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2 Timothy 4:1-2
I charge thee.
An earnest charge
Cold preaching makes bold sinners, when powerful preaching awes the conscience. Matters of greatest importance must be pressed with greatest vehemence. God putteth not forth great power but for great purpose (Ephesians 1:18-19). (T. Hall, B. D.)
Charged before God
The master’s and the commander’s eye make the servant and the soldier active (Matthew 6:6; Acts 10:4). (T. Hall, B. D.)
Earnestness in preaching
It is weakness to be hot in a cold matter, but worse to be cold in a hot matter. (J. Trapp.)
Dr. John Brown, speaking of a minister’s leaving his people for another pastorate, says that he mentally exclaims, “There they go! When next they meet it will be at the judgment! “(H. O. Mackey.)
Ministers at the judgment
Adalbert, who lived in the tenth century, was appointed Archbishop of Prague. This preferment seemed to give him so little satisfaction that he was never seen to smile afterwards; and on being asked the reason, he replied: “It is an easy thing to wear a mitre and a cross, but an awful thing to give an account of a bishopric before the Judge of quick and dead.” (W. H. Baxendale.)
An ordination charge
I. Where faithful ministers stand--“Before God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
1. Before God.
(1) As a sinner saved by grace. Once far off, but brought nigh by the blood of Christ.
(2) As a servant. In prayer, how sweet to kneel at His footstool, no veil, no cloud between the soul and God. In preaching, how sweet to say, like Elijah, when he stood before Ahab, “I stand before the Lord God of Israel.”
2. Before Jesus Christ.
(1) The faithful minister has a present sight of Christ as his righteousness. He, like Isaiah, saw “His glory and spake of Him.”
(2) The faithful minister should feel the presence of a living Saviour (Jeremiah 1:8; Acts 18:10).
(3) Within sight of judgment.
II. The grand business of the faithful minister.
1. Preach the Word.
(1) Not other matters.
(2) The most essential parts especially.
(3) More in the manner of God’s Word.
2. Reprove, rebuke, exhort. Most ministers are accustomed to set Christ before the people. They lay down the gospel clearly and beautifully, but they do not urge men to enter in. Now God says, exhort; not only point to the open door, but compel them to come in.
III. The manner.
1. With long-suffering. There is no grace more needed in the Christian ministry than this. This is the heart of God the Father towards sinners--“He is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish.”
2. With doctrine--the clear and simple statement of the truth preceding the warm and pathetic exhortation.
3. With urgency. If a neighbour’s house were on fire, would we not cry aloud and use every exertion? If a friend were drowning, would we be ashamed to strain every nerve to save him?
4. At all times. Satan is busy at all times--he does not stand upon ceremony--he does not keep himself to Sabbath-days or canonical hours. Death is busy. Men are dying while we are sleeping. The Spirit of God is busy. Blessed be God, He hath cast our lot in times when there is the moving of the Great Spirit among the dry bones. Shall ministers then be idle, or stand upon ceremony? (R. M. McCheyne.)
Urgency of the ministerial office
In a visit which I once made, when a young clergyman, to the churches of Belgium, so remarkable for the grandeur and elaborate carving of their pulpits, my attention was especially attracted by one well suited to enforce a solemn lesson on every one who might occupy it. There arose from the back of it a gigantic figure of death, stretching its gaunt skeleton form over the head of the preacher, and holding in one hand a scythe, and with the other presenting a scroll on which was inscribed “Hasten thou to gather in thy harvest, for I must soon reap mine.” Yes! it is the brevity of the opportunity and the inestimable interests at stake which render the ministerial office of such urgency that no season may be missed, no effort spared, in order that it may accomplish its work. (Bp. Baring.)
Preaching in the sight of God
Bishop Latimer having one day preached before King Henry VIII. a sermon which displeased his majesty, he was ordered to preach again on the next Sabbath, and to make an apology for the offence he had given. After reading his text, the bishop thus begun his sermon: “Hugh Latimer, dost thou know before whom thou art this day to speak? To the high and mighty monarch, the king’s most excellent majesty, who can take away thy life if thou offendest; therefore, take heed that thou speakest not a word that may displease. But then consider well, Hugh, dost thou not know from whence thou comest--upon whose message thou art sent? Even by the great and mighty God! who is all present! and who beholdeth all thy ways! and who is able to cast thy soul into hell! Therefore, take care that thou deliverest thy message faithfully.” He then proceeded with the same sermon he had preached the preceding Sabbath, but with considerably more energy. The sermon ended, the Court were full of expectation to know what would be the fate of this honest and plain-dealing bishop. After dinner the king called for Latimer, and, with a stern countenance, asked him how he dared to be so bold as to preach in such a manner. He, falling on his knees, replied, his duty to his God and his prince had enforced him thereto, and that he had merely discharged his duty and his conscience in what he had spoken. Upon which the king, rising from his seat, and taking the good man by the hand, embraced him, saying, “Blessed be God I have so honest a servant!”
At His appearing.
The second advent
I. The manner.
1. In mystery.
2. In glory.
3. With universality.
II. The purpose.
1. To reveal the true judgment of righteousness.
2. To proclaim open verdict on probationers.
3. To ensure an effectual separation of character.
III. The results.
1. The vindication of righteousness.
2. The triumph of love. (U. R. Thomas.)
Preach the Word.--
The ministry of the Word
Preaching is God’s great ordinance now, as it has been in the past. Its source and substance is the Word. The truth you are to preach is a Divine revelation, a written system of truth. Your teaching is not the tradition of men on the one hand, or their mysterious speculations on the other, but the revealed Word of the living God. You are not the inspirer or discoverer of truth, you are only its interpreter. It is no light matter to represent with freshness and force the truth when reached. Much work goes to that, not to elaborate but to simplify. The test of clear thinking is clear expression. Let the teaching of Christ be your pattern--words clear and simple as the light of heaven--thoughts deep as eternity. Have faith therefore in hard work. But labour is not enough. The mere interpreter can see but a little way into religious truth. The heart sees best. The rays of truth, that shine down into the closet, are the brightest and the best. Have faith in prayer as well as in toil. But while preaching the Word in its fulness, preach it also in its unity--that is, preach Christ. A Bible without Christ, a pulpit without Christ, would be a world without God. Give Christ the place in preaching that He holds in the Word: Christ’s death--the sinner’s only hope; Christ’s life--the believer’s only pattern; the righteousness of Christ--the ground of pardon; the grace of Christ--the riches of believers; the love of Christ--the power of new obedience. It is only from the height of the Cross that we can get a full view of the Word. Not that you are always to be preaching on the central doctrine of the Cross, just as you are not always looking right up to the sun; but as you view all things on earth in the light that streams from the sun, so should you see all truth in the light that streams from the Cross. That is no narrow theme, or soon exhausted. Christ can enter into everything, into all doctrine, all duties, all experience. Christian doctrine is just Christ’s portrait, drawn at full length. Christian morality is just Christ’s portrait, embodied in the life. Christian experience is Christ realised in the heart. Christian usefulness is Christ’s glory, carried out into all the details of life. And, last of all, preach the Word, for it is the “power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” Preach it for salvation; not only for instruction, that you may save yourself and them that hear you. All its truths are revealed for this end. (J. Riddell.)
Preach the Word
I. We must preach the Word with reference to the Divinity of its Author.
II. We must preach the Word with reference to the wonders of His love!
III. We must preach the Word with reference to the efficacy of His atoning sacrifice.
IV. We must preach the Word with reference to the sanctifying influences of His Spirit.
V. We must preach the Word faithfully and fully, in its precepts, as well as its doctrines.
VI. We must preach the Word in its catholic and evangelical spirit.
VII. We must preach the Word as the grand means of promoting the Saviour’s glory; and of accelerating the approach of the millennial day. (J. Parsons.)
Conditions of success in working for Christ
1. A sound conversion is essential to successful effort.
2. An intimate association with Christ is an element of great success. Let a minister go out into the fields with Jesus to glean, and he shall come back at even, “bearing his sheaves with him.” Let him go out helped by genius, by culture, by learning, by wealth, by position, leaving Christ behind, and his words are as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.
3. Christians must organise for victory. A sleepless vigilance and a tireless activity are as essential to success in the Church as in business. A progressive man holds fast to what has been attained, and reaches forth to possibilities laid bare to his eye.
4. A high ideal of a Christian’s position and work must be kept in view.
5. The great fight is the preaching of the Word. The men of power and weight are men of the Book; such represent God.
6. Practise the Word. (J. D. Fulton, D. D.)
Preaching the Word
To rightly “preach the Word” there is demanded a far-reaching preparation. Not for a work like that of the old alchemists and astrologers whose locks and beards grew grey as they bent over their crucibles or gazed at the stars, in the vain hope of solving mysteries. We have little to do with mysteries. It is for the simplicity of the gospel we search, and that leads us to heights and depths. We are to so think and pray and live that we may show to men plain paths for their feet. This makes the minister a student, but none the less a man. It is manly to follow the lead of heavenly lights over rough ways and into clouds. The richest ores and gems of Nature are guarded by her fortresses; so is it with truth, and no man but the sluggard complains that a full soul, like a full purse, comes through toil and trial. Newton was once asked, “How do you make your great discoveries?” His reply was: “I keep the subject constantly before me, and wait till the first dawnings open slowly, by little and little, into a full, clear light.” This is the key to God’s storehouse. The minister, who would be an approved workman, must mingle with those for whom he labours. Surrounding circumstances, bent of mind, temperament, culture, experiences of life, have given to each one of his people a standpoint for discerning truth. Now, the minister of Christ is sent to be the suggester of truth. How shall he be able to so hold it up that every one may get a grasp upon it, unless he understands the principles and something of the methods upon which the various activities of life are carried forward? To gain such a power as this and have it all sanctified, so that he shall neither materialise nor idealise, but rather stamp everything with God’s own seal and illumine everything with God’s own light, is a work before which the stoutest may tremble. “Who is sufficient unto these things?” (E. R. Ingersoll, D. D.)
Preach the Word, not sceptical objections
The habit of perpetually mentioning the theories of unbelievers when preaching the gospel, gives a man the appearance of great learning, but it also proves his want of common sense. In order to show the value of wholesome food it is not needful to proffer your guest a dose of poison, nor would he think the better of your hospitality if you did so. Certain sermons are more calculated to weaken faith than to render men believers; they resemble the process through which a poor unhappy dog is frequently passed at the Grotto del Cane at Naples. He is thrown into the gas which reaches up to the spectators’ knees, not with the view of killing him, but merely as an exhibition. Lifted out of his vapoury bath, he is thrown into a pool of water, and revives in time for another operation. Such a dog is not likely to be a very efficient watch-dog or pursuer of game; and when hearers Sun day after Sunday are plunged into a bath of sceptical thought, they may survive the experiment, but they will never become spiritually strong or practically useful. It is never worth while to make rents in a garment for the sake of mending them, nor to create doubts in order to show how cleverly we can quiet them. Should a man set fire to his house because he has a patent extincteur which would put it out in no time he would stand a chance of one day creating a conflagration which all the patents under heaven could not easily extinguish. Thousands of unbelievers have been born into the family of scepticism by professed preachers of the gospel, who supposed that they were helping them to faith: the fire fed upon the heaps of leaves which the foolish well-intentioned speaker cast upon it in the hope of smothering it. Young men in many instances have obtained their first notions of infidelity from their ministers; they have sucked in the poison, but refused the antidote. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Be instant in season, out of season.--
Never out of season
Not that the Word is ever out of season in itself, for it is the bread of life; all other meats have their times and seasons, but bread is the staff of nature, and is never out of season. There is no season unseasonable for so seasonable, for so necessary a duty in the opinion of a natural man, and in the eye of carnal reason it seems sometimes to be out of season, as when it is preached on the week-day, when pastor and people have profits and pleasures and worldly employments to draw them off. Now a sermon seems like snow in harvest to such earthly souls, it is out of season with them, yet even these seasons which the world judgeth unseasonable must a minister redeem for preaching. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
We must not be strawberry-preachers (as Bishop Latimer calleth them), which come but once a year and are quickly gone again. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
You cannot give God’s children too much of their Father’s bread. (Old Puritan.)
In season, out of season
Who has not reproached himself for suffering opportunities of usefulness to pass unimproved seasons when “a word fitly spoken” might have turned a sinner from the error of his way to the wisdom of the just? Why are we so reluctant to fill this department of usefulness? Who can tell the power of a word? Is it not often more effectual than a sermon? I once spent an afternoon in a family where a young woman had been employed for the day. I ought to have learned her spiritual state, but did not. At the tea-table she remarked that she had done her work. I replied, “If your work is done for time, you must work for eternity.” She sat a moment speech less; then, bursting into tears, she hastened from the room. Surprised and startled at such an effect from a word, I sought to learn from her the cause of this sudden distress. Her heart was overladen with the burden of sin. She had struggled to conceal her sorrow from the family. The cup was full. One drop made it run over, and led to a discovery of her deep conviction. This season of usefulness would have been lost by a few moments’ delay, and that anguish of spirit have been to me unknown. (American Messenger.)
The seasonable word not to be delayed
Dr. Chalmers once lodged in the house of a nobleman near Peebles. He was the life and soul of the discourse in the circle of friends at the nobleman’s fireside. The subject was pauperism--its causes and cure. Among the gentlemen present there was a venerable old Highland chieftain, who kept his eyes fastened on Dr. C., and listened with intense interest to his communications. The conversation was kept up to a late hour. When the company broke up they were shown upstairs to their apartments. There was a lobby of a considerable length, and the doors of the bed chambers opened on the right and left. The apartment of Dr. C. was directly opposite to that of the old chieftain, who had already retired. As the doctor was undressing himself, he heard an unusual noise in the chieftain’s room. The noise was succeeded by a heavy groan! He hastened into the apartment, which was in a few minutes filled with the company, who all rushed in to the relief of the old man. It was a melancholy sight which met their eyes. The venerable white-headed chief had fallen in the arms of his attendant. It was evidently an apoplexy. He breathed for a few moments and expired! Dr. C. stood in silence, with both hands stretched out, and bending over the deceased. He was the very picture of distress. He was the first to break silence. “Never in my life,” said he in a tremulous voice, “did I see, or did I feel, before this moment, the meaning of that text, ‘Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season,’ etc. Had I known that my venerable old friend was within a few minutes’ reach of eternity, I would not have dwelt on that subject which formed the topic of this evening’s conversation. I would have addressed myself earnestly to him. I would have preached unto him and unto you Christ Jesus, and Him crucified. I would have urged him and you, with all the earnestness befitting the subject, to prepare for eternity. You would have thought it, you would have pronounced it, out of season. But ah! it would have been in season--both as it respected him, and as it respects you.”
A word in season
A poor blacksmith, bending with age and weakness, was passing through a country village; he stopped at a good woman’s cottage, and rested himself on the railing before the door. The pious dame came out, and the weary traveller remarked that his time here would be short; he was often ailing; he added, “Ah, Nanny! I sha’n’t be long for this world, I reckon!” She thought of his words, and replied, “Well, John, then I hope you’ll prepare for your journey!” The blacksmith passed on, and his call was soon forgotten by Nanny; but that simple sentence was impressed on his memory by the Spirit of God, never to be erased. He pondered it while walking home, and soon consumption laid him on a bed of pain. Again and again did he think about “the journey,” and about being “prepared” for it. He began to pray, and all around him were continually hearing the old woman’s advice. No pious friends were near to converse with him, hut it is confidently believed that the aged sinner was led to look to the Saviour through the simple incident related above. Almost his last breath was spent in thanking God that the good old woman ever warned him “Be instant in season, out of season”: sow beside all waters, that thou mayest reap a glorious harvest at the coming of the Son of Man. (Christian Miscellany.)
Using an opportunity
My good and kind friend, Dr. Sale, the late vicar of Sheffield, once gave me an affecting account of a conversation he had in a railway carriage with one of his parishioners, a manufacturer, who was returning from Epsom the day after the Derby, with considerable winnings. The faithful vicar struck home, and soon discovered that the man, with all his seeming elation, was consciously guilty; and showed it, not only by the changes of his countenance, but by his desperate attempts to “change the subject.” It was in vain, however, that he strove to get out of the Christian preacher’s power. The vicar pressed the charge of guilt, till the sweat started to the gambler’s brow, and he cried, “For God’s sake, say no more! I know it is wrong.! dare not reflect upon it!” Yet the vicar did not shrink from his duty; but still urged his reproof, till he thought he had reason to believe that the man would give up his sin. (Thos. Cooper.)
Making an opportunity
The Mogul is a dirty little beer-shop, entirely supported by low and depraved persons. The tap-room was built in the yard beside a skittle ground, and was approached through a long passage. Upon entering it one evening the city missionary, John M. Weylland, found a crowd of at least forty juvenile thieves, vagrants, and bullies. As the noise was great, the only hope of doing good was an effort to enter into conversation with one or two individuals. This, however, was prevented, as many of them knew the visitor, and hit upon a device to get rid of him. A song was started by one of the men, and the chorus was taken up by the full company, who repeated with deafening effect the words, “He’s a jolly good fellow.” As the song proceeded the repetition became so boisterous that the visitor divined their intention to sing him out. He at once saw the difficulty of his position, as, if they had succeeded, the same practice would have been adopted in other tap-rooms to the hindrance of his usefulness. He, therefore, instead of leaving, took a seat in their midst inn most unconcerned manner. The chorus was kept up until many of the vocalists had bawled themselves hoarse; and as the yelling became feeble the visitor sprang to his feet, and said vehemently, “And they were good fellows, but the magistrates commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely; who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.” These words changed the current of feeling. Nearly all in the room had been in prison, and those who had not had a deep sympathy with such. “Who were they?” “Where was it?” and “What a shame I “were the general exclamations. After a pause, which produced absolute silence, the speaker continued: “And at midnight they sang praises unto God.” And then, opening his Bible, he, in a solemn, earnest tone, read the narrative of the imprisonment of Paul and Silas. When he came to the words, “He set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house,” the reader closed the Book, and in a few telling sentences explained the nature of saving faith in Christ, and the result of that faith--being made “new creatures.” After this visit the work was easy in that tap-room, and in the family of the landlord.
The minister is a fisherman, and the fisherman must fit himself to his employment. If some fish will bite only by day, he must fish by day; if others will bite only by moonlight, he must fish for them by moonlight. (R. Cecil.)
Unlikely opportunity used
A gentleman one day observed a man in the dress of a clown surrounded by a crowd of some two hundred persons, who were amused at his foolish antics and pitiful jokes. After looking on for some moments with feelings of compassion towards the poor creature who befooled himself to make a living, he drew a tract from a parcel which he carried, and, pressing through the crowd, offered it to the clown. The latter took it, and at once began to read it aloud in mockery, for the further entertainment of the bystanders. It was short, and he read it through to the last words, which were: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.” Overcome with sudden and evident emotion, he left the crowd and hastened away. The giver of the tract followed him, and tried to converse with him; but all the response he could get for some time was, “I’m lost! I’m lost!” However, the gospel was lovingly explained to him, and it entered into his heart. He became an earnest believer, and was soon among the regular labourers for Christ in the East End of London, in 1874. (J. F. B. Tinling. B. A.)
Need of reproof
He that minds his patient’s health will not toy or trifle or play with his mortal diseases; the flesh must feel the plaster, or it will never eat up the corruption in it. Shouldest thou apply a healing plaster to skin the wound aloft, when there is need of a corrosive to take away the dead flesh, thou wouldest be false and unfaithful to thy friend. Reproof, like salt, must have in it both sharpness and savouriness. Admonition without serious application is like an arrow with too many feathers, which, though we level at the mark, is taken by the wind and carried quite away from it. Some men shoot their reprehensions, like pellets through a trunk, with no more strength than will kill a sparrow. Those make sinners believe that sin is no such dreadful evil, and the wrath of God no such frightful end. He that would hit the mark and recover the sinner, must draw his arrow of reproof home. Reproof must be powerful; the hammer of the Word breaks not the heart, if it be lightly laid on. It must also be so particular, that the offender may think himself concerned. Some in reproof will seem to aim at the sinner, but so order it that their arrows shall be sure to miss him; as Domitian, when a boy held for a mark afar off his hand spread, with the fingers severed he shot his arrows so that all hit the empty spaces between his fingers. Be the reproof never so gracious, the plaster so good, it will be ineffectual if not applied to the patient. (G. Swinnock.)
Ministers must be faithful
God never made ministers as false glasses to make bad faces look fair; such make themselves guilty of other men’s sins. (T. Watson.)
No harpoons on board
A sailor just off a whaling expedition asked where he would hear good preaching. On his return from church his friend said to him, “You do not seem to have liked the sermon?” “Not much; it was like a ship leaving for the whale fishing--everything ship-shape, anchors, cordage, sails all right--but there were no harpoons on board.”
The Rev. Dr. John H. Vincent once reproved a swearer so powerfully and yet so tenderly that he not only subdued him, but melted him in tears. It was in a railway station; the room was full of passengers waiting for a late train. A man in the room was shocking everybody with his impiety, especially in profaning the name of the Lord Jesus. Suddenly Dr. Vincent began to sing--
“Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly.”
The song ceased; perfect silence followed. The swearer was reproved. After a time he came to Dr. Vincent and said, “Could I see you for a moment outside?” They went out together. “How came you,” said he, “to sing that hymn just now? “The Doctor replied: “I heard you swearing and profaning the name of the Lord Jesus, and I thought I would let you know there was somebody there who loved that name.” “That’s very strange,” said the man. “My sister, when she was dying, sang that very hymn, and she made me promise to meet her in heaven, Could you pray for me?” Down they knelt together, and the Doctor prayed for the penitent man, and asked that he might have grace and strength to keep the vow he had made to his dying sister. The train came; they were separated, to meet no more, in all probability, till they meet in eternity. Disciple of Jesus, witness for your Master. Bear His reproach. Confess His name before men.
Personal rebuke best
Men need to be reminded of their own sins much more than they do of Adam’s sin. The soldier has a deeper sense of danger when the rifle ball rings close by his ears, than by the general roar of the battle; and so a sinner will have a much deeper sense of God’s displeasure, when his own sin is brought home to him, than by listening to general remarks on the sinfulness of the race. (M. Miller.)
One day, as Dr. Cutler was returning home, a poor woman, whose husband had been very intemperate, called after him, and holding up a pair of chickens, begged him to accept them. “I told her,” said he, “she could not afford to give away such a fine pair of chickens.” “Mr. Cutler,” said she, with a sad expression, “you will hurt my feelings if you do not take them. I have fatted and picked them on purpose for you. It is the only return I am able to offer for the very great service you have lately done me and my little children.” “I am not aware,” said Mr. Cutler, “of having done you any service of late.” “Sir,” said the poor woman, “you have reformed my husband,” “There must be some mistake,” said Mr. Cutler. “I knew your husband was intemperate; but I have never said a word to him on the subject.” “I know you never have,” said she; “if you had, his pride is such that it might have made matters worse. It has happened, oddly enough, that often, when you have stepped in to say a few kind words to us, he has been taking his dram, or taking down his jug or putting it back again. About two months ago, just after you went out, he went to the door, and to my astonishment poured nearly a pint of rum out of his jug on to the ground, and said, ‘Debby, rinse out that jug with hot water. I’ve done. I can’t stand that man’s looks any longer! If Mr. Cutler would look savage, I shouldn’t mind it; but he looks so sad, and so benevolent all the while, when he sees me taking a dram, that I know what he means just as well as if he preached it in a sermon; and I take it very kindly of him that he didn’t give me a long talk.’” (Memoir of Dr. Cutler.)
The Rev. John Spurgeon was going to preach at his chapel in Tollesbury, Essex. It was the Sabbath morning, and as he passed a cottage garden he saw a man digging potatoes. He stopped and said, “Am I mistaken, or are you? I have come nine miles to preach to-day, thinking it was the Sabbath-day, As I see you are at work, I suppose I must be wrong, and had better go home.” The man coloured, and driving his spade into the ground, he said, “No, sir, you are not wrong, but I am: and I will have no more of it. I will be round this afternoon to hear you preach. Nobody has ever spoken to me before, and you’ve only done your duty.” He was at the chapel, and his wife with him. His wife became a member of the church, and he remained a regular attendant upon the means of grace. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Benefit of reproof
There was one particular instance, in which a degree of severity on my part was attended with the happiest effects. Two young men, now blessed servants of the Most High God, came into my church in a most disorderly way; and as usual I fixed my eyes upon them with sternness, indicative of my displeasure. One of them was abashed; but the other, the only one that ever was daring enough to withstand my eye, looked at me again with undaunted, not to say with impious confidence, refusing to be ashamed. I sent for him the next morning, and represented to him the extreme impiety of his conduct, contrasting it with that of those less hardened; and warning him who it was that he thus daringly defied; “He that despiseth you despiseth Me; and he that despiseth Me, despiseth Him that sent Me”; and I enjoined him never to come into that church again, unless he came in a very different spirit. To my surprise, I saw him there again the following Sunday, but with a more modest countenance; and from that time he continued to come, till it pleased God to open his eyes, and to lead him into the full knowledge of the gospel of Christ; and in a year or two afterwards he became a preacher of that faith which he once had despised. (P. B. Power.)
The following incident is known only to a few, but is deserving of a wider publicity. “I shall always remember Mr. Moody,” said a gentleman, “for he was the means of leading me to Christ. I was in a railway train one day, when a stout, cheery-looking stranger came in, and sat down in the seat beside me. We were passing through a beautiful country, to which he called my attention, saying, “Did you ever think what a good Heavenly Father we have, to give us such a pleasant world to live in? “I made some indifferent answer, upon which he earnestly inquired, “Are you a Christian? “I answered, “No.” “Then,” said he, “you ought to be one at once. I am to get off at the next station, but if you will kneel down, right here, I will pray to the Lord to make you a Christian.” Scarcely knowing what I did, I knelt down beside him there, in the car, filled with passengers, and he prayed for me with all his heart. Just then the train drew up at the station, and he had only time to get off before it started again. Suddenly coming to myself out of what seemed more like a dream than a reality, I rushed out on to the car platform, and shouted after him, “Tell me who you are.” He replied, “My name is Moody.” I never could shake off the conviction which then took hold upon me, until the prayer of that strange man was answered, and I had become a Christian. (A Faithful Pastor.)
2 Timothy 4:3-4
They will not endure sound doctrine.
Inclination the enemy of truth
The reason is here assigned for this faithful ministry: one that has always been in force, since human nature has always been the same. Men’s own inclinations will become the guide of their conduct concerning truth and duty. Because sound or salutary teaching about their own errors and sins is abasing to their pride and crucifying to their selfish passions, it will not be endured. Yet their minds crave stimulus, and even their moral natures demand some opiate. Hence they will resort to various so-called teachers, in order to obtain fancies that please and rules of life that suit their native tastes. And the effect of this will be that they turn themselves away from truth to falsehood, and are at last given up of God to the fixed delusion of believing a lie, to their own perdition. The picture is sad indeed, and common as sad, in this as in every century and land. None believe so wildly, and none are so hopelessly hardened, as those who finally reject the saving truth of God. (J. G. Butler, D. D.)
Smooth things preferred
Edward Irving found no favour as a preacher in the commencement of his ministry. After various disappointments, Dr. Chalmers heard and appreciated him, and invited him to be his assistant in Glasgow. Irving, in astonishment and doubt, replied: “I will preach to them if you think fit, but if they bear with my preaching they will be the first people who have borne with it.”
Dislike to the truth
Aristotle writeth that vultures are killed with oil of roses. Sweet smells enrage tigers. Swine cannot live in some parts of Arabia, saith Pliny, by reason of the pleasant scent of aromatical trees there growing in every wood. (J. Trapp.)
Sound doctrine forsaken
1. The grounds of their apostasy--viz., their hatred of the truth; they will not endure sound doctrine; they will reject it and cast it behind their backs; they hate and abhor it. They look upon it as a grievous burden, as Israel did upon the doctrine and visions of the prophets (Jeremiah 23:34; Jeremiah 23:36). It is not so much they cannot, but they will not endure sound doctrine; they love their lusts above the law, and therefore they hate him that reproves in the gates. Errors they can tolerate, and superstition they can tolerate, but the truth they cannot hear.
2. A second ground of their apostasy is their delight in false teachers; they so dote on them, that one or two will not content them, they must have heaps of them. They love their lusts, and therefore they seek out for such teachers as may not disquiet them. They wittingly and willingly suffer themselves to be deluded by them. The word signifies--
(1) An earnest desire of getting such teachers.
(2) It notes an indiscreet and confused gathering together of such a multitude of teachers without wit or reason, without any respect either to their life or learning, head nor tail. The disciples create their doctors, the lusts of their followers are their call.
3. A third cause of their apostasy is that innate malice and inbred concupiscence which is in the hearts of men. But the word in the original is “lusts,” which implies, not a simple desire or sudden motion, but a vehement, ardent, earnest desire and pursuit of a thing.
4. They have itching ears; this is another reason why they seek out for false teachers; they love not such as deal plainly and faithfully with them, they must have such as please their humours, tickle their fancies with novelties and curiosities, but they must in no wise touch their vices.
5. Here is the issue and consequences of their contempt of the truth--viz., the loss of truth, and following fables.
This is the devil’s method. First he stops the ear against sound doctrine, and then he opens it to error. Like a cruel thief, he draws the soul out of the right road into some wood, by-lane or corner, and there binds, robs, and rifles it.
1. God not only knoweth what men do at present, and what they have done, but what they will do in time to come. He tells Timothy here what will be done many years after he is dead and gone.
2. The more perfidious the world is, and the more false teachers abound, the more careful must Christ’s ministers be to oppose them by preaching sound doctrine. The badness of the times approaching must make us to redeem the present season. The sun will not always shine; tempests will arise, and the night will come when no man can work. Those that reverence Moses to-day, to-morrow are murmuring against him (Exodus 14:1-31, ult., and 15:14).
3. Saving doctrine is sound doctrine.
4. Unsound persons cannot endure sound doc trine. It is salt which searcheth men’s sores and puts them to pain. It is light which these sore eyes cannot endure, nor these thieves abide. They do evil, and therefore they hate the light (John 3:20). They do not only fear, but hate the light. They cannot endure to have the law preached, their consciences searched, nor their sins discovered. But as for sound men, they love sound doctrine; they desire it (Psalms 43:3). They come to it (John 3:21), and bless God for it (1 Samuel 25:32-33).
5. In the last days there will be many false teachers. There will not be one or two, but there will be heaps of them, the world will swarm with them. Men will have variety of lusts, and those call for variety of teachers to uphold them. Good men, and especially good ministers, are rare, they are one of a thousand (Job 33:23), but wicked ones abound; there is much dross, but little gold; much chaff, but little wheat; many weeds, few good flowers. If the devil have any work to do, he wants no agents to effect it. If men once set open their doors, they shall not want deceivers. When men slight truth they shall have teachers which shall be God’s executioners to bind them and blind them, and lead them into error.
6. Observe, as all other parts of man, so amongst the rest the ear hath its diseases. Salt is fitter for such than oil: though it be more searching, yet it is more sovereign. This itching disease was never so common as in our days. There is a sinful spiritual itch upon the soul which is sevenfold--viz., an itch of--
(7) Quarrelling. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Application in preaching objected to
A farmer went to hear John Wesley preach. The farmer was not a converted man; he cared little about religion; on the other hand, he was not what we call a bad man. His attention was soon excited and riveted. John said he should take up three topics of thought--he was speaking greatly about money. His first head was, “Get all you can.” The farmer nudged a neighbour and said, “This is strange preaching. I never heard the like of this before. This is very good. Yon man has got things in him; it is admirable preaching.” John discoursed of “Industry,” “Activity,” “Living to purpose,” and reached his second division, which was, “Save all you can.” The farmer became more excited. “Was there ever anything like this?” he said. Wesley denounced thriftlessness and waste, and he satirised the wilful wickedness which lavishes in luxury; and the farmer rubbed his hands, and he thought, “All this have I been from my youth up”; and what with getting, and what with hoarding, it seemed to him that “salvation had come to his house.” But Wesley advanced to his third head, which was, “Give all you can.” “Ay dear, ay dear,” said the farmer; “he has gone and spoilt it all.” There was now no further point of contact, no interest in the farmer’s mind. (Preacher’s Lantern.)
Some come to the Word preached, not so much to get grace, as to enrich themselves with notions--“Itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3). Austin confesseth that before his conversion he went to hear St. Ambrose, rather for his eloquence than for the spirituality of the matter. “Thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument.” Many come to the Word only to feast their ears; they like the melody of the voice, the mellifluous sweetness of the expression, the newness of the notion (Acts 17:21). This is to love the garnishing of the dish more than the food; this is to desire to be pleased rather than edified. Like a woman that paints her face, but neglects her health, so they paint and adorn themselves with curious speculations, but neglect their souls’ health. This hearing doth neither sanctify the heart, nor the Sabbath. (T. Watson.)
Shall be turned unto fables.--
Truth hidden when neglected
From these words we learn that there is such a thing as religious truth, and therefore such a thing as religious error. We learn that religious truth is one, and therefore that all views of religion but one are wrong. And we learn, moreover, that so it was to be that professed Christians, forgetting this, should turn away their ears from the one truth, and be turned, not to one, but to many fables. This is a most solemn thought, and a perplexing one. However, there is another which, though it ought not to be perplexing, is perplexing still, and perhaps has greater need to be considered and explained--I mean that men of learning and ability are so often wrong in religious matters also. Now, if we consult St. Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians, we shall find the same state of things existing even in the first age of Christianity. Even the apostle speaks of those who were blind, or to whom his Gospel was hid; and he elsewhere describes them, not as the uneducated and dull of understanding, but as the wise of this world, the scribe and the disputer. Does not our Saviour Himself say the same thing, when He thanks His Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that He hath hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes? Now it should not surprise us when men of acute and powerful understandings more or less reject the gospel, for this reason: that the Christian revelation addresses itself to our hearts, to our love of truth and goodness, our fear of sinning, and our desire to gain God’s favour and quickness, sagacity, depth of thought, strength of mind, power of comprehension, perception of the beautiful, power of language, and the like, though they are excellent gifts, are clearly quite of a different kind from these spiritual excellences--a man may have the one without having the other. This should be kept in mind when Christians are alarmed, as they sometimes are, on hearing instances of infidelity or heresy among those who read, reflect, and inquire; whereas, however we may mourn over such instances, we have no reason to be surprised at them. It is quite enough for Christians to be able to show, as they well can, that belief in revealed religion is not inconsistent with the highest gifts and acquirements of mind, that men even of the strongest and highest intellect have been Christians; but they have as little reason to be perplexed at finding other men of ability not true believers, as at finding that certain rich men are not true believers, or certain poor men, or some in every rank and circumstance of life. A belief in Christianity has hardly more connection with what is called talent, than it has with riches, station, power, or bodily strength. Now let me explain what I mean by a further remark. Is it not plain that earnestness is necessary for gaining religious truth? On the other hand, is it not a natural effect of ability to save us trouble, and even to tempt us to dispense with it, and to lead us to be indolent? Do not we see this even in the case of children--the more clever are the more idle, because they rely on their own quickness and power of apprehension? Is indolence the way to gain knowledge from God? Though there is no art or business of this world which is learned without time and exertion, yet it is commonly conceived that the knowledge of God and our duty will come as if by accident or by a natural process. Men go by their feelings and likings; they take up what is popular, or what comes first to hand. They think it much if they now and then have serious thoughts, if they now and then open the Bible; and their minds recur with satisfaction to such seasons, as if they had done some very great thing, never remembering that to seek and gain religious truth is a long and systematic work. And others think that education will do everything for them, and that if they learn to read, and use religious words, they understand religion itself. And others, again, go so far as to maintain that exertion is not necessary for discovering the truth. They say that religious truth is simple and easily acquired; that Scripture, being intended for all, is at once open to all, and that if it had difficulties, that very circumstance would be an objection to it. And others, again, maintain that there are difficulties in religion, and that this shows that it is an indifferent matter whether they seek or not as to those matters which are difficult. In these and other ways do men deceive themselves into a carelessness about religious truth. And is not all this varied negligence sufficient to account for the varieties of religious opinion which we see all around us? How are the sheep of Christ’s flock scattered abroad in the waste world! What religious opinion Can be named which some men Or other have not at some time held? All are equally confident in the truth of their own doctrines, though the many must be mistaken. In this confusion let us look to ourselves, each to himself. There must be a right and a wrong, and no matter whether others agree with us or not, it is to us a solemn practical concern not to turn away our ears from the truth. Let not the diversity of opinion in the world dismay you, or deter you from seeking all your life long true wisdom. It is not a search for this day or that, but as you should ever grow in grace, so should you ever grow also in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. ("Plain Sermons by Contributors to ‘Tracts for the Tithes.")
2 Timothy 4:5
But watch thou in all things.
1. But watch thou. The apostasy and looseness of the times we live in must make us the more watchful. Their falls must be our fears; their levity must quicken us to constancy, and their negligence must quicken our diligence in keeping the watch of the Lord.
2. Good men desire the Church’s good after their departure. Paul is dying, yet he commands Timothy to improve his talents for the Church’s good when himself was dead. Moses, before he dies, prays the Lord to set up a fit ruler instead (Numbers 28:16-17). Wicked men care not what becomes of the world, when they are dead and gone let heaven and earth come together, and all be in confusion, they care not. But good men have public spirits.
3. As all persons, so ministers especially must watch. The devil hath a special spite at them; he commands his agents, as the king of Aram did his followers, to fight neither with small nor great, but against the king of Israel; so he bends all his strength against the ministers of Israel.
(1) The better the man, the more watchful must he be. The pirate sets on the laden ship, and the thief upon the wealthiest traveller. But we must watch as pastors too, and discover wolves that would destroy the flock.
(2) We must watch at all times.
(a) In prosperity, as pigeons when they fare best fear most.
(b) Watch in adversity, the devil is busy then in laying snares, as the fowler doth for birds in frosty weather.
(3) In all places, in public and private, at home and abroad; the world is full of snares.
(4) Watch in all things, so runs the text.
(5) Watch against all sins. We carry about us a proneness to all sin.
(6) Watch over all thy senses; stop thine ears; make a covenant with thine eyes (Job 31:1). Set a watch before thy mouth. The whole soul is out of order, and therefore we must set a guard upon all its faculties.
4. Ministers especially must be hardy men. We are called soldiers, shepherds, watchmen, husbandmen, all which must endure summer’s heat and winter’s frost.
(1) We must endure hardship in our preparatory studies; we must give up ourselves to reading, study and prayer.
(2) He must endure hardship in the actual performance of his duty.
(3) Most properly and genuinely this hardship in the text consists in a patient undergoing of those injuries and oppositions which we must expect from an ungrateful world.
(4) The Lord Himself sometimes is pleased to exercise us, and to inure us to hardship, that we may be the fitter for His service. But let us, like good soldiers of Christ, endure hardship--
5. The ministry is a work. The sweat of the brow is nothing to that of the brain; besides the dangers we are liable to for our work’s sake.
6. Do the work or service of an evangelist. Observe, ministers are servants, and their office is service.
7. Of an evangelist. Observe, ministers must preach the gospel. We must publish the glad tidings of a Saviour (what in us lieth to all the world); this is to do the work of an evangelist, viz., soundly and sincerely to publish the gospel.
8. Make full proof of thy ministry. Ministers must fully and faithfully discharge all the duties of their calling. (T. Hall, B. D.)
None are so likely to maintain watchful guard over their hearts and lives as those who know the comfort of living in near communion with God. They feel their privilege and will fear losing it. They will dread falling from their high estate, and marring their own comfort by bringing clouds between themselves and Christ. He that goes on a journey with a little money about him takes little thought of danger, and cares little how late he travels. He, on the contrary, that carries gold and jewels, will be a cautious traveller: he will look well to his roads, his horses, and his company, and run no risks. The fixed stars are those that tremble most. The man that most fully enjoys the light of God’s countenance, will be a man tremblingly afraid of losing its blessed consolations, and jealously fearful of doing anything to grieve the Holy Ghost. (Bishop Ryle.)
Endurance of hardship
Some dyes cannot bear the weather, but alter colour presently; but there are others that, having something that gives a deeper tincture, will hold. The graces of a true Christian hold out in all sorts of weathers, in winter and summer, prosperity and adversity, when superficial counterfeit holiness will give out. (R. Sibbes.)
I board with a poor Scotsman; his wife can talk scarcely any English. My diet consists mostly of hasty-pudding, boiled corn, and bread baked in ashes, and sometimes a little meat and butter. My lodging is a little heap of straw, laid upon some boards, a little way from the ground; for it is a long room, without any floor, that I lodge in. My work is exceedingly hard and difficult. I travel on foot a mile and a half in the worst of roads almost daily and back again; for I live so far from my Indians. I bare not seen an English person this month. These and many other uncomfortable circumstances attend me; and yet my spiritual conflicts and distresses so far exceed all these that I scarce think of them, but feel as if I were entertained in the most sumptuous manner. The Lord grant that I may learn to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ! (David Brainerd.)
Do the work of an evangelist.--
The work of an evangelist
We fancy we still see Dr. Wardlaw standing in the pulpit and beseeching the newly-ordained pastor to approve himself in all things as the faithful servant of God. Some of his sentences still linger in our recollection--“Oh, my brother I” he said, “never forget that the greatest triumph which can be accomplished on earth is the conversion of a soul; and a minister’s labours are never so highly honoured as when men are born of God through his instrumentality. It may be of importance to polish the jewel after it has been found, but the chief thing is to dig it out of the mine. It may be, and it is, important to dress up the stone for the front of the building, but be does the greatest work who excavates it from the quarry in which it lay imbedded.” (Evangelical Repository.)
An earnest evangelist
While waiting on one occasion in a gentleman’s parlour, Vassar opened conversation with his wife, a very fashionable and proud-looking lady, who was sitting in the room. With great concern he began at once to urge the necessity of the new birth and immediate acceptance of Christ upon her. She was thunderstruck, and protested that she did not believe in any of those things. Then followed a most fervent appeal, texts of Scripture, warning against rejecting Christ, the certainty of a wrath to come for any found in impenitence, till my friend said he was fairly alarmed at the boldness of the assault. Suddenly the gentleman came in for whom he was waiting, and called him out. When the gentleman returned to his wife, she said, “There has been an old man here talking with me about religion.” “Why did you not shut him up?” he asked gruffly. “He is one of those persons that you cannot shut up,” was her reply. “If I had been here,” he said, “I would have told him very quickly to go about his business.” “If you had seen him, you would have thought he was about his business,” was her answer. (Memoir of Uncle John Vassar.)
Make full proof of thy ministry.--
Fulfil thy ministry
This word “ministry” does not refer exclusively to what we are accustomed to call the Christian ministry, meaning the teaching and pastoral office in the Church. That is but one of ten thousand forms of ministration or service, which may be rendered to our fellows at the call of God. To minister to any one, is to help or serve him; and so every course of action by which we can help and serve others is a ministry, and every such service is truly a Christian work. And as we cannot all render the same service, but can each render particular kinds of service to particular people--relatives, friends or neighbours--that particular description of service which each of us can render is our “ministry.” It is a ministry, the object of whose functions lies without us, in contrast to activities which centre in self as their object. And it is “thy ministry,” because it is that particular form of helpful activity which it is open to each, separately, to prosecute. Paul’s was different from Timothy’s, and neither has belonged to anybody since; nor will your ministry, or mine, ever be allotted to anybody else; for no one will be situated as We are, or have exactly our opportunities. But, in some respects, our ministry is like Timothy’s and Paul’s. It is directed to the same objects: the spread of Christ’s truth and Christ’s Church. And we are summoned to it by the same Divine Lord, to whom also we shall reader an account of its discharge; All the high, sublime elements, then, which belonged to their ministry or service in life, belong to ours, though ours may take less striking outward forms, and be rendered with no eye but God’s to watch our performance of it. The sublime considerations, moving to fidelity in it, which Paul urged on Timothy, bear, then, on us. “I charge thee before God, make full proof of”--thoroughly fulfil--“thy ministry.” (T. M. Herbert, M. A.)
The appeal of the elder to the younger generation
In the charge of the aged Paul to the young disciple Timothy, there seems to be an appeal which, though unexpressed, is perpetually addressed from the elder generation to the younger. What the one old man said to the single young one, all Christ’s servants, whose work is nearly done, seem to say to all those whose work is just beginning. “Fulfil thy ministry, for I am now ready to be offered.” Choose what time in the world’s history you like, you will always find those two classes well represented; for it is always true that “one generation passeth away, and another cometh.” And while the old are always passing to their rest, and the young rising to do their parts, the great aims for which Christian men strive and pray, and the great institution of the Church, through which they further them, lives on; and it is, or should be, the concern of each generation to hand it down invigorated and enlarged, to their successors. But if that is to be done, these successors must be ready to take up these toils and aims; to adapt them to the needs of the coming time, and engage in them with a spirit at least as devoted as that which their fathers showed. So they seem to hear from their father, “Fulfil thy ministry, for I am now ready to be offered.” Now if we take our own time, and apply to it these considerations, which hold good of every time, what shall we say? New, as ever, there is a passing and a rising generation. And the great Church and kingdom of Christ, which has been in the hands of the fathers, will soon be in the hands of the children. That glorious institution will live, though the hands which now sustain it decay. But young hands must receive it from the failing hold of the elders, and by their efforts it must he upheld. Are they ready to take it? Are they prepared to “fulfil their ministry,” because their predecessors will soon leave the task in their hands? (T. M. Herbert, M. A.)
Fuelling one’s ministry
Several ancient rulers did not find management of their dominions sufficiently burdensome, and so one of them became a fiddler, another a poet, and another an orator. The world never had a worse fiddler than Nero, nor a more wearisome poet than Dionysius, nor a more blundering orator than Caligula; and we might fearlessly assert also that the world never had worse princes than these three. Such instances are exceedingly instructive, and remind us of the sculptor’s advice to the cobbler to stick to his last. Each tub had better stand on its own bottom; for when tubs take to rolling about they spill all that they contain, be it either wine or water. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
2 Timothy 4:6-8
I am now ready to be offered.
The law of sacrifice
The interest o the Second Epistle to Timothy is altogether exceptional. It is the interest of a heart-moving tragedy; and yet the tragic gloom which rolls above its heavens is relieved, is almost illumined with golden glory by a strain and temper of pathetic tenderness. It is, as far as we are concerned, the last earthly utterance of an altogether remarkable man; the last will and testament, so to speak, of one in whose character commanding ability, simple and unswerving purpose, unflagging energy, unselfish enthusiasm, and warm and wide and sunny sympathy were combined in a degree unrivalled in the history of our race. And then, too, St. Paul, as he writes, may indeed be “the aged,” but age can scarcely slacken power in such a soul, and here, consequently, he wins the unforbidden homage we pay spontaneously to one who, in the fullest vigour and energy of life, looks straight and calmly into the eyes of death. The text is, I suppose, one of the best-known verses in the Bible, an utterance of profound humility and lofty courage and unvarying truth; it is to us altogether interesting--interesting, doubtless, because it reveals the character of such a one as Paul; but more, a word of worldwide import, for at such moments great men are themselves revelations. Paul was alone in a sense in which he had never been before. The dear Churches--that is, the dear souls, loved with such strength and joy as was in “him to love with--were far away; their faces he would never gaze upon again; the old places were gone; no more would he see the Holy City so rich in memories, no more the long blue line of the Abarim bounding the land of the chosen race, no more the jagged hills of his native Tarsus, no more the dancing waters of the blue AEgean, no more the Aeroceraunian crests, only lately marking the path of his pilgrimage from Corinth to Rome. Nature had closed her doors to the wanderer; from his prison on the Esquiline, or from the cave near the Capitol, or wherever it was that, in their last days, his eyes closed and opened to the light of the Roman summer, those eyes were straining beyond even objects of human affection to the unimagined wonders of another world; he was looking forward. At such a time it is that great natures fall back upon the principles which have governed life; and to us their utterances then, are supremely interesting, for such principles are the exhibition, in fact, of universal law. St. Paul, in his words illustrated by his life, is indeed proclaiming a fundamental law of the Church of his Master. “The Reign of Law!” Need I remind you that of that realm we are all the subjects? It is fundamental, it explains, as it has guided, the Church’s influence; it teaches, as it has trained, souls to tread the only way of lasting usefulness. It applies to all. It is not the heritage of the peerless apostle, but also the rule of the quiet Christian; obedience to it decides indeed the value of our choice in crises of destiny, but it also ennobles the “trivial round” of daily life. Here, indeed, it is thrown out in vivid colour from a dark background of death; here, indeed, in full force, it is borne in upon the mind, because it comes as no abstract statement, but the life-rule written in the heart’s blood of a living and a dying man. In him it found a wonderful completeness: it is the fundamental law of the Church of Jesus--the Law of Sacrifice. And now, I ask, “How for Paul was the grave transfigured?” and the answer is, “By the same power by which life was governed, by the law of sacrifice.” What, then, is sacrifice? By sacrifice, speaking morally and spiritually, as now, I mean this: The willing surrender of legitimate desire in submission to a sovereign, an authoritative claim; and the interest of the text lies in this, not only that it expresses the rich result of that law operating in its completeness in a human soul, but also, it limits the stages of trial by which such completeness was achieved. What, let us ask, were some at least of those stages?
1. First, then, he had wakened up to the reality and requirements of the spiritual life. Man is a creature of two worlds, but of one sphere of being; standing he is within the boundary of time, but one foot is planted across the frontier of eternity. Little we see of man’s real working, just here and there a hint is given by the definite act which meets the senses, excites our blame or sets the chorus of praise re-echoing through the halls of history, but day by day and hour by hour man’s spirit, shrouded, veiled from his fellow man, is at work in the spirit sphere. Now to waken up to this, and to the consequent requirements of duty in this interior life, is to be brought under the law of sacrifice, because it is at once to be under the necessity of war. “The Prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience,” is no mere tendency to wrong, but a personal spirit, with a personal power. And surely it has been the experience not only of the saints--the giant explorers in the regions of spiritual life--but the experience of earnest, commonplace children of God, that besides their struggle with their own corruption, they have been conscious of sudden assaults, of well-timed suggestions of sin, alarming, astounding, distinctly to them distinguishable from any picture of imagination; painfully, evidently separated from themselves, and clearly coming with the force and horror of the agency of a personal tempter. The action of the hierarchy of evil was indeed perhaps more evident to the Christians when St. Paul taught and lived than to ourselves. The entire imperial system of Rome might well appear to him an organisation of evil; and indeed, so awfully had the creature forsaken his Creator--read the first chapter of the Roman Epistle and say was it not so?--that that splendid fabric sprung from the genius of Pagan civilisation had become little else than a series of well-worked agencies of sin. It is true that the life of the second Adam permeating the race of the Redeemed has made of modern civilisation a very different story. But tell me, is there not enough in modern life to witness to the presence of the same tremendous power? Can you open your newspaper any morning without being impressed by the fact that the world is trying to get rid of the incubus of the thought of God? without being conscious of tones of thought and views of life nowise condemned by society at large, which would, to say the least, have shocked apostles? Is there not an air of unruffled indifference, or a tone of quiet patronage assumed towards moral evil which give the lie to the brave, the necessary hostility taught us in the Catechism when we were children? Does not this subtle tolerance of sin flow through society, invade the Church, deprave the mind? Hence men lose all sense of the severe requirements of a righteous God, because they have first lost all sense of His character of severe essential holiness; hence, young men, you are the victims (are you not?) in business life of habits of language, alliance with, almost toleration of, which you feel to be inconsistent with any nobility of mind, not to say any sincerity of Christian character. Ah! how are you to escape? Certainly not without struggle. Roused to the facts, roused to the requirements of spiritual life, you find yourself in battle; self must be denied, duty must be done, strength must be sought (faithfulness is needed in sacraments and prayer--faithfulness, too, in using strength when given). You must submit, and heartily, to the law of sacrifice. Spiritual activity on the side of right and truth and purity and duty--this is a stage towards a complete achievement. Paul had learned it; whether his description is drawn from the racecourse or the battle it matters not; he had learned at any rate the necessity of struggle. “I have fought a good fight.”
2. It is well, is it not, to awaken to the mystery, to recognise the reality, of the spiritual world? But there is surely a farther stage for the wayfarer in this path of sacrifice. What shall be the standard to measure and direct the struggle of life? To an earnest Christian what God forbids is bad--unutterably, inexcusably bad. Right is right and wrong wrong, without palliation or possibility of compromise. To do good is not merely wiser than to do ill; it is the place, calling, need of the creature; wilful sin, self-chosen evil, is the damnable, ruinous, and sorrowful thing, which may call for a tribute of sadness and pity, but admits of no defence. Need I say it? this necessary revelation of God’s will is furnished by the moral law. Conscience speaks first. I do not now pause to define its office or assign its place, or dwell upon the limits of its dominion; only let me remark in parenthesis--Obey your conscience, respect its warnings, listen for its whispers, submit unhesitatingly to its commands; you will be all the wiser, better men. Here Paul had first read and obeyed the will of God, and because he had tong been trained in that sincere and accurate submission, he was ready, when the face of Jesus was flashed upon him from the flaming heaven, above the peaks of the Hauran, at once to recognise, and unconditionally to obey. The prophets, the psalmists, the teachers of Israel had for him enlarged upon and enforced the lessons of that primal instruction, as revelation of the Christ, and the New as well as Old Testament Scriptures have ever since done for us all; but for him and for each since his time, the larger laws of Divine guidance have been particularised and pointed by special providence and special trials. The requirements of that Will are often--at least to human frailty--severe. The heart’s most fierce desires are not most easily assuaged, the world’s most prized successes are not most surely secured, by obedience to the will of God. No. Splendid indeed the results, moral, spiritual, of such adherence and such submission, but the process is pain. Honestly and earnestly to choose Chat standard is to be subject to the law of sacrifice. Paul chose it, and, like him, each one who does, fulfils, though it be in pain, an allotted mission. “I have finished,” says the apostle, “the course marked out for me.”
3. But there is one further stage of conquest dependent upon the most stern self-discipline. If there be anything that a man would seem entitled to call his own, it is his thought. Surely in thought, at least, man is free; surely “I can think what I like,” as it is the expression of a natural craving, so it is the statement of a truth. Scarcely; for thought, if untrained, undisciplined, and unrepressed, becomes a tyrant, not a slave; and thought, which shares the heritage of our nature’s blight, can only fulfil its intended function when purified by submission to the law of sacrifice. My brothers, to plant the footstep of your thoughts on the track of Divine Revelation, to refuse to them the by-paths of ungoverned fancy, to restrain them in their wild impulsive leaps, is to start them, nay, far to advance them, on the journey which ends in God. Be sure that to “learn obedience” to the truths of the Christian Faith, to bathe the mental habits in the cleansing waters of the Spirit, who gives light, humility, courage, and truth, is the one way possible for emancipating the mind from the thraldom of corruption; but to do this, how hard, how full of sorrow, how severe at times the trial and the strain; ah me I as in other things, in this also, “obedience is learned by the things” we “suffer.” To leave men’s criticism, and desire the Revelation of God; to quit our own miserable inquiries, and choose the path of the Pathless One; to watch against the wilfulness that slights, the sin that weakens our power of believing; this, as it is an evidence of strength, and even of stern decision, is not lacking in an element of trial, requires submission to the law of sacrifice. “Kept the Faith,” mark you; for as to reach the path needed some self-conquest, so to keep the track required unflagging earnestness and persevering power. To submit to the Faith, in such an one as Paul, meant moral earnestness; to keep it implied moral force; for him, as for all men, to govern thought by God’s revelation implies obedience to the law of sacrifice. Paul, I say, did it, did it utterly, did it also in the face of extremest external difficulty, did it when to be faithful to conviction implied fierce persecution and inevitable death; it is a triumphant climax that last stage of struggle--“I have kept the Faith.” So the saintly soul advanced to that completeness of surrender which is completeness of power, and finds expression in the text. In fact, spiritual activity, a creaturely temper, and a humble mind, were the stages of his self-sacrifice. One question remains--Whence came its impulse? whence its sustaining strength? The answer is easy. It came whence only it can come, from supernatural, but personal affection. My friends, we are not all St. Pauls: very much the reverse usually, almost infinitely short of him in spiritual vigour, most of us. But being all professed disciples of Jesus Christ, God demands of each of us in our degree, submission to the law of sacrifice.
1. We are under special trial when the soul is subject to the illumination of some new truth. A light comes--such a course long lived is wrong, or is not the best. We must obey, but to us--for man is very frail and only human--this is sharp.
2. Or we lose something very dear. It may be an old friendship, it may be an old friend; it may be old, long-cherished, long-loved dreams; it may be that the mystery of the freshness of early life, once making all things fresh, has fled. There is, remember, nothing lost without a something gained, if the soul walk by this law, mind this rule.
3. Or, as you may be this week, as you and I have often been, there may be a time of temptation. How sorely some of you are tried I know. How not seldom England’s commercial greatness means that young souls must often choose between the loss of place, which means loss of maintenance--some-times too for wife and children dearer than self--and the loss of peace with God. This I am not forgetting. Oh brother, tempted, you or I, to wrong, in the interests of self-advancement, are we not after all only victims submitted to the law of sacrifice? Do not shrink. It is severe and painful, but it is the law of life.
4. And there is death. True, here we have no choice; but still, when that comes, how we shall comport ourselves may depend in very large, in very serious measure, oil our habit of sacrifice now. Every life, believe it, to be trained for God, for goodness, must be trained by sacrifice. Every work, believe it, that you do will be of lasting value in “proportion to the amount of sacrifice entailed in doing. In fact, it is by submission to this law that the Church teaches you how to use the world. This world may be viewed in many lights, so many-sided it is, so strange! For instance, it is a burying-earth, a world of death, a huge and sombre grave. “The world is full of death!” We tread on the dust of a thousand generations, and other pilgrims, children of our children, shall tread on ours when we lie low! Stop! A powerful principle can transfigure everything, even the horror of death. The world is an altar of sacrifice: lives have been lived, and therefore deaths have been died of abundant fruitfulness and unending power. Why? Because these souls, which live each an endless life, have expressed themselves in sacrifice, have lost, have strangled the only death-giving principle, the principle of self, in undying devotion to truth and holiness. Further, then: the world is the vestibule of a palace of complete achievement. However, all here seems stamped with imperfection, branded with the trade-mark of unfinished labour, yet death, on such terms, is in truth the entrance to essential life; sacrifice, the birth-throe of a spirit satisfied. (Canon Knox Little.)
Ready to be offered
I. Things which make it difficult to say this.
1. The enjoyment of life.
2. Attachment to friends.
3. The anticipated pain of dissolution.
4. Uncertainty about the future.
II. Things which make it easy, at least comparatively, to say this.
1. The sad experience of life’s ills.
2. The consciousness of having finished one’s life-work.
3. The pre-decease of Christian friends.
4. An ever-nearing and enlarging prospect of heaven’s glory. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
1. The godly, by a spiritual instinct and sagacity, foresee their ends; so did Jacob (Genesis 48:21), and Joshua (Joshua 23:14), and Christ (John 17:2), and Peter (1 Peter 2:14). They always watch and wait for their Master’s coming. Their acts, diseases, and disquietments which they meet withal from the world are as so many petty deaths unto them. A man that dwells in an old crazy house where the walls fall down, the foundation sinks, the pillars bend, and the whole building cracks, concludes such a house cannot long stand. As for the wicked they are insensible and secure, and though grey hairs, which are signs of old age and death approaching, be here and there upon them yet they know it not (Hosea 7:9).
2. Death is not dreadful to good men. The apostle speaks of it here not by way of lamentation, but of exultation. Death to him was but a departing from one room to another, from a lower room to a higher, from earth to heaven, from troubles to rest, from mortality to immortality. They are long since dead to the world, and so can part with it more easily. The wicked look on death as a dreadful, dismal thing; but God’s people looking on it through the spectacles of the gospel, see it to be a conquered enemy, having its sting taken out (Hosea 13:15), so that what Agag said vainly and vauntingly, a Christian may speak truly and seriously: “The bitterness of death is past” (1 Samuel 15:32).
3. The soul of man is immortal. Death is not an annihilation, but a migration of the soul from the body for a time.
4. The death of the martyrs is a most pleasing sacrifice to God.
5. The death of the martyrs doth confirm the truth. The Church is God’s garden, and it is watered and enriched by the blood of martyrs. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Paul the martyr, Christian, conqueror
I. The information here given of Paul’s death as a martyr.
1. He looked on his death as an offering on behalf of the gospel.
2. He looked on his death as a departure from every temporal bondage.
II. The declaration here given of Paul’s labour as a christian.
1. As a soldier in the army.
2. As a runner in a race.
3. As a faithful servant to his Master.
III. The declaration here given of Paul’s reward as a conqueror,
1. The preciousness of this reward.
2. The excellent Giver of this reward.
3. The solemn time of obtaining this reward.
4. The liberality of the Giver. “Not to me only,” etc. (M. Jones.)
Looking out toward heaven
1. He looks downward into the grave (2 Timothy 4:6) whither he was going, and there he sees comfort.
2. He looks backward and views his well-spent life with joy and comfort, and in a holy gloriation breaks forth, “I have fought the good fight,” etc.
3. He looks upward, and there he sees heaven prepared for him.
But doth not this savour of vain-glory and spiritual pride?
1. Answer: Not at all, for the apostle speaks not this proudly, as if he had merited anything at the hand of God.
2. He speaks this partly to comfort Timothy, and to encourage him to walk in his steps, keeping faith and a good conscience.
3. To encourage himself against the reproach of his reproaching violent death, he eyes that heavenly reward and that crown of life prepared for such as have fought the good fight as he had done. (T. Hall, B. D.)
The Christian’s course, conflict, and crown
I. The view in which the apostle represents his decease.
1. He expresses neither terror nor reluctance, on account of the violent nature of the death which awaited him, but speaks of it calmly as a sacrifice and offering to God. His last and most solemn testimony would thus be given to the truths of God, which he had everywhere proclaimed; and his blood, when poured out, would simply resemble, as his words imply, the mixture of blood and wine which was poured upon the altar in the ancient sacrifices. His death would merely form the concluding part of that offering, which he had made of himself to the service of his Lord; and he seemed rather to welcome than to withhold the termination of the sacrifice. The decease of every Christian may be likewise called an offering. We are all required to “yield ourselves to God”; to present ourselves to him as living sacrifices; and in our dying hour, or in our devout preparations for it, we may bear our testimony to His perfections, by manifesting our firm faith in His promises and our full submission to his will.
2. But the apostle here speaks farther of his decease, in a sense still more applicable to that of all men; “the time of my departure” (or as his words directly signify, “the time of my loosing anchor”) “is at hand.” Thus he teaches us to take a much more enlarged view of our existence than to regard our death as, strictly speaking, the last of its acts; and rather to consider the dissolution of our mortal frames as the transferring of that existence from the service of God on earth to the presence of God in heaven.
II. The reflections with which the apostle here looks back upon his life on earth.
1. Justly does he speak of his life as a fight, in which he had been engaged, and which he had maintained with the most unshaken resolution to that very hour.
2. This service he farther likens to a race, to one of those contests of bodily strength, or speed, or skill, in which it was common in those days for men to seek the prize of victory, and in which it was accounted the highest earthly honour to gain the corruptible crown. “I have finished my course.” In this course of the Christian he had long and perseveringly run, and he is now approaching the goal with the prize full in his view. He was the more encouraged in his anticipation of the recompense placed before him by the consideration that he had “kept the faith”; that he had not only run the Christian race, but had duly observed the rules of the contest. “If a man strive for mastery, yet is he not crowned except he strive lawfully”; and the first law of the race here spoken of is to “walk by faith,” “to run with patience, looking unto Jesus,” to be animated in every step and turn of your course by a devout love to His name, a humble trust in His grace, a fervent desire of His glory. In this manner had the apostle kept his fidelity to his Lord, both in fulfilling with diligence the portion of service assigned to him and in his course of labour “living by the faith of the Son of God.” By His grace and to his glory he has done the work given him to do; and, through his promised mediation, he now looked for the end of his faith, the salvation of his soul.
III. The hopes by which the dying apostle is cheered in view of an eternal world. You are thus called to exercise a rational regard to your own true happiness, looking forward to an eternal blessedness, which can be compared to nothing less than crowns and kingdoms; a settled approbation of perfect righteousness, desiring to receive, as the sources of your felicity, the approbation and favour and future presence of the righteous Judge of all the earth; a benevolent sympathy in the best interests of others, delighting in the thought that so many of your fellow-creatures may participate in your company, in the same blessed inheritance; and finally, a devout sentiment of love to the Son of God, anticipating with joy His own appearing, as the consummation of all His felicity to your own souls and to multitudes of His redeemed of every age and people. (James Brewster.)
A prisoner’s dying thoughts
I. The quiet courage which looks death full in the face without a tremor. The language implies that Paul knows his death hour is all but here. As the revised version more accurately gives it, “I am already being offered”--the process is begun, his sufferings at the moment are, as it were, the initial steps of his sacrifice--“and the time of my departure is come.” The tone in which he tells Timothy this is very noticeable. There is no sign of excitement, no tremor of emotion, no affectation of stoicism in the simple sentences.
1. We may all make our deaths a sacrifice, an offering to God, for we may yield up our will to God’s, and so turn that last struggle into an act of worship and self-surrender.
2. To those who have learned the meaning of Christ’s resurrection, and feed their souls on the hopes that it warrants, death is merely a change of place or state, an accident affecting locality, and little more. We have had plenty of changes before. Life has been one long series of departures. This is different from the others mainly in that it is the last, and that to go away from this visible and fleeting show, where we wander aliens among things which have no true kindred with us, is to go home, where there will be no more pulling up the tent-pegs, and toiling across the deserts in monotonous change. How strong is the conviction, spoken in that name for death, that the essential life lasts on quite unaltered through it all! How slight the else formidable thing is made. We may change climates, and for the stormy bleakness of life may have the long still days of heaven, but we do not change ourselves.
II. The peaceful look backwards. We may feel like a captain who has brought his ship safe across the Atlantic, through foul weather and past many an iceberg, and gives a great sigh of relief as he hands over the charge to the pilot, who will take her across the harbour bar and bring her to her anchorage in the landlocked bay where no tempests rave any more for ever. Such an estimate has nothing in common with self-complacency. It coexists with a profound consciousness of many a sin, many a defeat, and much unfaithfulness. It belongs only to a man who, conscious of these, is “looking for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life,” and is the direct result, not the antagonist, of lowly self-abasement, and contrite faith in Him by whom alone our stained selves and poor broken services can ever be acceptable. Let us learn too that the only life that bears being looked back upon is a life of Christian devotion and effort. It shows fairer when seen in the strange cross lights that come when we stand on the boundary of two worlds, with the white radiance of eternity beginning to master the vulgar ell lamps of earth, than when seen by these alone. All others have their shabbiness and their selfishness disclosed then.
III. The triumphant look forward. That crown, according to other words of Scripture, consists of “life” or “glory”--that is to say, the issue and outcome of believing service and faithful stewardship here is the possession of the true life, which stands in union with God, in measure so great, and in quality so wondrous that it lies on the pure locks of the victors like a flashing diadem, all ablaze with light in a hundred jewels. The completion and exaltation of our nature and characters by the illapse of “life” so sovereign and transcendent that it is “glory” is the consequence of all Christian effort here in the lower levels, where the natural life is always weakness and sometimes shame, and the spiritual life is at the best but a hidden glory and a struggling spark. There is no profit in seeking to gaze into that light of glory so as to discern the shapes of those who walk in it, or the elements of its lambent flames. Enough that in its gracious beauty transfigured souls move as in their native atmosphere! Enough that even our dim vision can see that they have for their companion “One like unto the Son of Man.” It is Christ’s own life which they share; it is Christ’s own glory which irradiates them. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
A Christian’s death
I. We begin with making some observations on the sources of that consolation which supported this eminent servant of God at the time when his departure was at hand. It was the reflection upon a well-spent life; it was the consciousness of a strenuous and immovable fidelity in the religious warfare which formed his habitual preparation for death, and laid the foundation of his joyful hopes. The only sovereign and efficacious remedy against the fears of dissolution is to mortify the power of sin within the soul, and to make all our vicious appetites to die before us, for the sting of death is sin. He that hath risen above the influence of sin can live beyond all possibility of any great annoyance from the terrors of the last enemy. How animating a scene is the deathbed of the righteous man! What can disturb his last and peaceful moments The recollection of his trials and patience, the many acts of piety and benevolence which his memory can then suggest, all rise to view, to refresh his retiring soul, to smile upon his departing spirit, and render it superior to the frowns of death, which he is thus enabled to consider, not as a stern and inexorable tyrant sent to execute the vengeance of heaven, but as the messenger of love and peace commissioned to close a troublesome and mortal life, and to put him in possession of one glorious and eternal.
II. From the manner in which the apostle expresses the foundation of his tranquillity and hopes, we may observe, in the second place, what is the nature of that service in which the Christian is engaged, and of that strenuous and immovable fidelity which is indispensably requisite to complete his character: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” It is the uniform declaration of the Almighty to all the sons of men, that it is no easy thing to be a Christian, but that through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God. We wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers, with the rulers of the darkness of this world, with spiritual wickedness in high places. Our combat does not endure only for a little, nor is our security the reward of a few hours of steady opposition, but almost every step we take through the wilderness of life exposes us to some new attack; we are often assaulted by all the deceivableness of unrighteousness, and through the whole of life we maintain an unceasing struggle. Nor are all our enemies open and declared. Equally dangerous are our secret foes, these insidious passions which lodge within us, ever ready to catch at the bribes of an alluring world, and to open for it a secret passage to the heart. Thus surrounded with dangers on every hand, how absolutely necessary is it to be strong, to quit ourselves like men, to brace the mind with firmness and vigour, to keep the attention constantly directed to every quarter from which we may be assaulted? Thanks be to God, however, we are not left to struggle alone: there is an omnipotent grace which gives strength to the feeble. The law of the Christian dispensation is this: We are commanded to labour with as vigorous efforts as if the whole success of that work depended on ourselves alone, and, at the same time, with the humility and diffidence of a mind conscious of its own imbecility, and sensible of the necessity of Divine grace to render all its endeavours effectual. The man who is thus disposed has no reason to dread the greatest dangers: “He who is with thee is greater than he who is against thee: the Lord is thy life and thy salvation, whom shalt thou fear? The Lord is the strength of thy life, of whom shalt thou be afraid? The sacred influence of His grace shall continually descend to guide thy doubtful steps, to invigorate every languid effort, to teach thy hands to war and thy fingers to fight, and to crown thee with final success and triumph.
III. Which leads us naturally to turn our thoughts, in the third place, to that blessed and glorious reward, specified in the text, by the expression of a crown of righteousness. This expression has an evident allusion to those crowns bestowed by the ancients on brave and intrepid warriors; to those marks of honour and respect by which they were wont to distinguish particular feats of valour. It intimates to us that high and splendid triumph which shall be at last conferred on the faithful and undaunted servants of the Most High God; that ineffable dignity which shall be bestowed on them in the day of Christ’s appearance; and recalls to our thoughts that most interesting period when the Judge of all the earth shall descend with ineffable pomp and majesty, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. How great, O God, is that goodness which Thou hast laid up for them that serve Thee, and wrought for them that fear Thy name before the sons of men. Thou shalt hide them for ever in the secret of Thy pavilion; Thou shalt defend them from the strife of tongues, and from the pride of men. Such honour shall all the saints of God possess; such shall be the reward of the steady friends of Jesus. Thus blessed shall they be who are found holy and undefiled in the world; they shall have a right to the tree of life; they shall enter through the gate into the city, and reign with Jesus for ever and ever.
IV. Our last observation is founded on the declaration in the text, that this honour shall be conferred on those and those alone, who love the appearance of Jesus. Shall the treasures of Divine grace ever be prostituted to enrich the unworthy? or, shall the impious man ever be raised to that happiness which he hath always despised? No, the decree hath passed, a decree which shall never be reversed, that unless we are renewed in the spirit of our minds we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. This decree is no arbitrary law; it is founded in nature; it is implied in the very reason of things, that none but the pure in heart are qualified for relishing the pleasures of that immortal inheritance. For, what is heaven? Not a total alteration of state, but reason, and every pious and virtuous disposition dilated and expanded to its highest pitch. What are the immortal joys which it contains but the security, the increase, and the perfection of virtue? (J. Main, D. D.)
Sayings of Christians at the end of life
Rev. J. Newton, who lived to a good old age, used to tell his friends in his latter days, “I am like a parcel packed up and directed, only waiting for the carrier to take me to my destination.” When Dr. Wardlaw was visited by Norman McLeod in his dying hour, and was asked by him if he could not wish, like Enoch, to escape the pains of death, “No,” he said, most touchingly, “I would enter heaven by the way that Jesus went.” “I die no more,” were the exultant words of old Dr. Redford, as he fell down in death. The Rev. Dr. Punshon, working and suffering, fulfilled a sort of double life until his Divine Master called him home. Then, in deeply reverent tones, looking upward, he said, with a firm voice, “Christ is to me a bright reality. Jesus! Jesus!” What a moment for his beloved wife when she saw a smile of rapture on his face, then marked him bow his weary head, and enter into the rest eternal!
Readiness for death
Sir John Burgh, a brave soldier, who received a mortal wound in the Isle of Rees, and being advised not to fear death, but to prepare himself for another world, answered, “I thank God I fear not death; these thirty years together I never rose out of my bed in the morning, that ever I made account to live till night.”
There is one more point of tremendous reminiscence, and that is the last hour of life, when we have to look over all our past existence. What a moment that will be! I place Napoleon’s dying reminiscence on St. Helena beside Mrs. Judson’s dying reminiscence in the harbour of St. Helena, the same island, twenty years afterwards. Napoleon’s dying reminiscence was one of delirium--
“Head of the Army.” Mrs. Judson’s dying reminiscence, as she came home from her missionary toil and her life of self-sacrifice for God, dying in the cabin of the ship in the harbour of St. Helena, was, “I always did love the Lord Jesus Christ.” And then she fell into a sound sleep for an hour, and woke amid the songs of angels. I place the dying reminiscence of Augustus Caesar against the dying reminiscence of the Apostle Paul. The dying reminiscence of Augustus Caesar was, addressing his attendants, “Have I played my part well on the stage of life?” and they answered in the affirmative, and he said, “Why, then, don’t you applaud me?” The dying reminiscence of Paul the apostle was, “I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge will give me in that day, and not to me only, but to all them that love His appearing.” Augustus Caesar died amid pomp and great surroundings. Paul uttered his dying reminiscence looking up through the wall of a dungeon. God grant that our dying pillow may be the closing of a useful life, and the opening of a glorious eternity. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Death a departure
It is the most melancholy circumstance in the funerals of our Christian friends, when we have laid their bodies in the dark and silent grave, to go home and leave them behind; but, alas I it is not we that go home and leave them behind; no, it is they that are gone to the better home, and have left us behind. (Matthew Henry,)
Bishop Ken in life and death
Nothing could be more beautiful than Ken’s life. His days at Longleat are amongst the treasured memories of one of England’s fairest spots; and his last journeys derive a tender pathos from the singular fact of his carrying his shroud in his portmanteau--he remarking that it “might be as soon wanted as any other of his habiliments.” He put it on himself some days before the last; and in holy quietness and peace, his death was as beautiful as his life. (J. Stoughton, D. D.)
Passing on the torch
Bengel says that Paul was about to deliver up to Timothy before his decease the lamp or torch-light of the evangelical office. Bengel alludes, remarks Dr. James Bryer, to the ancient torch-races of the λαμπαδήφοροι, in which the torch was handed by the runners from hand to hand.
Carrying on the battle
A brave soldier in the day of battle, if he hears that a regiment has been exterminated by the enemy’s shot and shell, says, “Then those of us that survive must fight like tigers. There is no room for us to play at fighting. If they have slain so many, we must be more desperately valiant.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The time of my departure is at hand.
A last look-out
I. Our departure. We loose our cable, and bid farewell to earth, it shall not be with bitterness in the retrospect. There is sin in it, and we are called to leave it; there has been trial in it, and we are called to be delivered from it; there has been sorrow in it, and we are glad that we shall go where we shall sorrow no more. There have been weakness, and pain, and suffering in it, and we are glad that we shall be raised in power; there has been death in it, and we are glad to bid farewell to shrouds and to knells; but for all that there has been such mercy in it, such lovingkindness of God in it, that the wilderness and the solitary place have been made glad, and the desert has rejoiced and blossomed as a rose. We will not bid farewell to the world, execrating it, or leaving behind us a cold shudder and a sad remembrance, but we will depart, bidding adieu to the scenes that remain, and to the people of God that tarry therein yet a little longer, blessing Him whoso goodness and mercy have followed us all the days of our life, and who is now bringing us to dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. But if I have had to speak in a somewhat apologetic manner of the land from which we depart, I shall need to use many apologies for my own poor talk about the land to which we are bound. Ah, whither goest thou, spirit loosened from thy clay--dost know? Whither goest thou? The answer must be, partly, that we know not. None of us have seen the streets of gold of which we sang just now; those harpings of the harpers, harping with their harps, have never fallen on these ears; eye hath not seen it, ear hath not heard it; it is all unrevealed to the senses; flesh and blood cannot inherit it, and, therefore, flesh and blood cannot imagine it. Yet it is not unknown, for God hath revealed it unto us by His Spirit. Spiritual men know what it is to feel the spirit, their own new-born spirit, living, glowing, burning, triumphing within them. They know, therefore, that if the body should drop off they would not die. They feel there is a life within them superior to blood and bone, and nerve and sinew. They feel the life of God within them, and none can gainsay it. Their own experience has proven to them that there is an inner life. Well, then, when that inner life is strong and vigorous, the spirit often reveals to it what the world of spirits will be. We know what holiness is. Are we not seeking it? That is heaven--perfect holiness is heaven. We know what peace means; Christ is our peace. Rest--He gives us rest; we find that when we take His yoke. Rest is heaven. And rest in Jesus tells us what heaven is.
II. The time of our departure, though unknown to us, is fixed by God--unalterably fixed; so rightly, wisely, lovingly settled, and prepared for, that no chance or haphazard can break the spell of destiny.
III. The time is at hand. In a certain sense, every Christian may say this; for whatever interval may interpose between us and death, how very short it is! Have you not all a sense that time flows faster than it did? In our childish days we thought a year was quite a period of time, a very epoch in our career; now as for weeks--one can hardly reckon them! We seem to be travelling by an express train, flying along at such a rate that we can hardly count the months. Why, the past year only seemed to come in at one door and go out at the other; it was over so soon. We shall soon be at the terminus of life, even if we live for several years; but in the case of some of us, God knows of whom, this year, perhaps this month, will be our last.
1. Is not this a reason for surveying our condition again? If our vessel is just launching, let us see that she is seaworthy. It would be a sad thing for us to be near departing, and yet to be just as near discovering that we are lost. I charge every man and woman within this place, since the time of his departure may be far nearer than he thinks, to take stock, and reckon up, and see whether he be Christ’s or no.
2. But if the time of my departure be at hand, and I am satisfied that it is all right with me, is there not a call for me to do all I can for my household?
3. Let me try to finish all my work, not only as regards my duty to my family, but in respect to all the world so far as my influence or ability can reach.
4. If the time of our departure is at hand, let it cheer us amid our troubles. Sometimes, when our friends go to Liverpool to sail for Canada, or any other distant region, on the night before they sail they get into a very poor lodging. I think I hear one of them grumbling, “What a hard bed! What a small room! What a bad look-out!” “Oh,” says the other, “never mind, brother; we are not going to live here; we are off to-morrow.” Bethink you in like manner, ye children of poverty, this is not your rest. Put up with it, you are away to-morrow.
5. And if the time of my departure is at hand, I should like to be on good terms with all my friends on earth.
6. If the time of my departure is at hand, then let me guard against being elated by any temporal prosperity. Possessions, estates, creature comforts dwindle into insignificance before this outlook.
7. Lastly, if the time of our departure is at hand, let us be prepared to bear our testimony. We are witnesses for Christ. Let us bear our testimony before we are taken up and mingle with the cloud of witnesses who have finished their course and rested from their labours. Let us work for Jesus while we can work for Him. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The dying Christian
It is recorded of one of our most distinguished British essayists, that he addressed to an irreligious nobleman these solemn words, “I have sent for you that you may see how a Christian can die.” Many critics have thought that the apostle’s request to Timothy, “Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me,” was prompted by a desire not only to have his companionship in the time of tribulation, but to impart religious counsel, and above all, that he might be a witness of the last moments of his aged father in Christ, the apostle. Whatever difference of opinion may be entertained of Addison’s saying to the nobleman, who can doubt the wisdom and piety of Paul’s wish?
I. Life present, or the apostle’s reflections on dying. How calm his mind! Whilst our views and feelings may be altered by the nearness of the last enemy, to Paul it seemed the same whether death was dimly seen in the distance, or the interval be measured by a single step. The words, “I am now ready to be offered” probably contain an allusion to the heathen custom of pouring wine and oil on the head of the victim when about to be offered in sacrifice. The apostle felt himself to be as near to death as that very victim; every preparation having been made, he only had to await the fatal blow. How could such a man fear death when for years he had been a “living sacrifice” in the service of his Master, and was now awaiting death as the consummation of the sacrifice? The other figure is not less beautiful. The apostle had hitherto felt himself bound to the present world as a ship to its moorings, but now anchor was to be weighed, fastenings to be loosened, and sails to be unfurled. But though the vast, the boundless ocean stretched out before him, he felt himself to be no mere adventurer--a Columbus going in search of an undiscovered land. Though known only by report, he knew that the report of this new world was not the speculation or idle conjecture of man. Thus, elsewhere, he is found saying, “having a desire to depart [to loose cable] and to be with Christ, which is far better.” How does the repetition of these figures show that his feelings were not transient impulses, but the settled habits of his mind. How intelligent was this confidence! His was not the peace of ignorance, or of a perverted view of the mercy of God. Here was his assurance of a triumph over the last foe, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” And is there not something sublime in this state of mind? What a contrast does it present even to some of those cases of supposed religions triumph over death which men of the world have quoted from classic antiquity, For what was it that made the apostle so resigned, so willing, so longing to meet death? Was it a feeling of misanthropy from the base treatment he had received from his fellow creatures, including even his professed friends? Was it disappointed ambition, the world refusing him its laurels? Was it anxious suspense from being in prisons and deaths oft? Was it the infirmity of old age, drying up all the sources of the enjoyment of life? Whilst these may be the secret motives which have urged many men of the world to desire departure, no such selfishness was enthroned in the apostle’s breast, as you may learn from his reflections: “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better.” “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”
II. Let us look at life past; or, the apostle’s retrospect.
1. Here is life reviewed in reference to its conflicts. Life is not only a race, but a conflict--not only a stretching forward for the prize, but one continuous struggle with besetting foes: it calls not only for activities, but resistance. Say you this is a repulsive view of religion? We reply, is not self-denial necessary for success in all the departments of life? Is it not, moreover, as salutary as indispensable? Instead of complaining of this battle of life, ask yourselves if the self-knowledge thereby obtained, the opportunity afforded for the development of graces, the vigour given by exercise to every virtue, be not more than a compensation?
2. Life is here reviewed in reference to the individual sphere of active duties. We might here propose several questions. Is a man sent into the world by his Creator only to follow out his own inclinations, or is he in any sense born to the fulfilment of some great end in the kingdom of God’s providence? We might ask again if the individual believer sooner or later may not find out his particular vocation, and arrive at some satisfactory conclusion as to what end he was born, or for what cause he came into the world. Do not wants, gifts, counsels of friends, oft unmistakably point to the work assigned by the Disposer of all things? Will not the prayer, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to dot” be answered, so that the suppliant shall be able to say, “This is my course.” If, then, there is a course prescribed by Divine providence for each of us, is it not our interest as well as our obligation to pursue it?
3. Life is here reviewed in reference to religious beliefs, or our fidelity to truth. By the word faith here is meant the Christian religion, so called because it is a revelation made to man’s faith; “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” But all cannot say, “I have kept the faith.” Could Phygellus, or Hermogenes, or Hymenaeus, utter such words? The patience and the faith of the saints are often severely tried, and blessed are they of whom it was said, “Here are they that keep the faith of Jesus.” If any think lightly of adherence to the faith, let them ponder over the deathbed confession of one who had swerved from the truth. “It seemed,” says a writer in the Quarterly Review, “that Hume received a religious education from his mother, and early in life was the subject of strong and hopeful religious impressions; but as he approached to manhood they were effaced, and confirmed infidelity succeeded. Maternal partiality, however alarmed at first, came to look with less pain upon this declaration, and filial love and reverence seem to have been absorbed in the pride of philosophical scepticism: for Hume now applied himself with unwearied, and, unhappily, with successful efforts, to sap the foundation of the mother’s faith. Having succeeded in this dreadful work, he went abroad into foreign countries, and, as he was returning, an express met him in London with a letter from his mother, informing him that she was in a deep decline, and would not long survive. She said she found herself without any support in her distress; that he had taken away that source of comfort upon which in all cases of affliction she used to rely, and that now she found her mind sinking into despair: she did not doubt that her son would afford her some substitute for her religion; and conjured him to hasten home, or at least send her a letter containing such consolations as philosophy can afford a dying mortal. Hume was overwhelmed with anguish, hastened to Scotland, travelling night and day, but before he arrived his mother had expired.” Is it nothing, then, to “hold fast the form of sound words,” and, on a dying bed, to exclaim, “I have kept the faith”?
III. Let us notice life to come, or the apostle’s sublime anticipations. The race was nearly run, the conflict was well-nigh ended; it now only remained that the crown should be bestowed. The crown was to be one of righteousness. Not that the apostle felt he could claim it, for he who styled himself less than the least of all saints would be the first to cast his crown at the feet of the Royal Redeemer, exclaiming, “Thou alone art worthy”; but it was called “a crown of righteousness” because won in the cause of righteousness, and conferred upon him by One who is “not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed towards His name.” In every age the attainment of a crown has been the summit of human ambition. For it, usurpers have dethroned monarchs--warriors have stood in the breach--navigators have defied the fury of the deep--philosophers have strained intellect night as well as day; for it the foot-racer, and the boxer, and the charioteer have endured severest bodily discipline--all--all reaching after the goal of worldly honour, all trying to distance their competitors--all dissatisfied with the present, and reaching to that which is before. Now Christianity addresses such aspirants, and points them to something better, to crowns purer, brighter, and more enduring. But what may be the crowns which the Lord the righteous Judge shall bestow, we shall not venture to describe. Sure we are, they are not merely symbols of sovereignty, or ensigns of victory, or tokens of national gratitude to earthly benefactors. The conqueror there will not be crowned with olives, or parsley, or any other such fading leaves. It will not consist in the praises of men, or worldly elevation above the millions of our fellow-creatures. It will not be awarded for human merit, nor will the wearer be conscious of any feeling of claim: the weight of his glory will rather weigh him down. It will not be of such a character as shall endanger his holiness, or that shall afterwards require a thorn in the flesh lest the victor should be exalted above measure. It will not be the joy and rapture of an hour, awakened by the excitement of the novelty, to be followed by ennui and disappointment. It will not awaken envy among the millions of the glorified, but rather raise higher joy as they see one wearing a more brilliant diadem than the rest. The crown will consist in nothing that will divert the mind from the Eternal All, and cause it to seek satisfaction in self. The real joy will be that it has been awarded by God’s own Son, placed on the brow by His own hand--that it will reflect higher glory on the Giver--that it will be prostrated at His feet. In a word, the honour will consist in the presence and favour and likeness of God. But we pause and tremble, lest we should darken counsel by words without knowledge. We must wait until we wear it, before we shall fully understand the words--“a crown of life”--“a crown of glory”--“a crown that fadeth not away”--“a crown of righteousness.” (J. S. Pearsall.)
Ready for home
I. As a departure to another country. As when the ship puts to sea, it is for the purpose of sailing to another port, so Paul looked forward to death as a “departure” for another country. The sailor does not leave the port with the prospect of an eternal cruise in unknown seas, or for the purpose of ultimately losing himself somewhere in some mysterious, undefined nothing.
II. As a departure to a better country. He was willing to sail. Now Paul was no misanthrope, who had become so sick of human society that he longed to be rid of it. He was not weary of life. Then why did he wish to go? Was he amongst those eternal grumblers who themselves do all the “howling,” and then complain that the world is a “howling wilderness”? By no means! His desire to depart was not because this was bad, but because that was “better”; not because he had had enough of Christian society and Christian service--that was good--but because he wished to be with Christ, which was infinitely preferable.
III. As a departure to a better country, which was his home. Paul compared himself to a sailor who, lying in a foreign port, was awaiting orders to sail for home. Such a man, though in a land of pleasure and plenty, would sit and long to be away. As he thought of friends beloved across the sea, he would count the weeks and days when he hoped to see them once again. Not unlike this are the Christian’s dreams of heaven.
IV. As a departure for home, the time of which was fixed. “The time of my departure is at hand.” The Psalmist says, “My times are in Thy hand.” “My times!”--that is, all my future is with God. He knows--
1. When I shall depart.
2. Whence I shall depart.
3. How I shall depart.
Two Cistercian monks in the reign of Henry VIII. were threatened, before their martyrdom, by the Lord Mayor of that time, that they should be tied in a sack, and thrown into the Thames. “My lord,” answered one, “we are going to the kingdom of heaven; and whether we go by land or water is of very little consequence to us.” So our thoughts should be fixed on the goal rather than on the path by which it is reached; on the rest that remains rather than on the toil through which it is obtained.
V. As a departure for home, the time of which was near. “The time of my departure is at hand.” The sailor, lying in a foreign port, with his cargo complete, his sails “bent,” and the wind fair for home, contemplates with joy the fact that the day is near when the order will come to bid him sail. Thus Paul waited for death. To him the disease, or the accident, or the martyrdom, would be but as the postman who brought the letter--the letter for which he longed with unutterable desire.
VI. As a departure for home, for which he was perfectly ready. “I am now ready,” said he. And so he was. As one by one he saw the cords being unloosened which bound him to this world--as loved ones were taken away--as sickness, disease, or age told him that the time was at hand when he was to depart, he viewed the whole with the complacent satisfaction of the sailor who sees his vessel being unmoored to sail for home. (W. H. Burton.)
Joy of a faithful minister in view of eternity
I. The character of a faithful minister.
1. He loves the gospel which he preaches.
2. He does not shun to declare all the counsel of God, but endeavours to preach the gospel as fully and as plainly as possible.
3. He will uniformly and perseveringly perform the self-denying duties of his office, which are of a less public nature, but of no less importance, than his ministrations on the Sabbath. In visiting the sick and the dying, he will deal plainly as well as tenderly with them. Whenever he is called to converse with persons about the state of their minds, whether they are in stupidity, distress, or doubt, he will not daub with untempered mortar, nor endeavour to comfort those who ought not to be com forted, tie will contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
II. What reasons he may have to rejoice in the near prospect of eternity.
1. He has good reason to rejoice that he chose the work of the ministry in preference to any other employment in life. The most useful employment must be allowed to be the most important and desirable.
2. He has good reason to rejoice in the close of life and in the view of eternity, that God has enabled him to be faithful.
3. He has good reason to rejoice in the close of his ministry, because God has given him assurance that all his faithful labours shall produce some valuable and important effects, either sooner or later.
4. He has good ground to rejoice when the time of his departure is at hand, because God has promised him an ample reward for all his sincere services. (N. Emmons, D. D.)
A Christian’s death
I. The importance of preparation for our departure.
1. This is the last and closing scene of human life.
2. How serious a thing it is to die.
3. Because disease and the period introductory to our dissolution are special seasons given to us in which to glorify God and bring credit to religion.
4. This is the last opportunity we have of doing anything for God, for the Church, for our families, and for the world.
II. The manner in which a Christian should die.
1. Amidst the darkness, languor, and pain of a sick bed, a Christian man ought to engage in com mending the ways of God and religion to those about him. The words of dying saints have been called “living oracles”; and so they should be.
2. We should then attend to the duty of exhorting others who are walking in the ways of the Lord.
3. We ought to commend ourselves and others to God in the devout exercise of prayer.
4. In the exercise of strong faith. (A. Waugh, D. D.)
Calmness in death--its philosophy
I. A soul-absorbing interest in the great cause of universal truth and benevolence.
II. An accurate conception of what death really is to the good.
III. Delightful memories of the manner in which he had spent his life.
IV. A soul-enrapturing vision of the future into which he was about entering. (Homilist.)
Good-bye to the world
The way out of this world is so blocked up with coffin, and hearse, and undertaker’s space, and screwdriver, that the Christian can hardly think as he ought of the most cheerful passage in all his history. We hang black instead of white over the place where the good man gets his last victory. We stand weeping over a heap of chains which the freed soul has shaken off, and we say, “Poor man! What a pity it was he had to come to this.” Come to what? By the time people have assembled at the obsequies, that man has been three days so happy that all the joy of earth accumulated would be wretchedness beside it; and he might better weep over you because you have to stay, than you weep over him because he has to go. Paul, in my text, takes that great clod of a word, “death,” and throws it away, and speaks of his “departure,” a beautiful, bright, suggestive word, descriptive of every Christian’s re]ease. Now, departure implies a starting-place, and a place of destination. When Paul left this world, what was the starting-point? It was a scene of great physical distress. It was the Tullianum, the lower dungeon of the Mamertine prison. The top dungeon was bad enough--it having no means of ingress or egress hut through an opening in the top. Through that the prisoner was lowered, and through that came all the food, and air, and light received. It was a terrible place, that upper dungeon; but the Tullianum was the lower dungeon, and that was still more wretched, the only light and the only air coming through the roof, and that roof the floor of the upper dungeon. It was there that Paul spent his last days on earth, and it is there that I see him to-day, in the fearful dungeon, shivering, blue with cold, waiting for that old overcoat which he had seat for up to Troas, and which they had not yet sent down, notwithstanding he had written for it. Oh, worn-out, emaciated old man, surely you must be melancholy. No constitution could endure this and be cheerful; but I press my way through the prison until I come up close to where he is, and by the faint light that streams through the opening I see on his face a supernatural joy, and I bow before him and I say, “Aged man, how can you keep cheerful amid all this gloom?” His voice startles the darkness of the place as he cries out, “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” Hark! what is that shuffling of feet in the upper dungeon? Why, Paul has an invitation to a banquet, and he is going to dine to-day with the King. Those shuffling feet are the feet of the executioners. They come, and they cry down through the hole of the dungeon, “Hurry up, old man. Come, now, get yourself ready.” Why, Paul was ready. He bad nothing to pack up. He had no baggage to take. He had been ready a good while. I see him rising up, and straightening out his stiffened limbs, and pushing back his white hair from his creviced forehead, and see him looking up through the hole in the roof of the dungeon into the face of his executioner, and hear him say, “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” Then they lift him out of the dungeon, and they start with him to the place of execution. They say, “Hurry along, old man, or you will feel the weight of our spear. Hurry along.” “How far is it,” says Paul, “we have to travel?” “Three miles.” Oh, three miles is a good way for an old man to travel after he has been whipped and crippled with maltreatment. But they soon get to the place of execution--Acquae Salvia--and he is fastened to the pillar of martyrdom. I see him looking up in the face of his executioner, and as the grim official draws the sword, Paul calmly says, “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” One sharp, keen stroke, and Paul does go to the banquet, and Paul does dine with the King. What a transition it was I From the malaria of Rome to the finest climate in all the universe--the zone of eternal beauty and health. From shipwreck, from dungeon, from the biting pain of the elm-wood rods, from the sharp sword of the headsman, he goes into the most brilliant assemblage of heaven, a king among kings, multitudes of the sainthood rushing out and stretching forth hands of welcome; for I do really think that, as on the right hand of God is Christ, so on the right hand of Christ is Paul, the second great in heaven. He changed kings likewise. Before the hour of death, and up to the last moment, he was under Nero, the thick-necked, the cruel-eyed, the filthy lipped. But the next moment he goes into the realm of Him whose reign is love, and whose courts are paved with love, and whose throne is set on pillars of love, and whose sceptre is adorned with jewels of love, and whose palace is lighted with love, and whose lifetime is an eternity of love. When Paul was leaving so much on this side the pillar of martyrdom to gain so much on the other side, do you wonder at the cheerful valedictory of the text, “The time of my departure is at hand”? Now, why cannot all the old people of my congregation have the same holy glee as that aged man had? You say you most fear the struggle at the moment the soul and body part. But millions have endured that moment, and why may not we as well? They got through with it, and so can we. Besides this, all medical men agree in saying that there is probably no struggle at all at the last moment--not so much pain as the prick of a pin, the seeming signs of distress being altogether involuntary. But you say, “It is the uncertainty of the future.” Now, child of God, do not play the infidel. After God has filled the Bible till it can hold no more with stories of the good things ahead, better not talk about uncertainties. But you say, “I cannot bear to think of parting from friends here.” If you are old, you have more friends in heaven than here. Besides that, it is more healthy there for you than here, aged man; better climate there than these hot summers, and cold winters, and late springs; better hearing; better eyesight; more tonic in the air; more perfume in the bloom; more sweetness in the song. I remark again: all those ought to feel this joy of the text who have a holy curiosity to know what is beyond this earthly terminus. And who has not any curiosity about it? A man, doomed to die, stepped on the scaffold, and said, in joy, “Now in ten minutes I will know the great secret.” One minute after the vital functions ceased, the little child that died last night knew more than Jonathan Edwards, or St. Paul himself before they died. Friends, the exit from this world, or death, if you please to call it, to the Christian is glorious explanation. It is demonstration. It is illumination. It is sunburst. It is the opening of all the windows. It is shutting up the catechism of doubt and the unrolling of all the scrolls of positive and accurate information. I remark again: we ought to have the joy of the text, because leaving this world we move into the best society of the universe. You see a great crowd of people in some street, and you say, “Who is passing there? What general, what prince, is going up there?” Well, I see a great throng in heaven. I say, “Who is the focus of all that admiration? Who is the centre of that glittering company?” It is Jesus, the champion of all worlds, the favourite of all ages. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
Presentiment of death
In one of his last letters Livingstone wrote, “During a large part of this journey I had a strong presentiment that I should never live to finish it. It is weakened now as I seem to see the end towards which I have been striving looming in the distance. This presentiment did not interfere with the performance of any duty: it only made me think a great deal more of the future state of being.”
Unconscious sense of the end of life
Churchill, in the unfinished “Journey,” the last fragment found among his papers, showed a strange unconscious kind of sense of being near his end. He calls it the plain unlaboured Journey of a Day, and closes with the line--“I on my journey all alone proceed!” The poem was not meant to close here, but a greater Hand interposed. That line of mournful significance is the last that was written by Churchill! (Timbs.)
Of Bradford it is said, that when the keeper’s wife said to him, “Oh, sir, I am come with heavy tidings--you are to be burnt tomorrow”; taking off his hat and laying it upon the ground, and kneeling and raising his hands, he said, “Lord, I thank Thee for this honour. This is what I have been waiting for, and longing for.” (W. Jay.)
Byron and St. Paul--a contrast
For a contrast of worldly despair with Christian confidence at the end of life, compare with the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:6-8 the following, which are reckoned the last verses of Byron’s pen:--
“My days are in the yellow leaf,
The flowers, the fruits of love are gone;
The worm, the canker, and the grief,
Are mine alone.
The fire that on my bosom preys
Is lone as some volcanic isle,
No torch is lifted at its blaze
A funeral pile!”
(J. E. B. Tinling, B. A.)
I have fought a good fight.--
The holy war
I. The two armies.
1. The army of the saints.
(1) Their Captain-General is the Lord Jesus Christ.
(2) The officers are the ministers of Christ, and all who are active and useful in His service.
(3) The soldiers are the saints.
(4) The enlisting--conversion.
(5) The uniform--the graces of the Spirit, and the robe of righteousness.
(6) The armour--helmet of salvation, etc.
(7) The instruction of the young soldiers--Bible.
(8) The allies--angels.
2. The army of the enemy.
(1) Generals--sin, Satan, and world.
(2) Soldiers--the wicked.
(3) Allies--evil spirits.
II. The battle.
1. What kind of a battle?
(1) A good battle.
(2) A hot battle.
(3) A very profitable battle.
(4) A battle that must be constant.
2. Where fought? Whole world.
3. When shall it be finished? At death for each individual soldier; at the day of judgment for the whole army.
III. The victory.
1. Is certain.
2. Shall be held in ever-lasting remembrance. (A. Fletcher, D. D.)
1. It is lawful sometimes to speak of those gifts and graces which God hath given us, that we may comfort and quicken others by our example.
2. The sweetest songs of the saints have been towards their last ends. The sun shines sweetliest when it is setting, the wine of the spirit is strongest in the saints when they are drawing to an end. His motions are quickest when natural motions are slowest; as we see in Moses his swan-like song (Deuteronomy 31:1-30; Deuteronomy 32:1-52; Deuteronomy 33:1-29.), and David how sweetly doth he sing a little before he dies of God’s mercies to himself, of the covenant of free grace which God had made with him, and His judgments on the sons of Belial (2 Samuel 22:1-8). Joshua dying, how sweetly doth he exhort the people to obedience by setting before them the mercies of God (Joshua 24:1-33.). All Christ’s sayings are excellent, but none so sweet and comfortable as those which He delivered a little before His death. Wicked men when they die they set in a cloud, and like the going out of a candle they leave a stench behind them: as their bodies, so their names rot and stink when they are dead and gone. As wicked men grow worse and worse and their last days are their worst, so good men grow better and better, and their last days are their best; having but a little time to live in the world, they are willing to leave it with a good savour.
3. The sweet resent which a good conscience hath of a well-spent life is matter of singular comfort and rejoicing in death.
4. Every faithful Christian is a spiritual soldier.
(1) In war there is watching, soldiers must stand on their guard continually for fear of a surprisal to the loss of all.
(2) In warring there must be arming, another man may go unarmed, but he that is a soldier must be armed.
(3) He must have skill and knowledge how to manage his weapons, his hands must be taught to war and his fingers to fight.
(4) Courage and valour. Even Rabshakeh could say counsel and strength are for war (2 Kings 18:20). Policy and power are very requisite for a soldier.
(5) In respect of hardship a soldier must be a hardy man.
(6) In respect of obedience. A soldier is under the most absolute command of any man. He must obey and not dispute the commands of his commander to whom by oath he is bound to be faithful.
(7) In respect of order. In war there is much order. Soldiers must keep rank and file, they must abide in that place and keep on that ground on which their commander sets them.
(8) In respect of their unsettled abode. A soldier whilst he is in actual service hath no settled abode, but he is always either marching, charging, watching, fighting, lying in his tent for a night or two and is gone.
(9) A soldier must attend the wars, he must forsake house, land, wife, children and other lawful delights (for a time at least), and give up himself to his martial affairs; he cannot work and war, follow a trade and fight too; but he must wholly devote himself to his military employment that he may please his commander.
(10) In respect of unity, soldiers must be unanimous. United forces prevail much, but if soldiers be divided and mutiny they ruin themselves.
(11) Lastly, In respect of activity a soldier’s life is a laborious life, they are cut out for action, they must never be idle. Now, the Lord will have us all to fight for these reasons:
1. For the greater manifestations of His own glory. He could deliver His people without fighting, but then the glory of His wisdom, power and goodness in their preservation and deliverance would not be so perspicuous to the world; nor His justice in downfall of His enemies be so apparent to all.
2. For the good of His people, hereby He exerciseth their graces and keeps them from rusting. Virtue decays if it have not some opposite to quicken it, and draw it out; hereby also He proves their valour and makes it more apparent to others. The skill of a pilot is not known till a storm, nor the valour of a soldier till the day of battle.
3. To make us long for our rest in heaven.
4. This spiritual fight is a good fight. His not warring after the flesh, but a spiritual, holy, honourable war (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).
It is a good fight in nine respects.
1. Of the author.
2. The man.
3. The matter.
4. The manner.
5. The end.
6. The armour.
7. The issue.
8. The fellow-soldiers.
9. The reward.
It is a great comfort to be an old soldier of Christ. Men cashier old decrepit men out of their camps; but the older soldiers we are in Christ’s Church the better and the more acceptable to Him. (T. Hall, B. D.)
The good fight
A general retrospect of Christian life may fill the soul with rejoicing at the end of life. It is the life that men live that is the evidence that they are fit to die. As against a selfish, sordid life the gleams of a lately-inspired hope are but doubtful evidences. A consciousness of imperfection and of sins need not dim the hope that men have, nor the triumph that they express in their last hours--nay, it may increase as the sufferings of a campaign lend added lustre to the victory. So, as one glances back and sees how the grace of God sustained him in all the imperfections of a long life, so one may at last be bold to affirm his fidelity and safety and become prophetic of that which is before him. For every man that is born and lives is building; and the builder invariably must hew. For the material of which character is built, as of houses, is either wood or clay, unfitted; and the clay must be moulded, and the brick must be burned, and the carpenter must hew the log, and there will be heaps of chips wherever there has been skilful work. But when at last the mansion stands out in all its fair proportions, and its scaffolding is removed, and the chips and uncleanliness are all taken away, that is what men look at; and he would be a woeful workman that should go, after he has completed his building, to count his chips and all the fragments of stone, lime, and litter. That is indispensable to this process of unbuilding in this life of character, as it is in external dwellings. It is said of Michael Angelo by one of his biographers that when the sacred enthusiasm seized him he went at a statue with such vengeance and vigour, that in one hour he cast off more stones that a workman could carry away in several hours; and Paul was sometimes like that in the vigour with which he was emancipating the true spirit within himself, he had made a good life. He had lived it. He stood therefore in the consciousness: “I am a completed man. No matter how long I was in building; no matter what the dealing was by which I was brought where I am now, I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith, and I know that there is laid up for me the crown.” This was a glorious confidence; the rational certainty that our purposes and fulfilments are not inconsistent with the true humility nor with the realisation that we are saved by grace. Paul looked forward. “I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith; henceforth”--manacled, abandoned, as he elsewhere shows himself to have been; the poorest man in creation, the most unfortunate, stripped and barren--“henceforth,” he cries, from out of his weary prison, “there is for me”--not captivity--“there is for me a throne, a crown, and a sceptre. I am a monarch.” Some men have said this when bereft of reason; but here is a man in the use of his highest reason that is able to say, “A crown is laid up for me”; and as he looked up he could well say, in his thought: “O, crown, wait! I am coming for thee; it is mine; no one shall take it from me; wait for me.” “I have a crown laid up for me--a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give to me that day.” What is a crown but a sign of eminence, of glory, and of power? What is a crown of righteousness but a crown that is made up of all the elements that constitute righteousness? It was the sum total of all the highest conditions and fruits of his very nature, and the nature was of Divine origin and likelihood. He had the vision of pre-eminent manhood; a glorified love; a glorified conscience; a glorified sympathy, with all that ordains one to the nobler condition of being laid before Him, and all was expressed in that crown of righteousness. “A monarch, and my monarchy lies in the glorification of my whole nature, for I shall be as the Lord.” Here was no anticipation of hoping that he should “get to heaven somehow.” There was certainly no intimation that he expected to escape into heaven so as by fire. He had no idea of sleeping a thousand years, or ten thousand years, and then appearing in glory. The vision was before him, near at hand, and the step off the platform of this earth was to be a step on to the pavement of heaven. How the elements of grandeur exist in this life! You are the crown-builders, you that are living for Christ and for heaven. No one that was ever disengaging gold from the quartz would ever see in it those miracles of art that at last shall be made out of it. We are creating, in this life, the material for our crown, for all the things in the soul that are of their nature and tendency Divine--every thorough impulse to the right, every impulse that is willing to sacrifice a present pleasure for the sake of higher joy of purity and nobility--all would seem to us to be the scattering of grace in our lives; they are, all of them, flakes of gold; they are, all of them, the material of which crowns are made, and men, in this life, are caged eagles, that, looking out on the sun and heavens, know that they would fly, but they have not room to spread their wings. Ten thousand intimations, ten thousand aspirations, struggling desires, and longings are breaking in the hearts of men, and, because they cannot execute them and bring them forth to real action in this life, they are not dead. In the early spring the root and the bud are checked and held back. They are not an nihilated; they wait. The rose is sealed up and cannot deliver itself, but it is the rose; and the root that dimly throws the evidence of itself above the ground is itself, though it cannot yet develop itself. But by and by, when soft southern rains and sweet suns begin to beam, week after week, the little garden breaks out into blossom. And in this life, where we are checked and hindered and tempted over much, where we find that we cannot carry out our best purposes, and are failing on the right and on the left, the attempts to do it are so many attempts to bud and blossom, but the sun is not warm enough yet. But when, by and by, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing on its beams upon our liberated selves, we shall break forth into the full glory of the kingdom of God. (H. W. Beecher.)
A noble career
I. Splendid achievements in regard to the duties of life.
1. Victorious soldiership.
(1) His behaviour was good.
(2) His cause was good.
(3) His Leader was good.
(4) His armour was good.
(5) His victory was good.
2. The successful athlete.
3. The faithful steward, lie had--
(4) defended the truth.
II. Great tranquillity in regard to the trials of life.
1. His knowledge of them.
(1) Of their honours--“To be offered.” Martyrdom.
(2) Of their nearness--“Is at hand.”
2. His preparedness for them--“Ready.”
3. His benefit by them--“Departure.”
III. Glorious expectation in regard to the reward of life.
1. In value it will be the highest possible. “Crowns.”
2. In principle it will be the most indisputable. “Crown of righteousness.”
3. In bestowal it will be the most honourable.
(1) Given by the Highest Being.
(2) On the most august occasion.
(3) In association with the most distinguished company. (B. D. Johns.)
Paul’s review of his life
I. The past filled him with satisfaction.
1. He had been a warrior. And his contest was with no phantom or abstraction; not with a mere principle of evil, employed without will or intelligence, but with a real enemy. Paul evidently acted continually under the impression that he was in an enemy’s country,--that he was watched by an invisible foe, resisted by a being mightier than priest or prince. He recognised a terrible unity in sin--an energy and ubiquity which are angelic. He considered himself an officer in an army which has regiments contending in battlefields far away from this earth. Paul’s enemy was God’s enemy. He had no quarrels of ambition, or revenge, or covetousness, or pride, to settle. His eye was fixed on the prince who led the revolt in heaven, and had brought it down to earth. Against him Paul proclaimed an open and uncompromising war--a war of extermination; and he extended it to everything that enlisted under Satan. Hence it began in his own heart, against the traitors long entertained there; and with them he proclaimed an unrelenting war.
2. He had been a racer, also. What was the goal? It was, to attain and accomplish the highest ends man can seek; the highest personal perfection consistent with being on earth; attaining, as he styles it, “to the resurrection of the dead”; the exalting Christ among men; the leading men to him; the confirmation of the Churches in their faith; the leaving behind him writings which should be the means of glorifying God, edifying His people, and converting men, to the end of time. He had aimed at these achievements; and, by the grace of God, he had accomplished them.
3. He had been a steward. His life presented in this aspect a trust discharged. “I have kept the faith.”
II. A future filled with blessedness. He had honoured his Redeemer, and he knew that Christ would honour him. He looked for “a crown.” It has been a common thing in the world’s history to contend for a crown. The Christian hero here stands on the level of the earthly hero. But, when we come to compare the nature of these respective crowns, the character of their conflicts, and the umpires to whom the warriors look, the Christian rises to an elevation infinitely above the earthly hero. There is nothing selfish in the war, the victory, or the coronation. (E. N. Kirk, D. D.)
Paul the hero
I. Here is a man whose entire being is under the supremacy of conscience. With other men con science often has theoretical supremacy; with St. Paul its reign was actual. Other men may waver and fluctuate in their obedience to its behests; St. Paul is held to this central power as steadily as the planets to the sun. There was no sham about this man. What he seemed to be, that he was. What he declared to another, that his inmost soul commended as truth and attested to its own secret tribunal.
II. His life was also under the dominion of another regnant power--the supremacy of an overmastering purpose. Every man needs the inspiration of a great purpose and a great mission to lift him above the pettiness and cheapness which are the bane of ordinary lives. Some great undertaking, with an element of heroism and moral sublimity in it, the very contemplation of which quickens the blood and fires the soul and awakens an ever-present sense of the dignity and significance of life- this is an essential condition of all great achievement. Such an inspiring purpose and ennobling work stirred the heart and stimulated the powers of St. Paul. Though nothing low had previously ruled or influenced him, it happened to him- as it has to many another man at his conversion--that the supreme purpose of life was formed in that supreme hour when the transforming touch of the Divine hand was felt upon the soul, and life’s sublime work opened before the clarified vision.
III. But the supremacy of conscience and of a great purpose are not sufficient in themselves alone to produce such a character and such a life as St. Paul presents for our study. To these two ruling forces must be added another--greater than either, and co-ordinate with both--the supremacy of an all-conquering faith. Christ to him was not a myth, not merely the incomparable Teacher of Galilee, not the theoretic and historic Saviour of men; He was infinitely more than that, the ever-present Partner of his life, the unfailing Source of his strength. His faith perpetually saw this personal Jesus, felt the warm beating of His loving heart, heard His sacred voice in solemn command or inspiring promise, and walked with Him as with an earthly friend. As well separate the spirit from the body, the beating heart from the respiring lungs, as separate this inspired apostle from this inspiring Christ. Anything is possible to such a man. Indeed, it is no longer a question of human ability at all, but of human co-operation with the Divine Christ- the natural man giving the supernatural agency full play and power. (C. H. Payne, D. D.)
I have finished my course.--
The Christian’s course
I. We are to consider the way or path in which the Christian is to run.
1. The way in which the Christian is to run is a way of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. The way the Christian is to run is a way of holiness (Psalms 119:32; 1 Thessalonians 4:7). Christians, in proceeding on this course, do it not with the same life and vigour; some appear cold and indifferent, whilst others are quick and lively; some make great advances, whilst others go on by slow degrees. Some begin the heavenly race soon, in the bloom of life, whilst others loiter till towards the evening of their days.
II. We now come to consider how we are to run, that we may finish our course with advantage.
1. That we may run the Christian race well, it is necessary that we cast off every weight.
2. We must begin and continue in a dependence upon Christ.
3. We must run with patience, courage, and resolution.
4. We must be watchful and diligent. Be upon your guard, Christian, the way you run is difficult, and it is attended with many snares and temptations.
5. We must keep pressing forward and persevere to the end of our course. You may meet with many discouragements, but still keep on, the further you go, the less ground remains to be trod, therefore let not your hearts be troubled.
III. The encouragement Christians have to run this race.
1. There is a glorious crown before us.
2. He that begins aright shall at length certainly finish his course.
3. Every one that finishes his course shall as surely receive the prize. To conclude, with some improvement of the point.
(1) The further-we proceed in our text, the more we see the difficulty of the Christian life, and the vanity of their hopes who content themselves with a mere form.
(2) How foolish are all those that run after perishing enjoyments, and neglect the prize of immortality.
(3) What arguments are there for running this race.
(4) How should every one that has begun this race rejoice in the encouragements that have been offered. (S. Hayward.)
The finished race
To this end we must run--
7. Perseveringly. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Best at last
In our Christian course it is but too generally and too truly observed, that as we grow older we grow colder; we become more slack, remiss, and weary in well doing. The reverse ought to be the case, for the reason assigned by the apostle when stirring up his converts to vigour and zeal and alacrity: he says,” For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” In a race the push is made at last. (Bishop Horne.)
I have kept the faith.--
Keeping the faith
What does St. Paul mean by the faith which he has kept? Is he rejoicing that he has been true to a certain scheme of doctrine, or that he has preserved a certain temper of soul and spiritual relationship to God? For the term “faith” is a very large one. There can be no doubt, I think, that he means both, and that the latter meaning is a very deep and important one, as we shall see. But this term, “the faith,” did signify for him, beyond all doubt, a certain group of truths, all bound together by their common unity of source and unity of purpose. Paul was too wise and profound not to keep this always in sight. That there must be intellectual conceptions as the base of strong, consistent, and effective feeling is a necessity which he continually recognises; and the faith which he is thankful to have kept is, first of all, that truth which had been made known to him and to the Church by God. The first thing, then, that strikes us is that, when Paul said that he had kept the faith, he evidently believed that there was a faith to keep. The faith was a body of truth given to him, which he had to hold and to use and to apply, but which he had not made and was not to improve. We want, then, to consider the condition of one who, having thus learned and held a positive faith, continues to hold it--holds it to the end. He keeps the faith. We need not confirm our thought to St. Paul. An old man is dying, and as he lets go the things which are trivial and accidental to lay hold of what is essential and important to him, this is what comes to his mind with special satisfaction: “I have kept the faith.” The true faith which a man has kept up to the end of his life must be one that has opened with his growth and constantly won new reality and colour from his changing experience. The old man does believe what the child believed; but how different it is, though still the same. It is the field that once held the seed, now waving and rustling under the autumn wind with the harvest that it holds, yet all the time it has kept the corn. The joy of his life has richened his belief. His sorrow has deepened it. His doubts have sobered it. His enthusiasms have fired it. His labour has purified it. This is the work that life does upon faith. This is the beauty of an old man’s religion. His doctrines are like the house that he has lived in, rich with associations which make it certain that he will never move out of it. His doctrines have been illustrated and strengthened and endeared by the good help they have given to his life. And no doctrine that has not done this can be really held up to the end with any such vital grasp as will enable us to carry it with us through the river, and enter with it into the new life beyond. And again, is it not true that any belief which we really keep up to the end of life must at some time have become for us a personal conviction, resting upon evidence of its own? I know, indeed, how much a merely traditional religion will inspire men to do. I know that for a faith which is not really theirs, but only what they call it, “their fathers’ faith,” men will dispute and argue, make friendships and break them, contribute money, undertake great labours, change the whole outward tenor of their life. I know that men will suffer for it. I am not sure but they will die to uphold a creed to which they were born, and with which their own character for firmness and consistency has become involved. All this a traditional faith can do. It can do everything except one, and that it can never do. It can never feed a spiritual life, and build a man up in holiness and grace. Before it can do that our fathers’ faith must first by strong personal conviction become ours. And here I think that, rightly seen, the culture of our Church asserts its wisdom. The Church has in herself the very doctrine of tradition. She teaches the child a faith that has the warrant of the ages, full of devotion and of love. She calls on him to believe doctrines of which he cannot be convinced as yet. The tradition, the hereditation of belief, the unity of the human history, are ideas very familiar to her, of which she constantly and beautifully makes use. And yet she does not disown her work of teaching and arguing and convincing. She cannot, and yet be true to her mission. She teaches the young with the voice of authority; she addresses the mature with the voice of reason. And now have we not reached some idea of the kind of faith which it is possible for a man to keep? What sort of a creed may one hold and expect to hold it always, live in it, die in it, and carry it even to the life beyond?
1. In the first place, it must be a creed broad enough to allow the man to grow within it, to contain and to supply his ever-developing mind and character. It will not be a creed burdened with many details. It will consist of large truths and principles, capable of ever-varying applications to ever-varying life. So only can it be clear, strong, positive, and yet leave the soul free to grow within it, nay, feed the soul richly and minister to its growth.
2. And the second characteristic of the faith that can be kept will be its evidence, its proved truth. It will not be a mere aggregation of chance opinions. The reason why a great many people seem to be always changing their faith is that they never really have any faith. They have indeed what they call a faith, and are often very positive about it. They have gathered together a number of opinions and fancies, often very ill-considered, which they say that they believe, using the deep and sacred word for a very superficial and frivolous action of their wills. They no more have a faith than the city vagrant has a home who sleeps upon a different door-step every night. And yet he does sleep somewhere every night; and so these wanderers among the creeds at each given moment are believing something, although that something is for ever altering. We do not properly believe what we only think. A thousand speculations come into our heads, and our minds dwell upon them, which are not to be therefore put into our creed, however plausible they seem. Our creed, our credo, anything which we call by such a sacred name, is not what we have thought, but what our Lord has told us. The true creed must come down from above, and not out from within. (Bp. Phillips Brooks.)
On keeping the faith
I. What is meant by keeping the faith.
1. It may signify that we firmly believe the doctrines God has revealed, and steadfastly maintain them. We read of a “faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). These, therefore, coming from God are certainly worthy of our credit, deserve our notice, and ought to be steadfastly maintained by us.
2. The expression signifies that we faithfully observe the vows and engagements we have brought ourselves under, to our glorious Master, and hold on with integrity and constancy in His service.
II. The necessity and importance of keeping the faith.
1. It is the distinguishing characteristic of a real Christian. That profession that is not set upon good principles will never hold.
2. In keeping the faith, the Christian’s comfort is greatly promoted. The glorious doctrines of faith are of the most excellent nature; they abundantly recompense the Christian in his steady belief of and attachment to them, by the unspeakable supports they yield in every circumstance and station of life.
3. Keeping the faith is necessary to promote the honour of Christ, and to secure the Christian from those errors and snares to which he stands exposed.
4. Without a steadfast perseverance in the faith our hopes of heaven are vain and deceitful. Perseverence in the faith does not entitle us to eternal life, but there is no eternal life without it. A word or two of improvement.
(1) Is keeping the faith the distinguishing character of a Christian? Then how few are there in the present age. The honours of the world lead away some, the sensualities of life ensnare others.
(2) Is perseverance in the faith the character of a real Christian? How melancholy must their state be who never yet set forward in the ways of God.
(3) Is it so important to keep the faith? Then let us seriously examine our own hearts concerning it. (S. Hayward.)
Guarding the faith
I. The preciousness of that which he had kept. He was the emissary of the great Physician, who had but one remedy, one panacea for the one radical disease of man. In Rome he said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation unto every one that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” In Corinth he would say, “The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but to them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” In Galatia he would say, “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
II. The strenuousness with which he had guarded it. Think you that he had no difficulties with which to cope? Was there to him no maze in Providence, no labyrinth which he found it impossible to track and thread? Providence in many of its movements was to him, as to us, an impenetrable mystery; but still he “kept the faith.” Think you that he found no difficulties in comprehending the dispensations through which God had manifested Himself to man; and that the wonder never rose up in his mind how it was that thousands of years had to pass away before the incarnation of the Son of God and the redemption of the Cross? He must have been less than man, or greatly more than man, if he could have sounded this depth; but still he “kept the faith.”
III. His success in guarding the faith. How he kept it he does not tell us here; but we catch glimpses, here and there, of the secret of his power. He kept it on his knees, kept it when he prayed night and day with tears. And be sure there is no faith, no true faith, no faith that will hold a man firm, which can be kept apart from fellowship with God. We can keep a creed without Divine help--we can keep a creed through the force of prejudice- through the force of obstinacy--through the force of ignorance--through the force of custom and social sanction--through the force of policy. To keep a creed is the easiest thing in the world, for it can lie, made up and dead, in some undisturbed chamber of the brain. But oh! to keep a faith is far from easy; for a faith to be a faith at all must be living, and if it be living, it must meet the onset of a thousand circumstances by which it will be tested. It will be tested by the influence of our obstinate corruption--it will be tested by the temptations of the world, by its maxims and customs--it will be tested by promises of advantage if only we will be faithless to our profession--it will be tested by changes in our circumstances, whether they be from poverty to wealth, or from wealth to poverty--it will be tested by those strange aspects of providence which bewilder at times the strongest minds, and make their feet almost to slip--it will be tested by the indifference or lukewarm ness of those around us. Happy the man who brings his faith through all these things. He is like a fire-safe, which guards its treasure unhurt, amid the flames which have raged around it in vain. (E. Mellor, D. D.)
To die for truth is not to die for one’s country, but for the world. (J. P. Richter.)
Keeping the faith
When Bernard Palissy, the inventor of a kind of pottery called Palissy ware, was an old man, he was sent to the French prison known as the Bastille because he was a Protestant. The king went to see him, and told him he should be set free if he would deny his faith. The king said. “I am sorry to see you here, but the people will compel me to keep you here unless you recant.” Palissy was ninety years old, but he was ashamed to hear a king speak of being compelled, so he said, “Sire, they who can compel you cannot compel me! I can die!” And he remained in prison until he died.
St. Paul keeping the faith
Paul kept the faith at Autioch, even when the infatuated crowd attempted to drown his voice with their clamour, and interrupted him, contradicting and blaspheming. He kept the faith at Iconium, when the envious Jews stirred up the people to stone him. He kept the faith at Lystra, when the fate of Stephen became almost his, and he was dragged, wounded and bleeding, outside the ramparts of the town, and left there to languish, and, for aught they cared, to die. He kept the faith against his erring brother Peter, and withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. He kept the faith when shamefully treated at Philippi, and made the dungeon echo back the praises of his God. He kept the faith at Thessalonica, when lewd fellows of the baser sort accused him falsely of sedition. He kept the faith at Athens, when, to the world’s sages, he preached of Him whom they ignorantly worshipped as the unknown God. He kept the faith at Corinth, when compelled to abandon that hardened and obdurate city, and to shake off the dust from his garment as a testimony against it. He kept the faith at Ephesus, when he pointed his hearers not to Diana, but to Jesus Christ as their only Saviour. He kept the faith at Jerusalem, when stoned by the enraged and agitated mob--when stretched upon the torturing rack, and bound with iron fetters. He kept the faith at Caesarea, before the trembling, conscience-stricken Felix, when he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come. He kept the faith before Agrippa, and, by his earnestness, compelled the king to say, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian”; and even in the closing hours of life, when the last storm was gathering over his head, when lying in the dark and dismal Roman cell, he wrote these triumphant words, “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall given me at that day.” (J. R. Macduff.)
Keeping the faith
The apostle kept the faith. But does not the faith keep the man? It does; yet only as he keeps it. The battery keeps the gunners only as they stand to the guns. The fort keeps the garrison, yet only as they guard its walls. Never was a time when fidelity on guard was more needed than now, when the sappers are approaching the citadel of the faith, and there is treason in the camp of heaven- men in Christ’s uniform, having been so deceived by successful crime, and so blinded by dalliance with mammon as to give utterance and organisation to the shameless sentiment that the prosperity of a community can be built upon sin. It is a true soldier’s business to guard the faith. The Roman sentinel that was exhumed at Pompeii, grasping his spear, perished rather than desert his post. He wears the immortality of earth. But he that guards the faith, when dug out of the forces that overwhelm him while he stands his ground, shall inherit the immortality of God, and walk with warrior feet the streets of gold, a living king over a lofty realm. (J. Lewis.)
A crown of righteousness.--
The crown of righteousness
I. Let us consider the prize the apostle had in view, “a crown of righteousness.” Royalty is the highest pitch of human grandeur. Those that wear earthly crowns have got to the very summit of earthly honour, and are in that station in which centres all worldly glory and happiness. What an idea is this similitude designed to give us then of that glorious world, where every saint wears an unfading, incorruptible and immortal crown?
1. This crown consists of perfect and everlasting righteousness. The sparks of this crown are perfect holiness and a conformity to God.
2. This crown was purchased by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. It cost a valuable price, and therefore is of inestimable worth.
3. We come to the possession of this crown in a way of righteousness. Its being purchased for us does not lay a foundation for our slothfulness, sin and security.
II. Consider the person by whom this crown is bestowed, and his character as a righteous judge. This illustrious person is everywhere represented to be our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, Acts 17:31. Christ is the appointed person, and He is every way fitted for the great and important work, He being God as well as man: He is absolutely incapable of committing the least mistake or error. And He is a righteous judge. He will display His righteousness in the last sentence that He will pass upon every creature.
III. Consider when this crown shall be completely possessed and be fully given. It is here said to be given “at that day,” viz.: The day of Christ’s appearance to judge the world.
IV. Consider the persons to whom this crown shall be given. “To all those who love His appearing.” The apostle was one of that happy number. They love His appearing, for then every enemy will be vanquished. (S. Hayward.)
The heavenly crown assured
This assurance is--
3. Desirable. (T. Hall, B. D.)
The crown of righteousness
I. The reward. It is described as a “crown of righteousness”; and, without question, such a phrase conveys the idea of some thing exquisitely pure, brilliant, and honourable. The crown is the reward of a conqueror; the righteousness is the diadem of deity Himself. And yet we cannot deny that it would be difficult to follow the idea into detail, and keep unimpaired its interest and its beauty. There is something indefinite in the phraseology, if we wish to ascertain from it the precise character of the recompense. When, however, we turn to the Being, by whom the recompense will be bestowed, and find Him described as “the Lord, the righteous Judge,” we “may gain that precision of idea which is not elsewhere to be procured. For we should never forget that, by our thoughts and actions, we lie exposed to God’s righteous indignation. And from this we may proceed to another fact. We require you to observe that a surprising change must have been effected ere a sinner can dwell with anything of delight on the title now under review. We press on you the truth, that if the crown is to be bestowed by the hands of the Lord, the righteous Judge, the recipient must have been the subject of a great moral revolution; for he is not only to be acquitted, he is actually to be recompensed. The bliss of an angel may be great, the splendour of an angel may be glorious; but it was not for angels that Jesus died, it was not for angels that Jesus rose. There will be for ever this broad distinction between the angels and the saints. The angels are blessed by the single right of creation; the saints by the double right of creation and redemption. Who, then, can question that the portion possessed by saints will be more brilliant than that possessed by the angels?
II. the time at which the crown shall be bestowed. It must be that day when, with the cloud for His chariot, the archangel’s trump for His heraldry, and ten thousand times ten thousand spirits for His retinue, the Man of Sorrows shall approach the earth, and wake the children of the first resurrection. And from this we conclude that St. Paul did not expect the consummation of his happiness at the very instant of his departure from the flesh. He knew, indeed, that to be “absent from the body” is to be “present with the Lord”; he knew that in the transition of a moment the prison dungeon would be exchanged for the palace, the turmoil of earth for the deep rapture of peace which never ends; but he knew also that the crowning time of the saints shall not precede the second coming of their Lord. The crown, indeed, was prepared, but then it was “laid up.” It should never be forgotten, that the resurrection of the body is indispensable to the completeness of happiness. If it be not, the whole scheme of Christianity is darkened, for the Redeemer undertook to redeem matter, as well as spirit.
III. The persons on whom the crown shall be bestowed. There is nothing more natural to man, but nothing more opposed to religion, than selfishness. He who has earthly riches, may desire to keep them to himself; he who has heavenly, must long to impart them to others. It is an exquisitely beautiful transition, which St. Paul here makes, from the contemplation of his own portion, to the mention of that which is reserved for the whole company of the faithful: “not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.” He could not gaze on his own crown, and not glow with the thought, that myriads should share the coronation. Ye wish to ascertain whether ye be of those who love His appearing. Take these simple questions, and propose them to your hearts, and pray of God to strengthen you to give faithful answers. Do ye so hate what is carnal that it would be delightful to you to be at once and for ever set free from the cravings of earthly desires? Do ye so long to be pure in thought, in word, and in deed, that you feel that perfection in holiness would be to you the perfection of happiness? But, finally, if we would win the “crown of righteousness” which is spoken of by St. Paul, we must use the means. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The crown of righteousness
The crown of righteousness is a crown whereof righteousness is the material. This crown is of the same fabric and texture as that which it should decorate; it is a crown whose beauty is moral beauty, the beauty not of gold or precious stones, but of those more precious, nay, priceless things which gold and gems can but suggest to us, the beauty of justice, truthfulness, purity, charity, humility, carried to a point of refinement and of high excellence, of which here and now we have no experience. Once and once only was such a crown as this worn upon earth, and when it was worn to human eyes it was a crown of thorns. It may seem to be a difficulty in the way of this statement that the happiness is said elsewhere to consist in the beatific visions--that is to say, in the complete and uninterrupted sight of God, whom the blessed praise and worship to all eternity. “We know we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” But what is it that makes this vision of God the source of its promised happiness? What is it in God that will chiefly minister to the expected joy? Is it His boundless power? Is it His unsearchable wisdom? Will they cry for ever, “Almighty, Almighty, Almighty,” or “All-knowing, All-knowing, All-knowing”? Will they, do they not say, without fatigue, without desire for change, “Holy, holy, holy”? And why is this? Because essentially God is a moral being, and it is by His moral attributes that He perfectly corresponds to, and satisfies the deepest wants in our human nature. The “crown of righteousness” means a share, such as it is possible for a creature to have in God’s essential nature, in His justice, His purity, and His love; since while we can conceive of Him, had He so willed it, as never having created the heavens and the earth, we cannot, we dare not, think of Him, in any relation with other beings as other than just, true, loving, merciful--in other words, as other than holy. He is, indeed, Himself, the “crown of righteousness,” the crown with which He rewards the blessed, and there is no opposition between the idea of such a crown and the beatific vision. They are only two different accounts of that which is in its essence the same. “The crown of righteousness!” Some crown or other, I apprehend, most men are looking for, if not always, yet at some time in their lives; if not very confidently, yet with those modified hopes which regard it as possibly attainable. Human nature views itself almost habitually as the heir apparent--of some circumstances which are an improvement on the present. An expectation of this kind is the very condition of effort in whatever direction, and no amount or degree of proved delusion would appear permanently to extinguish it. But the crowns which so many of us hope may be laid up for us somewhere, and by some one--what are they? There is the crown of a good income in a great mercantile community like our own. This is the supreme distinction for which many a man labours without thought of anything beyond. And closely allied to this is another crown--the crown of a good social position. “I have made great efforts, tempered with due discretion; I have finished the course which has appeared to bring me unbounded pleasure, but which has really meant incessant weariness. I have observed those laws of social propriety, which are never to be disregarded with impunity; and so henceforth there awaits me an assured position, in which I indeed may be reviled, but from which I cannot be dislodged--a position which society cannot but award, sooner or later, to those who struggle upward in obedience to her rules.” And, then, there is the crown of political power. “I have fought against the foes of my party or my country; I have finished a course of political activity which has borne me onwards to the end. I have kept to my principles, or I have shown that I had reason to modify or to abandon them; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of political influence which is almost from the nature of the case independent of office, and which a great country will never refuse to those who served it long and have served it well.” And once more there is the crown of a literary reputation. “I have had a hard time of it; I have finished what I proposed to it; I have been true to the requirements of a great and exacting subject; henceforth there is reserved for me the rare pleasure of a reputation which wealth and station cannot command, and which envy cannot take away; henceforth I have a place in the great communion of the learned, those elect minds in whom genius is wedded to industry, and whose works are among the treasures of the human race.” Here are the crowns, or some of them, for which men toil and with which are they not seldom rewarded. But do they last?… As we get nearer death, the exaggerations of self-love cease to assert themselves; we see things more clearly as they really are; we distinguish that which lasts from that which passes; we understand the immense distinction between all the perishable crowns and the “crown of righteousness.” That crown does not pass. It is laid up, it is set aside for its destined wearer by the most Merciful Redeemer, who is also the Eternal Judge, and who watches with an unspeakable, tender interest each conqueror as he draws nearer and nearer to the end of his earthly course, and as, in the name of the great redemption, he dares to claim it. (Canon Liddon.)
A crown of righteousness
If I had three things to wish, I should wish for Paul’s threefold crown.
1. The crown of grace, a great measure of grace to do Christ much service.
2. His crown of joy, a great measure of joy to go through with that service.
3. The crown of glory which he was here assured of.
In the words we have first the concluding particle, henceforth, lastly, as for that which remains.
1. A crown is not given till the victory be gained (chap. 2:5).
2. It notes the perpetuity of the glory, incorruptible, never fading crown (2 Peter 1:4; 1 Corinthians 9:24).
3. It notes the perfection of it, as the crown compasseth the head on every side; so there is nothing wanting in this crown of life. So the saints in glory shall be crowned with goodness when all the faculties of the soul and members of the body shall be perfect and filled with glory.
4. It represents to us the dignity of the saints and the glory of their reward. They are all kings and shall be crowned. The day of judgment is their coronation day.
1. Because it is purchased for us by the righteousness of Christ. By His perfect righteousness and obedience He hath merited this for us.
2. In respect of His promise, His fidelity bindeth Him to perform it. God hath promised a crown of life to such as serve Him sincerely (Jam 1:12; 1 John 2:25; Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:21).
3. It may be called a crown of righteousness, because it is given only to righteous men, and so it showeth who shall be crowned, and what is the way to it; but not for what merits or desert of ours it is given. (T. Hall, B. D.)
The crown of righteousness
It is not the diadem of noble, prince, or king, but the wreath of victory for those who have contended (See Matthew 11:12). This crown can never fit the brows of the indolent, the lover of ease, the self-indulgent man of the world who acquiesces in Christian doctrines and Christian customs, whether of worship or social life, because he shuns the trouble of inquiry and of choice. To contend, to strive, to fight is the first condition of conquering, even as the conqueror alone can win the crown. Who, in that day, will deem the contest too hard when he has received the crown? Then, again, it is the crown of righteousness; and righteousness is the square and the perfection of all moral character and virtue, moulded and shaped by Christ’s Spirit after Christ’s example. Therefore, only that stage of character in which feeling, desire, choice and motive are genuine and pure, can be expressed by this word. This fabric of righteousness thus inwrought into the man himself will receive its topstone from Christ. No bye ways, no short cuts lead to heaven, only the narrow way of righteousness. (D. Trinder, M. A.)
A crown without cares
The royal life which Paul anticipated in heaven will not only be a life of dignity, and power, and grandeur, but it will be all that, without any of the disagreeable concomitants which earthly royalty has to experience. In this world greatness and care are twins. Crowns more commonly prove curses than blessings to those who wear them. Isaac, the son of Comnenus, one of the most virtuous of eastern rulers, was crowned at Constantinople in 1057. Basil, the patriarch, brought the crown to him surmounted with a diamond cross. Taking hold of the cross, the Emperor said, “I, who have been acquainted with crosses from nay cradle, welcome thee; thou art my sword and shield, for hitherto I have conquered with suffering.” Then taking the crown in his hand he added. “This is but a beautiful burden, which loads more than it adorns.” The crown of the triumphant Christian is a crown of righteousness, which will neither oppress the head, afflict the heart, nor imperil the life of any that receive it. (J. Underhill.)
Napoleon had a magnificent crown made for himself in 1804. It was this crown that he so proudly placed upon his head with his own hands in the cathedral of Notre Dame. It is a jewelled circle, from which springs several arches surmounted by the globe and cross, and where the arches join the circle there are alternately flowers and miniature eagles of gold. After his downfall, it remained in the French Treasury until it was assumed by another Bonaparte, when Napoleon
III. made himself Emperor in 1852. It is now in the regalia of France, which have only just been brought back to Paris from the western seaport to which they were sent for security during the Prussian invasion, just as the Scottish regalia were sent to Dunnottar. If we may judge from some of the German photographs of the Emperor William, the crown of the new German Empire is of a very peculiar shape, apparently copied from the old Carlovingian diadem. It is not a circle, but a polygon, being formed of flat jewelled plates of gold united by the edges, and having above them two arches supporting the usual globe and cross. Of the modern crowns of continental Europe, perhaps the most remarkable is the well-known triple crown or Papal tiara, or perhaps we should say tiaras, for there are four of them. The tiara is seldom worn by the Pope; it is carried before him in procession, but, except on rare occasions, he wears a mitre like an ordinary bishop. Of the existing tiaras, the most beautiful is that which was given by Napoleon I. to Pius VII. in 1835. It is said to be worth upwards of £9,000. Its three circlets are almost incrusted with sapphires, emeralds, rubies, pearls and diamonds; and the great emerald at its apex is said to be the most beautiful in the world.
A lost crown
A lady in a dream wandered around heaven, beholding its glories, and came at last to the crown-room. Among the crowns she saw one exceedingly beautiful. “Who is this for?” “It was intended for you,” said the angel, “but you did not labour for it, and now another will wear it.”
Seeking to obtain a crown
A French officer, who was a prisoner upon his parole at Reading, met with a Bible. He read it, and was so impressed with the contents that he was convinced of the folly of sceptical principles and of the truth of Christianity, and resolved to become a Protestant. When his gay associates rallied him for taking so serious a turn, he said, in his vindication, “I have done no more than my old schoolfellow, Berna dotte, who has become a Lutheran.” “Yes, but he became so,” said his associates, “to obtain a crown.” “My motive,” said the Christian officer, “is the same; we only differ as to the place. The object of Bernadotte is to obtain a crown in Sweden; mine is to obtain a crown in heaven.”
More crowns left
On one occasion, preaching from the text of St. Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course,” he suddenly stopped, and looking up to heaven, cried with a loud voice, “Paul! are there any more crowns there?” He paused again. Then, casting his eyes upon the congregation, he continued, “Yes, my brethren, there are more crowns left. They are not all taken up yet. Blessed be God! there is one for me, and one for all of you who love the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Life of Father Taylor.)
A congruous crown
There is such a congruity between righteousness and the crown of life, that it can be laid on none other head but that of a righteous man, and if it could, all its amaranthine flowers would shrivel and fall when they touched an impure brow. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Preaching for a crown
The Rev. H. Davies, sometimes called “the Welsh apostle,” was walking early one Sabbath morning to a place where he was to preach. He was overtaken by a clergymen on horseback, who complained that he could not get above half a guinea for a discourse. “Oh, sir,” said Mr. Davies, “I preach for a crown I” “Do you?” replied the stranger, “then you are a disgrace to the cloth.” To this rude observation he returned this meek answer, “Perhaps I shall be held in still greater disgrace in your estimation, when I inform you that I am now going nine miles to preach, and have but seven-peace in my pocket to bear my expenses out and in; but I look forward to that crown of glory which my Lord and Saviour will freely bestow upon me when He makes His appearance before an assembled world.”
Shall give me at that day.--
St. Paul a witness for immortality
As example is better than precept, so is the man more valuable than his doctrine, when he lives it. And when we study the apostle as he appears to us in his last written letter, we come face to face with the exemplification in living reality of a sublime doctrine, which proves itself stronger than adversity, animating and supporting a great soul amid circumstances which threaten to afflict and even crush its hopes. The chains hung round his hands and feet. Death menaced him with every approaching footstep. Only a tyrant’s breath stood between him and the executioner’s sword. In such a moment a man is likely to be true to himself. False reckonings are corrected, self-flatteries cease; then, if ever, he faces his real position.
I. St. Paul bequeaths the example of a finished career. Labour and suffering, threatenings and persecution, have failed to wrest from him the prize which, above all others, is most worth keeping--the faith of God as revealed in Christ.
II. What had he in the present? A certain conviction that a treasure was, at the very moment when he wrote, laid up in safe keeping for his future benefit. Though the Roman sword shall soon sever the apostle’s wearied head from his weakened, tired body, the crown shall survive, and he, too, who shall wear it. Death will not extinguish his being, nor bear him off into the great stream of existences that have passed away. The followers of Auguste Comte, the so-called Positivist, profess to hope for an immortality in the mass of human beings that follow in our wake, as if the fact that others are living were a compensation for our dying, or as if we could live again in those who carry on the race and profit by our example. Not so the great apostle. There is laid up for me, for that being who has wrestled, who has fought, who has kept the faith, the crown of righteousness, even as I am being kept to wear it.
III. How grandly does the prospect of the future burst upon the keen eye of the faithful warrior! The hope of this crown is not a privilege of a few, still less a monopoly for himself. Not only does he know that it is kept safe for him, but he tells the day and the manner of its bestowal. The day of labour gives place to one of rest, strife is followed by peace, suffering is forgotten in undying vigour of mind and body. This certainty of future recompense at the hand of Christ, the Righteous Judge, blends with what has gone before, and adds to this legacy all that was wanting to its completeness. The benefits of past experience, the certainty of present conviction, and the assured hope of a righteous award in the great day of account, from One who lives and has made His life felt in the holy strivings and faithful efforts of His redeemed servants on earth; these form a triple cord which cannot easily be broken. (D. Trinder, M. A.)
An assured hope
I. An assured hope is a true and scriptural thing. It cannot be wrong to feel confidently in a matter where God speaks unconditionally--to believe decidedly when God promises decidedly--to have a sure persuasion of pardon and peace when we rest on the word and oath of Him that never changes. It is an utter mistake to suppose that the believer who feels assur ance is resting on anything he sees in himself.
II. A believer may never arrive at this assured hope, which Paul expresses, and yet be saved. “A letter,” says an old writer, “may be written, which is not sealed; so grace may be written in the heart, yet the Spirit may not set the seal of assurance to it.” A child may be born heir to a great fortune, and yet never be aware of his riches; may live childish, die childish, and never know the greatness of his possessions.
III. Why an assured hope is exceedingly to be desired.
1. Because of the present comfort and peace it affords.
2. Because it tends to make a Christian an active working Christian.
3. Because it tends to make a Christian a decided Christian.
4. Be cause it tends to make the holiest Christians.
IV. Some probable causes why an assured hope is so seldom attained.
1. A defective view of the doctrine of justification.
2. Slothfulness about growth in grace.
3. An inconsistent walk in life. (Bp. Ryle.)
All them also that love His appearing:--
I. Who they are that love the Lord’s appearing:--I might answer such a question very shortly by saying, those who are prepared for it. “But who,” you may ask, “is the prepared servant?” I answer--he who has received that Lord as his Redeemer, who, he expects, will be his Judge.
II. Why they love it. If you had received a multitude of obligations from an unseen friend, you would surely long to set your eyes upon him. If you heard that you were soon to meet him, you would be pleased exceedingly; you would exclaim, “Oh, come the day!” And here then is a reason why the saved sinner loves to think of the appearing of his Saviour. The very sight of his Redeemer will be rapture to his soul. But look at the words immediately be fore our text, and there you will see a further reason of the fact we are considering. There are we told of a prize which the believer has to look for in the day of his Lord’s coming. It will be a day when the present evil course of things will be for ever over. Again, the Lord’s people love the day of His appearing, because then He will be All in All. (A. Roberts, M. A.)
The love of Christ’s appearance the character of a sincere Christian
I. I shall open the character of a sincere Christian.
1. There must be a firm persuasion, or assent of mind, upon just grounds, to the truth of this proposition, That Christ will appear; for it is a wise and reasonable love, not a rash and unaccountable thing. They don’t love they don’t know what, or without a sufficient reason. “They look for these things according to His promise” (2 Peter 3:13).
2. It imports earnest desire of it. This is essential to the love of anything. Love always works by desire towards an absent good, and so it is constantly represented. Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearance. And to them who look for Him shall He appear the second time. The word signifies earnest desire, looking with great expectation. The Church is represented making this return to Christ, “Behold I come quickly: Even so come Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). They often think it long, and are ready to say, in the warmth of their desire, and under the sense of present burdens, Oh, when will He come! why are His chariots so long a coming? But then it is not a rash and impatient desire, or an impetuous, unruly passion. Though they earnestly desire it, they are content to stay the proper season, and wait with patience notwithstanding the longest delay, and the greatest exercise in the mean time.
3. There is pleasure and satisfaction in the expectation and hope of it. This is the nature of love too. It is desire towards an absent object, but delight in it when present. Besides that there is a pleasure in the desire. Now, though the appearance of Christ is a future thing, yet the thoughts of it, and the hopes of it, are present things.
4. It is powerful and influential. The expectation of His appearance will not only give a pleasure, but form the mind suitable to it, and direct the conduct of the life. For example, it will engage to answerable diligence, excite to faithfulness, and promote a constant readiness and preparation for it.
II. I shall consider the reasons of it, and show why sincere Christians have such a love to His appearance.
1. With respect to Christ, who is to appear. This will be evident if you consider either His person or His appearance itself. He is the great object of their love now. Whom having not seen, they love, from the representations of Him in the gospel, and the benefits they receive from Him. And how can they but love His appearance whom they so great]y love? And His appearance will be most highly honourable to Him; for He will appear in the state of a judge and the majesty of a king. He will then appear as He really is, and not in disguise, or under a disadvantage. And how reasonable is the love of His appearance in this view, as every way most honourable to Him, and the greatest display of His glory before the world?
2. With respect to themselves. It will be every way to their advantage. Our Lord says, “Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just: When He shall appear, they will be like Him, and receive a crown of life.”
III. The privilege and blessing annexed to this character, and which belongs to it; the righteous Judge will give them a crown of righteousness. Conclusion! Let us often contemplate the appearance of Christ. This is the noblest subject of thought, and of the greatest concern to us. The consideration of this is proper to raise our love to Him, and reconcile our minds to His dispensations towards us.
2. The great difference between sincere Christians and other men. They love to think of His appearance, but others dread it; they wish and long for it, but others are afraid of it, and wish He would never come at all, or say in scorn, Where is the promise of His coming?
3. Can we make out this character? Are we lovers of His appearance? Is it the powerful motive to proper duty, and all suitable regard to Him?
4. How great is the Divine mercy in bestowing such a blessing upon sincere Christians. (W. Harris, D. D.)
Loving the Second Advent
See where St. Paul places a “love” of the Second Advent. He was writing as “Paul, the aged,” with his own “crown of righteousness” now full in view. But who shall share it? The rest of the college of the apostles? Those who had “fought,” his “good fight’--run his “course”--and “kept” his “faith” to the end? He stretches the bond of fellowship far higher. He makes the condition of the attainment very simple; but perfectly definite. All that is required to get the “crown,” is to “love” very dearly Him that brings it. There are four attitudes of mind in which we may stand respecting the “appearing” of Christ. By far the worst is “indifference”; and that indifference may be either the dullness of ignorance, or the apathy of the deadness of the moral feelings. The next state is “fear.” There is always something very good when there is “fear.” It requires faith to “fear.” But above “fear” is “hope.” “Hope” is expectation with desire; knowledge enough to be able to anticipate, and grace enough to be able to wish it. And here the ladder is generally cut off; but God carries it one step higher--“love.” “Love” is as much above “hope” as “hope” is above “fear”--for “hope” may be selfish, “love” cannot be; “hope” may be for what a person gives, “love” must be for the person himself. Therefore a man might deceive himself, by thinking all was right in his soul, because he “hoped” for the Second Advent; but he might, after all, be set upon the pageant; and the rest; and the reward. But to the individual that “loves” it, there must be something infinitely dear in it; and that one dear thing is the Lord Jesus Christ. All Rome “hoped”, for the return and the triumph of Caesar--but Caesar’s own child “loved” him. Remember no motive concerning anything ever satisfies God, until it is the reflex of His own motive; and God’s motive is always “love.” Christ will come “lovingly”--therefore He must be met “lovingly.” But the “love of Christ’s appearing” is, evidently, not a simple idea; but one composed of many parts. I would separate four, which four at least go to make it. The moment of the manifestation--the original word is the epiphany--“epiphany,” you know, is the same as “manifestation” the moment of the manifestation of Christ will be the moment of the manifestation of all His followers. Then, perhaps, for the first time in their united strength and beauty--declared, and exhibited, and vindicated, and admired, in the presence of the universe. And, oh! what a subject of “love” is there. Some we shall see selecting and individualising us, as they come, with the well-remembered glances of their loving smiles. But all sunny in their sacred sweetness and their joyous comeliness. Never be afraid to “love” the saints too much. Some speak as if to “love” Christ were one thing--but to “love” the saints were another thing; and they almost place them in rivalry! But the saints are Christ. They are His mystical body, without which Christ Himself is not perfect. Another part of “the appearing”--very pleasant and very loveable to every Christian--will be the exhibition that will then be made of the kingdom and the glory of Jesus. If you are a child of God, every day it is a very happy thought to you, that Christ gains some honour. Only think what it will be to look all around as far as the eye can stretch, and all is His!” On His head are many crowns!” His sceptre supreme over a willing world! Every creature at His feet! His own, all-perfect His name sounded upon every lip! His love perfect in every soul! But there is another thing after which you are always, panting--you are very jealous over it with an exceeding jealousy. You are m the habit of tracing the ebb and flow of it every night, with the intensest interest. I mean, the image of Christ upon your soul. “Why am I not more like Him? Does His like ness increase at all in me? When shall I be entirely conformed--no separate will--no darkening spot upon the little mirror of this poor heart of mine, to prevent His seeing His own perfect mind there?” But now you stand before Him--in His unveiled perfections--and you are like Him--for you “see Him as He is!” And if “His appearing” is to appear in you, is not that cause to love Him? Therefore all His Church love Him--because then they shall be as that “sea of glass” before the throne, wherein God can look and see Him self again in their clear truth, and their holy stillness, and their unsullied brightness! But why speak of the shadows when you will have the substance? We shall look on Him and there will not be a feeling which ever throbbed in a bosom which will not be gratified! There will not be a desire, which ever played before the eye, which will not be surpassed! Another mark of the believer is that he loves the person of Christ. Others may love His work--he loves Him--for His own sake--because He is what He is. He loves Him to be with him--to see him--to know him--to converse with him. This fills his heart. All that is “love,” and it is satisfied. But, will not all other “love,” that ever was “loved,” be as no “love,” to the “love” that will then fill the soul? (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
A crown for all the saints
A king rejoices in his crown, not only because it is rich in gems and a symbol of power, but because he is the only man in the kingdom who has one or who is permitted to wear one. Suppose that some peer of the realm or some rich commoner should have a crown royal made for himself, and should wear it in public, what would the king do? Would he be glad that there was somebody else who possessed and was worthy of that symbol of royalty? Would he say: “I would that all my people were kings?” No, indeed! That presumptuous, self-crowned subject would either be pat in an asylum as a lunatic or in prison as a traitor. Such is the Christian spirit in contrast with that of selfishness. Such is the joy of heaven in contrast with that of earth. Let us see how much purer and nobler it is. The Christian spirit, so beautifully illustrated by the great apostle when he could not think of his own without thinking also of the crowning of his brethren, is the spirit that will fill heaven with the joy that springs from love. Would that we had more of it here and now.
2 Timothy 4:9-11
Come shortly unto me.
I. Human companionships are very necessary. The ear thirsts for a friend’s voice; the heart hungers for a friend’s love.
II. Human companionships are very changing. Changes are caused by distance, death, depravity.
III. Human companionships are often great blessings. Luke was with Paul. Mark was to be brought to him. Timothy was coming to him.
IV. Human companionships sometimes prove great afflictions. Demas, Alexander. Men suffer most when “wounded in the house of their friends.”
V. Human companionships must sometimes fail us. Friends are sometimes scared by poverty, failure, shame. Besides, companionship can do little in our intense bodily pain, mental anguish, spiritual conflict, throes of death. (U. R. Thomas.)
The society of good men desirable
1. Personal presence is to be preferred before writing.
2. The society and help of good men is much to be desired. There is much comfort and good to be gained thereby.
3. The strongest Christians sometimes may be helped by weaker. A Paul may stand in need of a Timothy.
4. A minister upon weighty and just occasions may lawfully be absent from his flock for a time.
5. We may love one friend more than another. Timothy was Paul’s beloved son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2). (T. Hall, B. D.)
Best men--lessons from their life
I. The best men, in the presence of death, are not disregardful of human sympathy. Even Christ took three disciples with Him to Gethsemane.
II. The best men are sometimes exposed to great social trials. All of us are constantly losing friends, from one cause or another.
III. The best men are subject to common needs. Men, if they are to be clothed, must procure their own garments; if they are to be educated and informed, must use their own faculties.
IV. The best men are sometimes troubled by their inferiors. “Alexander the coppersmith.” It requires no greatness to do mischief. The most contemptible characters are always the most successful in this work. Lessons--
1. Value true friends.
2. Anticipate social desertions.
3. Do not look for miraculous interpositions to supply your needs. Do not be painfully surprised if you have enemies. (Homilist.)
Friends in adversity
To-day Colonel C. came to dine with us, and in the midst of our meal we were entertained with a most agreeable sight. It was a shark, about the length of a man, which followed our ship, attended with five smaller fishes, called pilot-fish, much like our mackerel, but larger. These, I am told, always keep the shark company, and, what is more surprising, though the shark is so ravenous a creature, yet, let it be never so hungry, it will not touch one of them. Nor are they less faithful to him; for, as I am informed, if the shark is hooked, very often these little creatures will cleave close to his fins, and are often taken up with him.
Go to the pilot-fish, thou that forsakest a friend in adversity, consider his ways, and be ashamed. (G. Whitefield.)
Man’s craving for society
Man is a social being. He is made to feel for, and with, his fellow-men. Sociality is a joy, a strength, a light to him. He is revealed, regaled, renewed, by fellowship. When there is community of views, sympathy of feelings, it causes a wonderful development of his nature, and gives it wonderful power. It is a lamp, a feast, a buttress of his being. It is everything whereby he can be ministered unto, or help to minister. God is social: “The God of the spirits of all flesh.” Christ is social: “The Head of the body, the Church.” Christianity is social: “The fellowship of the gospel.” Man is social: “Come shortly unto Me.” (A. J. Morris.)
“One man is no man.” True, there are some cold, misanthropic souls that shun their fellows, like some plants that shrink and shrivel at a touch, and that even take an awful pride in solitude and isolation; but this is disease, or sin, or both. The finest natures are furthest removed from it. (A. J. Morris.)
Demas hath forsaken me.--
I. His previous history. (See Philemon 1:24; Colossians 4:14). You see from this noted instance of unfaithfulness how far a man may go in the profession of Christianity, how richly he may seem to be partaking of its privileges, and how highly he may be honoured by its most de voted friends, and yet have no part or lot in it at last. Trust not in mere professions, however loud--in mere external privileges, however distinguishing--in mere intellectual gifts, however excellent--in mere occasional impressions, however lively, in mere outward services to the cause of Christ, however zealous. You may be a fellow-labourer with Paul, and yet a castaway.
II. His subsequent faithlessness. He refused to stand by the apostle in his hour of trial, withheld from him his former sympathy, withdrew from those Christian labours in which he had once been noted as a sharer with him, and shunned to be any longer seen in his society. He was not prepared to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” That want or weakness of faith which he had hitherto concealed from others, and, probably, from himself also, could not be any longer disguised. That world which he had long loved secretly, without perhaps being aware of the strength of his attachment to it, he now openly clung to and embraced.
III. The cause. Preferring his temporal interests to his Christian duties, he went back and walked no more with the apostle. To love the world, and the things that are in the world, is one of the chief sources of danger to our soul’s welfare--of which we are taught in Scripture to beware. It is true there is no reason why a Christian should not engage as industriously as other men in the necessary business of life, and avail himself as thankfully of its varied blessings. It is one thing, however, to use this world in due subordination to religion, and it is quite another thing to serve if as our master, or to rest in it as our chosen portion. Even with those who do not thus love the world, its influence is hostile in many things to their spiritual welfare. Countless are the hindrances it places in their way--wily and ensnaring the allurements which it spreads for them. By its fair looks, and winning smiles, and flattering and crosses, entices them to sin; while, on the other hand, its frowns, and threats, promises, it and hardships, deter them from duty. Now, if such be the influence of the world even over those who do not set their hearts upon it, how much more powerful must its influence be on such as have yielded up to it their full affection! In them, alas! the wicked world without is fatally, seconded by the wicked heart within. The world no sooner knocks, than the kindred spirit is ready to open a wide and effectual door for its admission. Temptations to vanity meeting with a vain heart find it not only a sure but an easy conquest. So was it in the case of Demas. His worldliness of spirit led him to forsake the Christian cause, when he saw that he could not longer adhere to it without endangering or prejudicing his temporal interests. How many a fair promise has it blighted! how many a hopeful beginning has it checked! how often, when the good seed was ready to spring up, have “the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches,” checked the rising plant, and rendered it unfruitful! (T. J. Crawford, D. D.)
I. Many of you are young men who have been religiously educated in some distant home, and have been sent here, or have come here, for the pursuits of business.
II. Consider, dear friends, whose consciences declare you to belong to this class, what it is you have forsaken, or are forsaking.
1. You are forsaking honour and conscience.
2. You are forsaking the company of those you most respect.
3. And not only so, but you are forsaking the pursuits which will most ennoble your natures.
4. But worst of all, in forsaking religion, you are forsaking you God and Saviour.
III. To complete this subject, let us ask for what, considered at its very best, you leave all that is best and noblest and highest? Demas had forsaken Paul, because he loved the then present world. I suppose that, in some shape or other, is the reason why you have forsaken religion to the extent to which you have forsaken it. It is really Satan’s trap into which you have gone; but the bait has been this present world. You do not love penury, disease, privation, remorse, anguish, death. Oh, not at all I you love pleasure, success, money-getting, if you can get it easily. All the other things, the dark sides of this present world, drunkenness, debauchery, covetousness, immorality, over-reaching, you are net in love with these. No! You are lovers of pleasure, according to your idea of pleasure. Suppose you could gain the world, the whole world (and at best it will be an utterly unnoticeable and infinitesimal portion of it you will ever get), and in the chase should lose your own soul! (R. T. Verrall, B. A.)
The apostasy of Demas
Now, whatever may have been the circumstances under which Demas first made profession of Christianity, it is very clear that that profession must have exposed him to hardship and danger, for he became a companion of St. Paul at the very time when that apostle was hunted down by persecution. It is not, therefore, to be supposed that, in embracing Christianity, Demas was conscious of acting with any insincerity. He must have considered himself a firm believer in Christ, and must have been so considered by those who had the best power of judging. Ah! it is in this that the case of Demas is full of melancholy warning. We do not find that he was scared by the perils which encompassed the profession of Christianity. It was love of the world which caused this promising disciple to make shipwreck of faith, and of a good conscience. He who could scorn danger or endure hardship could not withstand the blandishments of the world, which plied him with its pleasures. We have no security but in constant prayer, in constant war” and it should make you more diligent than ever in supplication, more vehement than ever in resistance, to hear St. Paul say of Demas--Demas who ministered to him in prison, Demas whom he called his fellow-labourer--that Demas had forsaken him, “having loved this present world.” And now we would turn your thoughts from the progress which Demas must have made in Christianity to the advantages which he enjoyed. We wish you to observe him, not merely as forsaking St. Paul, but as forsaking him when that apostle was on the very eve of martyrdom. Who can question that there came to him, in the solitude of his prison, glorious visitations from the invisible world, that the consolations of God abounded towards him, and that, whilst the fetters were on the body, the spirit soared as with an eagle’s wing, and gazed upon the inheritance that fadeth not away. Oh! to have been with him as he had to tell of the comforts and satisfactions thus vouchsafed, to have stood by him as the soul came back from its sublime expatiations, laden as it were with the riches of Paradise! Who could have doubted the truth of Christianity--who could have refused to adhere to its profession--who could have hesitated between its promises and any present advantage--with the prisoner Paul for his preacher, with the prisoner Paul for his evidence? Ah, be not too confident! It was the prisoner Paul whom Demas forsook. Forsook? Why, one would have thought the common feelings of humanity would have kept him constant! To desert the old man in his hour of trial--to leave him without a friend as the day of his martyrdom approached--who could be so ungenerous? Ah! pronounce not a hasty judgment. Demas did this--Demas who had for a long time been assiduous in ministering to the apostle--and Demas did this only because, like many--too many--amongst ourselves, he loved this present world. Learn ye, then, how weak are those extraordinary advantages when the heart is inclined to yield to the fascinations of the world--how these fascinations may be said to steal away the heart, so that he who is enslaved by them loses, to all appearance, the best sensibilities of his nature. And let no hearer henceforward think, that because he may have delight in hearkening to the pathetic or powerful speech of a favourite minister, he must be rooted in attachment to Christ and His religion. Let no minister henceforward think, that because he has gained an influence over men’s minds, he must have gained a hold on their hearts. And in what mode may Christians hope to deliver themselves from love of the world? This is an important question. It is useless to show how fatal is the love, if we cannot show also how it may be subdued. There is no denying that the world addresses itself very strongly to our affections, and that the correspondence which subsists between its objects and our natural desires, gives to its temptations a force which can hardly be exaggerated; and we are sure that these temptations are not to be withstood, unless love of the world is dispossessed by love of something better than the world. You will not cease to love the world, you will not grow weaker in attachment to the world, through the influence of any proof, however elaborate, that the world is not worth loving. It is only by fixing the affections on things above, that they can be drawn from things below. There may be weariness, there may be dissatisfaction, there may be even disgust with the vanities of earth, but nevertheless these vanities will occupy the heart, unless displaced by the realities of heaven. You see, then, what you have to do. You have to meditate upon God and upon heaven, striving to acquire higher and higher thoughts of Divine majesty. There is not one of you who will become a Demas, if you keep this in mind. This is what you may call a recipe against apostasy. It is not a recipe composed upon abstract and speculative opinions, but drawn from the known workings and pleadings of the heart. The heart will attach itself to what it feels to be a greater good in preference to a lesser. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The apostasy of Demas
In the long line of the Doges, in the grand old palace in Venice, one space is empty, and the black curtain which covers it attracts more attention than any one of the fine portraits of the merchant kings. From that panel, now so unsightly, once smiled the sallow face of Marine Falieri, afterwards found guilty of treason against the state, and blotted out, so far as might be, from remembrance. The text reveals the fate of one who had filled a much more honoured place, and who, yielding to temptation, sank to still lower depths. Poor, foolish Demas has gained for himself a most unenviable notoriety. Once he was not only a Church-member, but he was accounted as no ordinary man among his brethren. Twice in the friendly salutations with which St. Paul usually closes his epistles he mentions Demas with honour (Philemon 1:24; Colossians 4:14). Two years later he wrote in sorrow of heart, “Demas hath forsaken me,” etc. It was neither cowardice nor self-indulgence which had caused his ruin, but simply the love of the world; the very danger to which so many are exposed in our own day, when the beguiling blandishments of sin, rather than the terrors of persecution, are the devil’s most successful devices. There is no shadow of a reason to suppose that Demas had not devoted himself at the outset in downright sincerity and earnestness to God’s service; but his weakness was such as might prove the ruin of any one who does not keep every avenue to his heart diligently guarded, lest an inordinate love of temporal things force an entrance there. It is recorded of the King of Navarre, then claiming to be a good Protestant, that being urged by Beza to behave himself in a more manly way for the cause of God, he made answer, that he was “really the friend of the reformers, but that he was resolved to put out no further to sea than he might get safely back to shore in case a storm should unexpectedly arise.” In other words, he would not hazard his hopes of the crown of France for the sake of his religion. You know the sequel of his story. Like Demas, he loved “this present world “better than he loved God. He proved a traitor to his religion, and bartered his heavenly crown for a fading one of earth. Some years ago, a young woman was hanged in England for murder, who had been tempted to commit the awful deed for the sake of a five pound note, and this note proved to be a counterfeit! To run such a risk, and to receive such bitter wages! Do those people fare better than this wretched woman who desert God’s service for the world’s poor bribes? Can the possession of hoards of wealth, or the fading memories of past enjoyments, bring peace in a dying hour? An Arab lost his way in a desert, and was in danger of perishing from hunger, when he was fortunate enough to reach a brackish well, and close by he discovered a little leather bag. “Ah! here’s just what I need,” he cried, with joy; “dates, or nuts, to appease my gnawing hunger!” He hastily opened the bag, but only to east it away with contempt. It was filled with pearls! What value did they possess for one who was about to die? Just as much as the world will be to those who have sold everything else to gain it. (J. N. Norton, D. D.)
Demas the deserter
I was very much affected--as probably you have been affected--by reading the accounts of the punishment of deserters in the army. Nothing in battle is so blood-chilling and horrible. It is so cool, so individual, so premeditated a life-taking. The leading forth of the offender before his whole regiment; the rehearsal of his disgrace to all his comrades; the pinioning of his arms; the bandaging of his eyes that he may not see what comrade takes his life; the open coffin beneath him hungry for its prey; the file of soldiers all aiming at one poor fluttering heart (as if sportsmen should shoot a bird already caged); the ringing volley; the lightning-like death under a dozen wounds--all this is enough to drive the kindred of the deserter to the verge of madness. The mother whose son lies in the sacred mould of Gettysburg or Chattanooga is happy in comparison with her whose hapless boy was blown into eternity from the coffin of a deserter! And why is the deserter’s doom made so awful? Simply because the crime is so great and the consequences of the crime so fatal to the interests of an army and of the cause for which an army fights. If desertion will destroy an army, then the army must destroy desertion. His crime is punished so fearfully that other men will be deterred from imitating his bad example. Now history has marked to infamy more than one deserter of his country, or of a sacred cause. Benedict Arnold stands already in American history, bandaged, pinioned, shot through with the volleys of a nation’s abhorrence! In Scripture history hangs Judas the arch-deserter. In our text we read of another. Paul has pilloried the unhappy man. Every man who has ever brought disgrace on his Christian profession, or has fallen out of his church-standing had some secret reason for his fall. He deserted under the seduction of some besetting sin. If we could come at the sad roll of all the backsliders or open apostates we might read over the specifications like these: “Deserted from moral cowardice,” or “Deserted through neglect of prayer,” or “Deserted from love of the wine-bottle,” or “Deserted through the enticements of irreligious associates,” or “Deserted through unbelief.” Demas’s name has the Holy Spirit’s specification beside his name. He deserted for “love of the world!” “Whoso loveth the world, the love of God is not in him!” This is the last we read of poor Demas. Tradition says that he sank so low as to become a priest in an heathen temple! But if this were so or not we need not discuss. We do know that he forsook his Master’s cause in its hour of peril, and preferred the “world” to Christ. Paul encountered the world; went into its thickest, saw its brightest allurements; met its fiercest assaults, and its most attractive lures to his ambition. He never deserted. Why? He never loved it; he so loved Jesus that he could not love the world. Demas loved the world. It would have done him no harm if he had not. It will do you none as long as you keep it out of your heart. But when it works into the soul it eats out the loyalty to Christ and consumes the spirituality of the soul. Do you remember reading in your childhood, in that favourite volume of Oriental stories, about Sinbad’s voyage into the Indian Ocean? Do you remember that magnetic rock that rose from the surface, surrounded by a placid and a glassy sea? Silently the ship was attracted towards it; silently the bolts were drawn out of the vessel’s sides one by one, by the magnetic rock! And when the fated vessel drew so near that every bolt and clamp was unloosed, the whole structure of bulwarks and masts and spars tumbled into helpless rubbish on the sea, and the sleeping sailors awoke to their drowning agonies! So stands the magnetic rock of worldly enchantments! Its attraction is silent, slow, but powerful to the soul that floats within its range! Under its spell, bolt after bolt of resolution, clamp after clamp of Christian obligation is drawn out. One neglect of duty paves the way for another. One desertion accustoms the man to the path of evil, until he is used to what a Christian never should “get used to”--sinning! A backslider gets so accustomed to neglect of secret devotion that he passes by the bolted closet-door with as little concern as he passes by the doors of his neighbours in the street. He becomes habituated to a deserted Bible, a deserted sanctuary, a deserted Sabbath-school, to a neglected heart, to a deserted Saviour. At length he finds that the Friend he has deserted, deserts him. The God whom he has offended withdraws His presence. This is the penalty of sin! No deserter from Jesus escapes unpunished. And a most invariable penalty which the forsaker of God suffers is--a sense of God’s frowns, which sometimes drives the transgressor to recklessness, sometimes to despair. Then does the unfaithful Christian find that “it is an evil thing and a bitter to depart from the living God.” His by-path meadow leads to “Doubting Castle” and the dungeons of “Giant Despair.” (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
I. Let us see what is told us concerning this Demas.
1. This man was no hypocrite. He had not turned Christian for some selfish hope of worldly good or gain. There never are many of these. In those days probably there were none.
2. Nor was he a timid follower of Jesus. It was rather bleak and stormy for Mr. Facing both ways to show himself, who is usually a very dainty and delicate fellow and cannot stand much exposure. Like the cuckoos and the swallows his season is the summer, and the first touch of frost is enough to send him away.
3. Nor was he moved only by a passing glow of enthusiasm. It is not unlikely that some were--the devotion of an impulsive nature to the noble and the good, especially to the noble and the good in persecution. They receive the seed of the Word with joy, but anon the sun is up and it is withered, for it has no root.
4. And further, it was not that Demas had no religious opportunities and fellowship. That little company, knit together as it was by such bonds of sympathy and fellowship constantly met in Paul’s house. Think how the soul of Demas was stirred by the great utterances of St. Paul.
II. What was it that ruined him? Having loved this present world.
1. Was it avarice?--the cursed love of gold?--That vice that grows with the years and fattens on its gains: that creeps from prudence to saving, from saving to scraping, from scraping to grubbing, from grubbing to gripping the gold more than life. So clutching his money-bags does Demas go forth, leaving Paul the aged forsaken. The love of money makes many a Demas still. If that was it, pity him. Of all pitiable, ill-tempered, miserable people in the world, this is the worst. Of all fools hell laughs most loudly at the miser, who could not use it when he had it and then left it behind. But how can we warn him? Alas, Demas is the first to sigh and shake his head, and say how dreadful it is, and never suspect that you mean him. The miser never thinks himself rich.
2. Was it love of pleasure, of the world’s ways and the world’s approbation? The world kills more men with its smiles than with its frowns. Samson can kill the young lion that roars against him, but is himself coaxed to death by Delilah.
3. And yet again, it may have been neither avarice nor worldliness that killed him, but a gradual process of spiritual neglect. So away on the coast I have seen some projecting crag, bold and mighty, joined, as it seemed, and rooted with all the solid continent: one with the ground that stretched down through the round world and away under the seas to the shores of the far west, and inland bound to the hills that were topped and crested with the granite crags--there it stood facing the blasts of the Atlantic, defying them and looking proudly forth on the wild seas that stormed and tossed below it. Yes, winds and waves would never have fetched it down. But within were hollow places, tiny streams that washed the deepening water-courses: then came the silent frosts that gnawed at it, crumbling underneath it; so hollowed out within; then came some day the crash and din of thunder and clouds of dust that darkened heaven and the proud headland was hurled far down below, dashed by the tumbling seas and swept triumphantly by the wild waves. Oh, are you the man, whose prayers were once fervent pleadings with God, and now they are an empty round of phrases? Thy danger is great. A little longer--only that, a little longer, and of thee too it must be spoken--he hath forsaken me.
4. Here is the record of the basest ingratitude. A black ingratitude that rouses our indignation. St. Paul had most likely been the means of bringing him to the knowledge of the truth. He could not have failed to lead him to the richer enjoyment of the truth. Now when his company would have cheered the apostle in his dungeon loneliness we find the record--“Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.” Ah, thou Demas of to-day, think how the Lord Jesus Christ hath come down from His glory in very love to thee. He sighs--He saith, Thou hast forsaken Me. Oh, Demas, thou hast made a bad bargain. Thirsty ambition in place of quietness and rest. The devil as thy master in place of the loving Lord. The bondage instead of the life of goodness. And for wages at the last heaven given up for hell. Thou hast a thorn in thy pillow. Thy religion is dead, buried; but its ghost haunts thee still and will haunt thee. It meets thee in still and lonely places and whispers of what used to be. Thy religion gone and thyself spoiled for this world, and undone for the world which is to come. (M. G. Pearse.)
The damager of backsliding
I. It is the lot of God’s dearest children to be oftentimes forsaken of those that have been most near unto them (Matthew 26:56; Psalms 119:87; Psalms 27:10; 1 Kings 19:10).
1. That they may be made conformable to their head, Christ Jesus, who was left alone of His beloved disciples, and had none to comfort Him.
2. That they may fly to Christ, in whom all true comfort lies.
II. Those that have gone far in religion may yet, notwithstanding, fall away, and become apostates.
1. Because they rest on their own strength, and there is no support in man to uphold himself.
2. Because Satan, that grand apostate, is fallen from the truth himself, and he labours to draw others to fall back with him.
III. How shall we persevere in goodness?
1. Labour for a true grace.
2. Get a strong resolution against all oppositions.
3. Labour to know the truth, and to practise what thou knowest.
4. Get the love of God in thy heart.
5. Strive to grow daily in a denial of thyself.
6. Labour to have Divine truths engrafted in thee, that so they may spring forth in thy life.
7. Grow deeper and deeper in humiliation.
IV. The love of christ and the world cannot lodge together in one heart. They are two masters, ruling by contrary laws. (R. Sibbes.)
The falling away of Demas
1. The expression, “Demas hath forsaken me,” etc., probably means, in the first instance, that he loved his life too well to risk it by farther companionship with one, all but condemned, and whose martyrdom might be the signal for his own.
2. But the expression involves something more. That “love of this present world,” which assaulted Demas under the lone roof of the apostle, is what we can all understand, and a snare which is more or less laid for us all. It was the result of not having counted the cost of what might be required of him; a perilous “looking back,” after “having put his hand to the plough,” and therefore being “unfit for the kingdom of God.” In his former home at Thessalonica there might be a comparative security to be obtained. There he might find a comparative easement from a confessor’s labour; a retirement from the responsibility of a more marked and active disciple. There, at all events, he might not be called upon to defend his faith; to sustain it against the onset of impiety and false doctrine; but might indulge the illusion of adhering to it in what the world calls “peace.” There, in short, freed from the severer claims of an appointed trial, he might live as seemed best in his own eyes; and cling to the vain hope of reconciling the duty of a Christian with the divers conflicting habits and temptations, which beset the man of “this present world.” (Canon Puckle.)
1. It is lawful (in some cases) to name men. The apostle, to make others fear apostasy, names this backslider. Our application must be as a garment fitted for the body it is made for: a garment that is fit for everybody, is fit for nobody. What is spoken in general to all, few will apply to themselves. The only way to benefit our people is to apply the plaster to their particular sores. This made Ahab to put on sackcloth (1 Kings 21:20), and brought in so many thousand converts (Acts 2:37). One preacher that thus faithfully applieth the Word to his people, shall do more good in one year than another that preaeheth in a general way, and never cometh home to the consciences of the people, shall do in many.
2. The godly must look sometimes to be forsaken by their bosom friend. Demas was Paul’s intimate acquaintance and coadjutor, yet “Demas bath forsaken me.” True friend ship is like a well-built arch which standeth at first at a greater distance, and thence leisurely groweth up into a greater closure at the top, and so it will stand the better for weight.
3. Eminent professors may become grand apostates. Demas is a preacher of the gospel, Paul’s coadjutor, and is joined with Luke the evangelist (Colossians 4:14), yet for all this “Demas hath forsaken me.” Nothing but sincerity can pre serve us from apostasy. Let us therefore, especially at our first setting forth, dig deep, lay a good foundation, consider what the truth may cost us, and ask ourselves whether we can deny ourselves universally for Christ. If we cannot, or will not, we are not fit to be Christ’s disciples, we shall shrink in the wetting, and start aside like a broken bow when a temptation comes (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11).
4. The inordinate love of this present world is the highway to apostasy. It is not the world or the creatures which are good in themselves, but the excessive and inordinate love of them, which ruins men.
5. This world shall have an end and all things in it, it is not an everlasting world, it is but this present world, whose pomp and pleasures soon vanish away (1 Corinthians 7:29-31).
6. Sin blotteth a man’s name, and blemisheth his reputation. Demas, for his worldliness, had a brand set on his name to the end of the world.
7. It is an aggravation of a man’s sin to sin deliberately against light and conviction. Demas doth not sin here through passion or fear, but deliberately.
(1) He sinned against great light, he being a professor, yea, a preacher of the gospel, could not offend (in this kind especially) through ignorance.
(2) Demas sinned against great love. God had enlightened him, and made him a preacher of the gospel, gave him a room in the affections of his chosen vessel Paul, who made him his coadjutor.
(3) He sinned against the light of good example. Paul went before him in doing and suffering, and glories in all as comfortable and honourable, yet Demas deserts him, and is not this our sin?
(4) To sin upon a light temptation aggravateth a sin. Now Demas had no just ground for flinching. If he feared suffering for Christ, he knew the promise, That he who forsaketh father, or mother, or lands, or life, for Christ, shall have a hundred fold in this present world, and could he have brought his life and estate to a better market? If he loved the world and found sweetness in that, is there not more sweetness in Him that made the world?
(5) To draw others into sin, aggravateth sin. Demas, by his evil example, brought an evil report on the gospel, and did tacitly and interpretatively say there is much more sweetness in the world than in Christ, and so drew others from the truth.
(6) The greater the person that sins the greater is his sin. Theft in a judge is worse than in an inferior person; for Demas, a teacher of others, to teach apostasy, draws men into sin. Such cedars fall not alone, but crush the shrubs that be under them. (T. Hall, B. D.)
I. The Christian life according to demas. Chrysostom, assuming that Demas left Paul in order to go back to his friends, expressively describes his purpose by saying, “He chose to luxuriate at home.” If that was so, he did only what most Christian people are doing now. He still believed in Jesus as the Saviour of sinners, and hoped to be accepted for His sake; he purposed to abstain from the things forbidden by the law; and, this done, he thought himself at liberty to seek and enjoy the full measure of worldly good which he was able to obtain. In other words, he wished to lead a Christian life, but with the least possible quantity of self-denial. He wished, in the selfish acceptation of the phrase, to make the best of both worlds. His Christian ideal was a negative one, and consisted in not breaking the gospel commandments, rather than in laboriously doing, or being, anything great or good. It may often happen--in our case it will generally happen--that the best service we can render to others and to Christ is to be done at home; yet it is possible, it is common, to remain at home, and not to render it, but simply to luxuriate there, our lives regulated by that love of this present world which Demas showed. Indeed, whatever the sphere may be in which we are best able to serve others and Christ--whether the home circle, or the wider arena of social life, or the haunts of business, or the Sabbath-school, or the sick, or the poor--are we not tempted to occupy it after the manner of Demas?
II. The christian life according to Paul. Not, how little can I do, but, how much, was the ruling principle with Paul. Not, what would be easiest for me, but, what most acceptable to Christ. Not a cold calculation in the interest of self, but a warm devotion to the welfare of all. Loyalty, gratitude, generous enthusiasm, are its features; and, surely, they are among the noblest qualities of human character. Cold and grudging selfishness marks the other conception. They hardly deserve to be called two forms of the Christian life, for only one has the Spirit of Christ at all. Yes, let us remember even the nobleness of Paul was but a reflection of the nobleness of Christ. It was at that source the flame of his soul was kindled: “The love of Christ constrained him.”
III. the Christian life begun with paul and ended with Demas. The Spirit which founded the Christian Church was the spirit of Paul; but, as soon as the days of its freshness and persecution were over, the spirit of Demas prevailed. And the history of individuals is apt to be similar. (T. M. Herbert, M. A.)
In old times your London Bridge and our Netherbrow Port in Edinburgh were garnished with human heads; and in days when tyrants and persecutors were on the throne, alongside those of many notorious criminals, many a good and patriotic head hung there to bake and wither in the sun. That may appear to you a barbarous custom; in a sense it Was; notwithstanding, it came down, in a way, almost to our own times. Years ago, yet in our time, in sailing down your Thames, you saw certain strange and fearful objects standing up within tide-mark on the shore, between you and the sky; they were gibbets, with dead men hung in chains. Contrary as such a custom is to the feelings and sentiments of the present day, the object of those who observed that custom was a good one. They had a better end in view than merely the frightening of those who, happening to pass that way by night, heard the wind whistle though the holes in the empty skull, or the rusty chains creak as the body swept round and round. Piracy, with all its awful atrocities on men and women, was a much more common crime in those days than it is now; and the sailors who dropped down the river and passed these frightful objects, carried away with them a salutary lesson. They were pirates who were hung in chains, and they who looked saw in them the abhorrence with which society regarded, and the vengeance with which justice would pursue the perpetrators of so great a crime. “Rebuke before all,” said the apostle, “that others may fear”; and these men were thus hung in chains that others might see and be afraid. Nevertheless, these monuments of sin and of justice, however offensive they may be to our taste, or however suitable they might be to the ruder customs of ruder times, were not perpetual. The work of decay went on, and bone dropping away from bone left empty the chains; mother earth received into her bosom the last relic of her guilty child, and the crime and the criminal were soon forgotten. More enduring monuments of sin and its punishment than these have perished in the wreck of all things. For long ages the stony figure of a woman stood, with her cold, grey eyes turned on the sea that had buried the sinners, but not the saints, of Sodom. Lonely and awful form--the travellers that skirted the shores Of the Dead Sea, and the shepherds that tended their flocks on the neighbouring mountains, regarded her with all horror and terror; and never did living creature deliver such a sermon on the words, “Whoso putteth his hand to the plough and looketh back, is not worthy of the kingdom of God,” as did that dumb statue! But time that destroys all things destroyed that, and now travellers have sought in vain for even the vestige of a relic that, were it found, would be far more interesting and far more impressive than all your Greek and Roman marbles, anything dug out of quarry or carved by sculptor’s chisel. She who, loving the world too well, looked back on Sodom, has ceased to exist in stone: she lives, however, in story, and we would do well, in and amid the temptations of this world, often to “remember Lot’s wife.” The purpose our fore fathers had in hanging pirates in chains, and the purpose God Himself had in turning that woman into a pillar of salt, the Apostle Paul had in his treatment of this man whom he holds up here as a beacon to all future ages. He did not write this of Demas to revenge himself on Demas; he was above that. He did not write, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved the present world,” out of spleen or anger against this poor and pitiable apostate. Nothing of the kind. Nor was Demas the only man that at one time forsook Paul. There were others stricken with such panic, as will sometimes seize the bravest troops. All his friends deserted him. Ah! but even then there was an essential, and now there is an eternal difference between them. I donor deny that others fled, but then they returned, they rallied; they washed out with martyr’s blood the stains of their disgrace. They fled, I grant; they fled the field, but only for a time--Demas for ever; they abandoned the fight--Demas the faith. Theirs was the failing of the disciples for whom our Lord pled the kind apology, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Demas’s was the sin and crime of Judas. He abandoned for aye and for ever the cause of Jesus.
I. Demas’s history and Demas’s fall. Men live after they are dead, I do not mean merely that they live in another world after they are dead, but that, in a sense, alter they are dead they live here--some in their good works, and others in their bad. Many a man would never have been heard of in this world at all but for his crimes. His crimes are the salt, wherewith his memory is salted; he lives in them. But for them he had passed a happy life, obscure, no doubt, but happy; and when he died had gone down to his grave unnoticed and unknown. Now that is not the case of Demas. The truth is, if this Second Epistle to Timothy had never been written, or if it had pleased God to have let this Second Epistle to Timothy perish, like some other writings of the apostles, perhaps you might have called this church after Demas; Demas might have had his name in the calendar of saints. This man fell from a height which few of us have reached or ever will reach, and all the more impressive, therefore, is the story of his fall. He was indeed a fallen star! The reverse of Paul, who fell a persecutor and rose an apostle, this man was an apostle, but is an apostate now; he was a professor, but he is a renegade now; he was a brave soldier of the cross, but he is a base deserter and traitor now, having deserted and abandoned all for which a man should live. What a fall was there! Scripture drops the curtain on Demas just where we see him here, like a dishonoured knight from whose heels the spurs he has won have been hacked--just where we see him as a soldier who, his facings plucked from his breast, is dismissed as a deserter. No other word in Scripture about Demas after that; the curtain drops, and he vanishes. But let tradition lift her curtain, and if she speaks the truth--and there is no reason to doubt her story--it happened that Demas, as I could have prophesied, or you or any one else--went from bad to worse, down and down, and lower still, from one depth of infamy to another, till in the last sight we get of Demas, there he is yonder, a priest in a heathen temple, offering sacrifices to dead stocks and stones! Unhappy, miserable man, whether he died, as he might have died, with a recollection of better days, stung with remorse, howling in despair, or whether he died defiant of Christ, like Julian the royal apostate, who, when vanquished by the Christian hosts, caught the sword from his mortal wound, and tossed it up to heaven, and cried, expiring in the effort, “The Nazarene has conquered!” Unhappy man, whether he died one way or the other!
II. What made Demas fall? what brought him down from his high position? Sailing once on a Highland loch where the crags went sheer down into the water, the boatman called my attention to a very remarkable fragment of rock. There it stood, tilted up on its narrow edge, threatening destruction to every one below it, and to all appearance ready, at the touch of an infant’s finger, to leap with a sudden plunge into the depths below. What had tilted that enormous table into that upright position? No arms of brawny shepherds had set it there; no earthquake, rolling along the mountains and turning it upward, as earthquakes sometimes do, had turned it, nor had lightning, leaping from a cleft on the mountain’s summit, struck it, split it, shivered it, or raised it on its narrow edge. The task belonged to a much quieter and less obtrusive agent than these. Borne on the wings of the tempest, or dropped by some passing bird, a seed fell into a crevice of the rock; sleeping the winter through, but finding there a shelter and a congenial soil, it sprang with the spring, fed by rains and by dews it grew, and put up its head and spread out its branches, and struck deep its roots, worming them deep into the crannies of the rock, and wrapping it round and round. That table, as they grew, and thickened, and strengthened, was slowly and silently raised and separated from its bed, and then one clay there came a storm roaring down the glen, and seizing the tree, whose leafy branches caught the wind like sails, turned that tree into a lever, and working upon the rock, raised it and set it where I saw it just on the edge of the dizzy crag, and there it stood, waiting till another storm should come to hurl it over into the mossy waters of that wild mountain lake. Whether that stone has fallen yet I do not know, but it will fall; and just as that shall fall, so fell Demas; so many have fallen, and so you and I, but for preserving grace, would fall too. Do not mistake the Bible. The Bible does not say a word against the world. It is not the world, it is not riches, it is not fame, it is not honour, it is not the innocent enjoyment of the world that the Bible condemns; it is the love of the world. Beware of that! Let it once enter, let it get lodgment in your heart, though it is simply a tiny seed, let it grow there, let it be fed by indulgence, let it strike its roots, let it worm them into the crevices and crannies of your heart, and it will do this so silently that you will never suspect it, and you will never know it, and others will never know it, till one day the storm shall come. What was it that brought on Demas’s fall? Why was it that persecution destroyed Demas? Why, because persecution acted on Demas just as the storm did on the tree that got its seed into the rock. But that that tree had its seed and its roots round about that rock, the rock had defied all tempests, though they blew their worst; and Demas--persecution might have made him a beggar, persecution might have cast him into the deepest dungeon Rome had, persecution might have brought him to the scaffold, but if Demas had never loved the world, all that persecution had done would have been to destroy his wealth, to destroy his health, and to destroy his life, but it had never destroyed him; and on that day when Paul stood with his grey head before a mighty crowd coming to see him die, Demas had stood at his side; they bad stood together in the battle-field, they had stood together in the pulpit, they had stood together before Jews and heathens, and that day had they stood together again; one chain of love, as of iron, binding them still, they had fought together and they had fallen together, their heads had rolled on the same scaffold, one chariot had borne these brothers to the grave, and over their mangled remains, carried by devout men to burial, a weeping church had raised one monument, and I will tell you what she would have put on it; copying the words of David she might have said, “They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided.” Alas! I have an epitaph for Demas, taken from the same touching lament, but consisting of other words--“How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!” Such is the epitaph of Demas! He was laid in an apostate’s grave, and, not excepting a drunkard’s, there is no grave the grass grows on so hopeless as the apostate’s. Lessons:
1. “Put not your trust in princes,” says David. “Put not your trust in preachers,” says Demas. A blazing star quenched in darkness, oh! how does Demas teach them that stand high to walk humbly, and them that are high-placed not to be high-minded. It is well to carry a low sail, even when the wind blows strong.
2. Have you a pious father or mother, a pious wife or children, pious brothers or sisters--are you a servant in a pious family, or are your friends pious and your associations good? Ah! how does this teach you not to count too much on man! Why, there is Demas; what is your society to his? Demas lived in the holiest society out of heaven; Demas was the bosom friend and associate of one of the holiest, and I will say of one, in point of soul, of the noblest and loftiest men that ever lived--the Apostle Paul. There is no man in this house so little likely to be engrossed with the business, to be entangled with the cares, to be fascinated with the pleasures of this world, as was that man Demas; and yet he fell; he fell, and if he fell, who of us is to stand? Oh! how does his history sound in my ear like that old prophet’s voice, “Howl, fir-tree, for the cedar is fallen!”
3. Ah, what a lesson is this for you and me, and all those who live under the best religious influences, for us to take care that we do not reckon upon them, but that we watch and pray lest we enter into temptation. The world’s smiles are more to be dreaded than its frowns; its sordid sophistry, than its sharpest sword. Let the love of the world get into a man’s heart, and there is no pleader, no counsel, no man that ever made the worse appear the better, so successful as that is; for the world has a tongue to convince the man who has the love of it, that virtue is vice, and vice is virtue. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
The relapsed Christian
He reminds us of the piteous spectacle of a man emerging from the watery element in which he has been plunged, and for a moment gaining a footing upon the shore, but caught by the retiring wave, or losing his hold, he is once more carried into deep water with the danger of being finally engulfed in the waves, unless by another strenuous effort he should regain the shore and reach a standing above the power of the surge. (J. Leifchild, D. D.)
Having loved this present world--
The connection between love of the world and apostasy
Love of the world--love of the world’s opinions, and the world’s habits, and the world’s tastes, and the world’s privileges, and the world’s dispositions, for their own sakes, diminish faith, by bringing us more into contact with visible things. It is the privilege of faith to gaze upon the invisible, to behold and to lay hold of those things which the natural eye sees not, which the natural intellect comprehends not, and which the natural powers cannot grasp. But if the love of the world constrains me to grovel in the dust, to be busied and exercised and made careful over much with the things that are seen, soon may the far-scanning sight of faith be impaired and enfeebled, till at length it scarcely deserves the name, and brings not the comfort and imparts not the joy. Do we not know that the natural eye, when engaged upon minute visible objects which have to be brought near to it, accommodates itself to the distance; and the strong and healthful eye at length becomes short-sighted, and cannot gaze upon the distant prospect in its brightness, and looks confusedly on the landscape that woos admiration? And so it is with the spiritual perception. Let me be em ployed in the minute things of this world--the poor trifles after which the men of this world toil--and I may look upwards in vain; the spiritual sun may be shining upon me, in its meridian splendour, but my sight may be so dimmed, that with my purblind spirituality I shall be forced to look up and say--Where is it? The love of the world also diminishes our hope; because it induces us to seek, and in a certain sense enables us to find, satisfaction in present enjoyment. The young heart gazes upon the world and upon its enticements, and is it not constrained to say--“How delightful--how attractive”? And the grey-headed worldling, who has luxuriated in worldly enjoyments, has no range of hope beyond that which the little limited circle of his present existence gives him. Let me be content with present enjoyment--let me be content with worldly success--let me be satisfied with all I can perceive while passing as a traveller rapidly through this world, and I apprehend I should not be over-much anxious to build up a “hope” that is “full of immortality”; I should be inclined to say--“I want no better heaven, I do not wish for anything beyond this, I do not desire to hope for more.” How it becomes us to entreat you, with all earnestness and affection, to beware of a Christian profession which does not separate you from the world! Nothing is more delusive than to become acquainted with the letter of God’s Word, to feel desires after the experience of its comfort, to make a Christian profession, to join Christian assemblies, to mingle in Christian ordinances, and yet to be still numbered with those who say to the world by their conduct--“Thou art my God!” But if you find your profession has been genuine--if you have “tasted that the Lord is gracious”--beware of the first symptoms of decline. (G. Fisk, LL. B.)
The foolish love of the world
Judge in thyself, O Christian! is it meet
To set thine heart on what beasts set their feet?
’Tis no hyperbole, if you be told,
You delve for dross with mattocks made of gold.
Affections are too costly to bestow
Upon the fair-faced nothings here below:
The eagle scorns to fall down from on high,
The proverb saith, to pounce a silly fly;
And can a Christian leave the face of God
T’ embrace the earth, and dost upon a clod!
Worldliness fatal to religion
In Brazil there grows a common plant, which forest dwellers call the matador, or “murderer.” Its slender stem creeps at first along the ground; but no sooner does it meet a vigorous tree than, with clinging grasp, it cleaves to it, and climbs it, and, as it climbs, keeps at short intervals sending out arm-like tendrils that embrace the tree. As the murderer ascends, these ligatures grow larger and clasp tighter. Up, up, it climbs a hundred feet, nay, two hundred if need be, until the last loftiest spire is gained and fettered. Then, as if in triumph, the parasite shoots a huge, flowery head above the strangled summit, and thence, from the dead tree’s crown, scatters its seed to do again the work of death. Even thus worldliness has strangled more Churches than ever persecution broke. (S. Coley.)
Danger of the world
As you love your souls, beware of the world; it has slain its thousands and ten thousands. What ruined Lot’s wife?--the world. What ruined Achan?--the world. What ruined Haman?--the world. What ruined Judas?--the world. What ruined Simon Magnus?--the world. What ruined Demas?--the world. And “what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”
The world pictured by fancy
In the mirage of the desert, objects are said to become strangely distorted--a mud-bank exhibiting the appearance of a magnificent city with domes and towers, a few stunted bushes are transformed into a forest of stately trees. Is not the world with its hollow, fading distinctions thus transformed in our idle, foolish fancy? We attach an importance to its treasures, praise, ambitions, pleasures, utterly false and exaggerated. (W. L. Watkinson.)
The border-land between Christ and the world
Centuries ago it was dangerous for any one to live on the border-land between England and Scotland. Let us take care not to dwell on the border-land between Christ and the world.
Counteractives to worldliness
Let the declining Christian strive against the deteriorating and retrograding tendency to worldliness. Let him exercise his faith in strong realisations of celestial things, which alone are able to counteract the debasing impressions of terrestrial ones. Let him accustom himself to look upon all things here in the light of eternity. The fascinations of the world will then appear to him as a brilliant bubble, which will soon burst, and its troubles but as a dark vapour that appeareth but for a little while and then vanisheth away. For his warning, let him contemplate the fearful catastrophe threatened to those who draw back from God to the world. He has only to open his eyes to see in what numerous instances this passage of Scripture has been verified: “They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare,” etc., resembling covetous merchants, who overload their vessel with a freight which impedes its course and endangers its safety. What a fatal shipwreck of faith and a good conscience have many suffered from this cause: and who can tell whither it may carry him who surrenders himself to its influence? Upon the principle of a relapse being more difficult to cure than the original disease, let him be doubly on his guard against this tendency. (J. Leifchild, D. D.)
Crescens to Galatia.--
Crescens is gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia
1. Good men will be doing good wherever they are. Paul was now a prisoner, yet he preached constantly in prison, and there converted Onesimus (Philemon 1:9).
2. Though some may forsake us and the truth, yet God hath others that are faithful. What if Demas be gone, yet Crescens, Titus, Timothy, Mark, and Luke abide constant; no storms nor tempests can beat them off; if Saul oppose David, yet Jonathan will stick to him. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Only Luke is with me.--
The beloved physician
I. The inducements to remain with St. Paul.
1. There was the power of friendship. From the earlier references to Demas, we may conclude that he had been associated with the apostle in companionship in trial and labour. Intimacy and affection were motives to stay with him.
2. There was the sense of chivalry. However Demas might be tempted to go, a noble spirit would have said, Not now, when it is a time of comparative loneliness, need, and danger.
3. Interest in the faith. From his former relationship with St. Paul we must assume knowledge and admiration for the faith. He had seen Christianity, accepted it, and had been privileged to witness its power in the personal piety and devotedness of St. Paul.
II. The temptations to go.
1. The world’s temptation of Demas was probably not through her seductive glitter of pleasure and pomp, but through her frowns. The apostle was under a cloud. Few seem willing to take him by the hand. Notice how joyously he recognises the courageous kindness of Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16-17).
2. Perhaps we may hazard a conjecture respecting the character of Demas. May he not have been one of those whose religious life is just strong enough, or rather weak enough, to live in a religious atmosphere, but utterly unable to live when unsupported by Christian society?
3. The way in which such a character would desert. Not openly, but by degrees. Excuses to omit dangerous duties, and even at the last perhaps only leave St. Paul on some plausible pretext to go to Thessalonica. The old apostle saw through it: “Having loved this present world.”
III. The contrasted conduct of St. Luke.
1. While Demas at Thessalonica, St. Luke at Rome. His helpfulness to St. Paul. The knowledge of the physician, with its frequently induced sympathetic power and insight. The spiritual refreshment of a brotherly heart. Demas lives the life of him who seeks to save life, but loses it in all its nobility and opportunities of doing kindness. Luke is ready to lose life, but saves its true vitality.
2. For the retrospect of Christendom tells us that St. Luke in his devotedness has saved his life, while Demas has lost it. The latter is a beacon-warning; the former a guiding light, a name in the Church--loved where Christ is loved, honoured where the apostle is honoured, for constancy, kindliness, and intrepid faith.
Learn therefore that--
1. Chivalry is not strong enough against the world-spirit.
2. A religion which is only dependent on the personal influence of others will prove faulty in the time of trial.
3. Thus only the inner strength supplied by Christ can keep us strong; not Paul, not Apollos, not the wisdom of men, but Christ. For the difference between St. Luke and Demas was not in outward circumstances. They were equally tried. It is Christ in us which is the hope of glory, a glory the earnest of which is seen in the scorn of earth and the triumph of faith over her frown or her smile. (W. B. Carpenter, M. A.)
St. Luke the Evangelist
We know but very little, historically, of St. Luke. His birthplace appears to have been Antioch, the metropolis of Syria, and, from his profession as a physician, we conclude him to have been, as indeed his writings prove him, a man of liberal education. Antioch was distinguished as the seat of literature; and St. Luke had probably availed himself of the advantages presented by his native place. We have no information in regard to the calling and conversion of St. Luke, and of his becoming a physician of the soul as well as the body. Many suppose him to have been converted by St. Paul at Antioch, and so to have had no acquaintance with Christianity until after the death of its Founder. Others again maintain that Luke was one of the seventy disciples whom Jesus sent forth to publish the gospel. However this may have been, it is in connection with St. Paul that St. Luke is first mentioned in the New Testament. From Act 16:-28, we learn that he accompanied St. Paul in many of his labours and journeyings, and was with him at Rome daring his two years’ imprisonment. We are wholly without authentic information as to the after life of St. Luke. Various spheres of labour are assigned to him by various writers, and much obscurity rests on the time, place, and manner of his death. The most ancient authors, however, say nothing of his martyrdom; and this would seem to show that he died a natural death; though others, indeed, allege that he went out of life stretched on an olive tree. But whilst so little material is furnished by the biographers of St. Luke, we are in possession of his writings, and by these “he, being dead, yet speaketh.” There has never been debate in the Church that the Gospel which bears his name, and the Acts of the Apostles, were written by St. Luke. These were his legacies to all after ages, and for these must he be held in honour so long as there is any love for the gospel. And with these writings in our hands, who that has any sense of the worth of revelation will hesitate to describe St. Luke as “a brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches”? Or who, like St. Paul, if he had no other companion, would not feel that, in having this evangelist, he had books on which to draw that he could never exhaust, and which would continually furnish him with spiritual information, so that he could never be in loneliness, never at a loss for guidance and instruction, even though he should have to say with the apostle in our text--“Only Luke is with me.” And what we venture to assert is, that the history which he has produced outweighs, in value to ourselves, either of the other three which the New Testament contains. We venture to affirm that, if only one Gospel is to be preserved, that that Gospel should be the Gospel according to St. Luke. The debate must lie between the Gospels of St. Luke and St. Matthew; for neither in the Gospel of St. Mark, nor in that of St. John is any account given of the parentage and birth of Jesus Christ; so that, with no other document in our hands, we should be uninformed upon facts which lay at the very root and foundation of Christianity. We should have no proof of the fulfilment of prophecies declaratory that Christ should be born of a virgin, without taint of original sin; and we could therefore make no way in building up the fabric of our most holy faith. You will admit, then, that if only one Gospel be retained, it must be that of St. Matthew or St. Luke, inasmuch as these contain what is wanting in the others, the account of Christ’s miraculous nativity, and this account is indispensable to our knowledge of redemption; but if we are to choose between the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke, the far fuller manner in which St. Luke gives the circumstances of the birth of our Saviour might of itself determine upon which to decide for the history. And when you add to this that St. Luke is the evangelist who has preserved for us the parables and incidents most adapted to our case, and most comforting to our feelings, and that from his writings we draw a prayer which is the very epitome of petitions, “God be merciful to me, a sinner”; that it is he who draws for us that most affecting of pictures, the picture of the father’s rushing to meet the prodigal son whilst yet a great way off, folding him in his arms, and giving him his embrace; that in the pages, moreover, of this evangelist it is that we behold the good Samaritan pouring oil and wine into the wounds of the sufferers; that we are warned by the sudden summons to the rich fool, who, within a hair’s breadth of death, talked of building larger barns; by the torments of Dives, who exchanged the luxuries of a palace for the plagues of hell; that we are comforted by Christ’s gracious words to the thief on the cross;--ay, if it be thus true that we turn to the Gospel of St. Luke for whatever is most exquisitely tender, most persuasive, most encouraging, most startling in the registered actions and sayings of the Saviour, then it is not to be doubted that our chief debt of gratitude is due to this evangelist; that if we had lost all the others--Cresceus unto Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia, Matthew, Mark, and John having departed from this present world--it might still be with the tone of those who felt they had kept the one from whom most might be learned, that we took up the language of our text and exclaimed with St. Paul, “Only Luke is with me.” We now turn to look at the Acts of the Apostles, a work which stands quite by itself, and whose worth, therefore, cannot be measured by comparing it with others. If we had not this book we should have no inspired record whatever of the actions and sayings of the first preachers of Christianity, and consequently its value must be estimated by the injury which would be occasioned by the total want of such a record. The removal of the Acts from the New Testament would be altogether a different thing from the removal of one of the Gospels; in the latter case the deficiency would be at least partially supplied by the remaining writings, whereas in the former there would be left no document to which we could refer. The book of the Acts is to the Holy Spirit what the Gospels are to the Saviour--a record of His entering on His office, and fulfilling His great work in the scheme of human redemption. And can we dispense with one record any more than with the other? Is it not indispensable to the completeness of the evidences of Christianity--the showing how each Person in the ever-blessed Trinity has interposed on our behalf--that we should be able to point to apostles and to apostolic men, receiving supernatural gifts, and going forth with a more than human strength to a warfare with principalities and powers? It is one thing to prove a work valuable, and another to show that its loss would be fatal. It is this that we endeavour to do, by exhibiting the Acts as the Gospel of the Holy Ghost, and as the record of transactions which involve the interest and the permanence of the whole Gentile Church. And when we have shown you that without this book you would be left ignorant of the coming of the Comforter; that you would know nothing of the manifestations by which the seal of Divinity was finally set on Christianity--yea, be unacquainted with redemption as the joint work of the three Persons in the Godhead; and when we have further shown you that, take away this book, and you take away all the register of God’s ordering the removal of the middle wall of partition, so that the Gentiles might be received without submitting themselves to the institutions of Moses, and we think we have shown enough to convince you that you owe St. Luke, at least, as much for his Acts of the Apostles as for his Gospel; and, therefore, we again say--Crescens might have departed to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia, and you might be left alone in a prison, almost without associates, almost without books; but could you be lonely? could you be forced to speak as if deprived of high companionship and intercourse with those in whom a Christian has the deepest interest, and access to the best stores of comfort and of knowledge, if you could say of yourself, as St. Paul says in our text--“Only Luke is with me”? (H. Melvill, B. D.)
St. Luke an example of trite friendship
Most of that which goes by the name of friendship is as rootless as an aquatic plant that turns its broad leaves and flowers to the summer’s sun. Men desecrate the holy name of friendship by applying it to alliances, conferences, and leagues. But true friendship is one of the sweetest and best of earthly things, if, indeed, it can be called earthly. Friendship is the best developed fruit of love. It is the escape for the pent-up soul. Friends can do for each other what modesty forbids them to do for themselves. They can keep down each other’s vanity, and keep up each other’s courage. Friendship has the physician’s skill, the nurse’s vigilance, the mother’s devotion. How may we procure this blessed boon? Friendship cannot be created by the jugglery of oaths and grasped hands. True friendship ought to be grounded in the love of God; it ought to be well chosen, cemented by nature and religion, developed by time, tested by adversity, consecrated by associations. Let such friendship be held at high value. Let no trivial thing imperil it. Let it be cherished by confidence unstinted, by demonstrations of affection, by sincerity and truth, by faith and trust, by mutual forbearance and sacrifice. Such friendship will be an oasis in the arid waste of selfishness, and it will be an anticipation for the life to come. (R. S. Barrett.)
The friendship of St. Luke and St. Paul
That St. Paul should be drawn to St. Luke is no wonder, for there must have been great similarity in their tastes, both being men of highly cultivated minds; but that St. Luke should throw in his lot with St. Paul, the homeless, persecuted man, who was an outcast from his own people, and who went in constant danger of his life--this betokens a strength of mind such as is met with but rarely, and a friendship of no ordinary kind. And we can hardly guess at the value to St. Paul of the friendship of such a man as St. Luke, even if we take it on the low standard of the value of services which he would be able to render to the Apostle. Being an educated man, he would be able to assist in many ways; for instance, as his amanuensis, and as being more competent than others to deal with the more cultivated heathen with whom they were brought in contact. But all this would be as nothing compared with the common bond which would knit their souls together, their love for their risen Lord. The world can show us friendship, and that, too, of a high order; it has done so in past history; it can do so, no doubt even now. Similarity of tastes, the pursuit of a common object, the necessities of daily life, may draw men very closely together, and make them friends in the sense in which the world uses the term. But there is a deeper sense than that; for Christianity has done the same for friendship as it has for whatever else it has touched--it has raised and it has sanctified it. St. Paul and St. Luke were not only friends, but each had a common friend in the Lord Jesus. In Christ Jesus they were knit together by a bond stronger than any which the world could forge, and the secret of St. Luke’s devotion to St. Paul was not only community of taste and feeling, but the love of God which was shed abroad in their hearts through Jesus Christ their common Lord and Master. We often hear people speak of others as their friends, or of themselves as being the friends of others; but it would be well if we thought a little more about what a friend might, or what a friend ought to be, before we allowed ourselves to use the word. How can there be true friendship between the Christian and the man of the world? How can there be true friendship between those whose deepest and purest feelings are not in accord? (W. G. Abbott, M. A.)
Luke, the beloved physician
To account for his being alone with Paul at that solemn and trying time we do not need to charge unfaithfulness upon all who had been Paul’s companions during his confinement in Rome. Did Paul keep Luke there, perhaps, because he needed his professional care in his old age, after so many toils and hardships and exposures by land and by sea? Did Luke refuse to leave him because his watchful eye saw that Paul needed his professional care more than Paul knew or would willingly acknowledge? Had he the tact to conceal this professional solicitude under the equally true desire to enjoy Paul’s company and instruction, and to fill his own mind and memorandum-book with those memories which the Holy Spirit was moving him to write to “most excellent Theophilus” and to us? If I might not be a minister of the gospel, a pastor taking care of souls, I know not what else I would rather be than a physician, skilled to minister at bedsides and in chambers of the sick, worthy to be looked to by anxious households when the chill shadow of death makes them shudder, worthy to be trusted as a sentry by a community when the “pestilence walketh in darkness.” The highest skill in medicine is not all that such a trusted and beloved physician must have; or, rather, skill in a physician includes much more than knowledge of anatomy and physiology and the materia mediea. It includes high acquaintance with the human soul in its peculiar powers and in their relations to the body. It involves not merely knowledge of the body, as a thing which it has dissected, a machine whose parts it has taken asunder and handled. It involves reverence for that body as the supreme handiwork of Jehovah, whose infinite skill and care are illustrated in all its joints and members, all its parts and organs, all its processes and powers. It involves tender appreciation of all the liabilities and capabilities of such a soul in such a body. It involves genuine sympathy with sufferers, suffusing and beautifying, not enfeebling nor hindering the business of relieving, making it not less effective and successful business because clothed upon with graces which present it ever as intercourse, conversation, fellowship. (H. A. Nelson, D. D.)
A faithful friend
A faithful friend will not forsake us in our deepest distress. A faithful friend--and such a one was Luke--loves at all times (Proverbs 17:17). Though Paul be a prisoner and ready to be martyred, yet Luke keeps with him still; though all forsake him, yet he will stick to him. Pot-friendship will vanish, especially in adversity. Job (Job 6:15) complains of his friends that they had deceived him like a brook; they were not like a river which is fed by a spring and hath a perennity of flowing, but like a brook which runs in moist times when there is least need of it, but in a drought it fails; like swallows which fly about us in summer, but in winter they leave us and hide themselves in hollow trees or the like. Such vermin abound which run to full barns, but outrun them when empty. Most worship the rising, few the setting sun. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Take Mark, and bring him with thee.--
The quarrel about John Mark
(see Acts 15:36-39):--
I. The sharp quarrel between Paul and Barnabas. They were both good men, both men of cultivated spirit and of fine Christian character, and yet they got into a violent passion about a matter that one would think might have been easily arranged if discussed forbearingly and wisely. The only wise thing about the whole matter was the separation. It is far better for Christian people who cannot work comfortably together to separate than to keep up an endless bickering, or a dull, sulky anger which only reveals the smouldering fire that sooner or later is sure to burst forth.
1. The most godly men are still liable to sharp and sudden falls.
2. Those who are engaged in the same work may have antagonistic views on matters of prudence.
II. The two different stages of Mark’s life. Sometimes a poor-looking material works out better than we expected. The unpromising youth often surprises us by very superior development in after years. Soldiers who have quailed before the first fire of their first battle have distinguished themselves as brave men in after years. There is really nothing more common than this contradiction of all early promises, both for good and bad, which daily life brings to us. Life and character have so many sharp turnings that you can never calculate what direction they shall ultimately take. This was the case with John Mark. In the former of these passages he is brought before us as a young man. The opinion Paul had of him then was a very contemptible one. He had set his hand to the plough, and looked back. Seventeen years after Paul is in prison at Rome, and writes thence this letter to Timothy. And in it comes this honourable and affectionate mention of the very man who seventeen years before he had held at so cheap a rate, “Take Mark, and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” A bright midday to a very unpromising morning! We are constrained to suspect, after all, that, though Paul had prudence and justice on his side, on that former occasion, yet Barnabas had the finer intuition when he kept his faith in his nephew, notwithstanding his disgraceful delinquency. After-events certainly proved that the unpromising youth had in him the making of a strong man. How much of Mark’s after strength was due, on the one hand, to the paternal faith and protection of Barnabas, and, on the other hand, to the tonic administered to him by Paul’s contemptuous refusal, we cannot say. Probably both had a good effect. The scornful glance with which a brave man looks on a delinquent, by inflaming his self-respect, may, while it mortifies his soul, impel him to bolder things. And, on the other hand, to feel that though we have miserably failed, there is one heart that still believes in our capacity, and one hand that never loses its grasp of ours, is heaven’s good angel to our life. Many a coward life has been made brave by that ministering angel. Many a one-time sinner has been made a saint by the faithfulness with which one hand has continued to hold his in confident love, and not seldom that hand has been the soft hand of a brave and trusting woman. Stick to the coward a little longer, and you may, by God’s grace, make a brave man of him yet! Stick to the sinner a little longer, and you may yet write his name in the roll of the saints! (E. H. Higgins.)
Good men easily reconciled to good men
There was formerly a sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas about this Mark, who for fear forsook Paul and left him in Pamphilia (Acts 13:13; Acts 15:37-39), which made Paul that he would not suffer him to visit the brethren. Superiors in gifts and grace may sometimes have need of the help of inferiors. A Paul may send for u Mark to help him. (T. Hall, B. D.)
2 Timothy 4:13
The cloke … the books … the parchments.
Paul--his cloak and his books
I. Let us look at this memorable cloak which Paul left with Carpus at Troas. Troas was a principal seaport-town of Asia Minor. Very likely the apostle Paul was seized at Troas on the second occasion of his being taken before the Roman emperor. The soldiers usually appropriated to themselves any extra garment in the possession of an arrested person, such things being considered as the perquisites of those who made the arrest. The apostle may have been forewarned of his seizure, and therefore prudently committed his few books and his outer garment, which made up all his household stuff, to the care of a certain honest man named Carpus. Although Troas was full six hundred miles’ journey from Rome, yet the apostle Paul is too poor to purchase a garment, and so directs Timothy, as he is coming that way, to bring his cloak. He needs it much, for the sharp winter is coming on, and the dungeon is very, very chilly.
1. Let us perceive here with admiration, the complete self-sacrifice of the apostle Paul for the Lord’s sake. Remember what the apostle once was. He was great, famous, and wealthy. Ah! how he emptied himself, and to what extremity of destitution was he willing to bring himself for Christ’s name sake. The Saviour must die in absolute nakedness, and the apostle is made something like Him as he sits shivering in the cold.
2. We learn how utterly forsaken the apostle was by his friends. If he had not a cloak of his own, could not some of them lend him one? No; he is so utterly left, that although he is ready to die of ague in the dungeon, not a soul will lend or give him a cloak. What patience does this teach to those similarly situated I In your greatest trials do you find your fewest friends? Have those who once loved and respected you fallen asleep in Jesus? And have others turned out to be hypocritical and untrue? “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me.” So now, when man deserts you, God will be your Friend.
3. Our text shows the apostle’s independence of mind. Why did not he borrow a cloak? Why did not he beg one? That is not the apostle’s taste at all. He has a cloak, and though it is six hundred miles away, he will wait until it comes. A Christian man would do well to remember that it is never to his honour, though it is not always to his dishonour, to beg.
4. We see here, how very little the apostles thought of how they were dressed. Paul wants enough to keep him warm; he asks no more. When good Bishop Hooper was led out to be burnt, he had been long in prison, and his clothes were so gone from him, that he borrowed an old scholar’s gown, full of rags and holes, that he might put it on, and went limping with pains of sciatica and rheumatism to the stake. We read of Jerome of Prague, that he lay in a damp, cold dungeon, and was refused anything to cover him in his nakedness and cold. Every saint is an image of Christ, but a poor saint is His express image, for Christ was poor. So, if you are brought to such a pitch with regard to poverty, that you scarcely know how to provide things decent by way of raiment, do not be dispirited; but say, “My Master suffered the same, and so did the apostle Paul”; and so take heart, and be of good cheer.
5. Paul’s cloak at Troas shows me how mighty the apostle was to resist temptation. “I do not see that,” you say. The apostle had the gift of miracles. Our Saviour, though able to work miracles, never wrought anything like a miracle on His own account; nor did His apostles. Miraculous gifts were entrusted to them with gospel ends and purposes, for the good of others, and for the promotion of the truth; but never for themselves.
II. We will look at his books. We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them.
1. Even an apostle must read. He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yes he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books! The apostle says to Timothy, and so he says to every preacher, “Give thyself unto reading.” The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted, lie who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains proves that he has no brains of his own.
2. Paul herein is a picture of industry. He is in prison; he cannot preach: what will he do? As he cannot preach, he will read. As we read of the fishermen of old and their boats. The fishermen were gone out of them. What were they doing? Mending their nets. So if Providence has laid you upon a sick bed, and you cannot teach your class--if you cannot be working for God in public, mend your nets by reading. If one occupation is taken from you, take another, and let the books of the apostle read you a lesson of industry.
III. We now want to have an interview with the apostle Paul himself, for we may learn much from him. The poor old man, without his cloak, wraps his ragged garment about him. Sometimes you see him kneeling down to pray, and then he dips his pen into the ink, and writes to his dear son Timothy. No companion, except Luke, who occasionally comes in for a short time. Now, how shall we find the old man? What sort of temper will he be in?
1. We find him full of confidence in the religion which has cost him so much.
2. But he is not only confident. You will notice that this grand old man is having communion with Jesus Christ in his sufferings.
4. In expectation of a crown. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The cloak at Troas
Doubtless the cloak was an old companion; it may have been wetted many a time with the water torrents of Pamphylia, and whitened with the dust of the long Roman roads, and stained with the brine of shipwreck, when, on the rocky cliffs of Malta, the Euroclydon was driving the waters into foam; he may have slept in its warm shelter on the uplands under the canopy of the stars; it may have covered his trembling limbs, bruised with the brutal rods of the lictors, as he lay that night in the dungeon of Philippi; and now the old man thinks, as he calls himself, with a passing touch of self-pity, an ambassador in chains, and as he sits shivering in some gloomy cell under the walls, or, it may be, on the rocky floor of the Palladio, in the wintry nights that are coming on, he bethinks him of the old cloak, and asks Timothy to bring it with him. “The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments”--the Biblia and the papyrus books, few we may be sure and yet old friends. Perhaps he had bought some of those very books in the school of Gamaliel at Jerusalem, or had received some of them as presents from his wealthier converts. Perhaps among them may have been some of those books in which, as we can trace from his Epistles, he had read the poems of his native poet, Aratus, or some of the pamphlets Of Plato, or the wisdom of Solomon. The papyrus books, then, “but especially the parchments,” that is, especially the works inscribed on vellum--what were these? Was there any document amongst them which would have been useful to prove his rights as a Roman citizen? Were there any precious rolls of Isaiah and the Psalms, or the lesser prophets, which father or mother may have given him as a life-long treasure (for in those days parchments were valuable things)in the far-off days when, little dreaming of all that awaited him, he played as a happy boy in the dear old Tarsian home? Dreary and long are the days; longer and drearier still are the evenings in that Roman dungeon, and often the rude legionary soldier, who detests to be chained to a sick and suffering Jew, is coarse and cruel to him. And he cannot always be engaged in the sweet session of silent thought, even in the sweet hopes of the future or the remembrance of the past. He knows Scripture well, but it will be a deep joy to read once more how David and Isaiah, in all their troubles, learned, like his own poor self, to suffer and be strong. Who, as he reads this last message, can help remembering the touching letter written from the damp cells of his prison by our own noble martyr, William Tyndale, one of the greatest of our translators of the English Bible: “I entreat your lordship,” he writes, “and that by the Lord Jesus, that, if I was to remain here for the winter, you would beg the Commissary to be so kind as to send me, from the things of mine which he has, a warmer cap; I feel the cold painfully in my head; also a warmer cloke, for the one I have is very thin; also some cloth to patch my leggings. My overcoat is worn out, my shirts even are threadbare. The Commissary has a woollen shirt of mine if he will be so kind as to send it. But most of all I entreat your kindness to do your best with the Commissary to be so good as to send me my Hebrew Bible, grammar, and vocabulary, that I may spend my time in that pursuit.
William Tyndale.” The noble martyr was not thinking of St. Paul; but history repeats itself, and what is this fragment from the letter which he, too, wrote so soon before his death, but the same thing as “the cloke which I left at Troas with Carpus, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments”?
I. Does it not show us that this great and holy apostle was first a man like ourselves; a tried and suffering man with human wants and human sympathies; aye, and human limitations, and with transcendentally severer trials, yet with no greater privileges than we enjoy? Does he not call to us with more clear encouragement, “Faint not, dear brother, dear sister in the Lord; I, too, was weak; I, too, was tempted; but thou, no less than I, canst do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us”?
II. Then, in what a lovely light of manliness, good sense, and contentment does this place the apostle’s character! The sword, he well knows, is hanging over his head whose flash shall slay him, but life is life. Until the Lord calls him, there is no reason at all why life should not go on, not only in its quiet duties, but also with such small blessings as it yet may bring. There is no flaring fanaticism, no exaggerated self-denial, here. The wintry nights will be cold and dull; there is no sort of merit in making them colder and duller. That is why he writes for the cloak and the dear old books. God, for our good, sends us all trials enough to bear, but it is only for our good. There is not the least reason--it is not even right--to create tortures and miseries for ourselves which God has not sent us. We are allowed to take and we ought to take every harmless and every innocent gift which God permits to us, and to thank Him for it.
III. Then, look at the matter in one more light. What is it that a life of ceaseless ungrudging labour has left to St. Paul? What earthly possessions has the apostle gained as the sum total of services to the world, unparalleled in intensity and unparalleled in self-denial? Perhaps he wants to leave some small memento behind him, some trifling legacy by which some true heart may remember him “ere the rippled sea of life flows smooth once more over his nameless grave.” Just as the hermit St. Antony left the great bishop St. Athanasius his one sole possession, which was his sheep-skin cloak, so St. Paul, perhaps, might have liked to leave to the kind and faithful Luke, or to the true and gentle Timothy, the cloak, the books, the parchments. But, oh, how small a result of earth’s labours, if earth were everything, worth far less than a dancer gets for a single figure in a theatre, or an acrobat for a fling on the trapeze; not worth one-millionth part of what a patent brings in for some infinitesimal invention! Oh, the work and the reward are not the same for eternity. It is not for such rewards that the great high service of the world is done. Earth’s rewards, observe, have marvellously small relations to intrinsic values. The singer who has a fine note in her voice may blaze in diamonds worth a king’s ransom. But the thinker who has raised the aim and nature of nations may die unnoticed; and the poet, who has enriched the blood of the earth, may be left to starve. Paul pours out his whole life as a libation on God’s altar, in agonies for his fellow-men; he cleanses the customs, he brightens the hope, he purifies the life of men; he adds, for centuries, to the untold ennoblement of generations; what is the sum total of his earthly reward? What is the inventory of all his earthly possessions as he sits upon his prison floor? Just “the cloke that I left at Troas, and the books, but especially the parchments.” Would that content you? Do you think that he sighed or was envious of evildoers, when he contrasted his solo possessions--that cloak and those few books, which were all that he had--with the jewels of the adventurer Agrippa, or the purple of the execrable Nero? Not one whir. They were not what he had aimed at. He sat loose to those earthly interests on which men’s minds are sometimes to the last so deplorably and so hideously fixed. No; better as it is. He will thank God for such warmth as he may find in the cloak and such consolation as the books may bring him, and, for the rest, he will trust death, and he will throw himself on God. (Archdeacon Farrar.)
of his own making or collecting: these are highly prized by students. Julius Caesar, being forced to swim for his life, held his commentaries m one hand above water, and swam to land with the other. (J. Trapp.)
A great love of books
An incident of my own experience has often interested me, and may not be without interest to you. I learnt one evening in London--it was at an evening party at which many persons were assembled--from a friend of mine that a friend of his and mine was lying dangerously, and, as it turned out, fatally ill in his chambers in the Temple. That friend of mine was the late Sir David Dundas, who was for many years in Parliament, and with whose friendship for many years I was favoured. I went down the next morning to ask after him, and, if it were proper, to see him. He invited me, through his servant, into his room, and I found him upon his bed of sickness, feeble, not able to talk much, and scarcely able to turn himself in his bed. We had some little conversation, and in the course of it he offered to me something like a benediction. He said--I remember his words very well--“I have never pretended to be a learned man or a scholar, but God has given me a great love for books.” He then referred to the writings of the celebrated Lord Bacon, and taking a quotation from a letter which that eminent person had written to a friend, he turned to me and said, “May God lead you by the hand.” That was one of the passages fixed in his mind from his reading of the words of Lord Bacon. Now, that was a solemn hour with my friend--if I may quote a very expressive and beautiful line from one of Scotland’s real, but one of her minor poets, Michael Bruce--“When dim in his breast life’s dying taper burns.” At that solemn hour, reviewing his past life, reviewing the enjoyment he had partaken of, he thanked God for having given him “a great love of books.” Two days after that--I think the second or third after that interview--that “dying taper” was extinguished, and my friend passed into the unseen world. (John Bright.)
A good book a lasting companion
Truths which it has taken years to glean are therein at once freely but carefully communicated. We enjoy communion with the mind, though not with the person of the writer. Thus the humblest man may surround himself by the wisest and best spirits of past and present ages. No one can be solitary who possesses a book; he owns a friend that will instruct him in moments of leisure or of necessity. It is only necessary to turn over the leaves, and the fountain at once gives forth its streams. You may seek costly furniture for your homes, fanciful ornaments for your mantelpieces, and rich carpets for your floors; but, after the absolute necessaries for a home give me books as at once the cheapest, and certainly the most useful and abiding embellishments. (Family Friend.)
Choice of books
What books you will choose as your intimate friends will depend upon your humour and taste. Dr. Guthrie’s choice seemed to me charming. He told me that he read through four books every year--the Bible, “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” four of Sir Waiter Scott’s novels, which he reckoned as one book, and a fourth book, which I have forgotten, but I think it was “Robinson Crusoe.” You will choose some books because they soothe and quiet you; some because they are as invigorating as mountain air; some because they amuse you by the shrewdness of their humour; some because they give wings to your fancy; some because they kindle your imagination. (R. W. Dale.)
Mental occupation in prison
Exile and imprisonment are among the darkest tragedies of existence. But Ovid, banished from the luxurious and learned capital to the barbarians of Tomis, in the inhospitable waste along the Euxine, stripped of property, wife, and children, saved himself from despair by labour, and, surrounded by hopeless savagery, produced some of the finest of his works. Boethius, the last and noblest of the ancients, before the darkness of the Middle Ages fell on Europe, lying under unjust sentence of death in the tower of Pavia, forbidden books, intercourse with fellow-scholars, preserved his sanity and fortitude to face a cruel death by writing “The Consolation of Philosophy.” “Don Quixote,” which convulsed a nation with merriment, was the solace of an undeserved imprisonment, which bodily suffering made more unendurable. The dungeon of Waiter Raleigh was his calm study. In the condemned cell Madame Roland, less moved by the certainty of her own fate than by apprehension for her beloved husband, fortified her mind against possible madness by the composition of her memoirs. Lady Jane Grey and Mary Queen of Scots beguiled imprisonment of half its terrors with hard study and careful writing. (Harper’s Bazaar.)
An affection for a cloak
Newman tells us (in 1840) how he kept an old blue cloak which he got in 1823, and “had an affection for it,” because it had “nursed me through all my illness. I have it still. I have brought it up here to Littlemore, and on some cold nights I have had it on my bed. I have so few things to sympathise with me that I take to cloaks.”
An endeared garment
A shawl with a strange history was buried with the late Professor Cocker, of Michigan University. Shortly before his death, Dr. Cocker called the attention of his pastor to a worn and faded shawl spread on his bed, and requested to have it wrapped around his body and buried with him. He had made it himself when a young man in England; had worn it in all his journeyings to and from over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, when residing in Australia, when he escaped from the Fiji Islanders as they were preparing to kill and roast him, and when he was ship wrecked. It accompanied him when he landed in the United States, and even clad the remains of his dead child when, penniless and disheartened, he first arrived in Adrian. It is not surprising that a garment with such associations had, though worn and faded, become precious to him, and his desire that his body should be enshrouded in it is easily understood.
Use of a cloak
John Welch, the old Scotch minister, used to put a plaid across his bed on cold nights, and some one asked him why he put that there. He said: “Oh, sometimes in the night I want to sing the praises of Jesus, and I get down and pray. Then I just take that plaid and wrap it around me to keep myself from the cold.”
Cloak, books, and parchments
Winter was coming on, and his somewhat emaciated frame was less able than formerly to withstand the cold. He remembers that when he was last at Troas, he left his heavy overcoat there, in charge of his friend Carpus, probably because he preferred to take a portion of his journey on foot. He will be sure to need it as the weather becomes more severe, so he requests Timothy, who is now at Ephesus, to bring it with him when he comes west to Italy.
I. Take care of your bodily health. Young men are often particularly neglectful on this matter. Many is the man whose constitution has been undermined for life by his own carelessness as a youth in respect of food, rest, and clothing.
II. Maintain the culture of your mind. Do not be so engrossed with business, that you rarely open an instructive book. Do not forget that your intellect wants to be stimulated and fed, as it cannot be if you think of nothing but bills, and accounts, and orders, and invoices, and what is vulgarly and expressively called “shop.” A sailor, who had circumnavigated the globe with Captain Cook, was pressed by his friends to give them some account of the wonders he had seen, and at last consented to do so on a certain evening. A large and eager company assembled, in expectation of a great intellectual treat; when the rough mariner thus began and ended his description of his travels: “I have been round the world with Captain Cook, and all that I saw was the sky above me and the water beneath me.” And, truth to tell, there are young men who show little more discernment than that blunt sailor. They have no intellectual ambition, no thirst for knowledge, no passionate desire for self-improvement. If business is going on well, and their salary is regularly paid, and they have enough to eat and drink, they are content. There is no systematic study; no training of the mind, no whetting or sharpening of the intellectual faculties. I warn you, young men, against so ignoble a use of what is, in some respects, the best part of life. Lord Bacon’s opinion upon books he thus expressed: “That histories make men wise, poets, witty; mathematics, subtle; natural science, deep; moral philosophy, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to debate.” As you would possess such qualities, then, your reading must be catholic and extensive.
III. Especially see to the welfare of the soul. However limited be your reading, see that the Bible has its rightful place. It is said that in the British Museum alone there are so many books that the mere mechanical reading of them would demand a thousand years. So you cannot read everything--you must make your selection; but oh! let this peerless volume reign supreme in your library. Let it be the monarch of your bookshelves. There is an old Latin proverb, which is good enough so long as the Bible is out of account, “Cave ab homine unius libri”--i.e., “Beware of a man of one book.” But when that one book is the Book of God, the counsel may be inverted; for there is no man more to be sought after than the man who daily feeds from this table, and drinks from this well. “Especially the parchments.” Let no general reading, however excellent and instructive, elbow this to one side. Be diligent students of God’s Word, “and,” as Dr. Doddridge said, “you shall be excellent scholars ten thousand years hence”; whereas, however proficient in secular knowledge, if the Bible be neglected, you shall be unfitted for the occupations of the redeemed in heaven. You have a richer Bible than ever Paul possessed. Those clumsy, greasy “parchments,” written by laborious scribes, would form a strange contrast to such triumphs of modern skill as are now sent out in millions from the great repository in Queen Victoria Street; and you can place in your waistcoat-pocket treasures of inspiration, which in the apostle’s time would have taxed the strength of a man to carry. The greater, then, your responsibility. Oh, make good use of your Bibles! Above all, accept without delay the Divine salvation revealed. (J. T. Davidson, D. D.)
The cloak and the parchments; or, man’s needs
We have here--
1. A striking illustration of the manner of Divine inspiration. The divinest communications of truth appear in connection with things of personal and secular concern.
2. A beautiful display of spiritual self-possession.
3. An affecting utterance of human needs. With all his present principles, past achievements, and future destiny, he has yet necessities as well as resources. Spirituality did not destroy his physical sensibilities; heroic courage and independence did not deaden his social affections; supernatural illumination did not make him depreciate the ordinary means of information and excitement.
I. physical. “The cloak.” Paul needed a garment, and wished for one. To slight the body is a mark of heretics; to destroy it is to be a murderer. What a world of need is caused by its possession! What urgent demands does it make on care and effort, skill and labour! But the thought here is, that the body is a source of trouble, inconvenience, dependence;--that small things may lead to its discomfort and injury. Let but the ordinary laws of nature be broken; let but the ordinary operations of life be suspended; let there be but a little accident, a slight mistake, a temporary forgetfulness; and how bitterly are we made to feel the pressure and responsibility of our material charge! We cannot afford to trifle with or ignore it. The most spiritual and independent must remember the mislaid or forgotten dress.
II. The social. “When thou comest.” “Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me.” Man is a social being--made to feel for and with his fellow-men. He is revealed, regaled, renewed by fellowship. It is a lamp, a feast, a buttress of his being. It is everything whereby he can be ministered unto, or help to minister. Fellowship in woe, in joy, in work, in thought, is a rich delight, and in most cases a great necessity.
III. The spiritual. “The books, especially the parchments.” We know not what these were, but are sure they were books tending to cultivation of mind and heart. What a field of thought is opened up by these words I See the ministry of minds; see their working and results preserved and propagated by the use of letters; see the labours and rewards of some made the inheritance of others; and all this beyond the sphere Of personal presence and immediate influence see it done for men and ages unborn. What a debt we owe to books! What information and stimulus! what means of growth! what instruments of knowledge, joy, and power! “Especially the parchments.” Some think these were a kind of commonplace book, in which the apostle put his own reflections and precious passages met with in his reading. If so, we have an important thought. That is most a man’s own which he has originated, or thoroughly appropriated by meditation. Books are nothing but as they are “read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested.” Lessons:
1. The subject teaches humility.
4. Self-interest. (A. J. Morris.)
The cloak at Troas
It appears to us that Paul’s request for his cloak left at Troas affords an undesigned proof of a striking feature in his character--viz., that sobriety of mind which, on the one hand, never separates the things of earth from the things of heaven; nor, on the other hand, ever esteems spiritual-mindedness, and the ardent contemplation of unseen things, to be inconsistent with attention to the ordinary ongoings, the common duties, and little details of every-day life. Paul was not further removed from the worldliness which never seeks to ascend in heart to heaven, than from the fanaticism and morbid pietism we sometimes witness, which only condescends to visit earth. The “light of life” which he enjoyed filled and blended into one common glory the things of earth and heaven, of time and of eternity! At one moment, for instance, we hear him exclaim (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Yet, when his course was being finished, his death near, his reward sure, and while he sees the glories of heaven opening before his enraptured eye, it is even then that he expresses his anxiety to obtain his cloak from Treas. What evidence does this coincidence afford of calmness, peace, and sobriety of mind! Such we have sometimes witnessed, too, in aged Christians of long experience, who, on their deathbeds, could gaze upon the unseen world of everlasting rest, on which they were entering with perfect peace and full assured hope, while, at the same time, they attended with cheerful spirit to those common household duties and family arrangements from which, in person, they were soon to be for ever severed. (Edinburgh Christian Magazine.)
2 Timothy 4:14
Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil.
Indignation an important quality in a true man
At a party at Dalkeith Palace, where Mr.
in his mawkish way was finding palliations for some villainous transaction, Adam Smith waited in patient silence until he was gone, then exclaimed, “Now I can breathe more freely. I cannot bear that man; he has no indignation in him.” (W. H. Baxendale.)
Of whom be thou ware
1. We must shun the society of incurable sinners. Whilst men are hopeful and curable we must try all means to win them.
2. Opposing of the truth is very grievous to a gracious soul. “For he hath greatly withstood our words.” God’s people are baptized with fire as well as with water, and must be hot and not lukewarm or indifferent in the things of God.
3. Wicked men do not so much oppose our persons as our preaching. They hate us not as men, but as ministers, because we publish the truth that condemns their wicked practices. (T. Hall, B. D.)
2 Timothy 4:16-18
All men forsook me.
Paul, a Christian’s example
I. Paul forsaken, and yet forgiving those who had withdrawn from him.
1. The apostle was forsaken by his friends when most he needed them.
2. Paul’s friends leaving him, made him the more helpless.
3. Paul’s friends leaving him, discovered their frailty.
4. The apostle’s forgiving spirit is particularly worthy of our notice.
II. Paul upheld, and therefore preaching.
1. Paul was upheld by Divine grace.
2. The Lord was present with His servant.
3. The Lord stood by the apostle that his kind of preaching might be fully known.
4. We who are Gentiles have heard the apostle’s kind of preaching.
III. Paul delivered, and so acknowledging.
1. This was a seasonable deliverance.
2. This was a great deliverance.
3. The Lord was the accomplisher of this deliverance.
4. Paul gratefully acknowledges his deliverance.
IV. Paul encouraged, and therefore glorifying.
1. The apostle was encouraged to look for a glorious destination--heavenly kingdom--the kingdom of glory.
2. The apostle was encouraged to look for Divine preservation--shall deliver still.
3. The apostle was encouraged in his expectations by former deliverances (2 Corinthians 11:24-27; 2 Corinthians 11:31-33).
4. In the whole, Paul glorified the Lord.
1. To those who question us with regard to our hope, we should be able to give an answer.
2. We should exercise a forgiving spirit towards our brethren.
3. When we feel our own weakness, this should lead us to look to the Lord for assistance.
4. We should glorify God for all our deliverances.
5. We should remember that the Lord alone can save and preserve us. What will those do who forget this? (John Miller.)
The adversity of the good
I. That great adversity frequently befalls the rest of men. This shows--
1. That neither adversity nor prosperity is any test of character.
2. That there must come a period of retribution.
II. That great adversity exposes the weakness of our rest friendships.
III. That great adversity developes the magnanimous in the heart of the good. “I pray God,” etc. Like Stephen under shower of stones, and Christ on cross.
IV. That great adversity demonstrates ever more the faithfulness of God. “Notwithstanding the Lordstood by me” (Job 5:19). (Homilist.)
Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity
1. All men forsook me, but the Lord stood by me. Hence, observe: that man’s extremity is God’s opportunity, or when man’s help faileth then God appeareth, He then cometh in as an Auxiliary. The Lord only is immutable, He never faileth His at their need. God’s people are never less alone than when they are most alone; never less forsaken than when they are forsaken of all.
2. Strengthening grace is the gift of God. “And strengthened me.” He doth not only give us renewing grace and then leave us to our own free-will, but He giveth us persevering grace also. As He is the Author of our grace by vocation, so He is the finisher of it by preservation.
3. Whilst God hath any work for His servants to do, He will assist and uphold them in spite of all oppositions. “That by me the preaching might be fully known.” Though Nero rage against Paul, and all men forsake him, yet God will assist him that He may preach the gospel to the world. Our comfort is, that our times are not in our enemies’ hands but in the hands of a gracious God.
4. God would have His truth revealed to the sons of men. “And that all the Gentiles might hear.” He would have the gospel known--fully known--to the Gentiles. Truth is good, and the more common it is the better. Where it getteth ground, Satan’s kingdom falleth like lightning from heaven suddenly and irresistibly (Luke 10:18). Let none then hide their talents, but as the sun freely communicateth its light and heat to us, so let us freely impart our gifts unto others.
5. The Church’s enemies ofttimes are lions. “And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” Lions for potency, lions for policy (Psalms 17:12), lions for cruelty, lions for terror. Be serpents for policy, and not for poison, lions for prowess, and not for rapine. Be not familiar with these lions, come not near their-dens lest they make a prey of you, have no fellowship with such unfruitful works of darkness but reprove them rather.
6. God many times suffers His dearest children to fall into the mouths of these lions, so that to a carnal eye they seem hopeless and helpless.
7. That God will deliver His from this great danger. He that brought thee into the mouth of the lion will bring thee out again (Daniel 6:22). ( T. Hall, B. D.)
God’s goodness in the greatest distresses
I. Paul’s experience of God’s loving care for him in his past deliverances.
1. The enemies of the truth are oft for power, always for malice--lions.
2. God suffers His dearest children to fall into the mouths of lions.
3. In their extremities God delivers them--
(1) By suspending the malice of their foes.
(2) By raising up one lion against another.
(3) By diverting them from their intended prey.
(4) By changing their nature to lambs.
(5) By showing Himself a lion.
(6) By making them lions to themselves.
(7) By making them friends, putting some conceit or fancy into their heart.
(8) By making His own people lions to their adversaries.
II. Paul’s assured hope, built upon his experience.
1. “The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work.” God preserves from evil works by planting the graces of faith and fear in us.
2. “And will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom.” By Himself, and by inferior agencies.
III. The issue of both his experience and his hopes. As they flow from God’s grace, so he ascribes to Him the glory. We honour ourselves when we honour God; our praising God causes others to do so. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)
Deliverance and salvation through death
“Deliver us from evil, for thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever. Amen.” So our Lord taught us to pray. Is there not an echo of the prayer in these words of the prisoner? Surely it is not accident that so many of the keywords of the closing petitions of the Lord’s Prayer recur here. And this burst of triumph is his very last word to his friend Timothy, with the exception of one or two closing personal salutations. That bird could sing in a darkened cage, and had the firmest and brightest hopes when all seemed darkest.
I. Consider then, first, the prisoner’s confidence. It is quite clear that he expected nothing but death. Only a few verses before he has said, “I am now in the very act of being offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” And yet, with death staring him in the face, and with nothing more clear to his anticipation than that his work was done, and that there only remained for him to wait for the crown, he breaks into this rapture of triumph, and says, “The Lord will deliver me from every evil world, and will preserve me,” or, to take the pregnant expression of the text, “save me into His heavenly kingdom.” May we not learn from this what the true meaning of deliverance from evil is; and what therefore is meant by the petition when it occurs in the pattern prayer? It is not exemption from trial, not escape from even the uttermost severity of it. Whosoever is able in the midst of all, to keep firm hold of his faith and, by his faith, of his Saviour, has received deliverance from the evil which pours all its vials of plagues upon his head. For the only thing that really does us harm is that which drags us away from God. “He shall deliver me from every evil work”; not because the sword will not fall upon my neck, but because, when it does, it will not part me from my Christ. “He shall deliver me from every evil work”; not because I shall not taste the full bitterness of the cup that is commended to my lips, but because in the very act of drinking the most nauseous potion I shall take it as a cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. That is deliverance. The same line of thought may be suggested in reference to the other clause of this expression of confidence, which teaches us to look at the last of the so-called evils. Paul expects to be “delivered from” and to be “saved into.” The former phrase contemplates removal from the sphere of evil, the latter, the bringing safely into another sphere where evil is unknown, even that kingdom in the heavens over which Christ serenely held sovereign sway, while Nero afflicted the earth with a delirium of blood and lust. And what was the prose fact which presented itself to Paul’s faith, thus radiantly clad in robes of triumph? Nothing else than that grim form of Death, feared and hated of men as the worst of all calamities, seems to him a deliverer and angel-messenger of salvation, who came “not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them,” not to drive them into the gloomy dominions of the grave, but to lead them safe into the heavenly kingdom of his Lord and theirs. For Christ’s servants Death is the lackey who opens the doors of the presence-chamber of the King. The apostle employs in my text a different preposition to describe this ultimate deliverance from that which he does when he says, “I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” In one case he represents the peril as though he was, as it were, dragged from between the teeth that threatened to devour him. In the other case the deliverance is more complete, and implies complete removal away from the sphere in which evil works. Taken together, the two prepositions in the two clauses, from and into, present the idea of change of place, or, as we may say, a migration from one realm and order of things to another. Thus the final saving is here regarded as a deliverance which lifts us out of the lower levels of the atmosphere, where evil, like some wild cyclone sweeps howling and destroying, and carries us into the quiet regions above, where loud winds never call, but “all the air a solemn stillness holds,” though stagnation is as far away as tumult.
II. A second consideration is suggested by these words--namely, the ground of the prisoner’s confidence. The “and” at the beginning of the text is very probably spurious, but none the less is the confidence expressed in the text based upon the experience narrated in the preceding sentence. There Paul thankfully tells Timothy, “I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” Therefore he is sure that the future will be like the past--“I was delivered”--“the Lord shall deliver.” That experience, then, is the first ground of his confidence. God’s “hitherto” has always wrapped up in it a “henceforth.” All that He has been He will be. There are no tenses in His verbs. The past and the future are smelted down into one eternal and unchangeable present. But there is another ground of confidence on which I may touch for a moment. If I am at all correct in tracing any kind of connection between the words of my text and the Lord’s Prayer, that very prayer is the basis of the confidence which is here expressed, and Paul is sure that God will deliver, and that he will come to Christ’s heavenly kingdom because Jesus Christ taught him to pray, “Deliver me from evil.” So he makes his prayer into a promise, and out of all these Christ-taught petitions he wins the assurance of Christ-given hopes. Happy they who so pray as that out of their prayers they can construct confidences!
III. Lastly, note the praise that springs from the confidence. “Unto Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Paul’s thankfulness arises from his anticipation, and not from the realisation, of deliverance. So completely did this man’s faith make real to him at the moment the future deliverance that irrepressibly there bursts from his lips this great thanksgiving and doxology. If the anticipation led to such sweet music of praise, what would the reality do? Ought we not to entertain our yet unreceived blessings with as full a welcome and credence, and with as lively a gratitude, as speaks here? Should we not draw them to ourselves before they come, in the exercise of a hope based upon God’s faithful promises which will open our lips to show forth His praise? We should note still further in this doxology the unconditional attribution of Divine honour to Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who is here called “the Lord,” and while the word does not necessarily imply Christ’s divinity, the ascriptions of praise here unhesitatingly laid at His feet can neither be explained nor justified, unless the speaker owned Him as Divine. Paul’s Christ was not a Christ who had once done sweet and great things, and could do such no more, but a Christ working to-day for His servant. Note, too, that the ascription to Jesus of glory that shall shine through ages of ages is here connected with Paul’s salvation. He did not think himself as of such exceptional importance that his salvation would bring more glory to Jesus Christ than that of others would do. Lowly self-oblivion and wondering gratitude, not arrogance, speak here. Precisely because he is so unworthy and weak does the apostle think that the power and love which would and could save him call for endless praise. The poorer the material the more the artist’s glory. For ever and ever the praise of the glory of God’s grace in Christ will ring through the universe. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
1. The experience of God’s former deliverances must make us rest upon Him for future? “From every evil work.” Though God doth not save His people from suffering, yet He will save them from sin; and though He leave in them infirmities, yet He will free them from enormities, and from total apostasy.
3. God is the preserver of His people. “And He will preserve me to His heavenly kingdom.” But especially He keeps their souls in an holy frame till He bring them to glory. It is not sufficient that we light a lamp, but there must be a continual supply of oil, else the light will go out. So it is not sufficient that we have preventing, preparing, renewing grace, but we must also have subsequent, conserving, perfecting, persevering grace daily given in to preserve us from apostasy. We have always need of a Divine maintenancy till we have finished our course (Psalms 73:23). And this He will do in despite of all our enemies; if anything destroy us it is sin, and for that we have God’s hand here that He will deliver us from every evil work that might any way ruin us, and so preserve us till He have brought us to heaven. He keeps heaven for the saints, and the saints for heaven.
4. God’s goodness to His people is wholly free. All His dispensations to His are free grace and pure mercy.
5. God is a good and bountiful Master to His people.
6. In our deepest distress we should have an eye to this heavenly kingdom. So doth Paul here. Whatever thy sorrows or sufferings be here, yet remember there is a heavenly kingdom will pay for all.
7. God will bring His people to a kingdom, to an heavenly kingdom. (T. Hall, B. D.)
Never a friend
Paul might have said, as Socrates did, My friends, I have never a friend. And as Plato, A friend is a very mutable creature. (J. Trapp.)
Why earthly props are removed
“See, father I” said a lad who was walking with his father, “they are knocking away the props from under the bridge; what are they doing that for? Won’t the bridge fall?” “They are knocking them away,” said the father, “that the timbers may rest more firmly upon the stone piers which are now finished.” God only takes away our earthly props that we may rest more firmly upon Him. (Elon Foster.)
Folly of persecution
In the Indian legend a mighty, wicked sorcerer seeks, with very poor success, to keep the sun, moon, and stars in three separate chests; and those who have sought to suppress God’s servants have succeeded no better. John was banished to Patmos, but, far from sinking out of view in the solitary sea, he stands before the world amid sublimest illuminations, like his own “angel standing in the sun.” They drove Luther into the Wartzburg; but there, in translating the Scriptures into German, he became the cynosure of all eyes. Bunyan’s enemies consigned him to Bedford Gaol, and so he became known to the race, one of the foremost of the immortals of Christendom. (W. L. Watkinson.)
Mr. J. G. Oncken was the Baptist pioneer in Germany, and in his younger days suffered for the truth’s sake, both fine and imprisonment. We remember his pointing out to us the spot upon the Alster where he baptized his converts at dead of night, and we shall never forget his story of the burgomaster of Hamburg, who held up his finger and said, “You see that finger! As long as that can move I will put you down.” “Sir,” said Oncken, “I see your finger, but I also see an arm, which you do not see, and so long as that is stretched out you cannot put me down.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Confidence in God
John Wesley once stood out very nobly in disregarding the eyes of men so long as he stood acquitted in the sight of God. Among his many persecutions are to be numbered the falling back of former friends, including his wife. These turned against him, and published many spiteful things, even defaming his character in a shocking manner. Brother Charles hastened off in alarm and indignation to inquire what defence Brother John would set up. There was no time to lose! The eyes of the world were upon him, and God’s enemies and his own would be glad to make capital out of so contemptible a business What was Charles’s surprise to find that John was resolved on doing simply nothing! The great preacher was calm and comfortable in mind, being entirely free from any concern for the future. Why should he be perplexed when he had entrusted God with his all--even with his reputation? None are so safe as those whose characters are in God’s keeping. Such often consider that they dishonour God by setting up puny defences of their own against the cavils of the wicked. They think more of that one eye of God which is ever looking on them than of the eyes of men. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The faithfulness of Jesus
It is recorded of a good man that his last day, with the exception of a few intervals, was passed in unconsciousness. Seeing a look of returning intelligence, one asked, “Are you thinking of Jesus to-day” His reply of loving trust was never to be forgotten: “When I am conscious I am thinking of Jesus; when I am unconscious Jesus is thinking of me.”
Looking up for help
One morning, not long after my arrival at Llandrindod, the artist was showing me a “printed proof” of a likeness of myself recently taken, when, in reply to a remark, he said, “You see, sir, you have such a habit of looking up.” The words came to me with a meaning he did not intend them to convey. I quite rejoiced to hear them. (J. T. Wrenford, M. A.)
Prayer and trust
This is the true inmost essence of prayer--not that we should prescribe to Him how to answer our desires, but that we should leave all that in His hands. The apostle Paul said, in his last letter, with triumphant confidence, that he knew that God would “deliver him and save him into His everlasting kingdom.” And he knew, at the same time, that his course was ended, and that there was nothing for him now but the crown. How was he “saved into the kingdom” and “delivered from the mouth of the lion”? The sword that struck off the wearied head that had thought so long for God’s Church was the instrument of the deliverance and the means of the salvation. For us it may be that a sharper sorrow may be the answer to the prayer, “Preserve Thy servant.” It may be that God’s “bowing down His ear” and answering us when we cry shall be to pass us through a mill that has finer rollers, to crush still more the bruised corn. But the end and the meaning of it all will be to “rejoice the soul of the servant” with a deeper joy at last. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
2 Timothy 4:19
The household of Onesipherus.
An extensive blessing
As the dew that falleth on the mountains runs down to the valleys, and the precious ointment that was poured upon the head of Aaron ran down to the skirts of his clothing (Psalms 133:1-3.), so the blessing which God pours on governors extendeth itself to such as are under them. (T. Hall, B. D.)
2 Timothy 4:20
How many broken-down servants of God are there to-day, Christian men and women, who have proved their sincerity, who do prove their sincerity, but whose thin hand can do little or nothing in raising the stones of the shrine they so passionately desire to build? As in the busiest thoroughfares of great cities we behold wistful faces looking down from hospital windows, longing to share in the strong life of the streets; so are there frail, broken-down watchers of the work of God who long to share the toil and sacrifice of God’s workmen. (W. L. Watkinson.)
Use of sickness
Hannah More made the following entry in her journal (Jan. 21, 1798): “Many temptations this week to vanity. My picture asked for two publications. Dedications--flattery without end. God be praised, I was not flattered, but tired--twenty-four hours’ headache makes me see the vanity of all this.” (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)
2 Timothy 4:21
Come before winter.
I. The voyage to the eternal city.
1. The departure.
2. The voyage.
3. The guidance of the helmsman.
4. The propulsion of all progress must come from the winds of heaven.
5. Industry on board the ship.
6. The shipping of the anchor.
7. The end of the journey.
II. The avoidance of winter risks. Put not off to old age, etc.
III. The adventure of diligence. Make haste. There is no time to lose. (S. H. Tyng, Jr. , D. D.)
Of such friendships biography happily furnishes us with many examples:--Gray, the poet, and Mason; Cowper and Mrs. Unwin; Tennyson and Arthur Henry Hallam; Keats and Severn; Elizabeth Carter and Bishop Seeker; Mrs. Taft and Miss Marsh. This collocation of names reminds us of the old fallacy that true friendship can subsist only between individuals of similar character and disposition. Never was there a greater delusion! A man’s friend is never his counterpart, but his complement; supplies that which is wanting in himself. And this is the use and value of friendship, it is like an offensive and defensive alliance between two equal powers, in which the one undertakes to furnish a military and the other a naval force, it provides for each party to the bond that which he or she most needs. (The Fireside.)
Eubulus and Pudens, and Ltuus, and Claudia. Eubulus is mentioned here only. It has been thought possible that Pudens may be the friend of the poet Martial, whose marriage with Claudia, a foreign lady, he celebrates in Epigram 8. lib. 4., supposing that other epigrams which are not favourable to the moral character of Pudens were written before his conversion. An inscription found at Colchester mentions a site given by one Pudens for a temple, built under the sanction of a British king, Claudius Cogidubrius; and it has been conjectured that this was the same Pudens who was a centurion in the army, and who may have married the daughter of Cogidubrius, whose name would consequently have been Claudia. The Claudia Rufina of Martial was a Briton, and may have received the name of Rufina from Pomponia, the wife of Aulus Ptantius, commander in Britain, who was connected with the Ruff family, and was accused of holding foreign superstitions. All this, however, is very uncertain. Linus is probably the same Roman Christian who became the first bishop of the Church there, according to Ignatius and Eusebius. (Bp. Jackson.)
2 Timothy 4:22
The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit.
The highest wish of true friendship
I. Man has a spiritual nature. Spirit is something that is unlike matter--indivisible, self-active, self-conscious, religious. That man has a spirit is--
1. A fact most demonstrable.
2. A fact most practically ignored.
3. A fact the most distinguishing--marking us off from all mundane existences.
II. Man’s spiritual nature needs the companionship of Christ.
1. Christ alone can centralise its affections.
2. Christ alone can enlist unbounded reliance.
III. Companionship with Christ is an attainable blessing. (Homilist.)
Christ with us
I. Let us inquire in what sense the Lord Jesus Christ is with His people. We cannot hope to enjoy His bodily presence. It was expedient that He should go away; and still it is expedient that He should remain away. Yet in His spiritual presence He can be with us.
II. He is with us when, as the universal ruler, He governs all things for our good. But the prayer of Paul for Timothy is, “The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit.” What we need is a consciousness of Christ’s presence--the enjoyment of fellowship with Him. As the eagle soars towards the sun, so he soars towards God. The spirit of man needs God; especially God manifest in the flesh. It is only as He is with us--filling us with all the fulness of God, that our spirits find rest. Then we are assured of reconciliation, forgiveness, and eternal blessedness.
III. The requirements of our earthly state cause us to need the presence of Christ. We are exposed to temptation; how shall we resist it unless He help us?
IV. Have you ever thought of the great and manifold blessings which the presence of Christ brings to us? No visitor brings such gifts.
1. How largely He increases our store of knowledge! What glorious revelations He makes of His own beauty and worth, shining before us, like the sun, in the brightness of His own light!
2. Then, among the blessed results of Christ’s presence, and not the least, is assimilation to His image. (W. Walters.)
The presence of Christ with His people desirable
All who desire the ministry, which Christ has established amongst them, to be useful, and wise, and successful, ought frequently to pray, “The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit.” Nor is it less important in respect to their own individual piety, their growth in grace, and their preparation to go into eternity, that the Lord Jesus Christ be with their own spirits. This will appear:
I. From a consideration of the inquiry. In no other way, except by the presence of Jesus, can we arrive at a purifying and sanctifying knowledge of the Word of God.
II. The importance of praying, the Lord Jesus be with our spirits, will be manifest from the necessity of His presence in our devotions. This alone can cause our prayers to go up before God as a sweet savour.
III. The importance of praying for the presence of Christ is manifest from its influence on our intercourse with the impenitent. Do we desire to set an example such as Christ set, and to have such an influence as He shed around Him, and to cause the mite of our moral power to fall into the current of that which our God, and the Lamb, and all the saints, have poured forth on an ungodly world? And shall we not desire that the Lord Jesus Christ would be with our spirits?
IV. What can we do in our intercourse with the Church without the presence of Christ?
V. What can we do in sickness without the presence of Christ? Conclusion:
1. From the subject we learn the reason why so many are fluctuating in their religious characters. It is because the Lord Jesus Christ is not with their spirits.
2. The subject shows why there is so little effort for the salvation of the impenitent amongst us. It is because the Lord Jesus Christ is not enough with our spirits.
3. The subject explains some facts, which we have long witnessed but have not understood.
(1) It explains why so many, who have named the name of Christ, do not appear to be Christians.
(2) It explains why so many, who occasionally appear to be Christians, are generally without any evidence of piety--The Lord Jesus Christ is not with their spirit.
(3) It explains why so many are changing their religious views and feelings, while they do not appear to wish to abandon religion itself--The Lord Jesus Christ is not with them.
(4) It shows why the impenitent have so little respect for the Christian character amongst us--The Lord Jesus is not with us, as a Church.
(5) It shows why, when so many persons in the Church and around it profess to be full of faith and love, there are few or none converted.
(6) It shows what is necessary to a genuine revival of religion--That the Lord Jesus be with us.
(7) It shows that all who are not labouring for one, seeking for one, and praying for one, are without Christ--He is not with them. (J. Foot, D. D.)
Grace be with you.
The acts of breathing which I performed yesterday will not keep me alive to-day; I must continue to breathe afresh every moment, or animal life ceases. In like manner yesterday’s grace and spiritual strength must be renewed, and the Holy Spirit must continue to breathe on my soul, from moment to moment, in order to my enjoying the consolations, and to my working the works of God. (Toplady.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Timothy 4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30