
1. An old controversy lying over untaken up. They that are in debt are always in danger. The Jews were from generation to generation murderers of their prophets; there was an old debt on the head of the generation in our Saviour’s time (Matthew 23:31); and made their time perilous, for it was like a train lying, which at last came to blow them up (verse 35). So good Josiah’s days were perilous times, by reason of an old controversy laid in the days of Manasseh his grandfather (2 Kings 23:26). Our times are so, by reason of the iniquity of the late times, which is like that of Baal-peer, that brought “a plague on the congregation of the Lord” (Joshua 22:17).
1. Error or corruption of principles spreading. This was foretold to happen in the latter days (1 Timothy 4:1).
2. Immoralities abounding. (T. Boston, D. D.)
Evil of the last days
These (evil characters) will swarm like flies in the decay of the year. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Not so much on the account of persecutions from without as on the account of corruptions within. (M. Henry.)
Two traitors within the garrison may do more hurt to it than two thousand besiegers without. (M. Henry.)
Fidelity in evil times
The worse the times we live in are, the greater will our honour be, if we be faithful. It was Lot’s commendation that he was good in Sodom, and Job in an heathenish Uz. The more sin abounds, the more our grace should abound; and the more sin appears in the world, the more should we appear against it. The Lord hath done more for us of this last age of the world than He ever did for our forefathers, and therefore He expects more from us than He did from them; where He bestows much He looks for much again; where we bestow double cost, we look for a double crop. It is a shame for us if we do not do our work better by sunlight, than others that have had but twilight. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Sin makes the times bad
It is worth our noting that the apostle doth not place the peril and hardness of the last times, in any external calamity or penal evils, as sword, plague, famine, persecution; but in the prodigious sins and enormities of such as profess religion. Sin is the evil of evils, and brings all other evils with it. Let the times be never so miserable, and the Church lie under sad persecutions; yet if they be not sinful times, they are not truly perilous times, but rather purging and purifying times. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Sinners swarm even in gospel days
Vermin of this kind will then abound everywhere; weeds grow nowhere so rank as in fat soil. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Prudence in perilous times
This spiritual prudence can hurt neither pastor nor people, but will advantage us much. This pre-vision is the best means of prevention; in vain is the snare laid in the sight of a bird. Observe God’s singular love unto His people, in that He warns them of perilous times long before they come. The people of God, and specially His ministers, His Timothies, should be so prudent as to know and observe when perilous times are approaching, as the prudent man foresees the evil of punishment before it comes (Proverbs 22:3-5). (T. Hall, B. D.)
Time aiding proficiency in sin
As it is in every art, by length of time, custom, and experience, it is improved to a greater degree of fineness and exactness; so it is in this of sinning; time and experience make men more cunning in ways of sin, and more subtle to defend them. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Making the times better
We should all make the times and places we live in the better, and not the worse, for us. (T. Hall, B. D.)
2 Timothy 3:2-5
Men shall be lovers of their own selves.
The nature and kinds of self-love
I. Self-love, considered in the general, abstracting from particular circumstances, is neither a vice nor a virtue. It is nothing but the inclination of every man to his own happiness. A passionate desire to be always pleased and well-satisfied, neither to feel nor fear any pain or trouble, either of body or mind. It is an instinct of nature common to all men, and not admitting of any excess or abatement. Self-love directed to, and pursuing, what is, upon the whole, and in the last result of things, absolutely best for us, is innocent and good; and every deviation from this is culpable, more or less so, according to the degrees and the circumstances of it.
II. When we blindly follow the instinct of self-love, coveting everything which looks fair, and running greedily upon it without weighing circumstances or considering consequences; or when, to get rid of any present pain or uneasiness, we take any method which first offers, without reflecting how dearly we may pay for it afterwards; I say, when we do thus, then it is that our self-love beguiles us, degenerates into a vicious, or at least, silly appetite, and comes under the name of an overweening, excessive, and inordinate self-love. He suffers the natural instinct of self-love to carry him too far after present satisfaction, farther than is consistent with his more real and durable felicity. To understand the nature of this enchantment, and how it comes to pass that those who love themselves so well, can thus consent to ruin themselves, both bodies and souls, for ever; let us trace its progress.
1. To begin with pride. All the happiness of life is summed up in two articles--pleasing thoughts and pleasing sensations. Now, pride is founded in self-flattery, and self-flattery is owing to an immoderate desire of entertaining some kind of pleasing thoughts.
2. Another instance of inordinate, ill-conducted self-love is sensuality. This belongs to the body more than to the mind, is of a gross taste, aiming only at pleasing sensations. It so far agrees with pride that it makes men pursue the present gratification at the expense of the public peace and to their own future misery and ruin.
3. A third instance of blind and inordinate self-love is avarice or self-interestedness. This is of larger and more diffusive influence than either of the former. So great a part of temporal felicity is conceived to depend upon riches, that the men of this world lie under the strongest temptations to this vine of any. If the case be such, that treachery and fraud, guile and hypocrisy, rapine and violence, may be serviceable to the end proposed; the blind self-lover will charge through all rather than he defeated of his covetous designs, or bear the uneasiness of a disappointment. Thus he comes to prefer his own private, present interest, before virtue, honour, conscience, or humanity. He considers not what would be good for him upon the whole and in the last result, but lives extempore, contrives only for a few days, or years at most, looking no farther. The height of his ambition reaches not beyond temporal felicity, and he miscalculates even in that.
III. Considerations proper to prevent or cure it. It is very evident that the self-lovers are not greater enemies to others in intention than they are in effect to themselves. Yet it is not less evident that they love themselves passionately all the time, and whatever hurt they do to their own selves they certainly mean none. They run upon it as a horse rushes into the battle, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, and as a bird hasteth to the snare, and know not that it is for their life. It is for want of thinking in a right way that men fall into this fatal misconduct, and nothing but serious and sober thought can bring them out of it. I shall just suggest two or three useful considerations, and then conclude.
1. We should endeavour to fix in our minds this great and plain truth, that there can be no such thing as true happiness, separate from the love of God and the love of our neighbour.
2. A second consideration, proper to be hinted, is, that man is made for eternity, and not for this life only. No happiness can be true and solid which is not lasting as ourselves.
3. To conclude, the way to arrive at true happiness is to take into consideration the whole extent and compass of our being; to enlarge our views beyond our little selves to the whole creation round us, whereof we are but a slender part; and to extend our prospect beyond this life to distant glories. Make things future appear as if they were now present, and things distant as if they were near and sensible. (D. Waterland, D. D.)
1. Self-love is vicious, when it leads us to judge too favourably of our faults.
(1) Sometimes it finds out other names for them, and by miscalling them endeavours to take away their bad qualities.
(2) Sometimes it represents our sins as weaknesses, infirmities, the effect of natural constitution, and deserving more pity than blame.
(3) Sometimes it excuses them upon account of the intent, pretending that some good or other is promoted by them, and that the motive and the end sanctify the means, or greatly lessen the faultiness of them.
(4) It leads us to set our good in opposition to our bad qualities, and to persuade ourselves that wharfs laudable in us far outweighs what is evil.
(4) It teaches us to compare ourselves with others, and thence to draw favourable conclusions, because we are not so bad as several whom we could name; it shows us the general corruption that is in the world, represents it worse than it is, and then tells us that we must not hope, and need not endeavour to be remarkably and singularly good.
2. Our self-love is irregular, when we think too well of our righteousness, and overvalue our good actions, and are pure in our own eyes.
3. Our self-love is blameable when we overvalue our abilities, and entertain too good an opinion of our knowledge and capacity; and this kind of self-love is called self-conceit. One evil which men reap from it is to be disliked and despised. The reason why self conceit is so much disliked is that it is always attended with a mean opinion of others. From self-conceit arise rash undertakings, hasty determinations, stubbornness, insolence, envy, censoriousness, confidence, vanity, the love of flattery, and sometimes irreligion, and a kind of idolatry, by which a man worships his own abilities, and places his whole trust in them. The unreasonableness of this con ceit appears from the imperfections of the human understanding, and the obstacles which lie between us and wisdom.
4. Our self-love is irregular when we are proud and vain of things inferior in nature to those before mentioned, when we value our selves upon the station and circumstances in which not our own deserts, but favour or birth, hath placed us, upon mere show and outside, upon these and the like advantages in which we surpass others. This conceit is unreasonable and foolish; for these are either things which the possessors can hardly call their own, as having done little or nothing to acquire them, or they are of small value, or they are liable to be irrecoverably lost by many unforeseen accidents.
5. Lastly, our self-love is vicious when we make our worldly interest, convenience, humour, ease, or pleasure, the great end of our actions. This is selfishness, a very disingenuous and sordid kind of self-love. It is a passion that leads a man to any baseness which is joined to lucre, and to any method of growing rich which may be practised with impunity. (J. Jortin, D. D.)
I. I shall endeavour to trace out more particularly the workings of this noxious principle, as it respects matters of religion; for it is said of these lovers of themselves, that “they have the form of godliness, but deny the power thereof.”
1. Self-love may carry men out in desires after Christ (see Mark 1:37; John 6:26). Many would partake of Christ’s benefits, who reject His government; receive glory from Him, but give no glory to Him. If they can but go to heaven when they die, they care not how little they have of it before; and are unconcerned about the dominion of sin, if they can but obtain the pardon of it; so that their seeking and striving are now over.
2. Self-love may be the sole foundation of men’s love to, and delight in, God. And indeed it is so with all hypocrites and formalists in religion. Many mistake a conviction of mind, that God is to be loved, for a motion of the heart towards Him; and because they see it to be reasonable that He should be regarded by them, they imagine that He is so. But the highest regard that a natural man can have to the Divine Being, if traced back to its origin, or followed to its various actings, will be found to be self-love.
3. Self-love may be the principle that first excites, and then puts fervour and ardency into our prayers. How coldly do some put up those requests, “Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come”; but are much more earnest when they come to those petitions in which their present comfort and future happiness are so much inter ested: “Forgive us our trespasses,” and “Give us our daily bread,” “Let me die the death of the righteous.”
4. Self-love insinuates itself into the severer acts of mortification; nay, it often runs through and corrupts the whole course of religious duties. It is like the dead fly which taints the whole box of precious ointment. From this principle some neglect duties as burdensome, and only seek privileges; a reward without labours, victory without fighting.
5. Self-love runs through all their affections, exertions, and actions, with respect to their fellow-creatures. If they rejoice at others’ prosperity, it is because they themselves may be benefited by it. If, on the other hand, they grieve at their calamities, it is because they are likely to be sharers in them, or some way or other injured by them.
II. from what has been said, you see that self-love is an insinuating principle, appearing in various forms, even in the religious world, and under many artful disguises, hard to be discerned, but harder still to be guarded against. To stir you up to this, let me set before you some of the evils resulting from this easily-besetting, and alas, too universally prevailing sin.
1. It is the root of hypocrisy. So far as self-love and self-seeking influence, we are void of sincerity and integrity.
2. It promotes pride, envy, strife, uncharitableness, and an evil temper and conduct towards all with whom we are conversant. A man who loves himself too well, will never love his God or his neighbour as he ought.
3. All evil may, perhaps, be reduced to this one point: All our desires, passions, projects, and endeavours, centred in self. This was the first sin: “Ye shall be as gods”; and it has continued the master-sin ever since. It is the corrupt fountain, sending forth so many impure and filthy streams. (B. Beddome, M. A.)
A sermon against self-love, etc
1. What kind of self-love is it which St. Paul does here so severely censure?
2. By what manner of influence self-love makes times and seasons become perilous.
3. What times the apostle means by the Last Days; and whence it is that self-love operates with such successful prevalence in those days as to render them the Evil Days.
4. What reflections are fit to be made by us, upon occasion of this argument in relation to our age, and to ourselves, and our present affairs, in order to that which all ought to fast and pray, and labour for the stability of our times and the peace of Jerusalem?
I. To consider what kind of self-love St. Paul speaks against as the fountain of public mischief; for there is a self-love which is a very natural and a very useful principle. No man ever yet hated his own flesh; no man, without the loving of himself, does either preserve or improve himself. If Almighty God would not have suffered men to love themselves, He would not have moved them to their duty by their personal benefit, and especially by so great a recompense as is that of life eternal. It would conduce to the felicity of men, even in this world, if they truly loved themselves; for then they would not waste their fortunes by an unaccountable profuseness, nor destroy their bodies by the extravagances of rage, and luxury, and lust. The self-love here condemned by St. Paul is that narrow wicked affection which either wholly or principally confines a man to his seeming personal good on earth. An affection which either opposeth all public good, or at least all that public good which comes in competition with man’s private advantage. Of such lovers of themselves the apostle gives a very ill character in the words that follow the text. He says of them, in 2 Timothy 3:2, that they are covetous; their heart is like the mouth of a devouring gulf, which sucks in all into itself with deep and unsatiable desire. He continues to mark them, in 2 Timothy 3:3, as persons without natural affection, as people who have no bowels for the miserable part of mankind; as such who rejoice at a public wreck, not considering the loss of others, nor the dismal circumstances of it; but minding with their whole intention the profit which they may gather up for their inhuman selves. He adds, in the same verse, that they are despisers of those who are good. They vilify men of a public spirit.
II. This straight and uncharitable affection is of so malignant an influence, that where it prevails no age can be calm, no government stable, no person secure. And that it is of such perilous consequence may be demonstrated on this manner. God, who is good and does good, designed, that whilst man was here on earth, it should be competently well with him in case of his obedience, though He intended not to give him all his portion in this life. He knew that men could not subsist apart with such conveniences as they might obtain by being knit into regular societies. He, therefore, united them in civil and sacred bodies, that by conjoined strength they might procure those benefits which, in a separate state, and by their single selves, they could not come at. For, consider, how void of comfort a life of entire solitude would have been to man; with what a life of fear would they have been crucified who had stood perpetually by themselves on their own defence; with what a life of labour and meanness would men have been burdened if every one of them must have been his own only servant; if every one had been obliged to build and plant, and till the ground, and provide food and physic and garments for himself by his own solitary power. And how could a man serve himself in any of these necessary offices in times of sickness, lameness, delirium, and decrepit old age? To such a perilous and laborious life as I have been speaking of, indiscreet and vicious self-love tends; for as far as men do mind and seek themselves alone, so far they dissolve society and lessen its benefits, being rather in it than of it. So that the soul which animates society, whose advantages are so considerable, is the great and generous spirit of charity. That violates no compacts, that raises no commotions, that interrupts no good man’s peace, that assaults no innocent man’s person, that invades no man’s property, that grinds no poor man’s face, that envies no man, that supplants no man, that submits its private convenience to the public necessities. Concerning this vile affection, St. Paul taught that it would possess the men of the last days.
III. To consider what times he means by those days, and in what sense he speaks of self-love as the distemper of the last days, seeing it has been the disease of every age. By the last days he means the last age of the world, the age of the Messiah, not excluding that part of it in which he himself lived. There were several precedent periods: that of the fathers before the flood, that of the patriarchs before the Law, that of Moses and the prophets under the Law. But after the age of the Messiah, time itself shall be no more. To this age all evil self-love cannot be confined, for that dotage had a being in the world from the very beginning of it. The murder of Cain was so early, that he sinned without example; and from his selfishness his murder proceeded. We therefore misunderstand St. Paul, if we interpret him as speaking, not of the increase, but of the being; of self-love; for it is not its existence, but its abundance, which he foretells. What he wrote has been true in fact, from the times of Demas and Diotrephes, to this very hour. Light is come into the world, a glorious gospel which shines everywhere; and men love darkness rather than light, and shut up themselves in their own hard and rough and private shells. Selfishness cannot be the direct natural effect of the gospel of Christ, which, of all other dispensations, depresseth the private under the public good. The age of the Messiah is the best of ages in His design, and in the means of virtue which He gives the world; and if the men of it be worse than those of other generations, the greater is the aggravation of their guilt, whilst, under a gospel of the widest charity, they exercise the narrowest selfishness. But, however, so it is: whether it be that wicked men, by a spirit of contradiction, oppose charity where they are most earnestly pressed to it; or that the devil, having but a short time, is the more passionately industrious in promoting the interests of his kingdom; or that the further men are from the age of Divine revelations, the less firmly they believe them. It concerns us then--
IV. To make serious reflections upon this argument, and to suffer our selves to be touched with such deep remorse for the guilt of our partiality, that God may be appeased, and our sins pardoned, and our lives reformed, and that perilous times may be succeeded by many prosperous days. And--
1. Let us give glory to God, and take shame to ourselves, upon the account of that selfish principle which hath long wrought among us, and still worketh.
2. May we not only bewail but amend this great defect in our nature, and in our civil and Christian duty.
(1) The regaining of a public spirit is at all times worthy our care. We can do no greater thing than to “follow God, who is concerned for all, as if they were but one man; and for every single person, as if he were a world.” God hath disposed all things in mutual subserviency to one another: the light, the air, the water, are made for common good; and because they are common, they are the less, but they ought, for that reason, to be the more esteemed. There is not an humble plant that grows to itself, or a mean ex that treads out the corn merely for his own service; and shall man be the only useless part of the creation? It is a most unworthy practice, upon the account of self-interest, to multiply the moral perils of the world, whilst there are inconveniences enough in insensible Nature. It is enough that the natural seasons are tempestuous; men’s passions should not raise more storms. It is enough that famine can destroy so many; uncharitableness should not do it. What is it that is worthy the daily thoughts and the nightly studies of a man of under standing, and of an excellent spirit? Is it the supplanting of a credulous friend, or the oppressing of an helpless neighbour? Alas! these are designs so base and low, that he who calls himself a man should not stoop to them. But that which is worthy of a man is the service of his God, his Church, his country; the generous exposing of himself when a kingdom is in hazard.
(2) A public spirit, as it is worthy our care at all times, so at all times it needs it. For it requires the utmost application of our minds, seeing self-love insinuates with great art and subtlety into all our designs and actions. (Thomas Tenison, D. D.)
Here you see how far self-love is from being proposed to our practice, when you find it standing in the front of a black and dismal catalogue of the most odious and abhorred qualities. That I may contribute, if possible, to the making men less tenacious, and more communicative, I shall make it my present business to set the two characters in an opposite light, and to show--
I. The odiousness of self-love.
II. The amiableness of a generous and public spirit. There is, indeed, a kind or degree of self-love which is not only innocent; but necessary. The laws of nature strongly incline every man to be solicitous for his own welfare, to guard his person by a due precaution from hurts and accidents; to provide food and raiment, and all things needful for his bodily sustenance, by honest industry and labour; to repair as far as he is able, such decays as may attend his bodily constitution, by proper helps and the best means that are afforded him; and much more to make it his grand concern to secure the everlasting happiness of his immortal part. Such a self-love as this goes little farther than self-preservation, without which principle implanted in us the human species would be soon lost and extinguished, and the work of our great Creator be defeated. But that which St. Paul speaks of with abhorrence is a love merely selfish, that both begins and terminates in a man’s single person, exclusive of all tender regards for any one else: this is, in the worst and most criminal sense, taking care of one only. If we will but look into our own nature, and reflect on the end and design of our creation, the reach and extent of our faculties, our subordination to one another, and the insufficiency of every man as he stands by himself alone, we shall soon be convinced, that doing good and affording each other reciprocal assistance is that for which we were formed and fashioned, that we are linked together by our common wants, as well as by inclination, and that tenderness of disposition and natural sympathy that is implanted in us. That we are born and educated, that we enjoy either necessaries or comforts, that we are preserved from perils in our greener, or ever arrive at riper years, next under the watchfulness and protection of Almighty God, is owing to the care of others. And can anything be more just and reasonable than that we, too, in our turn, should give that succour we have received, and do, not only as we willingly would, but as we actually have been done unto? There is a certain proportion of trouble and uneasiness, as well as of pleasure and satisfaction, that must of necessity be borne by the race of men; insomuch that he who will not sustain some share of the former, is unworthy to partake of any of the comforts of the latter. But here the selfling will interpose, and say: “It is true I have occasion for the help of others, and the help of others I have. I have occasion for the attendance of servants, and by servants I am attended. I want to be supplied with those conveniences of life which artificers provide in their respective occupations, and I am supplied accordingly. So long as I am furnished with sufficient store to pay them an equivalent, I am in no danger of being left destitute of anything that money can procure. This is the commerce I carry on in the world; thus I approve myself a social member of the commonwealth. But what have I to do in parting with my substance to them who can give nothing to me in return?” And sometimes we see it does please Almighty God to make examples of this sort: to humble such haughty and self-confiding men, by reducing them from their towering height, and all the wantonness of prosperity, to the extremity of want and misery. And whenever this happens to be the case, who are then so pitifully abjected? But the universal hatred which such a person naturally contracts will not always be suppressed, nor his former aversion to doing good offices be covered by a charitable oblivion, nor be lost under the soft relentings and a melting commiseration of his present sufferings. In short, since every man has an equal right to confine all his care and endeavours to the promoting his own separate interest, that any one man has, what must be the consequence if such a narrow way of thinking and acting should become universal? Love and friendship terminate at once if every man were to regard himself alone, and to extend his care no farther! Such a situation would put an end to all intercourse and commerce; men would be destitute of all confidence and security, and afraid to trust each other. And this may suffice to show that odious and malignant quality of selfishness, or mere self-love. Let us now consider--
II. The amiableness of a generous and public spirit. He who has a heart truly open and enlarged, over and above that reasonable thoughtfulness and contrivance with which every prudent man will be possessed, about providing for his own, and how to proportion his expenses to his revenue, as well as how to obtain more ample acquisitions, if fair and honourable methods of advancing his fortunes present themselves in his way; I say, beyond this domestic care, he will have room enough in his thoughts to let them be employed sometimes in the service of his friends, his neighbours, and his country; which have not only his best wishes and hearty desires for the success of their affairs, but he makes it his study to promote their welfare, and puts himself to a voluntary trouble and expense in order to extricate them from difficulties and free them from dangers. He has the pleasure of reflecting that a beneficial act is done, and that although he has not been able to animate others to promote it in the same degree with himself, he has, however, been instrumental in causing some good to be done, and the receivers are heartily welcome both to his pains and his contributions. This may appear but a poor satisfaction to little and grovelling minds, who have no idea of any joy that can arise from the reflection on anything that is not attended with present profit, and look upon everything as a losing bargain where more is expended than received. But large and capacious souls have far nobler sentiments; they know how to value and enjoy a loss, and find a secret pleasure in the diminution of their fortune when honourably and worthily employed. We are sure that God Almighty, who gives everything, and receives nothing, is a most perfectly blest and happy being; and the nearer we resemble Him in any of our actions, by so much we advance our own happiness. Such a friendly promoter of the good of others may survey the objects of his love with some degree of that satisfaction wherewith God beheld His workmanship when He had finished the several parts of the Creation, and pronounced that they were good. And as for a man’s name and character, who would not rather choose not to have it mentioned at all, than not mentioned with respect? This seems to be the only end that is sought after by those who delight in show and pomp; and yet this very end might be much better compassed by another way than by that which they affect. For does it not give a sweeter fragrancy to a man’s name? And does not every one speak of him with higher expressions of honour and esteem, who has been a common benefactor, and relieved a multitude of necessitous persons? (Andrew Snape, D. D.)
Self-love the great cause of bad times
1. To inquire what this self-love is which the apostle here speaks of, and wherein the nature and evil of it consists.
2. To show that wherever such self-love spreads and becomes general there must needs be perilous or bad times.
3. To use several arguments to prevent men’s being poisoned and over-run with this dangerous and pernicious principle of self-love.
I. Let us inquire what this self-love is which the apostle here speaks of, and wherein the nature and evil of it consists. Now all self-love when taken in an ill sense, as it is plain this is here by the apostle, must come under one or other of these following notions.
1. Self-love may be considered in opposition to a love of God, and a making His glory and the interests of religion the principal and ultimate end of all our designs and actions; to our loving Him with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds, and our seeking first, or before all other things, His kingdom and righteousness. And then we may be properly said to be self-lovers in this sense, when we are so very intent upon ourselves and our own interests as not to concern ourselves at all, or to be sure not much and chiefly about God and religion.
2. Self-love may be considered in opposition to that honest and commendable self-love which every man oweth to himself, which is a love of our whole beings, soul as well as bodies, and of every part of them in due measure and proportion to the excellence and worth of them; and then it signifieth a love only of one part of ourselves, or at least an immoderate and disproportionate love of one part above any or all the rest. And in this sense it is to be feared most men are guilty of self-love. And, agreeably to this notion, we find the word self used in Scripture to signify the sensual and carnal part of man.
3. Self-love may be considered in opposition to charity or a love of our brethren; and then it signifieth such a stinginess and narrowness of soul as will not suffer us to have any concern, or take any care for anybody but ourselves, such a temper as is the exact reverse of that which the apostle commendeth, which seeketh not its own, but the things of another, and hardly ever thinks, much less acts, but for itself. Nature has implanted in us a most tender and compassionate sense and fellow-feeling of one another’s miseries, a most ready and prevailing propension and inclination to assist and relieve them; insomuch that pity and kindness towards our brethren have a long time passed under the name of humanity, as properties essential to, and not without violence to be separated from, human nature. And then as to reason, what can possibly be more reasonable than that we who are of the same mass, of one blood, members of each other, and children of the same Father, should love as brethren? That we, who live in a very fluctuating and uncertain state, and though rich to-day, may be poor to-morrow, should act so now towards others as we shall then wish others may act towards us?
4. And then, lastly, as to religion, especially the Christian, besides that this doth acquaint us with a new and intimate relation to each other in Christ Jesus, and consequently a new ground and obligation to love and assist each other. Nay, so great a value do the Scriptures set upon this duty of mercy or charity to our brethren, that wherever they give us, either in the Old or New Testament, a short summary of religion, this is sure to be mentioned, not only as a part, but a main and principal part of it. Nay, farther yet, it sometimes stands for the whole of religion, as that universal name of righteousness given to it is said to be the fulfilling of the law.
5. Self-love may be considered in opposition to a love of the public and a zeal for the common good, and then it signifieth a preferring of our own particular and private interests to those of the whole body.
II. To show that wherever such self-love spreads and becomes general there must needs be perilous or bad times.
1. I say, self-love will make men neglect the public and decline the service of it, especially in times of danger, when their service is most needed. And for this reason we always find it a very difficult task, if not impossible, to engage such men in any public service merely upon a prospect of doing public good. They will use a thousand little shifts and artifices to get themselves excused. Nay, and which is rare in self-lovers, who have always a good stock of self-conceit, rather than fail, they will speak modestly and humbly of themselves, and plead incapacity and want of ability for their excuse. But never is this so plainly to be seen as in times of public danger, when there is most occasion for their assistance. For self-love is constantly attended with a very great degree of self-fear, and this makes mere weather-cocks of such people as are acted by it, continually bandying them about, hither and thither, backwards and forwards, and never suffering them to fix any where till the storm is over, the weather begins to clear up, and they can pretty certainly discern the securest side.
2. That though they do pretend to serve the public, yet it is for their own private ends, and consequently their self-love will suffer them to serve it no farther or longer than these shall be advanced by their so doing. And this but a very poor and uncertain service, and even worse than none at all; for their supreme end being their own private interest, all other ends must of course crouch and become subordinate to this.
3. Their self-love will probably turn them against the public, and instead of preserving and securing it, make them undermine and destroy it; and if so, it is still better they should have no concern with it, because the more concern they have with it the greater will be their opportunity of doing mischief to it. Self-love is a very tyrannical and domineering principle, and generally makes perfect slaves of her subjects, and carrieth them on to all such excesses and extravagances as she shall think fit. For, alas! self-love is the blindest, as well as the greediest, and least able to deny itself of all loves, and will very hardly be brought to see any objections against itself; or at least, if it must see them, it will accept of very easy answers to them, and be a wondrous gentle casuist to itself; so, that, if there but come a good lusty temptation in our way, it is too much to be feared that our self-love will close with it, be it attended with never such hard terms, and that, out of eagerness for the bait, hook and all will go down.
III. To use all the arguments we can to prevent men’s being poisoned and overrun with this dangerous and pernicious principle. And--
1. As to ourselves, there cannot certainly be a better argument than the danger which we were brought into by some men’s immoderate love of their private interest in the late reign.
2. Let us consider that this principle of self-love is a very foolish principle, and really defeats its own end. For this, I take it for granted, I may lay down as a maxim, that every man’s private good is best secured in the public, and, consequently, whatever weakens the public, doth really weaken every private man’s security; and, therefore--
3. This self-love is a most base, pitiful, and mean principle, and will certainly make us odious and contemptible in the sight both of God and man. (William Dawes, D. D.)
See here what a concatenation of sins there is, and how they are linked together--self-lovers, covetous, boasters, proud, etc. Sins (especially great sins)seldom go alone. As great men have great attendance, so great sins have many followers; and as he that admits of a great man into the house must look to have all his ragged regiment and blackguard to follow him, so he that admits but one great sin into his heart must look for Gad, a troop of ugly lusts to throng in after. Sin is like a tryant, the more you yield to it, the worse it tyrannises over you. (T. Hall, B. D.)
This is, with the silly bird, to mind nothing but the building of our own nests when the tree is cutting down; and to take more care of our private cabin than of the ship itself when it is sinking. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Hereditary diseases are hardly cured. Self-love is hereditary to us; we are apt to have high conceits of ourselves from the very birth; till grace humble and abase us, all our crows are swans, our ignorance knowledge, our folly wisdom, our darkness light, and all our own ways best though never so bad. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Self-love a manifold disease
This is a disease that hath many other diseases included in it, and so is more hard to cure. Hence spring all those errors and heresies which are so rife in these last days. (T. Hall, B. D.)
As a man that is in love doth think the very blemishes in his love to be beautiful, so those that are in love with themselves, and dote on their own opinions, think their heresy to be verity, and their vices virtues. This will bring vexation at last; it troubles us to be cheated by others in petty matters, but for a man to cheat himself wilfully, and that in a matter of the highest concernment, is the trouble of troubles to aa awakened conscience. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Self-love odious to God
The more lovely we are in our own eyes, the more loathsome in God’s; but the more we loathe ourselves, the more God loves us (Jeremiah 31:18; Jeremiah 31:20). (T. Hall, B. D.)
Self-love a primary sin
This sinful self-love is set in the front, as the leader of the file, and the cause of all those eighteen enormities which follow: ‘tis the root from whence these branches spring, and the very fountain from whence those bitter streams do issue. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Pious self-love communicative
There is a pious and religious self-love, considered in relation to God and the common good; thus a man may love himself as an instrument of God’s glory, and as a servant for the good of others, else our Saviour would never set our love to ourselves before us as a pattern of our love to our neighbours. Now, upon these grounds, and in relation to these ends, we may not only love ourselves, but seek ourselves too. This love spreads and dilates itself for God and the good of others. The more noble and excellent things, the more communicative and diffusive they are of themselves. The sun is herein a more noble thing than a torch, and a fountain than a ditch. Christ emptied Himself of His glory, not for His own, but for our benefit (Php 23:6); it will make us part with our own right for peace (Genesis 13:8-9; 1 Corinthians 6:7); it will make us condescend to those of the lower sort (Romans 12:16), not seeking our own profit, but the profit of many (1 Corinthians 10:33); yea, and though they be free, yet love will make them servants to all (1 Corinthians 9:19). On the contrary, self-love contracts the soul, and hath an eye still at self in all its undertakings. ‘Tis the very hedgehog of conversation, that rolls and laps itself within its own soft down, and turns out bristles to all the world besides. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Sometimes in our imagination we assume to ourselves perfections not belonging to us, in kind or degree. Sometimes we make vain judgments on the things we possess, prizing them beyond their true worth and merit, and consequently overvaluing ourselves on their account. There is indeed no way wherein we do not thus impose on ourselves, either assuming false, or misrating true advantages, so that our minds become stuffed with fantastic imaginations, instead of wise and sober thoughts, and we misbehave ourselves towards ourselves.
1. We are apt to conceit ourselves on presumption of our intellectual endowments or capacities, whether natural, or acquired, especially of that which is called wisdom, which in a manner comprehends the rest, and manages them: on this we are prone to pride ourselves greatly, and to consider that it is presumption, hardly pardonable to contest our dictates: yet this practice is often prohibited and blamed in Scripture. “Be not wise in thine own eyes,” saith the wise man; and “Be not wise in your own conceits,” saith the apostle. If we do reflect either on the common nature of men, or on our own constitution, we cannot but find our conceits of our wisdom very absurd; for how can we take ourselves for wise, if we observe the great blindness of our mind, and feebleness of human reason, by many palpable arguments discovering itself? if we mark how painful the search, and how difficult the comprehension is of any truth; how hardly the most sagacious can descry any thing, how the most learned everlastingly dispute, about matters seeming most familiar and facile; how often the most wary and steady do shift their opinions; how dim the sight is of the most perspicacious, and how shallow the conceptions of the most profound; how narrow is the horizon of our knowledge, and how immensely the origin of our ignorance is distended; how imperfectly and uncertainly we know those few things to which our knowledge reacheth. If also a man particularly reflected on himself, the same practice must needs appear very foolish; for that every man thence may discover in himself peculiar impediments of wisdom; every man in his condition may find things apt to pervert his judgment, and obstruct his acquisition of true knowledge. Such conceitedness therefore is very absurd, and it is no less hurtful; for many great inconveniences spring from it, such as gave the prophet cause to denounce “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes.” It hath many ways bad influence on our souls, and on our lives; it is often our case, which was the case of Babylon, when the prophet said of it, “Thy wisdom and thy knowledge hath perverted thee; for thou hast said in thy heart, I am, and none else beside me.” It is a great bar to the receiving instruction about things; for he that taketh himself to be incomparably wise, will scorn to be taught. It renders men in difficult cases unwilling to seek, and unapt to take advice; hence he undertaketh and easily is deceived, and incurreth disappointment, damage in his affairs. It renders us very rash in judging; for the first show of things, or the most slender arguments, which offer themselves, being magnified, do sway our judgment. Hence also we persist incorrigible in error; for what reason can be efficacious to reclaim him whose opinion is the greater reason? It renders men peevish; also insolent in imposing their conceits on others. Hence they become censorious of those who do not agree with their notions.
2. Again, we are apt to prize highly and vainly our moral qualities and performances, taking ourselves for persons of extraordinary goodness, without defects or blemishes; which practice is both foolish and mischievous. It is very foolish; for such is the imperfection and impurity of all men, even of the best, that no man who strictly searches his heart can have reason to he satisfied with himself or his doings. Every man is in some degree sinful; conceit therefore of our virtue is very foolish; and it breeds great mischiefs. Hence springs a great carelessness of correcting our faults, a contempt of any means conducive to our amendment, such as good advice and wholesome reproof. It breeds arrogance even in our devotions to God, like that of the conceited Pharisee; also a haughty contempt of others: it disposes men to expect more than ordinary regard from others; and as it causes a man to behave himself untowardly to them, so thence he behaves unseemingly towards himself, of whom he becomes a flatterer, and profane idolater.
3. Self-conceit is also frequently grounded on other inferior advantages: on gifts of nature, or of fortune; but seeing that these things are in themselves of little value, and serving no great purpose; seeing they are not commendable, as proceeding from chance; seeing they are not durable or certain, but easily may be severed from us, the vanity of self-conceit founded on them is so notorious, that it need not be more insisted on. (Isaac Barrow.)
When a regard to the opinion or desire of the esteem of men is the main principle from which their actions do proceed, or the chief end which they propound to themselves, instead of conscience of duty, love and reverence of God, hope of the rewards promised, a sober regard to their true good, this is vain-glory. Such was the vain-glory of the Pharisees, who fasted, who prayed, who gave alms, who “did all their works that they might be seen of men,” and from them obtain the reward of estimation and applause: this is that which St. Paul forbiddeth: “Let nothing be done out of strife or vain-glory.”
1. It is vain, because unprofitable. Is it not a foolish thing for a man to affect that which little concerns him, and by which he is not considerably benefited? Yet such is the opinion of men; for how do we feel the motions of their fancy?
2. It is vain, because uncertain. How easily are the judgments of men altered I how fickle are their conceits!
3. It is vain because unsatisfactory; for how can one be satisfied with the opinion of bad judges, who esteem a man Without good grounds, commonly for things which deserve not regard?
4. It is vain, because fond. It is ugly and unseemly to others, who despise nothing more than acting on this principle.
5. It is vain, because unjust. If we seek glory to ourselves, we wrong God thereby, to whom glory is due: if there be in us any considerable endowment of body or mind, it is from God, the author of our being, who worketh in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure.
6. It is vain because mischievous. It corrupts our mind with a false pleasure that chokes the purer pleasures of a good conscience, of spiritual joy and peace, bringing God’s displeasure on us, and depriving us of the reward due to good works performed out of a pure conscience, etc. “Verily they have their reward.” (Isaac Barrow.)
Some general remedies of self-love
1. To reflect on ourselves seriously and impartially, considering our natural nothingness, infirmity, unworthiness; the meanness and imperfection of our nature, the defects and deformities of our souls, the failings and misdemeanours of our lives.
2. To consider the loveliness of other beings superior to us; comparing them with ourselves, and observing how very far in excellency, worth, and beauty they transcend us.
(1) If we view the qualities and examples of other men, who in worth, in wisdom, in virtue, and piety, do far excel us; their noble endowments, what they have done and suffered in obedience to God, their self-denial, their patience, how can we but in comparison despise ourselves?
(2) If we consider the blessed angels and saints in glory--their purity, their humility, their obedience--how can we think of ourselves without abhorrence?
(3) Especially if we contemplate the perfection, the purity, the majesty of God; how must this infinitely debase us in our opinion concerning ourselves, and consequently diminish our fond affection toward things so vile and unworthy?
3. To study the acquisition and improvement of charity toward God and our neighbour. This will employ and transfer our affections; these drawing our souls outward, and settling them on other objects, will abolish or abate the perverse love toward ourselves.
4. To consider that we do owe all we are and have to the free bounty and grace of God: hence we shall see that nothing of esteem or affection is duo to ourselves; but all to Him, who is the fountain and author of all our good.
5. To direct our minds wholly toward those things which rational self-love requireth us to regard and seek: to concern ourselves in getting virtue, in performing our duty, in promoting our salvation, and arriving to happiness; this will divert us from vanity: a sober self-love will stifle the other fond self-love. (Isaac Barrow.)
Original cause of all wickedness, so that they make their own I the centre of their thinking, feeling, willing and doing. (Van Oosterzee.)
Such a love of self as to lead us to secure our salvation is proper. But this interferes with the rights arid happiness of no other persons. The selfishness which is condemned is that regard to our own interests which interferes with the rights and comforts of others; which makes self the central and leading object of living; and which tramples on all that would interfere with that. As such, it is a base, and hateful, and narrow passion. (A. Barnes.)
How many are there who occupy public places with private spirits? While they pretended to undertake everything for the good of others it has appeared that they undertook nothing but for the good of themselves. Such suckers at the roots have drawn away the sap and nourishment from the tree. They have set kingdoms on fire, that they might roast their own venison at the flames. These drones stealing into the hive have fed upon the honey, while the labouring bees have been famished. Too many resemble ravenous birds, which at first seem to bewail the dying sheep; but, at last, are found picking out their eyes. These people never want fire, so long as any yard affords fuel. They enrich their own sideboard with other men’s plate. There is a proverb, but none of Solomon’s, “Every man for himself and God for us all.” But where every man is for himself, the devil will have all. Whosoever is a seeker of himself is not found of God. Though he may find himself in this life, he will lose himself in death. (T. Seeker.)
Selfishness condemned by philosophy
Plato anticipated one half of a Christian doctrine by saying, “Ye are not your own, but the State’s.” (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)
The Divine Nemesis
It is a remarkable revelation of the Divine Nemesis, that they who, with the denial of the faith, begin not seldom with the beautiful phrase, that they are zealous for morality, and wish to maintain the morals of the gospel, while they reject dogma, just upon this road advance gradually to the most decided immorality. He who digs out the tree, cannot also enjoy the fruit. Emancipation from all authority theoretically leads practically to the promulgation of the rights of the flesh. (Van Oosterzee.)
If selfshness be the prevailing form of sin, covetousness may be regarded as the prevailing form of selfishness. Entering with the first transgression, and violating the spirit of the whole law, it has polluted and threatened the existence of each dispensation of religion; infected all classes and relations of society; and shown itself capable of the foulest acts. (J. Harris, D. D.)
Covetousness seen in human life
Commerce is covetous; competition is without bounds; rapid fortunes, sudden falls, speculations without end, hazards, excitements for gaining under all forms; such is the new mode of satisfying the old thirst for gold. Industry is covetous: those admirable inventions which are continually succeeding one another aim less at the progress of art than at the making of money; produced by the hope of gain, they hasten toward gain. Ambition is covetous; that solicitude for office which crowds all the avenues to authority aims less than formerly at honour, and more at money. The struggle of parties is covetous. Legislation is covetous: in it money is the chief corner-stone; money chooses the arbiters of our social and political destinies. Marriage is sometimes covetous: the union of man and woman becomes a secondary matter. Literature is covetous; impatient of producing, and more impatient of acquiring, the literature of the present day spends its strength in unfinished, defective, extravagant works, perhaps immoral and impious, which cater for the tastes of the multitude, and pour into the hands of their authors streams of gold unaccompanied by glory. (A. Monod, D. D.)
Covetousness barren of grace
We may as soon expect a crop of corn on the tops of barren mountains, as a crop of grace in the hearts of covetous cormorants. (T. Hall, D. D.)
Covetousness rerealed in talk
“Out of the abundance of the heart doth the mouth speak.” (Matthew 12:34.) What is in the warehouse will appear in the shop, what is in the heart, the tongue tells you. As is the man, such is his language; as we know what countryman a man is by his language; a Frenchman speaks French, etc. So we may guess at men by their language; a good man hath good language, he speaks the language of Canaan; an evil man speaks the language of the world (Isaiah 32:6.), discourse with him of that, and he is in his element; he can talk all day of it, and not be weary: but talk to him of spiritual things, and he is tanquam piscis in arido, out of his element, he hath nothing to say. It is a sure sign men are of the world, when they speak only of the world (1 John 4:5). (T. Hall, D. D.)
Meanness of boasting
Lord Bacon told Sir Edward Cooke when he boasted, “The less you speak of your greatness, the more I shall think of it.” Mirrors are the accompaniments of dandies, not heroes. The men of history were not perpetually looking in the glass to make sure of their own size. Absorbed in their work they did it, and did it so well that the wondering world saw them to be great and labelled them accordingly. (S. Coley.)
A gourd had wound itself around a lofty palm, and in a few weeks climbed to its very top. “How old mayest thou be?” asked the new-comer. “About a hundred years.” “About a hundred years and no taller? Only look: I have grown as tall as you in fewer days than you count years!” “I know that very well,” replied the palm; “every summer of my life a gourd has climed up around me, as proud as thou art, and as short-lived as thou wilt be.”
This sin is fitly linked to the former; for when men by covetous practices, have gained riches, then they begin to boast and glory in them (Proverbs 18:11; 1 Timothy 6:17), because of the supposed good which they think riches will procure them, as friends, honours, fine clothes, fine buildings. The Greek word is diversely rendered, yet all tend to one and the same thing, and are coincident; for he that is a boaster is usually a vain-glorious, lofty, insolent, arrogant man: it notes one that is inordinately lifted up with a high esteem and admiration of his own supposed or real excellencies; and thereupon arrogates and assumes more to himself than is meet; or, one that boasts of the learning, virtues, power, riches, which he hath not, and brags of acts which he never did. The proud man boasts of what he hath, and the boaster brags of what he hath not. This vice is opposed to verity; and in proper speaking it consists in words, rather than in the heart; for as pride, in exact and proper speaking, hath relation to the heart, rather than the words; so this sin of boasting hath relation to our words, rather than our hearts: so that this sin is the daughter of pride, for when pride lieth hid in the heart, it shows itself by arrogant boastings, and high-flown words. (T. Hall, D. D.)
Thus when men set a high rate upon their own parts and perfections, they be very impatient and discontented, if others will not come to their price, and because other men will not, they will canonise themselves for saints. (T. Hall, D. D.)
Boasting of vice
It is dangerous to excuse and defend sin, but to boast of vices, as if they were virtues, is the height of villany. (T. Hall, D. D.)
Boasting no recommendation
When men’s mouths are so full of their own praise, it augurs an emptiness of grace within; full vessels make little noise, when empty ones sound loud. Empty carts make a great rattle, when the loaded ones go quietly by you; your poor pedlars that have but one pack, do in every market show all they have, when the rich merchant makes but a small show of that whereof he hath great plenty within. The worst mettle rings loudest, and the emptiest ears of corn stand highest. Labour therefore for the contrary grace of modesty. (T. Hall, D. D.)
Downfall of pride
A kite having risen to a very great height, moved in the air as stately as a prince, and looked down with much contempt on all below. “What a superior being I am now!” said the kite; “who has ever ascended so high as I have? What a poor grovelling set of beings are all those beneath me! I despise them.” And then he shook his head in derision, and then he wagged his tail; and again he steered along with so much state as if the air were all his own, and as if everything must make way before him, when suddenly the string broke, and down fell the kite with greater haste than he ascended, and was greatly hurt in the fall, Pride often meets with a downfall. (Cobbin.)
And is not this the master-sin of this last and loose age of the world; when did pride ever more abound in city and country, in body and soul, in heart, head, hair, habit; in gestures, vestures, words, works? (T. Hall, B. D.)
Pride hated by the proud
It is so base a sin, that even the proud themselves hate it in others. (T. Hall, D. D.)
The natural heart full of pride
Naturally we are all as full of pride as a toad is of poison. The sea is not more full of monsters, the air of flies, the earth of vermin, and the fire of sparks, than our corrupt natures are of proud, rebellious imaginations against God. (T. Hall, D. D.)
Pride poisons virtuous actions
It is the poison of virtuous actions; the meat may be good in itself, but if there be poison in it, it becomes deadly. Praying, preaching, alms, are good in themselves, but if pride get into them, it leavens and sours the best performances. It is a worm that devours the wood that bred it. He that is proud of his graces, hath no grace; his pride hath devoured it all. (T. Hall, D. D.)
Gradation in sin
He tells us, men shall be self-lovers, silver-lovers, boasters, proud, insulting over their brethren, and, which is worse, they spare not God Himself, but are blasphemers of Him. (T. Hall, D. D.)
It argues the highest ingratitude in the world for a man, like a mad dog, to fly in the face of his master, who keeps and feeds him, and to Use that heart and tongue which God made for His praise, to the dispraise and disparagement of his Creator, to load Him with injuries, who every day loads us with mercies, and to curse Him who blesseth us. What greater ingratitude? (T. Hall, D. D.)
Enormity of ingratitude
Philip, King of Macedonia, caused a soldier of his, that had offered unkindness to one that had kindly entertained him to be branded in the forehead with these two words, Hospes ingratus. Unthankfulness is a monster in nature, a solecism in manners, a paradox in divinity, a parching wind to dry up the fountain of further favour. (J. Trapp.)
Connection of ingratitude with other evils
There be three usual causes of ingratitude upon a benefit received--envy, pride, covetousness; envy, looking more at others’ benefits than our own; pride, looking more at ourselves than the benefit; covetousness, looking more at what we would have, than what we have. (Bp. Hall.)
Ingratitude mars friendship
It is a lump of soot, which, falling into the dish of friendship, destroys its scent and flavour. (Basil.)
Without natural affection.--
Want of affection
Fontaine’s character was such that it seemed incompatible with strong attachments. He married at the persuasion of his family, and left his wife behind him when he went to live at Paris at the invitation of the Duchess of Bouillon. His only son was adopted by Harley, the archbishop, at the age of fourteen. Meeting the youth long afterwards, and being pleased with his conversation, he was told that this was his son. “Ah,” said he calmly, “I am very glad of it.”
Cruelty to children
Twice in six months one father had to be sent to prison whom it seemed a shame to send at all. When he had gone his second time, there was found on his table “The Floating Matter of the Air,” by Tyndall, With his book-mark at page 240, to which he had read. Had you passed him and his wife together in the street, you would have unconsciously felt a certain pride in the British workman; yet was he not ashamed to express openly a desire to be rid of the tasks and limitations his children set to his life, and twice in one night he gave an infant of fifteen months old a caning for crying of teething. His clenched fist could have broken open a door at a blow, and with it, in his anger, he felled a child three years and a half old, making the little fellow giddy for days, and while he was thus giddy felled him again; and because the terrible pain he inflicted made the child cry, he pushed three of his huge fingers down the little weeper’s throat--“plugging the little devil’s windpipe,” as he laughingly described it. He denied none of the charges, and boldly claimed his right--the children were his own, he said. (Contemporary Review.)
A. team was running away with a small child, when a mother, seeing its danger, cried in agony, “Stop that waggon, and save the child!” as loud as she could. A heartless man said, “Silly woman I don’t fret yourself; it isn’t your child.” The woman replied, “I know that; but it’s somebody’s child.”
They will make no more of a covenant than a monkey doth of his collar, which he can slip off and on at his pleasure. In the last days, men will not only be sermon-proof and judgment-proof, but covenant-proof; no bonds so strong, so sacred, but they can as easily break them as Samson did the bonds of the Philistines. It is not personal, sacramental, or national vows that can keep the men of the last times within the circle of obedience. (T. Hall, B. D.)
How rightly to covenant
Now that we may covenant rightly, we must do it--
4. Affectionately, with--
(3) Joy. (T. Hall, B. D.)
If they can find no faults, they will invent some, as the devil did by Job (Job 2:9-11; Job 2:5), and this properly is slandering. (T. Hall, B. D.)
As those buy at one place and sell at another, so these pedling devils make merchandise of their words, hearing a false tale at one house and selling it at another. The back-biter is a mouse that is always gnawing on the good name of his neighbour. Sometimes he whispers in secret, and anon he openly defames, yet subtlely covering all with a deep sigh, professing his great sorrow for such an cue’s fall; when they should delight in the virtues of others, they feed upon their vices. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Actions to be kindly interpreted
It is a rule in heraldry, and it holds good in divinity, that in blazoning arms and ensigns the animals must be interpreted in the best sense, according to their noble and generous qualities--e.g., if a lion or a fox be the charge, we must conceive his quality represented to be wit and courage, not rapine and pilfering. So, and much more, in blazoning my brother’s name, I must find out what is best, and mention that; if I meet with a sin of infirmity and humane frailty, I must conceal it; it is the glory of a man to pass it by (Proverbs 19:11.) (T. Hall, B. D.)
It is the custom in Africa for hunters, when they have killed a poisonous snake, to cut off its head and carefully bury it deep in the ground, a naked foot stepping on one of these fangs would be fatally wounded; the poison would spread in a very short time all through the system. This venom lasts a long time, and is as deadly after the snake is dead as before. The Red Indians used to dip the points of their arrows in this poison; so, if they made the least wound, their victim would be sure to die. The snake’s poison is in its teeth; but there is something quite as dangerous, and much more common, in communities, which has its poison on its tongue. Indeed, your chances of escape from a serpent are greater. The worst snakes usually glide away in fear at the approach of man, unless disturbed or attacked. But this creature, whose poison lurks in its tongue, attacks without provocation, and follows up its victim with untiring perseverence. We will tell you his name, so you will always be able to shun him. He is called “Slanderer.” He poisons worse than a serpent. Often his venom strikes to the life of a whole family or neighbourhood, destroying all peace and confidence. (Dictionary of Illustrations.)
After reading a slanderous article in an evening paper, an anonymous friend sent to the Church Missionary Society, as a protest, a cheque for £1,000. Livingstone said, “I got two of my best friends through being ill-spoken of.” (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)
Incontinent.--Rules to be observed in our feasting:--
1. It must be done seasonably.
4. Religiously. (T. Hall, B. D.)
How to know a drunkard
Question: But how shall we know a drunkard? Answer: By his affections, words, and actions. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Preservatives against incontinency
1. Take heed of intemperance in eating and drinking; when men are fed to the full, then, like pampered stallions, they neigh after their neighbours’ wives (Jeremiah 5:9; Ezekiel 16:49). Take away the fuel, and the fire goeth out; take away the provender, and you will tame the beast. Drunkenness and whoring are joined together (Proverbs 23:31; Proverbs 23:33; Hosea 4:11.)
2. Idleness breeds uncleanliness, as standing pools do mud.
3. Take heed of evil company; come not near the house of the harlot (Proverbs 5:8-11). He that would not be burnt, must not come too near the fire.
4. Set a watch over the eyes. The devil gets into our hearts by these windows of the soul. (T. Hall, B. D.)
The fierceness of sin
This is the thirteenth sin which helps to make the last days perilous. Men will then more especially be of a fierce, rude, savage, barbarous, inhuman disposition. They will be cruelly and bloodily disposed. There will be in them no meekness nor mildness to regulate the passions; but, like brute beasts, they will be ready to slay all such as oppose them. This is a fruit of that self-love and covetousness before mentioned. (T. Hall, B. D.)
This verity is made one special note of the wicked (Proverbs 12:10; Proverbs 17:3; Genesis 49:7). Hence in Scripture they are compared to lions (Job 4:10); to wolves (Habakkuk 1:8): bears (Proverbs 17:12); horses, which must be restrained from hurting with bit and bridle (Psalms 32:9); serpents (Psalms 74:13-14); dogs (Philippians 3:2; Matthew 7:6); boars (Psalms 80:13); threshers, which bruise and oppress the people of God (Amos 1:3): millers, that grind them with their cruelty; and to butchers, which do not only fleece, but slay the sheep. (T. Hall, B. D.)
1. Then let men get grace, that breeds humanity, civility, and candid carriage towards all. Such will not, dare not, hurt their brethren in body, soul, goods, or good name (Psalms 15:3). We need not fear those that truly fear God.
2. As grace will keep you from being fierce against others actively, so it will be a shield to keep you from the rage of fierce men passively (Isaiah 33:15; Isaiah 33:19). It is disobedience which brings fierce men against a people (Deuteronomy 28:50); but when we are obedient, God will restrain their rage, and bound them, as he doth the proud waves of the sea (Job 38:11).
3. Admire the goodness of the Lord, who preserves His lambs in the midst of so many fierce lions. Did not the great Lord, Keeper of the world, watch His vineyard night and day, the boar out of the wood would soon lay it waste. The thorns would soon over-top this lily, and the birds of prey devour God’s turtle. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Despisers of those that are good.--
Antipathy between good and evil
I. If we consider that strong antipathy and enmity which is between the righteous and the wicked, there is an irreconcileable war and hatred between them (Genesis 3:15).
2. In respect of the dissimilitude of their manners. They have contrary principles, practices, ends, and aims.
3. To try and exercise the faith, hope, patience, and constancy of His people (Isa 27:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:4; Daniel 12:10).
4. To wean them from the world. It is easy to love a good man for his riches, learning, parts, gifts; this is but a carnal love, and springs from carnal ends and principles (James 2:1-4). True love is a spiritual love, springing from spiritual considerations; it makes men love the saints for their faith, zeal, etc., and not for any by-respect. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Traitors.--Now of these traitors there are three sorts--
1. Traitors political.
3. Domestical. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Let us be faithful to the truth of God, faithful to the land of our nativity, and faithful in all our relations. Fidelity is the chiefest bond of human society; take away this, and you take away all peace and commerce from amongst men. It is only to the faithful that the promises run (Psalms 31:23). The Lord will preserve the faithful, and make them to abound with blessings (Proverbs 28:10). (T. Hall, B. D.)
William Tyndale’s betrayal
The immediate agent of Tyndale’s troubles is known to have been an English ecclesiastic, Phillips by name, who acted the part of a Judas, by artfully ingratiating himself into the translator’s confidence, and then conspiring with Pierre Dufief, the procureur at Brussels, to arrest him. The martyr’s capture was effected in the street, as Tyndale and Phillips were leaving the house of Poyntz to dine together. Poyntz had expressed to his friend his suspicions of the lurking Englishman; but so adroitly did Phillips act the hypocrite by affecting zeal for the Reformation and love for the Bible, that he found himself courted and trusted, while Tyndale disregarded all warnings. (Sword and Trowel.)
Heady.--In the last days men will be heady, hasty, rash, inconsiderate; they will be carried by the violence of their lusts without wit or reason. They will set upon things too high and too hard for them, like young birds which, flying before they are fledged, fall to the ground, and so break their bones: so much the word implies. They will make desperate adventures; they will be rash in their words and works, precipitate and inconsiderate in all their undertakings; what they do will be raw, rude, indigested, unconcocted. Hence the word is rendered “rash” and unadvised. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.--
Lovers of pleasure described and warned
I. Who belong to this number.
1. All whose fondness for pleasure leads them to violate the commands of God--
(1) By indulging in forbidden pleasures.
(2) By inordinate pursuit of pleasures not in themselves sinful or expressly forbidden.
2. All who are led by a fondness for pleasure to indulge in amusements which they suspect may be wrong, or which they do not feel certain are right. When we love any person supremely, we are careful to avoid not only those things which we know will displease him, but such as we suspect may do it.
3. All who find more satisfaction in the pursuit of worldly pleasures than they do in God’s service.
4. All who are deterred from immediately embracing the Saviour, and commencing a religious life, by an unwillingness to renounce the pleasures of the world, are most certainly lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.
II. Their sinful, guilty, and dangerous condition.
1. That the apostle considered them as sinful, in no common degree, is evident from the company in which he has placed them. It is still farther evident from the description which he gives of them in some of the verses succeeding the text. For instance, he there informs us that such are persons of corrupt minds. What can be a more satisfactory proof of a corrupt state of mind in a rational, immortal being, than a preference of unsatisfying, transitory, sinful pleasures to his Creator.
2. In the second place the apostle informs us that they resist the truth. This they must do, for their deeds are evil. Such persons hate the truth, because the truth condemns their sinful but beloved pleasures.
3. Hence they are represented as despisers of good men. They consider such men, whose conduct reproves them, as the enemies of their happiness, and ridicule them as rigid, morose, superstitious, or hypocritical persons, and who will neither enjoy the world themselves, nor allow others to do it.
4. Lastly, the persons we are describing are represented as being dead in trespasses and sins. She that liveth in pleasure, is dead while she liveth. They are dead as it respects the great end of their existence; dead to everything that is good; dead in the sight of a holy God; loathsome to Him as a corpse is to us, and as unfit for the society of the living Jehovah, as the naturally dead are for the society of the living. (E. Payson, D. D.)
The Christian view of amusements
I. Amusement is to be used as recreation. The clerk who has been hours at the desk, the mechanic in his shop, the student with his books, will take exercise and bring the unused muscles into play, and so reinvigorate the frame, or the weary brain will be soothed by the excitement and absorption of some game, or the mind, perplexed with life’s mysteries and sorrows, will wander away into the world of imagination under the spell of some master spirit, while another will plunge into long-hidden secrets of nature revealed by our modern science, and wonderingly learn the Creator’s wisdom, power, and love. But do you observe the assumption underlying this principle? The assumption is, that you are hard at work at your life’s task. But now, supposing you have found, and are engaged in, your life’s work, apply this principle of amusement as recreation. Nothing is lawful which deteriorates any of your powers or hinders the effectual discharge of duty. What is helpful in moderation becomes harmful in excess; amusement begun as a recreation may end in dissipation. If a man spends his holiday in toil some excursions by day and revellings at night, and returns to his work unfitted for his daily calling, he loves pleasure rather than God. Had he loved God supremely, he would have always kept in mired that he was having a holiday to fit himself for the due discharge of his God-given work; but he has thought of amuse ment for its own sake, and has been abusing it. Further, if that is unlawful which dissipates, that which corrupts is still worse. If your recreation brings you necessarily into corrupting companionships, it is thereby condemned, and it is to be renounced,
II. We must observe in our recreations the golden rule of doing to others as we would have them do to us. We must ask at what cost to them selves do others produce what amuses and recreates us. If your amusement demands loss of modesty, it demands what must harm you, as well as injure her who loses modesty. In the old slave days our fathers and mothers denied themselves sugar, refusing to eat the forced produce of their outraged brothers and sisters. But this principle applies still more widely, not only to woman, but to man; not only to human beings, but to animals as well; with regard to all these, we shall require that our recreation involves the shame, suffering, and ruin of none. A word should be said with regard to the waste of time involved in many harmless recreations. (A. N. Johnson, M. A.)
The love of pleasure
The moral effects of this exorbitant and over-mastering love of pleasure are very awful. In cases of the greatest excess, the very body gives way under it. Gluttony, drunkenness, licentiousness, not only eclipse the mental lights, and scorch the moral sensibilities of the soul, but they hasten the body to dissolution; they dig many a dishonoured grave. But apart from these physical consequences, and even in those cases where they do not follow, the moral effects of the love of pleasure are very sad. Take a tree that needs firm rooting and fresh air, and put it in a hothouse, or in some steamy vaporous place where no winds reach it, and where light is dim, and see how weak and how faded it will become. Such is the man who has blotted out the word “duty” from the plan of his life, and written “pleasure” there in its stead; who feels life no longer to be a moral strife, with God and goodness as its end, but only a low and ignoble endeavour to snatch enjoyment and secure comfort. That man must wither even while he seems to bloom; he must fall, however he may appear to rise; to him there are no stirrings of noble impulse, no victories of the will, no clear light of supreme law. Life is a song, a play, a picture, a feast, a superficial shallow thing--for the man is a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God. And when men sink thus far, it is very hard to raise them. The worm is at the heart of the tree--the corrosive stain is beneath the surface--it is eating the metal through and through. “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.” Dead in this sin, the love of pleasure. The noblest things have gone now. There is nothing left to which we can appeal.
I. From such turn away, not only from the wicked men described in the passage, but from pleasure lovers. Turn away from them, from the frivolous, the butterfly race, who find no seriousness in life, who take no time for thought, who have no spirit of prayer, and no love of God. Such people can do you only harm. If they were willing to bless you, they have no means of doing it. Their life is a scanty rill; and if you find that you cannot influence them, then turn from them, lest you put your own soul in peril.
II. We may take this as a guiding rule of invariable and universal application--that duty is to stand morally supreme in our life. It is to be far above enjoyment of every kind. We shall never be safe otherwise. If life is moral, it must be moral all through--from its lowest to its highest things.
III. There must be self-denial in every true human life. We are not safe without that. We shall not keep our life wholesome, green, and growing, without a good deal of self-denial in it. Self-denial is like the pulling of the reins now and again, just to see that we have those fiery coursers, the passions, well in hand. It is like the touching of the helm when the sea runs high, or the tides are treacherous, to make sure that the ship will answer to it if there should be sudden need to turn her course.
IV. The love of God, possessed and cultured, will certainly save us from the degradation and the doom of such a life as that against which we are here warned. The love of pleasure is not put in the text against the love of God, as if they were direct opposites. The sin is to love pleasure more than God; the cure is to love God more than pleasure, and pleasure only in a moderated sense in Him. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
I. The spirit of amusements. Amusements are dangerous things. Can any of you explain how it comes to be that in amusements in general there is such a lack of all reference to God? Where is the party that will more brutally resent the intrusion of religion, or flee more abashed at its mention, than just the party of pleasure? Instinctively there is felt an incongruity between the two. The startled response to Mr. Blackwood in a ball-room, I take to be the outspeaking of the universal feeling--“For goodness’ sake, Mr. Blackwood, don’t introduce that here!” In the lull of a dance, he had spoken to his partner something about the Saviour. This utter absence of God in amusements is an ominous symptom. As a rule they are thoroughly secular. Even when they begin with a mixture of religion, how soon that drops, and the secular takes its place. The natural history of entertainments has been one away from God. The several stages of their course have been religious, semi-secular, worldly, the profane, the lewd. I must ask you Christians to look that fact straight in the face, and ponder it to its full weight, because it is full of import. To me it is a revelation of the spirit of all these amusements, for it is by this means that we can most certainly discern the spirit. Generally speaking, the initial beginning between right and wrong has the form of a narrow fork like the points in a railway line. With the slightest jolt, you are shunted from one track to the other. Can you determine the exact point when you have left the right line? But soon as the divergence grows you know to your pains. Two seeds are before you. Each has within it a hidden germ, the image and ideal of a great tree. Can you determine their species in the seed? You may not be able, and argument will be useless. But plant them, and when one has grown into an ash and another into a maple, then the difference and the kind is patent. Yet these seeds were specifically different. A different germ, a different life principle, resided in each; and they could grow only into what they originally were. Each had a potency to become what they eventually grew into. Your pleasures grow from a germ, a spirit. A life principle pervades the whole. I refuse to argue the matter at a microscopic stage, the seed difference, the narrow railway point. Taking the Master’s great principle, we know them by their fruit. Can that be right which needs the Bible laid aside, prayer neglected, God forgotten, and to which the name of Jesus is a jar?
II. The desire for pleasure a morbid symptom. The healthiest tone in manhood and society is when people are busy, when they are bent on some great ideal, and do not need to be amused. Even a healthy child needs far less to be amused than mothers and nurses think. Its great idea of amusement is to do something. The honest workman, the colonist, say, in a new country, busy in felling timber, reclaiming land--his own now--erecting his homestead, and in other works of homely husbandry, give him the solace of his wife’s society, the prattle of his children, his Bible, a rest in the evening, and the church on Sabbath, and he will live a life above entertainment--a life of such solid satisfaction, that entertainments would be a mockery to it. The kingdom that is at its best, the society that is at its healthiest, and the Church of God at its most useful stage, do not need entertainments. In the old days, when old Rome was slowly climbing the splendid height of mistress-ship of the world, her citizens were sober, frugal, and industrious. Her dictators held the plough, and her matrons the distaff. Then the gladiatorial shows had no existence, and adultery was unknown. The men were freemen, and the women virtuous. It was when the citizens had let themselves be debauched by the games and consented to be amused, that they sank into the position of public beggars, issuing of a morning from their squalid cabins for their daily dole of the public bread, to idle away the livelong day on the benches of the amphitheatre and circus, with an occasional lounge in the public baths, doing no work, all labour being considered degrading as the lot of slaves. Then was the time of Rome’s decay, till at last they lost to the hardier Goths that semblance of liberty they were too effeminate to defend. Drill your minds, steer your course through life with the grand helm of duty, and not let yourselves roll on the wave of self-indulgence and entertainment.
III. What, then, should be the Christian’s attitude towards amusements? In answering this, let me distinguish between Christians in their collective capacity as the Church, and the Christian by himself as an individual. As for the Church of Christ, or Christians collectively, I fail to see that she has got anything to do with amusements whatever. God never instituted the Church to amuse people; so to speak, it is outside her commission. Since Christians cannot go down to the world’s pleasures, all the more sedulously should they cultivate that domain which relates to the pleasant in their own religion; for there is distinctly a pleasurable department in Christianity. The restfulness, the kindness, the sincerity, the readiness to oblige and put one’s self about to please, the unfeigned humility and readiness to commend--yea, and relish for all that beauty so copiously strewed in nature without. The cause of conversion often is said to be, “These Christians seemed so much happier than I was.” Instinctively, somehow or other, the unsaved feel that if you profess religion you belong to another party from them, and ought to be better; and when they see you indulging in the amusements they indulge in, and which they probably have a shrewd idea are not just the right thing, they are the first to feel the incongruity and to wonder at you. Their idea of religion is taken from you, and you are found false witnesses of God. Perhaps the impression your conduct may produce on their minds is utter scepticism of the reality of all vital religion whatever. The Christian that goes down to worldly pleasures is guilty of bringing a slander on his religion.
IV. Amusements and the unsaved. I know that in touching your amusements I am touching the apple of your eye.
1. Let me tell you frankly, then, that your worldly entertainments and amusements are sinful. Sinful, for they are to you the rivals of Christ, and keep you from salvation--yea, even more than ridicule and persecution.
2. They are also unseasonable. There are positions in life in which all acknowledge that anything like jollity or mirth is out of place. If a man has committed a crime, and he is placed in the dock to be tried for his life, frivolity and laughter would be counted exceedingly unbecoming. If you, as the Bible tells you, are a sinner; if you have done things that have angered God that is above, and if His wrath is abiding in your souls, is mirth seemly in your state? Sorrow, repentance, prayer, a turning to Christ, realising that your state is one of sin against the Infinite Jehovah--that is the becoming state for you to be in. (Alex. Bisset, M. A.)
Worldliness is often condemned in the New Testament. It is not, as some seem to think, any particular object or pursuit. It is nothing external, but resides in ourselves. It is a condition of soul, not of circumstance--a mind which is more carnal than spiritual, more earthly than heavenly, more self-seeking than God-fearing. Persons who have no relish for society, or music, or public amusements, may yet be intensely worldly in the prosecution of business, in the gaining and spending or hoarding of money, in the management of a household, in the manner of bearing trials, in excessive care, in intellectual pursuits, and even in the affairs of benevolence and religion. It is especially tested in the selection of our pleasures and the degree in which they are indulged. Pleasure-providing is a trade in which, as in others, there is fierce competition. Many places of amusement are not remunerative, and every effort is put forth to increase the revenue. For this end the lowest tastes must be pandered to, and new excitements must be found. Must not such pleasures tend to corrupt a nation? Christians cannot hesitate as regards their own duty. We do not denounce pleasure as such. Rest as well as labour is from God, laughter as well as tears, recreation as well as toil. Pleasure becomes sin when we are “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” This is always the case when our pleasures are opposed to purity and piety. Besides this, we may love inordinately that which is in itself innocent and useful. Excess in what is lawful may become wrong by violating a higher obligation. Whenever we find that our pleasures are interfering with our piety, that they occupy the chief place in our minds, that we are loving them more than we love God, then we may be sure that we are wrong, whatever the nature of those pleasures may be, or whatever the sanction which they claim. (Newman Hall, LL. B.)
Carnal pleasure ruling in man
Such were those libertines (Jam 5:5; 2 Peter 2:13; Judges 4:18-19). Peradventure they may give God some external worship of cap and knee; but they keep their hearts and best rooms for their carnal lusts and pleasures. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Many are so bewitched with their lusts and pleasures, that they do even sacrifice their time, wit, wealth, lives, souls, and all unto them. They are even led by them (2 Peter 2:10), as an ox to the slaughter (Proverbs 7:22-23). They make them their chiefest good, and place their happiness in them. How many spend their precious time in playing, which they should spend in praying and in serving God in some vocation. (T. Hall, B. D.)
The poison of pleasure
1. That sensual pleasures are the very poison and bane of all grace in the soul; they war against the peace and purity of it (1 Peter 2:11); they blind the eye, that it cannot attain to saving knowledge (chap. 3:6, 7); the love of pleasures eats out the love of God and goodness out of the soul.
2. It is these sensual pleasures which stop the ears against God’s call, so that no reason nor religion can work on men. These choke the good seed of the Word, that it cannot grow (Luke 8:14). That is the best pleasure which springs from the knowledge and love of God. We call not upon you to forsake, but to change your pleasures. Change your sordid, sinful, sensual delights, into sublime, spiritual, and noble delights.
3. The better to wean your hearts from carnal pleasures, consider the vanity and shortness of them. They are like a fire of straw--a blast, and gone. Do not, then, for a mite of pleasure, purchase a mountain of misery; for momentary joys, endure eternal sorrows.
4. They do emasculate and weaken the mind. Whoever was made more learned, wise, courageous, or religious by them? They rob man of his reason, and besot him (Hosea 4:11); they take away the man, and leave a swine or beast in his room.
5. This world is a place of weeping, conflicting, labouring, to all the godly, and not of carnal mirth and rejoicing; carnal mirth must be turned into mourning (James 4:9-10); the way to heaven lies through many afflictions.
6. Consider those sensual pleasures end in sorrow. The end of such mirth (what ever the beginning is) is sorrow. Men call them by the name of pleasures, pastimes, delights; but in God’s dictionary their name is Madness (Ecclesiastes 1:17; Ecclesiastes 2:2), Sorrow (Proverbs 14:13), and is attended with poverty. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Voluptas, the goddess of sensual pleasures, was worshipped at Rome where she had a temple. She was represented as a young and beautiful woman, well dressed and elegantly adorned, seated on a throne, and having virtue under her feet. This representation is just enough; the love of pleasure is too often attended with the sacrifice of virtue. (C. Buck.)
The world may have many pleasures; but it is culling flowers from the enemy’s land, and we Christians must take care that no nightshade and henbane mix unwittingly with our garland.
Worldly pleasures vain
Pleasures, like the rose, are sweet, but prickly; the honey doth not countervail the sting; all the world’s delights are vanity, and end in vexation; like Judas, while they kiss they betray. I would neither be a stoic nor an epicure; allow of no pleasure, nor give way to all; they are good sauce, but nought to make a meal of. I may use them sometimes for digestion, never for food. (J. Henshaw.)
Better be preserved in brine than rot in boney. These plea sure-mongers are at last as the worst of all. Such a one was Catullus, who wished all his body was nose, that he might spend all his time in sweet smells. Such was Philoxenus, who likewise wished that his neck was as long as a crane’s, that he might take more delight in meats and drinks. Such was Boccas, the poet, who said that he was born for the love of women. (J. Trapp.)
It is always a terrible condemnation of a church member that no one should suspect him of being one. We have heard of a young lady who engaged for many months in a round of frivolities, utterly forgetful of her covenant with Christ. One Sunday morning, on being asked by a gay companion to accompany him to a certain place, she declined on the ground that it was the communion Sunday in her own church. “Are you a communicant?” was the cutting reply. The arrow went to her heart. She felt that she had denied the Lord who died for her. That keen rebuke brought her to repentance and a recon version. Are there not many other professors of Christ who appear to be “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God”? (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
Emblem of worldly pleasure
It was a remarkably hot and sultry day. We were scrambling up the mountain which rises above the east shore of the Dead Sea, when I saw before me a fine plum-tree loaded with fresh-blooming plums. I cried to my fellow traveller, “Now, then, who will arrive first at that plum-tree?” And as he caught a glimpse of so refreshing an object, we both pressed our horses into a gallop, to see which should get the first plum from the branches. We both arrived at the same time, and each snatching a fine ripe plum put it at once into our mouths, when, on biting it, instead of the cool, delicious, juicy fruit which we expected, our mouths were filled with a dry, bitter dust, and we sat under the tree upon our horses, sputtering and “hemming,” and doing all we could to be relieved of the nauseous taste of this strange fruit. We then perceived, to my great delight, that we had discovered the famous apple of the Dead Sea, the existence of which has been doubted and canvassed since the days of Strabo and Pliny, who first described it. (R. Curzon.)
Death of a lover of pleasure
Monsieur de L’Enelos, a man of talent in Paris, educated his daughter Ninon with a view to the gay world. On his death-bed, when she was about fifteen, he addressed her in this language: “Draw near, Ninon; you see, my dear child, that nothing more remains for me than the sad remembrance of those enjoyments which I am about to quit for ever. But, alas I my regrets are useless as vain. You, who will survive me, must make the best of your precious time.”
2 Timothy 3:5
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power
Form and power of godliness
This form is a profession of religion; the outward appearance of piety; the external performance of holy duties.
Its power is the inward experience of its saving efficacy; that is attested by a holy, heavenly walk. This power is denied, not merely by the declaration of the lips, but by all those actions which are inconsistent with it, and which prove that we do not feel its influence.
I. A form of godliness is absolutely necessary if we would be saved. We are unequivocally commanded to assume the form of godliness; to testify by external acts our allegiance to the Lord; and to attend on those ordinances and sacraments which He surely did not appoint that we might with impunity neglect them. Say not that you secretly and in your hearts worship and love Him. It is impossible that there should be internal piety without some outward manifestation of it. If “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, with the lips confession will be made to salvation.” Besides, what right have you to withhold the acts of external worship from Him who is “the God of all flesh,” as well as the “Father of spirits”; who made your body as well as your soul; who confers upon it daily mercies: who purchased it by the sufferings of His Son, who, when He was offered a sacrifice, not only endured agonies of soul, but was also crucified in His body; and who offers at the last great day to raise it up from the grave and crown it with immortality and glory! “Glorify Him therefore in your body and your spirit, which are His.” Without the form of godliness, you will probably render yourselves guilty of the blood of souls; be accessory to the eternal perdition of some who are dear to you. There is no one, whose example has not some influence on those with whom he associates.
II. But this form is insufficient, unless it be united with the power of godliness.
1. This mere outward service is a worship not conformed to the nature of God.
2. It is not conformed to the commands of God (Proverbs 23:26)
3. It is not conformed to the design of the mission of the Saviour,and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
4. It is not conformed to the nature of that covenant which is the foundation of our hopes (Jeremiah 31:33.)
5. It is not conformed to the examples of the pious; all of whom have used language the same in substance with that of Paul, “The God whom I serve in my spirit” (Romans 1:9).
6. It is not conformed to the example of the blessed Redeemer; concerning whom none can be so blasphemous, as to doubt whether His whole soul was engaged in doing and in suffering the will of God.
7. It is not conformed to the great ends of religion. These are to deliver the soul from guilt, to renew it, to re-impress upon it the image of God, to make us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. And how certain is it, that for these great purposes “bodily exercise profiteth little.” (1 Timothy 4:8.)
III. Yet notwithstanding the clear evidence of this truth, these are many who satisfy themselves with the form without the power of godliness.
1. At their head must be placed the intentional hypocrite, who knows that he is utterly destitute of love to God and the Redeemer, who has no desire for holiness, but who assumes the mask of religion to cover his sinful purposes.
2. The cold formalist.
3. The vain enthusiast.
4. The worldly-minded professor.
5. The bitter sectarian.
6. The censorious professor.
7. The unfruitful professor. (H. Kollock, D. D.)
Form and power
I. True religion is godliness--i.e., moral likeness to God.
II. Godliness has its form, or way of expressing itself.
1. Towards God--confession, prayer, praise, worship.
2. Towards man--respect for the right, compassion for the miseries, and a loving desire for the happiness of all.
III. The forms of godliness sometimes exist without its power.
1. There is often a great deal of external worship where there is no godly devotion.
2. There is often a great deal of external philanthropy where there is no godly devotion.
IV. Having the form without the power is practical infidelity. To have nothing but the mere form is to deny the power.
1. The mere form misrepresents the power.
2. The mere form counteracts the power. (Homilist.)
Form and power.
I. Every genuine existence has two characteristics--essence and form.
II. The essence of every genuine existence is a power. This is true in the highest sense of godliness, which is eminently a “power”; and the greatest among men, because it is the channel whereby we communicate with the truth and love of God Almighty.
1. It is a formative power. Originating.
(1) Forms of conception (Romans 2:20).
(2) Forms of words to express the conceptions (2 Timothy 1:13).
(3) Forms of worship, using as handmaids the kindred fine arts.
(4) Forms of society, embodying the grand principles of godliness, and of its cognate humanity.
2. It is a controlling power, especially over itself.
3. It is a benificent power over others for their instruction and quickening.
III. Though there cannot be power without form, there may be form without power. A man may have the logic and words of godliness, the litany, music, architecture of godliness; but if he have not godliness itself!
IV. The possession of the form without the power disposes to the denial of the power. He who has the form alone is apt to be deceived, and satisfied with appearances; he resents, as an impertinence to himself, the claims of anything further: he denies it.
1. He strives to ignore it (John 9:29).
2. When it is forced on his notice he denies its existence (John 9:32).
3. When this is impossible, when the power becomes an evident fact, he clothes it with misrepresentation, obloquy, ridicule (Matthew 12:22).
4. When the power becomes too formidable he persecutes it, and strives to counteract and annihilate it. “Crucify Him!” (C. Wills, M. A.)
Form of godliness
I. There is such a thing as a form of godliness.
1. It is natural.
II. A form of godliness may exist without its vital power.
1. This is possible. Church at Laodicea.
2. A lamentable fact.
3. Most alarming consequences.
(1) There will be no searchings of heart.
(2) No pungent sorrow for sin.
(3) No love to truth.
(4) No conformity to the Divine will.
III. The possession of a mere form of godliness does not entitle a person to Christian fellowship.
1. The formalist has no sympathy with the sentiments of true Christians.
2. He would detract from their usefulness.
3. He is unfit for any exalted pleasure. (J. H. Hughes.)
The form of godliness
In these words the apostle tells us--
1. What these men have, viz., a form of godliness.
2. What they want, viz., the power of it.
3. How we must behave ourselves towards them, viz., we must shun their society; from such turn away.
For the first, they have a vain and empty show of faith and holiness. They are not men without the pale of the Church, such as heathens and Jews, which are open enemies to the gospel; but they have a form of godliness, an external profession of religion in words, ceremonies, and gestures; they make great shows, and put on the vizard of piety; like stage players, they act the part of a king, but strip them of their robes, and they are beggarly rogues. They have not the true form and essence of godliness, which consists in an inward change, and doth denominate and give being to things: but they have formality or an outward show and shadow of holiness. Like pictures and images, which have an external show and shape of a man, whose lineaments and proportion may be so drawn to the life, that there wants nothing but life indeed to act them: they will be great professors, and look what a sincere Christian hath in substance, that have these formalists in semblance, they have no life, no power, no principle of operation in them. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Profession in excess of sanctification
The complaint is general, there is not that mortification, self-denial, and circumspect walking as formerly. There’s more light, but less life; more shadow, but less substance; more profession, but less sanctification, than formerly. There is more fasting, praying, preaching; but where’s the practice and power of religion? As Isaac said to Abraham, behold the wood, but where’s the lamb? So behold the duties, but where, oh where’s the life, the power, the truth of what is done? The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau; for they deny the power of religion not only in their hearts, but also in their works (Titus 1:16; 1 Timothy 5:8). They so live, as if godliness were but an airy notion, and a matter of fashion, without all force or efficacy. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Self-love under a form of holiness
The text may be considered two ways--relatively or absolutely.
1. Relatively as it relates to the eighteen sins before mentioned; so this sin is the cloak to hide and cover them all; men will be lovers of themselves, but under a form of godliness. Hence observe--that a man may have a form of godliness, and yet live in all manner of wickedness. It is tree, the power of godliness cannot consist with the power of ungodliness; but the more ,the power of godliness is lifted up in the soul, the more the power of ungodliness will be suppressed; as the house of David grows stronger and stronger, so the house of Saul grows weaker and weaker. But yet the form of godliness may stand with the power of ungodliness. A man may be a glorious professor in the highest form, and yet a puny in the form of grace. He may be a blazing comet for profession, and yet be a devil incarnate in life and conversation. (T. Hall, B. D.)
The fair covering the foul
They put on a fair glove on a foul hand, and get on the vizard of holiness better to deceive. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Satan covers sin
The devil cannot endure that sin should be seen in its proper dress, for then it would be so odious that all men would abhor it; the devil, therefore, puts a garment and cover upon it. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Profession cannot carry men to heaven
This may as soon carry you to heaven as a dead horse can carry a man a journey, a painted ship save a man from drowning, a painted helmet save the head from wounding, or painted food keep a man from starving. (T. Hall, B. D.)
1. His knowledge is merely notional, discursive, and speculative, it is in his head, and not in his heart. Hence it is called a form of knowledge, i.e., a mere empty shadow and show of knowledge (Romans 2:20). But he that hath the power of godliness hath a rooted, affective, saving, sanctifying, experimental, practical knowledge. He knows Christ as the truth is in Him (Ephesians 4:21); he knows and doth Christ’s will (John 13:17). It is a soul-convincing and converting, a sin-crucifying and conquering light (Ephesians 5:14). It is not a dim, glimmering, vanishing, light; but a thorough, soul-awakening, soul enlivening light.
2. The formalities, obedience and practice, is merely external in words and shows; in their deeds they deny the power of godliness, they live as if godliness were but an empty name and matter of fashion, void of all force and efficacy. Such are like a wicked minister in a white surplice, extime lineus, intime lanius, fair without, but foul within, or like an inn that hath an angel without and a devil within. Of such we may say as Erasmus said of a friar’s cowl--it covers a multitude of sins. He comes short in all ordinances: if he read, pray, hear, or frequent the sacrament, it is all pro forma--God is nigh to their mouths, but far from their hearts. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Helps against formality
1. Go unto God, who is a quickening Spirit, and beseech Him to quicken thy dead heart So did David, Psalms 119:1-176. God can make dry bones to live.
2. Act and use your graces, this is the way to increase and quicken them, bring good motions into resolutions and actions; blow till the spark become a flame. This stirring is painful, but gainful.
3. Delight in quickening company, get acquaintance with humble, holy, active men, and shun the company of dead, formal, earthly-minded men; we must stand up from the dead before Christ will give us life (Ephesians 4:14). There is a quickening virtue in the society of God’s people. As one living coal sets his fellow on fire, so God hath ordained the gifts and graces of His people for the benefit of others, that those who dwell under their shadow might return (Hosea 14:7).
4. Get sincerity, for therein lies much of the very power of godliness. Let your faith, love, obedience, be unfeigned, and without hypocrisy. Be not only nominal and formal, but be real Christians, be Israelites indeed. Christ says to us as Alexander said to one of his name--either fight like Alexander, or never bear his name; so either act like Christians, or else put off that name. To quicken you, consider that this grace is: commanded, commended, rewarded.
5. It is the grace of our graces, it is not properly a distinct grace, but the perfection of them all. If a man have faith, repentance, obedience, if they be not sincere, they are worth nothing. A pearl if counterfeit is good for little. Gold, if mixed with brass or baser mettle, is debased. It is sincerity that puts a lustre on all our duties. It is the salt that seasons them and makes them savoury.
6. Let the noise of God’s judgments awaken thee out of thy sleep] formality; if a man be in a dead sleep, a great noise will awaken him. God’s judgments have a voice, and we should mark what it says. (T. Hall, B. D.)
The form and the power of godliness
Godliness, what is it? It is, as the very word implies, God-likeness. Godliness is the God in the man; godliness is the man being like his God; and seeing that this image has been lost, godliness in man now is a restored godliness--restored through the mediation of Christ Jesus, and by the ministrations of the Holy Ghost.
I. In our text we read of the form of godliness without the power--without that power which belongs to the form, and which ought to be inseparable from that form. If you pick up an empty shell, you know that there has been a living creature in that shell: just so there is a power belonging to the external form of godliness; but the two things may exist apart. Many examples might be given of form without power. Take a statue representing some man; it is a form without power. There is the form of the eye, but no power of sight; there is the form of the ear, but no power of hearing; there is the form of the mouth, but no power of speech; there is the form of the arm, and of the hand, but no power of working; there is the form of the legs and of the feet, but no power of walking. There is the form that does embody life, but there is no power of life in that form. And a painting, if it be a portrait, is a form without power. Thus in the form of godliness there is the appearance of spiritual knowledge without the knowledge; the appearance of the soul listening to God and hearkening to the voice of His word, without the attentive ear; the appearance of a nature breathed into again by the spirit of life, although still dead in trespasses and sins, and therefore without life. The outward appearance of godliness--what then may it be?
1. It is the appearance of faith in the doctrines which are according to godliness. And where shall we find the appearance of faith without faith? Why here. These doctrines may be held in some articles, or creeds, or theological writings, by the intellect alone. They may be understood as statements, and held by the understanding without being spiritually and religiously appreciated; and they may be held by the tongue.
2. The outward appearance of godliness may be the appearance of sympathy with the ordinances and institutions which are intended alike to express and to cherish godliness.
3. Or the form of godliness may be the appearance of obedience to the laws which are the requirements of godliness. Now these may be fulfilled in the letter and broken in the spirit. “For example, f may love nay fellow-creature in word and in tongue, and fail to do it in deed and in truth.
4. There may be also the appearance of oneness with the godly through associating with such without communion of spirit. Many things may lead me to associate with the godly--things which are not Christian, considerations which are not Christian motives. I may associate with a man who is a godly man, because he happens to be very intelligent, a well-read man, a man of exquisite taste, and I may fancy that I make him my companion, because of his godliness. The godliness of the man is, however, an accident of my association with him. The probability is that if the man were ungodly, I should associate with him still for his intellectuality; for while he stands on my right hand, and I associate with him, there is a man on nay left, not so well educated, not so refined, who is more godly than my well-educated friend, and I pass him by. I might with immense advantage to myself associate with that man, but I do not; his godliness is no attraction to me. Now what does this show? Why it shows that I have the appearance of oneness with the godly, without the affection for the image of God, which would bring me into profitable contact with all who really have and who manifest that image.
5. Further, there may be the appearance of enjoyment of the blessedness of godliness; and this appearance may be made in speech and in tongue, and in a cheerful face on religious occasions. “Having the form, but denying the power.”
II. Now where is the power? The power of godliness is true faith in the doctrines which are according to godliness; the power of godliness is worship in spirit and in truth; is doing the will of God from the heart; is love for the godly as godly persons; is joy in God as God; and, I may add, the power of godliness is that external godliness which is the fruit of an internal godliness
III. Now, listen to this exhortation: “From such turn away.” You know that this is not fashionable advice. The advice nowadays given is, Turn away from no person, as a protest against the principles and character of that person--especially if that person be much thought of, or be in a high position; or be rich, or from any cause popular. Now, it strikes me that for our soul’s health, and especially for our uprightness, we need translate into action some of these directions which demand separation. Let us, therefore, solemnly look at the conduct to be pursued.
1. You see the precept before us requires us to form a judgment of the character of others. You must do so, or you cannot obey this precept. Elsewhere you are forbidden to judge, but you are to bring into harmony that prohibition with this direction. You are to do both. It often strikes me as exceedingly odd, that men who object very much to our forming judgments of the character of others in religious matters, do form judgments of the characters of others in commercial matters. A young man applies for a situation, and the employer, who happens to object to any judgment being formed as to the religious life of another, will thoroughly investigate the character of that young man--not his business habits merely, but everything about him--all his moral habits, and, it may be, even his religious tendencies and dispositions. Well, if the thing be right in one sphere, why is it not right in another? If it have God’s sanction in one sphere, why has it not God’s sanction in another?
2. By the text, too, we are required to act upon an unfavourable judgment when that judgment is unfavourable. You decide that certain persons have the form of godliness, but are denying the power, and from such you are to turn away. What does this show? This shows that, so far as we can secure it, the communion of Christians must be pure. But let us look again at this precept. “From such” let the confessedly religious man “turn away”--from the men who have the form of godliness without the power.
3. From such let the inquirer turn away, he will learn nothing of these. And from such, let the really religious man, as a matter of stern duty in every sphere, turn away where his association with such would seem to be a sanction. (S. Martin.)
Religion more than formality
I. The “power” of godliness is here distinguished from the mere “form”: and indeed it is easy to show the difference between them. The one is the name--the other is the thing; the one is the appearance--the other is the reality. The one is the body--the other is the soul, that inspires every member, and penetrates every particle of the frame. Behold then the life of the real Christian, and trace the operation of the power of godliness there.
1. It appears with regard to the ordinances of divine worship. Others who have only the form, come without expectation and prayer, and return without reflection and concern; they are satisfied with their attendance--but he is not. He is anxious to derive spiritual advantage from it: he enters the closet before he approaches the temple, and his language is, “O that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come even to His seat!”
2. It appears with regard to the dissipations of the world. He voluntarily resigns those amusements in which he once placed so much of his happiness: and returns no more to them. And why? If he were mindful of the country whence he came, he has opportunity to return: he is surrounded with the same allurements as others--why then does he not engage in these diversions again? Because he has found something infinitely more noble and more satisfying. And a greater good has power to abolish the impressions of a less. When the sun arises, the stars disappear. And the grapes of Eshcol cause us to forget the leeks and onions of Egypt.
3. You may see it in the mortification of sin. He denies himself; he crucifies the flesh with the affections and lusts; he plucks out a right eye, and cuts off a right hand. You may see it in what he is willing to sacrifice and to suffer. Read history: read the book of martyrs; read the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews--and see what the force of this powerful principle can accomplish.
4. The vigour of this principle appears also in other sufferings. How many are there at this moment, enduring a variety of grief in private, whose names will never be published in history, but who, in the eye of God, are greater than the admired heroes of the age!
II. Inquire whence it is that so many who deny the power are still disposed to maintain the form.
1. The form of godliness requires no strenuous exertions; demands no costly sacrifices. It is the power of it that renders the Christian life a “striving to enter in at the strait gate”; a “wrestling with principalities and powers”; a “running the race that is set before us”; a “fighting the good fight of faith.” And it is this, too, that incurs opposition from the world. It will indeed be acknowledged that sometimes the very form draws forth the rancour of others: and of all people those are most to be pitied who are persecuted for what they have not; who are reproached as Christians without deserving the honour. But upon a nearer inspection of these mere formalists, the world is generally made quite easy. They see that they were mistaken in the characters; they find that they are “of their own,” though wearing a religious uniform.
2. Persons are sometimes induced to take up the form of godliness through the influence of their connections. From some of them they feel the influence of authority; from some, the influence of friendship; from some the influence of business. “Hence,” says M. Henry, “they assume a form of godliness to take their reproach, but not the power of it to take away their sin.”
3. They avail themselves of the form of godliness to preserve peace within. For, without something of religion, conscience would rage and clamour; but by means of this, it is amused and quieted; and this renders it so extremely dangerous. (W. Jay.)
Godliness--its form and its power
I. By the form of godliness may be properly understood, not only a specious practice of religious duties, exhibited to public notice, but all external acts of worship, all rites and ceremonies, all stated observances, and all compliance with temporary and local injunctions and regularities. In ages and countries in which ignorance has produced, and nourished, superstition, many artifices have been invented of practising piety without virtue, and repentance without amendment. As almost every man is, by nature or by accident, exposed to danger from particular temptations, and disposed to some vices more than to others; so all are, either by disposition of mind, or the circumstances of life, inclined or compelled to some laudable practices. Of this happy tendency it is common to take advantage, by pushing the favourite, or the convenient, virtue to its utmost extent, and to lose all sense of deficiency in the perpetual contemplation of some single excellence.
II. The power of godliness is contained in the love of God and of our neighbour; in that sum of religion in which, as we are told by the Saviour of the world, the law and the prophets are comprised.
1. The love of God will engage us to trust in His protection, to acquiesce in His dispensations, to keep His laws, to meditate on His perfection, and to declare our confidence and submission, by profound and frequent adoration, to impress His glory on our minds by songs of praise, to inflame our gratitude by acts of thanks giving, to strengthen our faith, and exalt our hope, by pious meditations, and to implore His protection of our imbecility, and His assistance of our frailty by humble supplication; and when we love God with the whole heart, the power of godliness will be shown by steadiness in temptation, by patience in affliction, by faith in the Divine promises, by perpetual dread of sin, by continual aspirations after higher degrees of holiness, and contempt of the pains and pleasures of the world, when they obstruct the progress of religious excellence.
2. The power of godliness, as it is exerted in the love of our neighbour, appears in the exact and punctual discharge of all the relative and social duties. He whom this power actuates and directs, will regulate his conduct, so as neither to do injury, nor willingly to give offence.
III. How far it is necessary to the Christian life, that the form and power of godliness should subsist together. It may be with great reason affirmed that, though there may be the appearance of godliness without the reality, there can hardly be the reality without the appearance. The form of godliness, as it consists in the rites of religion, is the instrument given us by God for the acquisition of the power; the means as well as the end are prescribed; nor can he expect the help of grace, or the Divine approbation, who seeks them by any other method than that which infinite wisdom has condescended to appoint. (John Taylor, LL. D.)
Of the form and the power of godliness
The word μόρφωσις, which is here translated “form,” signifies the show or image of a thing, which is dead and ineffectual: in opposition to the reality and life, which is quick and powerful. And, I think, this word is but once more used in the New Testament, and much in the same sense; viz., for an empty and ineffectual knowledge of religion without the practice of it (Romans 2:17-21).
I. To snow wherein a form of godliness doth consist. In general it consists in an external show and profession of religion, or of any eminent part of it, or of that which is reputed to be so.
1. An external devotion.
2. An orthodox profession of the Christian faith.
3. Enthusiasm and pretence to inspiration.
4. A great external show of mortification.
5. An imperfect repentance and partial reformation.
6. The appearance and ostentation of some particular grace and virtue.
7. A great zeal for some party, or opinions, or circumstances of religion.
8. Silliness and freakishness, and either a pretended or real ignorance in the common affairs and concernments of human life.
9. Much noise and talk about religion.
II. Wherein the power of godliness doth consist.
1. A due sense of God, and suitable affections towards Him. This is the principle and fountain of all religion, from whence all actions of piety and goodness do spring.
2. A sincere and diligent use of the means and instruments of religion, such as prayer, reading, and hearing the Word of God, and receiving the sacraments.
3. A firm and steady resolution of well-doing. This is the result of a true and sincere repentance, and the great principle of a new life; and if it be firm and steadfast, it will derive its influence into all our actions; but if it be wavering and inconsistent, it is only the occasion of a religious mood and fit, but not the principle of a religious state.
4. As the proper and genuine effect of all these, the practice of a good life, in the several parts and instances of it.
(1) In the mortifying of our lusts, the lusts of intemperance and uncleanness, covetousness, and ambition. He that is a slave to any of these, his religion is but a form, how glorious a show soever it may make.
(2) In the subduing of our passions, wrath, hatred malice, envy, and revenge.
(3) In the government of our tongues.
(4) In the several virtues of a good life, in opposition to these and all other vices; such as are the truth and justice, humility and meekness, patience and contentedness with our condition, peaceableness and charity to those that are in want and necessity, a readiness to forgive our enemies, and an universal love and kindness to all men.
III. Some marks whereby we may know when these are separated, when there is a form of religion without the power of it.
1. He hath only “a form of godliness,” who minds merely the external part of religion, without any inward sense of it.
2. He that useth only the means of religion, without regard to the end and effect of it.
3. He that is grossly and knowingly defective in the practice of any part of it.
IV. That a form of godliness, without the power of it, is insignificant to all the great ends and purposes of religion. The great ends that men can reasonably propound to themselves in being religious, are these three:
1. The pleasing of God.
2. The peace and tranquillity of our own minds.
3. The saving of our souls. Now a form of godliness, without the power of it, is unavailable to all these purposes.
V. That he who takes upon him a form of religion, without the power of it, doth not only lose all the considerable advantages of religion, but he hath two great disadvantages by it.
1. He hath the trouble of making a show and appearance of religion, without the real benefit of it.
2. He incurs a heavier sentence upon this account, that he hath a form of religion, and yet is destitute of the power of it.
1. To take heed of mistaking the form of religion for the power of it.
2. To take heed of being captivated and seduced by those who have only a form of godliness.
3. To persuade men to mind the life, and power and substance of religion. (Archbp. Tillotson.)
The form of godliness without the power
I. The men.
1. What they had--“A form of godliness.”
(1) What is a form of godliness. Attention
(a) to the ordinances of religion.
(b) Attendance with the assemblies of God’s people.
(c) A great deal of religious talk Tongue-godliness is an abomination if the heart be destitute of grace.
(d) More than this, some have a form of godliness upheld and published by religious activity. It is possible to be intensely active in the outside work of the Church, and yet to know nothing of spiritual power.
(2) But now, as these people had not the power of godliness, how did they come to hold the form of it?
(a) Some come by the form of godliness in an hereditary way. Their ancestors were always godly people, and they almost naturally take up with the professions of their fathers. This is common, and where it is honest, it is most commendable. But remember, not generation, but regeneration, makes the Christian.
(b) Others have accepted the form of godliness by the force of authority and influence. There is danger lest we fail to have personal repentance and personal faith, and are content to lean upon the opinions of others.
(c) So have I seen the form of godliness taken up on account of friendships. Many a time courtship and marriage have led to a formal religiousness, lacking heart.
(d) I do not doubt that, in these silken days, many have a form of godliness because of the respect it brings them.
(e) Certain persons assume the form of godliness from a natural religious disposition. They could not be happy unless they were attending where God is worshipped, nor unless they were reckoned among the believers in Christ. They must play at religion, even if they do not make it their life business.
(f) From the days of Iscariot until now, some have taken up the form of godliness to gain thereby. To make gain of godliness is to imitate the son of perdition.
(g) A form of godliness has come to many because it brings them ease of conscience, and they are able, like the Pharisee, to thank God that they are not as other men are.
2. What they did not have--“The power.”
(1) What is that power? God Himself is the power of godliness. The Holy Spirit is the life and force of it.
(2) What is the general history of those who have not this power? Well, their course usually runs thus: they do not begin with denying the power, but they begin by trying to do without it. They try to persuade themselves that they have been changed: they accept emotion as regeneration, and a belief of doctrine for belief in Christ. It is rather hard at first to reckon brass as gold, but it grows easier as it is persisted in. At the first they are a good deal suspicious of themselves, but they industriously kill every question by treating it as a needless doubt. Thus, by degrees, they believe a lie. The next step is easy: they deceive themselves, and come to believe that they are surely saved. At last they take the daring step of denying the power. Being without it themselves, they conceive that others are without it also. They get on very well without any supernatural power, and others, no doubt, do the same; only they add a little cant to it to please the very godly folk. They practically deny the power in their lives, so that those who see them and take them for Christians say, “There really is nothing in it; for these people are as we are. They have a touch of paint here, and a little varnish there, but it is all the same work.” Practically, their actions assure the world that there is no power in Christianity; it is only a name. Very soon, privately, in their hearts they think it is so, and they invent doctrines to match. By and by, in some cases, these people profanely deny the Divine power of our only faith, and then they become the greatest enemies of the Cross of Christ.
II. The wicked folly of this hypocritical conduct.
1. They degrade the very name of Christ. If there is no spiritual power in godliness, it is worth nothing.
2. There is no value in such a dead form. I have read that the swan was not allowed to be offered upon the altar of God, because, although its feathers are as white as snow, yet its skin is black. God will not accept that external morality which conceals internal impurity.
3. There is no use in mere formality. In the depth of winter, can you warm yourself before a painted fire? Could you dine off the picture of a feast when you are hungry?
4. There is no comfort in it. The form without the power has nothing in it to warm the heart, raise the spirits, or strengthen the mind against the day of sickness, or in the hour of death.
5. To have the form of godliness without the power of it, is to lack constancy in your religion. You never saw the mirage, but those who have travelled in the East, when they come home are sure to tell you about it. It is a very hot and thirsty day, and you are riding on a camel. Suddenly there rises before you a beautiful scene. Just a little from you are brooks of water, flowing between beds of osiers and banks of reeds and rushes. Yonder are palm trees and orange groves. Yes, and a city rises on a hilt, crowned with minarets and towers. You are rejoiced, and ask your guide to lead you nearer to the water which glistens in the sun. He grimly answers, “Take no notice, it is the mirage. There is nothing yonder but the burning sand.” You can scarce believe him, it seems so real; but lo, it is all gone, like a dream of night. So unsubstantial is the hope which is built upon the form of godliness without the power. The white ants will eat up all the substance of a box, and yet leave it standing, till a touch causes the whole fabric to fall in dust: beware of a profession of which the substance has been eaten away. Believe in nothing which has not the stamp of eternity upon it.
6. In reality, this kind of religion is in opposition to Christ. It is Jannes and Jambres over again: the magician of hypocrisy is trying to work miracles which belong to God only. Nobody can do so much damage to the Church of God as the man who is within its walls, but not within its life.
7. This nominal godliness, which is devoid of power, is a shameful thing. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The power of godliness
I. Godliness is powerful because it is the embodiment of God.
II. Godliness is powerful because it is a new birth to righteousness, truth, and love.
III. Godliness is powerful because it is a growth.
II. Godliness is powerful because it is a personal property. You see upon the desk of that organ a music book; but the book does not sing. The gospel is like a music book. Here are the rules for the harmony of life. Godliness is singing from the book of Christ; it is playing upon the heavenly harp; it is putting the music of God into one’s own life. (W. Birch.)
Motives and dissuasives from familiarity with wicked men
1. Consider that familiarity with wicked men will make us like them, we are very apt to resemble those that we converse with, and as he that walks with wise men shall be wiser (Proverbs 13:20), so he that walks with wicked men shall be worse. The best mettles, when mixed with baser, are embased thereby; mix gold with brass or silver with copper, and you debase the coin; for saints to familiarly join with the limbs of Satan, not only endangers, but debaseth them. Man is a poor, weak, unconstant creature, and apt to go astray, and therefore we should shun temptations.
2. This familiarity with them may harden them in their sin, God hath ordained our separation, and withdrawing ourselves from them, as a means to humble them, and turn them from sin (1 Thessalonians 5:22.)
3. There is no comfort to be found in such society; when trouble comes, miserable comforters are they all. When Judas fell into trouble of conscience, he ran to his wicked associates, but see what miserable comforters they are to him in his extremity (Matthew 27:4).
4. It is a dishonour to our Lord and Master to be familiar with known traitors and rebels to Him. Every wicked man rebels against God.
5. It is impossible that ever we should be good so long as we delight in wicked company.
6. By familiarity with such we do not only endanger our spiritual, but our temporal estate also. (W. Birch.)
Form and power
I do not suppose that these words need much explanation. “Godliness,” in the New Testament, means not only the disposition which we call piety, but the conduct which flows from it, and which we may call practical religion. The form or outward appearance of that we all understand. But what is the “denying the power thereof”? It does not consist in words, but in deeds. In these latter epistles we find “denying” frequently used as equivalent to “abjuring,” renouncing, casting off. For instance, in a passage singularly and antithetically parallel to that of my text, we read “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts,” which simply means throwing off their dominion.
I. Observe the sad frequency of such a condition. Wherever any great cause or principle is first launched into the world, it evokes earnest enthusiasm, and brings men to heroisms of consecration and service. And so, when Christianity was first launched, there was less likelihood of its attracting to itself men who were not in earnest, and who were mere formalists. As years go on, the primitive enthusiasms die out, and the cause which was once all freshly radiant and manifestly heaven-born becomes an earthly institution, there is a growing tendency to gather round it all sorts of superficial, half-and-half adherents. And every church has its full share of such people; loose adherents, clogs upon all movement, who bring down the average of warmth like the great icebergs that float in the Atlantic and lower the temperature of the summer all over Europe. They make consecration “eccentric”; they make consistent, out-and-out Christian living, “odd,” “unlike the ordinary thing.” And they pull down the spirituality of the Church almost to the level of the world.
II. Think, next, of the underground working of this evil. These people about whom Paul is speaking in my text were, I suppose, mostly, though by no means exclusively, conscious pretenders to what they did not possess. But the number of hypocrites, in the full sense of the word, is amazingly small, and the men whom you would brand as most distinctly so, if you came to talk to them, would amaze you to find how entirely ignorant they were of the fact that they were dramatising and pretending to piety, and that there was next to no reality of it in them. A very little bit of gold, beaten out very thin, will cover over, with a semblance of value, an enormous area. And men beat out the little modicum of sincerity that they have so very thin that it covers, and gives a deceptive appearance of brilliancy and solidity to an enormous amount of windy flatulence and mere pretence. The worse a man is, the less he knows it. The more completely a professing Christian has lost his hold of the substance and is clinging only to the form, the less does he suspect that this indictment has any application to him. The more completely a man’s limbs are frost-bitten the more comfortable and warm they are, and the less does he know it. I need say little about the reasons for this unconsciousness. We are all accustomed to take very lenient views, when we take any at all, of our own character; and the tendency of all conduct is to pull down conscience to the level of conduct, and to vindicate that conduct by biassed decisions of a partial conscience. The underground enemies of our Christian earnestness are far more dangerous than the apparent and manifest antagonists; and there are many men amongst us who would repel with indignation a manifest assault against their godliness, who yield without resistance, and almost without consciousness, to the sly seductions of unsuspected evil. The arrow that flies in darkness is more deadly than the pestilence that wasteth at noonday.
III. Further, notice the ever-operating causes that produce this condition.
1. I suppose that one, at anyrate, of the main examples of this “form” was participation in the simple worship of the primitive Church. And although the phrase by no means refers merely to acts of worship, still that is one of the main fields in which this evil is manifest. Many of us substitute outward connection with the Church for inward union with Jesus Christ. All external forms have a tendency to assert themselves, and to detain in themselves, instead of helping to rise above themselves, our poor sense-ridden natures. Seeing that the purest and the simplest of forms may become like a dirty window, an obscuring medium which shuts out instead of lets in the light, it seems to me that the Churches are wisest which admit least of the dangerous element into their external worship, and try to have as little of form as may keep the spirit. I know that simple forms may be abused quite as much as elaborate ones. Let us be very sure that we do not substitute Church membership, coming to chapel, going to prayer-meeting, teaching in Sunday schools, reading devout books, and the like, for the inward submission to the power.
2. Another cause always operating in the tendency which all action of every kind has to escape from the dominion of its first motives, and to become merely mechanical and habitual. Habit is a most precious ally of goodness, but habitual goodness tends to become involuntary and mechanical goodness, and so to cease to be goodness at all. And the more that we can, in each given case, make each individual act of godliness, whether it be in worship or in practical life, the result of a fresh approach to the one central and legitimate impulse of the Christian life, the better it will be for ourselves.
3. And then, still farther, there is the constant operation of earth and sense and daily duties and pressing cares, which war against the reality and completeness of our submission to the power of godliness. Grains of sand, microscopically minute in the aggregate, bury the temples and the images of the gods in the Nile Valley. The multitude of small cares and duties which are blown upon us by every wind have the effect of withdrawing us, unless we are continually watchful, from that one foundation of all, the love of Jesus Christ felt in our daily lives.
IV. So, lastly, let me point you to the discipline which may avert this evil.
1. First and foremost, I would say let us cherish a clear and continual recognition of the reality of the danger. Forewarned is forearmed. Rigid, habitual self-inspection, in the light of God’s Word, is an all-important help to prevent this sliding into superficiality of our Christian life. In a country which is only preserved by the dykes from being swallowed up by the sea the minutest inspection of the rampart is the condition of security, and if there be a hole big enough for a mouse to creep through the water will come in and make a gap wide enough to drown a province in a little while. And so, seeing that we have such dangers round about us, and that the most formidable of them all are powers that work in the dark, let us be very sure that our eyes have searched, as well as we can, the inmost corners of our lives, and that no lurking vermin lie beneath the unturned-up stones.
2. And then, lastly, and as that without which all else is vain, let us make continual and earnest and contrite efforts day by day to renew and deepen our personal communion with Jesus Christ. He is the source of the power which godliness operates in our lives, and the closer we keep to Him the more it will flood our hearts and make us real, out-and-out Christians, and not shallow and self-deceived pretenders. The tree that had nothing but leaves upon it hid its absence of fruit by its abundance of foliage. The Master came, as He comes to you and to me, seeking fruit, and if He finds it not He will perpetuate the barrenness by His blasting word, “No fruit grow upon thee henceforward forever.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Forms of religion necessary
1. Forms are necessary to religion as the means of its manifestation. As the invisible God manifests His nature--His power, wisdom, and goodness, in visible material forms, in the bright orbs of heaven, in the everlasting hills, in the broad earth with its fruits and flowers, and in all the living things which He has made,--so the invisible soul of man reveals its convictions and feelings in the outward acts which it performs. A form is the flag, the banner, the symbol of an inward life; it is to a religious belief what the body is to the soul; as the soul would be utterly unknown without the body, so religion would be unknown without its forms, a light hidden under a bushel, and not set up in a candlestick that it may give light to all that are in the house.
2. Forms are necessary not only to the manifestation of religion, but to its nourishment and continued existence, h religion which expressed itself in no outward word or act would soon die out of the soul altogether. The attempt to embody truth and feeling, to express it in words and actions, is necessary to give it the character of living principle in the soul: in this respect forms are like the healthy exercise which at once expresses and increases the vigorous life of the body, or they may be compared to the leaves of a tree, which not only proceed from its inward life, but catch the vitalising influences of the light, the rain, and the atmosphere, and convey them down to the root.
3. What, then, is that formalism which is everywhere in the Scripture, and especially in the discourses of our Lord, described as an offence and an abomination in the sight of God? It is the substitution of the outward rite in the place of the inner spirit and life of the soul; it is the green leaf which still hangs upon the dead branch which has been lopped off. (Christian Age.)
Form without power
Some years ago the captain of a Greenland whaling vessel found himself at night surrounded by icebergs and “lay-to” till the morning, expecting every moment to be ground to pieces. As the morning dawned he sighted a ship at no great distance. Getting into a boat with some of his men he carefully picked his way through the lanes of open ice towards the mysterious looking craft. Coming alongside he hailed the vessel with a loud, “Ship ahoy!” but there was no response. He looked through the porthole and saw a man, evidently the captain, sitting at a table as if writing in a log-book. He again hailed the vessel, but the figure moved not. It was dead and frozen! On examination the sailors were found, some frozen among the hammocks, others in the cabin. From the last entry in the log-book it appeared this vessel had been drifting about the Arctic seas for thirteen years--a floating sepulchre, manned by a frozen crew. And there are souls to-day who have refused the Divine offer of life, forsaken the centres where they were warmed with hallowed influences, and drifted into the chilling regions of Arctic darkness and frost. Many of these have certain appearances of Christian life, and a name to live. (Christian Journal.)
A deceptive form
On the farm of Manorlees, in Fifeshire, and in the house of Mr. Alexander Gibson, a large and very tempting ham hung from one of the rafters running across the ceiling. In the same house there was a rat, whose taste lay strongly in the direction of ham, and this rat, with rare instinct, gnawed a hole in the woodwork directly over the tempting morsel, and, descending, ate itself into the inside of it. How long the excavating went on is not known, but one day the housewife found it necessary to commence operations on the ham, when, on lifting it down, out bolted the depredator. The ham was a perfect shell, skin and bone only remaining to show its form. The animal, after feeding sumptuously, had commenced to build a nest inside. This anecdote is not simply amusing; it serves well to illustrate the operation of secret sin, eating away our spiritual life till nothing remains but a deceptive form of godliness--the mere rind and shell of religion. (Christian Herald.)
Form without power
Across your path, and on the ground, lies stretched out in death, a mighty tree, tall and strong--fit mast to carry a cloud of canvas, and bear unbent the strains of tempests. You put your foot lightly on it; and how great your surprise when, breaking through the bark, it sinks deep into the body of the tree--a result much less owing to the pressure of your foot than to the poisonous fungi and foul, crawling insects that have attacked its core. They have left the outer rind uninjured--but hollowed out its heart. Take care your heart is not hollowed out, and nothing left you but the crust and shell of an empty profession. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
Religion, false and true
A painter has undertaken to portray on his canvas flames of fire. He does it so exactly that you can hardly detect it from real flames. But look! you see flies and other insects passing across it; they could never pass across real flames. Just so spiritual insects, in the shape of sins, will pass across the mere professor, which they could never do across one who had the power of real religion in his heart; the former has but the “form” of flames “of godliness,” the influential power is wanting. (Dr. Jenkyn.)
Hollow professors are as hollow trees in an old wood--tall, but pithless, sapless, unsound. Their formality is fitly compared to a bulrush, whereof the colour is fresh, the skin smooth: he is very exact that can find a knot in a bulrush (Isaiah 58:5). But peel it, and what shall you find within but a kind of spongeous, unsubstantial substance? These, as if religion were a comedy, do in voice and gesture act Divine duties, in heart renounce them. Hypocrites only act religion, play devotion; like they are to the ostrich, saith Hugo, which hath wings, but flies not. The swan in the Law was rejected for sacrifice because of her black skin under white feathers. Art may take a man more than nature; but with God, the more art the less acceptance: He loveth truth in the inwards (Psalms 51:6). (J. Trapp.)
Formalism not religion
A hypocrite is a contemptible person, whether he is in the Church or out of it; whether he is deceiving in the name of respectability or religion. He is not a Christian any more than a crocodile is a nightingale or a fungus is a lily.
Formalism in religion
A gentleman once entered a hall with his son. They saw a number of well-dressed people--some of them standing together in groups, others apart; some sitting in various postures. The son’s attention was fixed by a pleasant-looking gentleman, somewhat gaudily dressed. He said, “Father, who is that gentleman? He seems a mild, pleasant looking person; but what a singular dress he wears! Who is he?” “Ask the gentleman who stands near you,” said the father. “If you please, sir, can you inform me who that gentleman opposite is?” No answer. The boy thinks it strange. At last the father tells him, “My son, those are only wax figures: there is no life in them; they are all outside, very fair to look at, but there is no soul, no life: they are outside and nothing else.” So it is with those who have no internal religion. (Dictionary of Illustrations.)
Pharnaces, the son of Mithridates, the king of Pontus, sending a crown to Caesar at the time he was in rebellion against him, he refused the present, saying, “Let him first lay down his rebellion, and then I will receive his crown.” There are many who set a crown of glory upon the head of Christ by a good profession, and yet plant a crown of thorns upon His head by an evil conversation. (T. Secker.)
Danger of the office of preacher
There is always danger to those who have to talk much about religion that their religion may become that of the head, rather than the true religion of the heart. I have found it necessary myself to dedicate an hour or two at midnight to serious meditation, self-examination, and prayer. (Dean Hook.)
Some may live upon forms, but there is no dying upon forms. Formalists, like Pharaoh’s lean kine, are full-fed, yet lean. To pursue the ways of God with a guilty conscience is Satan’s great receipt for perpetual failure.
2 Timothy 3:6
Lead captive silly women.
Creeping into houses
The expression “which creep into houses,” although perfectly natural, and one which, even in these Western countries, could be used with propriety to express the method in which these deceiving and perverting men make their way into households, yet, when we remember the comparative state of seclusion in which women usually lived, and still live, in Eastern lands, the words used by Paul acquire an increased force. Special fraud and deceit was needful for these false teachers to creep into the women’s apartments in Asia. (H. D. M. Spence, D. D.)
Cheaters must get some credit before they can cozen; and all falsehood, if not founded in some truth would not be fixed in any belief. (T. Fuller.)
Woman and sin
There lies in the womanly character the foundation; as for the highest development of the power of faith, so also for the highest revelation of the power of sin (comp. Revelation 17:1-18.). Josephus also states that the Pharisees especially had found much support amongst women (“Antiq.” 17:2). Compare the account, moreover, of the rich Fulvia of Rome, who was induced by two Jewish impostors to furnish a considerable sum of gold, under the supposition that it was for the temple at Jerusalem (“Antiq.” 18:3). (Van Oosterzee.)
1. As they are impudent, so they are of a fraudulent, subtle, sly, insinuating temper; they vent not their errors openly (especially, not at first) but they secretly and slily creep into private houses, and there they sell their wares (Jude 1:4), they privily bring in damnable heresies (2 Peter 2:1; Galatians 2:4). Truth loveth the light and seeks no corners.
2. These impostors observe a method in seducing silly women, who being the weaker sex, are sooner won over to their way, as being less able to withstand the shock of a temptation. As warriors go about a city observing where the wall is weakest, lowest, and unguarded, and there they make their greatest assault; and as thieves set not upon strong, armed men, but upon weak, unarmed ones, so seducers love not to set upon strong, grounded, judicious, discerning Christians, but it is the weak and ignorant which cannot discern their frauds, but like children are tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, that become their prey (Proverbs 14:15; Romans 16:18; Ephesians 4:14); man is, or at leastwise should be, more strong and prudent to resist temptations than women are. They catch not grave and truly pious matrons, but light women which prefer their lusts before Christ. It is the light chaff which is tossed with every wind, when the massy wheat abides in the floor. (T. Hall, B. D.)
2 Timothy 3:7
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Ever learning, never attaining
This is one of the features of the “perilous times” of the “last days.” “Men shall be selfish.” This lies at the root of all. Self enthroned where God ought to be--self pampered, to the neglect alike of duty and charity--this will explain anything in the longest and blackest list of vices. The text presents another characteristic of the perilous times. These selfish men, without natural affection, despisers of all that is good, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, yet tenacious of the form of that godliness of which they have utterly set at nought the power, shall exercise a strange empire, none the less, over the homes and over the lives and over the consciences of women. Professing themselves religious, calling themselves teachers of truth, they will insinuate themselves into houses, and captivate by their offers of an indulgent and accommodating Christianity, just those who need above all others a discipline of plain speaking--silly women laden with sins, led this way and that way by divers lusts. It is of these captives, these victims, of a debased and degenerate teaching, that the words of the text were written. There are those who, though they are ever learning, are never able to arrive at this sort of knowledge of truth. They are not careless hearers, they are not inattentive readers, they are not uninterested inquirers. If they were this, the wonder of the non-attainment would be at an end. But there is a wonder. The cry and the complaint is, “I am always learning. I never allow a new book, which promises light upon some part of the truth, to escape my notice. I am athirst for knowledge; I would give all I possess to be quite sure.”
1. There is in some minds an impatience of process and progress, fatal of itself to safe and solid attainment. “By little and little” is the motto of the spiritual dealing, whether it be in the “putting out of enemies” or in the discovery of truth.
2. Another cause of disappointment lies in confusion of thought as to the nature of spiritual certainty. If God speaks, certainly He will give me proof of it; but a proof in the same region and in the like material with the thing to be proved; not an evidence of sight, touch, or smell, as to things which, by their very hypothesis, lie outside it, but an evidence appealing to conscience, heart, and soul, as He made each; satisfying the whole (not one part) of me, that the thing of which He gives me the information is beneficial, is wholesome, is good for me--and, because good, therefore also true.
3. A further error contributes, in many, to this defeat of knowing, and it is the want of instant action on the footing of the thing learned. Many men listen to a sermon without the slightest intention of doing any one single thing in consequence. A man has been interested in a treatise upon Prayer, upon Inspiration, upon the Atonement. He closes the book with a feeling of satisfaction--now he can give a reason for the hope that is in him. Yet he feels that he has not “come to the knowledge” of that truth. It is not a part of him. It does not enter into his thought, mind, and life. It does not influence him; it has not flowed into him--for that is influence; it will not flow out from him into any one else. Why is this? Because he has not acted upon the thing learned. He has not carried out the acquisition of the head into the heart, if that is its province; or into the conduct, if its region of operation is there. A man powerfully impressed with the reasonableness of prayer will instantly set himself to pray with a new stimulus and a new intensity. If he does not he may have “learned”--as St. Paul would have us distinguish--but he cannot be said to “know.” A man who has received a new instruction on the subject of inspiration, forthwith opens his Bible, kneels on his knees with it, feels the breath of God in it all as he reads, and echoes each sentence of it in earnest prayer. (Dean Vaughan.)
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth
The case here represented may perhaps strike us as having something in it rather extraordinary. That they who take no pains to learn should never grow wiser is what we can readily understand, but that there should be those who do labour in the work of religion and yet never succeed is surely not a little remarkable. Strange, however, as it may on the first view appear, the case is by no means uncommon. It will, then, be useful to investigate the causes of this. We may lay it down for a certain truth, that it is not owing to anything unattainable in the object itself.
1. The knowledge which is necessary to salvation is open to the most ordinary capacity. The great leading truths of the Bible are plain and simple, and, where the mind is in a right disposition, are easily understood.
2. The knowledge of the truth is not unattainable, because we have the promise of Christ that it shall be imparted to every one, be his condition what it may, who is sincere in seeking it. Without Divine illumination it is impossible for any human being to become wise unto salvation. But this illumination God is willing to pour upon the minds Of all who call upon Him for that purpose. The causes of their failure are to be traced entirely to themselves.
(1) One great cause of their coming short of saving knowledge is this--that they do not seek it in the right way. In the Bible God’s will is revealed to us, but to understand the Bible, and to derive effectual and saving information from it, we must have recourse to the Author of the Bible. But this method the persons of whom we are speaking do not pursue. Reason, with them, is all-sufficient. Reason, they think, is equal to the investigation of every subject; and the consequence is, that what reason cannot account for, what reason cannot comprehend, they refuse to admit. “The meek will He guide in judgment; and the meek will He teach His way.”
(2) Another reason why men, though continually learning, come not to the knowledge of the truth, is that they make a wrong use of the means of knowledge; that is, they mistake the means for the end--they mistake the means of religion for religion itself. They have hitherto satisfied themselves with the performance of the outward duties of prayer, reading, and hearing, without ever looking further; without ever asking themselves seriously, “What do we these things for? Have the ordinances of religion produced in us any of the effects for which they were designed?”
(3) The secret love of sin is another obstruction to the attainment of saving knowledge God tells the house of Israel that He will not be inquired of by them because they “set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumbling-block of their iniquity before their face.” “If any man will do His will he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.” “The secret of the Lord is with them only that fear Him.”
(4) They refuse to obey their convictions. They do not act up to the light they possess. (J. Boucher, M. A.)
Caution against enticement from the truth
1. I wish this were not the sin of silly men as well as of silly women, to be always learning, yet never come to the knowledge of the truth; how many are men in years, yet children in understanding (1 Corinthians 14:20). And when for the time they might have been teachers, they had need to be taught the elements of religion (Hebrews 5:12). Though the knowledge of the best in this life be imperfect, and we are always learners here, yet we must strive toward perfection and not always stick in the place of bringing forth (Hosea 13:13); nor be like a horse in a mill, still going round in the same place; or like a picture that grows not, but is the same now that it was twenty years ago. Such barren trees are nigh to cursing (Luke 13:9), and such unprofitable learners are left by God justly to the power of seducers, as malefactors are to jailers. This is the true cause of all those errors and sins amongst us (Psalms 95:10; Jeremiah 9:3; Matthew 22:19). As for ourselves, let us inquire for the good way, and when we have found it, sit not still, but be walking from knowledge to knowledge, from grace to grace, and from strength to strength, till at last we come to our celestial Sion.
2. Since seducers are so ready to seduce women, how careful should that sex be to shun conversing or disputing with them. Let every one know his own strength, and, if he be wise, keep within his own bounds.
3. Since women often are Satan’s instruments, by which he seduceth many, take heed of women; let not those syrens enchant thee so as to leap into the depths of errors. Consider how many of thy betters have fallen by them. Whosoever they be that seek to draw thee from thy God, let thy heart and thy hand be against them (Deuteronomy 13:6; Deuteronomy 13:8-9). (T. Hall, B. D.)
There is a right and wrong way of looking at everything. As a rule, whatever is most valuable in its use is most harmful in its abuse. The keener the surgeon’s knife, the more serviceable it is in skilled hands, but the more dangerous in hands unskilled. Education--learning--is of the utmost value, rightly acquired and rightly used. Misapplied--used as an end, not a means--it is a cogent factor of evil.
1. It is unsatisfactory and embittering. As a man who ascends the mountain-side far enough to enter the blinding mists, but not far enough to overlook them, so is the man of godless learning.
2. It destroys the humility and childlike simplicity so essential to a knowledge of real truth.
3. It is inefficient to cleanse from sin. Science, philosophy, all the learning of all the schools cannot, with out Christ’s atonement, regenerate sinful man. Give us, then, education; but let it be complete, as far as it goes--moral building up as well as intellectual. Cried Grotlus, the eminent historian, on his death-bed: “Ah! I have consumed all my life in a laborious doing of nothing. I would give all my learning and honour for the plain integrity of John Urick”--a poor man of remarkable piety. (Homiletic Monthly.)
What would be thought of a chemist who should conduct an experiment day after day, making a number of little variations in his method, but always withholding the deciding element from the crucible, or else persistently refusing to look at the result? Or what would be thought of a merchant always reckoning up his figures, but never writing down the final sums? Or what of a captain who should sail his ship in a circle? Or of a traveller always on the road, never reaching home or inn? (A Raleigh, D. D.)
Activity without progress
Two sailors happened to be on a military parade-ground when the soldiers were at drill, going through the evolution of marking time. One sailor, observing the other watching the movement of the company very attentively, with eyes fixed and arms akimbo, asked him what he thought of it. “Well, Jack,” replied his comrade, “I am thinking there must be a pretty strong tide running this morning, for these poor fellows have been pulling away this half-hour, and have not got an inch ahead yet.”
No further on the road
“How wise I am!” cried the finger-post to a willow-stump by his side. “Are you?” said the willow. “Am I?” indignantly retorted the post. “Do you see my arms? Are not the name to the great town, and road to it and distance from it, plainly written there?” “Ah, yes!” said the willow. “Then you must acknowledge how superior I am to you. Why! I am a public teacher.” “True, indeed,” answered the willow, “and learned you are; but, as to wisdom, I see little difference between you and me. You know the way to the city, I believe, and are the means of enabling many to find it; but here you have stood these twenty years, and I don’t see that you have got a step farther on the road than I have, who don’t profess to understand anything about it.” (Original Fables.)
2 Timothy 3:8-9
As Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses.
Jannes and Jambres
I. The nature of the opposition offered by these men to Moses. You do not find that they tried to make light of the miracles of Moses, or call in question their genuineness, or anything of the sort. No, they simply tried by imitations to depreciate the value of the real. They so surrounded the true diamond with cut glass copies that in the eye of an undiscerning public it was difficult to tell the difference. This is the kind of resistance the Church has to struggle against in the present day. The old, rough, brutal, physical opposition has passed away. It would be folly on the part of Satan to try and use such weapons now. Like a skilful angler he suits the fly on his hook to the season of the year. Variety, if not pleasing, is profitable to him in this respect. Having failed to do away with Christians, he now seeks to make the whole world Christian after his sort. Stamping out the genuine having proved an utter failure, he now seeks to swamp them with imitations of his own manufacture.
II. The influence of jannes and jambres. Jannes and Jambres wield an immense power in the present day, and it is no use shutting our eyes to the fact. Jannes is not to be got rid of with a laugh, nor Jambres with a smile of indifference. Their existence is a source of constant danger, and their presence in the professing Church does more to paralyze its testimony than all the outward opposition and persecution it has ever met. This form of Satanic resistance is an awful proof of the deep-sightedness of the great adversary. He knows that nothing can possibly deaden the power of the Church’s testimony more than flooding it with a number of cold formalists, who in the eyes of the world can do as much as the genuine Christian. And then when the world detects they are but shams and finds that it has been deceived, so much the better for him, for he knows that the whole Church will be judged by the impostors, and all put down as belonging to the same family. Counterfeits destroy confidence. This is true in everything. It is unprincipled rogues that make it so hard for honest men to get their bread. It is quackery that keeps the true medicine out of the field. It is bubble joint-stock companies that eat out all commercial trust, and make the very name to many a synonym for fraud. Everywhere the true and real are suffering through the influence of the false and base imitations. I have heard an anecdote somewhere that so exactly sets forth the idea I have in my mind I cannot but tell it. One gentleman made a wager with another that if he stood on London Bridge with a tray full of sovereigns and offered them to the public for sixpence each, he would not sell half a dozen of them in the day. All day long the man cried out, “Real sovereigns for sixpence,” and declared with all earnestness that he could guarantee their genuineness. Of course no one believed him and he sold none. Why? Because the public had so often seen sham sovereigns for sale that it never doubted they were the same. The gilt having come first had destroyed all faith in the gold. Just so in the spiritual world. The existence of Jannes and Jambres eats out all faith in the reality of any Christian life.
III. The end of their resistance. They were put to shame (see Exodus 8:18). Ah Jannes, it must have been a bitter moment when you stood convicted before all of being an impostor! How complete the collapse of their pretensions. So shall it he with their followers of to-day. This Paul most distinctly states in the verse following our text, “But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men as theirs also was.” “Folly”? No other word could better describe their resistance. The hypocrite is of all fools the greatest. He is almost certain to be unmasked in time, and even should he carry on the horrible deception unto the last, what shall it profit him when God calleth for his soul? Now just as Jannes and Jambres failed to do all that Moses did, so there are some things that the mere formalist can never accomplish. I will but mention two.
1. He has no power to bear trouble with joyfulness. His whole life being one of externals, when he is driven by force of circumstances to seek his joy in the life within, he fails, and fails utterly, for there is no life there. A sham Christianity withers up in days of trouble. It has no arms to put beneath a man when the dark waters of sorrow roll and surge around him. No, it can do none of these. It fails like the magicians when needed the most. The “form” may do for bright and sunny days when sorrow and sickness are unknown, but it requires the “power” to triumph in the winter night, and to “take joyfully the spoiling of the goods.” Put a Jannes or Jambres amidst a number of anxious souls, and tell him to speak to them and point them the way of peace. See how he fails.
2. If not, I pray you to remember that Jannes and Jambres were included in the doom of the Egyptians. When the angel of death walked through the streets of Egypt, there was no exception made. The form of religion does not save--the appearance of piety is of no avail. (A. G. Brown.)
Men must guard against error
This must teach us to keep our judgments pure, and our understandings clear, for it is our guide, and if that mislead us, we must needs fall into the ditch. Corruption in judgment (in some respects) is worse than corruption in manners, especially when the mind hath been enlightened with the knowledge of the truth; for this is the root of those corrupt manners that are amongst us. In the time of the Law, the leprosy in the head was of all other leprosies the most dangerous and destructive; the man that had it in his hand or feet was unclean, but if it were in his head then he was to be pronounced utterly unclean (Leviticus 13:44). Hence the Scripture gives so many caveats against errors and erroneous ones (Deuteronomy 13:3; Philippians 3:2; Colossians 2:8; 2 Peter 3:17; Matthew 7:13). Beware of false prophets; the word implies a diligent study and singular care, lest we be caught by such subtle adversaries. Keep your judgments pure.
1. There have been false teachers in all ages to oppose the truth and the professors of it. As Jannes and Jambres here oppose Moses, a meek, a learned, a faithful servant in all God’s house.
2. That as the devil hath his Jannes and Jambres to oppose the truth, so God hath His Moses and Aaron to uphold it. As the devil hath his domestic chaplains, so God hath His armed champions; and as the devil raiseth up oppressors, so God sends saviours.
3. A corrupt head and a corrupt heart usually go together; no sooner are men’s minds corrupted, but presently it follows they are reprobate concerning the faith; and if once men make shipwreck of faith, they will soon part with a good conscience too. Corrupt principles breed corrupt practices; and corrupt practices teach men to invent corrupt principles. Be sure, then, to keep your heads free from error, if ever you would have your hearts and hands pure from sin.
4. That false teachers are very dangerous persons--they are not such meek, innocent, harmless persons as some imagine. The apostle here tells us that they are impudent, fraudulent, resisters of the truth, men of corrupt heads, hearts, and hands; and what could he say more unless he should call them devils? and so he doth (2 Timothy 3:3), in the last days, men, especially seducing men (for all these nineteen sins are applicable also to the false teachers of the last times, as appears by the context (2 Timothy 3:5-6). These study to please men, and therefore they are no servants of Christ (Galatians 1:10), all their fine speeches are but like poison given in honey, which destroys more swiftly. They set a gloss upon their false tenets as tradesmen do upon their bad stuffs to make them sell the better. They can cite Scripture to draw you from Scripture, and tempt you to be irreligious by religious arguments misapplied. This is the devil’s great masterpiece which he hath now upon the wheel, he carries his deadliest poison in a golden cup (Revelation 17:4).
5. They wrest and abuse the Scriptures for their own ends. They do violence to the Law (Zephaniah 3:4), they wrest and wring it, they add, they detract, they change the sense, they set it on the tenters to fit it to their fancies, they turn it this way and that way as may best serve their purposes; they set it on the rack, and so make it speak what it never thought. They compel the Scriptures to go two miles, which of themselves would go but one. They deal with them as chemists do with natural bodies, which they torture to get that out of them which God and nature never put into them (2 Peter 3:16).
6. They seek their own glory, not God’s. They cry up nature, and decry grace, they cry up a light within them (which is no better than darkness), and cry down God’s word without them. Simon Magus sets up himself instead of God (Acts 8:9-10), they drive at self in all their actings (Rom 16:18; 2 Peter 2:3; 2 Peter 2:14). Impostors are always great self-seekers. These are contrary to God’s faithful ministers. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Resistance of the truth
1. Its weapons.
2. Its sworn comrades.
3. Its stubbornness.
4. Its final fate. (Van Oosterzee.)
Bounds set to spread of error
As God set bounds to the sea, saying, Hitherto shall ye come but no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed (Job 38:11), so He limits the malice and madness of men how far they shall prevail; He only can stop these seas of error, and bound these floods of false doctrine which are ready to overflow the face of the world. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Deceivers subject to providence of God
Our comfort is that both the deceivers and the deceived are ordered by the providence of God (Job 12:16); He sets down the time when they shall begin, and limits them how long they shall continue, He orders how far men shall deceive, and to what height they shall come and prevail, and when to stop them, that they may proceed no further: for as the maliciousness, so the deceivableness of men would know no bounds if God did not bound it; but because He doth, therefore though they would, yet they shall proceed no further. No man can do good till God assist him, and no man shall do hurt when God will stop him (Revelation 20:3). (T. Hall, B. D.)
Heresies are seldom long-lived--such meteors last not long, such mushrooms soon vanish; witness Becold, Knipperdolling, Phifer, etc. Though for a time they may deceive many, yet in a short time God discovers their hypocrisy to their reproach. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Error vanisheth, truth increaseth
Heresy is like a cloud which for a little time darkens the Church, and then vanisheth. But truth, though it meet with opposition at first and hath few followers, yet increaseth and prevails against all opposition. It hath its plus ultra, it is perpetual and endures for ever. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Impudent error near its end
Pride and impudence, they do not only preach but print their blasphemy: a sign their end is near. Smoke, the higher it riseth the sooner it is scattered (Psalms 68:1-2). (T. Hall, B. D.)
The fall of error
They shall fall--
4. Surely. (T. Hall, B. D.)
False teachers exposed
Observe, that God will overthrow false teachers, by discovering their coverings and making known their delusions to the world. As a disease discovered is half cured, so an error discovered is half conquered. Usually before God overthrows wicked men He discovers their vileness first, that the glory of His justice may be the more apparent, and His people may come out from amongst them. (T. Hall, B. D.)
A faithful ministry the best safeguard against error
When the sun ariseth the clouds scatter, and where the Son of Righteousness is powerfully preached and published, heretics hide themselves, and dare not make that open sale of their wares as they do in dark corners. Let us therefore pull off their masks of liberty, their sleeves of sanctity, and their trappings of hypocrisy: let us expose their error, stripped and naked in their own natural deformity, and they will soon be exploded by all, so that they shall proceed no further. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Error utilised and subjugated at last
He is infinitely just, though His ways be secret and full of darkness to us, yet they are always just. When clouds and darkness are round about Him, then righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne (Psalms 97:7). He can make a medicine of the poisonous oppositions of wicked men, their malice shall be as horse-leeches to suck out the bad blood, as a file to take off the rust, as rubbish to cleanse the vessel and wash away the filth, and as a touchstone to try the graces of His children. And though His providences seem to cross His promises, yet wait the conclusion, and you shall see and say He hath done all things well. We see in a clock though the wheels run cross and contrary one to another, yet they all conduce to the going of the clock. Joseph’s imprisonment is the way to his preferment, and Jonah’s drowning was the means to save him from drowning. We must not judge of God’s actions before they be formed and finished. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Their folly shall be manifest unto all--
The efficiency of the Divine government seen in the limitations of wickedness
1. This is seen in the manifest folly of sin. Sin is always folly, but this is not always made manifest in the course of human affairs. But God’s government is such that, though the folly of sin be not in every case made manifest, it is always made clear that God thwarts the designs of wicked men, no matter how ingenious they may be. Men play the knave, only to show themselves fools. Their deeds ever pass in review before the never-closing eye of Him who holds every destiny in His hand. Under every wise system of government sin is demonstrated to be folly, though it may not always be exposed.
2. One of the declared principles of this effective government is, that crime shall be its own warning. There are earnests of penalties and promises of penalties, no less pronounced, in every-day life, than in the written moral code, the latter to follow us hereafter. The trial and punishment of law-breakers remain unfinished here, though there are generally enough admonitions to associate sin with approach ing danger. Owing to the cross-workings of law upon law, here the danger is not so apparent; but the Divine economy marks its criminals before they are arraigned.
3. Sin is often limited by exposure, pain, and special judgments, so that God Him self becomes the greatest restraint. Destruction of Sennacherib’s army.
4. Divine grace often limits sin in action. Conversion of Paul.
1. If there is a limit to wickedness, and to wicked men, in their course, there must be a limit to individual sins. The believer has to struggle more or less with sin while in this world, but there will be an end of all that conflict.
2. Living under such a government, how unwise to lead wicked lives l
3. The Christian can be faithful and energetic in his work. Sin is sure to fail, and righteousness to succeed. (W. M. Barbour, D. D.)
The true nature of scepticism
Some time ago I was a little alarmed at the stealthy progress which that accursed system--secularism--was making in Lancashire. But God settled it. God sent us the cotton famine; that settled it: and secularism has never rallied since. When the secularists used to come out to meet us, they said to the people, “Don’t listen to these men; all they want is your money. All their talk is about the next world. They do not care about this. They do not care about your having food, clothes, and healthy homes.” And thus we were taunted everywhere. Then occurred the outbreak of that terrible cotton famine. Where were the secularists then? Like the Arabs of the desert, they folded up their tents and silently stole away. And they who had said it was their special mission to deal with temporalities, forgot all temporalities but their own, and came up to London to lecture upon anything--“admission threepence.” (C. Garrett.)
Dr. John Hall, in one of his sermons, compared the attacks of infidelity upon Christianity to a serpent gnawing at a file. As he kept on gnawing, he was greatly encouraged by the sight of the growing pile of chips, till, feeling pain and seeing blood, he found that he had been wearing his own teeth away against the file, but the file was unharmed.
The folly of opposition to Christ
You have heard of the swordfish. It is a very curious creature, with a long and bony beak or sword projecting in front of its head. It is also very fierce, attacking other fishes that come in its way, and trying to pierce them with its sword. The fish has sometimes been known to dart at a ship in full sail with such violence as to pierce the solid timbers. But what has happened? The silly fish has been killed outright by the force of its own blow. The ship sails on just as before, and the angry swordfish falls a victim to its own rage. But how shall we describe the folly of those who oppose the cause of Christ? They cannot succeed; like the swordfish, they only work their own destruction. (G. S. Bowes.)
Error cannot stand
Error is a palace of ice, which at last must melt and tumble down necessarily, when but one ray of the sunlight of truth penetrates it. (Van Oosterzee.)
The gospel and its enemies
Luther hoard one day a nightingale singing very sweetly near a pond full of frogs, who, by their croaking, seemed as though they wanted to silence the melodious bird. The Doctor said, “Thus ‘tis in the world; Jesus Christ is the nightingale, making the gospel to be heard; the heretics and false prophets are the frogs, trying to prevent his being heard.” (Table Talk.)
2 Timothy 3:10-11
But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life.
9. Afflictions. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Precedents better than precepts
Now since we are more easily led by precedents than by precepts, the apostle propounds his own example for our imitation, wherein we have the lively pattern and portraiture of a faithful pastor, whose office it is not only to preach sound doctrine, but also to practise what he preacheth in his own life, that so he may be able to speak from the heart to the hearts of his people, and may not bring his food as birds do to their young ones--in their beaks, not in their breasts. (T. Hall, B. D.)
The example of superiors powerful
In that Paul propounds his own example for Timothy to consider and follow. That the pious example of the godly must be imitated by us. Younger ministers especially must observe the doctrine and conversation, the pious ways and walking of the elder and graver ministers, and must follow them. Aged Paul propounds his virtues to young Timothy for imitation. Many young men praise the gravity, solidity, wisdom, industry, mortification, and self-denial of ancient ministers, but they do not follow them. They deal by them as the world doth by honesty, they praise it, but they never practise it. As Gideon said to his soldiers (Judges 7:17), “Look upon me, and do likewise”; so you that are young and unsettled, rash, and conceited, look upon the doctrine, discipline, hair, habit, ways and works of the holy, and the grave; follow them now you are young, and then you will be good long. Great is the power of the example of superiors. (T. Hall, B. D.)
A copy to write by
God hath set them before us as our copy to write by, and our pattern to live by, and we must answer not only for sinning against the light of the word, but against the light of good example also. It will be one day said, “You had such and such to go before you in paths of piety, and yet you would not follow.” The faithful are called witnesses (Hebrews 12:1; Revelation 12:1-17.). Now if we walk contrary to their light they will witness against us, as Noah and Lot did against the sinners of their age; but if we walk answerable to their light they will witness for us. Their practice may comfort and confirm us in God’s way; they declare the possibility of obtaining such a grace, and make it thereby the more easy, when we have seen it done before us. If a man have a torch to light him in a dark and dangerous path, how glad is he: the godly shine like lights in the midst of a crooked generation (Philippians 2:15-16), their life is a commentary on the Scripture. Now since the nature of man is apter to be guided by example then precept, therefore God hath prepared abundance of glorious examples for our imitation, and thus the saints that are now at rest and triumphant in glory, their lives are to be our looking-glasses to dress ourselves by, our compass to sail by, and our pillar of a cloud to walk by. (T. Hall, B. D.)
We must come up to the best patterns
We can have no excuse in these days of light if we come not up to the best patterns, because we have more of the spirit, more light, and more clear manifestation of God than they had. (T. Hall, B. D.)
The best patterns defective
The saints have had their failings, and the best have a great deal of the old Adam in them. They are pillars of cloud for us to walk by, but this cloud hath its dark part, which if we follow we shall fall as they did. There are four sorts of actions which the Scripture tells us were done by saints. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Both doctrines and graces must be good
Our Saviour by the truth of His doctrine proved Himself to be sent of God (John 7:16-18; John 12:49-50). Paul commands Timothy to keep the pattern of wholesome words (2 Timothy 2:13), and Titus must be careful in appointing ministers for the Church, to choose such as hold the faithful word (Titus 1:7; Titus 1:9). Moral virtues may be found with a false faith; let not those apples of Sodom deceive you, for as there may be good doctrine where the life is bad, so there may be false doctrine where the life is seemingly good. Look, therefore, in the first place to the doctrine, and in the second place to the virtues which seem to commend it. So doth Paul here; first he tells you his doctrine was sound, and now he comes to declare his graces, and how he lived. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Patience in ministers
A little patience will not do, for we have no little enemies to oppose us--it must be all patience and all strength. This also is a virtue very requisite for a minister, who hath to do with all sorts of men; some are dull, some froward, some weak, some wayward; so that without patience there is no good to be done. It is for pusillanimous spirits to be always murmuring, complaining, and seeking revenge. The weakest creatures are most vindictive. This is an ornament of great worth, not only in the sight of man, but also of God (1 Peter 3:4). Without it we are unfit for duty, as the troubled sea unfit for voyage. Without it we double and increase our burthens; like a wild bull in a net, or the untamed heifer, we may gall our necks, but never break the yoke. Without patience no grace is perfect, faith hath but half its strength, and hope is feeble (James 1:4). By our patience we please God, displease the devil, rejoice the angels, and many times melt and convert our enemies. By this means we heap coals of conversion or coals of confusion upon their heads (Romans 12:20). This will keep us good in a bad condition, so that a man enjoys himself when he hath nothing else; and though he have nothing, yet is as one that possesseth all things. The consideration of this made Tertullian to cry, “Farewell all, so I may but get patience.” (T. Hall, B. D.)
Paul did not pull down by his living what he built up by his preaching. (M. Henry.)
Life an eloquent sermon
Of Donne’s romantic career it has been said that his life is more poetical than his poetry. We might without exaggeration adapt this epigram to his preaching, and say that his life was a sermon more eloquent than all his sermons. If, then, I were asked to describe in few words the secret of his power as a preacher, I should say that it was the contrition and the thanksgiving of the penitent acting upon the sensibility of the poet. (Bp. Lightfoot.)
The preaching that tells
There is a legend which tells how a saint once in vision saw a band of Franciscan friars standing round Jesus in heaven. He noticed that the lips of each were crimson. He asked the meaning of this, and to him the Lord said, “These are the great preachers of my Cross, for the story of My redeeming love only comes with power over lips that are red with My precious blood.” Yes; the preaching that will save preacher and hearers is the preaching that comes from crimson lips. (British Weekly.)
The stimulus of example
The other evening a gentleman told me that he went into the room where his son was taking lessons in singing, and found the tutor urging the boy to sound a certain note. Every time the lad made the attempt, however, he fell short, and his teacher kept saying to him, “Higher! higher!” but it was all to no purpose until, descending to the tone which the boy was sounding, the musician accompanied him with his own voice, and led him gradually up to that which he desired him to sing; and then he sounded it with ease. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
“Example is a living law, whose sway
Men more than all the written laws obey.”
Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other. (Burke.)
The power of a godly life
“Whenever I read Scripture, a thousand atheistical thoughts were injected in my soul … Being in Mr. T, H.’s house, a godly and prudent man, his company did me much good … For the universal carnality of professors, with their discouragements, living so short of their principles, did much help forward my atheism, as it made me think that a saint was but a fancy; but truly I thought mine eyes saw something of a saint and New Testament spirit in him, and was something persuaded, by feeling his holiness, his cheerfulness in God, and his deep reach in spiritual mysteries, that there was a God, and a holiness attainable.” (Life of James Fraser of Brea.)
Cassock and character
I like that remark of Whitfield’s, when some one of a bad character wondered how he could preach without a cassock. “Ah,” he said, “I can preach without a cassock, but I cannot preach without a character.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Paul’s path of suffering
The path of suffering of the apostle Paul a revelation--
1. Of the power of sin which pursued him.
2. Of the greater power of faith which sustained him.
3. Of the omnipotence of the Lord who delivered him out of all. (Van Oosterzee.)
Commands should be enforced by example
During the siege of Sebastopol Gordon was one day going the round of the trenches when he heard an angry altercation between a corporal and a sapper. On inquiring the cause, he learnt that the men were instructed to place some gabions on the battery, and that the corporal had ordered the sapper to stand on the parapet, where he would be exposed to the enemy’s fire, and to place the gabious, while he, perfectly sheltered, handed them up from below. Gordon at once jumped upon the parapet, ordering the corporal to join him, while the sapper handed them the gabions. When the work was done, and done under the fire of the watchful Russian gunners, Gordon turned to the corporal and said, “Never order a man to do anything that you are afraid to do yourself.”
Wicked men hate the good
All wicked men hate the good, as all wolves do the sheep. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Such shakings make way for Christ (Haggai 2:7). The Church, like a quick-set hedge, grows the thicker for cutting, this vine is the better for bleeding, and this torch burns the better for beating. The more Pharaoh oppressed the Israelites the more they increased (Exodus 1:12). (T. Hall, B. D.)
Deliverances, to be noted
Not only our dangers, but also our deliverances must be observed and recorded by us. (T. Hall, B. D.)
2 Timothy 3:12
All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
A Christian is not a favourite with the world
Who can help admiring the frankness of Scripture? It shows us the difficulties as well as the enjoyments of religion; the sacrifices it requires, as well as the rewards it insures. This is perfectly just, and in every way profitable.
I. The life described. It may be taken with two distinctions.
1. It is not merely a moral life, but a godly one. We by no means depreciate morality. A man cannot be religious without being moral, but he may be moral without being religious. It is well to be a good master, a good neighbour, a good subject--but how are you disposed towards God?
2. It is not merely a godly life, but a Christian one. We are not only to live godly, but to live godly “in Christ Jesus;” i.e., in all our religious concerns--To be governed by the revelation of Jesus Christ--To be conformed to the example of Jesus Christ--To be actuated by the grace of Jesus Christ--And to depend on the mediation of Jesus Christ.
II. The condition announced as the consequence of the life described. “Shall suffer persecution.”
1. That ever since the Fall there has been an irreconcilable enmity between the “seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent”; that “man being alienated from the life of God,” loves nothing that reminds him of God; that the tempers and actions of the righteous necessarily reprove and upbraid the wicked; that their endeavours to save disturb them in their sins; that the gospel condemns the worldly as well as the vicious, and the formal as well as the negligent; that, as there is nothing in Christianity that flatters sin, so there is nothing that flatters self; and that every man is naturally as self-righteous as he is depraved.
2. To this we may add another source of the inevitableness of persecution. It is taken from the Christian himself. Suffering is necessary for his trial and his triumph. Without this how could he prove that he loves God better than friendship, reputation, wealth, or life? How could he overcome evil with good? It is warfare that makes a good soldier. A Christian is like the firmament, and it is the darkness of affliction that makes his starry graces to shine out. He is like those herbs and plants that best effuse their odours when bruised.
1. There are some who suffer persecution that do not live godly in Christ Jesus. The people of the world cannot easily distinguish between “the form of godliness and the power,” and therefore the pretending and the sincere frequently fare alike. The hypocrite loses heaven for the sake of earth, and earth for the sake of heaven, and is of all creatures the most miserable.
2. With what caution and prayer should we assume a profession of religion!
3. If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf. It gives you an opportunity to prove your thankfulness for His goodness, and your adherence to His gospel.
4. But what shall we say to persecutors? If you feel enmity against the godly, and would injure them were it in your power, it is “a token of perdition.” You may now be placed above them in circumstances; and may love to misrepresent and to vilify them. But “their Redeemer is mighty.” He is “near that justifieth them.” He “will plead their cause.” He that “toucheth them, toucheth the apple of His eye.” (W. Jay.)
Persecution of Christians by the world
The greater part of our sufferings are not distinguishable from the common afflictions of life; and many of the trials that some foolish professors frequently charge on religion, religion would teach them to avoid, if its admonitions were regarded. But, on the other hand, it must be allowed--
1. That human nature is essentially the same in every age; and that a tiger may be chained and not changed. Under every form of government “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” And where there is a strong active propensity against anything (as, in this case, there must be against real godliness), it will show itself as opportunity offers; and such opportunity there must be in a world like this.
2. That persecution admits of various degrees. It includes every kind of injury or vexation, from a fiery stake to a scornful sneer. How often has genuine religion produced the loss of friendship, or chilled the warmth of attachment into cold civility! Where power is possessed, it is frequently exerted as far as safety or a regard to appearances will allow. This is seen in the attempts of husbands, parents, and masters, to restrain from following their religious convictions their wives, their children, and their servants. With regard to relations, a Christian will sometimes find a greater trim in their affections than in their frowns. Here is a mother, in all other respects tender and kind; she takes her daughter aside, and weeps to think she should favour a doctrine “everywhere spoken against.”
3. If modern Christians frequently escape persecution, may it not be asked whether, in many instances, it does not arise from their less fully exemplifying the spirit of their religion than the primitive Christians did?
(1) The one is concealment. This is dastardly and mean. We should never be drawn out of a corner by the praise of man, nor be driven into a corner by the fear of man.
(2) The other is accommodation. And it is awful to think how one doctrine and usage after another has been given up! Christianity, says one, will never be received by Jews and Mahometans, while you “honour the Son as you honour the Father.” It will never be acceptable, says another, to men of taste and learning, till you abandon the barbarous notion of the atonement and of original sin. Now, upon this plan, what would be left after all the objectors were satisfied? Christianity allows of no alteration. It needs none. The change required therefore is, where it ought to be in the world. (W. Jay.)
A good man a good mark for the arrow
The better the man, the sooner persecuted; the devil shoots his arrows at the whitest marks. (T. Hall, B. D.)
A good man a miracle of preservation
It is a miracle of mercy to consider how the lily subsists in the midst of so many briars and thorns, how the Lord’s wheat grows in the midst of so many tares, how His doves live in the midst of so many birds of prey, and His lambs in the midst of so many roaring lions. Were not the Almighty her defence, those bands of ungodliness would soon destroy her. (T. Hall, B. D.)
God honoured by His suffering servants
Hereby we honour God, and so bring honour to ourselves. God hath much honour by His suffering servants, when out of love to Him they can sacrifice their lives and estates for Him. God glories in such; as He suffers in their sufferings so He triumphs in their conquests. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Best when worst
God is pleased to reserve the sweetest manifestations from the bitterest afflictions. The fountain runs most sweetly when the cistern is broken. When comforts are most needed they will be most prized. The traveller in summer, when the sun shines, casts off his cloak, but in winter, or when the wind blows hard, he wraps it closer to him. So when we bathe ourselves in creature comforts we value not the promises of God, but when we are stripped of all then we look after God. When the salt waters are dried up, then there are fresh springs in God. (T. Hall, B. D.)
The good man happy in adversity, the bad man miserable in prosperity
See the happiness of a child of God. Take him at worst, and he is better than a wicked man at best. The one in prosperity hath no joy, the other in adversity is full of joy. (T. Hall, B. D.)
At Perth, in 1554, there were three male prisoners and one woman--Helen Stirk--put to death for their adherence to the gospel of Jesus. The latter was taken to see her husband suffer before she followed him. They embraced under the gallows. “Husband,” she said, “we have lived together many joyful days; but this day in which we must die ought to be most joyful to us both, because we must have joy for ever. Therefore I will not bid you good-night. Certainly we shall meet again in the kingdom of heaven.” The executioners seized their prey, and she, too, was then led away to be drowned. When she reached the water’s edge she gave the child to a nurse, she was hurled in, and the justice of the Church was satisfied.
2 Timothy 3:13
But evil men and seducers shall wax worse.
Graduating in ungodliness
1. If we consider wicked men as they are in themselves, they are all strongly bent to apostasy; every day they grow worse and worse. As godly men are graduates in God’s school, growing from strength to strength, and from one degree of grace unto another, till they become perfect men in Christ, every sermon makes them better, and every ordinance improves them. So wicked men are graduates also, and take degrees in the devil’s school; they stand not at a stay, but they grow from evil to Worse. As he that is righteous will go on and be more righteous, so he that is filthy will go on in his filthiness (Revelation 22:11). It is the proper character of wicked men that they fall away more and more (Isaiah 1:5; Proverbs 1:22).
2. But secondly, let us consider them specifically and divisively for such evil men as are deceivers and impostors, and these we see experimentally grow worse and worse. They have no foundation to rest on; they know no stay when once they have passed the bounds of the word, no more than a violent stream doth when it hath broke over those bounds and bonds which before kept it in. Error knows no end; when once men forsake the way of truth they wander in infinitum. As it is in logic, grant one absurdity and I will infer a thousand, and as sin begets sin, blood toucheth blood, and one murder begets another (Hosea 4:2). So error is very fertile and prolific; it speedily brings forth a great increase. One error is a bridge to another; ill weeds spring apace and spread far, when good herbs grow thin and low. A little of this leaven will quickly sour the whole lump (Matthew 16:6). When once men begin to tumble down the hill of error they seldom rest till they come to the bottom. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Deceiving others and being deceived in turn
They cozen others, and the devil cozens them, leading them into far greater errors; and so they shall be punished on a double account.
1. Because they err themselves and resist the truth.
2. Because they have drawn others into error. The participle of the present tense notes their assiduity and constancy; they make it their trade to deceive others: they are still deceiving one or other with their smooth, flattering language. As God loves to employ good men for the conversion of others (not that He needs the help of man, but), for the exercising of the graces of His servants, and for the greater manifestation of His own glory, so the devil, who is God’s ape, loves to deceive men by men. He hath his agents and emissaries everywhere. As good men delight in converting others, so wicked men delight in perverting others: as those would not go to heaven alone, so these would not go to hell alone: and therefore they labour to make others twofold more the children of the devil than themselves. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Satan the great deceiver
As thieves when they would rob a man draw him aside out of the highway into some wood, and then cut his throat, so this grand deceiver and his agents draw men aside from the right way of God’s worship into some bypaths of error to their ruin. The devil he is the cheater of cheaters, and deluder of deluders; it is his constant trade, as the participle implies. And this is the reason why many false teachers may die with boldness and courage for their opinions, viz., because they are blinded and deluded by the devil; they think themselves martyrs, when they are grand deceivers and grossly deceived. We had need, therefore, to pray for the Spirit of grace and illumination that we may see the methods, depths, and devices of Satan and avoid them. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Worse and worse
Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly. (Bacon.)
A man may tell a lie till he believes it to be the truth. (J. C. Gray.)
Mr. Robert Sutcliffe, a member of the Society of Friends, travelling in America early in the present century, had a tough argument with a man engaged in the slave trade, of whom he says: “At length, being hard pressed, he gave up the point in a good deal of warmth, with this remarkable declaration: “Why, sir, you can’t suppose that the Almighty looks so narrowly into our actions as you do.” (Leisure Hour.)
Changed by sin
Allowed sin always masters a man in time. The man may loathe his master, yet he obeys him; he may fear his master, yet still he does his hateful bidding. But there is here an awful warning as to the sure change of the very being of a man under the once invited presence and the permitted occupation of the forces of evil. The man himself changes--imperceptibly at first to himself--others see it. He is often unaware of it himself, till the last stages are reached. It must be so--there must be a change. If you think there is no such thing as standing still in life--in spiritual, in natural life. As the solid tower reels and sways beneath the crashing of the ringing bells, so there is movement even in the most solid, calm-seeming life. (Canon Wilberforce.)
Development of evil
Secular history tells us that when Tiberius (Luke 3:1) became emperor of Rome, he was remarkable for his kindness, amiability, and moderation. But he became one of the most wicked and cruel of tyrants. Nero, too, was so affable and kind in early life, that he was quite popular at the beginning of his reign; but he afterwards caused his mother, his wife, his old tutor Seneca, with multitudes of Christians and others, to be put to death, many of them in excessively cruel ways; and he was guilty of such other enormities, that his people at length conspired against him, when, to escape their malice, he killed himself in the thirty-first year of his age. Robespierre, “the tyrant,” and the leading spirit during “the reign of terror” in Paris, through whom thousands of both his friends and foes were slaughtered or subjected to the greatest cruelties, was, in private and early life, amiable and kind. He once, when young, resigned his situation as a member of a criminal court, because he had such an objection to the barbarity of capital punishment, which he characterised as “base assassination.” The devil and his angels, Cain, Henry Wainwright, etc., show to what evil an immortal spirit may fall. Wherefore avoid bad company, give up evil or doubtful habits, get God’s restraining, converting, and preserving grace. (H. R. Burton.)
Productivity of sin
Referring to the terrible productivity of sin, Mr. Varley once mentioned that when in Tasmania, he had heard of a snake recently killed there which had given birth to thirty-seven young ones. “But,” said he, quoting Joseph Cook, “sin is an eternal mother.”
Progressiveness of sin
A gentleman was walking with a friend one day through his beautiful grounds, when they came to a fine large tree which was decayed to the very core. “That tree,” said the proprietor, “was destroyed by a single worm. A short time since it was as vigorous as any of its companions, when one day a woodworm was discovered forcing its way under the outer bark. A naturalist who was at that time my guest remarked on seeing it that if left alone it would ultimately kill the tree. It seemed so improbable, that the worm was suffered to remain. Gradually it bored its way into the fibre of the tree, slowly but surely doing its work. The following summer the tree shed its leaves much earlier than usual, and in the second season it was a dead, worthless thing. The worm which seemed so very insignificant had found its way to the heart of the once noble tree and destroyed its life.” How forcibly do we see this same thing illustrated in the common walks of every-day life. A young man is persuaded by his companions to take his first glass of wine. It seems like a little thing, but it is the beginning of a course of degradation and eternal shame. The clerk in the bank appropriates a few shillings of the funds entrusted to his care. One step leads to another, until at last he is arrested and cast into prison as a defaulter. A boy begins to practise little deceits at school or at home which, unless discovered and checked, will make him a base and unprincipled man. Such is the destructive power of little sins when the continued indulgence in them is practised.
2 Timothy 3:14-15
Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned.
Service must be constant and faithful
God’s servants must continue constant in the truth received. They must not play fast and loose, be off and on; but they must be still the same, like well-tuned bells, which have the same note in foul weather as they have in fair (Job 1:21), we must hold fast the truth (1 Thessalonians 5:21), abide in it and walk in it (Revelation 3:3).
1. This constancy is a note of sincerity, then are we Christ’s disciples indeed, when we abide in the truth (John 8:32; Job 2:3), when no storms nor tempests can remove us from it, but we stand like Mount Sion, which never moves, and, like seasoned timber, never warps nor yields.
2. All the promises of heaven and happiness run only to such as are faithful to the death (Revelation 2:10), endure to the end (Matthew 24:13), and continue in faith (Romans 2:7; Matthew 10:22; Colossians 1:22-23; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 3:14).
3. Lay a good foundation, dig deep; he that will build high, must lay levy. Our learning doth not hinder but further the work of the Spirit in our souls. Timothy, that had a plentiful measure of the Spirit (for he was an Evangelist), yet must give himself to reading and meditation still. As Moses was faithful, and would not part with a hoof to Pharaoh, so we must not part with a tittle of God’s truth to His enemies; for all truths, even the least, are precious; truth is like gold, which is glorious in the ray and spangle, as well as in the wedge. As it is in practicals, he that makes no conscience of little sins, will quickly be drawn to greater; so it is true, and holds in doctrinals, lie that admits of a little error, will soon be drawn to a greater. Though every truth be not fundamental, yet every truth is a guard to the foundation, the outer skin of an apple lies remote from the heart, yet if you pluck that off the heart will soon be rotten. The linger is not a vital part, but a gangrene in the finger will, in a short time, reach to the very vitals and corrupt the blood with the spirits. Not only the garment of truth, but the fringes thereof are useful, and must be preserved (Numbers 15:38-40). We experimentally see that those who forsake truth, in discipline, quickly fall to errors in doctrine. We shall hardly find a man that errs in the one, to be found in the other. As therefore we must count no sin small, so we must esteem no error small; for the least truth of God’s kingdom doth in its place uphold the whole kingdom of His truth.
4. If you preserve the truth it will preserve you in the hour of temptation, as Solomon says of wisdom (Proverbs 4:8).
5. It is a great honour to a person or nation to be the conservators and preservers of the truths of God. It is not only our duty, but our glory. There are many spiritual cheaters abroad; the greater will our honour be in maintaining God’s truth against them all. Say not I am but one, and a weak one too, but remember what great things the Lord did by Athanasius and Luther. (T. Hall, B. D.)
The excellency of the teacher makes the doctrine the more taking
This we see even in human and moral learning, the Platonic doctrine grew famous because it was professed by Socrates, and the Peripatetic by Aristotle. The scholars of Pythagoras did so confide in the dictates of their master, that when any one asked them a reason of what they held, they would give no other answer but “Our master said so.” Young ministers should suspect their own judgments when they vary from a holy, aged Calvin Beza, and all the churches of God. As young lawyers and physicians observe the principles and practices of the serious and grave professors of their way, especially when grounded on maxims and rules of art, so should young divines. It ill becomes a young raw physician to contradict a whole college of physicians, or a puny lawyer a bench of judges, or a young divine a whole assembly of divines. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Continuance in the faith
I. The things in which we are to continue.
1. We must learn those things in which we are to continue.
2. The things in which we are commanded to continue are the things of which we have been assured.
II. In what respects we are to continue in them.
1. We must continue in the belief of them.
2. We must continue to profess that truth which we believe.
3. We must continue in the practical improvement of the truth. What is the chaff to the wheat? Such is every other doctrine to the doctrine of the Bible; and its energy and effects are proportioned to its excellency, when it is received with faith and love. (G. Lawson, D. D.)
The necessity of correct belief
Comprehensively, we may say that there are two things to be noticed in this passage: first, that the proper use and end of all religious know ledge is the promotion of good conduct and character; and, secondly, that there is a definite and important relation between certain truths and certain moral results. The same fruits will not follow as well from one set of principles as from another. Right belief has much to do with right conduct. Believing is the basis of all instruction and education. Every parent, every teacher, every moralist, as well as every preacher of righteousness, holds that human life and conduct will largely depend upon the things that men are taught to believe. There has sprung up a popular notion that it makes no difference what a man believes concerning religion if only he be sincere. There is just enough truth in the phrase, in some of its applications, to make it plausible, and to give it currency. And so it has come to be a proverb. When it is said, “It matters little what a man’s creed is if his life be right,” if it meant, “It matters little what a man’s head knowledge is, so that he is sound in his heart,” and by sincerity is intended, not sincerity in belief, but sincerity in life or godliness, a great truth is expressed--a truth that is not enough recognised. In education it is of great importance what sort of truth you employ, for some kinds of teaching are a great deal more likely to produce godliness than others. But, whatever the teaching has been, if the man is a good man, however strange it may appear that such a creed should have such a disciple, however far he may be from the average results which ordinarily follow the teaching of such things as he believes, his godliness is to be acknowledged in spite of the beliefs. There are thousands that are not half as good as they ought to be, considering the things that they believe. A man’s creed does not necessarily make him good. And there are thousands that are better than their creeds. But generally this maxim does not mean sincerity of life in the form of godliness; it means that it does not matter what a man believes, so that he only believes it sincerely. The first question then, that arises, is this: What are we to understand by a man’s belief? Do we understand by it simply those things of which he has an intellectual conception? Do they amount to a belief? Truth that touches a man not merely through a cold perception, but through some warm feeling--that is the kind of truth the Scripture teaches to constitute belief. It may be intellectually conceived; but no moral truth and no social truth is ever presented so as to be believed, unless it be presented in such a way as to carry sympathy and feeling with it--and that is not the case with all kinds of truth. Physical truths, scientific truths, do not touch the feelings, and do not need to. Arithmetic deals with truths that have no relation directly, except with the understanding. They never come with desire, sorrow, pity, or emotion of any sort. Bat all truths that relate to dispositions in men, to moral duties--they never stop with the understanding, but touch the feeling as well. A man cannot be said to believe a moral truth unless he believes it so that he carries some emotion with it. And, in this respect, it makes great difference what a man believes. Let us, then, look at this a little in the light of the experience of men in this world. In regard to the truths of the physical economy of the globe, does it make any difference what a man believes? Would it make any difference to a machinist whether he thought lead was as good for tools as steel? Would it make any difference to a man in respect to the industries of life if he thought that a triangle was as good as a circular wheel in machinery? In respect to the quality of substances, the forms of substances, the combination of substances, and the nature of motive powers, does success depend upon sincere believing or on right believing? Suppose a man should think that it made no difference what he believed, and should say to himself, “I wish to raise corn, but I have not the seed; so I will take some ashes and plant them; and I believe sincerely that they are as good as corn,” would he have a crop of corn? What would his sincerity avail? Take one thing further. There are affectional and social truths. Does it make no difference what a man believes in respect to these? Is there no difference between pride, vanity, and selfishness on the one hand, and tenderness, sympathy, and love on the other? As it is with the lower forms of moral truth, so experience teaches us it is with the higher forms of moral truth. There is a definite and heaven-appointed connection between the things a man holds to be true, and the results that follow in that man’s mind. All truths are not alike important, and all truths do not show the effects of being believed or rejected with equal rapidity. There are many truths which bear such a relation to our every-day life, that the fruit of believing or rejecting appears almost at once. These are spring truths, that come up and bear fruit early in the season. There are other truths that require time for working out their results. They are summer truths, and the fruit of belief or disbelief does not ripen till July or August. Other truths, in respect to showing the results of belief or disbelief, are like late autumnal fruits, that require the whole winter to develop their proper juices. Thus it is a matter of great importance whether a man believes in his obligation to God or not; whether he believes that he is sinful or not; whether he believes in the necessity of the influence of the Spirit in regeneration. A man’s belief is not the only thing that works upon him. There is a great mistake in saying that as a man believes so is he, if you mean that his character depends upon his belief in any technical theological truth. What a man is depends in a great measure upon his father and mother, and brothers and sisters, and friends; that is, it depends partly on the things that he believes, and partly upon the influences that are working upon him in the family, in the society, and in the party to which he belongs. There are a thousand and one circumstances that have much to do with what a man is; and his character is not formed alone by his technical beliefs. Let us apply the foregoing reasonings and explanations to the more important truths which we are appointed to preach. We preach, then, that this life is a very transient scene; that we are strangers and pilgrims here; that we are started here to be transplanted; that we are undergoing a process of education in this life with reference to a life to come. We are taught in the Word of God that all men are sin-struck, and that every man that lives needs the grace, and forbearance, and forgiveness of God, and moral renovation at the hands of God. If a man believes that he is good enough, of course he becomes listless, and heedless, and inattentive. If another man by his side believes that he is sinful, and needs to be born again, with what a constantly quickened and watchful conscience must he needs live! and how, with all his moral power, must he perpetually strive to live a godly life? Does it make no difference what a man believes in respect to the character of God, the nature of the Divine government in this world, its claims upon us, and our obligations under it? What, then, is the application, finally, of this? It is just this: that, according to the tenour of the passage from which our text is taken, it makes all the difference in the world which you believe in respect to those truths that are connected with godliness--with purity of thought, purity of motive, purity of disposition. You must believe right about them. If there are any truths to be indifferent about, they are those that relate to your worldly good; and if there are any truths that you cannot afford to be indifferent about, they are those that relate to your character, to your immortality, and to the eternity that awaits you. Indeed, your character and destiny depend upon your beliefs in truth. If, then, any of you have hitherto been reading the Word of God as a book of curiosity, I beseech you remember that it is not made known to you for the purpose of curiosity. It is made known to you to be your guide from sin, from sorrow, from earthly trouble, toward immortality, and toward glory. Now when I sit in my house, where there is no gale, and with no ship, and read my chart out of curiosity, I read it as you sometimes read your Bible. You say, “Here is the headland of depravity; and there is a lighthouse--born again; and here is the channel of duty.” And yet every one of you has charge of a ship--the human soul. Evil passions are fierce winds that are driving it. This Bible is God’s chart for you to steer by, to keep you from the bottom of the sea, and to show you where the harbour is, and how to reach it without running on rocks or bars. Is is the book of life; it is the book of everlasting life; so take heed how to read it. In reading it, see that you have the truth, and not the mere semblance of it. You cannot live without it. (H. W. Beecher.)
Value of personal conviction
Without this subjective conviction of the heart, it would not have been possible for Timothy to hold out in the things he had learned, amid so many persecutions. (Van Oosterzee.)
The capital word in this injunction is doubtless “continue.” Timothy’s teachers had been his grandmother Lois, his mother Eunice, and the apostle Paul himself. From his childhood he had been taught in the Scriptures, and now the apostle urges him to remain steadfast in his early teaching. But was such an exhortation consistent with the greater light that would come to the young learner as he grew older and increased in knowledge? Might he not have occasion to change his beliefs, to revise his creed, as he made intellectual advancement? Let us see if he was right. What relation should subsist between “the things learned” and the increasing light of greater knowledge? It should be kept in mind that, notwithstanding much shifting of positions in human thought, the essence of religion remains unchanged; it is fundamentally the same. There are those who seem to think that greater light will revolutionise all our beliefs, and that therefore it is folly to cling so tenaciously to the old orthodox positions in religion or anything else. Suppose for a moment that this were true. Then there could be no certainty, no assurance. We should not dare to pin our faith to anything in religion or science or common sense. Even those mathematical truths that have been so confidently held as axioms would stand on an insecure foundation, for who knows that further research might not shatter them, and raze to the ground the proud superstructure? Besides, these progressive thinkers themselves, who advocate certain theories with so much gusto, are guilty of folly; for, according to their own hypothesis, new light may change their beliefs, and prove them but the phantoms of a day. Do you see where this theory, that all our knowledge is in a fluctuating state, subject to constant change, will land us? In the harbour of nowhere? Let those who will sail tor that port. Many of us prefer a definite destination after the voyage of life is over, and a more reliable guiding star while it lasts. But let us look around us for analogies. Are there not many things that abide amid all changes? The zephyrs still blow softly on the blushing cheek, the storm still howls, the stars still twinkle, the waves still roll and dash upon the shore, men still breathe and eat and sleep and love, as they did in the olden times; that is, the fundamental things continue. And the like is true of the principles of Christianity; amid all fluctuations “the foundation of God standeth sure,” and we still have “hope as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.” (Christian Globe.)
Things learnt at school
1. First among these special lessons of a public school, I will place the value of time. I know not how to express my sense of what we all owe to what I may call a life of compulsory order. Every little duty of the day has, with us, its place and its time.
2. I will mention as one of the lessons of a place like this, the forming a right estimate of yourselves. It is one of the greatest benefits of this kind of education, that it leaves you in no doubt as to your comparative powers and attainments. Be not presumptuous, be not arrogant, be not self-confident. Take a just, not a fanciful, estimate of yourselves, both ways.
3. A third important lesson learned here is, the necessity and the power of adapting yourselves to a variety of persons and circumstances.
4. A fourth lesson here learned is the meaning of a social as opposed to a selfish life.
5. There is a fifth thing taught here, as it can scarcely be but by a system of public education, and that is the great lesson of the consequences of actions.
6. All these things are true, and capable of much enforcement, but I hasten to that chief lesson of all, without which all else would be poor indeed--I mean, the Divine aspect of life; its relation to God Himself through Christ, as our present help, our one hope and object, the very stay and strength and life of our life. That surely is the meaning of all our meetings for worship. (Dean Vaughan.)
Continue in the things learnt
What are the things that you have learnt--what are the lessons that I would write upon your hearts in letters that the fire of experience shall bring to the light?
1. The dignity of work. Try to realise how much you owe to the labours of others who have gone before you, and try to labour for others in your turn. Do not be mere triflers and spendthrifts. Lay one stone, if it be one only, in the temple of human progress. Seek to learn something and to do something that is good.
2. The sovereignty of conscience. The age in which we live is democratic. “Vox populi vox Dei” is its watchword. Let me warn you against that great and fruitful error. There is no Divinity in numbers. God reveals Himself not to the many, but to the few. The greatest crime ever wrought was wrought by one who desired to do the people’s pleasure. You may sympathise with the people as much as you like, you may hold it right that the will of the people should be done; but nothing that the people say or do can alter by one bait’s breadth the law of right and wrong for you.
3. The duty of philanthropy. Every generation has its own duties and responsibilities. Nobody can tell why certain questions arise at a particular time and come to the fore; it is God’s will. And there can be no doubt that the distinguishing duty of your generation will be to soften and hallow the lives of the toiling poor.
4. How shall you do this? What shall be your motive power in this great work? It shall be the fourth--the last--of the principles which I have impressed upon you, and which I leave with you as a legacy of remembrance--the paramount value of religion. “I thank God,” said Lord Russell on the scaffold--“I thank God for having given me a religious education; for even when I forgot it most, it still hung about me and gave me checks.” May it be so with you! May religion be your guide, controlling, inspiring, leading you ever to a higher and diviner life! (J. E. C. Welldon, M. A.)
Paul’s charge to Timothy
Yield to the influence of authority in doctrine and life. “But continue thou in the things which thou hast heard and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” This advice is strangely unlike what we are accustomed to hear. Our time is impatient of authority. “The new Timothy” is exhorted to be perfectly unbiassed in the formation of his religious opinions. He must go back to the sources of things, if he can; if he cannot, he must improvise opinions, and thereafter be his own authority. Unverified personal impressions, and conclusions hastily reached, are better than the testimony of the wisest and most faithful witnesses touching the doctrines and duties and experiences of Christ’s religion. To Paul it seemed far otherwise. He would have Timothy strongly biassed in favour of the teaching which he received in youth, by the Christian character of those who taught him. Grandmother Lois and mother Eunice gave the testimony of experts. They knew whereof they affirmed. Religion was not to them a matter of opinion merely, it was a life. Their faith was “unfeigned.” It had power to rule their lives. Why should not their teachings take on an authoritative quality from their lives? The limits of authority must be carefully set. Discriminations must be made. “Profane and old wives’ fables” must be avoided. But the authoritative teaching of a holy life is not to be disregarded because unholy lives assume to be authoritative. Mental freedom is to be coveted; but the freedom which assumes that each age must begin anew the study of the “ways of God” with men is too great. (Monday Club Sermons.)
From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures.
The Holy Scriptures
So here what a largo encomium and high commendation the Holy Ghost gives of the Scriptures, even such as is given to no other book in the world besides.
1. He commends them in respect of one special property and adjunct, viz, their holiness. The holy Scriptures.
2. From their effects: they are able to make us wise unto salvation.
3. From their authority, utility, perfection.
Now the Scriptures are called holy in five respects.
1. In respect of their Author and principal cause--viz., the most holy God.
2. In respect of the penmen and instrumental cause: they were holy men of God (2 Peter 1:21).
3. In respect of their matter: they treat of the holy things of God; they teach nothing that is impure or profane. They teach us holiness in doctrine and practice.
4. in respect of their end and effect--viz., our sanctification (John 17:17). By reading, hearing, and meditating on God’s Word the Holy Ghost doth sanctify us (Psalms 19:8-9).
5. By way of distinction and opposition; they are called holy to distinguish them not only from human and profane, but also from all ecclesiastical writings.
1. This must teach us to bring pure minds to the reading, hearing, and handling of God’s holy Word.
2. Take heed of profaning the holy Scriptures by playing with thorn, or making jests out of them.
3. Love the Scriptures for their purity; as God is to be loved for His purity, so is His Word.
Many love it for the history, or for novelty, but a gracious soul loves it for its purity, because it arms him against sin, directs him in God’s ways, enables him for duty, discovers to him the snares of sin and Satan, and so makes him wiser than his enemies. The Word of God alone is able to make us wise unto salvation (Psalms 19:7; Luke 16:28; Luke 16:19; John 5:39; John 20:31; James 1:22; James 1:25). No other knowledge can bring us to salvation, but only the know-lodge of the holy Scripture. The Word of God cannot save nor profit us without faith. Such is our blindness, deadness, dulness, yea, enmity against the Word, that without faith we cannot see, conceive, or receive it (1 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 1:16; Hebrews 4:2; John 3:19-20). If a man offer us never so good an alms, yet unless we have an eye to see it, with a hand and heart to receive it, we are never the better for the tender of it.
1. Observe. Parents ought to instruct their children betimes in the Word of God. It is good seasoning the vessel betimes with goodness. It is a singular mercy to have good parents, and specially a good mother, for she being much about her children hath many opportunities of dropping good things into her little Lemuels, as Bathsheba did into Solomon (Proverbs 31:1). The mothers of the kings of Israel are constantly mentioned, and as they were good or evil, so were their children. But at what ago would you have parents begin to teach their children? So soon as over they begin to learn wickedness, we should teach them goodness; so soon as ever they begin to curse and swear, we should teach thorn to bless and pray. There are many reasons why youth should be seasoned betimes with good principles.
1. In respect of that natural rudeness and ignorance which cleaves so close unto them (Ecclesiastes 3:18; Job 11:12; Jeremiah 4:22; Jeremiah 10:14). We are all by nature like wild ass colts, unteachable, untractable.
2. The Lord oft blesses this seasoning in youth with good success.
3. It is usually blessed with continuance and perseverance; such as are good young are oft good long; what the vessel is first seasoned withal it will have a taste of it a long time after.
4. This is an excellent means to propagate goodness to posterity. As we see here, Timothy’s grandmother teacheth his mother, and his mother teacheth him, and he teacheth the Church of God, etc. So if you teach your children, they will teach their children, and thou mayest be a means to propagate God’s truth and honour from one generation to another. So that you may comfort yourselves when you come to die that yet your piety shall not die, but shall survive in your posterity, who shall stand up in your stead to profess God’s name and truth before a sinful world.
5. Such well-bred and timely-taught children are usually great comforts and ornaments to their parents (Proverbs 23:15-16; Proverbs 23:24-25), as we see in Abol, Joseph, Samuel, Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:3), Obadiah (1 Kings 18:18; 1 Kings 18:12), David, Daniel, Jeremy.
6. Children are the seminary and nursery, of the Church and commonwealth; now, as our seminaries and seed-plots are, such is the nation; as the parents, house, and school are, such are towns and cities.
7. Youth is most teachable and tractable, like soft wax or clay fit to be formed and framed to anything, ready to take any impression. Like a tender twig you may bend it which way you please, but let it grow to be a tree, and you may sooner break it than bend it. We should therefore take this fit season of seasoning youth betimes with saving truths, and killing the weeds of sin which begin to appear in their lives. No creature so wild but it may be tamed if taken whilst young. We see those that would teach or tame horses, lions, hawks, dogs, bears, they begin with them betimes; the horse is broken whilst a colt, and the lion tamed whilst it is a whelp, etc. As in the Ark there was the rod and manna, so in every well ordered family there must be the manna of instruction and the rod of correction. It must stir up young persons to devote the flower and best of their days unto God, who is the best of beings. Show me any that can show better title to thy youth than God can do, and let him take it. He gives the best wages, and so deserves the best work; godliness hath the promise (Proverbs 22:4; Matthew 6:33; 1 Timothy 4:8). And if we serve Him in our good days, He will help us in our evil ones; if we spend our youth in His service, He will support us and supply us in our old age (Isaiah 46:3-4). If it were in our power, yet we may in no wise deal so disingenuously with our God as to give the devil the marrow of our youth, and reserve the dry bones of our old age for God. It is no wisdom to lay the greatest load on the weakest horse. Old age (though in itself it be a blessing) yet is accompanied with many troubles, sicknesses, and diseases; they are the dregs, the lees, the winter of our days. As all rivers meet in the sea, so all diseases meet in old age--hence it is called the evil day (Ecclesiastes 12:3-5), etc. Then the eyes grow dim, the ears deaf, the hands tremble, and the legs are feeble, and the memory fails. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Religion in youth
1. It is more easy; anything taken when it is young is more easily wrought upon. A twig is easily bent; a disease taken in the beginning is easily cured, when everything by delay grows worse. When the fingers are grown stiff, it is ill learning to play on the lute. An old disease is hardly cured. The longer a tree grows, the harder it is to pull up. The further a nail is driven, the harder it is to pull it out again. The acting of sin strengthens the habit, and when sin is become habitual, connatural, and customary, it is hardly cured (Jeremiah 13:23; Isaiah 26:10).
2. It is more fruitful; we shall do more good, and receive more good; to him that hath shall be given. We shall bring forth much penitential fruit, which will bring much glory to God, and in glorifying Him lieth our glory (Job 15:8). Suppose a man should never repent till he were old and ready to die; though such a man may be saved, yet his graces are not so conspicuous, nor can he do that good, nor bring that glory to God as a young man that begins betimes to serve Him. It is a thrifty course to be an early convert; the sooner we submit to the Spirit’s conduct the better, the more peace and liberty we shall attain.
3. It is more beautiful and lovely. Everything is beautiful in its season (Ecclesiastes 3:11); now God’s usual season for repentance is when we are young.
4. We shall resemble the servants of God; all their obedience hath been prompt and speedy. They are endued with the wisdom which is from above, which is easily entreated to any goodness.
5. Consider the shortness and uncertainty of our days. It is a notable spur to speedy repentance; for as presumption of long life doth harden men, so realising of death, and looking on it as present, doth quicken and awaken men. Now our life in Scripture is compared to a span that is soon measured (Psalms 39:5); to a tale that is soon told (Psalms 90:9); to a vapour that quickly vanisheth (James 4:14); like a flower that soon fades (Isaiah 40:6-8; Job 14:2; Psalms 102:11; Psalms 103:15; James 1:10; 1 Peter 1:24); like a post or a weaver’s shuttle that fly speedily (Job 7:6; Job 9:25).
6. The seasons of grace are short; time itself is short; but opportunity is much shorter. Every day in the year is not a fair day, and every day in the week is not a market day. Grace is not every day’s offer, and therefore we should walk in the light whilst we have the light.
7. In this we may learn wisdom from the men of the world. The smith strikes whilst his iron is hot; the husbandman makes hay whilst the sun shines. The mariner observes his wind and tide, the lawyer his terms, the chapman his fairs and markets, and the gardener his seasons. Yea, shall the stork, the crane, and the swallow know the time of their coming, and shall we not know the day of our visitation? (Jeremiah 8:7). Doth the bee lose no fair day, and doth the ant in summer provide for winter? (Proverbs 6:8). And shall not we in the summer of youth provide for the winter of old age?
8. Neglecting the day of our visitation increaseth wrath, and provokes the Lord to cut off young persons in the flower of their days. If a man should every day be adding sticks to the fire, and oil to the flame, it must needs make the fire very terrible at last. (T. Hall, B. D.)
The Christian education of the young
1. “From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures.” That must have been a privilege of no slight importance in the estimation of Paul, which he considered worthy of peculiar mention, at such a time, and in his dying charge to his most beloved friend and companion. And when Timothy himself traced back the course of his life to his earlier years--when the memory of those youthful days rose upon his melting mind, as he perused the apostle’s touching allusion, he too would most readily acknowledge the gracious hand of providence in having thus blessed him with the inestimable advantages of an early religious education. Men, who deem themselves philosophers, may sneer at the knowledge of a child, and the piety of a child, thinking it impossible that childhood can intelligently either know or love God. How soon can it comprehend the meaning of a father’s authoritative and commanding frown, or the checking and controlling, yet affectionate smile of a mother! And, by the very simple process of combining these perceptions, and comparing in order to elevate them, how soon it may be taught to form some idea of a Being whose authoritative laws are similar, though vastly superior, to those of a father, and yet whose surpassing love, infinitely transcending that of a mother, shall endure when hers may have waxed cold, or waned utterly away, or been hid behind the darkness of the tomb!
II. Consider what is the advantage of being trained to know the holy Scriptures. This Paul declares to be, that they are able to make us wise unto salvation. It might be shown, had we at present scope for the investigation, that the wisdom of the world is wholly ineffectual for accomplishing the moral regeneration of man; nay, effectual only, or at least chiefly, in cultivating and enlarging his capacity of evil. It is the knowledge of the holy Scriptures, and that alone, which can make men wise unto salvation. Results so strikingly different must proceed from originating principles not less diametrically opposed. Let us, therefore, briefly examine some of the leading principles of the wisdom of the world, marking the contrast between them and those of the Scriptures. Now, the main intention of the world’s wisdom is, to fit men for living on this earth; that of the Scriptures, to prepare them for heaven. Plans constructed upon such very different principles, and for such very different ends, begin to diverge at their very commencement. The world trains children to a similarity with itself--with its pride, its luxury, its self-indulgence, its vanity, and its self-approbation; the Scripture principle is, “the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” self-denial, humility, acknowledgment of sin, and dependence upon God alone for help. The world inculcates the love of gain, as a ruling object; the Bible declares that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” The world is loud in its praises of these who acquire advancement and distinction in life; Christianity teaches us to be content with such things as we have, threatens the fall of the mighty and the proud, and pronounces a blessing upon the meek, the lowly, and the humble. The world allows, nay, inculcates, selfishness; Christianity bids us seek not our own welfare only, but also that of others. The world approves a bold, contentious spirit, as one likely to force it jostling way through all opposition; Scripture says, “The servant of the Lord must not strive.” The world allows dissimulation, selfish delusion, petty fraud, and all the thousand knaveries of common life and business; Christianity requires that the whole life and conduct should be characterised by the very transparency of truth, as ever in the presence of the God of truth and holiness.
III. We come now to offer some remarks on the principle of this saving wisdom--that by which it is accomplished, viz., “Through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (W. M. Hetherington, M. A.)
Knowledge of Bible in youth
David Livingstone gained a New Testament in the Sabbath school when nine years old by repeating the 119th Psalm on two successive evenings with only five errors. (W. G. Blaikie.)
John Wesley’s estimate of the Bible
I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit, coming from God, and returning to God: just hovering over the great gulf; a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing--the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way. He hath written it down in a book. Oh, give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be a man of one book. Here, then, I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone; only God is here. In His presence I open, I read His book; for this end--to find the way to heaven.
The Bible and the family
One evening a man, who resided in Southwark, attended a missionary’s meeting for the special purpose of lauding Paine and Voltaire as writers whose moral sentiments surpassed in beauty anything of the kind found in the Bible. What this objector to the gospel had to say was listened to with deference, and then he was asked if ever he had read the volume he contemned. Yes, he had read the Bible in common with other books. “Have you a family?” asked the missionary who was presiding over the little assembly. Yes, the speaker possessed a wife and little ones. Which, then, would he recommend to them--the life companion who was dear to him and the children whom he loved--Infidelity or Christianity? The company may have looked curiously to see what shape the infidel’s answer would assume, but they could little have suspected what its import would be. What was their astonishment when the champion of unbelief of a few minutes before burst into tears, and then cried, “I never heard that kind of argument before. I would rather give them the Bible than any infidel book.” (G. H. Pike.)
The Bible and the light of God
Lord Byron and Mr. Hobhouse explored together a cavern in Greece. They lost themselves in its abysses, and the guide confessed in alarm that he knew not how to recover the outlet. They roved in a state of despair from cave to cell. They climbed up narrow apertures, but found no way of escape. Their last torch was consuming; they were totally ignorant of their whereabouts, and all around was darkness. By chance they discerned through the gloom what proved to be a ray of light gleaming towards them. They hastened to follow it and arrived at the mouth of the cave. Would that all the torches which are blinding men to the light of God would burn out, and that speedily! Blessed be darkness and despair if through them men discern the beams which shine from heaven and reveal salvation. (H. Batchelor.)
Education of the youths
A lady was once talking with an archbishop upon the subject of juvenile education, and, after some time, the lady said, “Well, my lord arch bishop, as for myself, I have made up my mind never to put my child under religious instruction until he has arrived at years of discretion.” He replied, “If you neglect your child all that time, the devil will not.”
Early and lasting impressions
In our great museums you see stone slabs with the marks of rain that fell hundreds of years before Adam lived, and the footprint of some wild bird that passed across the beach in those olden times. The passing shower and the light foot left their prints on the soft sediment; then ages went on, and it has hardened into stone; and there they remain, and will remain for evermore. That is like a man’s spirit; in the childish days so soft, so susceptible to all impressions, so joyous to receive new ideas, treasuring them all up, gathering them all into itself, retaining them all for ever. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Which are able to make thee wise unto salvation.--
The Scriptures and Christ
Christ is the central theme of the Bible’s prophecies. The hope of Christ echoes through its Psalms. Every page gains new meaning when brought into relation with Christ. In the great light houses along our coast reflectors of immense power are placed around the lamps. They are composed sometimes of as many as a thousand pieces of highly polished crystal. Each of these sends out its own image of the central light. All combine to form the refulgent beam that shines a score of miles across the sea. So from each separate part of the Bible Christ is in some way reflected, and when we recognise Him throughout, it is all bright with interest and truth.
The saving use of the Bible
There are many people to whom the Bible does not amount to much. If they merely look at the outside beauty, why, it will no more lead them to Christ than the Koran of Mahomet, or Washington’s farewell address, or the Shaster of the Hindoos. It is the inward light of God’s Word you must get or die. I came up to the Church of the Madeleine, in Paris, and looked at the doors, which were the most wonderfully constructed I ever saw, and I could have stayed there for a whole week; but I had only a little time, so having glanced at the wonderful carving on the doors, I passed in, and looked at the radiant altars and the sculptured dome. Alas, that so many stop at the outside door of God’s holy Word, looking at the rhetorical beauties, instead of going in and looking at the altars of sacrifice, and the dome of God’s mercy and salvation that hovers over every penitent and believing soul. Oh, my friends, if you merely want to study the laws of language, do not go to the Bible. It was not made for that. Take “Howe’s Elements of Criticism”--it will be better than the Bible for that. If you want to study metaphysics, better than the Bible will be the writings of William Hamilton. But if you want to know how to have sin pardoned, and at last to gain the blessedness of heaven, search the Scriptures, “for in them ye have eternal life.” (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
Wise unto salvation through faith
The addition is remarkable. St. Paul’s experience had taught him that without that faith the study of the sacred writings might lead only to endless questionings and logomachies. Targums and the Talmud remain as if to show how profitless such a study might become. (E. H. Plumptre, D. D.)
Faith in Christ is, as it were, a torch, by the light of which we can first read aright and understand the dim colonnades and mysterious inscriptions in the ancient venerable temple of the Old Covenant. (Van Oosterzee.)
Wise unto salvation
I. That the scriptures are able to make wise unto salvation. The Scriptures do, indeed, contain the truth that makes wise to salvation, but it is “by faith that is in Christ Jesus.” It is when the Scriptures are believed, when they are received in the love of them, that man becomes a partaker of a blessing. Here it may be said, what strange language!--believe the Scriptures!--why, we always believed them! Those who utter such observations may imagine they believe, but they never believed “faith worketh by love”--“faith purifies the heart”--“faith overcomes the world”--faith is not a fancy--faith is not something floating through the mind of man, but it is of the operation of God. If, then, a man is careless about his soul, he does not believe; if he thinks more highly of the testimony of the world than he does of the testimony of his God, he does not believe; if he depends on his own poor doings, and makes them the ground of his hope, he does not believe; “for other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, Christ Jesus.” If a man neglects the various relative duties of life, and spends his time and money in satisfying in any way the lusts and desires of his flesh, that man, whatever he may be, or whatever he may say, does not believe.
II. That Timothy was instructed in these scriptures from his youth. Here we have a direct answer given to those who would withhold from the young the book of God. No man of sense, or common understanding, or ordinary feeling, would withhold a medicine from his sick child, in consequence of that child being unable to ascertain the nature of the medicine, or calculate the effect of its operation. (P. Roe, M. A.)
The blessedness of children Scripturally taught
I. What the holy Scriptures can do. “Make thee wise unto salvation.” Exceedingly high praise: can be affirmed of no other book. Were the Bible a book to teach men the art of becoming rich, many would read it who now refuse; all “that will be rich” would then study their Bibles as diligently as their ledgers. If it taught men to be philosophers, another class would read it more than they commonly do. If it were a mere road book, many would consult it who now do not as they pursue the road of life. But the Bible proposes to make men rich towards God, wise unto salvation, pilgrims on the way to heaven. It teaches the best means of attaining the best end; and that is true wisdom.
II. How the holy Scriptures produce such great effects. “Through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” The Scriptures do not work as a kind of charm. It is not by having the Bible in the house, nor in the school, nor in the church; but it is by having the Bible in the heart, its contents heard, read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested--that they make us “wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” The infidel can read them and scoff; the poet can read them and only admire their sublimity; the historical student can consult them only as ancient records; the formalist can read them just to get through a certain stated portion; yea, wicked persons have read them for bad purposes--to copy the sins which the Scriptures hold up to abhorrence. Of all such it may be said that the Word preached or read “did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” The Word profits when we hear as Lydia heard,” whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” Therefore the study of the Scripture should always be connected with prayer for Divine grace.
III. The advantage of knowing the holy Scriptures, if possible, even from early youth. “From a child”; there is the time when Scriptural instruction should begin. The word here rendered “child,” denotes childhood in its infantile stage. To early education, blessed of God in His own time and way, the Church has owed some of her greatest ornaments. Augustin, who made a noble stand for the gospel in the fifth century, always attributed his conversion to the prayers, the tears, and the instructions of his mother, Monica. God, in fact, appears to have remarkably honoured Christian mothers, whether they stood singly, or were supported in their endeavours to imbue their children’s minds with Holy Scripture. Dr. Doddridge, one of the most eminently pious men among the Nonconformists in this country, used to relate that his mother taught him the histories of the Old and New Testament before he could read, by the aid of some Dutch tiles in the chimney of the room where they usually sat; and her religious instructions were the means of making good impressions upon his mind that were never obliterated. (J. Hambleton, M. A.)
First duty of parents
1. Paul found Timothy, in their earliest acquaintance, a person who, though young in years, was fitted to enter the world in situations of great trust and confidence.
2. Paul had to think of Timothy, whilst employed in the onerous duties of his vocation, as one whose bodily constitution was sickly, and hence as one who was liable to severe illness or early death.
3. Paul had to experience the contemplation of being shortly separated from Timothy, having before his own eyes the certain prospect of martyrdom. Yet, in all his reflections, arising from the various circumstances attending his connection with this beloved disciple, one sufficient consolation filled St. Paul’s affectionate heart. He knew that Timothy, even from his childhood, had known the Holy Scriptures; and this knowledge relieved him from all apprehension and anxious pain about his beloved friend. He could confidently trust him in the world; he could bear to lose him out of it; and he could with comfort leave him in it, when his own expected death arrived.
And you who have children of your own, or are in any way entrusted with the guardianship of the young, will find that those three cases which I have cited concerning Paul and Timothy, may minutely represent your connection with the rising members of the human family.
1. In the first place, many a parent’s heart is often anxiously burdened with a conviction that soon the world must be opened to a son or a daughter; that the veil of domestic virtue and innocence, which has hitherto screened these children’s eyes from a sight of the vanity and wickedness which exist in the highway of life, must be rent asunder; and that the allurements of pleasure, the fascinations of sin, the temptations of gain, the suggestions of ambition, will all assail their inexperienced feelings, with a force to which their own natural inclinations will only lend congenial aid; and this will be so, even with these who have been most carefully and religiously trained. How, then, are parents to defend their offspring, and how are the young to be secured from the corrupting influence of the ordeal through which, in entering the world, these inexperienced ones must necessarily pass? Shall they be supplied with money, to save them from the thirst of gain, when it will give them the means also of indulging in sinful pleasure? Shall they be highly educated, and taught all that the accumulated learning of the philosopher has discovered, when this may fill the head without cleansing one affection of a naturally depraved heart? Shall they be shut out from the world, when the devil has already taken possession of them in those bosom lusts and appetites which human flesh and spirit universally inherit along with breath? All these resources, and all which are like unto them, are useless, vain, and idle; and the only effectual fortification against the seductions of this world, which it is the duty of all men to enter and purify by a good example, is that Divine knowledge acquired in childhood, which Timothy, when a child, had been taught by a holy mother. Armed with this instruction, the parent may trust his child to the duties of life; and youth may boldly go into the world, to bless and be blessed by contact with its evil influences, to which he will neither conform nor yield.
2. It is the sad lot of many parents to see, in the early life of those for whom a mother’s pangs bare been borne, the blighting shadow of infirmity, or the ravages of violent disease, appear, with ominous warning that sickness and death are no respecters of age. Even in the contemplation of a sickly or a dying child, there is a consolatory reaction from the grief which the spectacle presents, if father and mother can then conscientiously feel that, even from a child, their dear one had known the Holy Scriptures, whatever else they might have omitted in their instructions; and that whether renewed health come, or death carry off their treasure, they have thus made their young one wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
3. Parents constantly have the prospect before them of separation, by their own deaths, from those who, naturally, owe their lives to them. It were well, therefore, that they should make provision for this day of consternation and account. To leave riches without righteousness is the poorest of all inheritances; and poverty, though accompanied by patience and decency, will be no excuse for the want of that holiness which springeth only of faith. Happy only, therefore, can be the death of that parent, be he rich or poor, high or low, who can say, with his last breath, to each of his offspring, “From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures.” (A. Garry, M. A.)
Wisdom unto salvation
(To children.) I am going to say something to you to-day about Timothy, and something about the knowledge which, St. Paul says, Timothy had from childhood. “That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good.” All knowledge is good, but the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures is the best; for the Holy Scriptures are able to do for us what all other things are not able to do--to make us “wise unto salvation.” How is it that man manages the wind, the water, the steam, the lightning, though once he was a little babe, knowing nothing and able to do nothing? Just because he gels knowledge and wisdom; by knowledge and by wisdom he can do all these things. If you get knowledge, and by knowledge wisdom, you may become like angels; but if you get knowledge and do not use it rightly, if you do not fear God and serve Him, if you lie, and steal, do you think you will be like angels? Oh I there are a great many children brought up to be wise in this world, but the greater number are allowed to be foolish. God says, “Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom,” get it at any price, and do not part with it for anything. Remember, wisdom is of two kinds--wisdom for this world, and wisdom for the world to come. We have a short life here, but we will have a long eternity there. We have a very nice world here, but there is a beautiful world there. Timothy had wisdom for this world, and wisdom for the other world, too. Children, the way to be wise with the wisdom that is from God is to know the Scripture; the other wisdom will teach you about this world: how to get food for the body, which comes out of the ground; clothes for the body, they come out of the ground; a house for the body, and that comes out of the ground; how to get money, and it comes out of the ground. Look up; your treasure is above, not in the ground. The wisdom for this world we get out of the works of God; the wisdom for the next world we get out of the Word of God. The wisdom from the Word of God teaches us how to get bread for the soul--that is Jesus--raiment for the soul, shelter for the soul. All these we have in Jesus Christ; and this we know, and Jesus we know, by the Scriptures. So, then, the way to be wise unto salvation is to know the Scriptures. In order to understand the Scriptures we must have a new heart, and when we have a new heart we become wise unto salvation. The Scriptures make us “wise unto salvation,” because they tell us what salvation is, and where salvation is. And where is it, children? I know where the light is--it is in the sun; I know where the water is--it is in the ocean; I know where nourish ment is--it is in food. But salvation, which is the best thing, and the sweetest thing, is not in the sun nor in the ocean, is not in the moon nor in the stars. Where--where is it?--in what place can we find it? There is nothing so good, nothing so great, nothing so lasting, nothing so enriching as salvation. Those who get it will never suffer, never sin, never sorrow, never die. This salvation is a grand thing! with it, you will be rich; without it, you will be poor. It will make you like God in holiness and happiness. Oh! salvation! where is it? It is in Jesus. I remember reading about a little boy who went to sea. One night a great storm arose, and the storm lifted up the waves very high, and the wind raged, so that the sails were torn; the masts were carried away, and the ship was tossed about like a cork on the waters; and then a great wave came and dashed the ship upon the rocks, and every one on board, big and little--all, all--went like a stone to the bottom! Two or three days after the body of a boy was found lying on the shore. He was in a sailor’s dress; and when they searched his clothes they felt something hard in his bosom. It was a Bible! with the name of the Sunday-school where he got it, and the name of the teacher who gave it to him written in it; and the book had marks of being much read. Children, if that boy loved that book, and read it; if he knew Jesus and loved Him, though the night was dark and the sea was stormy, he had light in his mind and peace in his heart; and he has now a life that will never end, and a treasure that will never be spent. Though his body was dashed on the wild shore, his spirit will be with God in heaven for ever. Millions of such children are waiting in heaven for the morning of the resurrection, when they will get their bodies out of their little graves, and Jesus will change them, and make them like His own glorious body, and they shalt live and reign with Him for ever and ever. Would it not be a sad thing if any of you who are now hearing about Jesus should be lost! His blood can wash you; His Spirit can sanctify you. Go to Him--trust in Him--or you will perish. (J. Gregg, D. D.)
The sufficiency of Holy Scripture
I. The glorious purpose which God intended holy scripture to accomplish. To “make them wise.” The very statement of such an object is fitted to commend the book that is to accomplish it to our appreciation and our love. What is there, that can be compared with wisdom? It is the greatest acquisition that immortal man can make. But to be made wise “unto salvation” must be the supreme end and aim of all wisdom, worthy of the name. For if man be pregnant with immortality, to have meetness for heaven must be the chief end of man during the days of his pilgrimage here below. Salvation “through Christ Jesus.” The end so glorious, how sure and simple the way! “Faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
II. The sufficiency of holy Scripture to accomplish this glorious object. “Inspiration of God”: have you weighed the expression? What thanks we owe to our gracious Father, that He has not left us an imperfect, mutilated, shifting, and uncertain standard, but has given us a standard that in itself remains complete and unchangeable as His own eternal throne!
III. The fitness of holy Scripture to accomplish that purpose even in one of the little lambs of the flock of christ. The Word of God is of all the books that the world contains the most suited to a child’s mind and a child’s heart. “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” (H. Stowell, M. A.)
The gift of the Scriptures, and how it should be improved
I. What you owe to the Scriptures in a way of privilege. Is truth valuable?--they are called “the Word of truth.” Is righteousness valuable?--they are called “the Word of righteousness.” Is grace valuable?--they are called “the Word of His grace.” Is life valuable?--they are called “the Word of life.” Is salvation valuable?--they are called “the Word of this salvation.”
1. Let us view these Scriptures as inspired. They claim no less a pre-eminence for themselves. And how delightful is it, in a world of uncertainties, conjectures, and errors, to find something concerning which we may say, Well, this is truth, upon which we may rely secure. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.”
2. Let us view these Scriptures as preserved.
3. Let us view these Scriptures as translated. The first translation of the Scriptures was the Septuagint, executed by a number of learned men at Alexandria, who translated the Scriptures of the Old Testament into Greek. This was peculiarly overruled by the providence of God. Alexander, by his victories and dominion, was the means of spreading the knowledge of the Greek language, and thus the Scriptures could be easily read; and thus an expectation was commonly entertained of a future Messiah and Benefactor. The New Testament was, also, soon translated into several languages; hut it was a long time before the Bible was translated into our own language. When Elizabeth came to the throne, by an act of grace she opened the prisons, and a number of the citizens addressed her, thanking her for her generosity; but ventured piously and ingeniously to say, “May it please your Majesty, there are four very excellent and worthy men who have been denied to walk abroad in the English tongue--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John”; and from that time they have been allowed to walk at liberty, and to speak to you in your own tongue, in public and private, of the wonderful works of God.
4. Let us view these Scriptures as printed. A certain writer says, when London Bridge was first built, a copy of the Scriptures would cost nearly as much as one of the arches; and the whole of a labourer’s work through life would not have been sufficient to have furnished him with a copy l How is it now? Now, you see, by means of this invention, they may be multiplied to any degree; and every family, yea, every individual, may be in possession of a Bible, either by donation or by easy purchase.
5. Let us view the Scriptures as expounded. Now we owe much to many of those who have thus written.
6. Let us view the Scriptures as preached. Nothing in the communication of knowledge has ever yet been found like a living address from man to man. Nothing can produce so much impression and effect.
7. Let us view the Scriptures as experienced. There are many who have the Scriptures without them, but not in them. There are many who have the Scriptures in their own country, in their churches, in their houses, in their hands, and some of them even in their mouths, hut not in their hearts. But there are others to whom they are as a “well of water, springing up into everlasting life.”
II. What you owe to the Scriptures in a way of duty.
1. Surely you owe nothing less than to peruse them, and to value them, as David did. He said, “I rejoice at Thy Word as those who find great spoil.” “I esteem the words of Thy mouth,” says Job, “more than my necessary food.” And, says David, “The law of Thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.” And what said the celebrated Robert Boyle?--“I would prefer a single twig of the tree of life to all the riches of the world.” But let it be remembered that the Scriptures will not profit unless they are “mixed with faith in them that hear them.”
2. What less can this duty be than to understand them.
3. Surely this duty cannot be less than the practising of what the Scriptures teach. “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them”: and even “faith, without works, is dead, being alone.” We read of “obeying the truth,” and of “walking in the truth.”
4. Surely this duty cannot include less than your distributing them. The Scriptures were designed for all. The Scriptures are not given you as a blessing only to enjoy, but as a talent, also, to employ. (W. Jay.)
The Sunday-school and the Scriptures
I. The work of God’s grace in Timothy commenced with early instruction--“From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures.”
1. Note the time for instruction. The expression, “from a child,” might be better understood if we read it, “from a very child”; or, as the Revised Version has it, “from a babe.” Babes receive impressions long before we are aware of the fact. A special vantage-ground is lost when even babyhood is left uncultured. The Holy Scripture may be learned by children as soon as they are capable of understanding anything. It is a very remarkable fact, which I have heard asserted by many teachers, that children will learn to read out of the Bible better than from any other book. I scarcely know why: it may, perhaps, be on account of the simplicity of the language; but I believe it is so. A Biblical fact will often be grasped when an incident of common history is forgotten. There is an adaptation in the Bible for human beings of all ages, and therefore it has a fitness for children. Give us the first seven years of a child, with God’s grace, and we may defy the world, the flesh, and the devil to ruin that immortal soul.
2. It is well to note the admirable selection of instructors. We are not at a loss to tell who instructed youthful Timothy. “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” Nowadays, since the world has in it, alas! so few of Christian mothers and grandmothers, the Church has thought it wise to supplement the instruction of home by teaching held under her fostering wing. I regard this as a very blessed institution.
3. Note the subject of the instruction. “From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures”: he was lead to treat the book of God with great reverence. I lay stress upon that word “Holy Scriptures.” One of the first objects of the Sabbath-school should be to teach the children great reverence for these holy writings, these inspired Scriptures. The Jews esteemed the Old Testament beyond all price; and though unfortunately many of them fell into a superstitious reverence for the letter and lost the spirit of it, yet were they much to be commended for their profound regard to the holy oracles. Especially is this feeling of reverence needed nowadays. Observe that Timothy was taught, not only to reverence holy things in general, but especially to know the Scriptures. Suppose we get the children together on Sabbath days, and then amuse them and make the hours to pass away pleasantly; or instruct them, as we do in the week-days, in the elements of a moral education, what have we done? We have done nothing worthy of the day, or of the Church of God.
4. Once more upon this point: it appears that young Timothy was so taught as a child that the teaching was effectual. “Thou hast known the Holy Scriptures,” says Paul.
II. That this work was quickened by a saving faith. The Scriptures do not save, but they are able to make a man wise unto salvation. Children may know the Scriptures, and yet not be children of God.
1. Faith in Jesus Christ is that grace which brings immediate salvation. Many children are called of God so early that they cannot precisely tell when they were converted. You could not have told this morning, by observation, the moment when the sun rose, but it did rise; and there was a time when it was below the horizon, and another time when it had risen above it. The moment, whether we see it or not, in which a child is really saved, is when he believes in the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Notice, that by this faith in Christ Jesus we continue and advance in salvation. The moment we believe in Christ we are saved; but we are not at once as wise as we may be, and hope to be.
3. Observe, that the text gives us a plain intimation that by faith knowledge is turned into wisdom. Exceedingly practical is the difference between knowledge and wisdom. See it in the text. “Knowledge is power,” but wisdom is the application of that power to practical ends. Knowledge may be bullion, but wisdom is the minted gold, fit for circulation among men.
4. Learn yet again, that faith finds her wisdom in the use of knowledge conferred by the Scriptures. Faith never finds her wisdom in the thoughts of men, nor in pretended revelations; but she resorts to the inspired writings for her guidance. This is the well from which she drinks, the manna on which she feeds. Faith takes the Lord Jesus to be her wisdom. The knowledge of Christ is to her the most excellent of the sciences.
III. That sound instruction in Holy Scripture, when quickened by a living faith, creates a solid character. The man who from a child has known the Holy Scriptures, when he obtains faith in Christ will be grounded and settled upon the abiding principles of the unchanging Word of God.
IV. As this early teaching creates a fine solid character, so will it produce great usefulness. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The apostle here refers to the Old Testament Scriptures; showing that there was no want of conformity, but the reverse, between those Scriptures and the doctrines he bad preached. What advantage had the Jew? Chiefly that to him belonged the oracles of God. It was a great privilege which Timothy in his childhood had--that he could read, and did read, the holy writings: a great privilege, in like manner, it is, that the entire Bible, the canon in its complete state, with the superaddition of the New Testament, is given “to us and to our children, and to all that are afar off, and to as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
I. THE HOLY WRITINGS. Will you mark the force and emphasis of the word? It is not the print; it is the “writings.” The Scriptures then were not produced by types and blocks, by the modern mode of producing copies; each copy was written by the hand of man. But it is very delightful to reflect that the exact transcript, the pure and spotless copy of the things written down by the hand of Moses and David, and Isaiah, and John, and St. Paul have come down in their clearness and certainty to us. We know what the writings are to which St. Paul specifically and in this chapter exclusively refers. The Book of Genesis--the details of the fall, and the deluge, and the call of Abraham; Exodus--the emancipation from Egypt and the Decalogue; Leviticus--the laws and ordinances of the Levitical Church; Numbers--their movements and acts; Deuteronomy--a reiteration, or going over again; Joshua--the pictures of the conquest; Judges--the early difficulties and confusions; Samuel--the development of the regal character, the examples and achievements of Saul and David; and so on, through the historical books, to the Psalms and the prophets. In relation to all there we are certain that we have the exact copies, because the Jews preserved them with an unsurpassed care and vigilance, with an interest and a concern which amounted even to superstition. In addition to these, as I have said, we have as the holy writings the four Gospels, the facts of our Lord’s life and death and resurrection--the Acts of the Apostles, the early triumph of the faith--the Epistles, opening doctrine, enforcing precepts, explaining ordinances--and to put the crown and diadem upon the head, as it were, of the entire person, the whole body of revelation, that great and marvellous book called the Revelation. Wonderful writings! An amazing richness and extent and vastness and variety and plenitude of truth and fact, of history and prophecy, of doctrine, of knowledge and of wisdom, opened and poured forth from these gushing fountains. But “holy writings.” Mark that word: “holy,” as emanating directly from God, as being the fruit and product of immediate and miraculous inspiration. And we have the strong affirmation, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” And in this sense, of an immediate dictation from Heaven, a Divine breathing from above, the afflatus of the Holy Ghost, the writers being full of the Holy Ghost--in this sense, as a communication from the infinite and uncreated Mind, as a product of the wisdom and intelligence of Heaven, I take the book to be “the holy writings,” to have a style of its own, an authorship of its own, a permanence of its own. A holy book, as the product and emanation of the thrice holy God, and as having in all the parts and branches of it a holy tendency. It is a revelation of God; and God here makes Himself manifest as holy, in connection with the exhortation, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” In every part of it we see sin punished--virtue, obedience fostered; above all, in the great manifestation of Christ--in His sacrifice, sufferings, and death, that God “might be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus,” we behold ineffable justice; and in the example of the Lord Jesus, which we are required to follow, putting our foot into His footprints, there is the same demand. It is a book marvellously adapted to the wants of a fallen and guilty world--preserving from presumption, on the one hand, and from despondency, on the other--that we sin not; but if we are overtaken by transgression, there is the sacrifice and the propitiation. And as actually producing holiness--as being the cause of this beautiful product, the root (if I may so say) of this sweet and lovely and Divine flower; for the “law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” Men are good in proportion as they direct themselves to the study of the Scripture, and as they walk according to its rules. “I cannot tell,” Jonathan Edwards says, “how it comes to pass, but so it is, that the more I read the Scriptures, and the more I familiarise myself with the Divine contents of the heavenly book, the more pure, the more peaceful, the more benevolent, and the more happy I find myself.” Why, it is cause and effect. If you put yourself in contact with the cause, the effect will be sure to follow; and you may know that the men who are wise in the Scriptures, and who love the Scriptures, are in the same proportion and degree holy men. The Scriptures help them in their walk with God, in the maintenance and preservation of their piety, in its noblest, sweetest, most elevated and pure aspirations and desires. The Bible, the Holy Bible, is the source and fountain of the light and life and power of the Church.
II. The Holy Scriptures are “able to make us wise unto salvation.” “Are able.” There is a power, then, affirmed respecting them. They are true, genuine. If put to the proof they will demonstrate their capacity. They are “able,”as supplying the information by the light of which we may be saved. It is said in the Old Testament--“As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall My Word be.” It is said in the New Testament, “My Word is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword.” It is “able,” as it brings the likeness of Christ into me, and is accompanied by the enlightenment, influence, and grace of the Spirit; for the Spirit who dictated and indited these heavenly communications abides in the Church, and diffuses His unction and grace upon the understandings and hearts of men, where by, in His light seeing light, they discern the meaning of the expressions and the principles, and are able to appropriate, apply, and bring them home. “Wise.” Be upon your guard if any man is going to make you wise. The first thing the devil did was to persuade Eve that he could make her wise. Somebody arises with a new doctrine and a new interpretation--something which is to enlighten the eyes: be upon your guard, to say the least. Yet be “wise” in respect to the truth which is in Jesus; “wise” in respect to what is good--simple in respect to what is evil; in malice children--in understanding men. The Bible will make men “wise.” Even the uneducated, what is called by Isaiah “the wayfaring man, though a fool,” shall not err in the rudiments and elements, in the great salutary, refreshing, and saving principles. But if you want to be wise up to the full measure--to know the exact meaning of every book, the time of its being written, the purpose for which it was written, the literature associated with every book of the whole Bible, why, it is a vast range of knowledge, and it is marvellous how every kind and variety of knowledge can be made to bear upon the elucidation of the inspired books, so that they come out manifested and revealed in their own light and lustre, amid the unbounded and universal intelligence of men. But “wise unto salvation.” If you know the holy writings, and are acquainted with the book, you can answer for yourselves the marvellous questions--“How am I to be saved? How is sin to be forgiven, transgression blotted out? How am I to regain the ancient position, and to be dealt with as though I had never sinned?” The holy writings furnish you with the answer. By being sprinkled from an evil conscience by the blood of the Immanuel, cleansed from all sin by the blood of the Son of God. Faith in Him brings home the light upon this subject. I can know nothing of all this, except by the holy writings. And this is the chief wisdom. You may be wise in the world to get money; you may be wise in philosophy and science, and deep in literature; you may be wise in frivolities and gaieties and fashions and adornments. What will your wisdom amount to? What is it in comparison with wisdom unto salvation?
III. It is “By faith in Christ Jesus.” We are not directed by the apostle to exalt the holy writings against Christ, or Christ against the holy writings, as if there were any competition between the two. It is Christ as revealed in the holy writings. Yet it is not that we are “wise unto salvation” by faith in the holy writings, but by faith in Christ Jesus, the living Christ. The holy writings tell me that the anointed Saviour, the Son of God, has done the work, completed the great and wonderful achievement which the Bible ascribes to Him; and my soul by faith cordially accepts the testimony and reposes upon the truth.
IV. Timothy when a child knew this. Ah! his mother taught him, and his grandmother--his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois. Oh, sweet child! oh, beautiful teachers! How they taught him! and how he listened! For when Paul says, “From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures,” he means not merely the speculative and theoretical doctrines, but the experimental and practical had taken possession of his heart and enlightened his mind. Mothers! hear this. Early education, which is the most permanent in its effects, and the most influential upon character, depends mainly and chiefly upon the mother. Search into the Scriptures, then, and let it be said of you that you know them; that you have a measure of understanding, and that you take means perpetually for its improvement and advance. And those wire teach the children of others voluntarily are greatly to be commended. It is a service acceptable and well-pleasing to God. (James Stratten.)
Upon reading the Scriptures
I. The obligations we are under to apply ourselves to the knowledge of the holy scriptures.
II. The great advantage that will attend this study. Iii. The particular happiness of an early education in this knowledge.
IV. Some rules for direction in this duty.
1. We must read the Scriptures frequently, because from hence we shall receive the greatest assistances in understanding them.
2. We must read them with attention. Without this, indeed, barely to run over the words of Scripture in a negligent, cursory manner, is a profane disregard to the Almighty Author, whose name they bear.
3. We must read them with reverence.
(1) By reverence I understand that humility of mind which is due from us to our great Creator, that submission and subjection of our hearts and understandings to His Divine will, which disposes us readily to comply with whatsoever He proposes to us, whether it concerns our faith or practice.
(2) But besides this reverence to God the author, there is a farther instance of our humility to be shown, in not being too hasty or peremptory of ourselves to determine the meaning and sense of the Holy Scriptures.
4. We must read them without prejudice. A fault we shall never avoid unless we observe the former rule, and approach those sacred oracles with reverence and humility, with an open heart, and a teachable disposition. (J. Rogers, D. D.)
Through faith which is in Christ Jesus.--
Faith in Christ the key to the Bible
Faith in Christ is the key which will unlock and give access to the treasures of saving wisdom which are laid up in the Old Testament. The Bible is an organised whole, and Christ and the Cross of Christ are wrought into the structure of it, although they do not always meet the eye. He who by faith sees “Christ and Him crucified” in the Scriptures is in immediate possession of the ground-plan of the holy volume. He will observe how the original promise respecting “the seed of the woman” was a germ of hope planted in the earth, which, by constant accretions from new prophecies and new types, had expanded itself into full blossom when the Virgin-born appeared to fulfil it. He will observe how, as the ages rolled away, the light of revelation grew brighter, and how the prophets, in the greater spirituality of their religious precepts, and the greater explicitness of their predictions, were many steps in advance of the law. He will observe how, from the sacrifice of Abel downwards, every victim which fell at the altar of Jehovah prefigured the great sacrifice of the death of Christ. And in reciting the Psalms he will feel that the Spirit of Christ, which was in those sweet psalmists of Israel, testified darkly beforehand of the sufferings of Christ and the glory which should follow. Thus the whole of Scripture is welded together in the counsel and design of God; and we know that, as regards man, that counsel and design is all bound up in one word--“Christ.” He was “the Lamb slain” in the counsels of eternity “from the foundation of the world”; and accordingly in every chant of God’s holy prophets, which have been since the world began, there has always been an undersong of Him, an undersong which may be caught by every spiritual ear. (Dean Goulburn.)
The Bible in early youth
From the time that, at my mother’s feet, or on my father’s knee, I first learned to lisp verses from the sacred writings, they have been my daily study and vigilant contemplation. If there be anything in my style or thoughts to be commended, the credit is due to my kind parents in instilling into my mind an early love of the Scriptures. (Daniel Webster.)
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.
Inspiration of Scripture
The word Inspiration itself is evidently a figure. It may be illustrated by another word. “Inspiration” is a breathing into: “influence” is a flowing into: neither word is self-explanatory; the former, like the latter, may clearly admit of degrees and modifications. The word Inspiration occurs twice in the English Version of the Bible. “But there is a spirit πνεῦμα in man: and the inspiration πνοὴ of the Almighty giveth them understanding” (Job 32:8). “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God θεόπνευστος, and is profitable for doctrine,” etc. (2 Timothy 3:16). In the one passage instruction is the chief thought, in the other edification. The word occurs twice also in the Prayer-book. “Grant to us Thy humble servants that by Thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be good,” etc. (Collect for the fifth Sunday after Easter). “Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee,” etc. (Collect in the Communion service). In both these sanctification is the end in view. Definition is still wanting. In several passages of the Epistles (as, for example, Romans 15:4, and 2 Peter 1:20-21) strong terms are employed to describe the objects and uses of Old Testament Scripture as a whole, and its source in the agency of the Holy Spirit. Nothing can be more inclusive than St. Paul’s ὅσα προεγράφη, nothing more emphatic than St. Peter’s ἐλάλησαν ἀπὸ Θεοῦ. Yet definition is still wanting alike of the word and of the thing. Theories of Inspiration have been many, but it is not in conjecture or in reasoning that our idea of it should be sought. The only true view of Inspiration will be that which is the net result of a lifelong study of Scripture itself, with all freedom in registering its phenomena, and all candour in pondering the question, “What saith it concerning itself?” It is easy to see (and the Church of the present day is honest in avowing it) that the real truth must lie somewhere between two extremes--the extreme of verbal inspiration on the one side, and the extreme of a merely human composition on the other.
I. Against the idea of a verbal inspiration of Scripture we are warned by many considerations. Amongst these we may place--
1. Its utter unlikeness to all God’s dealings in nature and grace. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom”--freedom, not bondage; freedom, not rigidity.
2. The language of the New Testament as to the difference between “letter” and “spirit,” between γράμμα and πνεῦμα--the deadness of the one, the power of the other. As soon as Inspiration itself is tied to the clause and the sentence, to the precise shape and form of the utterance, and the black and white page of the written or printed book, it too is turned from the πονὴ into the χειρόγραφον, and has lost the very φορὰ of the Spirit which made it a προφητεία (2 Peter 1:21).
3. Such passages, for example, as the opening verses of St. Luke’s Gospel, which speak only of diligent research and a thoughtful judgment as his guides in composing; or St. Paul’s expressions in the seventh chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians, as to his speaking not always with authority, but sometimes in the tone of suggestion and advice; or again, St. Peter’s remarks upon the Epistles of St. Paul, which in the same breath he describes, by clear implication, as “scriptures,” and yet characterises with a freedom which would be irreverent and almost impertinent if each line of those “scriptures” had been verbally inspired.
4. The observation of differences of style and method between one Scripture writer and another; the employment, for example, by one of irony and sarcasm, by another of no weapons but those of simple persuasion.
5. The fearful importance attached to each reading and each rendering of each verse and clause of Scripture, if one was, and another was not; the very word dictated or the very thought breathed from heaven.
6. Also the utter grotesqueness of such an idea as the revelation of science, whether astronomy, geology, or ethnology--which yet there would have been if, where such objects are involved, the phrases and the sentences had been literally and verbally inspired of God; implying an anticipation, perhaps by many centuries, of discoveries for which God had made provision in His other gift of reason, and which it would have been contrary to all His dealings thus to forestall. “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity”; that which lie had given faculties for finding out in time, He would not interpose, before the time came, to precipitate.
7. The terrible risk to mankind of pinning down the faith to statements utterly indifferent to spiritual profiting, which yet, if philosophically accurate, must for whole ages bear the appearance of error. And who shall guarantee the Bible, even if accurately written up to the science of the nineteenth century, from being condemned by the science of the twentieth?
II. If such are the confusions and contradictions of the one extreme, the other extreme is yet more perilous. The practical elimination (now so common)of the Divine element in’ Scripture is fatal in every sense to its inspiration.
1. It reduces Scripture to the level (at best) of works of human genius; and, when this is done, makes the question, for each book, a comparative one, in which some books would be exposed to a disparaging judgment.
2. It sends us back to human reasoning, which is on many topics (such, for example, as immortality, forgiveness, and spiritual grace) human guessing, for all our information on things of gravest concern.
3. It contradicts
(1) express declarations of the New Testament Scriptures as to the Divine authority of the Old, as well as
(2) express assertion of Divine illumination, promised and experienced, in the blew Testament writers themselves.
4. It does violence to the continuous doctrine of the Church of all ages, which has from the very first been express and peremptory in its view of the Divinity of the Scripture.
5. It leaves us practically destitute, even of a revelation. Because, though there might be a revelation without an inspiration (that is, a gospel of Christ, brought into the world by Him, and by Him communicated to His apostles, and by them to after ages, without a separate inspiration of the writers of its records), yet, as a matter of fact, it is by Scripture that we test our revelation, and that which shakes the authority of Scripture shakes the certainty of the revelation which Scripture enshrines.
III. Between these two extremes lies somewhere the very truth itself about inspiration. It would be arbitrary to define it so precisely as to unchristianise those who cannot see with us. That there is both a human and also a Divine element in the Bible is quite certain. Some things we may say with confidence.
1. Inspiration left the writer free to use his own phraseology, even his mode of illustrating and arguing.
2. It did not level the characteristic features of different minds, life one could imagine the Epistle to the Galatians written by St. John, or the Epistle of St. James written by St. Paul.
3. It did not supersede the necessity of diligence in investigating facts, nor the possibility of discrepancies in recording them; though it is more than probable that most or all of these would be reconciled if we knew all.
4. While it left the man free in the exercise of all that was distinctive in his nature, education, and habits of thought, it communicated nevertheless an elevation of tone, an earnestness of purpose, a force and fire of holy influence, quite apart and different from that observable in common men.
5. It communicated knowledge to the man of things otherwise indiscoverable, and also to the writer of things which it was the will of God to say by him to the hearer or reader.
IV. While we refrain from definition, it is our duty as Christians to form a high conception of the thing itself for which inspiration is the name.
1. Let us think what would have become of the παραφήκη itself, under whichever or whatever dispensation, if it had been left to depend upon oral transmission.
2. Let us give weight to the passages (some of them quoted above) which assert Inspiration in the strongest possible terms.
3. Most of all, let us live so much in the study of Scripture, as to acquire that reverent and devout conception of it which is ever deepest and strongest in those who best know it. A Christian man able to treat the Bible slightingly would be a contradiction in terms. (Dean Vaughan.)
The word which is here rendered “inspired of God” is common enough in heathen writers, but this is the only place in which it occurs in Holy Scripture. As the word was common in heathen writers, so is the idea. “Best,” says an ancient Greek poet, “is the word of inspired wisdom.” Another Greek writer speaks of “dreams inspired of God.” The Roman orator Cicero says, “No man was ever great without a certain Divine inspiration.” This last example reminds us that in the Bible also inspiration is in the first instance the attribute of men, not of books. The prophet in the Old Testament is also called the man of the Spirit. Men from God, the Second Epistle of Peter tells us, spake as they were moved of the Holy Ghost. There is a spirit in man, we read in Job, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. The Divine breath, for that is the idea contained in the words “inspired of God,” is first in a human soul; it is only through the soul that it can be communicated to any word or work. Scripture can only be a body of inspired writings because it is the work of a body of inspired men. Now let us approach the subject from this side, and I think it will lead us to some serviceable truths. All men are not equally capable of inspiration--some have a much greater fitness than others for receiving the Spirit of God. If we wish to see the perfect type of inspiration--inspiration not limited or hampered by any unfitness in its instrument--we must find one in whom there is no sin, but an entire and perfect sympathy with the mind and will of God. One such there is in Scripture, and one only--the man Christ Jesus. No one ever had the Spirit without measure except Him; in other words, no one ever walked the earth besides who was in the true and full sense inspired of God. The Divine breath was in Him, and Him only, the life of every thought and word. Hence the words of Christ have a solitary and supreme value. He says so Himself: “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” The difficulties which are felt at the present time in connection with inspiration should all be brought under review in this light. Every scripture, the text tells us, at least by implication, has a Divine breath in it; there is a Divine purpose which it has once served, and which, at a certain stage of human progress, it may profitably serve still; but not every scripture is equally inspired; not every scripture has the final and permanent validity of the words of Christ; and as long as these last find their way to our hearts and work the will of Christ in us, we need not disquiet ourselves because we cannot define the inspiration of Esther, for instance, or of Second Chronicles. When we take the words of Christ as the perfect type of inspired words, and the record of them as the perfect type of inspired Scripture, we see what the essential contents and purpose of inspiration must be. Christ’s words are not monotonous; they are inexhaustible in their fulness; but in them all there is the undertone: One thing is needful. Christ is always saying the same things, and about the same things. The nature of God, the will of God, the true life and destiny of man--these and all that gathers round these are His theme. He aims at making men wise, but it is wise unto Salvation. He never taught a school of history or of science, or even of speculative theology. It was His meat to do the will of Him that sent Him, to declare that will, to win others to do it likewise. We cannot come nearer than the study of His words brings us to a true idea of inspiration; and if what I have said is true at all, it follows that inspiration has to do only with the will of God. The man of the Spirit is not necessarily an infallible observer, an infallible scientist, an infallible historian; in matters unconnected with his inspiration he may share the ignorance or the prejudices of his uninspired contemporaries; but he is, in the measure of his inspiration, an infallible interpreter of the will of God. Could anything be more true than that the words of Christ are profitable for doctrine, or to put it in commoner words, useful for teaching? The truth about God and man and all spiritual realities is revealed in them, and brought home to the mind and heart. They have filled and fertilised the intellect of Christendom for centuries. Are they not useful also for reproof, or more exactly, for conviction? Are there any words in the world that can quicken a dead conscience and make it sting, like His? How many of us have been revealed to ourselves as we listened to Him, and been compelled to cry like the woman of Samaria--“Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did”? Are they not profitable also for correction, for the putting right of what is wrong, and for discipline in righteousness? But, some one may say, though all this is plain enough in regard to Christ’s words, it is very difficult to apply it to everything in the Bible--for instance, to the historical books; yet the text speaks of every scripture. That is true, and no doubt by every scripture the apostle has the Old Testament in view; there was no other scripture to speak of when he wrote. But I think a little patience and attention will show that this general and practical definition of inspiration is applicable to the whole of the Bible; and if the Bible, from first to last, has this inspiring and educative power for practical spiritual purposes, we must not deny its inspiration on other and alien grounds. Let us take examples from the historical books to make clear what I mean. There are parts of the Old Testament that belong to the clear daylight of history--for example, the story of the last years of David. That story is told in 2 Samuel, from chap. 11. onward. I hardly need to recall it even by mentioning the names of Bathsheba, Uriah, Amnon, Tamar, Absalom, Ahithophel, Joab, Shimei. No one knows who wrote it, but it is not possible to doubt that it rests on the authority of some one in immediate contact with the facts. Now consider how it might have been written. A newspaper reporter often has to deal with the same materials, and the chances are a thousand to one that in his hands they minister to the defilement and degradation of the community. A secular historian would probably handle them lightly, as the inevitable disorders of an oriental despotism--the natural result of such a situation as David occupied. In neither case would there be room to speak of inspiration. But as it stands in the Bible, that terrible record of crime and its consequences, is in the full sense of the word inspired. It is not written by a sensational reporter, or a pragmatical historian, but by a man of the Spirit. We see lust and blood in it, not with the sensual eye which feels the fascination of moral horrors, but with the holy eye of God. No man ever read it but was awed, shocked, disciplined in righteousness by pity and fear. It is in that sense that the story is inspired. The facts were not inspired; they were the common property of men with and without the Spirit. There could not be a more signal illustration of the power of inspiration than that a narrative like this--all of foulest crime compact--should have virtue in it, when told by an inspired man, to quicken the conscience, and educate the man of God. Take one example more, in some ways the most difficult of all, the first eleven chapters of Genesis. According to the usual chronology these cover a space of something like two thousand years. They do not contain many incidents--Creation, the Fall, the Flood, the origin and dispersion of the nations, are the chief. Now nobody lived through all that period, and at the very earliest these narratives were not written as we have them for centuries after it expired. To what extent they embody traditions; how nearly or how remotely, in any given case, tradition may be related to things as they actually happened; whether a primitive revelation survives in them here or there--all these are questions on which men have been very positive, but on which simple regard for truth precludes positiveness. And what I want to insist upon here, is that the inspiration of these chapters, like that of the rest of the Bible, is not affected by any decision to which we may come on these points. Inspiration has to do with the spirit of the writer, not with his materials. The inspiration of Luke did not provide him with facts about the life of Jesus; he had to learn them from eyewitnesses and catechists; he had to scrutinise and compare documents like another historian. Neither did inspiration, as I believe, supply the writer of Genesis with his materials. What is inspired in his story is what speaks to the spirit, what serves to convict, to correct, to discipline in righteousness; and judged by this standard, there is nothing in the Bible better entitled to claim inspiration than the story, e.g., of the Fall. Compare such a narrative with the use made of similar materials by a pagan writer--a comparison that can fortunately be made--and we see how wonderfully the author must have been filled and uplifted by a Spirit above his own. It is because his writing has this spiritual quality, this permanent power to reveal to us both God and our own heart, that it answers to the description given by Paul of every inspired Scripture. There is only one proof, in the long run, that the Spirit of God is in the Bible; and that is, that it exerts its power through the Bible. The perfection of Scripture is perfection for its purpose, and that purpose is the transformation of character. (James Denney, B. D.)
The inspiration and utility of the Scriptures
I. The inspiration of the scriptures.
1. What is inspiration? It is not revelation, but the infallible record of an infallible revelation.
2. The extent of inspiration. How far were these men guided by the Holy Ghost in the composition of the Scriptures? To every line and word. Yet was not the self-control or intelligent consciousness of the writer destroyed. Each writer retains his own style (see 1 Corinthians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 12:6).
3. The object of inspiration. To give certainty to that written under its guidance.
4. The proofs of inspiration. Internal evidence. Arguments drawn from the history of these books, from their contents. Christ’s appeal to the Old Testament as of Divine origin. The claim of both writers of Old and New Testaments.
II. The utility of the scriptures. “profitable for,” etc.
1. As an unvarying standard of doctrine. Not a theological statement, but the germ of all true doctrine. From it all doctrine must be derived, and to it all doctrine must be referred.
2. Useful in the confutation of all religious error. “Profitable for reproof.”
3. Useful as an infallible standard of right and wrong. We cannot trust a pope, a church.
4. Useful for instruction in righteousness. By following its teachings we are brought into fuller measures of perfection. Our sanctification is by the Word. “Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy Word is truth.” (James Hunter.)
Inspired Scriptures, and their Divine purpose
I. The nature of the writings here spoken of.
II. The object for which the scriptures were written. This object is twofold; first, what the Bible would make man; and next, holy it would accomplish its purpose.
1. What the Scriptures would make man. “That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” It does this by first making him a “man of God.” Religion is not an abstraction--it is a Divine life, and a life which in man makes him a man of God.
2. The standard after which he ever aims is perfection!
3. But we have not only the standard announced, we have also the style of the spiritual education determined--“that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished.”
III. How the scriptures propose making “men of God, throughly furnished, unto all good works.” “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable.”
1. “For doctrine”; that is, for conveying those truths and that learning needful to salvation.
2. Becoming “profitable for reproof.” This word “reproof,” means “conviction.”
3. It becomes “profitable for correction.” This is equally necessary in a volume suitable to save men.
4. Lastly--by “instruction of righteousness.” The unlearning of man’s love to sin, the undoing of his evil habits--this is correction. But after all this is but the negative part of Christian character. It is the abegnation of evil. Christianity inculcates positive good.
IV. The work which holy Scripture is yet destined to do.
1. By the Bible the Church of God mast be purified.
2. By the Bible, as an instrument, the Jews must be converted.
3. By the Bible the great apostasy must be destroyed.
4. By the Bible, instrumentally, the heathen must be converted. (A. M. Brown, LL. D.)
The Bible superhuman
I shall content myself with stating some plain facts about the Bible, which can neither be denied nor explained away. And the ground I shall take up is this--
I. That these facts ought to satisfy every reasonable inquirer that the bible is of God, and not of man.
1. It is a fact that there is a superhuman fulness and richness in the contents of the Bible. It throws more light on a vast number of most important subjects than all the other books in the world put together. It boldly handles matters which are beyond the reach of man when left to himself.
2. It is another fact that there is a superhuman wisdom, sublimity, and majesty in the style of the Bible. Strange and unlikely as it was, the writers of Scripture have produced a book which even at this day is utterly unrivalled. With all our boasted attainments in science and art and learning we can produce nothing that can be compared with the Bible. To talk of comparing the Bible with other “sacred books” so called, such as the Koran, the Shasters, or the book of Mormon, is positively absurd. You might as well compare the sun with a rushlight--or Skiddaw with a mole-hill--or Saint Paul’s with an Irish hovel--or the Portland vase with a garden pot--or the Koh-i-noor diamond with a bit of glass. God seems to have allowed the existence of these pretended revelations in order to prove the immeasurable superiority of His own Word.
3. It is another fact, that there is a superhuman accuracy in the facts and statements of the Bible, which is above man. Here is a book which has been finished and before the world for nearly 1800 years. These 1800 years have been the busiest and most changeful period the world has ever seen. During this period the greatest discoveries have been made in science, the greatest alterations in the ways and customs of society, the greatest improvements in the habits and usages of life. But all this time men have never discovered a really weak point or a defect in the Bible. Over and over again the enemies of the Bible have fancied they have detected defects. Again and again they have proved to be mistaken. The march of intellect never overtakes it. The wisdom of wise men never gets beyond it. The science of philosophers never proves it wrong. The discoveries of travellers never convict it of mistakes. Are the ruins of Nineveh and Egypt ransacked and explored? Nothing is found that overturns one jot or tittle of the Bible’s historical statements.
4. It is another fact that there is in the Bible a superhuman suitableness to the spiritual wants of all mankind. It feeds the mind of the labourer in his cottage, and it satisfies the gigantic intellects of Newton, Chalmers, Brewster, and Faraday. It is the only book, moreover, which seems always fresh and evergreen and new. I place these four facts about the Bible before you, and I ask you to consider them well. Take them all four together, treat them fairly, and look at them honestly. Upon any other principle than that of Divine inspiration, those four facts appear to me inexplicable and unaccountable. Not only were its writers isolated and cut off in a peculiar manner from other nations, but they belonged to a people who have never produced any other book of note except the Bible! There is not the slightest proof that, unassisted and left to themselves, they were capable of writing anything remarkable, like the Greeks and Romans. Yet these men have given the world a volume which for depth, sublimity, accuracy, and suitableness to the wants of man, is perfectly unrivalled. How can this be explained? To my mind there is only one answer. The writers of the Bible were Divinely helped and qualified for the work which they did.
II. Let us now consider the privileges which the possession of an inspired book confers upon us.
1. It is a privilege to possess the only book which gives a reasonable account of the beginning and end of the globe on which we live.
2. It is a privilege to possess the only book which gives a true and faithful account of man.
3. It is a privilege to possess the only book which gives us true views of God.
4. It is a privilege to possess the only book which gives a clear account of the full, perfect, and complete provision which God has made for the salvation of fallen man.
5. Finally, it is a privilege to possess the only book which explains the state of things that we see in the world around us.
III. Let us now consider the duties which the possession of God’s oracles entails upon us.
1. First and foremost, let us honour the Bible by making it the supreme rule of faith, the standard measure of truth and error, of right and wrong in our churches.
2. In the next place, if we believe the Bible to be “the oracles of God,” let us show the reality of our belief by endeavouring to spread it throughout the world. (Bp. Ryle.)
Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures
I. In confirmation of this doctrine, we would ask attention to the following considerations and arguments.
1. We would offer a short, clear, and strong argument, from Mr. Wesley. “The Bible,” says he, “must be the invention either of good men or angels, bad men or devils, or of God.”
(1) It could not be the invention of good men or angels; for they neither could nor would make a book, and tell lies all the time they were writing it, saying, “Thus saith the Lord,” when it was their own invention.
(2) It could not be the invention of bad men or devils; for they would not make a book which commands all duty, forbids all sin, and condemns their souls to hell to all eternity.
(3) Therefore we must draw this conclusion, that the Bible must have been given by Divine inspiration--that it is the work of God.
2. Our second argument is derived from prophecy. The ability to foretell future events, especially hundreds of years beforehand, belongs to God alone.
3. The declarations of the Scriptures themselves plainly prove this doctrine. But will not this be proving inspiration by inspiration? It would be so, indeed, did we assume the Bible in this argument to be inspired. But now we take it only as a book of truth, declaring true doctrines and true history; as such we receive it, and by itself prove its inspiration.
II. We pass to consider some objections.
1. The first, and one which is frequently in the mouths of infidels, is that there are contradictions in the Scriptures, and therefore they cannot be inspired.
2. Another class of objections against the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures is founded on the imperfect state of the text, its variations in the reading and punctuations.
3. Another objection which has been urged against plenary or verbal inspiration is founded on the individuality of the sacred writers. The following is our answer:--God speaks to man after the manner of men; and hence He uses human language, and, of course, human language with its imperfections.
1. If the Holy Scriptures are Divinely inspired, human reason ought to be held in abeyance to their teachings.
2. If Divinely inspired, they must teach us truth without any admixture of error.
3. We also infer that, if Divinely inspired, they contain a sufficiency of truth for our salvation. (Stephen M. Vail, M. A.)
The Word of God commended to the man of God in the perilous times of the last days
1. The subject of this text is our own precious Bible.
2. And, assuredly, of the very deepest interest must such a subject be to the sort of person to whom in the text the Spirit, by Paul, addresses Himself, on the Divine inspiration, and authority, and profitableness of the Bible. For it is to “the man of God” the apostle here speaks in commendation of the Word of God. It is to one he writes who (2 Timothy 3:14-15) had “learned” and “been assured” of “the things” revealed in “the Holy Scriptures,” which “from a child he had known”--who had experimentally proved them to be “able to make him wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” To that sort of person no theme could be more attractive of the deepest interest, than the incalculable preciousness of the Holy Bible (Psalms 19:7-11). One thing only could enhance such a man’s estimate of their infinite value, and that one thing was the character of “the times” in which, as peculiarly threatening of dangerous assaults on the Christian faith, the apostle commended the profitableness of the Scriptures and exhorted the man of God to continue to confide in the profitableness of “all Scripture” as “given by inspiration of God.”
3. And yet, though thus employed as the means of enforcing his exhortation to Timothy to “continue in the things which he had learned,” the “perilous” controversies of “the times” are not suffered by any insinuation on the part of the apostle to disturb the certainty in which his young disciple had “been assured” of “the things which he had learned.”
4. Are we “men of God,” “taught of God” to know Him, and with profoundest reverence to acknowledge His authority speaking in His own Word? Then we are of those who spiritually see. To our renewed hearts, as to open healthy eyes, the light of Holy Scripture has come and entered in, carrying with it its own evidence of its Divine authority, and with a power that is irresistible.
I. Whence have we the Bible? It is “of God”--its authority is Divine. When God speaks the highest exercise of man’s reason surely is, in silent submission, to believe and obey, simply because it is the Word of God that is spoken. It is the exercise of a prerogative the noblest birthright of man, to believe God’s truth. In that submission of human reason to the authority of Divine truth, man escapes into freedom! The truth as nothing else can do, emancipates the mind from the debasing slavery to the opinions of men. It puts man as to unseen things in immediate and direct communication alone with God. No creature is allowed to intervene as the Lord of the conscience, when, for the authority of God speaking in it, the word in Holy Scripture is believed. God is then by His Word and Spirit in actual contact with your soul, for your enjoying the most ennobling fellowship with Himself, in the light of truth, and in the perfect freedom of a willing obedience of the truth.
II. In what manner is it given us by God?--“It is given by inspiration of god! “The text here, you observe, does not point to such a mode of communication with man as was used in the Garden of Eden, when, in the cool of the day, the voice of God was heard by Adam talking with him. Nor yet does the text here refer to such a mode of writing down what the voice of God had uttered in man’s hearing, as was once and again practised, when, on two tables of stone, the ten words of the Holy Moral Law were engraven by the immediate finger of God. The text does plainly testify to the Word of God being written, but observe, to that result being attained by what is called “inspiration.” It is God-breathed. That, what is written in the Bible is the Word of God, results from the inspiration by God of men employed by Him to write it. The Word in Holy Scripture results from that miraculous operation of the Spirit of God, whereby He did so communicate Himself to the writers of these Scriptures for the revelation of His will to man, as to secure the infallible truth and Divine authority of what is written in the Bible. Of the manner of that miraculous operation of the Spirit of God we know nothing.
III. To what extent is the Bible inspired?--“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” It is thus that the Divine Author of the book Himself declares to what extent it is inspired. In whatever manner the Divine influence that “gave the Word” worked--by whatever means, by means of however many varied manuscripts, as by many different compilers--the result we have in this Bible is throughout Divinely inspired.
IV. With what design has it been given by inspiration of God? It was given to be profitable, in order “that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works,” and for that end profitable in a way manifold and many-sided.
1. The Bible is “profitable for doctrine.” By its revelation of truth as an objective reality, it really gives man truth to love. It thus stands in the boldest contrast to the utterly unsatisfying vanity of modern rationalism, which gives you nothing but the question whether there be revealed truth at all.
2. The Bible is “profitable, too, for reproof.” By its deep and searching spirituality the Bible deals with man’s state as a sinner before God. It reveals the truth as to man lost. It reaches the deepest needs of his condition. It thus utterly dispels all the delusive fancies of modern rationalism, whereby man is tempted to think well of himself; and so to count that a gain to him which, if ever lie be saved, he must be content to count as loss for Christ.
3. The Bible is profitable, besides, “for correction” of every such groundless hope in man. By the revelation of grace to us as fallen, and of deliverance from the guilt and power of our sin by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the Bible gives a Divine contradiction to every rationalistic theory of human progress, by which redemption is attempted to be explained without the cross and the sacrifice of the Redeemer.
4. The Bible is profitable, finally, for instruction (or discipline) in the life and walk of righteousness. In direct opposition to the wild ravings of modern rationalism about “emancipation from the external law of revealed truth”--for the solemn rebuke of that delusive licence which is sought in following the light within us, rather than the Word of God without us--the Bible plainly asserts that, “under the law to Christ,” this is the love of the new life in Christ, that we keep His commandments--a life of obedience of “the law of liberty”--even as Christ Himself “kept His Father’s commandments and abode in His love.” (R. H. Muir.)
On the Scriptures
I. Human ability has been inadequate to the production of anything which would justify us in attributing to it the production of the scriptures.
II. God having graciously resolved to recover the human race from the state into which they had fallen, and to this end having spoke in times long past to the fathers by the prophets, and in the latter days to the world, by His Son, it is reasonable to suppose that, for the benefit of the generations to come for ever, He would cause a record to be made of the communications of His will.
III. The connection and agreement of the several parts of the sacred volume, intimate strongly its divine inspiration.
IV. Tradition has accompanied the holy volume in all ages and places of its being, testifying its claim to be considered as the word of god.
V. The providential care of god over the holy scriptures may well lead us to believe that they are his offspring.
VI. The completeness of the sacred writings, whereby I mean their sufficiency and perfection as a rule of faith and conduct; their adequateness to our necessities in this present state.
1. This we may clearly deduce from what has already been established. Being “given by inspiration of God,” the Scriptures must be perfect for the purpose whereunto He sends them; and if they are finished, so that no further addition to them is to be expected, they must be perfect in all generations for ever, for the use of the children of men.
2. And this, if we now advert to the sacred writings, will be found to be really the case. Upon every subject of a religious or moral nature, concerning which mankind have been inquisitive, we may here find ample information. And concerning the conduct which is proper, in every situation in which mankind may be placed, we may here find explicit instruction.
3. But, it may be objected, if the Scriptures are thus complete, whence is it that so many to whom they are sent, are brought by them neither to right faith nor to right practice?
4. And this brings me to observe in illustration of the completeness of the sacred volume, that if any who have access to it are deficient in knowledge or virtue, the cause of the deficiency is altogether in themselves. The Law of the Lord is perfect; and His Spirit is ready to render His Word efficacious to every attentive and humble mind. But we must approach it with docility. It is owing to men’s lusts and passions, to the pride of their minds, to the perverseness of their hearts, to the carnality and viciousness of their lives, that they do not all perceive the excellence and perfection of the Word of God, and find it a savour of life unto life to their souls.
VII. We find ourselves in possession of a volume, wonderfully adapted to the necessities of our nature, and “given by inspiration of God.” It becomes us to inquire, what is the object for which it is given?
1. And let me observe that it is for no purpose of benefit to the Almighty that the volume of His Word is given to our world. Neither our faith nor our obedience can profit the Most High.
2. I must also premise that whether any other beings than ourselves are interested in them, and whether their contents will be of utility to us in the other world, are questions which need not be discussed as essential to the inquiry we are about to consider. It is enough, in order to raise our estimation of them, to be assured that into the mysteries revealed to us the angels desire to look, and that by the dispensations of God to the Church on earth His manifold wisdom is made known to higher orders of beings. From the nature of things we may also be certain that those general principles of duty and virtue which have not respect to mutable stations and relations are the principles by which the conduct of perfect beings is regulated in all worlds.
3. But what I am now principally concerned to consider is the end or uses of the sacred volume to men, to whom it is given, in the present world. And this is nothing less than our recovery from the state of ignorance, sinfulness, and misery into which we are fallen, and our exaltation to the hope of eternal life. That I may more distinctly set before you the gracious design of the Almighty in giving us the volume of His Word, allow me more particularly to observe that it is the efficacious means of all those changes and graces by which the Christian character is formed and perfected. We are told, you know, that we must be born again in order to the knowledge and enjoyment of the kingdom of God. It is through the instrumentality of the Scriptures that this regeneration is accomplished. They are the seed of this new birth. Again: it is necessary that we should be sanctified and made holy in heart and life before we can enter into the kingdom of heaven. And the Holy Scriptures are the means by which the Spirit of God accomplishes this important part of our salvation. Further: it is required of us to grow in grace; and we have need to be constantly nourished in all goodness, if we would not relapse into our vile state, but advance to perfection in knowledge and virtue. The sacred writings are the granary from which this daily sustenance of our souls is to be obtained. They reveal the truths, they contain the virtues, they give efficacy to the ordinances, by which we are nourished into eternal life. Finally: it is necessary to our comfort, and to the full accomplishment of our deliverance from the miseries of our natural state, that we should have joy and peace in believing. And the reservoir of all spiritual joy is the Word of God--the gospel of our salvation.
VIII. From these truths there are several inferences of a very serious nature and great practical importance to which I must now ask your attentive consideration.
1. And from the views we have taken of the sacred volume we may perceive its claim to our highest estimation.
2. But if we value the Scriptures we shall also study them. The consequences of not reading the Holy Scriptures are of a more serious nature and greater in extent than you may suppose. It is to this, I apprehend, that we are to attribute, in a great measure, the total ignorance of religion in some and the decay of it in others. It is in this that we are to look for the cause of the instability of Christians. Here we may find the reason why error prevails. Here we may discover the source of fanaticism and of superstition. To this it is owing that the best seem unconscious of the degree of holiness to which they are called; and that all rest easy under imperfections of knowledge and deficiencies of virtue which a thorough acquaintance with the Scriptures would both reprove and correct.
3. In the course of our observations upon the Holy Scriptures, we have shown that God hath a merciful purpose in conferring them upon us, even to recover us from our ignorance, sinfulness, and misery, and exalt us to the hope of everlasting life. It behoves us, therefore, to inquire how far His desire and gracious intention have been accomplished in us? And this inquiry you will most safely answer, not by adverting to your occasional feelings and transient fervours, but by looking to your principles and your lives. Are you brought to a clear knowledge of the only true God, and of Jesus Christ whom He hath sent? Are those traits of excellence which are distinctly exemplified in the lives of the Scripture worthies, and which are all combined and perfected in the example of our blessed Lord, imitated by you in the several conditions and relations in which the Most High hath placed you? If, at the day of judgment, we shall be found, notwithstanding cur advantages, to have remained unchanged and unrenewed, the very heathens will rise up in judgment and condemn us.
4. On this solemn account I cannot forbear adding what is powerfully enforced by our subject, the importance of bringing to the oracles of truth, whenever we recur to them, becoming dispositions and conduct. Endeavour, if possible, to make it the standard by which you would regulate all your thoughts and actions.
5. The character of the sacred writings, and your privilege in possessing them, impose on you an obligation to extend the knowledge of them as far as you are able, and especially to make them the source from which you furnish your children with the principles and rules of life. (Bp. Dehon.)
The true teachings of the Bible
“Every Scripture inspired of God,” is the declaration, “is profitable.” Profitable for what? Well, “for teaching, for reproof, for correction.” It is a good teaching-book. It is a good book out of which to get instruction, provided you seek the right sort of instruction--instruction in righteousness. What is righteousness? Right living. In the Old Testament and the New the ideal pattern is that of a man living right in himself, in his social and civic relations, in his whole orb of self. A man must have some ideal pattern before him, and he must live according to it. The Bible is said to be inspired--that part of it which is inspired. “Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” For what purpose? Why, “that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.” There are two radical views of the function of sacred Scripture. First, it is held that it is a book proceeding directly from the mind of God, in the same sense in which Milton’s poems proceeded from his mind, or in which Newton’s discoveries proceeded from his mind, or in which any legislation proceeds from the minds of the legislators, and that it contains a substantial revelation of God’s moral government, both in this life and in the other world. In part, it is such a book; but that is not the genius of the Bible. Such is not the grand end of this book. The second view is the Scriptural theory. It is contained in the text. The Bible is a book that under takes to teach men how to live so that they shall live hereafter; and in regard to that aim and design of the Bible there is no divergence of opinion. All Scripture, then, is not inspired. Why should we suppose that the genealogies, and the land laws, or the laws of property, among the Jews, needed to be either inspired or revealed? Was it to supersede the natural operation of human reason that the Bible was given? If the division of property sprang up in the Hebrew commonwealth, and if there were many minute economies, all of which were of a nature such as that they could be born out of the human mind, and it was perfectly within the power of the human mind to write them down, what inspiration was needed for that purpose? No inspiration is necessary to record things that common human intelligence cannot miss, and cannot very well fail of recording. Proverbs and national songs, manners and customs, of the Hebrew commonwealth--all lay within the natural function of human reason; and when it is said, “All Scripture that is inspired,” doubtless it was with the conception that many of these things were natural and not supernatural. The existence of God; a belief in the moral order of the universe, or supervising Divine Providence; conscience, or the knowledge of what is right and what is wrong, and sensibility to that which is right as well as reaction from that which is wrong; the nature of things that are right and the nature of things that are wrong; sanctions for virtue, and sanctions also, penal, for vice, selfishness, wickedness, cruelty--all these things are constitutional, if I may say so, in the Bible. Here, then, is the life that you must not live, and here is the life that you must live. Was there ever a man that wanted to take anything away from that? The whole Bible is aa attempt to correct a man, and take him away from this under-passionate life of which we have been hearing the registration, and to persuade him to come out of it into the higher and spiritual life. The genius of the Bible is to lift men to righteousness, and to show the things to be avoided, and the things to be taken on. It is a book of instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished to every good work; and here are the work and the qualities. Now, I should like to know if there is any infidel in this world on that subject, or can be. A great many do not believe that God can exist in three persons; but is there anybody that ever doubted that love was beautiful, was true, was desirable? A great many men have had theories of the Atonement of Jesus Christ; there are some fifteen or twenty different theories or modifications on that subject; but did men ever have any difference of opinion as to love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, or any of these other qualities? About them there is absolute unity. (H. W. Beecher.)
The Divine authority and perfection of the Scriptures
I. That the scriptures are given by inspiration of God.
1. In order to judge whether persons are inspired, we must carefully inquire into their moral character; into their doctrine or message; and into the credentials or proofs of their mission.
2. The other external proof of an inspired person is the fulfilment of prophecy.
II. The perfection or sufficiency of the Scriptures.
1. They are profitable for doctrine to acquaint us with our lost and miserable condition by the entrance of sin into the world, and the train of fatal consequences that attended it; with our recovery by Christ; the covenants of redemption and grace; the offices of Father, Son, and Spirit in the work of our redemption, and with all those other mysteries which were kept secret since the world began, but are now made manifest by the Holy Scriptures for the obedience of faith (Romans 16:26).
2. For reproof, or the discovery of our pernicious errors in doctrine and practice.
3. The Scriptures are profitable for correction of vice and wickedness. “Wherewithal,” says the Psalmist, “should a young man cleanse his way but by taking heed thereto according to the Word of God?” There we have a collection of all Christian graces and duties, with their opposite vices. The fruits of the spirit and of the flesh are distinguished with the greatest propriety; and the most engaging motives to the practice of the one, and awful threatenings against the other, are represented with the greatest strength and advantage.
4. For instruction in righteousness. That is, either in the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all that believe, or in the practice of moral righteousness, the nature and excellency of which is better explained and illustrated in the sermons of our blessed Saviour than in all the writings of the ancient philosophers.
III. The clearness and perspicuity of the Scriptures.
1. They were written in the vulgar language, and therefore designed for the use of the common people.
2. Our Saviour, in His sermons to the people, appeals to the Scriptures, and exhorts His countrymen, the Jews, to search them. The Bereans are commended for this practice (Acts 17:11), and Timothy appears to have been acquainted with them from his childhood. If, then, it be proper to teach our children the Scriptures, and if it be the duty of grown persons to search them, it must follow that they are sufficiently clear in all points necessary to salvation.
1. Hence we may learn that the religion of a Christian should be his Bible, because it contains the whole revealed will of God, and is a perfect rule of faith and practice.
2. Let us be thankful that we have the Scriptures in the vulgar language.
3. Let Christians of all ranks and capacities revive this neglected duty of reading the Scriptures in their families and closets: it is both a delightful and useful employment.
4. When we read the Scriptures, let us consider them, not as the words of men, but as in deed and truth the Word of God.
5. In judging of controversies among Christians, let us not be carried away by the authority of great names or the numbers of them that are on one side, but keep close to the Scriptures.
6. When we read the Scriptures, let us pray for the instructions and teachings of the Holy Spirit, whose office it is to remove the prejudices and enlighten the understandings of those who are truly sincere. (Daniel Neal.)
The inspiration of the Scriptures
I. The nature of the inspiration. Inspiration means that which is breathed into the human mind of God. In the same way as Christ breathed upon the apostles, and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” so inspired men receive that influence and power which enlightens, and purifies, and sustains their judgment and their capacity whilst they are writing it. Exactly in the same way as a musician, out of an instrument, by the touch of his fingers, will evoke such sounds, such harmonies, as his own skill, his own will, or his own pleasure may design, the writers of the Holy Scriptures are the instruments out of which the Holy Ghost evokes the melodies of truth--the harmonies of heavenly and Divine doctrine--that which makes us happy in time, and prepares us for the happiness of eternity. There is a slight distinction to be made between inspiration and dictation. Dictation addresses itself to the ear, and goes through the ear into the understanding and the heart; inspiration is more that which is within a man--it is a power dwelling in the interior of his soul, and influencing his thoughts and expressions accordingly.
1. There is inspiration in matters historical--that which relates to the histories and biographies contained in the Bible.
2. We come to the inspiration which is doctrinal, or which has to do with abstract truth, such truth as the human faculties could never elicit, invent, or evolve; such truth as, if known at all by man, must be made known by God.
3. I advert to that inspiration which I denominate legislative--that which is associated with the giving of law and the enunciation of commandments.
4. There is the inspiration which is devotional.
5. I shall mention but one other form: that is, the form of prophecy--the inspiration which relates to the prophetic Word. I take this to be the fullest, most perfect, and unmingled of all the inspirations, because to man in no case is there vouchsafed any foresight.
II. Some of the leading evidences, the more striking proofs, that the Bible does come from that sacred and celestial source to which we ascribe it.
1. First it claims to be so; it says of itself that it is so. Moses did as the Lord commanded him. Again and again we read, “the Lord spake unto Moses”; and every prophet came with this annunciation, “Thus saith the Lord.” We find Paul saying, “I command; yet not I, but the Lord”; “The Spirit speaketh expressly”; “Ye have received the Word of God.”
2. There is another evidence which arises from the nature of its contents--from the original, exalted, enlightened, amazing principles, which it contains. I hold it as an axiom that God only can reveal God--that God is never known but by His own teaching and by His own inspiration. Here is God revealed.
3. There is also an argument arising from the self-evidencing power of truth. Light is self-evidencing. When a child sees light, it does not want any logical argument to say that it is light. When mind flashes, when intellect sparkles, when genius coruscates, you say, this is mind; you want no other evidence--the thing demonstrates itself. So does the truth in the book of God. Read out the doctrine, make known the precept, let us see the history; why, it is of God; it carries its own evidence.
4. Then there is the harmony of all its parts.
5. I must add the evidence of its holiness. The Bible, received in the heart and mind, makes a man pure, gentle, and Christlike; received into a family, it makes a scene of peace and unity; received into a nation, it purifies and elevates; and the world, did it receive the Bible and act upon its principles, would be paradisaical; almost all the miseries of it would be gone at a stroke; whatever is peaceful and felicitous for the glory of God and for the happiness of man would multiply, prosper, and abound.
6. There is one other argument, that arising from prophecy, in connection with the total want of human foresight, and the vastness and extent of this proof: “We have a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto we do well to take heed, as to a light shining in a dark place.”
III. The use and purpose: “That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” You note the expression, “man of God.” I take it to be a very noble and magnificent thing to be a man; I glorify God every day of my life that I am a man; I mean, that I have the capacities, the mind, the thinking powers, the will of a man. Then it is said, “man of God.” There are the faculties consecrated, the grace and light, the emanation and power of Deity beaming upon the man, making him a “man of God.” (James Stratten.)
The inspiration of Scripture
We can form no more distinct conception of what inspiration is in itself than that implied in the word--the breathing of God upon, or into, the minds of His servants. He imparted to them an extraordinary degree of influence, whereby they were instructed what and how to speak and write. This special Divine influence distinguishes them from all other teachers, and their writings from all other books. The manner of inspiration is beyond our knowledge; indeed, the working and influence of the Divine Being anywhere are to us a profound mystery. Motion, life, and growth, the fruitfulness of the earth, and the order and harmony of all things must be traced to Him; but how they are produced we know not. In Him we live and move and have our being; He besets us behind and before, and lays His hand upon us; but His manner of doing this is too wonderful for us to understand. We are bound to recognise His influence in the mental power, wisdom, and goodness of men; but how He comes into contact with the mind it is impossible to explain. So also of the prophets and apostles. They were inspired of God; He breathed into their minds, and endued them with a supernatural power of seeing and teaching spiritual truth--this we know; but beyond this point we cannot pass. Observe a threefold effect of inspiration--the revelation of truth, intensity of feeling, and abiding power in the words.
I. First, the inspired man was a “seer”; the veil was turned aside, and he was permitted to look into the sanctuary of truth. Think of the Hebrew prophets to whose writings the text refers. The unity, personality, and spirituality of God were revealed to them. They beheld His glory as others did not, and therefore spoke of it in sublime and incomparable language. The teaching of the Bible should be judged of by this: Do the prophets and apostles reveal spiritual truths in a clearer light than the ancient philosophers did? To this a thoughtful man can only return one answer--they do. Read, for instance, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, and then turn to the Epistles of St. Paul, and I think you will be obliged to acknowledge that moral and spiritual truth shines in the verses of the apostle with a brilliancy and strength not to be found in the words, wise and beautiful though they are, of the imperial Stoic. Seeing, then, that the prophets and apostles speak with such deep spiritual insight, the question is, How this came to pass? They were not philosophers, scholars, and orators, as the great and learned men of Greece and Rome were. The true explanation is, “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
II. Their mental illumination was accompanied by deep and intense feeling. Their spirits were “moved”--they felt the burden of “the word of the Lord”--the truth was in their heart “as a burning fire.” Therefore speech became a necessity, for by speaking they lightened the burden that oppressed them and gave out the fire that burned in their bosoms. When they had messages of peace and good tidings to deliver, their “doctrine dropped as the rain, their speech distilled as the dew, and as the small rain upon the tender herb.” But when the sins of the nation and the judgments of heaven were their themes, they cried aloud, and their language was as terrible as a midnight alarm. To speak as the prophets spoke we also must be enlightened and “moved” by the Holy Ghost.
III. The abiding power in the words. They are instinct with the love, the pity, the sympathy, and the power of the Divine mind. “They are spirit, and they are life.” The ancient sacred fire that descended from heaven continues to burn on the altar of the Bible. (T. Jones.)
I speak of the Bible first as the great teacher of mankind, because it must ever continue to be of the supremest importance to the race of mankind. It contains the record of God’s special revelations to one chosen people, and of that final all-inclusive revelation, wherein He has spoken and is speaking to us by His Son. The Bible is not by any means God’s only revelation. It always has been an evil when it has been so considered. It contains, however, some of the clearest and directest lessons which God has ever spoken to man through the mind and utterance of his brother man. Take but one illustration of its unique supremacy. After all these thousands of years of the world’s existence, after all splendours of literature in all the nations and in all ages, there is no book in the whole world which can supersede the Bible as an instrument for the education of the young. After all these millenniums it remains the most uniquely glorious book which the world has ever known. “Its light,” says Cardinal Newman, “is like the beauty of heaven in all its clearness, its vastness like the bosom of the sea, its variety like the scenes of nature.” Perhaps testimony from a religious teacher might be regarded as purely official. Let me, then, quote the testimony of an eminent living man of science; the testimony of a man like Professor Huxley on this subject will, at least, not be suspected. “I have been seriously perplexed to know,” he says, “how the religious feeling which is the essential basis of conduct can be kept up without the use of the Bible. The pagan moralists lacked fire, and life, and colour, and even the noble Stoic, Marcus Aurelius, is too high and refined for an ordinary child. For three centuries this book has been woven into the life of all that is best and noblest in English history. It forbids the veriest hind who never left his village to be ignorant of the existence of other countries and other civilisations, and of the great past stretching back to the furthest limit of the oldest nations of the world. By the study of what other book could children be so much humanised or made to feel that each figure in that vast historical procession fills, like themselves, but a momentary inter-space between two eternities, and earns the blessings or the curses of this end of all time, according to his efforts to do good and to hate evil, even as they also are earning their payment for their daily work?” Unhappily, however, the Bible in age after age has been liable to such boundless misinterpretation, that it is not possible or honourable to speak of it as the most blessed among the teachers of mankind, without admitting, as St. Peter did eighteen hundred years ago, that it may very easily be wrested to our own destruction. Century after century men, misled by their religious teachers, have failed altogether to see what the Bible is; they have made a fetish of it, and under the plea of its sacredness have taken advantage of its many-sidedness to get rid of its most central and essential teaching; they have made it like the faineant monarchs who have been surrounded with splendid state and almost Divine reverence, while care was taken that their real voice should never be heard, and their real wishes never known. Men have used the Bible to find an excuse for hating and cursing and burning one another, they have torn it into shreds and turned each shred of it into a fluttering ignoble ray of some party pennon; they have dislocated its phrases and built false theologies on the perversions of its texts … But having eliminated these errors, we may dwell without stint on the priceless value of Scripture as a whole--of Scripture in its best and final teaching to the heart of man. The Talmud and the Koran, and even the writings of the Indian and the Buddhist, have stolen its precious gems. It has exercised the toil of men like Origen and Jerome, and fired the eloquence of Chrysostom and Augustine. It dictates the supreme and immortal songs of Dante and of Milton. It has inspired the pictures of Fra Angelico and Raphael, the music of Handel and Mozart. There is scarcely any noble part of knowledge worthy of the mind of man, but from Scripture it may have some direction and light the hundred best books, the hundred best pictures, the hundred best pieces of music, are ten times over involved in it. The sun never sets upon its gleaming page. “What a book,” exclaimed the sceptical poet Heine, after a day spent in the unwonted task of reading it. “Vast and wide as the world, rooted in the abysses of creation and towering up beyond the blue secrets of heaven; sunrise and sunset, promise and fulfilment, birth and death, the whole drama of humanity, are all in this book.” “In this book,” said Ewald, the foremost of modern critics, when Dean Stanley visited him, and the New Testament, which was lying on the table, fell accidentally to the ground--“in this book,” he said, as he stooped to pick it up, “is all the wisdom of the world.”
II. Test it once more by the immeasurable comfort and blessing which it, and which it alone, has brought and ever can bring to dying men. Millions have loved it passionately who have cared nothing for any other literature, and it alone has been sufficient to lead them through life as with an archangel’s hand. “Into Thy hands I commend my spirit”; in age after age Polycarp, Augustine, John Huss, Jerome of Prague, St. Bernard, Luther, Melane then, Columbus, Francis Xavier, and I know not how many thousands more, have died with these words upon their lips. “That book, sir,” said Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, pointing to the family Bible upon the table, as he lay upon his death-bed, “that book, sir, is the rock on which our Republic rests.” “I have only one book now,” said the poet Collins, “but that is the best.” “Bring me the book, sir,” said Sir Walter Scott to Lockhart on his death-bed. “What book?” asked Lockhart. “The book, the Bible,” said Sir Walter, “there is only one.” Every shallow and ignorant freethinker thinks he can demolish the Bible; he might am well try to demolish the Himalayas. The greatest men have esteemed it most. Infidels babble about the contradictions between Scripture and science. I have quoted the testimony of one of the most eminent living men of science; let me quote one of the most illustrious dead. Once, when the famous Faraday was lying ill, his physician, Dr. Latham, found him in tears with his arm resting upon a table on which lay the open book. “I fear you are worse,” said Dr. Latham. “It is not that,” said Faraday, with a sob; “but why will people go astray when they have this blessed book to guide them?” Its words speak to the ear and to the heart as no other music will, even after wild and sinful lives. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me.” Those words were written by his physician to Daniel Webster on his death-bed, and the great man, the despised, broken idol of a great nation, who had cast the destiny of all his life on one throw of ambition and had lost the cast--the great man faltered out, “That is what I want--Thy rod, Thy rod, Thy staff, Thy staff,” and they were the last words he said.
III. I would then urge you all to a constant and reverent, but at the same time a wise and spiritual, study of this book. “If we be ignorant,” said the translators of 1611, “the Scriptures will instruct us; if out of the way, they will bring us home; if out of order, they will reform us; if in heaviness, comfort us; if dull, quicken us; if cold, inflame us.” Tolle lege, Tolle lege; take them and read, take them and read. Only beware how you read. Read as a scoffer read as a pharisee, and it will be useless. Read rightly, and then the Bible will be a light unto your feet, and a lamp unto your path. Read teachably, read devotiouably. The saving knowledge of Scripture is a science, not of the intellect, but of the heart. Read, above all, as Christ taught us to read, not to entangle yourselves in the controversial or the dubious, but go to the very heart of the central significance. (Archdeacon Farrar.)
The Holy Scriptures
I. The Bible is the most ancient book in the world, and yet it is not antiquated, but always fresh and fragrant, as the beauty of the morning, and the breath of spring. Like the angel of the resurrection, the spirit of the Bible is clothed and crowned with immortal youth, and rejoices in the possession of undecaying strength.
II. The Bible is the most expansive book in the world. It was the saying of Malebranche, the great philosopher, that if he had all truth, be would let forth only a ray at a time, lest it should blind the world. And this seems to be the principle which underlies the whole revelation in the Word of God. The truth is unveiled to men according as they are able to bear it.
III. The Bible is the most inspiring book in the world. We may hold certain mechanical views of inspiration, but the question for each one of us is to ask, Does the Bible really inspire us? The Bible is inspired because it is inspiring, and if it fails of this effect, then the mere theoretical knowledge of the inspiration will be of little value. And yet if we derive no inspiration from Scripture, we must not therefore lay the blame upon the Bible, and conclude that it has failed to stand the test. There are certain qualities of mind and heart which we must bring to the interpretation of all things. Nature herself will not inspire us if we have no eye to see her beauty, or heart to understand her charm. It is the poet who sees in nature a glow and glory which may be hidden from others, because he is possessed with a certain sympathy. So it is in regard to the Bible. We must bring to its study an innocent eye and a pure heart, a longing desire for truth, and a purpose to obey it; and then we shall feel inspired by the revelations which it makes known to us.
IV. The Bible is the only perfect book in the world. Perfection is the sign and signature of all God’s works. If you put under the microscope a bee’s sting and an ordinary sewing needle, you will at once see the difference between man’s handiwork and God’s. They are both very like each other when examined by the naked eye; but when brought beveath the lens we perceive the mighty difference. The needle is rough and rugged, full of bulges and bends, like the undressed bough of a tree, whereas the sting of the bee retains its arrowy point and perfection under the closest scrutiny. And so it is with all God’s works in contrast with man’s. The Bible is the only perfect book, because it is the work of God. The law of the Lord is perfect, says the Psalmist, the sun rules in the heavens, and divides the day from the night. And so with the Word of God. The light which shines through it rules the mind and will and heart of man, and divides the darkness from the light. But the Word of God is not only perfect, but it is designed to make man perfect--that the man of God may be perfect--fully furnished unto every good work. (J. Coats Shanks.)
The incidental advantages of study of the Bible
It is common to urge upon men a study of the Bible as a matter of duty--a part of the “thou shalt” of God; and also as a matter of worship--the other part of prayer and praise. While it is fortunate that we have a book which can lay the claim of duty upon us, and still more fortunate that we have a book worthy to be incorporated into our worship, there are other aspects in which the Bible offers itself, which might be called its advantages. Set aside now the fact that it is a religious book, and all religious considerations, and regard it simply as a book to be studied, and there is no book the study of which brings so many advantages as the Bible, because there is no other one book that embraces so many departments of truth and knowledge or treats them in so wise a way.
I. Look at it as a book of history. The Bible begins with the creation out of chaos, and ends with humanity lifted into the heavens, and the whole mighty sweep is history. But the great advantage of studying history through the Bible is that we thus follow the main current of human progress in all the ages; we are tracing an idea, a principle, a force, and that the greatest the world has ever felt.
II. Look at it as a book of political science. A study of the Hebrew Commonwealth is valuable because it shows how close and real is the relation of the nation to God, and how vital is righteousness and fidelity to God. We have in the Bible the finest illustration of patriotism to be found in all history. There was no individualism, there was no communism, but a happy balance between man as an individual and as a member of the race, such as we find in nature. We are individuals; we are also members of the race, and both exist in God. A true nation is a true expression of this threefold fact. Nowhere is it so clearly set forth as in the Hebrew Commonwealth. Its institutions, also, are well worth studying. The details of life are treated sacredly. A Divine emphasis is laid upon trivial matters of well-being. Filth and contagious diseases are an abomination in the sight of God. Health is well pleasing to God. Family, property, personal rights, sex are guarded by Divine sanctions.
III. Look at it as a book of biography. “The proper study of mankind is man.” The Bible is permanently a book of biographies. It is a book of religious history, but the history is always turning on a man. It is a book of religion, but the religion is that of real life, and of separate men. When men of great natures move through great scenes, and do great deeds, or when they unfold qualities and traits that are fine and rare and strong, then we have the materials for biography. By such a standard the Bible is most rich in this material for study.
IV. Look at it as a book of literature. Dr. Johnson once read the Book of Ruth to a company of literary infidels. “What a charming idyl!” they said. “Where did you find it?” There are four fields of literature in which the Bible rises higher than all other books--ethics, religious poetry, religious vision, and the drama in its high sense as a discussion of human life. The Proverbs and Book of Ecclesiastes are the wisest, aptest, most varied, and best expressed maxims of practical life ever made, and outweigh in value all others taken together. The Psalms, considered simply as expressions of religious feeling, find no rival. They touch every mood, sink to all depths, rise to all heights; they are as free and natural as the winds, and cover human nature as it weeps and struggles and hopes and rejoices. The prophetic utterances are not only unique, but are fuller of passion, sublimer in expression, bolder in imagery, loftier in conception, than anything to be found in profane literature. And they have this unique quality: they are the products of an actual experience, and not mere creations of the imagination. They have also this transcendent value--one that should make them dear to every thoughtful man: they are expressions of patriotism, and contain the philosophy of national life as existing in God.
V. Look at it as a book full of undeveloped forces and truths. I mean the opposite of the common assertion that it is an exhausted book. I mean it in a sense that excludes it from being classed with other books called sacred. I admit that there are a few books which seem to hold within themselves truths capable of infinite expansion, and to touch truths not yet realised. Such are some of the great philosophies and poems and essays; but, after studying them awhile, the sense of finiteness begins to gather about them; we come to limitations, to boundaries; there is a solid firmament above, and the truths run round the world and not into endless heavens; we detect faults; we feel the weakness of a human personality; we say, “Thou hast seen far, but not the end, nor the whole.” It is not so when we read the Bible. One reason why some men reject it or pass it by is that it so quickly carries them beyond their depth and outruns their conception. And one reason why other men delight in it, and write books upon books about it, is that it brings the infinite and the mysterious within reach, enkindling their imaginations and stirring their spirits by the outlooks thus gained. I spoke of the Bible as a book of undeveloped spiritual forces. I mean that we find in it those facts and laws and truths which are working out the destiny of man. They are spread out in a ]ire; they are uttered in words. The parables of Christ--if we but knew it--contain the history of the world and of mankind for all eternity. The Sermon on the Mount states the laws by which human society progresses, and will reach its goal of perfection. The acts of Christ’s life illustrate or reveal how this material world is immersed in the real world of the spirit, where the miraculous becomes natural. The whole life of Christ is simply a true life--perfectly obedient to God, wholly sacrificed for man, duty itself, love itself, lost and so found, Divine and human, and claiming a oneness for humanity with itself in God. I anticipate the day when the Bible will stand higher in the estimate of men than ever before. It will not be blindly worshipped as in the past, but it will be more intelligently read. It is not a book of the past, but of the future. As we move up toward it we shall find that it reflects the world on its pages, and that it contains the true order of human life. Meanwhile, it is not amiss for us to study the Decalogue for social guidance; the Beautitudes for guides in daily life; and Christ, in all the light and mystery of His being and character, as the Way, the Truth, and the Life--the way through this tangled world, the truth in this world of perplexity, the life in this world where all things else perish and pass away. (T. T. Munger, D. D.)
What is the Bible?
The first thing I want to say to you is this: You are not to look in the Bible for a complete and comprehensive presentation of Divine truth. You are not to look in it for a revelation or disclosure of science of any kind, physical or metaphysical, natural or supernatural. It is not at all a scientific treatise. It does not aim or purport so to be. Nor are you to regard the Bible as an infallible book of equal value and equal authority in all its utterances and all its parts; as a book “without any intermixture of error.” An infallible book would require, first of all, that the writers should be infallibly informed as to the truth; in the second place, that they should be able to utter it infallibly; in the third place, that they should have a language for the communication of their ideas which was an infallible vehicle of thought; in the fourth place, that, if they died, the manuscripts in which their thoughts were contained should be infallibly preserved, without any intermixture of error, through the ages after their death; fifthly, that, if the language in which they wrote were changed, the translators should be themselves capable of giving an infallible translation; sixthly, that, if the book were to be infallibly applied to the actual conditions of life, men who interpreted and applied these principles should be infallible interpreters. And, finally, it would require that the men who received should be able in fallibly to apprehend what was given. The treasure of truth in the Bible is not a minted treasure with the stamp of the Divine image upon it. It is like the gold hid in the bosom of the mountain. It must be mined, dug out with the alloy with which it is intermixed, washed, burned in the furnace, and the stamp must be put upon it before it is ready for currency. But as soon as this is done, the process begins over again. The Bible yields its treasure only to him who digs for it as for a hid treasure; the promise of the Bible is only to him who seeks and knocks. No age can do this seeking, this knocking, for another. The structure and the history of the Bible alike demonstrate that what God has given us here is not a substitute for thought, but an incentive to thinking. Lessing said, “If God were to offer me in one hand Truth and in the other Search for Truth, I would accept Search for Truth.” What God gives us in the Bible is Search for Truth. What, then, is the Bible? It is a selection of literature evolved out of eighteen centuries of human life, comprising all various literary forms, written by men of all various types and temperaments, without concord, without mutual understanding, without knowing that they were making a book that was to last for all time. It is a collection of the most spiritual utterances, of the most spiritual men, of the most spiritual race, of past time. You are to come to it as such a collection. It is as such that you are to study and take advantage of it--as such a record of spiritual experiences.
I. In the first place, then, in view of this generic statement, I urge on you to have your Bible--not merely a Bible, but Your Bible. Mr. Shearman has a copy of the Bible which Mr. Beecher carried for something like forty years--perhaps more--with his marking scattered through it. It is more than a Bible--it is Mr. Beecher’s Bible; and the pencil-marks in it tell the story of his own spiritual experience, while they emphasize the spiritual experiences of the ages that are past. So, have your own Bible, into which your life shall be woven, around which your spiritual associations shall cluster, and which shall become sacred to you, not so much for the voice that spake to Abraham, to Moses, to David, to Isaiah, or Paul, so many centuries ago, but for the voice that has spoken to you--through Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, or Paul--in your own life-experience.
II. Use your Bible. The Bible that is to lay hold on you is a Bible that you must lay hold upon. Familiarise yourself with the Bible. It is a coy acquaintance. It does not let every one into its heart, or disclose to the chance acquaintance the secret of its power. You must love it. If you are to love it you must acquaint yourself with it. You must take it with you into your experience. You must make it the man of your counsel in your perplexity; you must go to it for comfort in your sorrow; you must find in it inspiration when the deadening process of life has brought you earthward; you must seek in it those experiences for which your own heart and soul hunger.
III. You must, in your use of the Bible look behind the book to the truth which is in the book, and which really constitutes the book. Studying Biblical criticism is not studying the Bible. Behind all form and structure is the truth which makes the Bible. What is the Bible? This thing that I hold in my hand? Not at all. Were it in Greek, it would still be the Bible. Not the book--the truths that lie behind the book, they make the Bible. Such truths as these: the man is immortal--not that he is going to live a thousand or a hundred thousand years after death, but that he has in him a spirit that death cannot and does not touch; that he is under other laws than those that are physical, that he is under the great moral laws of right and wrong; that there is a God who knows, thinks, feels, loves; and that there is a helping hand reached down out of heaven to lay hold of and to give help to every struggling man seeking, working, praying, wrestling toward a nobler manhood; an immortal spirit, a personal God, a forgiveness of sins--that is the Bible. Go to the Bible, not for an infallible philosophy of human life, but for unveilings and disclosures of infinite, helpful, inspiring truth.
IV. But behind this truth there is something further to be sought. For life is more than truth, and experience is more than philosophy. The Bible is the most human of books. It is the record of human life, and of the noblest and divinest experiences in human life. It is because it is a human book that it appeals to humanity. It is because it is a human book that humanity finds light and life and power in it. Writers of the Bible are not like lead pipes that take water from a distance and bring it a long way and deposit it for you, without the trouble of your drawing. Writers of the Bible are like the mountain-side, saturated with water which pours from its side in springs when we ask to drink. The Bible writers were saturated with Divine truth; then out of that saturation the truth sprang forth into utterance. In the Bible you come into association and fellowship with men who are living in the spiritual realm; you come in contact with men who are struggling, not for art, not for wealth, not for culture, not for refinement, but for walking with God. They blunder; they do not know; they have dim visions, oftentimes, of God--they see Him as that blind man saw the trees as men walking. Their notion is intermingled with the notion of their time; but in it all, throughout it all, inspiring it all, is that hunger and thirst after righteousness that shall be filled. To come into the Bible is to come, not into words graven on stone, however true, but into living experiences of love, of faith, or hope, wrought in imperfect lives, but glorifying them by the glory of an indwelling God.
V. And behind the truth and behind the experience you are to look for something still more than either--You are to look for God himself. Back of all Bible truth is the human experience of the Divine. Back of all human experience of the Divine is the God that inspires, irradiates, and creates it. Do I value the locket less because I know it is a human handiwork? It is not the locket I care for. It is the picture of the beloved that is in the locket. It is not the frame and form and structure of the book, but it is the God who dwells in the book that makes it dear to me. Kaulbach’s famous cartoon of the Reformation presents Luther holding aloft an open Bible, while grouped around and before him are the inventors, the discoverers, the thinkers, the writers of genius, that were nurtured in the cradle of the Reformation. It is a true picture. Where that open Bible has not gone, there to-day is darkness illimitable. Where that Bible has gone, partly opened and partly closed, there is a dawning of the day. And where it is an open Bible with a free page and a well-read one, there is the illumination of civilisation. (Lyman Abbott, D. D.)
What use do we make of the Scriptures?
All our practical knowledge of God is comprised in the Bible. The Bible then ought to be to us that which the chart and the compass are to the mariner on a stormy ocean; we have absolutely no other guide, no other directory to our course. In what light, then, do we practically regard the Bible? Is it enough to possess the Scriptures, to have been instructed out of the Scriptures in infancy, to hear them read in public worship, to have a general approbation of their contents? Would it be satisfactory to the mariner merely to possess a compass on board his vessel; to have received information as to its use in infancy, to admire its utility, or to discourse sometimes publicly of its merits; meanwhile he is driving on, it may be, to rocks, to shoals, to sands, or quite away from his course? But how many an individual lives in this precise manner, as to his use of the Scriptures! Day passes after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, and God marks not his anxious eye pondering over this chart of life. Politics, science, poetry, history, it may be lighter productions--these can arrest his attention and interest his mind; but the Bible which notifies the waymarks to eternity--this excites no interest. And yet such a person perhaps expects God’s favour--expects to reach the harbour of endless peace, and never even dreams of the probability of intervening shipwreck! Mournful and inconsistent expectations! Many, however, are to be found who are by no means chargeable with this entire neglect of the Scriptures. Some have, from infancy, acquired regular habits of reading the Bible, and peruse, as a daily or at least as a weekly task, their allotted chapters. But they do this oftentimes without anxiety, and without progress in religious knowledge. The fact of reading is to them more important than the contents which they read. They manifest no submission of the heart to God’s teaching--no godly diligence to lay up in the soul His statutes and promises. Eternity fastens not upon their thoughts--the wonders of redeeming love attract not their affections. They read with coldness, and languor, and unconcern. There is no scrutiny as to the effect of their knowledge--as to the conformity of their views, and sentiments, and habits, with the decisions and intentions of God! The heart makes no progress in its voyage--it is no nearer to God--no nearer to the dispositions of Heaven than it was many years ago. Think again of the mariner--his eye glances daily upon his compass--or once a week he fixes his look upon the needle; but he uses not the helm--he brings not the vessel into the prescribed course I As well then might the compass be cast into the depths of the sea I Now, it is evident that this is not the use of the Scriptures which God demands--this is not to possess any anxiety as to the knowledge of God’s will. Those who thus neglect, or thus imperfectly respect the Scriptures, are not among those who “work out their salvation with fear and trembling.” (Christian World Pulpit.)
Scripture manifold yet one
The Bible is, to use the language of Prof. Westcott, “a book manifold by the variety of times and circumstances in which its several parts had their rise, else by the inspiring presence of the same spiritual life.” It may be compared to a cathedral whose parts have been built at different successive ages: the traces of these ages are easily seen in the architectural style, but all are knit together in one holy temple of God. Closer investigation of this cathedral shows that the historical range of its growth is greater and wider than was at first supposed. The stones which have been built in, it seems, were drawn from widely scattered quarries; here are marbles which must have been imported from distant lands; here are great blocks of stone which must have been conveyed from unthought-of hills; here are richly-carved capitals which show some foreign skill: but all these have found their fitting place. Each stone, each ornament, drops into the spot prepared for it; arch, pillar, buttress, mullion and pinnacle, whatever their greater or their lesser antiquity, are lending support or beauty, and fulfilling their functions as parts of one vast sanctuary, whose purpose is not lost or altered because antiquarians have made its stories doubly interesting and doubly dear by enlarging the bounds of its history and adding new elements to the story of its growth. (Bp. W. B. Carpenter.)
Profitable for doctrine, etc.
The uses of the Scriptures
The Scriptures give Divine, and therefore infallible, direction “for doctrine”--the didactic teaching of the truth concerning God; “for reproof”--the refutation by proof of error concerning God; “for correction”--the setting right or rectifying the wrong principles of practical ethics; “for instruction in righteousnsss”--the positive nurture of the soul in experimental knowledge of the way in which a sinner may be accounted righteous before God. And this, it will be perceived on a little reflection, is a marvellously logical classification of their uses; and it is exhaustive, as covering all the possible wants that man can desire to have met by a revelation. As a being endowed with reason, and capable of believing only what he conceives to he truth, his religion must embrace a “doctrine” of God and his relations to God. As a creature liable to be deceived, by error and unbelief concerning God and his relations to God, his religion must have a guide to warn against and expose the wiles of error, that are ever tampering with his “evil heart of unbelief.” As a being whose passions are ever blinding his conscience in reference to duty toward God and man, his religion must supply him with a rule of right, by which to correct his crooked judgments and amend his crooked ways. As a being capable of a birth to a new and everlasting life, his religion must supply him with a nurture under the new law of righteousness which the faith that is unto salvation teaches him. So that it may be affirmed with truth, that no want of the human soul can be conceived, which is not provided for under one or other of these four heads. (S. Robinson, D. D.)
The profitableness of Scripture
The Scriptures are “profitable for reproof.” The word here means conviction. The teaching has reference to the ignorance of men the conviction refers to their errors and prejudices. The mental state presupposed here may be thus expressed: First, there is ignorance; secondly, error, wrong thoughts and beliefs; thirdly, prejudice in favour of the errors that are present, and against the truth that is absent. The declaration of the apostle is that the Word of God has power to convince those who are in this state; that it will destroy their errors and remove their prejudice. One great reason why there is so much prejudice in many minds with regard to religion is, that they do not study the sacred Scriptures. They read all sorts of books concerning the Bible, but the Divine book itself is neglected. They prefer the water that is brought to them through pipes and curious contrivances of men to the fountain of living water, pure, clear as crystal, which springs up from the primeval rocks close to their own door. They gaze upon the cold and spiritless engraving rather than examine the grand original picture. The honest and earnest study of the Bible would produce a mighty revolution in the minds and hearts of thousands, both Christians and others. Akin to this there is another thought that follows. The Scriptures are profitable for correction. Some read to criticise. They cannot admire the great opening poem of the Book of Genesis, in which the inspired muse sings the creative power of the Almighty in notes “harmonious with the morning stars,” because it does not speak with scientific precision. It is quite right to point out whatever inaccuracies may be discovered in the history of the deliverance from Egypt and the sojourn in the Wilderness, but one cannot help remarking that that is a peculiar state of mind in which a man can read through the wonderful story without being once struck with its spirit, its grandeur, and its awfulness. Others turn the sacred pages to find supports for the systems they have formed. This is the same as if a man constructed a theory of nature, and afterwards went in search of the facts whereby its truth must be proved. Others, again, read for comfort. They have been disappointed by the world in which they placed too much trust; or death has broken in upon their charmed circle and filled their hearts with sorrow; or their health is failing, and there are indications that the end is not distant; or their sin has been a burden from which they seek rest. Well, let them read for comfort, for the Bible is the book for sorrowful people. Its deep expressions of Divine love, sympathy, and tenderness have in them a power to heal the broken heart. But we should also know that the Scriptures are given for our “correction.” He is the wise reader of God’s Word who tries his opinions, beliefs, principles, life, and character by the Divine standard, and is willing to have them corrected. This brings us to the high purpose for which the Scriptures were given to us, namely, to impart “instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect”--right in every respect, in thought, feeling, character, and therefore right in state and condition--right in himself, right in his relations to his fellows, and right before God. The aim of the husbandman in the plants he cultivates is to have fruit; but Nature is as careful of the blossoms and the foliage as of the fruit, for her purpose is a perfect tree. Men cultivate parts of their nature. Some educate and develop their physical nature, and not much else. Others pay attention to the sensuous soul--they love music, art, eloquence, and light literature. There are persons who are mere thinkers; the cultivation of the intellectual powers is the one important thing in their estimation. Some spend their lives in small activities--things that are good in themselves, but which become harmful when done to the neglect of more important duties. There is good in all of these; but none of them aim high enough. The Divine purpose is not physical perfection, nor intellectual strength, nor refinement of taste, not even morality and devotion, but the full development of the whole nature, “that the man of God may be perfect.” (T. Jones.)
The proper way to test the Bible
You see a recipe for making bread. What is the way to test that recipe, but to put the materials together according to its direction? If the bread is good, the recipe is good, is it not? If it is good, I do not care where it came from--I do not care if King Pharaoh wrote it; and if it is not good, I would not care any more for it if it came from the angel Gabriel. It is the thing that proves the thing, The effect proves what is the nature of the cause. And if there are prescriptions in God’s Word to heal pride, and selfishness, and all forms of sin and diseases, and on trial the prescriptions are found to do what they profess to be able to do, the effect justifies the cause. Now, the Bible does not profess to be a book of theories or philosophies. It professes to be “profitable for doctrine, for reproof”--it is the best book in this world for all sorts of reproof addressed to the weaknesses and wants of human life--“for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Where a man wants to be a good man, where a man wants to be thoroughly furnished, and he goes to the Bible, he will have the best evidence that any man can have that it is a Divine book; for it will furnish him with those things which his experience shows him he needs. Here is a roll of charts of a difficult harbour. They were drawn, it may be, by Robert Small. They are handed by him to Admiral Dupont. The Admiral, the moment he sees them, laughs right out, and says, “Do you call this a chart?” It was made with a burnt stick. Robert Small, you know, was a slave; and he had to get his knowledge as other slaves get theirs. He was a pilot in Charleston harbour, however, and he knows where the shallow places are, where the deep places are, where the obstructions are, and where it is clear sailing; and he makes a rough sketch of the whole vicinity, and puts it into Admiral Dupont’s hand; and the Admiral says, “Do you suppose I am going to steer my ships by a chart that a nigger made?” Or he says, “When did you make this? On what kind of a table did you make it? What did you use to make it with?” Does he say this? Under such circumstances what would Admiral Dupont do, who is a sensible man, and who has so much sense that he knows how to employ negroes, and take the advantage of their aid? He would say to those under him, “Take a cutter, man it, and go out, and sound, and see if the chart is correct”; and they would find the shoals and channels to be just as they were represented to be; and after they had put the chart to proof, and found it to correspond to the fact, they would report to him, and he would say, “That is a good chart, if a black man did make it. It is true, and that is the reason why it is good.” Now, the Bible is a chart. It teaches men how to steer where that sandbank of temptation is; where that reck of danger is; where that whirling vortex of passion is. The Bible is a chart of salvation; and if a man only knows his course by this, he will go through life, with all its storms, and come safely into the port of heaven. The way to test the Bible is not to criticise it, and compare its rude marking with the more modern ways of making charts: the way to test the Bible is to put your sounding lines into the channel, and try it, and see if it is not true. But that is the test men do not employ. (H. W. Beecher.)
Scripture teaches a religion of grandeur and joy
I do not wonder that the men nowadays who do not believe the Bible are so very sad, when they are in earnest. A writer in one of our Reviews tells that he was studying the poems of Matthew Arnold, who believes not in a living God, but in a something or other, which somehow or other, at some time or other makes for righteousness. The sad and hopeless spirit of the poet passed for the time into the reviewer, and he felt most miserable. He went out for a walk. It was a bleak wintry day, and he was then at Brodick in Arran. The hills were in a winding-sheet of snow, above which arose a ghastly array of clouds. The sky was of a leaden hue, and the sea was making its melancholy moan amid the jagged, dripping rocks. The gloom without joined the gloom within, and made him very wretched. He came upon some boys shouting merrily at play. “Are you at the school?” he asked. “Yes,” was the reply. “And what are you learning?” “I learn,” said one, “what is the chief end of man.” “And what is it?” the reviewer asked. The boy replied, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever.” He at once felt that the boy was taught a religion of grandeur and joy, while the poet’s was a religion of darkness and despair. (J. Wells, M. A.)
All Scripture profitable
In the plainest text there is a world of holiness and spirituality: and if we, in prayer and dependence upon God, sit down and study it, we shall behold much more than appears to us. It may be, at once reading or looking, we see little or nothing; as Elijah’s servant went once and saw nothing, therefore he was commanded to look seven times. “What now?” says the prophet. “I see a cloud rising like a man’s hand,” and by and by the whole surface of heaven was covered with clouds (1 Kings 18:44). (J. Caryl.)
Scripture to be used in daily life
A good husband having received a bag of money, locketh, it up safe, that none may rob him of it, and as occasion is he fetcheth it down and layeth it out, some of it for food, some for clothes, some for rent, some for servants’ wages, some for this thing, and some for that, as his necessities require; so, friend, do thou lay up the precious treasure of the Word safe in the cabinet of thine heart, and bring it out as occasion calls for it, in thy daily life. (G. Swinnock.)
Adaptation of the Bible
The eyes of a good portrait follow the spectator wherever he stands, to look him exactly in the face; and so, whoever a man may be, and whatever his case, the Bible confronts him with its warning if he be doing ill, its warranty if he be doing well, and its wisdom under any, and for all, circumstances.
Apology for the Bible
King George III. on first hearing of Bishop Watson’s “Apology for the Bible,” said, “Apology for the Bible! I did not know that the Bible wanted any apology.”
The pulpit and the reading-desk
John Wesley said to one of his followers, who urged upon him the deficiencies of some of the clergy, as a cause of separation, “If you have nothing but chaff from the pulpit, you are abundantly fed with the finest of the wheat from the desk.”
Scripture its own evidence
It has been for thirty years the deep conviction of my soul that no book can be written on behalf of the Bible like the Bible itself. Man’s defences are man’s word … the Bible is God’s Word, and by it the Holy Ghost, who first spoke it, still speaks to the soul that closeth itself not against it. (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
Revelation and conscience
If we admit the agreement of revelation with conscience to be an evidence of Divinity in the Bible, do we thereby make conscience the criterion of what is Divine in it? Some say so and make this the door to Rationalism. But it is surely possible to make conscience a witness, without exalting it into a judge. (J. Ker, D. D.)
The Bible penetrative
In the Bible there is more that finds me than I have experienced in all other books put together; the words of the Bible find me at greater depths of my being; and whatever finds me brings with it an irresistible evidence of its having proceeded from the Holy Spirit. (S. T. Coleridge.)
A threefold account.
1. For their dignity and authority.
2. For their utility.
3. For their perfection.
(1) They are profitable for doctrine and instruction: they teach men what to know and believe, they instruct us in all truth necessary to salvation, viz., concerning God, man, Christ, law, gospel, heaven, hell. He first begins with doctrine, which in order must go before all the rest; for it is in vain to reprove or exhort unless we first teach a man and inform him of his duty.
(2) For reproof of error and confutation of false doctrine. We need not run to general councils or send for ancient fathers to determine controversies or confute errors; we have the Holy Scriptures that enable the man of God, and furnish him richly for that purpose.
(3) For correction of sin and evil manners, which is done by admonition and reproof denouncing God’s judgments against them, that those which go astray may be brought into the way by repentance.
(4) The Scripture teacheth us how to lead a holy and righteous life according to the will of God, and so is profitable for instruction in righteousness and good works, it being the most perfect rule of righteousness.
(5) The Scripture allures us to piety by the sweet promises of the gospel, and so is profitable for consolation (Romans 15:4). This God hath ordained as a lamp for our feet, that we miscarry not amidst those many by-paths that are in the world. Let us, then, make use of it in the course of our lives. If a carpenter have a rule or line, if he tie it to his back and never use it, his work must needs be crooked; so if we have Bibles and never read them, nor meditate on them to practise them, our lives must needs be irregular. They are, then, to be reproved who set up false rules to walk by, as--
4. The Church.
7. Enthusiams. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Profiting in Scripture to appear
Let us imitate the sheep, which boast not how much they have eaten, but show it actually by their fat, fleece, and young. (T. Hall, B. D.)
How to profit by Scripture
Observe, such as meddle with God’s Word must profit by it. We abuse the Word when we read or hear it only for speculation, novelty, and curiosity, but not for practice, that we may know, love, and fear God, and so be happy for ever. God gave them for this end, that we might profit by them, Those ministers, then, are to be blamed that play with Scripture and feed their people with the chaff of airy notions, frivolous questions, idle distinctions, and foolish controversies, seeking their own ends and praise, and not the benefit of God’s people. Let such remember that the Scripture was given to profit us, but not play withal. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Perfection of Scripture should win regard
This perfection of the Scripture should stir up our love to it. As imperfect things are slighted by us, so complete and perfect things are highly esteemed by all the sons of wisdom. No book to be compared to this for perfection, and therefore no book should be so loved, read, studied, and prized by us. Here’s nothing vain or superfluous, but all things full of life and spirit; whatever good the soul can desire, ‘tis here to be had. Here is food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, wine for the wearied, bread for the weak, raiment for the naked, gold for the poor, eye-salve for the blind, and physic for the sick. If thy heart be dead, this will quicken thee; if hard, this will soften it; if dull, revive it. In all our temptations, this is a David’s harp that helpeth to still them (Acts 15:31). We should therefore with joy draw water out of these wells of salvation (Isaiah 12:3). We see how worldlings delight to view their bills and bonds, their leases and indentures, by which they hold their lands and livings; and shall not we delight to study the Scripture, which assureth us of never-fading riches? (T. Hall, B. D.)
Plainness of Scripture
A lady of suspected chastity, and who was tinctured with infidel principles, conversing with a minister of the gospel, objected to the Scriptures on account of their obscurity and the great difficulty of understanding them. The minister wisely and smartly replied, “Why, madam, what can be easier to understand than the Seventh Commandment--‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’?” (C. Buck.)
The Bible a guide
The Bible is not a puzzle to wise heads, but a lamp for the wayfaring man. (Daniel Moore.)
The Bible a guide
No; I say, destroy the Bible, and still everything remains the same--except that you have lost your guide. If a party of voyagers who are passing through a dangerous channel were to say, “Away with the chart! it is such a worry to be always looking at it; and it expects one to be so very careful, too; away with it; it’s a nuisance!” you might easily get rid of your chart, but the rocks and shoals and sunken reefs and all the perils of the channel would remain there lust the same. Suppose a community were to say, “Banish your doctors. Let’s have no medical books here, no treatises on disease. ‘Throw physic to the dogs. We’ll none of it!’” They could do that, of course, if they liked. But the laws and conditions of health and disease, of life and death, would remain precisely where they were before. And it is conceivable that men might get rid of the Bible. Practically, many do get rid of the Bible; but what do they gain? Only the loss of a guide. The facts of the universe, the facts about man and about God, the facts about the mutual relation of the one to the other, remain precisely the same. (G. Calthrop, M. A.)
Restraining power of the Bible
The Rev. Charles Vince, of Birmingham, told the following incident at a meeting of the Bible Society in 1863:--“The Hill-top Auxiliary in the ‘Black Country’ determined to send round two or three Christian men every Saturday evening, with packages of Bibles, to visit the public-houses and persuade the miners and puddlers of the district, while they had their money, to spend some part of it in buying the Word of God. While they were carrying out this plan a miner said, ‘Wouldn’t it be a good thing for us to have a copy to read down in the pit at dinner-time?’ The proposition met with general approval, and they agreed to buy a copy for this purpose. Of the first copy handed to them the landlord said the print was too small to read down in the pit, and offered to give a shilling towards the cost of a better type. This was bought, and one of the men said with great simplicity, ‘If we have the Bible at dinner-time, we mustn’t have any swearing.’ This, too, was carried, and a fine imposed upon the man that should break the rule. Is there any other book in the world that you could carry into the company of men and make them say, ‘If we open this, and begin to look at it, we must begin to put away some of our sins’?” (Family Treasury.)
The Bible instructive
A Hindoo paper, published in Bengal, speaks as follows of the excellence of the Bible:--“It is the best and most excellent of all English books, and there is not its like in the English language. As every joint of the sugar-cane, from the root to the top, is full of sweetness, so every page of the Bible is fraught with the most precious instruction. A portion of this book would yield to you more of sound morality than a thousand other treatises on the same subject. In short, if anybody studies the English language with a view to gaining wisdom, there is not another book which is more worthy of being read than the Bible.” (Sword and Trowel.)
Faraday’s testimony to the value of Scripture
One of the best and greatest Fellows of the Royal Society in the present century was ill, and sitting in his room, when one of the best of my profession that ever lived in this country, Dr. Latham, went in to him and found this great man in tears, sitting by his fireside. Latham told me this story himself. He said, “My good friend, I fear you feel more ill to-day; what is it?” “No,” he said, “not that; I was thinking what a sorrow it is that the world will go astray when it has this blessed book to guide it.” This man was Faraday, and I need not say that the book on his table was the Bible. (Sir H. W. Acland, M. D.)
The poor widow’s treasure
“Did ye ask me if I had a Bible?” said a poor old widow in London; “Did ye ask me if I had a Bible? Thank God I have a Bible. What should I do without my Bible? It was the guido of my youth, and it is the staff of my age; it wounded me, and it healed me; it condemned me, and it acquitted me; it showed me I was a sinner, and it led me to the Saviour; it has given me comfort through life, and I trust it will give me hope in death.”
The principles of Scripture to be applied
Professor Newman complained, some years ago, against our Bible, because it does not tell every father to what business or profession he should put his sons. For such infinite particulars and detailed advices we should require, not a portable manual, but a British Museum. Far wiser and truer is the principle enunciated by the orator Burke, when he says, “Reading, and much reading, is good. But the power of diversifying the matter infinitely in your own mind, and of applying it to every occasion that arises, is far better; so don’t suppress the living force. (J. Clifford, D. D.)
The Bible a lighthouse
A light house looks like a tall pillar rising out of the sea, or built upon some high bluff. The top is a large lantern, where a bright light is kept burning all night, which is seen far out at sea; and it says to all ships and sailors sailing by, “Take care! take care!” One is built on a ledge of rocks; its warning light says, “Give wide berth to these sunken rocks.” Another says, “Steer clear of this dangerous reef.” Another, “Keep clear of this dangerous headland. If you come here, you are lost.” There are a great many lighthouses on the coast: how does a sailor know which is which? He sees a light gleaming through the darkness and the storm; but where is it? He has a chart in the ship, and that tells. A chart is a map of the coast, with all its rocks and sandbanks and lighthouses put down, and everything that a sailor ought to know in order to steer his ship safely across the ocean. If he faithfully consults it, and keeps a good look out, he is likely to ride out the storm and come safely into port.
That the man of God may be perfect.--
The superiority of man is everywhere manifested on earth. True greatness is measured by character.
I. To perfect the character of man is the aim of Christian truth.
II. In developed character is to be found the great moral riches of the world.
III. In it we have a striking proof of man’s immortality.
IV. It supplies a test by which to measure the value of the services of the sanctuary, the value of the Bible, of all things--its ability to develop true manhood. Have we grown in Christian character? Have the Church services proven barren or fruitful to us? (R. S. Storrs, D. D.)
The Bible the book for the man of God
Jerome was versed in the polite literature of his day and in the works of classic writers. He tells us that in a dream he once thought himself arraigned before the judgment seat of Christ, where he was asked the nature of his profession. He answered, “I am a Christian.” “Thou art not!” said the Judge; “thou art a Ciceronian, for the works of that author possess thy heart.” The Judge then gave order that he should be scourged by angels. Although it was only a dream, his chastisement never was forgotten; it changed the direction of his thoughts. “From that time,” he says, “I gave myself to the reading of Divine things with greater diligence and attention than I had ever read the other authors.” To give undue attention to secular reading, to the neglect of sacred literature, is a temptation peculiar to the cultivated believer, and it is a real temptation; for one may be as sordid in the acquisition of knowledge as in the pursuit of wealth.
The man of God’s equipment:--
I. The man of God is instructed--
1. Concerning God.
2. Concerning man.
3. Concerning duty.
4. Concerning responsibility.
II. The man of God is disciplined.
1. Joy in prosperity.
2. Hope in adversity.
3. A cheerful submission to the will of God at all times.
III. The man of God is inspired.
1. The mind is illumined.
2. The affections are sanctified.
3. The whole life is made the reflex of revelation. (Weekly Pulpit.)
Development of character
An English barrister who was accustomed to train students for the practice of law, and who was not himself a religious man, was once asked why he put students, from the very first, to the study and analysis of the most difficult parts of the Sacred Scriptures? “Because,” said he, “there is nothing else like it, in any language, for the development of mind and character.”
The Bible the text-book of character
Professor Matthew Arnold represents modern literature, and is often regarded as one of the severest critics of the current Christianity; yet he says, “As well imagine a man with a sense for sculpture not cultivating it by the help of the remains of Greek art, or a man with a sense for poetry not cultivating it by the help of Homer and Shakespeare, as a man with a sense for conduct not cultivating it by the help of the Bible.” Professor Huxley represents modern science, and is the bete noire of controversial theologians; yet he says, “I have been perplexed to know by what practical measures the religious feeling, which is the essential basis of conduct, was to be kept up … without the use of the Bible.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Timothy 3". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26