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Put them in mind to be subject
Obedience to civil magistrates
Who are to be understood by civil rulers. All those who are in the peaceable possession of civil power.
II. It is the duty of subjects to obey their civil rulers.
1. The Scripture expressly enjoins this duty upon subjects.
2. The duty of submission naturally results from the relation which subjects bear to their rulers. There would be no propriety in calling the body of the people subjects, unless they were under obligation to obey those in the administration of government.
3. All subjects ought to obey their rulers for the sake of the public good.
III. Ministers ought to inculcate such submission to civil magistrates.
1. Preachers are expressly required to press this plain and important duty upon the people of their charge.
2. It becomes the preachers of the gospel, in this case, to fellow the example of the inspired teachers--John the Baptist, Christ, etc.
3. It no less belongs to the office of gospel ministers to teach men their duty towards civil rulers than to teach them any other moral or religious duty.
4. There are some peculiar reasons why the duty of submission to civil authority should be more especially inculcated upon the minds of subjects.
(1) Men are extremely apt to forget that they are under any moral obligation to obey the rulers of the land.
(2) There is scarcely any duty more disagreeable to the human heart than submission to civil government.
(3) The safety and happiness of the whole body politic more essentially depend upon each member’s performing this, than any other duty. Where there is no subordination, there can be no government; and where there is no government, there can be no public peace nor safety.
1. There is no ground to complain of the ministers of the gospel for inculcating political duties.
2. There appears to be no more difficulty in determining the measure of submission to civil government than the measure of submission to any other human authority.
3. It is extremely criminal to disobey civil rulers, and oppose the regular administration of government.
4. It is criminal not only to disobey and resist civil authority, but also to countenance, cherish, and inflame a spirit of disobedience and rebellion.
5. Those in executive authority are under indispensable obligation to give rebels and traitors a just recompense of reward. They are God’s ministers to execute wrath upon them that do evil; and they ought not to hold the sword of justice in vain. (N. Emmons, D. D.)
The Christian’s loyalty to secular government
I. Its nature.
1. Subjection to the general government.
2. Obedience to the local authorities.
3. Readiness to help the government in times of emergency.
4. Carefulness in respect to the reputation of their fellow citizens.
5. Peaceful and order-loving.
II. Its reasons.
1. The spiritual change wrought upon believers.
2. Some blessed features of the source of this change.
(1) Its graciousness.
(2) Its method.
(3) Its abundance.
(4) Its justifying power.
(5) Its benefits and tendency.
1. The superiority of Christianity.
(1) The best thing for the State.
(2) The best thing for individuals.
(3) The best thing for the family.
2. The unmistakable evidences of the Divine origin of Christianity.
(1) In its love of man.
(2) In its legitimate effects on man and on society. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
The subject’s duty
I. The manner of propounding the counsel. Titus is here enjoined two things:
1. To call back into their minds an old doctrine--not what they had newly learned since their becoming Christians, but what nature and reason had taught them long before.
2. To inculcate, or beat often upon this point.
(1) Because men generally are ambitious of liberty, unwilling, if lust or pride of heart be listened to, to be subject to any yoke, whether of God or man; ever ready to think one man as good as another, and with Korah to suggest that every Moses and Aaron takes too much upon him.
(2) Because the dispersed Jews (of whom there was no small number at that time in Crete) stood very much upon temporal privileges; as upon Abraham, the temple, the law, etc. And ever loath they were to stoop to the authority of the Gentiles.
(3) Because the Christians at that time, both of Jews and Gentiles, stood as much upon spiritual privileges, not thinking it sufficient to be set free from the thraldom of Satan, and bondage of sin, and so to be made spiritual kings unto God and the Lamb; unless by a boundless (Christian) liberty, as they supposed, they might be at their own hands to do as they listed.
II. The substance of the precept itself.
1. The duties required.
(1) By subjection is meant honour, reverence, and respect to the persons whom God has set in authority over us.
(2) By obedience is meant a free voluntary readiness of mind to yield to, and to execute whatsoever lawful command of a superior. Where there is conscience of subjection, there will be cheerfulness in obedience.
2. The second considerable in the substance of the precept is
(1) The persons to whom these duties belong, namely, to all magistrates, which are here distributed into two ranks, principalities, powers. By the former we understand such who have primary and plenary power under God, and by this their proper power and authority have an absolute command within their several dominions; such are Caesars, kings, and chief governors in free states. The latter signifieth such as exercise delegated authority, that is, hold from those higher powers; and such are all inferior officers, whether in Church or State, who have no authority to act in any public business, but what they receive from the supreme magistrate.
2. The persons from whom these dues are to be paid. This is soon decided. The persons solvent, are all Christians in general, without any exception, but of the supreme magistrate himself, clergy as well as laity--all who are under authority. The apostle includes all in the word αὐτους, put them in mind, that is, all inferiors. Every soul must be subject to the higher powers. Having thus far explained the subject matter of the apostle’s command,
I proceed to the observations arising out of it.
1. Christian religion destroys not government or civil authority but ratifieth and confirmeth it.
2. The kingdom of Christ is not of this world, His authority divideth not civil inheritances, His sceptre swalloweth not up (as did Aaron’s rod the others) the sceptre of worldly monarchs. His weapons are not carnal; the keys of His kingdom are no temporal jurisdiction.
3. One ordinance of God doth not abolish another. The laws of Christ in His Church bring not in lawlessness into the Commonwealth; nor is God the God of order in the first, and the Author of confusion in the latter. For one ordinance of God to destroy another would argue want of wisdom in God, the Ordainer. The very thought thereof is blasphemous. Nay, on the contrary, for the Church’s sake (which He loveth) He keepeth order, and maintains government in commonwealths, that His Church, whilst it is agathering in the world, might find safe harbour therein; that this dove of Christ might have a place where to set without danger the sole of her foot. (John Cleaver, M. A.)
1. The scope of the ministry is to put men in mind, and keep in them the remembrance of every Christian duty. Thus, ministers may be called the Lord’s remembrancers, not only for putting the Lord in mind of His covenant towards His people, and of the people’s wants, but also that they must not be silent, but restless in whetting the doctrine of God, legal and evangelical upon the people, and so be ever putting them in mind of their covenant and duty unto God. Paul acknowledged himself such a remembrancer (Romans 15:15).
2. None is so far instructed, but is wanting much in knowledge, and much more in the cheerful practice of that which he knoweth; and therefore every one hath need of quickening and stirring up.
3. None are so strong but they stand in need of this confirmation, as well as the former quickening, neither can any caution or any admonition be too much in things of such moment.
4. No man’s memory is so sound, but as out of a leaking vessel good things are ever running out; and when such things are slipt away, they had need be renewed and recalled again.
(1) Ministers must not desist from teaching and exhorting, as many that think a little enough; nor discouraged when people forget their wholesome doctrine; but encourage themselves in their duty, which is to keep in men’s memories the mindfulness of their duties.
(2) When they come to teach, they may not seek out vain and strange speculations, which were never heard of before, but teach plain things, yea, and deep mysteries in plain manner, as such who respect the weakness both of the apprehension and memory of their hearers.
(3) An wholesome thing it is to teach the same things often, whereby things delivered are recalled into the memory. Curious men cannot abide repetitions, nor hear common things, notwithstanding these be excellent helps of memory, which is the cause of such gross and everywhere palpable ignorance in the most familiar principles of religion. But the wisdom of godly teachers will be not too much to yield unto the niceness of their hearers; nor to fear to do that which is the safest for them, as Paul speaketh; which if it be, let it be to us what it will or can, it will be our part that by our practice they may find the profit. We learn hence, also, what it is that should profess and take up the memories of Christians, namely, those lessons of Christianity which they hear in the ministry.
1. The commandment must be bound up upon our hearts, and we ought to make our memories the statute book of our souls, and by diligent meditation, chain this book unto ourselves (Proverbs 4:21).
2. Herein standeth the sanctity of the memory, partly by retaining the rules of life, and partly in presenting and offering them unto the mind upon occasion of practice, both to direct and urge the conscience to obedience. Thus David hid the Word in his heart, the blessed fruit of which was that he did not sin against God; and indeed holy memory preserveth the holiness of the whole man.
3. Forgetfulness of the Word is everywhere in the Scriptures taxed as a grievous and hateful sin: “Be not forgetful hearers, deceiving your own selves,” saith James; “Have you forgotten how I fed so many thousand,” etc., saith Christ to the disciples; and the author to the Hebrews, “Have ye forgotten the exhortation?” (T. Taylor, D. D.)
Subjection to civil rulers
I. Public authority presupposed.
II. Subjection and obedience enjoined. Put them in mind to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work--intimating to us that we must show our obedience by our ready compliance in good works; for if the magistrate command what is evil, there is no obligation to perform it, because nothing can oblige us to do evil. But what if the thing commanded be neither good nor evil, but of an indifferent nature; what must we do in that case? Why then we must undoubtedly obey it; for otherwise there will be nothing left wherein the magistrate may use his power. What is good or evil in itself must be done or avoided for God’s sake. What is not so in itself, but only in regard of the end for which it is enacted, being judged so by the magistrate for the good of the community, this must be observed, both for God’s sake and his too, because God requires our obedience to Him in these things, But what then becomes of our liberty, if another must judge for us? It is where it was before; we must obey, and yet we are as free as Christ hath made us; nay, I doubt not to add, we are most Christ’s freemen when we duly obey our governors’ just laws; for seeing Christ hath commanded us to be subject not only for wrath, but for conscience sake, that so we may avoid the guilt of sin, that obedience which keeps us from sin (which is the only vassalage of a Christian) can by no means infringe, but does rather advance our Christian liberty.
III. The duty of pastors and teachers inculcated. Put them in mind, admonish them often of it, and bring it to their remembrance, as St. Peter does twice together in another case (2 Peter 1:12-61.1.13).
1. Let us consider that obedience to magistrates is a prime duty of piety and religion, wherein the honour and authority of God are particularly concerned; not only because He requires it by manifold precepts, but because magistrates are His officers and ministers, by whom He governs the world and administers His providence towards men, and to whom He has given part of His own power for that purpose.
2. The exigence of our civil affairs, and the preservation of the public does exact this duty from us. For the execution of justice between man and man, the safe and quiet enjoyment of God’s blessings, and the welfare and peace of the whole community, are extremely concerned and advanced by it.
3. Obedience to our governors is founded on the highest equity and reason; for day by day we receive invaluable benefits by the influence of their government and conduct; protection of our lives and estates, of our privileges, properties, and religion; secure possession of the gifts of God, and liberty to increase our substance by trade and traffic, and to eat the fruit of our labour, etc.
4. Obedience to our governors is a duty incumbent on us in point of ingenuity and gratitude. For in preserving the peace and prosperity of the nation, they do not only preserve ours, but for our advantage also they undergo many cares and troubles, great toil and labour, attending continually for this very thing (Romans 13:6).
5. No man can disobey his governors without breaking the most sacred laws of justice and honesty; without downright perjury towards God, and perfidiousness towards man. (Henry Dove, D. D.)
I. In relation to civil government.
1. Man’s social tendencies indicate it.
2. Man’s social exigencies indicate it.
II. In relation to general society.
III. In relation to our moral self. It is a duty which every man owes to himself, to remember all the wrong of his past life
1. That he may be charitable towards others.
2. That he may be stimulated to efforts of self-improvement.
3. That he may adore the forbearance of God in His past dealings.
4. That he may devoutly appreciate the morally redemptive agency of Christ.
5. That he may realise the necessity of seeking the moral restoration of others.
1. The possibility of the moral improvement of souls.
2. The obligation to the moral improvement of souls. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The authority of law
I. Law is of God. Therefore godly men are obedient to human laws, when not inconsistent with the dictates of conscience, as being ordinances of God.
II. Authority is derived from God. Therefore righteous lawgivers and just judges are to be esteemed as God’s gifts to a nation.
III. Obedience to law an essential preparation for good works. No amount of religious profession, and no degree of activity in the performance of Christian duties, can compensate for the neglect of social duties or disregard of the claims of citizenship. (F. Wagstaff.)
The Christian citizen
1. Individual excellence is what makes national strength. St. Paul tells Titus that he must preach personal purity, obedience, and peace to all the citizens around him.
2. Charity to others is best promoted by an honest consideration of what we are ourselves. No man, who is conscientious, can fail to remember many a mean act he has during his life committed.
3. The apostle tells Titus that he will make the better citizen the oftener he recalls to mind how much he owes, and must forever owe, to sovereign grace, as a child of God and an heir of heaven. People nowadays are excessively diffident in attributing their successes or their virtues to their piety. Yet now and then the world will find it out for itself. “Havelock’s men” in campaigns wrote their record by their prayers as well as by their prowess.
4. The apostle adds a lesson for Titus about his preaching, which every Christian, trying to instruct others, might lay well to heart; namely, that the best of all teaching in truth is the teaching of a true life. He tries to lead him away from mere formulas, and force him to deal with real things in a real way for greatest good. “After the first phase of Christian life,” remarks Merle d’Aubigne, “in which a man thinks only of Christ, there usually ensues a second, when the Christian will not voluntarily worship with assemblies opposed to his personal convictions.” That is a gentle way of saying that, after a new convert cools a little in piety, he takes a time of becoming denominational and belligerent. Perhaps the Apostle Paul imagined Titus was going to do that, and so told him he had better not. If there be any truth in the line, “The child is father of the man,” it is manifest most plainly in religious life. The young believer perpetuates himself in the old. Maurice, son of William the Silent, at the age of seventeen, took for his device a fallen oak, with a young sapling springing from its root; to this he gave the motto, Tandem fit surculus arbor, “The sapling will by and by become a tree.” It seems very trite to write all that out soberly; but really it is a thing most unfortunately forgotten. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
The rule of Rome, which then lay upon all those lands in which the gospel was being preached, was a rule which rested on the sword. Everywhere ancient nations had been subjugated, venerable thrones had been overturned, the freedom of commonwealths, jealous of their independence, had been ruthlessly suppressed; and, although it was the policy of Rome to leave the old forms of administration untouched wherever possible, it was of course as impossible to conceal from the conquered peoples the degrading tokens of their subjection, as it is for us to do so in our Indian Empire. Roman troops sentinelled the palaces where Roman proconsuls sat in the seats of dethroned kings; Roman judges administered the law; writs ran in the Roman tongue; oaths were sworn to the Roman Caesar; taxes were paid in Roman coin. The military power which imposed such subjection upon haughty and once mighty nations was at the best a heavy yoke. The imperial laws were on the whole just, but they were stern and could be mercilessly enforced. Nor were the imperial courts above the imputation of corruption. The imposts were very heavy. Provincial governors were usually rapacious. The provincial revenues were drained off to feed the monstrous dissipation of the capital. For the most part, therefore, the provinces groaned beneath a burden which the strongest of them was unable to shake off, but which was enough to goad the most passive into turbulence. It was into a society thus honeycombed with political disaffection, and ready at every point to burst into revolt, that Christianity entered with its new conceptions of human dignity and spiritual freedom. Its entrance could not fail to add to the ferment. It quickened in men’s minds that sense of injustice which oppression breeds. It deepened their irritation at the insolence and wrong doing of the dominant race. It produced a longing for the happier era when the kingdom of God, which they had received into their hearts, should be also a kingdom of social equity and brotherhood. Hence it became an urgent duty with the leaders of the young society to warn their converts against political restlessness. Do as they might, the Christians could hardly hope, under a government like Nero’s, to escape suspicion. They were pretty certain to be reckoned among the dangerous forces in a community which heaved with discontent. But to do anything to encourage such suspicion, or afford the authorities a pretext for repression, would have been foolish as well as wrong; for it would have compromised the gospel at its outset by mixing it up in matters with which the gospel has nothing directly to do. Indirectly, no doubt, the new faith was sure to affect in the long run political affairs, as it affects every province of human life. No community of brave men who are animated by the lessons of Christianity will always sit still, contented in a condition of vassalage. The gospel has proved herself the mother of freedom. The most resolute and successful resistance that has ever been offered to arbitrary power has been offered by men whom the truth had made free, and who carried their Bible beneath the same belt to which they buckled their sword. But personal and political liberty is a secondary effect of the gospel, after it has penetrated the structure of society and has had time to reform nations on its own lines. For the individual convert in the age of Paul to revolt against the emperor or to run away from his master, would have been to misrepresent his faith to his contemporaries. The question at what time or in what way a Christian state is justified in deposing its tyrant, in order to organise itself as a free commonwealth, is a question which, as it concerns the Christian community and not the individual merely, so it can only arise under a different condition of things altogether. What the gospel enjoins upon private citizens, so long as governments stand and a successful resistance by the people at large is out of the question, is--submission. They are to discern underlying all authority, so long as it is legitimate, a Divine ordinance, and to render such obedience as is due to the magistrate within his proper sphere, not merely through dread of consequences, but still more for the sake of a good conscience towards God. (J. O. Dykes, D. D.)
Christians should be taught good citizenship
the schools should teach the children that their first duty and highest privilege is to become good citizens; and a good citizen, be he cobbler or manufacturer, tailor or senator, upholsterer or cabinet officer, will never condescend to become an incompetent or unworthy member of the community. Were all the boys and girls to leave school fully imbued with this knowledge, the country would be safe; the political firmament would be sustained upon shoulders firmer than those of Atlas, and its stars would shine with ever-increasing number and brilliancy. The third and highest form of spiritual power is moral and religious. Give me leave simply to state my belief that the only solid basis for an enduring nation is the Rock of Ages. Any other foundation is unstable and insecure as the sands of the seashore. Let the tower be built in obedience to God’s laws, and it will reach unto heaven, the children of men will reunite in permanent harmony, science and religion will coincide, and the one universal speech will be of God’s Word written on the sun, moon, and stars, on the solid earth itself, and in the gospel. (Professor B. Pierce.)
It was held in the olden time, but is not now, that authority came from God to the king, and then descended, in the form of law, from the king to the people. We have turned that theory bottom side up, although there are texts of Scripture which run that way. Now we find no difficulty in this land, since we are republicans, in jumping those texts. “Honour the king,” meant honour the king; but we say, “Yes, honour authority; and the king represents authority.” So we bridge the difficulties without much trouble. When the people have committed their interests to the hands of individuals, they are justly jealous, because they have seen that human nature is fragile timber, like the slender supports of a bridge over which too much must not go, or it will break down under the pressure; properly, there is a wise watchfulness of those who are empowered to execute the law, and to represent, in the various spheres of magistracy, from the lowest to the highest, the will and interests of a great people; but the untaught and unbalanced way in which men exercise this proper watchfulness leads--somewhat in connection with the other things of which I have spoken--to what amounts to almost a universal suspicion. If there is one corrupt judge on the bench, ten judges suffer. If there is one bad senator, the whole senate suffers. If there are a score of purchaseable legislators, then the whole legislature suffers. There is no discrimination made in that matter. Our people have come to look upon those who are entrusted with power as being suspicious persons. The way men get that power rather tempts to this injustice. The rude and mischievous ways of partisans tend to inimical feeling in this same sphere. Men and brethren, do you ever reflect that he that hauls down a magistrate, except where there is absolute and assignable evidence of corruption; that he that deteriorates the authority of a judge; that he that takes from the responsibility and respectability of the representatives of the people, or of the members of the general government, or of governors; that he that makes an assault upon them which shall lower the respect and confidence of the community for them, is striking at the whole system of law and government? Worse than that, it is a blow aimed at the faith of whole classes of men in virtue, in patriotism, and in integrity. A class of men has grown up--and is growing up continually, with the spectacle before them, on every side, of rude and unjust criticisms and depreciations--who say that everybody is selfish, and that nobody but illusionists suppose that there is any such thing as a disinterested service of one’s country. I am ashamed to see so many young men growing up with the feeling that heroism of patriotism is unknown except as a poetic adornment, or a mere spangle on the dress of pretentious patriots. (H. W. Beecher.)
The Christian citizen
The civic virtues planted and fostered by Christianity are a theme interesting and profitable for study. One of the credentials of its Divine origin is its usefulness for this world. Finding mankind individually and socially disordered, and full of painful suffering in consequence, it is an antiseptic, arresting deadly processes, a balm, full of gentle healing, and a tonic which strengthens every manly purpose, and enters integrally into all true life of the state. It first purifies and exalts, then it directs, though using only moral forces.
I. Christians must be loyal subjects to government, ready for every good work. They must be often reminded of the obedience due to principalities, powers, and magistrates. The essential excellence and authority of human law can best be understood and appreciated by those who know the worth and heed the claims of the Divine. They know that the fabric of society is in some true sense a Divine institution. But, you say, government is corrupt, and God cannot be the author of political corruption. Very true, but the whole idea and framework of government is not corrupt. There is a sum of truth underlying the simple fact of government which is entitled to respect. Abuses should be keenly recognised, but remedies should be sought for them not by angry assault or disgusted contempt or sullen neglect. In healing the body politic, the laws of life must be respected, and employed as patiently and intelligently as when the physical body is to be healed. The practical side of Christianity in such teaching is specially timely and important today. Monetary values, domestic peace and security, time-honoured institutions, received ideas and principles, are assailed by influences and methods before which the wise, the good, and the strong well may stand somewhat in dread, if not in awe. What shall save the fairest portions of earth from such refluent waves of barbarism? The gospel is the only complete remedy. Bayonets and grapeshot may quell a temporary demonstration; but the only effectual cure is in that respect for government which Paul learned of Jesus Christ, and which Christian experience alone can fully understand. Then faithful reconstruction is possible by methods constructive, not destructive, in a spirit reverent to the essential dignity and claims of government. The Christian is not unmindful of the ills of the world, nor is he careless about their remedy. He is a man of affairs. He neither ignores nor scorns nor idly dreams about the ravages of sin wherever manifest. He deliberately and boldly grapples with them, but he uses methods which respect the laws of life and healing, laws written in the nature of things and the will of God. He knows meekness is compatible with manliness. The meek man thrusts no one aside, frowns not upon the humblest, but lives in abiding consciousness of the wants, powers, and claims of others. When this is the spirit of the world, there will be no more riots, forcible levies, assassinations; and it is only by cultivating this and kindred virtue, in the spirit of the gospel, that the world’s peace will be secured.
II. What are the motives and considerations upon which the apostle rests these urgent instructions? Not, as we might have expected, because such walk and conversation were useful and becoming, but he points (Titus 3:3-56.3.7) to the sad degradation of their own past lives, full of the opposites of all Christian virtues--foolishness, disobedience, lustful pleasures, malice, envy, and hatreds. From these they have just escaped; they must pity the moral ruin which stains and disables those yet blinded. He adduces a yet stronger consideration--their difference is all a pure gift, through “the kindness and love of God our Saviour.” Out of such experience, all the more because it is exalted and refined, Paul admonishes to the most practical and assiduous performance of Christian duty under the general name of “good works.” In these instructions to Titus, Paul was in full sympathy with the gospel in our Lord’s time, in all time. Let us note the practical workings of Christianity for the individual and the state.
1. Christianity is the only source and safeguard of lasting patriotism. Patriotism is more than aroused sensibility, or quickened emotions, however worthy. There must be loyalty to principles, and those principles take root in the teachings of Him who valued humanity not by its degradation, but by its possibilities, who revealed the law of self-sacrifice, and who enforced all his precepts by a corresponding life of voluntary humiliation and unfailing service.
2. Organised and efficient philanthropy is unknown apart from Christianity. Man is not by nature wholly regardless of the sufferings and wants of his fellow men; but sinful practices soon blunt and disable humane promptings.
3. Christianity promotes harmony, and the best conditions of growth in society and the state. Intelligence is also an incident to the prevalence of the gospel; and before it, the dark vagaries of demagogues and fanatics appear in their repulsive deformity. Patience and forbearance with those who oppose themselves are essential conditions of prosperous life in all circles from the neighbourhood to the republic. These virtues are permanently active only when inspired by Christian benevolence. “Charity suffereth long and is kind.” In short, Christian doctrines and institutions are the foundation of all public utilities and perpetuity. (Monday Club Sermons.)
Ready to every good work
I. Every Christian must make account with himself that every Christian duty belongs to Him.
1. This doctrine first teacheth us to learn the rule of every good work, legal or evangelical. Content not thyself that thou canst say the commandments, nor if thou canst say that thou hast kept the whole letter of the law from thy youth; but study the whole Scripture, which is an exposition and large commentary of those ten words; hear it, read it diligently, meditate upon it, apply it to thy heart and life, else knowest thou not how to begin any good work.
2. If every good work belong to every Christian then may not men post over the matter to the minister. The common conceit is, that the clergy should be holy, hospitable, and so qualified as we have heard in the first chapter; but for common men and unlearned it will be acceptable enough if they be almost Christians, that is, as good as never a whir; whereas the Lord bindeth upon every Christian, of what condition soever, the practice of every good work which is offered him within the compass of his calling.
3. If a Christian must employ himself in every good work, then must men so cast and contrive their courses, and neither duties of piety hinder the duties of their calling, nor these stand in the way of the other. And he that hath the heart of the wise to know time and judgment, forecasteth both wisely, and knoweth one of these to be subordinate, but not opposite unto the other. Hence must Christians forecast, and remember the Sabbath beforehand, and so order and husband their times and seasons, that there may be place and time and opportunity for every good work in the weekday, and especially for the best works, whether public exercises of religion or private prayers and exercises in the family.
II. That every Christian ought to keep in himself a fitness and readiness to every good work is plain in the Scriptures. For
1. In duties of piety, we are enjoined not only to come to the house of God, but to take heed to our feet, and to wash our hands in innocency before we compass the altar, and first to sanctify ourselves before God and reconcile ourselves to men, and then bring our gift. If we preach, we must do it readily, and of a ready mind, and then we have reward. If you hear, you must be wise to hear, and ready to hear, rather than to offer a sacrifice of fools.
2. In performance of duties of love and mercy unto men, we are called to readiness in distributing (1 Timothy 6:18), and mindfulness to distribute (Hebrews 13:16).
3. In private duties, when God giveth us peace and opportunity, we must serve Him with cheerfulness and good hearts (Deuteronomy 28:47).
4. In private injuries, we must be ready to receive, yea, to offer reconciliation, and to forgive, which is another good work, and so in the rest. Reasons
1. We herein become like unto God, whose nature is to accommodate Himself to our good; whose readiness to give bountifully and forgive freely is hereby shadowed.
2. Hereby we also beautify, and as it were gild our duties, when they come off without delays, without grudging, murmuring, or heaviness, but am from men inured to well-doing.
3. Hereby we may lay hold of Christian consolation, in that this ready and willing mind is accepted, where often power of doing good is wanting, and indeed the regenerate often want power and ability unto good, but to want will and desire is dangerous.
III. Some rules of practice for the better setting us forward in this duty.
1. Get into thy soul the conscience of this commandment, accounting it worthy of all thine obedience, being so often urged in the Scriptures, and made in the end of the former chapter, the end of Christ’s purchasing of us. This reason drawn from the fear of God prevailed so far with Job, that thence he was moved to use mercifulness to all sorts of men; for God’s “punishment was fearful unto me, and I could not escape His highness.”
2. Take every opportunity of well-doing while it is offered, for else the opportunity may be cut off from thee, or thou from it. This is the apostle’s rule, “While we have time do good unto all” (Galatians 6:10), that is, take the present occasion of doing all the good thou canst.
(1) In regard of thyself, perform the principal and main duty, know the day of thy visitation; slack not this thy term time, but get the oil of faith, knowledge of God, and obedience to His Word, that thy lamp may ever be shining to the glorifying of the Father which is in heaven; in one word, forget not while thou hast time to give all diligence to make thine election sure.
(2) In regard of others, if now thou canst do them good in soul or body, delay it not. “Say not unto thy neighbour, go, and come again tomorrow, and I will give thee, if now thou hast it” (Proverbs 3:28); and what knoweth any man, whether this may be the last day wherein he can do good to himself or others?
3. Go yet one step further, to seek and watch occasions of doing good, and be glad when thou hast obtained them, that so thou mayest ever be furthering thy reckoning. We read of the patriarchs, Abraham and Lot, how they sat at their doors watching to entertain strangers, that they espied them afar off, ran out to meet them, and most earnestly entreated them to abide and refresh themselves; show thyself herein the son of Abraham. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
I. The course specified. “Every good work.” Every department of religion may be so denominated, repentance, faith, restitution, obedience, prayer, praise.
1. There is the work of mercy to the bodies of our fellow men. Our fires will burn brighter, our clothes be warmer, our food sweeter, our slumbers more refreshing, if we tread in the steps of the blessed Jesus, who went about doing good.
2. There is the good work of compassion to the souls of our fellow men. How many are ignorant and out of the way. What can we do to win souls to Christ?
3. There is the good work of affection and kindness to the household of faith.
II. The direction given.
1. The qualification, “Be ready.”
(1) That we have the disposition. Naturally, we have not the disposition. But the grace of God always imparts it. If the heart be good, then we shall have dispositions of goodness.
(2) That we do good cheerfully. That it is not our burden. Not a sacrifice. Not a painful, but easy yoke.
(3) It is to do good promptly. “To be ready.” To be at the call. Everything nearly depends upon being in season.
(4) Includes perseverance. Never to wish to cease, till the Saviour says it is enough.
2. The extent of the direction. “Be ready to every good work.” As you have ability and opportunity.
3. The motives which should influence us.
(1) Our religion is emphatically one of goodness. It allows of nothing malignant, or malevolent, even to enemies.
(2) Our spiritual improvement is connected with it. It is by acting that we are conformed to Christ.
(3) Our happiness is inseparably connected with it. It is heaven on earth. The joy of angels, felt and realised by man.
(4) Our future amount of glory is connected with it. We are to be judged by our work, not by our faith, gifts, etc.
1. Urge on the unregenerate the work of repentance.
2. Urge believers to be ready, etc. (J. Burns, D. D.)
To the active Christian
I. The course of action enjoined.
1. Good works to the bodies of others.
2. Good works to the souls of others.
3. Good works to the Christian Church.
II. The qualifications supposed.
III. The motives.
1. The genius of our religion.
2. The example of Christ.
3. Personal improvement.
4. Future reward of grace. (G. Brooks.)
Readiness to good works explained and recommended
I. What this advice implies. To “be ready” is to be prepared, by laying a proper foundation in ourselves for doing good works. And this must be by the attainment of Divine knowledge and grace.
1. Knowledge is first necessary. Ignorance unfits and hinders many from doing good works. They know not the nature of good works, their necessity, that without them “faith is dead,” their utility, amiable character, the will of God on this subject, nor how they may perform their duty in this respect.
2. By the attainment of grace (2 Corinthians 9:8), pardoning grace; a consciousness of guilt burdening and discouraging the mind, and hindering good works; renewing grace; only a good tree bringeth forth good fruit; strengthening grace; enabling us to break, or shake off, the fetters of sin, which incapacitate us to do the will of God.
II. The importance of being thus ready. The glory of God is herein greatly concerned (Matthew 5:16; John 15:8; Philippians 1:11). God is glorified by our holy tempers and heavenly affections, but especially by our substantial, good, and useful works. Great credit and honour is thus brought to the gospel. “These things are profitable to men,” by lessening their miseries, or preventing or enabling them to obtain happiness. Our own good is involved herein. It is an evidence of our sincerity, and of the genuineness of our religion, to ourselves and others; an evidence of our repentance, faith, hope, love, our justification, regeneration, and growth in grace. Our own peace of mind, as well as our religious character, is involved in this point. It is the means of exercising our grace and gifts, and thereby retaining them (Matthew 13:12; John 15:2).
III. The means to be used in order that this advice may be complied with. The Word of God is the chief means of knowledge and of grace, whereby we may have the preparation, inclination, and ability mentioned above for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15-55.3.17). This must be heard, read, searched, and diligently studied. It must also be received in faith and love, be obeyed in an humble and submissive spirit, through the influence and succour of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 9:8). This Spirit must be sought in sincere, fervent, and importunate prayer, without which we shall not possess either the right disposition, or sufficient ability to do good works. Christian fellowship is a further means. We must “exhort one another” daily (Hebrews 10:25), and take example from such as appear, or have appeared, eminent in usefulness. (J. Benson.)
To speak evil of no man
On evil speaking
I. There are several, reasons for which Christians ought to be exhorted to refrain from evil speaking.
1. It is not only a mean and shameful, but a pernicious fault; it produces much harm in society, and is a cause why many live hateful and hating one another, and die in the same unfriendly disposition.
2. It is a common and widespread fault, and few, very few, are entirely free from it. It is not confined to wicked and profane persons; it is to be found in some measure even in those who have their virtues, their good and useful, and amiable qualities and accomplishments, who live soberly and honestly, who love their friends and are active to serve and oblige them, who are not uncharitable to the poor, who have a sense of religion, and worship God both in public and in private.
3. They who are addicted to it, either seldom reflect upon its odious nature, or are not sensible when and how often they thus offend, or have several plausible though vain excuses to justify themselves.
II. Evil speaking consists in spreading reports to the disadvantage of our neighbour; and of this fault there are three distinct kinds or degrees.
1. The worst kind of it is to spread lies of our own invention concerning others.
2. The next is to report things to their disadvantage, of the truth of which we are not sufficiently assured.
3. The lowest degree is to say of them that evil which we know to be true.
III. There is no occasion to prove and expose the folly and dishonesty of the two former kinds. It would be losing time and words. I shall, therefore, chiefly discourse of the latter, and show how blamable even this is for the most part.
1. We should not be too forward to publish the faults of others, because it is no sufficient excuse for us, that what we say is true, and that they against whom we speak deserve such usage.
2. Another argument against censoriousness is contained in this plain precept of the gospel--“Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye so unto them.”
3. We should not accustom ourselves to discourse about the faults of our neighbour, because it may betray us by degrees into a worse kind of evil speaking.
4. We should not be forward to expose the faults of others, because by so doing we may bring upon them a punishment too heavy for the offence.
5. We should be cautious how we censure others, because we may misrepresent them, and yet say nothing of them that is not true.
6. To disclose the faults and indiscretions of others is often very pernicious to society, raises infinite variances amongst men, and tends to destroy the slender remains of love and charity which subsist in the Christian world.
7. Since for the most part we cannot discern the exact nature and degree of other men’s faults, we may easily think too hardly and judge too severely of them. Their faults, when we know not the circumstances attending them, are like objects seen by us at a great distance, or at twilight: we see them neither in shape, nor in size or colour, such as they really are.
8. That we may restrain ourselves from talking of the faults of others, we should also consider that such discourse is produced by bad causes, and proceeds from a corrupted heart; and that all good and wise persons who hear us will judge of us accordingly. Speech is the child of thought; and a child it is which greatly resembles its parent. When the discourse is censorious and malicious, the mind which conceives it is no better.
9. Besides, this is an offence which seldom escapes correction. If human laws cannot chastise it, except in some few cases, the persons who are ridiculed or censured will fully supply that defect. 10. Lastly, we should be cautious not to give way to this inclination, because if we be once accustomed to it there is no probability that we shall ever leave it off. Of all bad habits, those of the tongue are, perhaps, the hardest to be cured. The reason is this: We deceive ourselves in thinking that words can do little or no hurt, and that the guilt of them is inconsiderably small, and consequently we speak at random what comes uppermost. (J. Jortin, D. D.)
I. The nature of this vice. It consists in saying things of others which tend to their disparagement and reproach, to the taking away or lessening of their reputation and good name; and this whether the things said be true or not. If they be false, and we know it, then it is downright calumny; and if we do not know it, but take it upon the report of others, it is, however, a slander; and so much the more injurious because really ground less and undeserved. If the thing be true, and we know it to be so, yet it is a defamation, and tends to the prejudice of our neighbour’s reputation; and it is a fault to say the evil of others which is true, unless there be some good reason for it; besides, it is contrary to that charity and goodness which Christianity requires, to divulge the faults of others, though they be really guilty of them, without necessity or some other very good reason for it. Again, it is evil speaking, and the vice condemned in the text, whether we be the first authors of an ill-report or relate it from others; because the man that is evil spoken of is equally defamed either way. Again, whether we speak evil of a man to his face, or behind his back: the former way indeed seems to be the more generous, but yet is a great fault, and that which we call reviling: the latter is more mean and base, and that which we properly call slander, or backbiting. And lastly, whether it be done directly and in express terms, or more obscurely and by way of oblique insinuation; whether by way of downright reproach, or with some crafty preface of condemnation; for so it have the effect to defame, the manner of address does not much alter the case: the one may be more dexterous, but is not one jot less faulty.
II. The extent of this prohibition. In what cases, by the general rules of Scripture and right reason, are we warranted to say the evil of others that is true?
1. It is not only lawful, but very commendable, and often our duty, to do this in order to the probable amendment of the person of whom evil is spoken. But then we must take care that this be done out of kindness, and that nothing of our own passion be mingled with it; and that under pretence of reproving and reforming men we do not reproach and revile them, and tell them of their faults in such a manner as if we did it to show our authority rather than our charity.
2. This likewise is not only lawful, but our duty, when we are legally called to bear witness concerning the fault and crime of another.
3. It is lawful to publish the faults of others in our own necessary defence and vindication.
4. This also is lawful for caution and warning to a third person that is in danger to be infected by the company, or ill example of another; or may be greatly prejudiced by reposing too much confidence in him, having no knowledge or suspicion of his bad qualities: but even in this case we ought to take great care that the in character we give of any man be spread no farther than is necessary to the good end we designed in it.
III. The evil of this practice, both in the causes and the consequences of it.
1. We will consider the causes of it. And it commonly springs from one or more of these evil roots.
(1) One of the deepest and most common causes of evil speaking is ill nature and cruelty of disposition: and by a general mistake ill nature passeth for wit, as cunning doth for wisdom; though in truth they are nothing akin to one another, but as far distant as vice and virtue. And there is no greater evidence of the bad temper of mankind than the general proneness of men to this vice.
(2) Another cause of the commonness of this vice is, that many are so bad themselves in one kind or other. For to think and speak ill of others is not only a bad thing, but a sign of a bad man.
(3) Another source of this vice is malice and revenge. When men are in heat and passion they do not consider what is true, but what is spiteful and mischievous, and speak evil of others in revenge of some injury which they have received from them; and when they are blinded by their passions, they lay about them madly and at a venture, not much caring whether the evil they speak be true or not.
(4) Another cause of evil speaking is envy. Men look with an evil eye upon the good that is in others, and think that their reputation obscures them, and that their commendable qualities do stand in their light; and therefore they do what they can to cast a cloud over them, that the bright shining of their virtues may not scorch them.
(5) Another cause of evil speaking is impertinence and curiosity; an itch of talking and meddling in the affairs of other men, or any bad thing that is talked of in good company.
(6) Men often do this out of wantonness and for diversion. But what can be more barbarous, next to sporting with a man’s life, than to play with his honour and reputation?
2. The ordinary, but very pernicious consequences and effects of it, both to others and to ourselves.
(1) To others; the parties I mean that are slandered. To them it is certainly a great injury, and commonly a high provocation, but always matter of no small grief and trouble to them.
(2) The consequences of this vice are as bad or worse to ourselves. Whoever is wont to speak evil of others gives a bad character of himself, even to those whom he desires to please, who, if they be wise enough, will conclude that he speaks of them to others, as he does of others to them. But there is an infinitely greater danger hanging over us from God. If we allow ourselves in this evil practice, all our religion is good for nothing.
IV. Some further arguments and considerations to take men off from this vice.
1. That the use of speech is a peculiar prerogative of man above other creatures, and bestowed upon him for some excellent end and purpose; that by this faculty we might communicate our thoughts more easily to one another, and consult together for our mutual comfort and benefit, not to enable us to be hurtful and injurious, but helpful and beneficial to one another.
2. Consider how cheap a kindness it is to speak well, at least not to speak ill of anybody. A good word is an easy obligation, but not to speak ill requites only our silence, which costs us nothing.
3. Consider that no quality doth ordinarily recommend one more to the favour and goodwill of men, than to be free from this vice.
4. Let every man lay his hand upon his heart, and consider how himself is apt to be affected with this usage.
5. When you are going to speak reproachfully of others, consider whether you do not lie open to just reproach in the same, or some other kind. Therefore give no occasion, no example of this barbarous usage of one another.
6. Consider that it is in many cases as great a charity to conceal the evil you hear and know of others, as if you relieved them in a great necessity. And we think him a hard-hearted man that will not bestow a small alms upon one in great want.
V. Some rules and directions for the prevention and cure of this great evil.
1. Never say any evil of any man, but what you certainly know.
2. Before you speak evil of any man consider whether he hath not obliged you by some real kindness, and then it is a bad return to speak ill of him who hath done us good.
3. Let us accustom ourselves to pity the faults of men, and to be truly sorry for them, and then we shall take no pleasure in publishing them.
4. Whenever we hear any man evil spoken of, if we know any good of him let us say that.
5. That you may speak evil of any, do not delight to hear ill of them.
6. Let every man mind himself, and his own duty and concernment. Do but endeavour in good earnest to mend thyself, and it will be work enough for one man, and leave thee but little time to talk of others.
7. Lastly, let us set a watch before the door of our lips, and not speak but upon consideration; I do not mean to speak finely, but fitly. Especially when thou speakest of others, consider of whom and what thou art going to speak: use great caution and circumspection in this matter: look well about thee; on every side of the thing, and on every person in the company, before thy words slip from thee, which when they are once out of thy lips are forever out of thy power. (Archbishop Tillotson.)
I. Consider that rash and inconsiderate censures are inconsistent with the justice which you owe to your brethren. The Author of our nature hath wisely ordained that approbation should follow virtue as its natural reward. This the virtuous are allowed to propose to themselves as an inferior motive of conduct; and this they expect as what belongs to them of right. The esteem which a man hath merited by his integrity and usefulness may be considered as a property of which he cannot innocently be deprived; and the extent of the injury done by detraction, is proportioned to the value of the possession which it invades. Now, what interest is dearer to the ingenuous than the preservation of their good name? You detest the villain who robs the industrious of their well-earned store; you abhor the oppressor who plunders the innocent and the deserving of the means of their support; yet how light and trivial are such injuries as these in comparison of the rum of their virtuous name, which, even in the midst of poverty, would ensure them respect. Would men weigh duly the mischiefs which detraction occasions, that pernicious humour would be less frequently indulged; for it is not always from malice and cruelty of nature that detraction proceeds: it arises, often, from an inconsiderate gaiety of mind, and means not to ruin the character which it delights to expose. The effects of such conduct are not, perhaps, obvious, because they are not immediate; but they are not, on this account, the less certain, or the less direful. With a man’s reputation his usefulness and success are closely connected; and one unguarded expression may involve a deserving family in want and wretchedness. The only compensation which you can possibly make is to vindicate the violated character at the expense of your own; and this is an atonement most humiliating to yourselves, yet to the unhappy sufferer often of little avail; for many listen with avidity to the tale of slander, who will lend to your exculpation an indifferent ear; nor will your influence be sufficient to repair the reputation which your levity or your baseness hath ruined.
II. That a censorious turn of mind is destructive also of your own felicity. The man who is addicted to this odious vice, acquires, by degrees, an unhappy acuteness in marking the imperfections of his brethren. To him, therefore, the society of men can have no charms; for he beholds in every human being an object of dislike. Is not that man’s mind ill-formed for happiness, who, amidst the various appearances which nature exhibits, dwells always on such as are dismal and destructive; who observes only the inhospitable desert, the blasting lightning, and the wintry storm; but marks not the beauties which adorn the spring, the riches which descend in the shower, or the stores with which autumn gladdens the earth? Nor does his happiness suffer merely from the effect of detraction on his own disposition. His conduct renders him an object of general aversion. Even his gay companions, whom his destructive pleasantry may entertain for a season, despise and dread the promoter of their mirth. They know that the edge of his satire will soon be turned against themselves; and that their own characters are destined to bleed by the very same weapons by which others have been assailed. Those who have suffered by his calumny, are entitled to vindicate, at his expense, their injured reputation; and every friend of innocence will aid them in the attempt. Merely to refute his slander, implies a reproach to which no prudent man would choose to expose himself. But how rarely doth human resentment confine itself within such moderate bounds. The rage of the injured will probably prompt them to retaliate. The security of others will seemed to be concerned in the cause. It will not appear sufficient that the aspersion be removed. The character of the detractor is devoted to ruin. In the snare which he hath laid for others, his own feet are entangled, and he falls by the sword which he hath whetted against his brethren. (W. Moodie, D. D.)
I. All evil speaking my be referred to two heads, for it is
(1) either the uttering of false and evil things, or
(2) of true things falsely and evilly.
1. The former.
(1) When men speak upon no ground, as when men, present or absent, are accused of the evils which they never did (2 Samuel 16:3).
(2) When men speak some evil of others upon weak and insufficient grounds, as when any either publicly or privately chargeth some other man before his face or behind his back with evil upon suspicions (2 Samuel 10:3).
(3) When men cast railing, cursing, or reviling speeches upon another, present or absent, openly or secretly, and covertly by insinuation (2 Samuel 15:3)
2. The latter kind of evil speaking is in true things, as
(1) When a man speaketh of something done or spoken, but destroyeth the sense (Matthew 26:61; John 2:19).
(2) In uttering nothing but truth, but with wicked insinuations and collections of evil (1 Samuel 22:9-9.22.10).
(3) In speaking of good things, but either lessening them or depraving them, as Gone of bad intent for bad ends in hypocrisy.
(4) In speaking of things evil and not so well done.
(a) By uncovering infirmities, which is the guise of cursed Chains, who are ever revealing to their brethren other men’s nakedness, which an ingenious disposition, yea, humanity itself (if there were no religion), would cover and hide (Proverbs 11:13).
(b) Whereas we can excuse our own faults twenty ways, by amplifying the faults and offences of others, be they never so apparent, we become evil speakers in a high degree, as sycophants who make the scapes of men far greater than they are, affirming often that to be done of deliberation which was done rashly and in hot blood, or presumptuously when it was perhaps done but weakly, and imputing that to want of conscience which perhaps was want Of heedfulness and foresight; and thus the sin is heightened when men so wickedly speak of that which they ought altogether to be silent in and not to speak at all.
II. Now, because of all sins, there is not a more manifest and general mischief in all the life of man, wherein even Christians themselves are not exempted, who carry a very world of wickedness about with them, and yet wipe their mouths as though all were well with them; therefore will it not be amiss to take a little pains with this sin, scarce so accounted of, and to show
1. How unseemly it is for a Christian.
2. How dangerous in itself.
3. The means to repress and avoid it.
1. For the first
(1) To utter slander, saith Solomon, is a note of a fool; and the slander itself is a fool’s bolt, which is soon shot. And the apostle in so many places affirming it to be the practice of the old man, which must be cast off, maketh it hence an unbeseeming thing for Christians that profess new life to walk in such heathenish courses.
(2) This cursed speaking, whereby our brethren are hurt in their names, is the devil’s language, who thence hath his name, and argueth a venomous and hateful disposition not becoming the children of God:
(3) True religion will not stand with such a tattling course as many Christians take up, who, like the Athenians, delight in nothing more than hearing and telling news; and once getting a tale by the end, they are in travail till they have delivered it to others, and with these all opportunity of good and edifiable speech perisheth.
(4) Were it not most disgraceful for a Christian to be counted a thief, or a continual robber in the highway, or a continual breaker of the peace? and yet this sin is a greater breach of love than theft or spoiling of the goods, for a good name is more precious then gold, more sweet than the sweetest ointment.
2. The second point is the danger of this sin, which cannot but attend it, unless we conceive no danger in breaking such express commandments as we have (Leviticus 19:16; James 4:11). The defence of many a man is, I speak nothing but the truth, and so long I may speak it. But if that thou speakest be a tale true or false (as it is if without a calling thou playest the pedlar, and settest to sale the name of thy brother), these commandments cast and condemn thee. Others think it is a fault indeed, but not so great a fault to speak the thing we know by another; but look upon it, not as it may seem in thine eye, but in the penalty the Scripture hath set upon it; (Psalms 15:3) it hindereth the entrance into the holy mountain of God, and (1 Corinthians 6:10) railers and revilers shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven; and therefore it is no such small matter as many take it for. Others reply, What are words but wind? and God is not so straitlaced; if a man should go to hell for every word, who shall come to heaven? This, indeed, is an ancient natural conceit that outward profession and ceremony will carry a man to heaven, although in the particulars of the life the power of godliness be never expressed. But mark how the Lord answereth such vain conceits (Psalms 50:19-19.50.20). God hath His time then to call upon old reckonings, and then thou shalt not think words wind, but know to thy cost that life and death was in the power of thy tongue. Others yet see no such danger, or, if any be, it is far off. But this sin, beside the just hire of it hereafter, carrieth a secret plague with it for the present, for look, as thou dealest with another man’s name, so shall thine be dealt with, and with what measure thou metest to others shall men measure to thee again.
3. The third thing to be considered is the means to avoid this sin of evil speaking, which may be reduced to five rules.
(1) Look to thine heart, for if it, being the fountain, be corrupted, the issues and streams cannot but be bitter; and if thou giveth thyself leave to think evil of any man, as accounting the thought free, thou canst not but one time or other utter it. Purge well thine heart, therefore
(a) Of pride, which maketh a man speak disdainfully of those who want the things which themselves seem to have, and liberally take up any language if he can make the detraction of another a ladder for himself to climb upon.
(b) Of envy, which, grieving at the graces and good things in another, seeketh to darken them, as Satan, envying Job’s prosperity, said, “He serveth not God for nought.”
(c) Of flattery, which for favour or reward will tune the tongue to any ear.
(2) Be careful to contain thyself within thine own calling; follow thine own plough; beware of the sin of busybodies, who love to play the bishops in other men’s dioceses, who, if they had not with the witch in the fable, put off their own eyes at home, they might find foul corners enough well worthy of reformation in themselves; but therefore load they others, because they spare themselves; they throw no stones at their own faults first, and therefore they are at good leisure to pry into other men’s, and so become the devil’s gunpowder for want of better employment.
(3) Beware in all thy speeches with men of strife of words, for from hence evil speeches arise, and many words want not iniquity.
(4) In all companies pray to the Lord to set a watch before thy mouth, and to keep the door of thy lips, for the tongue can no man of himself tame, being such an unruly evil.
(5) Beware of consenting to this sin in another, for as thou art bound not to relate, so not to receive, any evil speeches of thy brother. Solomon counselleth not to meddle with the slanderer and flatterer; wise chapmen must beware of such base pedlars. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
I. The precept.
1. We should never in severe terms inveigh against any man without reasonable warrant, or presuming on a good call and commission for the purpose.
2. We should never speak so of any man without apparent just cause: we must not reproach men for things innocent or indifferent, for not complying with our humour or interests.
3. We should not cast reproach on any man without some necessary reason: in that charity which covereth a multitude of sins, we are bound to extenuate and excuse the faults of our brethren, so far as truth and equity permit.
4. We should never speak ill of our neighbour beyond measure, be the cause never so just, the occasion never so necessary.
5. We should never speak ill of any man out of bad principles or for bad ends; from no sudden anger, inveterate hatred, revengeful disposition, contempt, or envy; to compass any design of our own, to cherish any malignity or ill-humour; neither out of wantonness nor out of negligence and inadvertency; in fine from no other principle but that of charity, and to no other intent but what is charitable.
II. Inducements to its observance.
1. Let us consider that nothing more than railing and reviling is opposite to the nature, and inconsistent with the tenor of our religion.
2. It is therefore often expressly condemned and prohibited as evil.
3. Against no practice are severer punishments denounced. St. Paul adjudges the railer to be banished from good society (1 Corinthians 5:11), and from heaven (1 Corinthians 6:10).
4. Such language is in its nature the symptom of a weak and distempered mind: a stream that cannot issue from a sweet spring.
5. This practice plainly signifies low spirit, ill-breeding, and bad manners, and is thence unbecoming to any wise, honest, or honourable person: all such have an aversion to it, and cannot entertain it with complacency.
6. He that uses this kind of speech, as he harms and troubles others, so does he create thereby great inconveniences and mischiefs to himself.
7. Hence with evidently good reason is he that uses such language called a fool; and he that abstaineth from it is commended as wise (Proverbs 18:6-20.18.7).
8. Lastly, we may consider that it is a grievous perversion of the design of speech, which so much distinguishes us above other creatures, to use it in defaming and disquieting our neighbour: far better were it that we could say nothing than that we should speak ill. (Isaac Barrow, D. D.)
Avoiding evil speaking
Philip Henry used to remind those who spoke evil of people behind their backs of that law, “Thou shalt not curse the deaf.” Those that are absent are deaf; they cannot right themselves; therefore say no ill of them. A friend of his, inquiring of him concerning a matter which tended to reflect upon some people, he began to give him an account of the story, but immediately broke off, and checked himself with these words, “But our rule is to speak evil of no man,” and would proceed no further in the story. The week before he died a person requested the loan of a particular book from him. “Truly,” said he, “I would lend it to you, but that it takes in the faults of some which should rather be covered with a mantle of love.” (W. Baxendale.)
Sin of evil speaking
Remember, this contradicts your nature and your destiny; to speak ill of others makes you a monster in God’s world. Get the habit of slander, and then there is not a stream which bubbles fresh from the heart of nature--there is not a tree that silently brings forth its genial fruit in its appointed seasons, which does not rebuke and proclaim you a monstrous anomaly in God’s world. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Cure for evil speaking
When will talkers refrain from evil speaking? When listeners refrain from evil hearing? At present there are many so credulous of evil, they will receive suspicions and impressions against persons whom they don’t know, from a person whom they do know--an authority to be good for nothing. (A. W. Hare, M. A.)
Contention to be avoided
I. Not that every striking and fighting is hereby forbidden. For
1. Every man is bound to contend in his place for the truth--for religion, truth, and sound doctrine against falsehood, error, heresy, and superstition.
2. The ruler and people may by lawful war repel openly either idolatry or injury from Church or commonwealth, for if it had been altogether unlawful, John Baptist would have advised the soldiers rather to have given over their calling and taken no wages at all than to have been content with their wages.
3. Private men may seek the face of the ruler to prevent or redress an injury, and thus contend in judgment, which is no sin unless it be for trifles or of revenge: so Paul appealed to Caesar, and helped himself by the benefit of law.
4. It is lawful for every Christian, in defect of the magistrates’ aid, in the lawful defence of themselves, lives, and goods, to become magistrates unto themselves, in which case they may without sin both strike and slay, so as desire of revenge and intent of bloodshedding be absent.
5. Neither is domestical discipline excluded by this precept, whereby fathers and masters may, if the fault require, put on severity in their just corrections of their servants and children.
II. But the sin here condemned is when men suffer their lusts so far to sway, as they not only follow the things which make to Christian peace, but are enemies unto concord and brotherly love--men of such violent affections as are ready, not only to return injury with injury, but with seventy-fold revenge; right Lamechs and rough Ismaels, whose hand is against every man; men of a word and a blow, fitter for the camp than the congregation of Christian men. Now, what an hateful thing is it that a Christian should be indited at the Lord’s bar for a common barrator and quarreller? How unlike should he be to God, who is a God of peace, and loveth peace and the sons of peace? How far from having any part in the merit of Christ, who hath dearly by His precious blood bought the reconcilement of all things? How unanswerable were it unto this profession of Christianity, which cannot become a kingdom divided against itself? How prejudicial to Christian duties, both interrupting prayers and withstanding the acceptation of them, when the gift is brought without a reconcilable mind? How doth this course in Cain’s way violate all bonds both of nature and grace? signing a man to be out of the commission, out of the natural fraternity in the first Adam, and much more out of the spiritual in the second, yea, arguing such fierce men to be rather of the serpents’ and crocodiles’ seed, between which and man God hath put an enmity, than of men, seeing they have put off all respect of creation, of adoption, of flesh, and of faith.
III. If any ask, But by what means shall I avoid this sin of contention and quarrelling?
1. Bridle the tongue, for this is an immediate follower of evil speaking, and it runneth from the tongue into the hand.
2. Let the consideration of our common brotherhood be a means to cut off contention (Genesis 13:8).
3. Consider what a scandal it is to profane scorners of religion that such as profess themselves scholars of Christ should live together like dogs and cats (as we say), and by ungodly quarrels and heartburns be still building up the works of the devil which Christ hath destroyed; why should such a thing be heard in Gath and Askelon? why should Priamus and his son laugh us to scorn?
4. Get a low conceit of thyself and be small in thine own eyes, for whence riseth contention and strife but from the lust in the members, namely, the inordinate bearing of a man’s self above that which is meet? Only by pride (saith Solomon) man maketh contention, and, indeed, experience showeth that the most suits at this day are not so much for right and equity as for victory.
5. Because some in their own temper are of more mild and quiet spirits, and rather lie open to this sin by others’ instigation than their own propensity and disposition. That rule of Solomon is worth noting, to take heed of parttaking, of meddling, and mingling oneself in other men’s strifes and contentions, for this were to take a dog by the ears or a bear by the tooth. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
We are called to the practice of that property of wisdom which is from above, which is peaceable and gentle, and to buckle unto us, as the elect of God, tender mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another. The benefit will be exceeding great. For
1. This wisdom teacheth us to be soft in our speeches, as they that know how a soft answer breaketh wrath, a rare example whereof we have in Judges 8:2.
2. It teacheth us softness in our whole conversation and exercise of our personal and general callings. It suffereth not the magistrate to be so stern that an inferior should come to him as a man that were to bring a bottle to an elephant, which he is afraid of, which timidity Augustus reproved in a petitioner. It suffereth not the minister to be lordly in his doctrine or discipline, but compassionate and tender in both. It suffereth not the father or master to be a lion in his house, but causeth them to govern sweetly and to dispense severity, and weigh out correction as physic to the children and servants.
3. It teacheth even the superior to yield some part of his right to his inferior, as Abraham to Lot, “If thou take the right hand, I will turn to the left,” nay, as Christ Himself being God and Lord of all, yet for peace’ sake, and to avoid offence, did pay tribute unto Caesar.
4. Further, how necessary a virtue this is cannot but appear to him that considereth how frail our flesh and blood is, how full of infirmities, how lying open to offences, how needful of much forgiveness at God’s hand and man’s; and yet no forgiveness at God’s hand, but on condition of our forgiveness of men, for so is the petition in the Lord’s Prayer; nor at man’s, for what measure ye mete out to men shall men measure to you again.
5. How sweet a grace it is appeareth also in that it preserveth the outward peace of a man, and especially the peace of a good conscience. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
A Christian is God Almighty’s gentleman. The real gentleman should be gentle in everything; at least in everything that depends on himself--in carriage, temper, constructions, aims, desires. He ought, therefore, to be mild, calm, quiet, even, temperate: not hasty in judgment, not exorbitant in ambition, not overbearing, not proud, not rapacious, not oppressive: for these things are contrary to gentleness. (J.C. Hare.)
Showing all meekness unto all men
I. The nature of this grace will appear in the description of it. Meekness is a grace of God, whereby the heart and affections are inclined unto a mild and loving, a kind and courteous carriage towards our neighbour, even then when they might be provoked to anger. Where three things are laid down to be further opened to the better knowledge of this virtue
1. That it is a grace of God, for the next verse will teach us that we are born as rough as Esau in our corrupted nature; and therefore this strippeth and goeth beyond the best nature, being a fruit of the Spirit, and is called the spirit of meekness, because it is such a peculiar work of the Spirit, and proceedeth not of the flesh.
2. The work of it is properly to preserve Christian affection, in moderating all revengeful passions, not suffering the heart to be easily overcome with bitterness, but is as a wall or fence of the soul, receiving all the shot of injurious and hostile actions and speeches, and yet keeping all safe within, not permitting the possessor hastily or violently either to offer to another or remove from himself such injuries. The mother of it is humility, the daughter is long-suffering, and therefore we read it set between these two in diverse places. It preserveth peace within when it is provoked to war, to anger, and return of wrongs, for then is the chief use of this grace, which is therefore added, because many men seem to have attained this virtue, when it is never a whir so. Let them alone, offend them not, you shall have them gentle, courteous, affable, and tractable enough; but cross them a little, and stir their blood, oh, now you must pardon them; they have their affections, and you shall know they can be passionate and angry as well as others; here shall you see the best nature betraying her meekness. But Christian meekness must step in to overcome evil with good when it is provoked to return evil, or else what great thing doest thou? It is no hard thing for the very Infidel and Turk to be kind to the kind, nay, the wild beast, if thou goest no further, will be as meek as thou, who the most of them hurt not unprovoked.
II. This meekness must be showed forth, not hid with ourselves, but it must be brought into the light, that others may have the benefit of it, for as this grace is a sign and pawn of our election, which, as the elect of God, we must put on and array ourselves withal (Colossians 3:12), so also must it be the ornament of our vocation, whereby we glorify God, adorn our profession, and win others unto the liking of it. Hence the apostle, praying the Ephesians to walk worthy of their high calling, teacheth them that this they shall do if they put on humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, etc. (Ephesians 4:2), for otherwise, if men partake not in these graces, the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace cannot long last undissolved.
III. This meekness must be showed to all men--believers, unbelievers, friends, enemies, the better and the worse, which is a special point not to be neglected, because it is the ground of the verses following. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
The might of meekness
Conversing the other day with a friend on some point of domestic difficulty, it was replied by the latter, “Should I give up in that way, and be as meek as a lamb, I should be good for just nothing at all.” “No,” I answered, “there is nothing mightier than meekness.” This sentiment, which, at the time, flashed upon my mind like a gleam of new truth, I have found, by subsequent reflection, to rest on a broad basis.
I. In the first place, meekness involves the largest self-control.
1. Meekness is not mental indolence. A person may be too lazy to resent a wrong, too intellectually lazy--like some big house dog in the farmer’s kitchen, submitting with marvellous resignation to be kicked or pulled by the ears, if only he may be left in his snug, warm corner, and meeting it all with a most humble and beseeching whine. If this were meekness, we would not hesitate to pronounce it the weakest thing on earth.
2. It is not impassibility. Some are natural stoics. In some respects they are fortunate beings; utter strangers to that red-hot sense of injustice which sometimes bursts forth in words of heaven-lit prophecy--sometimes in words set on fire of hell. They escape that terrible knowledge the soul’s capacity to suffer. And yet, doubtless; they are not to be envied; for the words of the poet are equally true when reversed:
“Chords that vibrate sweetest pleasure
Thrill the deepest notes of woe.”
3. Nor is it dulness of perception. Some seem not to know when they are ill-treated. They are ignorant of the proprieties of life, of what is due to position; there is an entire lack of native dignity of character. True meekness, on the contrary, achieves its highest triumphs where the perceptions are most quick-sighted, the sensibilities keenest, and the mind most active and vigorous in all its operations. It is just here that we can best discern its true nature, its inherent might, the hiding of its power. So far from being a mere passivity, it is activity in its highest form. It is self-control in its broadest sway when girding itself in its full strength. It is victory over all that is mightiest in pride and passion, attained by the full and conjoint action of all the nobler powers of the soul. It is man in his sovereignty, ruling within the realm of his spirit, as the prince-subject of Jehovah. Its highest embodiment was Jesus of Nazareth.
II. Again, meekness is mighty in God’s might. He loves the meek. They are the most like His Son--resembling Him in just that quality which was His most prominent characteristic. Still again, the might of meekness is seen in its power to secure happiness. Life is a perpetual wild chase after happiness. Who are winners? Pride? Passion? Ambition? Wealth? “Nay, nay, not yet,” they each exclaim as they rush by, dripping with sweat; and catching breath, they add, “but the goal is just ahead, and then the prize is ours.” The result is “even as when a hungry man dreameth, and behold he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty.” Yet, far off, away from the bustling and anxious crowd, I behold the meek man already inheriting the earth, in sweet fruition of the world that now is, and in joyous expectancy of that which is to come. The reign of passion is over. He has learned to recognise, in all events that affect him, not accidents, but Providence; not a stern and blind fate, but a kind and wise Father; not the present means and instruments merely, but the aim of final result. The peace of God that passeth understanding keeps his heart. The whole world has become a Beulah; and while meekly performing its duties, its eye catches sweet glimpses of the far-off land; his heart leaps betimes at snatches of the distant music, and his temples are fanned, ever and anon, by the refreshing breezes that are wafted thitherward. He has an antepast of heaven; a joyous earnest of his inheritance. Here, then, I say, is might. He gains what worldlings of every class toil and tug for, but always lose; or, as Cicero says, respecting another point, “They desire it, he has it.” Once more: there is nothing like meekness to overcome the resistance of passion and pride in others. And yet it is just here that the worldly wise despise it most. I am assailed. I erect myself in proud might. I bid defiance to wrath. I mock at the deadliest threats of my enemy. I dare him to do his worst. Like Achilles before Agamemnon, I fling at his feet the oath pledge of battle. By all that is most fearful I swear to stand him foot to foot to the death. And what is the result of all this? Why, Greek meets Greek. Words fly back to words, wrath flashes to wrath, threats are hurled to threats, and pride towers aloft to pride. But what boots it all? You turn from the encounter, leaving your enemy never stouter in his resistance, while the tiger passions tear your own bosom, or react in paroxysms of futile tears. Now, what has meekness accomplished in just such cases? Silenced the proud words of the enemy; extinguished his raging wrath; roused up the elements of his better nature, and turned them against himself. It has completely subdued him; and the proud Greek has sat at the feet of his foe a weeping child. I say, then, let passion exhaust all its resources--let it tower to very sublimity, let it be a fit subject for an epic, let a Homer immortalise its deeds. Meekness is mightier; it will accomplish what passion shall labour for in vain. Meekness:--Meekness is the quality which heathenism everywhere has scouted as meanspiritedness, but which the gospel of Christ has canonised. It is that one condition of soul which, springing out of genuine penitence for sin, a profound sense of personal unworthiness, and a profound appreciation of the Divine mercy, predisposes a man to forbearance under provocation and forgiveness for injury. It has nothing in common with pusillanimity, but it has its origin in the religious experience which we call conversion; for it is when the sap root of human pride is broken by a thorough crushing down of the soul under the discovery of its sinfulness before God; it is when the strong man, reduced to cry for mercy at the hands of Infinite Justice, is fain to receive forgiveness, and hope, and peace with God as unmerited gifts from the very grace of his Redeemer; it is then, and through that religions change, that the heart grows susceptible of true meekness. Then humbleness eaters--humbleness, the child of penitence, and mild charity too, for all men, and a tender feeling--a feeling that one who has himself done so much evil in his day ought to bear with the evil doing of other men, that one who owes everything to mercy should be, above all things, merciful. (J. O. Dykes, D. D.)
A little lad on being asked, “What is meekness?” replied, “Mary is meekness.” “Mary?” “Yes, my sister Mary, for she always gives smooth answers to rough questions.”
We ourselves also were sometimes foolish
The transforming power of the gospel
What even Christians were. Their lives and characters were distinguished by
3. Liability to deception;
II. What Christians become. Their lives display
1. Humility of spirit;
2. Gentleness in action;
3. Truthfulness in word. (F. Wagstaff.)
Before conversion and after
This verse layeth down a weighty reason whereby our apostle would bow and bend the minds of Christian men to the practice of the former virtues, namely, of equity, lenity, long-suffering, and meekness towards all men, foes as well as friends, yea, the worst as well as the best. The reason is drawn frown the consideration of the present condition of converted Christians, compared with that estate they were in before their conversion and calling to the faith, to which purpose he is very large in describing.
1. Our estate of corruption (Titus 3:3).
2. Our estate after conversion (Titus 3:4-56.3.6), from both which the apostle thus concluded the same thing thus: First, the former; if we ourselves were in times past in the self-same condition, which other men are not called out of, then ought we to be meek and merciful even to those who are not yet converted. But we ourselves were in times past as they are; we lay in the same puddle of corruption, were hewn out of the same pit, and though we may think we were never so graceless, as we see some others, yet we cannot charge them so deeply for time present, but they may come over us with the same in times past, as this third verse will teach us, and therefore we ought to show all lenity and meekness to all men. Secondly, from our latter condition of conversion, thus our apostle frameth his reason. If God have been so bountiful a benefactor unto us, when we were so unworthy, as the former verse describeth, that His mere and alone mercy saved us; then must we in imitation of our heavenly Father do the like to our brethren. But God hath done thus (Titus 3:4-56.3.5) so as from both we may well reason that a new condition requireth a new conversation; new men must have new manners; we being Christians may not carry ourselves so crookedly as in times past, nor so roughly towards those who now do the same things which then we did, considering our own selves. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
The difference between the present and the past of life
1. The consideration of the common condition is a notable ground of meekness and moderation towards those who are yet uncalled to the faith. For
(1) Whereas pride maketh the heart to swell against the brother, and is a root whence these bitter fruits arise, this consideration pulleth those peacock feathers, and humbleth the heart, so as when it can find no other reason of forbearance, here it never wanteth a most effectual one.
2. This consideration not only subdueth that violent affection of pride, but worketh the heart to such affections as not only beseem ourselves but befit the offender, and these are two
(1) For time present pity and compassion.
(2) Hope for time to come.
3. Whosoever are called unto the faith have experience of a double estate in themselves, one in time past, another for the present, the one of nature, the other of grace. Our apostle affirmeth it of all believers, of which there is none but he had his once, his time past, in regard of which he may now be said to be changed into another man (Romans 7:5-45.7.6). The time was when the Romans were in the flesh, when sinful motions had force in them unto death; and there was an aftertime when they were delivered from the law, and served God not in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of spirit (Ephesians 2:3). Among whom the Gentiles we believers had our conversation in time past. “Wherein ye walked also once, but now,” etc. (1 Corinthians 6:11). “And such were some of you, but ye are washed.” And good reason there is that he that is now beloved should see that once he was not beloved, and that he who now is in the state of grace should see that he was once in the state of wrath as well as others, which will cause him to love much; and indeed the elect could not be elect, nor justified, nor washed, if they were always the children of God, and were it not for this once, and time past, wherein there was no difference between them and the reprobate, but only in God’s counsel and possibility of calling. I add, further, that the converted may and must have experience of this change, for the conversion of a sinner is a miracle above all natural wonders; and therefore, except in some Jeremiah, John Baptist, and some few sanctified from the womb, is no such insensible thing as cannot be perceived. It is no such natural change as is effected by insensible degrees, as when he that was a child is now become a man; but a supernatural change by the Spirit of grace, such as when a man is born into the world, or when a blind man is restored to his sight, or rather a dead man unto life, which are things of much note and manifest alteration, and that of the whole man. Again, faith it is which as an internal instrument purgeth the Augean Stable, and purifieth the foul cage of the heart. Now this we may know, and must examine whether we be in the faith or no; know ye not that Christ is in you, unless ye be reprobates. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). “Know ye that ye are dead to sin, but are alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:11). Labour to find this change in thyself and examine whether thou canst put difference between time past and time present, for otherwise I see not but thou must set thyself down without comfort, as one that hath no sound proof of thy conversion. Hence may many a one learn what to think of himself. Some profess they love God with all their hearts and have ever so done since they can remember; they always believed in Christ and never doubted but they were ever dear unto God. But all this is nothing but a deceitful skinning over the sores of their souls with peace, peace, whereas the case that was ever so good was never good at all; no, if thou canst not remember the time past, when thy state was worse than nought, I can never be persuaded that it is good for the present.
Every Christian learn hence
1. If we see a change in ourselves or others to bless God that hath made this separation (Romans 6:17). God be thanked that ye were such, but now ye obey the form, and blessed be God for this unspeakable gift.
2. Not to deem of men as they were once in time past, when once this change is come, the Lord esteemeth of men according to the present grace received, and never casteth them in the teeth with that they were in time past; and why should we upbraid men with sins or infirmities past, which the Lord hath covered? Paul accounted not James, John, Peter, fishermen, as they had been in times past, but highly esteemed of them as apostles of Christ, being called thereunto. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
1. The main property of fools and silly bodies is that they know not the end of their lives, why God made them and put them into this world; even to ask many men why God did inspire the breath of life on their faces, how few would give this direct answer, that by glorifying God in my calling I might be led to a better life hereafter. Ask many a man concerning heaven, and earth, and sea, and other sensible things, and they will give some sensible answers, as that the earth was made for man and beast to live upon; the sea for fish and navigation; the air for man and beast to breathe in; the sun, moon, and stars for light, heat, and comfort; the beasts, fishes, fowls, etc., for man; but why thyself? Fewest would say for God; but if they speak true, some for themselves, some for their family, some for their pleasures, some for wealth, or some baser end, to which such a noble creature as man is should be destinated.
2. As fools live for the present time if they can get meat, drink, clothes, and necessaries for the present, they forecast nothing to come; even so ungodly men, if they can get wealth, and lay up things present for many years to come, they dream of no other heaven, they forecast no day of death, nor judgment; but oh, fool, what if thy soul be taken away this night? This was that which that fool thought not of; and as of their own, so they judge of all other men’s felicity by things present, into which folly David himself was sliding, when he confesseth himself as ignorant as a beast in this point, until he went into the sanctuary.
3. Fools are indocible and incorrigible; so the natural man put him to school, he learneth nothing by the book of the creatures, nor of the Creator in the Scriptures. Let God the great schoolmaster whip him, and bray him in the mortar of His judgments. He is a fool still, be leaveth not his old wonts.
4. Fools are so wise in their own conceits as they will abide no counsel; the natural man is wiser in his own eyes than seven men that can give a reason. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
A significant contrast
The whole sentence is in form a contrast. It reminds the Cretans of what they had been in their unconverted conidition. Against that it sets their present position as Christians. It grandly magnifies the Divine grace which had made them to differ. Out of this little biographical sketch there sprang two arguments for a meek behaviour. In the first place, these heathen neighbours, whose abusive attitude is so irritating, are not at all different from what you used to be. Recall what you were before God’s grace changed you: precisely such as they are today. You did not then see your own foulness--not then, before the light came; neither do they see theirs now. Yet contemplate, the hateful picture! What is pagan life?
1. So dark on religious matters as to possess no true acquaintance with God nor any just apprehension of spiritual truth at all.
2. As a result in part of this ignorance, disobedient in practice to all the requirements of Divine law.
3. Deluded indeed and misled to false conceptions of duty and false superstitions in worship.
4. Worse than that, enslaved to the desire for enjoyment, given over to indulgence in what seems most pleasant, no matter how immoral.
5. Socially leading a life too selfish to be either just or generous to others, cherishing rancour against one another for imagined slights and jealousy on account of superior fortune. Is this a just picture of the natural life as it mirrors itself in the enlightened Christian conscience? Sum it up in a single word: Are not such men repulsive as well as repellant--hateful as well as hating? Yet such were you. By the recollection of your former state, remembering the old darkness out of which you indeed have been rescued but not they, bear with them tenderly, think of them kindly! To this argument, a second joins itself: Out of that universal degradation of unregenerate nature, how is it that you have been rescued? By an effort of your own, or by another’s favour? Nay; not through any righteous actions or meritorious struggles to grow better, as you very well know; but through the mere mercy and cleansing and renewing power of “God our Saviour”; by a salvation which came to you unsought, found you helpless, surprised you with its benefits, and by its own virtue made new men of you in that day when you turned from your idols to become through Jesus Christ the heirs of life eternal! Saved thus by the sheer philanthropy of Heaven, have you none for your unsaved brothers? Changed by Divine mercy from a state like theirs, where is your mercy to them? They are as you were: treat them, then, as God treated you! How if He had been as resentful against us, as quick to take offence and ready to strike? Ah, how ill it becomes a Christian to speak evil of others, to brawl, to give back word for word and blow for blow! By the kindness your Saviour has returned for your wrong, show to your still wrongful fellows what is that love of God to man which has been manifested unto you; that they too may be won to taste that God is good! (J. O. Dykes, D. D.)
Transforming power of the Holy Spirit
Many years ago the people of Paris used to throw out the offal of fish and other garbage into the streets to be carted away as useless, but a clever man found out a way to extract from this filth a sweet scent, so pleasant and good that the Queen on her throne has it in her boudoir. This is an example of what men can do with vile materials; but God can do greater and mightier things with man than this, He can and will take the vilest person out of the mire and slime of sin’s foul gutter, and make him glorious like His own Son by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. (J. Lawson.)
This second degree of corruption of mind showeth that we are not only ignorant but froward in the things of God, and such as will not be persuaded, as the word in the original sounded; and this is nothing else but a perverse disposition which fighteth against the truth. Which a little better to understand, we must know that before our fall the mind of man had two faculties about the truth of God.
1. The knowledge of it so far as was meet.
2. An assent approving that knowledge.
Instead of which are succeeded two contrary corruptions since the fall.
1. Darkness instead of that light of knowledge.
2. Frowardness or reasoning against it.
For example: when the understanding of man, unconverted, conceiveth something of that we deliver out of the Word, whereas it should assent unto the law that it is good, and the gospel that it is the arm of God unto salvation, the wisdom of the flesh on the contrary, it becometh enmity to all this; it can find evasions to shift off the curse; it can covenant with hell and death. And for the gospel, it is to one foolishness, to another offence. Paul’s preaching shall be counted madness, or malice, or something else which shall be reason and warrant enough to contemn it. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
Various kinds of deceived persons
I. First, what a fearful deceit is that of many who strengthen themselves in their sins, sometimes putting off all the fear of God’s justice, and growing into contempt of His judgments; sometimes absolving themselves from the guilt and curse of sin in hope of impunity, as though the Lord were become an idle essence, who hath put off the power of judging the world and revenging the wickedness of it. Zephaniah noted in his time such a knot of ungodly men that were frozen in their dregs; but how came they to this settledness in sin? “They said in their hearts, Tush! the Lord will do neither good nor evil.” And did this sin die with that age?
II. A second and as fearful deceit as the former is that proud conceit of a kind of inbred and inherent righteousness of many reputed Christians, but indeed of such as wanting Christ’s righteousness, seek to sew their own fig leaves together. The Pharisees in their time thanked God that they were not as other men; they were whole and needed no physician. The Laodiceans took themselves to be rich and increased and stood in need of nothing, but were deceived, and saw not themselves in a true glass, which would have showed their blindness and nakedness and poverty. So how many civil, just dealing, and harmless men everywhere are there at this day who overthrow themselves with this deceit, which ariseth sometimes by measuring themselves with themselves, as the proud preachers of Corinth seemed somewhat comparing themselves with themselves, and otherwhiles comparing themselves with others, whom they take greater sinners than themselves as the Pharisees did; but especially through ignorance, or a dead knowledge of the righteousness of the law, they see not what strict righteousness God requireth, not their own corruption boiling within them, and so neglect all the sense of their secret lusts rising up against the love of God or man and that incessantly in them?
III. A third sort of men as far deceived as the former are secure persons, who being baptized into the name of Christ as yet never came unto Him, but plod on in all dirty and sinful ways with many pretences underpropplng themselves, but never examining duly whether they be right or no.
1. Superstitious persons who take up a voluntary religion which hath some show of wisdom and humbleness of mind; worship God they think they do, but it is uncommanded; devout they are, but resist the truth as those devout women which resisteth Paul.
2. General or Catholic Protestants of all, any, or no religion, these content themselves with the Jews to say, “the temple, the temple, the covenant, Abraham’s seed,” etc., so these find a religion established, and they love it because it is crowned and bringeth in abundance of property with it.
3. A rabble of idle Protestants whose carnal hearts turn the grace of God into wantonness.
4. The fourth sort may well carry the title of crafty Christians, as also of free will Protestants, who for the present walk in a secure path and will not yet be acquainted with repentance for their sin they think.
5. The fifth sort of secure persons may be called sensible Protestants, who by outward things judge themselves high in God’s books; and many, both rich and poor, tread in this path. Thus David observed of wicked rich men; their houses were peaceable without fear, and because they are not in affliction like other men, pride compasseth them as a chain; they seek not after God, nor sound and settled peace in Him, but little know they the end of that fat pasture. He learned at the sanctuary that they were lifted up above other, as felons on the ladder, to come down with a greater mischief and breakneck. But more marvellous it is that corrections and afflictions should become a pillow for security in many, which are God’s spurs in the flank of the godly to prick them up, and rouse them from their drowsiness; and yet many determine hence, and conclude without further ground, the Lord’s love towards them, because of long and durable afflictions, of which they could never come to make good use, nor take any profit by them, whom God loveth, say they, He chasteneth. And we are judged of the Lord, that we should not be condemned of the world, and when they are exceeding crossed in the world, and indeed cursed in their counsel and attempts, they thank God they have their punishment here in this life and so secure themselves from all future pains. But this is but a guile and stratagem of Satan to cast his poison into the Lord’s cup, and bane and destroy men with that which might be a special mean of their good, even a special provocation to make them seek reconciliation with God in Jesus Christ.
IV. The fourth and last sort of men who are deceived and wander out of the good way are some that seem to themselves and others to be very good Christians, at least none of the worst, and yet many of them little better than some of the former. And these are of two sorts; some are deceived in regard of their sins, others in regard of their graces or virtues.
1. Of the former sort. There be some who, because they are not carried to such sins as they see others, they conclude presently that they are in the right way to heaven, whereas there may be a work of the Word and Spirit forcible against many sins, where there is no saving grace in the soul.
2. The latter sort are they that deceive themselves in turning their eyes from their sins to some virtues or graces which they find in their souls. Hence have we men that can be diligent in hearing the Word, and that gladly with Herod, and think that enough to dispense with their holding of their Herodias, some sweet sin or other. Others can rejoice and be affected as we have known soft-hearted Protestants, that could melt at sermons into tears with great affection, and yet have made little conscience of their ways, but not mortifying the deeds of the flesh, have yielded to their lusts the reins in all liberty. Others can receive the Word, talk of it, yield a seemly obedience unto it; any man would say they were surely good Christians, yet as bad ground they give it not depth enough; they give it the understanding and some affection, but the will and the whole joy is not carried unto it. If they talk of it, it is but as such as only have tasted it with their tongues, as cooks do their services, but they have not filled their belly with it, as they for whom it is prepared. Their sightly obedience is like Herod’s, who did many things because John was a good man. In a word, they can be reverent and liberal to ministers, kind to professors, forward in good motions, can lend their hands or purses to help the godly out of trouble, and yet in all these commendable duties are like a deceitful bow, which being east and crooked, let the eye aim never so right at the mark, it casteth it quite besides all the way; even all these, proceeding from deep hypocrisy, and done not purely, but sinister respects furthering them, deceive the soul and keep it far from the happiness of it. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
Serving divers lusts and pleasures
Lusts and pleasures
Sins are called lusts because they be indeed so many inordinate desires against the commandment. And pleasures, because of the imagination of them that commit sin, being carried away with the present pleasure and sweetness of them. And diverse pleasures
1. Because they are many in themselves, and though every man yield not service to every one, yet some serve this, and some that, and every wicked man some. Samson will be slave to his Delilah, in the lust of the flesh and uncleanness; Nabal to his wealth, in the lust of the eye; Herod to his vainglory, in the lust of pride of life.
2. Because they diversely carry men, even as a man in the sea is carried backward and forward and hurried with divers waves, for there is no stability nor settledness but in the fear of God. The wicked are like the raging sea, and there is no peace to them, saith the Lord; but as slaves having served one lust, they must presently be at the call and command of another, and if it command they must obey, although it call to the clean contrary course. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
The slavery of sin
What slavery is like the slavery of sin? In every other case there is hope; there are lulls, at least, and intervals of anguish; there are alleviations, though perhaps they may be few and rare; there is patience, there is prayer; there may be the comfort of the cherished Spirit of God in the inner heart; there is death, in which the consummation of earthly tyranny works its own cure, and the slave is free forever; but in the slavery of sin there is no hope, no lull, no check, no flight, no patience, no prayer, no inward peace of a religious spirit counterbalancing the outward misery of the fettered limbs; and death, the limit of the one slavery, is but the terrible “beginning of the end” of the other; when sin, which has been allowed to rule in the heart and members during life, declares itself visibly and unmistakably to be the very tyrant of souls himself, the Prince of Darkness, to whose sway his slave is consigned to all eternity. (Bp. Moberly.)
Living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another
I. First, to distinguish the words. The first of them, malice, is an evil affection of the heart, which properly desireth the hurt of our neighbour and rejoiceth in his fall. Envy is a contrary affection, but as wicked, for it grieveth at the neighbour’s good, and fretteth itself at his prosperous and fortunate success in anything. Hateful may to good purpose be taken either actively, as it is read, namely for such as are in such extremity of wickedness, as they in every way are abominable creatures in themselves; or else passively, and so may be read hated, that is, justly execrable and odious unto others, both God and men. And hating one another, as full of poison and venomous hatred towards others as they could be unto us, requiting like for like, all which, although they show a most godless and comfortless condition, yet we lived in this graceless course, that is, passed our days, or at least a great part of them in time past, before we came to know the grace of God.
II. Now this being the estate of every natural man, that his whole conversation is monstrously depraved, so as he spendeth his days and consumeth his time in malice, envy, hatred, and such hateful courses, it may let many a man see how little they are escaped from the filthiness of nature. For
1. How do the lives of most men show that the spirit which lusteth after envy ruleth them? and how doth that bitter root of malice and hatred shoot forth buds and blossoms at all seasons?
(1) In affection, when as men grieve at the good and greatness of another, and cannot look upon the prosperity of a man whom they wish not so well unto, but with an evil eye, and the more they look upon it, the sorer still groweth their eye, accounting themselves after a sort wronged by him, if they cannot attain to his estate.
(2) In men’s speeches, how doth Satan tip many men’s tongues and set them on fire with all manner of malicious and murdering speeches? What is more common speech than detraction and impairing from the just praise of men?
(3) In the actions of life, what a cloud of frivolous suits, and yet fiery enough, witness the malice and envy of men’s hearts. If a man’s beast look but over another man’s hedge, and so make but offer of a trespass, or any other such trivial colour is sufficient to fire the gunpowder within, and to carry the controversy with such violence, as one must yield or both be blown up. But the most fearful and wretched work of this inbred corruption is most apparent in the pursuit of good men, because they are good; for who, be he never so good, can stand before envy, which feedeth even upon virtue and goodness itself?
2. This must teach us that profess ourselves to be the Lord’s, So abhor all the sins of this suit, and to banish such filthy fruits of the flesh, which God giveth them up unto who are of a reprobate mind; and have nothing to do with such wicked inmates, which are ever plotting to set the whole tenement on fire, and which bring rottenness into their own bones and bowels. As well said a godly man of Cain, he had half killed and consumed himself with malice before he killed his brother. And not to urge the multitude of reasons which to this purpose offer themselves, I will only name those two which are couched in the verse.
(1) Because that we profess that we were such in times past, but now are begotten unto God, which were it not a forcible reason, the apostle would not so often beat upon it (Col 3:8; 1 Corinthians 5:8; James 1:18).
(2) These hateful sins make us justly odious
(a) To God (Proverbs 14:32). The wicked is cast away for his malice both root and fruit.
(b) To man, in that they wage battle against Christian love, which is the preservative of all society.
3. Lastly, let every one learn timely to take in hand this crooked nature before he be accustomed to evil; for else as hardly as a blackamoor changeth his skin shalt thou become changed when wicked nature and worse custom have both barred thy repentance and bound thy sins faster upon thee. And because much of this folly is bound up in the hearts of children and servants, let masters and fathers seek seasonably to drive it out; fathers especially, because they helped their children into it, must by Christian instruction, godly example, and the rod of correction, labour to help them out, and thus do their best to make their children a part of amends. Zuinglius calleth this corruption the disease of nature. And herein it fitly resembleth the diseases of the body, the which the longer they continue the more incurable they are; and if they be let go too long they bring certain death; and therefore let parents and masters, many of whom are careful enough to prevent and seek out for help against the diseases which threaten the bodily death of their children and servants, take up some care to remove that everlasting death which this evil threateneth, and will certainly bring if in due season it be not repressed. Teach thy child and train him in the Scriptures from a child; teach thy servant the trade of Christianity and godliness, for thou art no less bound to deliver him the principles of this calling, as the particular to which he is bound. Use good means to get them the light of knowledge, opposed against this blindness of mind; work upon their wills to break them from the follies and vanities of youth, opposed to this rebellion of will; bring them at least to outward conformity in their conversation, opposed to this general depravation of manners. These things they will not forget in their age, or if they do, the peril is their own; thou hast done thy duty. One thing remember: thy servants, thy children are all poisoned, and have need of some present antidote. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
Malice is the devil’s picture. Lust makes men brutish, and malice makes them devilish. Malice is mental murder; you may kill a man and never touch him. “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer.” (T. Watson.)
A bee, in inflicting a sting, it is said, leaves it barbed weapon in the wound, and, being thus mutilated, inevitably dies. The bee stings itself to death in trying to sting some one else. Your stinging may hurt others and kill yourself.
Malice and rancour
Malice, in Latin, malitia, from malus, bad, signifies the very essence of badness lying in the heart. Rancour is only continued hatred; the former requires no external cause to provoke it, it is inherent in the mind; the latter must be caused by some personal offence. Malice is properly the love of evil for evil’s sake, and is, therefore, confined to no number or quality of objects, and limited to no circumstances; rancour, as it depends upon external objects for its existence, so it is confined to such objects only as are liable to cause displeasure or anger. Malice will impel a man to do mischief to those who have not injured him; rancour can subsist only between those who have had sufficient connection to be at variance. (G. Crabb.)
But after that the kindness and love of God
The power of God’s kindness
In the incarnation of Christ, His life and miracles and mercies and divinest teaching; in His sacrificial death upon the cross, His resurrection and ascension, we have that manifestation of the kindness of God which is intended and calculated to lift us up out of our sins, and to bring us into His own most holy fellowship.
And see how broad and far-reaching this kindness is; it is not for the elect nor for the Church, though these of course are included, but for man as such--for the whole human family, without exception. Wide as the world is Thy command, vast as eternity Thy love! We know something of this power of kindness to subdue the evil and develop the good even between man and man. It has many a time succeeded where everything else has failed, and where it fails we know of nothing else likely to succeed. Pinel, the celebrated Frenchman, was the first to introduce into Europe a more humane treatment of the insane. In the madhouse at Paris there had been confined for some twenty years a sea captain, furious in his madness, ferocious and untameable. Two of the keepers had been struck dead by him with a blow from his manacled hands. He was chained to his seat when Pinel approached him, and with cheerful face and kindly manner, said, “Captain, I am going to release you and take you into the open air.” The mariner laughed out right and said, “You dare not do it.” It was done, the poor wretch staggered to the door accompanied by Pinel, and lifting up his eyes to the blue heavens above, a sight he had not seen for twenty years, said, as the tears coursed down his face, “Oh, how beautiful!” and from that hour became perfectly docile. If human kindness meets such returns, shall God’s love go unrequited, no echo answering to the Divine from the human? (J.W. Lance.)
St. Paul’s gospel
Note at the outset two points. First, the central words, on which as on a peg the whole structure both of thought and of expression hangs, is the proposition--“He saved us.” In what sense is man lost? In what must his salvation consist? What is necessary in order to it? In proportion as these questions are answered in a profound or in a shallow way will be our appreciation of those redemptive actions of God--the mission of His Son and the outpouring of His Spirit. Next, let it be noted that in this saving of man by God three leading points have to be attended to: The source or origin of it; the method of it; the issues and effects of it. What we have to ask from St. Paul is a distinct reply to these three great queries
1. From what source did God’s saving activity on our behalf take its rise?
2. Through what methods does it operate upon us?
3. To what ultimate issues does it conduct those who are its objects?
I. The answer to the first of these need not detain us long. True, it is a point of primary importance for the immediate purpose of the writer in the present connection. What he is engaged in enforcing upon Cretan Christians is a meek and gentle deportment toward their heathen neighbours. With this design, it is most pertinent to observe that they have not themselves to thank for being in a better state than others--saved Christians instead of lost heathen; not themselves, but God’s gratuitous kindness. It is worth remarking too in this connection, how singularly human are the terms selected to express the saving love of God. Two terms are used. The one is God’s “kindliness” or sweet benignity, like that gentle friendliness which one helpful neighbour may show to another in distress. The other is God’s “love for man,” literally, His philanthropy, or such special benevolence to all who wear the human form as might be looked for indeed among the members of our race themselves, but which it startles one to find is shared in by Him who made us. These curiously human phrases are chosen, it is to be presumed, because St. Paul would have us imitate in our dealings with one another God’s behaviour towards us. In substance, however, they describe just the same merciful and compassionate love in God our Saviour, to which the whole New Testament traces back man’s salvation as to its prime or fontal source. It is quite in harmony with this ascription of our salvation to God’s love as its fountainhead, that, throughout his account of the process, Paul continues to make God the subject of his sentence, and man its object. All along the line God appears as active and we as receptive; He is the doer or giver, man the field of His operations and the recipient of His benefits.
II. We pass next from the epiphany of God’s unmerited kindness in the advent of the Saviour, to that process by which individuals, at Crete or elsewhere, become partakers in His salvation. The conversion of one born a heathen wears a conspicuous character, which is usually awanting to cases of conversion among ourselves. The day of their baptism, on which they sealed their conversion to the Christian faith, had marked a complete revolution in every department of their life. It had in many cases severed family ties. It had in all cases made them marked men in society. It had brought them into the circle of a strange community, and affiliated them to new comrades under the badges of a foreign religion. Outwardly, no less than inwardly, they were become new creatures; the old had passed away and all things were become new. The font at which they sealed their vows of discipleship had proved to be a second birth--the starting point for a changed life. Of course it is still the same among the converts who are won at our mission stations abroad; and we require to keep the condition of an infant missionary church well in mind if we would do justice to such language as St. Paul has here employed to describe the conversion of his readers. He speaks of the change in phrases borrowed both from its outer and inner side, its ritual and its spiritual elements. Inwardly, the convert was saved by the power of the Holy Spirit regenerating and renewing him. Outwardly, this spiritual second birth found its expressive seal in the bath or laver of holy baptism. Paul’s language could not mislead his Cretan readers. But it was admirably adapted to revive their most touching recollections. As they read his words, each one of them seemed to himself to stand once more, as on the most memorable and solemn day of his life, beside the sacred font. Once more he saw himself descend into the laver to symbolise the cleansing of his conscience from idol worship, from unbridled indulgence, from a vain conversation, by the precious death and burial of his Lord. By that act how utterly had he broken once for all with his earlier life and its polluted associations, leaving them behind like a buried past! Coming up afresh to commence the new pure career of a Christian disciple, he had received the symbolic white robe amid the congratulations of the brotherhood, who thronged around to welcome the newborn with a kiss of love--to welcome him among that little band who, beneath the cross, had sworn to fight the devil in Jesus’ strength, and, if need arose, to shed their blood for Jesus’ name! How keenly, as all this rushed back upon the Christian’s recollection, must he have felt that a change so wonderful and blessed was the Lord’s doing. What power, save God’s, could have turned backward the currents of his being, reversing the influences of education with the traditions of his ancestry and the usages of his fatherland? What hand but the Almighty’s could have snatched him out of the doomed nations over which Satan reigned, to translate him into that kingdom of light--the kingdom of God’s dear Son? Where was the spiritual force that could have opened his eyes, cleansed his conscience, quickened his heart, and made a new man out of the old one, save that Divine Spirit whose advent at Pentecost had been the birthday of a new era for the human family? The grateful praise which could not fail to mount to the lips at such a recollection, was a doxology to the Triune God, into whose name he had been baptized: to the Father unseen, eternal fountainhead of mercy; to the Incarnate Son, sole channel for its manifestation to guilty men; to the Holy Ghost, who, like a stream of life, had been plentifully poured forth from the Father, through the Son, to be the effectual giver of life in sinful souls!
III. Consider, in the last place, whither this saving activity on the part of the Godhead is carrying such as surrender themselves to it. What is to be the outcome of His redemptive undertaking? In this alone, that the sinner is justified freely by His grace? Is the release of the guilty from condemnation and penalty the issue of all that God has done in His kindness? No; but that, “having been justified, we should be made heirs.” Birth of the Divine Spirit involves sonship to God Himself. The privilege of sons is to inherit; “heirs,” therefore, of “life eternal.” The word is one which opens, as it were, a door into heaven. It is true that it is not yet apparent what the children of God shall hereafter be, for purity, for freedom, for wisdom, for felicity. But forth from that opened door, how there streams to meet us a radiance of the unseen glory, which in the twilight of this lifetime dazzles our earthly eyes! For that undiscovered heritage of the saints in light we can only hope. To this point, therefore, and no further, does the Christian gospel conduct its disciple. Here for the present it leaves him, sitting patient and expectant by the gate of Paradise, to await, with steadfast heart, the moment that shall disclose to him his patrimony of bliss. While he sits and waits, shall he not behave himself as a child of God, and strive to grow more meet for the heritage of the holy? (J. O. Dykes, D. D.)
The sun that shines on you shall set, summer streams shall freeze, and deepest wells go dry; but God’s love is a stream that never freezes, a fountain that never fails, a sun that never sets in night, a shield that never breaks in fight.
God’s kindness only partially seen by the soul
The sun appears red through a fog, and generally red at rising and setting, the red rays having a great momentum which gives them power to traverse so dense an atmosphere, which the other rays have not. The increased quantity of atmosphere which oblique rays must traverse, loaded with the mists and vapours which are usually formed at those times, prevents the other rays from reaching us. It is thus that but a few of the rays of God’s love--like the red rays--reach the soul. Sin, passion, and unbelief surround it as with a dense atmosphere of mists and vapours; and, though the beams of God’s love are poured out innumerable as the sun’s rays, they are lost and scattered, and few of them shine upon the soul. (H.G. Salter.)
God’s love incomparable
If an angel were to fly swiftly over the earth on a summer morning, and go into every garden--the king’s, the rich man’s, the peasant’s, the child’s--and were to bring from each one the choicest, loveliest, sweetest flower that blooms in each, and gather them all in one cluster in his radiant hands, what a beautiful bouquet it would be! And if an angel were to fly swiftly over the earth into every sweet and holy home, into every spot where one heart yearns over another, and were to take out of every father’s heart, and every mother’s heart, and out of every heart that loves, its holiest flower of affection, and gather all into one cluster, what a blessed love garland would his eyes behold! What a holy love would this aggregation of all earth’s loves be! Yet infinitely sweeter and holier than this grouping of all earth’s holiest affections is the love that fills the heart of our Father in heaven. (John R. Miller.)
God’s love to men
I was leaving a gentleman’s house where I had been paying a visit, said a minister of the gospel, when I put this question to the servant maid who was about to open the door: “My friend, do you love God?” “I am afraid not,” she answered, “and I fear I never shall.” “Well.” I said,” you may at least depend on this--it is certain that God loves you.” “How can you possibly tell that?” asked the master of the house, who was going downstairs with me. “This is the first time you have ever seen this woman; you know nothing about her character. You cannot tell whether she attends to her duties properly or not.” “Never mind about that,” I said, “It is certain that God loves her, and you too. I am quite sure of this, because God has told us that His love to us does Hot depend on what we are, or what we deserve. The Bible tells us, ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son’ to die for it; and again it tells us, ‘Herein is love; not that we loved God; but that God loved us, and sent His Son to die for our sins’” (1 John 4:10). “If that is so,” said the gentleman, “and your words seem to prove it, what a shame it is that I don’t love Him. May I say to myself, without any fear of making a mistake, ‘It is certain that God loves me’?” “Indeed you may,” I said; “and I pray to God you may soon be able to say, ‘It is certain that I love Him.’” And Jesus may well be called a loving messenger, because He came into the world, not only to tell us this great truth, but also to be Himself the proof of it. (Richard Newton.)
The disposition of God
God’s forgiveness is unspeakably generous, and, if I may so say, unspeakably more fine, delicate, and full of strange gentleness than ours. I believe the more we come to know the disposition of Almighty God, the more we shall find in it, in magnitude and power, those traits which we call, among men, rare in their excellence. And when God undertakes for us, if we have thrown our selves upon His mercy, and we have really meant to be His, and are really striving to be His, I believe that His feeling toward us transcends that of the tenderest love, of the most generous parentage, and of the most romantic friendship in men; that He is not less than men in these emotions of friendship and of generosity in it, but transcendently more; that in Him they spread over a broader ground, and take on a more wondrous experience. And instead of being likely to over estimate the volume of the Divine goodness and mercy towards those who fear Him, we are always under the mark. We always think less of God, and more meanly of the Divine nature than we ought to do. (H. W. Beecher.)
Not by works of righteousness
Salvation, not of works, but of grace
I. Works of righteousness we cannot performs and therefore they cannot save us.
1. Could we render such works, they would save us.
2. Without rendering such works, we cannot be saved.
II. Redemptive mercy has been vouchsafed to us, and therefore we may be saved.
1. The special work of this redemptive mercy.
2. The Divine Administrator of this redemptive mercy--the Holy Ghost.
3. The glorious medium of this redemptive mercy--Jesus Christ.
4. The sublime result--“That being justified,” etc.
(1) This rectitude inspires with the highest hope.
(2) Inaugurates the highest relationship--“Him.” (Homilist.)
The source of salvation
I. Salvation based upon Divine mercy. “Kindness” or goodness, “Love.” Margin “pity” Literally, “philanthropy”; that is “the love of man” (John 3:16).
II. Salvation independent of human merit.
1. There is in the best of us an absence of good (i.e., meritorious)
2. Redemption can only be attained by a new creation. “Regeneration,” or “new birth.”
III. Salvation provided abundantly.
1. Abundantly--as an exhibition of abundant mercy.
2. Abundantly--as a remedy for great sin.
3. Abundantly as a provision for all who will repent.
IV. Salvation everlasting.
1. Justification a ground of hope.
2. Hope of eternal life. (F. Wagstaff.)
The way of salvation
I. Salvation is not effected by human agency.
1. Where there is no salvation, there are no works of righteousness (Genesis 6:5; Galatians 5:19-48.5.21).
2. Works of righteousness, even where they exist, possess no saving effect. They are the evidences, not the causes, of salvation.
3. The Bible disclaims the merit of human agency in salvation (Isaiah 64:6; Daniel 9:7; Romans 3:20-45.3.28; Romans 11:5-45.11.6; Galatians 2:21; Ephesians 2:8-49.2.9).
II. Salvation originates in the Divine compassion. “According to His mercy He saved us,” etc.
1. Our salvation accords with the tender sympathies attributed to that mercy (Psalms 25:6; Psalms 51:6; Isaiah 63:15; Luke 1:78; James 5:11).
2. It accords with the readiness ascribed to that mercy (Nehemiah 9:17; Isaiah 30:18; Micah 7:18).
3. It accords with the description given of the greatness, fulness, and extent of that mercy (Numbers 14:19 : Psalms 5:7; Nehemiah 9:19; Psalms 119:64; Psalms 145:9).
4. It accords with the perpetuity of that mercy (Psalms 118:1).
III. Salvation is attended by an important chance. We are saved “by the washing of regeneration,” that is, delivered from sin and all its tremendous consequences in the other world.
1. Delivered from the love of sinful pleasures and carnal delights, by having the “love of God shed abroad in our hearts.”
2. From the guilt of sinful practices, by having a knowledge of salvation by the remission of our sins.
3. From the prevalence of sinful habits, by the principles of holiness, and the power of the Divine Spirit.
4. From the commission of sinful acts, by the total regeneration of our natures (1 John 5:18).
IV. Salvation is accomplished by a Divine influence. “By the renewing of the Holy Ghost,” All the influences of God upon the human soul are effected by the agency of the Holy Ghost.
1. The light and information which we receive on Divine subjects are communicated by the Holy Ghost (Joh 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:11-46.2.12; 1 John 2:20).
2. The conviction we have of our personal danger is derived from the same source (John 16:8).
3. The change which is produced in the minds of Christian believers is attributed to the Holy Ghost (John 3:5-43.3.8; 1 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
4. The assurance of salvation is by the witness of the Holy Ghost--the Comforter (John 14:16; Romans 8:16).
1. How awful the delusion of those who depend on themselves or their works for salvation!
2. How deeply we are indebted to the Divine mercy for salvation! Let us sing of the mercies of the Lord forever.
3. How indispensable is regeneration! Salvation without it is impossible.
4. How deeply anxious should we be to secure the influences and agency of the Holy Ghost (Luke 11:13). (Sketches of Sermons.)
I. Salvation is not by works.
1. Because of our relation to God. We are His creatures; we owe Him everything always; and therefore never can acquire any surplus merit to place to the account of past shortcomings and offences.
2. Because of our moral inability to perform works of righteousness, on account of the depravity and corruption of our nature.
3. Because every attempt to procure salvation by works implies the principle of “value for value,” and our works would be no equivalent for the salvation required.
II. The true source and character of salvation.
1. It has its origin in God’s kindness and love toward man (Titus 3:4).
2. His kindness and love were manifested through Jesus Christ our Saviour (Titus 3:6).
3. This salvation includes justification by His grace, adoption into His family by His love, regeneration by the power of the Holy Ghost, the blessed hope of eternal life while here, and the blessed reality of eternal life hereafter (Titus 3:5; Titus 3:7). (O. McCutcheon.)
Salvation by grace
I. Previous character. Two great lessons
1. Adoring gratitude.
2. Deep humility.
II. Present state. Sinners saved by grace.
1. The originating cause of salvation.
2. The efficient means of salvation.
III. Future expectations.
1. This hope is supporting.
2. Sanctifying. (Expository Outlines.)
Salvation viewed from God’s side
In this passage, which is a brief but pregnant epitome of the gospel, the scheme of man’s salvation is regarded only from the side on which it is wholly God’s work, without taking note of the conditions and qualifications which, however much they too are God’s work, are required from the cooperation of man. The apostle was dwelling on the truth that the change referred to in Titus 3:3 is not due to ourselves or our own merit, but to God’s grace. He therefore had no occasion to allude here to the qualifications or stipulations required at baptism, nor to the faith by which man is justified, nor to “the working out his own salvation,” which is one of the instruments by which the Holy Ghost renews us day by day, nor to the holiness which is the character and badge of the heirs of eternal life. All this is needed; but, viewed from God’s side, it is not by anything which man has done or could do, but by His own free mercy that God has saved him. (Bp. Jackson.)
Working hard for salvation
A Christian lady was visiting a poor, sickly woman, and after conversing with her for a little she asked her if she had found salvation yet. “No,” she replied, “but I am working hard for it.” “Ah, you will never get it that way,” the lady said. “Christ did all the working when He suffered and died for us, and made complete atonement for our sins. You must take salvation solely as a gift of free, unmerited grace, else you can never have it at all.” The poor woman was at first amazed beyond measure, and felt for the moment as if all hope had been taken from her; but very soon the enlightenment came, and she was enabled to rest joyously on Jesus alone. When speaking afterwards of the friend who had been so helpful, she said, “Oh, how I will welcome her into heaven, for she guided me to the Saviour.”
Good work, no ground of acceptance with God
A man whom I knew in Chicago failed in business, and got into difficulties. He had paid his creditors what proved to be worthless notes, for he had no assets. He coolly proposed to put matters right by handing to his creditors more worthless notes. Now, many of you are trying to act like that. You have no spiritual assets, you have nothing with which to pay, and yet you are proposing to pay God with what is worthless to save you. Suppose you owe a grocer £20, and you go and tell him that you are not going in debt in future, what answer would you expect? He would say: “All very well so far as it goes; I’m glad to hear it. But your keeping out of debt in the future won’t pay what you owe me now. What about that £20 already due?” A hundred years ago, when Prince Charles the Pretender headed a rebellion, many risked their lives and property for his sake, feeling sure that if he succeeded he weald reward them handsomely. But he did not succeed. He lost, and so they lost. What could they get from him, when he had nothing to pay? At the close of our late American Civil War, between the Federals and rebel Confederates, a man in Georgia wanted to pay, as his tax, money issued by the Confederate Government. But of course the officer representing the revenue of the Federal Government said, “That won’t do. Your money is worthless. It was issued by rebels, and we cannot accept it.” The man who expects God to accept him on the ground of his good works, or of anything that he can do, is acting like that. In America no man lost his life or his estate through engaging in that great rebellion, because mercy was shown. But for all that the government could not recognise the currency of rebels. Mercy is offered to all men, but everything with which they hope to purchase pardon and peace is simply worthless. (Major Whittle.)
Good works not to be relied on
Though good works may be our Jacob’s staff to walk with on earth, yet they cannot be our Jacob’s ladder to climb to heaven with. To lay the salve of our services upon the wound of our sins, is as if a man who is stung by a wasp should wipe his face with a nettle; or as if a person should busy himself in supporting a tottering fabric with a burning firebrand. (T. Secker.)
The washing of regeneration
The main thoughts which run through these verses are the cause and method of redemption. These are set against the old state of sin, in which we were “foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.”
I. Salvation as to its primary cause. The cause is Divine, lodged within the Divine heart, and is twofold.
1. Love. The love of God for a “world of sinners lost,” is the first cause of man’s redemption. That love is like Himself--free, boundless, inexplicable, and eternal. “For God so loved the world,” etc. “God is love.”
2. Mercy. The object of love can only be touched by the hand of mercy. This speaks of the sinfulness of our nature, and that compassion which has found a way for love to operate on the human heart. The original of the gospel is not a human device, or the work of righteousness, but the gift of God to fallen man.
II. Salvation as to its method. There are here also two observations made by the apostle.
1. The removal of guilt. The washing of regeneration means the removal of the guilt of the soul, and the acceptance of the peace of the Father. It was the custom to sprinkle the proselytes with water, in token of their renouncing their idolatry, and be made clean to enter the service of the true God.
2. The renewal of Divine influences. The Spirit rests on believers to light them, and to guide them; also to comfort them. Regeneration must be followed by the indwelling Spirit. This is a comparison taken from nature, where all living things are renewed in the spring of the year. Thus we are reminded of the necessity for the constant power of the Holy Ghost in our daily life. (Weekly Pulpit.)
I. The renewing.
1. It creates a new thing in man (2 Corinthians 5:17). Like a vessel with a new commander, steering a new course, by a now compass, to a new haven. The old nature remains, though the new nature has come, and there are now in the one man the carnal and the spiritual mind--the human and the Divine life--that which is born of the flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit--the old man of sin that is to be crucified, and the new man that is to be renewed daily in the image of Him that created him, until he shall come to the full stature of a man in Christ Jesus.
2. It is a restoration of a former state. That which was lost by sin is restored by regeneration,
3. It is a renovation of the whole man. Though every part be not thoroughly sanctified, yet the regenerate are sanctified in every part. They have a perfection of parts, though not of degrees. The renewing is going on in every part, though every part is not perfectly renewed. The seat and centre of this renewing work is the heart. The might of the Spirit is exerted in the inner man. And from thence He works outwardly to the utmost extremity. Just as the vital fluid is driven by the propelling power of the animal heart to every extremity of the body, so is the renewing energy sent forth from the centre of moral and spiritual life--the inner man by the power of the indwelling spirit. And so will He continue to work until the day of perfection shall come, when we shall be presented faultless before the throne of glory, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing,
II. The renewer. “The Holy Ghost.”
1. Not an influence, but a Person, having ascribed to Him in Holy Scripture the attributes and actions of a person, and that a Divine and omnipotent person. To Him is confided the work of carrying out the purposes of the Father by applying the truth and work of the Son. It is by the Spirit’s overshadowing of the soul that the new creature is conceived and brought forth. The babe of grace can call no man on earth father. And while a man’s regeneration is not of his fellow man, neither is it of himself. They which are born of the flesh contribute nothing to their own being, neither do they that are born of the Spirit; they are begotten of God.
2. But the Holy Ghost, in His renewing, uses--Instrumentality. The one grand instrument is the Word (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23).
(1) It may be by the Word read. Augustine and Luther tell us they were converted by the reading of the Word; so have many thousands of others. In Madagascar we have a striking illustration of this, in the conversion of many thousands by reading only fragments of the Word of God, left in their country by the banished missionaries.
(2) It may be by the Word remembered. I read once of an aged man, who had lived an ungodly life, and had wandered thousands of miles away from his native home, who one day, while he was sitting under a tree, had suddenly brought to his remembrance truths he had read and heard when a child and youth, but which had been long forgotten. They came with such irresistible power that his conversion was the result.
(3) It may be by the Word lived and acted out. There are those who will not read the written Word, neither will they go to hear the Word preached, but who are willing readers--unconscious readers of the lives of Christians among whom they dwell. God expects His people, whom He has regenerated, to be “living epistles of Christ, known and read of all men.” Was it not in this sense that Paul exhorted believing wives to win their unbelieving husbands “without the Word,” by their “chaste conversation, coupled with fear.”
(4) It may be by the Word spoken--as a man would speak to his friend. The kind and faithful teachings of friendship have often proved the instrument, in the hands of the Holy Ghost, for the accomplishment of this great object. “I owe much to the public ministry of the Word,” said a recent convert to his minister; “but it was the Word spoken by a friend that was made by God the immediate instrument of my conversion.”
(5) But it is principally by the preached Word that God works. The public ministry of the Word is God’s appointed institution for the accomplishment of this glorious end. The preacher is the spiritual husbandman, sowing broadcast the incorruptible seed of the Word, which shall spring up and bring forth fruit, some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred-fold. This is all the minister can do; sow the seed in prayer, and faith, and hope--God must give the increase. (H. Quick.)
The laver of regeneration
I. We must conceive that in every sacrament there be three essential pasts, the absence of any of which destroys the whole.
1. The sign.
2. The thing signified.
3. The analogy between them, which is the union of them both.
The first is some outward and sensible thing; the second, inward and spiritual; the third, mixed of them both. As in baptism the sign is water, the thing signified the blood of Christ. The analogy or union standeth in this resemblance, that as the former outwardly washeth the filthiness of the body, so the latter inwardly purgeth the soul from all sin. By reason of which relation and near affection between the sign and the thing signified, it is usual in the Scriptures by an improper, but sacramental speech.
1. To call the sign by the name of the thing signified, and contrarily. And thus baptism is called the washing of the new birth, because it is a sign, seal and instrument of it.
2. To ascribe that to the sign which is proper to the thing signified, and so baptism is here said to save, as also 1 Peter 3:21, which is indeed the property of the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7), but by the near affinity of these two in the sacrament it is said so to do, to note unto us
(1) Not to conceive of the sacramental elements as bare and naked signs, so to grow into the contempt of them.
(2) As we may not conceive them idle sins, so neither idle signs by insisting in them as though they were the whole sacrament, for they are but outward, whereas the principal matter of a sacrament is spiritual and inward.
(3) That then we truliest conceive of a sacrament, when by looking at the one of these we see both, neither making the sign a vain symbol, nor yet ascribing anything to it transcending the nature of it, such as are the peculiars and the prerogatives of God, but in the sign and action, which is outward, be led to those which are spiritual and inward.
II. How is baptism then the laver of regeneration?
1. As it is an institution of God signifying the good pleasure of God for the pardoning of sin, and accepting to grace in Christ; for as the word signifieth this, so doth also the sacrament which is a visible word. And thus is it truly said of the Word and sacraments too that they save and sanctify, because they signify the good pleasure of God in saving and sanctifying us, even as we say a man is saved by the king’s pardon, not that the pardon properly doth it, for that is the mere merciful disposition of the king, but because the pardon (written and sealed perhaps by another), signed by the king, is the ordinary instrument to manifest the merciful mind of the king in pardoning such a malefactor,
2. As it is a seal or pledge of our sanctification and salvation, as certainly assuring these to the soul of the believer, as he is or can be assured of the other, that as a man having a bond of a thousand pounds sealed him may truly say of it, here is my thousand pound, that is, a security, as surely confirming it unto me as if I had it in my hands, or as I have this even so may the believing party baptized say of his baptism, Here is my regeneration, here is my salvation.
3. As it is a means to excite and provoke the faith of the receiver to lay hold upon the grace of the sacrament, and apply it to these purposes, in which regard it be as truly said to renew as faith is said to justify, and that is only as it may be a means or hand to lay hold on Christ our righteousness; so baptism is a means helping forward our renewing by the true understanding and conscionable and serious meditation of it.
4. In that in the right use of it, it giveth and exhibiteth Christ and all His merits to the fit receiver, for then God’s grace putteth forth itself, and after a sort conveyeth itself in and by this instrument into the heart of the worthy receiver. And thus principally it is the laver of regeneration, because in it and by it as a means and organ the Holy Ghost freely worketh His grace in such as in whom He delighteth. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
The laver of regeneration
On man’s aide there is the washing with water; and on God’s side there is the washing away of sin and pouring out of the Spirit. The body is purified, the soul is purified, and the soul is hallowed. The man is washed, is justified, is sanctified. He is regenerated: he is “a new creature.” “The old things,” his old principles; motives, and aims, then and there “passed away”: “behold, they are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Can any one reasonably doubt that, when the apostle speaks of “the washing of regeneration,” he means the Christian rite of baptism, in which, and by means of which, the regeneration takes place? We are fully justified by his language here in asserting that it is by means of the baptismal washing that the regeneration takes place; for he asserts that God “saved us through the washing of regeneration.” The laver or bath of regeneration is the instrument or means by which God saved us. Such is the natural, and almost the necessary meaning of the Greek construction. And there are numerous analogies which throw light upon the question, proving to us that there is nothing exceptional in God (who of course does not need any means or instruments) being willing to use them, doubtless because it is better for us that He should use them. In what way is the employment of perceptible means a help to us? In two at least. It serves the double purpose of being both a test to faith and an aid to faith.
1. The acceptance of divinely appointed means is necessarily a test of faith. Human intellect is apt to assume that Omnipotence is above using instruments. “Is it likely,” we ask, “that the Almighty would employ these means? Are they not altogether beneath the dignity of the Divine nature? Man needs tools and materials; but God needs neither. It is not credible that He has ordained these things as conditions of His own operation.” All which is the old cry of the captain of the host of Syria. Therefore humbly to accept the means which God has revealed as the appointed channels of His spiritual blessings is a real test of the recipient’s faith. He is thus enabled to perceive for himself whether he does sincerely believe or not; whether he has the indispensable qualification for receiving the promised blessing.
2. The employment of visible means is a real aid to faith. It is easier to believe that an effect will be produced, when one can perceive something which might contribute to produce the effect. It is easier to believe when one sees means than when none are visible; and it is still easier to believe when the means seem to be appropriate. The man who was born blind would more readily believe that Christ would give him sight when he perceived that Christ was using spittle and clay for the purpose; for at that time these things were supposed to be good for the eyes. And what element in nature is more frequently the instrument both of life and of death than water? What could more aptly signify purification from defilement? What act could more simply express death to sin and a rising again to righteousness than a plunge beneath the surface of the water and a re-issuing from it? Faith in the inward gift, promised by God to those who believe and are baptized, becomes more easy when the outward means of conferring the gift, not only are readily perceived, but are recognised as suitable. In this way our faith is aided by God’s employment of means. Is the “renewing of the Holy Ghost” the same thing as the “washing of regeneration”? In this passage the two expressions refer to the same fact, but in their respective meanings they are not co-extensive. The Greek construction is ambiguous like the English; and we cannot be sure whether St. Paul means that God saved us by means of the washing and by means of the renewing, or that God saved us by means of a laver, which is both a laver of regeneration and a laver of renewal. The latter is more probable: but in either case the reference is to one and the same event in the Christian’s life. The laver and the renewing refer to baptism; and the regeneration and the renewing refer to baptism; viz., to the new birth which is then effected. But, nevertheless, the two expressions are not co-extensive in meaning. The laver and the regeneration refer to one tact, and to one fact only: a fact which takes place once for all and can never be repeated. A man cannot have the new birth a second time, any more than he can be born a second time: and hence no one may be baptized twice. But the renewing of the Holy Spirit may take place daily. (A. Plummer, D. D.)
The following is related in the life of the late Dr. Guthrie. James Dundee, a weaver, lived on a lone moor, where, beyond his wife’s, he had no society but that of God and nature. James might have been a poet, though I don’t know that he ever cultivated the muse; a man he was of such an impassioned nature, lofty thoughts, and singularly vivid imagination. On the morning of a communion Sabbath he rose, bowed down by a sense of sin, in great distress of mind. He would go to church that day, but, being a man of a very tender conscience, he hesitated about going to the Lord’s table. He was in a state of great spiritual depression. In this state of mind he proceeded to put himself in order for church, and while washing his hands, no one being by, he heard a voice say, “Cannot I, in My blood, as easily wash your soul, as that water does your hands?” “Now, minister,” he said, in telling me this, “I do not say there was a real voice, yet I heard it as distinctly, word for word, as you now hear me. I felt a load taken off my mind, and went to the table and sat under Christ’s shadow with great delight.”
The renewing of the Holy Spirit
The word “renewing” is used in the Scriptures in reference to the starting point of the Christian life--regeneration, and to the progressive development of it, day by day. Consider it now in the latter sense, that is in connection with the Holy Spirit’s work in those who have “life eternal.”
1. Bringing back the wanderer (Hosea 14:1-28.14.2; Job 22:23).
2. Settling the unstable (Psalms 51:10; Psalms 57:7; Ephesians 3:17).
3. Comforting the fearful (Psalms 23:3; Psalms 51:12).
1. Separating us from the things that hinder our growth (2 Corinthians 6:16-47.6.18).
2. Bringing us into closer contact with the Fountain of Supply (Isaiah 40:31; Ephesians 3:17).
3. Enlarging our capacity and powers of reception (2 Corinthians 4:16).
1. Illuminating the mind (Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:10).
2. Gladdening the heart (Romans 15:13; Romans 14:17).
3. Energising the will (Ephesians 3:16; Ephesians 4:23).
4. Transfiguring the character (2 Corinthians 3:18). (E. H. Hopkins.)
Renewing of the Holy Ghost
The renewing of the Holy Ghost
I. Bring together some oe the more striking Scripture testimonies to the necessity of this agency.
1. As embodied in the devotional sentiments of holy men. Hear David. “Create in me a clean heart,” etc. “Cast me not away from Thy presence,” etc. “Teach me to do Thy will,” etc. “Thy Spirit is good; lead me,” etc. And so Paul. “Now the God of peace fill you with all joy,” etc.
2. As a fulfilment of ancient promise. “I will pour water on him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground.” “I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring.” “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” “And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes.” If from these examples we pass to the New Testament, to consider how far the supposition of this great spiritual change enters into the pleas and arguments by which the sacred writers exhort their converts to the duties of practical godliness, we find the great promise of Whitsuntide sharing equally with our Lord’s proper oblation a claim to be received as among the very necessities of our salvation. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His.” “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God.” “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” “Hereby we know that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit.” These passages, with numberless others which might be quoted, show to us how completely the work of Christ for man, and the work of the Spirit in man, are looked upon by the inspired penman as joint and co-equal parts of a common salvation, the constituent elements of one great truth, successive and inseparable links in that chain of mercy by which sinners are to be lifted up from earth’s lowest pit, and set down with Christ on heaven’s highest throne.
3. As practically attested by the great facts of gospel history. The great miracle of Pentecost is one standing witness that without the agency of the Divine Spirit there never was, and never can be, such a thing as true conversion. It was not Peter’s preaching that turned the hearts of those three thousand. He might have exhibited truth to the understanding of that great audience; he might have addressed powerful appeals to their consciences; he might even have lodged a deep conviction of the truth of all he said in their very souls; but so to convince them as to make them yield, so to prick their hearts that into its open pores there should be received and welcomed “the truth as it is in Jesus,” this was a work to be done, “not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.” The manner in which the notorious Earl of Rochester describes his conversion is strikingly illustrative of some great influence from without, acting upon, though still concurrently with his own natural faculties. He was reading, he tells us, the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, and his language is that there was some inward force upon him which convinced him that he could resist no longer, for the words had an authority which did shoot like rays or beams in his mind; and this power did so effectually constrain him that he did, ever after, as firmly believe in his Saviour as if he had seen Him in the clouds.
II. How this renewing of the Holy Ghost in the soul of man is accomplished.
1. First, we attribute to Him a true and proper indwelling in our souls (John 14:17).
2. Again, by the influences of this Spirit alone, are both produced and maintained within us all those affections and dispositions which constitute the renewed man.
3. Further, it is helpful to that renewing process which the Spirit of God carries on within us, that He testifies to the reality of His own work. Without raising the question of how much or how little of assurance must be inseparable from true conversion, the various expressions, witness of the Spirit, earnest of the Spirit, seal of the Spirit, must imply that one office of this Divine Agent is to supply some form of corroborative testimony to our own minds that we are the children of God. “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself.”
4. Once more, the renewing power of the Holy Ghost is to be looked for in the daily sanctification of our souls, and the preparing them for a condition of endless life. (D. Moore, M. A.)
The difficulty of removing the pollution of sin
At Portland navy yard one of the United States ships came in for repair and fumigation, as yellow fever had broken out amongst her crew during her previous voyage. She was thoroughly scraped and repainted, and then put into commission again, but she was less than a month at sea when the fever once more appeared. It was decided to open her up and expose the fever spores to a thorough freezing during the winter, as medical men said that the spores could not live in cold weather. In the spring she was again painted and refurnished, but the fever appeared again. Then it was found that, though a noble-looking vessel, death was in her, and she was towed to sea and sunk. So is it with all who have not been born again; they carry within their hearts the seeds of a fatal fever, and unless they are completely cleansed from it by Christ they will one day go down in the sea of the Divine wrath.
Which He shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ
Abundant supply of grace
I. The graces of the Spirit are plentifully poured out upon us as out of a full and rich mercy. For
1. We have the accomplishment of many prophecies and promises, as Isaiah 11:9; Daniel 12:4. Many prophecies were then sealed, and the book shut until the term of time; but then many should run to and fro, and knowledge should be increased.
2. We have the truth of many types and resemblances, as of the waters running from under the threshold of the sanctuary, still rising to increase; and of the proceedings of the New Testament, typified in the cloud which at the first appearance was no bigger than a man’s hand, but after rose to that greatness as to cover the whole heavens.
3. If we compare our Church with that of the Jews’ we shall observe that the Lord did but drop and sprinkle these graces here and there upon a few persons where He pleased, but now hath poured out His Spirit and opened a fountain of grace to the house of Judah and Jerusalem, even for all true believers.
(1) If such plenty of grace be poured out upon us, our care must be to be found answerable thereunto, that according to our proportion our increase may be; for we may not think the return of one talent sufficient if we have received five or ten, seeing where much is given much will be required. Hath the Lord so richly shed out His Spirit that whereas the most excellent patriarchs saw Christ only afar off, the most simple of our age may see Him in the Word and sacraments even crucified before his eyes, and will it not be expected that in all things we should be made rich in Him? And thus have we ministered unto us a ground of examination whether we find the fruits and work of these waters upon us.
(2) If upon this examination we feel not this plenty of grace, we must beware of accusing God, but condemn ourselves in whom all the fault is, as who refuse and despise so great grace. If any ask how it can come to pass that such excellent grace should be refused, I answer there are three main causes of it
1. Ignorance and blindness of mind.
2. Hardness of heart.
3. Security, which three destitute us of so abundant grace as is offered.
II. All the grace that is bestowed on us is by means of Jesus Christ, for with Him is the fountain and headspring; yea, He is the head which sendeth life, sense, motion, and direction into all the members, resembled in that holy ointment which ran down from Aaron’s head and beard even to the skirts of his garment. The evangelist, after he had affirmed that Christ was full of grace and truth, addeth that of His fulness we receive grace for grace, so the apostle (Colossians 2:9-51.2.10).
(1) Want we any grace? call upon God in the name of Christ. “Whatsoever ye ask the Father in My name, He will give it unto you.” Get Christ to be thine own, become a true believer, that thou mayest in Him begin thy prayer with Our Father; this is the way to be rich in grace.
(2) Hast thou received any spiritual grace? sacrifice not unto thine own net, but be thankful unto God in Christ.
(3) Take heed of quenching that grace, neither grieve that good Spirit of God by thy sin, for thou camest hardly by it, for Christ must come down from heaven, humble Himself to the death, rise again, ascend, and now make continual intercession before He could procure thee the least grace. A thing very little thought of. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
Our text combines doctrine and practice, faith and morals, and makes the one the proper foundation of the other. That, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs. This is a faithful saying--that they which have believed be careful to maintain good works. It is worthy of remark that there are four passages of Scripture in which the expression “a faithful saying” is employed, and each faithful saying is worthy of all acceptation (1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 4:8-54.4.9; 2Ti 11:11-13; Titus 3:8). And they all mark out the connection between faith and obedience--between holiness and happiness--between principle and practice.
I. That the doctrine of our acceptance in Christ, while it forms the only foundation of a sinner’s hope, has a direct tendency to promote eminent holiness.
1. The doctrine of justification by faith, through the merits and advocacy of Christ, constitutes the alone basis of our acceptance with God. We are said to be justified by His grace. This doctrine forms the only answer to the question which in every age has baffled the wisdom of the wise, and brought to nought the understanding of the prudent. How shall man be just with God? A cordial reception of Jesus Christ as the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth, entitles the returning offender to life by a merciful appointment, and brings him into a state of personal acceptance with God. This doctrine may well be considered as the cardinal doctrine of Christianity, and as lying at the very foundation of all our hopes for eternity. So deep and aggravated is our guilt, that it is quite evident that if we be not accepted by the merits and righteousness of another we cannot be accepted at all; for it is clear we have no righteousness of our own. This therefore forms, as the text states, a singular exhibition of Divine benignity and grace. Grace provided the Saviour revealed in the gospel--grace accepted His substitution in the sinner’s place--grace communicated the principle of piety implanted in the human heart--grace preserves that principle from extinction, amidst all the storms and tumults of this opposing world--and grace crowns the subjects of its influences with glory at last.
2. The doctrine of justification, so far from lessening the obligations to obedience, furnishes the most powerful of all inducements to eminent holiness. The pardoned offender is not rendered lawless; a justified state is not exempted from obligation. We are not without law to God, but under the law to Christ. It is no part of the Divine design to raise up one light in order to extinguish another. What was once truth is always truth; what was once duty is always duty. All the original grounds of moral obligation remain. If God was our Creator before our conversion, He is our Creator still--a faithful Creator. If God was our Judge before, He is our Judge still. Neither does Divine grace destroy or change any of the relations in which we previously stood to each other, nor cancel any of the duties arising out of those relations. Neither does Divine grace alter the nature of sin, nor render it one whir less than before the abominable thing which God hateth. The plague does not cease to be the plague because a remedy has been mercifully provided for it. The gospel has produced no change in our moral relation to God, nor in our relation to our fellow man; and, therefore, all the antecedent obligation to obedience remains unchanged; and they that have believed in God are enjoined carefully to maintain good works. The gospel superadds motives and inducements unknown before to induce conformity to the Divine will. The grace of God, that bringeth salvation, teacheth us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly. All false religions attempt to lower the standard of morals, in order to fall in with the weakness or wickedness of mankind. But Christianity presents us with raised views of the spirituality of the Divine law. It presents us with the most powerful motives to holiness--derived from the love of God--the Cross of Christ--the glories of the coming world, and especially from the great work of redemption.
II. That these principles, in their connection with each other, are to be explicitly asserted and maintained. “These things I will that thou affirm constantly.” They are to be affirmed in their connection with each other--that is, the doctrine of justification is to be affirmed--and the doctrine of sanctification is to be affirmed too: the one as the cause, the other as the effect; the one as the root, the other as the fruitful branch. And observe to what class of characters the exhortations and commands of the gospel are to be specifically addressed That they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works; plainly proving that the most advanced Christians require to be frequently admonished. Our text says these truths are to be constantly affirmed. These good works are to be expressly enjoined upon those who believe. We are not to leave them to implication and inference, as though we presumed that they would follow as a necessary result from the mere belief of the doctrine of justification, but they are to be plainly stated and enforced. This is to be done in defiance of opposition and contradiction, which supposes objection and denial on the part of some. The reasons why we should thus constantly urge these truths will be perceived at a glance.
1. Because we are always liable to overlook and forget them amidst the active engagements and snares of life. The gospel ministry was instituted for this purpose.
2. Because the personal sanctity of Christians is the final object of the dispensation of mercy. To this everything in the Divine economy tends; in this everything terminates. It is no inferior degree of excellence to which we are taught to aspire; we are not to begin only, but to advance and persevere--we are to maintain good works, and to be careful to maintain them. The marginal rendering is more emphatic still--the force of the Greek word being to go before in good works--to excel, to emulate--to attain eminence in holiness and devotion. Plutarch tells us that it was the aim of Tully, that it was his ambition, to be eminent in all that he undertook. How much more should Christians desire to attain the highest measures of moral and religious excellence.
3. Because advancement in holiness is essential to the enjoyment of all genuine consolation. The state of grace is only evidenced by the sanctities of the Christian character.
4. Because the absence of these good works proves the destitution of Christian principle, and leaves the individual exposed to a fearful disappointment and a final doom.
III. That from the faithful exhibition of these truths the happiest results are to be anticipated to the Church and the world. These things are good and profitable to men. They are good in themselves, and good in their influence upon the mind. Many things may be good that are not profitable, and some may be thought profitable that are not good; but these are both good and profitable. They are good in the Divine esteem--good as the transcript of His own infinite excellence--good as perfectly accordant with all His revelations to man--good in their origin--good in their progress--good in their end. They come from heaven and lead to it. They are good and profitable, as opposed to those “foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law,” which we are told in the next verse to avoid as unprofitable and vain. (The Evangelist.)
That being justified by His grace
Justification; faith; works
I. The moral rectification of the soul.
1. All souls in their unrenewed state are unrighteous.
2. Restoration to righteousness is the merciful work of God.
3. In this moral rectification of soul there is the heirship of eternal good.
II. The essential foundation of all true faith. To believe in God implies
1. To believe in what He is in Himself--the only absolute existence, without beginning, without succession, without end, who is in all and through all, the All-Mighty, the All-Wise, the All-Good Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
2. To believe in what He is to us--the Father, the Proprietor, and the Life.
III. The supreme purpose of moral existence is to maintain good works.
1. Good works are
(1) Works that have right motives.
(2) Works that have a right standard.
2. The maintenance of these works requires strenuous and constant effort.
3. The great work of the Christian ministry is to stimulate this effort. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
God’s method of justification
1. The originating cause is the grace, the free, sovereign, undeserved, and spontaneous love of God towards fallen man (Titus 3:4-56.3.5; Titus 2:11; Romans 3:24).
2. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the sole meritorious cause. All He did, and all He suffered, in His mediatorial character, may be said to have contributed to this great purpose.
3. The instrumental cause of justification. The merit of the blood of Jesus does not operate necessarily so as to produce our pardon as an immediate and unavoidable effect, but through the instrumentality of faith.
1. We are not justified, in whole or part, by the merit of our own works, whether past, present, or future.
2. Our repentance is neither the meritorious course, nor the immediate instrument of justification.
3. The Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration and sanctification is not the previous condition of our free justification or the prerequisite qualification of it.
4. Our justification is not by the merit of faith itself; but only by faith, as that which embraces and appropriates the merit of Christ. (J. Bunting.)
Relation of justification to regeneration
Justification is a qualification of title; regeneration of nature. Justification alters the relative character; regeneration the personal. Justification reconciles us to the Divine favour; regeneration to the Divine service. Justification removes every obstacle of law; regeneration every obstacle of disposition. Justification destroys the incapacity of guilt; regeneration the resistance of depravity. Justification makes us one with God in acceptance; regeneration makes us one with Him in will. Justification opens heaven; regeneration causes us to walk in its white. Justification furnishes the song of deliverance; regeneration teaches us to modulate it. (R. W. Hamilton, D. D.)
The finished work of Christ
A poor man was very anxious about his soul. Though he knew the Bible well, yet he could not get over one difficulty, which was that he wanted to do something to save himself; it was too easy a way to be saved by Christ without doing anything to merit salvation himself; at least so he thought. One day an evangelist called at his workshop, and saw a gate all painted and varnished, ready to be hung in its place. “John,” he said, “is this gate complete?” “Yes, sir; it is quite finished; it has got the last coat of varnish.” “You are perfectly certain?” “Yes, quite.” The evangelist took up a plane, and in a moment had taken a shaving off the top bar. “Stop, stop, sir!” cried John, “you are spoiling the gate.” “Ah, John, that is what you want to do with Christ’s work; He has completed the work of your salvation, yet you want to spoil it by doing something--you don’t know what--to improve upon it!” This practical hint was just what John needed, and there and then he gave up trying to improve upon the work of Christ, and gave himself up to be saved at once, just as he was, in the workshop.
We should be made heirs
Heirs of eternal life
In these words is laid down the second end of that new condition into which believers are brought. In which for the meaning two parts must be considered
1. The right and privilege of believers who, being once justified by faith, are made heirs of life eternal.
2. Their present tenure of this their inheritance by hope.
I. For the former, the word heir in the first and proper signification betokeneth a lot, and is used sometimes in the New Testament with allusion unto the twelve tribes, whose portions were divided and distributed unto them by lot, as Ephesians 1:11, whence that people were more peculiarly called the lines and heritage of the Lord, as whom Himself made partakers of all the good things of that land; and by proportion those also who by faith laid, or shall lay, hold upon His covenant, for all those spiritual and eternal good things shadowed out thereby. But commonly it signifieth those who after a man’s death succeed him in his goods and possessions, especially children, whose right it is to inherit their father’s lands and possessions; and thus must we become heirs by becoming the sons and children of God. Now, whereas children are either natural or adopted, our title to this inheritance cometh in by the grace of adoption, seeing Christ is the only natural Son, as we confess in our creed; and the phrase of the text is observable, which faith we are made heirs, but not so born; so as this inheritance belongeth properly unto Christ the natural son, the heir, and firstborn of many brethren, and consequently through Him communicated unto us, who are sons by adoption (John 1:12).
II. The present tenure of this inheritance is by hope, for our inheritance is not so much set before our bodily eyes as the eyes of our faith, which is not of things present, but of things to come. And yet although it be an estate to come, the Lord would not leave us without such graces as being conversant about it might serve us in this life to retain our hold and comfort therein, such as are faith, hope, and patience. Now hope signifieth two things
1. The thing hoped for. “Hope which is seen is not hope” (Romans 8:24). “What is the hope of the calling” (Ephesians 1:18).
2. For the gift whereby we hope and expect good things promised, and this must of necessity here be meant, because life eternal of which we have spoken is the thing hoped for.
This grace hath the Lord for our encouragement and comfort, in and for the state of this life only, put into the hearts of His elect, that they might hereby have a certain hold and expectation of all that good which God of His mercy through the merit of His Christ hath promised; the which shall cease when they come once to see that which they now hope for, seeing hereafter can be no hope, not in heaven, for the godly shall enjoy all blessedness their hearts can wish; not in hell, for the damned can never hope for any good.
1. That which the apostle specially aimeth at is that heaven is not merited, but a free gift; here it is called eternal life, which is the gift of God (Romans 6:23). It is called here an inheritance, in that the elect are called heirs; it is against the nature of an inheritance to come any way but by free gift, legacies we know are most free without desert, without procurement, and what an absurd thing were it for a child to go to his father to offer to buy his inheritance? It is said here further that we are made heirs, that is adopted, not born to the inheritance, and therefore it is so much the more free. And lastly, it is here called an eternal inheritance, which, if it be so, how can it be merited, being so far disproportionable to anything we can do.
2. It teacheth us if we would have right to eternal life to become the sons of God, and consequently heirs; seek to be resolved that thou hast a child’s part in heaven. How shall I come to know this? A man may know himself an heir of grace by two things
(1) By the presence of faith, for this intitleth into the covenant. Noah by faith was made heir of the righteousness which is by faith (Hebrews 11:7). Faith in the Son of God it is which maketh thee the King’s son and free born; this is the means of thy freedom, here cometh in thy title, if thou reliest only upon the mercy of God in Christ for thy salutation.
(2) By the presence of sanctification of heart, sanctimony of life (1 Corinthians 6:10-46.6.11).
3. This doctrine teacheth us to set our hearts upon this inheritance; a man that hath any possibility to befal him cannot keep his mind, but it will be running after it, insomuch as many wicked children in regard of their patrimony will inquire into their fathers’ years, and grow sick of their mothers, and it is ordinary that such as look for windfalls by decease will be feeding their hearts with their hopes; so should it be with us, who may, without injury to our Father, long after our inheritance in heaven; and as we see men take no content in any part of the earth, no nor in the whole, comparable to that peace or portion which is their own, even so should not we suffer our hearts so to wander after earth or earthly things, as that we settle our contentment anywhere but where our inheritance and our treasure is. The which desire if it filled our hearts, three worthy fruits of it would manifest themselves through our lives.
(1) It would moderate the eager cares of this life, and would not suffer men to become drudges, or sell themselves as slaves unto the earth, for he that taketh himself to be an heir of heaven is well enough provided and cared for already, his Father hath left him so well as he need not basely shift for himself.
(2) It would content the mind with any present condition.
4. Set thyself well to keep this inheritance and the deeds of it, lay up the covenant safe in the closet of the soul, hide the Word, which is the indenture of God passing it unto thee, in the midst of thy heart, let not Satan nor any cheater defraud thee of it.
5. This doctrine affordeth sundry grounds of most sweet consolation.
(1) The meanest believer is a great heir, and that to all God’s best blessings, a truth which few see as they might and ought, and therefore fail of that comfort which God hath put into their hands.
(2) God’s children being such heirs, they cannot but in the meantime be well provided for till their patrimony fall. We know that great heirs in their minority are well and honestly maintained, their fathers being rich and kind will not suffer them to want things fit for them, and what they want in the purse they have in their education, and if they be any way scanted for the present they shall afterward find it with much advantage.
(3) In any want thou, being thy Father’s heir, mayest boldly repair to thy Father, with good hope to speed in any request which He seeth fit for thee and making for thy good. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
Looking for the hope of eternal life
One bright morning last summer, while travelling in Switzerland, I took my seat on the top of a diligence as we passed along the magnificent country from Geneva to Chamounix. I was full of expectation to see Mont Blanc. Our driver said, as we drew nearer the object of our journey, “Unless a cloud sails up and covers its forehead you will see it leaning up against the clear blue sky.” I need not tell you I kept looking up, feeling that every moment brought me nearer to the sight I so much wanted to see. (Mrs. Bottome.)
Maintain good works -
What we once were. A threefold set of evils is here described.
1. The first set consists of the evils of the mind: “We were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived.” We were foolish. We thought we knew, and therefore we did not learn. Every lover of vice is a fool writ large. In addition to being foolish, we are said to have been disobedient; and so we were, for we forsook the commands of God. We wanted our own will and way. We were unwilling to yield God His due place either in providence, law, or gospel. Paul adds that we were deceived, or led astray. We were the dupes of custom and of company. We were here, there, and everywhere in our actions: no more to be relied upon than lost sheep.
2. The next bundle of mischief is found in the evils of our pursuits. The apostle says we were “serving divers lusts and pleasures.” The word for “serving” means being under servitude. We were once the slaves of divers lusts and pleasures. By lusts we understand desires, longings, ambitions, passions. Many are these masters, and they are all tyrants. Some are ruled by greed for money; others crave for fame; some are enslaved by lust for power; others by the lust of the eye; and many by the lusts of the flesh.
3. We were also the bond slaves of pleasure. Alas! alas! that we were so far infatuated as to call it pleasure! Looking back at our former lives, we may well be amazed that we could once take pleasure in things whereof we are now ashamed. The Lord has taken the very name of our former idols out of our mouths. A holy man was wont to carry with him a book which had three leaves in it, but never a word. The first leaf was black, and this showed his sin; the second was red, and this reminded him of the way of cleansing by blood; while the third was white, to show how clean the Lord can make us. I beg you just now to study that first black page. It is all black; and as you look at it it shows blacker and blacker. What seemed at one time to be a little white darkens down as it is gazed upon, till it wears the deepest shade of all. Ye were sometimes erring in your minds and in your pursuits. Is not this enough to bring the water into your eyes, O ye that now follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth?
4. The apostle then mentions the evils of our hearts. Here you must discriminate and judge, each one for himself, how far the accusation lies. He speaks of “living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” That is to say, first, we harboured anger against those who had done us evil; and, secondly, we lived in envy of those who appeared to have more good than we had ourselves.
II. What has been done for us?
1. First, there was a Divine interposition. The love and kindness of God our Saviour, which had always existed, at length “appeared” when God, in the person of His Son, came hither, met our iniquities hand to hand, and overcame their terrible power, that we also might overcome.
2. Note well that there was a Divine salvation. In consequence of the interposition of Jesus, believers are described as being saved: “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” Hearken to this. There are men in the world who are saved: they are spoken of, not as “to be saved,” not as to be saved when they come to die, but saved even now--saved from the dominion of the evils which we described under our first head: saved from folly, disobedience, delusion, and the like. Whosoever believeth in the Lord Jesus Christ, whom God has set forth to be the propitiation for sin, is saved from the guilt and power of sin. He shall no longer be the slave of his lusts and pleasures; he is saved from that dread bondage. He is saved from hate, for he has tasted love, and learned to love. He shall not be condemned for all that he has hitherto done, for his great Substitute and Saviour has borne away the guilt, the curse, the punishment of sin; yea, and sin itself.
3. There was a motive for this salvation. Positively, “According to His mercy He saved us”; and, negatively, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done.” We could not have been saved at the first by our works of righteousness; for we had not done any. “No,” says the apostle, “we were foolish, disobedient, deceived,” and therefore we had no works of righteousness, and yet the Lord interposed and saved us. Behold and admire the splendour of His love, that “He loved us even when we were dead in sins.” He loved us, and therefore quickened us.
4. There was a power by which we were saved. The way in which we are delivered from the dominion of sin is by the work of the Holy Ghost. This adorable Person is very God of very God. This Divine Being comes to us and causes us to be born again. By His eternal power and Godhead He gives us a totally new nature, a life which could not grow out of our former life, nor be developed from our nature--a life which is a new creation of God. We are saved, not by evolution, but by creation. The Spirit of God creates us anew in Christ Jesus unto good works. We experience regeneration, which means--being generated over again, or born again.
5. There is also mentioned a blessed privilege which comes to us by Jesus Christ. The Spirit is shed on us abundantly by Jesus Christ, and we are “justified by His grace.” Both justification and sanctification come to us through the medium of our Lord Jesus Christ.
6. Once more, there comes out of this a Divine result. We become today joint heirs with Christ Jesus, and so heirs of a heavenly estate; and then out of this heirship there grows a hope which reaches forward to the eternal future with exceeding joy.
III. What we wish to do. “Be careful to maintain good works.”
1. This precept is full in its meaning. What are good works? The term is greatly inclusive. Of course we number in the list works of charity, works of kindness and benevolence, works of piety, reverence, and holiness. Such works as comply with the two tables of command are good works. Works of obedience are good works. What you do because God bids you do it, is a good work. Works of love to Jesus, done out of a desire for His glory, these are good works. The common actions of everyday life, when they are well done, with a view not to merit, but one of gratitude--these are good works. “Be careful to maintain good works” of every sort and kind.
2. This precept is special in its direction. To the sinner, that he may be saved, we say not a word concerning good works, except to remind him that he has none of them. To the believer who is saved, we say ten thousand words concerning good works, beseeching him to bring forth much fruit, that so he may be Christ’s disciple. For living works you must have a living faith, and for loving works you must have a loving faith. When we know and trust God, then with holy intelligence and sacred confidence we work His pleasure.
3. This precept is weighty in importance, for it is prefaced thus: “This is a faithful saying.” This is one among four great matters thus described. It is not trivial, it is not a temporary precept which belongs to an extinct race and a past age. “This is a faithful saying”--a true Christian proverb, “that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.” Let the ungodly never say that we who believe in free grace think lightly of a holy life.
4. I am afraid that this precept of being careful to maintain good works is neglected in practice, or else the apostle would not have said to Titus, “These things I will that thou affirm constantly.” There are still persons in our Churches who need to have the ten commandments read to them every Sabbath day. It is not a bad plan to put up the ten commandments near the communion table where they can be clearly seen. Some people need to see them; though I am afraid, when they come in their way, they wink hard at some of the commands, and go away and forget that they have seen them. Common morality is neglected by some who call themselves Christians.
5. This, mark you, is supported by argument. The apostle presses home his precept by saying: “These things are good and profitable unto men.” Men are won to Christ when they see Christianity embodied in the good and the true. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The connection of faith and good works
Truth is many sided. And though like a pure gem, it is on all sides equally bright, it cannot all be seen at once. No merely human mind can so take it all up as to give to every part the same sharp and well-defined outline. Truth in the mind of Christ was like light in the sun, pure and undivided, and ever came out in its glorious integrity. In the minds of his followers it was like light in the prism, in which the rays are separated, or like light in the bow, in which, according to certain laws, the rays are first refracted, and then reflected in the drops of rain, and in which we see the conquering splendour of the light in its struggle with darkness. Faith and works were never separated--not even in idea--in the teaching of Christ. In His own mind they were indissoluble, and so in His instructions. If faith did not express itself in corresponding action, He denied the existence of the principle, or rather He treated men as still on the side of the world and of self. His apostles, on the contrary, gave to all truth their own mental cast and colouring, and unless these various colours are allowed to meet and mingle, we shall lack the pure light. Though Paul and James are treating of one and the same subject, each has his own mode of statement; and the light in which he places it depends on his own individual state of mind. Both apostles are teaching and enforcing the same doctrine, but the parties whom they have in view are not the same. The teachers occupy exactly the same position; but those to whom they address themselves have assumed entirely opposite and conflicting points. The contrariety is not in the statements of the inspired men, but in the minds of Christian professors. Each is a firm believer in the article of justification by faith, but it has different phases, and according as it appears to the one or the other, is his representation. The aim of St. Paul is to set forth God’s method of forgiveness and acceptance through the mediation of His Son;--that this is revealed for faith, and that through faith alone do we come to participate in all the provision of redeeming love. Faith, and not, justification, is his theme. There is but one ground of dependence--but one foundation on which the soul can rest her hope of eternal life, and from which all works are necessarily and forever excluded. But having been once brought to repose our faith in the Divine method of salvation, it remains that we give evidence of the fact. We cannot be in communion with the Redeemer of our souls without partaking His higher life; and we cannot be in communion with the Spirit of life without producing the fruits of the Spirit. Hence the challenge of St. James addressed in words of sharp-pointed irony to those who were boasting of their faith as something separate and separable from a life of practical holiness--“Show Me thy faith without thy works.” If it have no outward expression, how is it to be known or discovered? “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” As the spirit is the inward animating and informing principle, and manifests itself in the outward acts and movements of the body, so faith has in it an element of life, which cannot but develop itself in practical godliness and holy activity. It follows that there is not one faith to justify a sinner and another faith to justify a believer. The same faith justifies both; or rather, the faith which brings a man to simple dependence on the propitiation set forth by God for the remission of sins, has in it such a force and vitality as ever afterwards to come out in those buds and blossoms which have their fruit unto holiness and the end everlasting life. If this simple fact had been but kept in view, no discrepancy would have been found in the statement of these two inspired men. The one wholly excludes the human element from the Divine method of reconciliation and life, and demands the most childlike faith in Heaven’s revealed and published plan of mercy--the other sets it in the clearest light that wherever this pure unsophisticated faith has existence in the soul, it will ever manifest itself in a course of lofty and persevering righteousness. While faith, and not justification, is the subject treated of by both apostles, it may not be amiss just to glance at the doctrine commonly denominated justification by faith. There are two errors common on this subject. First, justification is confounded with acquittal; and, secondly, man is said to be treated as righteous for the sake of the righteousness of another. Now if he be acquitted, he needs not to be treated as righteous. He is righteous; and is entitled to be dealt with according to his rectitude. And if he be righteous, it is absurd and contradictory to speak of his acquittal. Man has sinned; and the proof of his guilt is overwhelming. With the sentence of condemnation lying heavy upon his heart, he may be pardoned, but he can never be declared to be innocent. But is not the righteousness of Christ said to be imputed to us, and that we become righteous on the ground of His righteousness? In creeds, and catechisms, and commentaries, it certainly is so, but nowhere in the Book of God. The righteousness of Christ is a phrase which never occurs but once in the whole of the Christian Testament. When the great apostle of the nations would heighten our idea of the grace of God, by setting the blessings of redeeming love over against the evils entailed upon our race by the introduction of sin, he says, “As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men unto condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” He does not represent the righteousness of the One, as something imputed or transferred from Christ to man, but simply as the procuring cause of our forgiveness and life. The righteousness is put for the whole work of the Saviour’s mediation, and this is declared to be the sole ground on which the blessings of Divine mercy are extended to our fallen world. Nor is more than this to be extracted from the deep saying of this same apostle, when in words that breathe, lie thus expresses the inmost feeling of his soul: “I have suffered the loss of all things, that I may win Christ and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ--the righteousness which is of God by faith.” The idea here is, that he was supremely anxious to be kept from even the attempt of laying a foundation in his own strivings and doings for his acceptance with God, and that he might ever be led to repose by a simple faith in the one Divine method of forgiveness and salvation. The righteousness of God is God’s revealed plan of saving man through the propitiatory offering of His Son. Faith in this propitiation involves an act of perfect self-renunciation, an acknowledgment of conscious sin and weakness, and a resting upon another for help and succour. Our justification introduces us into a new and loftier relation. Our Father in heaven may not treat us as righteous, but He will most surely bless us as His adopted ones. If we can prefer no claim we may yet possess all good. If salvation can never be of works it can ever be of grace. If life is not a right it is yet our high privilege and our mightier joy. This life is progressive. As the first ray of light that gilds the mountain’s height predicts a meridian sun, and as the first blush of the opening flower promises a full and perfect bloom, so the faintest indications of the life of God in the soul assure us of continued growth and progress, till, from its fulness and exuberance, it burst into all the beauty and perfection of heaven. The power that quickens is the power that purifies. There are spots on the disc of the sun, only they are invisible through the effulgence and the fulness of his light, and there are but few spirits so highly sanctified and refined as to render indiscernible, through the glory which surrounds them, those sin spots which daily alight upon their renewed nature. Nor can the work of inward holiness be perfected so long as we are in this body of death. It is in the act of shaking mortality off that the Spirit puts forth his last and latest effort in the soul; and it is only when the soul has burst her prison wall, let fall the last link of the chain which bound her to earth, and is on her way to the great world of light, that she is conscious of her final and everlasting separation from sin. Up to that mysterious point we may become day by day more closely assimilated to God our Saviour. Our sanctification is inseparable from our justification. It is not enough that we live. It is the will of God that we should enjoy the fulness of life. Life can have fellowship only with life. We must, therefore, detach ourselves from every opposing element and influence. We must give up the material and the visible for the spiritual and the unseen. Enjoyment without activity would not be an unmixed good. It follows that as life is quickened and our nature is purified, we are freed from sloth and sluggishness. The soul moves with a freedom and a swiftness corresponding to the unconfined liberty of heaven. That is a world of never-ending activity, and, in proportion as we rise into conformity with the pure spirits that surround the throne of God, shall we, like them, employ all our renovated powers in holy and active service? Christianity is love--universal, unbounded love--and embraces within itself the present and the everlasting interests of man. And the more we partake its spirit, the more entire will be our consecration--the more unreserved our activity and our service. Let no one be startled and offended with the doctrine of good works. They necessarily flow from faith. They are faith in action. They are “the living effluence of the tide of Divine love,” which refuses to be confined within any prescribed limits, and flows out in deeds of unwearied benevolence and piety. He who repudiates a life of well-doing in the dreamy belief that in the same proportion he is exalting the grace of God, is not the man whose character exhibits the closest correspondence to the pure and sublime requirements of the Book. It is a grand mistake to suppose that the law is repealed by the gospel. In Christianity the law reappears; only it is transfigured and glorified. Every utterance which was given in the thunder tones of Sinai, is re-echoed with heightened emphasis in the Sermon on the Mount, only it comes silent as the light and gentle as the dew from the lips of Incarnate Love. We hold that salvation is by grace and not by works; but where the works are wanting the grace cannot be present. Our activity and our service will be the everlasting recognition and expression of the fact that we have been redeemed by blood and saved by grace. We should be unfaithful to our ministry and to your souls did we dare to say that sin committed by a professed believer is less criminal or less damnable than what we discover in the unregenerate and the unholy. Sin is sin by whomsoever committed, and involves the same tremendous consequences. It is of infinite moment that they who believe in God should be careful to maintain good works--that their life should be pure, their character transparent, and their conduct patent. Their principles should be above suspicion, and their whole course of action such as may challenge the higher light of the world to come. (R. Ferguson, LL. D.)
The practice of good works
I. It is not enough to believe what God hath said to be true, and to give our assent to the certainty of Divine revelation, unless our belief influences our heart and life. Christ’s laws, as well as any other, run in this disjunction--either do or suffer; either live holily, or perish everlastingly: nothing is therein promised, but upon condition of our obedience. The main thing our Saviour aimed at all His life was to restore human nature to its primitive purity and perfection, and to advance true piety and holiness in the world; to bring men to a good opinion of and a ready compliance with God’s laws, so that it influences all their actions, faith not being enough to denominate a man a true Christian, unless he goes on to add to his faith virtue, etc.
II. The practice of good works, taken either for piety towards God or charity towards man, is absolutely necessary for all unto salvation.
1. They render our services more acceptable unto God. Purity and holiness in the heart, before these be or when there is no opportunity to work, are in themselves good; but when they are demonstrated by godly and charitable actions, then smell they sweet, and are sacrifices well-pleasing.
2. By them God’s name is more glorified (Matthew 5:16).
3. By them we shall be the greatest gainers or losers, in that by them we make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10).
III. Why those are more indispensably obliged to be exemplary in all good works, who have been more particularly acquainted with God’s will, and early instructed in it. As we may be supposed to have been, whose parents were our spiritual guides, as well as fathers of our flesh, and under whose roof we were early seasoned with their daily instructions and good example. We shall, therefore, reflect upon their memory and care, we shall cause others to uncover their ashes with dishonour, unless we adorn that faith our fathers believed, which they taught us, and which we saw them practise. (Thos. Whincop, D. D.)
On the necessity of good works
I. The certain truth and credibility of this saying or proposition, that they which have believed in God ought to be careful to maintain good works.
1. If we consider the great end and design of religion in general, which is to make us happy, by possessing our minds with the belief of a God, and those other principles which have a necessary connection with that belief, and by obliging us to the obedience and practice of His laws.
2. If we consider the great end and design of the Christian religion in particular, which was to reform the world, to purify the hearts and lives of men from corrupt affections and wicked practices, to teach men to excel in all kinds of virtue and goodness.
II. The great fitness and necessity of inculcating frequently upon all that profess themselves Christians, the indispensable necessity of the practice of the virtues of a good life. (Abp. Tillotson.)
I. That believers are under obligations to maintain good works is so evident, not only from the text, but from the whole tenor of the Scripture, that I know of no sect of Christians that pretend to deny it. But, with regard to their place and importance as connected with our salvation, great mistakes have been made. It will certainly then be worth our pains to inquire from the oracles of God, “How far and in what respect are our good works necessary to be maintained with regard to salvation.”
1. In my negative answer to this question, I must first observe that we are not to do good works in order to change God’s purposes and designs towards us; or to excite His benevolence and compassion to us. Our business is to come to Christ and learn of Him, to bow our necks to His yoke, to do good works from faith in Christ, and out of love and obedience to Him; and in that way to hope in God for mercy, for Christ’s sake, and for His own sake, and not for ours.
2. We are not to do good works with a view to qualify us for our reception of Christ by faith, or for obtaining an interest in Him. The gospel brings glorious tidings of salvation to perishing sinners. It exempts and excludes none who will come to Christ for life, who will come to Him as lost sinners under a sense of their guilt and unworthiness, who will “buy of Him wine and milk without money and without price, and who will take the water of Life freely.”
3. I must further add that we are not to do good works in expectation that we shall by them obtain a title to the future inheritance. Heaven is a purchased possession; our title to it, our qualification for it, our perseverance in the way that leads thither, and our eternal enjoyment of the glorious inheritance, are all purchased by the blood of Christ. In all these respects Christ Jesus is our Hope; and when we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” we must “rejoice in Christ Jesus, having no confidence in the flesh.”
4. I shall only add that we must not depend upon our good works for renewing supplies of grace, and for continual progress in holiness, and comfort unto God’s heavenly kingdom. We are not only justified by faith, but we must be sanctified by faith too, and of Christ’s “fulness must receive even grace for grace.”
II. I proceed now to show you in what respects good works are of necessity; and to that purposes they must be done by all those who would approve themselves Christians indeed.
1. Good works are necessary as being one design of our redemption and effectual calling. Though not the fountain and foundation of a renewed nature, they are always the streams that flow from that fountain, and the super structure upon that foundation. Though they do not sanctify us they are the natural and necessary actings and operations of a sanctified heart.
2. Good works are necessary, as they belong to the way leading to heaven. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” We must not only “enter in at the strait gate, but walk in the narrow way which leadeth unto life.” They who would hope for heaven hereafter must have it begun in their souls here. Their hearts must be in some measure conformed to the Divine nature and will, that they may be qualified for the enjoyments and employments of the heavenly world.
3. Good works are necessary as acts of obedience to God’s commands, and a just acknowledgment of His dominion over us. Our freedom from the curses and demands of the moral law as a covenant of life is so far from freeing us from our duty towards it as a rule of practice, or excusing us from a careful observation of its precepts, that the glorious liberty we are made partakers of is given us for this very end that we may serve “God without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.”
4. Good works are necessary as expressions of our gratitude to God for all His goodness to us, more especially for gospel grace, and the influences of His blessed Spirit. They who have ever tasted that the Lord is gracious, and have any suitable sense of their obligations to Him, will study what they shall render to the Lord for all His benefits; they will delight in endeavours to glorify Him, they will be solicitously careful of a constant conformity to His will, and a peculiar delight in following after holiness.
5. Good works are necessary to honour our profession, to adorn the doctrine of God bur Saviour, and to bring glory to His name.
6. Good works are likewise necessary to our inward peace and comfort. A truly tender conscience will always remonstrate against the indulgence of any sin, either of omission or commission. And how unhappy and miserable must that man be to have his heart condemning him; to have a worm gnawing in his breast, to have conscience applying the terrors of the Lord, and representing to Him his guilt and danger! And yet this cannot be avoided without a life of good works. We cannot have grounds of rejoicing, but from “the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God we have our conversation in the world.” (J. King, B. A.)
Morality the proper subject of preaching
Among the many causes which have concurred to render our holy religion thus unsuccessful, the indifference and neglect with which many sects of Christians have been accustomed to treat the moral precepts of the gospel deserves, I think, to be considered as none of the least. By giving an imaginary importance to subjects of speculation, concerning which wise and good men have always thought, and will probably continue to think, differently, they have turned aside the attention and zeal of mankind from those things in which their present and future happiness are really and principally concerned. My design is to counteract the influence of these prejudices, as far as I am able, by showing that the principal end of public preaching is to recommend the practice of virtue; and that those who attend upon it should be best satisfied with such discourses as clearly explain and strongly inculcate the several branches of morality as it comprehends our duty to our Maker, our fellow creatures and ourselves, without entering further into subjects of speculation and controversy than is of evident importance to the moral improvement and happiness of mankind.
1. I observe, in the first place, that if the duties of morality and religion were made the principal subjects of public preaching, it would remove or prevent many evils which have arisen from the contrary practice. The divisions and contentions, the persecutions and cruelties, which have disgraced the Christian Church, from its first establishment to the present day, are so well known that I may be excused the painful talk of entering into a particular enumeration of them. The time, however, seems to be at length arrived, in which men are beginning to see the folly of hating and persecuting one another for a difference in opinion on subjects concerning which it is impossible that they should be agreed. And shameful indeed must be the weakness, and fatal the delusion of mankind in the experience of so many ages hath not been sufficient to teach them this one plain but important lesson, that all zealous contentions about particular modes of faith or worship are unfriendly to the interests of religion, and the happiness of the world. From these circumstances one may hope that the present time is the dawning of a happy day, in which all distinctions of sects shall be abolished and all dissentions and animosities will be forgotten; in which we shall all love one another with pure hearts fervently, and shall cordially unite in the worship of one God, the Father of us all. And what can be more likely to hasten the approach of this delightful period than for the ministers of religion to overlook and as much as possible discourage every party distinction and useless speculation, and constantly to direct the attention of their hearers to those subjects concerning which we are all agreed, and in which we are all immediately interested; I mean the great duties of morality and religion?
2. Another reason why these duties should be the constant subjects of public preaching is because we may speak concerning them with the greatest perspicuity and certainty. That we ought to venerate the most excellent and perfect of all beings; that we should devoutly and thankfully acknowledge the hand which feeds and clothes us, and gives us richly all things to enjoy; that we should cheerfully submit ourselves to the direction of that Being who ordereth all things well; that we should observe the great laws of equity in all our transactions with mankind; that we should pity, and, if possible, relieve a brother in distress; that we should love our friends, be grateful to our benefactors, and forgive our enemies; that we should behave with honour and generosity, kindness, and charity towards all men; that we should govern ourselves with prudence and discretion, and diligently cultivate the powers which God hath given us; these are truths as obvious as they are important; truths concerning which all mankind in every country, and of every sect, are agreed. They are, therefore, of all others, the most proper subjects of public discourse.
3. I add this strain of preaching is best adapted to the understanding and taste of the generality of mankind. If a preacher endeavours to establish received opinions, or if he takes pains to overturn them; if he recites the comments of the most learned and celebrated fathers of the Church on difficult texts of Scripture, and supports them; or, if on the other hand, he attempts to explain them in a different manner, and, on this explanation, to ground a more rational scheme of faith; he may perhaps amuse and please a few; but he will, most probably, offend some, soar above the understandings of many, and reach the hearts of none. But if he exhorts his hearers to maintain good works; if he appeals to their consciences for the reasonableness and importance of the duties which he recommends; if he gives them just and lively representations of the influence which the observance or neglect of these duties will have upon their peace and happiness; if he touches the springs of gratitude, benevolence and humanity, of self-love, of hope and fear in their hearts, and calls forth every power and passion within them to assist him in pleading the cause of virtue; he will generally find his audience attentive and serious, and may hope to send them away not only pleased but improved.
4. Further, we may remark, that to exhort Christians to maintain good works is the proper business of the Christian ministry. Jesus Christ was eminently a Preacher of righteousness. This character He supported during the whole course of His public ministry. All the doctrines which He taught; all the wonderful worlds which He performed; all the pains and sufferings to which He submitted, were with this immediate view, that He might take away sin and bring in everlasting righteousness. Now, by what means can the teachers of religion so properly merit the character of Christian ministers as by pursuing the same important plan with Him whom they acknowledge as their Lord and Master?
5. The last consideration which I shall mention to evince the reasonableness of making the duties of morality and religion the constant subjects of public preaching is, that they are of the highest importance to the happiness of mankind, and that, in comparison with them, all other subjects are unprofitable and vain.
6. I will conclude by earnestly recommending it to you to take heed that you hear with the same design with which your ministers do or ought to preach, that you may be confirmed in all goodness. Attend upon public preaching, not with a view to have your favourite opinions established, your curiosity gratified, or your imaginations amused; but to have your evil habits corrected, your good dispositions strengthened, and your characters continually improved. “Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only.” (W. Enfield.)
The maintenance of good works the fruit of faith
This text places Christian morals upon a basis sufficiently firm and extended to support the fabric. Well aware of the absolute necessity of preaching sound principles in order to attain to a holy practice, and of the mighty influence which evangelical doctrine, if rightly understood and fairly stated, hath upon holiness in the life, St. Paul heaps privilege upon privilege, and within the compass of three short verses, enumerates the leading articles of our holy religion--giving such a view of them in their connection and influence upon practice, as must delight, constrain and ravish the heart of every believer. From hence I would humbly suggest this general remark, which, by the favour of our God, I intend to prosecute in the sequel of this discourse--whoever in the ministry would really advance the interests of holiness must be constant assertors and unwearied defenders of the doctrines of free grace.
I. Glance at those things in the faithful saying which our apostle would have the ministers of Christ to affirm constantly, for the express purpose of promoting holiness. The very humbling doctrine of universal depravity (Titus 3:3). We have little reason to be proud or vainglorious, severe or censorious of others, or to despise those who have not obtained mercy with ourselves--a vice which frequently deforms the character even of a child of a God. But by frequently insisting upon the doctrines of universal depravity, the graces of humility, meekness, mildness, tenderness, and benevolence are perceived to be of the highest request for adorning the Christian character, and promoting the happiness of men; and hence the necessity as well as the advantage of affirming it constantly.
2. The Divine benevolence to man (Titus 3:4). According to this statement, the gospel of our salvation is a system of love--of Divine love--of the love of God towards foolish, disobedient, and enslaved men.
3. Our salvation is all of grace (Titus 3:5). Men cannot be too diligently cautioned against seeking salvation by the works of the law, nor too distinctly taught to ascribe the glory of the whole to “the Lord our righteousness.”
4. Grace displayed in regeneration (Titus 3:5). The reality and necessity of regeneration, the Divine Agent by whom the gracious change is accomplished, the manner in which this happy change is effected, with the unbounded mercy and love displayed, both by the Father and the Son, in giving the Holy Ghost for such a purpose. These things cannot be too constantly affirmed: for, till this change be wrought on the nature and the heart, no true reformation will ever adorn the life.
5. Justification only by grace (Titus 3:7). This is a cardinal article in the scheme of salvation, according to the Scriptures. Well may the preservation or loss of it be designed the mark of a standing or falling Church. It is the glory of the gospel, the melody of the joyful sound, the admiration and the joy of redeemed men, the most powerful motive to holiness which can be presented.
6. The title secured by justification to the enjoyment of eternal life (Titus 3:7). It is both pleasant and very encouraging to mark, in this statement preceding my text, how regeneration, justification, adoption, and eternal glory, are so linked together in the same chain, that by holding one of the links, the happy possessor is infallibly secured of all the rest. A most glorious and eternal truth--an assurance eminently calculated to enliven the believer’s hope of eternal life in Christ. And “whosoever hath this hope in Him purifieth himself,” as Jesus Christ, his hope “is pure.”
II. Show that the constant affirmation of the doctrines of the Gospel is the only scripture method of preaching good works. Good works is a general expression for the practice of holiness, or the performance of every part of new obedience, whether it respect moral, civil, or religious duty. To maintain good works, according to the signification of the original word, is to take the lead in the practice of them. The term is of a military illusion. As the officers of an army stand before, or a little in advance of the line, both to display heroism and preserve the order of the troops, so the believer in God is expected and commanded to stand forth, in the view of the world, in the sight of the Church, and particularly in the presence of younger disciples of Christ, as examples of regularity, sobriety, tenderness, and devotion. To be emulous to excel, so as to provoke one another to faith, “to love and to good works.” An emulation this eminently worthy of being cherished! To be “careful to maintain good works,” is to be wholly intent upon the study and the practice of new obedience; for, except the mind feel a deep interest in holiness, from a love to God and a desire to be like Him, the external performance of good works will be cold, formal, and remiss. Hence it follows that the constant affirmation of these doctrines, so happily calculated to cherish the exercise of faith, must be peculiarly friendly to the interests of holiness; nay, more, that the constant affirmation of these things is the only Scriptural and consistent plan of engaging the believer in God to be careful to maintain good works. This I hope to make manifest to your satisfaction from these four considerations.
1. These doctrines contain the principles, powers, and privileges, by which alone any of the human race become qualified for maintaining good works.
2. In these doctrines the believer is presented with the most powerful and proper motives and inducements to maintain good works.
3. These doctrines, when firmly believed, excite an inveterate antipathy at everything contrary to the nature and holy will of God.
4. The constant affirmation of these things affords the Christian moralist every advantage to state his subject in all its force. (W. Taylor.)
On the necessity of Christian morality
I. The necessity of good works in regard to ourselves.
1. The practice of good works is necessary to prove the reality and sincerity of our faith. Faith or belief is a hidden principle which no man can see, and there is no other way of testifying that we possess this principle, but by the benevolent sentiments which it breathes, and the good actions which it prompts us to perform.
2. Good works are necessary to promote our moral improvement, We know very well that there is such an indissoluble connection between a true faith and eternal salvation, that the man who is a sincere believer will be justified and sanctified and glorified; but his sanctification is entirely distinct from, and is only a consequence of, his faith and justification. It is therefore necessary that the principle of a Divine life should operate in transforming him from glory to glory, and from one degree of religious and moral improvement unto another, until he be conformed to the image of the Son of God, and attain to the measure of the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus. It is not merely necessary that he should cease to do evil; but he must learn to do well. In short, by a diligent and unremitting attention to the duties of religion and morality, he must cultivate the principle of universal righteousness and perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord.
3. Good works are necessary to qualify us for heaven. They are necessary to form us to the temper and disposition of Christ, who went about continually doing good; in order that the same mind may be also in us that was in Him; for we may depend upon it, that if we have not the spirit of the Lord Jesus, we are assuredly none of His.
II. How these things are good and profitable unto men.
1. These works are good, because they flow from a faith or belief in the command of God, and are done from a principle of conformity to His will.
2. But the apostle trot only characterises these things as good, he also affirms that they are profitable unto men. We shall, therefore, conclude, by briefly pointing out how these good works are especially profitable to those to whom they are performed; and we are espressly enjoined in Scripture to do good to all men as far as we have opportunity. Now, all who believe in God have it in their power, more or less, to do good to the bodies and the souls of men. This is one substantial reason why we are required to prove our faith by our works. He has ordained many to be rich, and more to be poor, that those to whom He has been bountiful might glorify Him with His own. He has bestowed wisdom and knowledge upon many, that they should instruct the ignorant, reclaim the wandering, and those who are out of the way. He commands us to defend the fatherless and plead for the widow; to be the stranger’s shield and the orphan’s stay; to relieve the oppressed; to pour the balm of consolation into the wounded spirit; to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, that the blessing of those who are ready to perish may come upon us. (D. Stevenson.)
I. Define good works.
1. That our works may be good, they must be
(1) Performed by good persons;
(2) Required by God’s Word;
(3) Done from a sound principle;
(4) Done to a right end.
2. How these good works must be maintained
(1) Attention to God’s Word;
(2) Solicitude to know God’s mind;
(3) Watchfulness against temptations;
(4) Embracing every opportunity of doing good;
(5) Pressing forward in knowledge;
(6) Exciting others to do the same.
II. The faith which produces good works.
1. Knowledge of God.
2. And of the Word of God.
3. Faith is a composing grace.
4. A receptive grace.
5. An operative grace.
6. A rooting grace.
7. A humbling grace.
8. An elevating grace.
9. A strengthening grace.
10. A uniting grace.
11. A working grace.
12. A saving grace.
III. How good works are profitable to men.
1. As evidences of true faith.
2. Testimonies of gratitude to God.
3. Strengthening to assurance.
4. Edifying to others.
5. Condemning the world. (T. B. Baker, M. A.)
I. Practical Christianity is good in itself.
1. It accords with the will of God.
2. It is an object of moral approbation to all minds.
II. Good in its influence. Nothing is so useful to men as a Christly life. (Homilist.)
Some hints to preachers
I. Fundamental truths are to be continually enforced.
II. Practical preaching is ever out of season.
III. Christian duties are of universal application.
IV. Trivial questions out of place in the pulpit. Inferences
1. It is possible to have repetition without sameness: “affirm constantly.”
2. Belief that does not change the life is useless (James 2:17)
3. The law is to be obeyed in spirit, rather than letter. (F. Wagstaff.)
Creed and conduct
The things that Titus is to “affirm constantly,” as we shall see presently, are the doctrines of Christianity. What for? “In order that they which have believed in God” might be orthodox? Guarded against heresies? Certainly! But something more than that. In order that they might “give their minds to being foremost,” as the word might be rendered, “in good works.” That is what you are to preach your theology for, says Paul; and the only way to make sure that your converts shall live sober and righteous lives is to see that they be thoroughly saturated in the great and recondite truths which I have taught you.
I. The Gospel is degraded unless it is asserted strongly. “These things I will that thou affirm constantly”; or, as the word might be rendered, “asseverate pertinaciously,” persistently, positively, affirm and assert constantly and confidently. That is the way in which Paul thinks it ought to be spoken. “These things.” What things? Well, here they are (verses 4-7). There are all the fundamentals of evangelical Christianity packed into three verses. They are all there--man’s sin, man’s need, the Divinity of Jesus Christ, His sacrificial death, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the act of faith, the inheritance of eternal life. And these are the things which are to be asserted with all the energy and persistency and decisiveness of the speaker’s nature. Paul did not believe in fining them down because people did not like them. He did Dot believe in consulting the “spirit of the age,” except thus far, that the more the spirit of the age was contrary to the truth, the more need for the men that believed it to speak out.
II. This positive assertion of the truths of revelation is the best foundation to lay for practical godliness. “I will that these things thou affirm constantly, in order that they which have believed might be careful to maintain good works.” Rightly understood and presented, the great body of truth which we call the gospel, and which is summarised in the preceding context, grips daily life very tightly, while, on the other hand, of all the impotent things in this world, none are more impotent than exhortations to be good, which are cut away from the great truths of Christ’s mission and work. The world has been listening to these ever since it was a world, and it is not a bit better for them all. There is only one thing that supplies the requisite motive power for practical godliness, and that is the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His indwelling in our hearts. The motives that the gospel gives for goodness, for holiness, for purity, for self-sacrifice, for consecration, for enthusiasm, for widespread sympathy and benevolence, for contempt of the material and the perishable--the motives that Christianity gives for all things that are lovely and of good report--are the strongest that can ever be brought to bear upon men, as regards their fulness, their depth, their sweetness, and their transforming energy. Then, if it be true that the best foundation for all practical goodness is in the proclamation and the possession of the great message of Christ’s love, two things follow. One is that Christian people ought to familiarise themselves with the practical side of their faith, just as Christian ministers ought to be in the habit of insisting, not merely upon the great revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ, but upon that revelation considered as the motive and the pattern for holy living. And another consequence is that here is a rough but a pretty effective test of so-called religious truth. Does it help to make a man better? It is worth something if it does; if it does not, then it may be ruled out as of small consequence.
III. The true test and outcome of professing faith is conduct. In the text the fact that these Cretan Christians “believed in,” or rather, perhaps, we should translate simply, “believed God,” is given as a reason why they ought to maintain good works. That is to say, those who profess to have Him for their Lord and Father, those who avow that they are Christians, are by that profession bound to a conduct corresponding to the truth which they say they have received; and to conformity to the will of the God in whom they say that they have believed. Religious knowledge is all very necessary, but what is it for? It is to make us like God. Religious emotion is very necessary, too, and very delightful. It is right that Christian men should feel the glow of love and gratitude, the joy of forgiveness, the lofty and often unspeakable delights of calm communion with Him. All these are essential parts of a deep and true Christian character, but all these are for a purpose. If we are Christians we know God and we feel the emotions of the religious life, in order that we may be and that we may do.
IV. No one will keep up these good works who does not give his mind to it. “That they … might be careful to maintain.” The word that the apostle employs is a very remarkable one, only used in this one place in the New Testament; and the force of it might be given by that colloquialism which I have ventured to employ--“Giving their minds to maintaining good works.” You have to make a business of it if you would succeed in it. You have to make a definite effort to bring before you the virtues and the excellencies which you ought to possess, and then to try your best to have them. And my text suggests one chief means of securing that result, and that is, the habit--which I am afraid is not a habit with a great many professing Christians--the habit of meditation upon the facts of the gospel revelation looked at in their practical bearing on our daily life and character. We should bring ourselves into that atmosphere, and saturate our minds and hearts with the thoughts of God’s great love to us in Jesus Christ’s death for us, of the pattern in His life, of the gift of His Spirit, of the hope of inheritance of eternal life. We should, by frequent meditation, submit ourselves to the power of these sacred thoughts, and we shall find that in them, one by one, are motives which, twisted together, will make a cord of love that shall draw us up out of the pit of selfishness and the mire of sense, and shall attract us joyfully along the path of obedience, else too hard for our reluctant and unaccustomed feet. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
By flowers, understand faith; by fruit, good works. As the flower is before the fruit, so is faith before good works; so neither is the fruit without the flower, nor good works without faith. Faith and works--‘Twas an unhappy division that has been made between faith and works. Though in my intellect I may divide them, just as in the candle I know there is both light and heat; but yet, put out the candle, and they are both gone; one remains not without the other. So ‘tis betwixt faith and works; nay, in a right conception, fides est opus (faith is work); if I believe a thing because I am commanded, that is opus (work). (T. Selden.)
Avoid foolish questions
Foolish questions reproved
Amongst the questions to be avoided, such as the following may be included.
1. Those which savour of scepticism and unbelief, or which imply a doubtfulness of the truth of Divine revelation, or of any of its fundamental doctrines. Religion is not intended to gratify our curiosity, or to answer our speculative inquiries; its object is to renew and sanctify the heart, and to meeten us for heaven.
2. Intricate and controversial questions are in general to be avoided, as engendering strife rather than ministering to godly edifying.
3. Prying questions relative to futurity, and which tend only to gratify a vain curiosity, ought to be avoided.
4. Questions arising from impatience and discontent are generally in a high degree improper, and unworthy of a Christian. When the mind is disquieted and full of trouble, we are commonly dissatisfied with everything about us, and wish if it were possible to have it otherwise. But this is a spirit which the Scriptures condemn, as utterly inconsistent with submission to the will of God, and as savouring of presumption and unbelief.
5. Perplexing and disquieting questions, which have no tendency to promote the great objects of practical religion, but only to excite unnecessary doubts and fears, are also prohibited in the text. Instead of asking the anxious question, for example, Are we elected? our great concern should be to know whether we be effectually called? Not, are our names written in heaven, but is God’s law written in our hearts?
6. Trifling and uninteresting questions which serve only to amuse and not to impart any useful information, ought by all means to be avoided. There is too great a disposition, even in serious people, to indulge in frivolous disputes, or in a strife about words rather than things, to the neglect of the weightier matters of the law, judgment, charity, and the love of God.
II. Notice some things that are necessary to a profitable conversation.
1. Beware of loquacity, or too much speaking. Let not your words go before your thoughts; think twice before you speak once.
2. Accustom yourselves to a sober way of thinking and talking, using at all times sound speech which cannot be condemned.
3. It may be proper to lay in a stock of interesting questions as matter for after conversation. Inquiries relative to our state, tending to promote experimental religion, both in ourselves and others, would at all times be useful and edifying. We cannot too frequently ask ourselves, Are we in a state of acceptance with God; do we grow in grace; do we hate sin and love holiness; are we more weaned from the world, and fit for heaven? An awakened sinner would naturally inquire, What must I do to be saved? and those who have believed through grace should be anxious to inquire, What shall we do that we may work the works of God?
4. Living as in the sight of God, and under a conviction that for every idle word we must give an account in the day of judgment, will exclude a great deal of light and trifling conversation, and give a savouriness to our speech, which will minister grace to the hearer. (B. Beddome, M. A.)
Never was there a time wherein there was more talk or bustle and ado made about religion, and yet so little of the power of it seen in the world, whilst every one is most eager and busy in defending and propagating those doubtful doctrines which distinguish their several sects and factions, and so few mind those great and certain truths wherein they all are, or at least pretend to be, agreed.
I. That our Saviour and His Gospel gave no real just occasion for those controversies, which since have been so hotly moved, will appear if we consider a little His doctrine and way of teaching whilst He was here on earth, for we shall find all along that He delivered His message not in any studied, artificial, spruce, and affected method, but with the greatest perspicuity and plainness imaginable. He accommodated not His discourses to the learned or wiser part of mankind only, but to the ignorant and simple. Thus also, if we consult the Acts of the Apostles, we shall find it was in the first and early times of the gospel. Much pains it cost them to convince Gentiles and Jews of the truth of our Saviour’s religion, and to take off their prejudices against it and His person, and to resist and gainsay apostate Christians who would set up new religions of their own in opposition to Christ’s, but little or none, in comparison, to make them understand the doctrine of it when once they were ready to follow and embrace it. They did not perplex their hearers with any quirks and intricacies, but avoiding all needless disputations, which engender strife and are not unto edification, told them plainly that Jesus commanded them everywhere to repent of their sins, and to forsake them, and to behove His gospel, and become His disciples, and obey what He enjoined in being temperate, humble, just, and charitable, and they should be forever happy in the other world; and that for the effecting of this the Son of God came down from heaven, and lived here amongst men, and died, and rose again, of which they were witnesses.
II. It is true some disputes soon arose in the Church, and what gave occasion to them i am next to inquire. Some did arise even in the apostles’ days, occasioned either by that great respect and veneration the Jews had for Moses’ laws and institutions, or that fond presumption they had of God’s particular inconditionate favour to them, and His absolute election of the seed of Abraham only; or else by the wickedness of those who for some private ends would pretend to Christianity, but, being unwilling to undergo the severities of it, invented such doctrines as might best serve to patronise their lusts or impieties. Thus though there were disputes, then, yet they were chiefly between Christians and their open and professed enemies, or such as had apostatised from them, or were but in part converted; but for some considerable time (whilst the persecutions lasted) the Christians amongst themselves lived in all love and peace, professing the same faith, joining in the same worship, and agreeing in the same principles and practices. But when once our religion had triumphed over all others and brought the greatest part of the world to its subjection, and the princes of the earth and the great and wise men became Christians, and there was no public enemy, either Jew or Gentile, to oppose, and find work for busy wits, then they began to fall out about their own religion; and this still increased more as the Christians grew more learned and idle, and less honest, and found time and leisure to study philosophy, the greatest part of which about that time was nothing else but sophistry, or the art of wrangling, and making plain things obscure.
III. But yet by anything I have now said I would not be thought to persuade you that there was nothing in our religion that was difficult or mysterious. There are, without all doubt, some things contained in Scripture which are past our understandings, the particular modes and circumstances of which we cannot perfectly comprehend, but only that it would have been much more for the honour of God, the interest of Christianity, and the good of souls, if men would have suffered those things which were mysterious to have remained so, and also left those things that were plain in the same condition they found them.
IV. Had I time in particular to show how such idle disputes in matters of religion are still continued in the world, i might tell you
1. Some men there are of a voluble tongue and of a talking, prating humour, who debate and dispute about everything, and therefore religion shall not escape if it ever comes in their way; you can say nothing but they presently contradict and oppose it.
2. Others there are that are pretty cool, tame, and calm, and can discourse freely and civilly about any ordinary common affair; but let the smallest and most inconsiderable point of religion be started, and they shall be presently all on fire, and as quarrelsome as if they had been born disputing, and as fierce as if at the pronouncing of every article of their belief their swords were to be drawn, and it was to be fought out.
3. Others there are who furnish themselves for dispute by reading a great deal of Scripture and getting it by heart, and so pouring it forth upon all occasions, interpreting it as peremptorily, and explaining it as confidently, as if they were guided by the same infallible spirit that the writers of it were endued withal.
4. Others there are who are very eager in maintaining a great many opinions, which are not to be found in Scripture, but in some authors they have great esteem of, or first chanced to read, or were directed to by those whose judgments they most valued; and these men’s books such make their Bible, and from them fetch all their divinity.
V. But whatever be, and many more there are, occasions of these quarrels and debates in religion, the inconvenience of them is great and notorious.
1. This foolish contending consumes so much time of our lives, which ought to be spent in our honest employments, in serious devotions, and doing the offices of justice, friendship, and charity one towards another; and I doubt not but much of our religious brawling and disputing shall be accounted for at the last day as idle words, for which neither ourselves, nor neighbours, nor anybody else was anything the better.
2. That which is a greater mischief than this, from hence men’s lusts learn to dispute, and from these controversies in and about religion men have found out how to quiet their consciences in a way of sin, and to go on securely and undisturbedly, hoping by the help of a distinction or two they shall for all that get to heaven at last.
3. These disputes have been the occasion of those great breaches that have been made amongst Christians, whose care it ought to be to be of one mind, of one faith, and of one Church, and to adorn the doctrine of our Saviour by their mutual good will and serviceableness to one another; but instead of this, Christians, by their several little models of faith and their passions, have made it their business to divide the Church, excluding as many from salvation and their communion as are not just of their own way and fancy. (B. Calamy.)
Unanswerable questions to be avoided
The writer remembers calling, late one Saturday evening, on a friend, an able theologian, whom he found seated at his writing table, evidently almost in a state of despair, and with tears in his eyes. “Why are you so sorrowful?” he said to him. In reply, the theologian only smiled sadly, and pointed to his wastepaper basket, which was full of torn up manuscript. “See,” he said, “the remains of eighteen quires of paper, which I have written all over since Monday morning, endeavouring to get my thoughts into order for my sermon tomorrow. But now I am more stupid and perplexed than when I began. I wanted to show how the two truths can be harmonised, that God knows everything and is the cause of everything, and yet that man is a free agent.” It was no wonder that, notwithstanding all the intense thought and all the expenditure of paper, pens, and ink, that sermon did not get itself finished; for the more earnestly a man ponders on such problems the deeper and darker does the Divine mystery become. He who does not wish to lose his senses will postpone the consideration of such unanswerable questions to eternity, and then there will be no fear of his wanting occupation there. (Otto Funcke.)
A story is told of a man who spent most of his time interpreting the mysteries of Revelation. He said to a friend one day, “I can’t quite understand about those seven trumpets, can you?” “No,” was the answer; “but if you would pay more attention to your seven children and less to the seven trumpets, more of your real problems would be solved.” The teacher must rule out unprofitable speculations and discussions. “Let us call up a great logician to help us out,” said a pastor on one occasion, breaking in on such a debate in his class. “‘Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness.’ Now, when I eat fish, I don’t wear myself out grinding on the bones. I just leave them and go for the meat. Now for some meat from this lesson. Brother,” turning to the combatant, “what have you found in this Scripture to help you this week?”
Avoiding unprofitable questions
I once heard him tell an amusing story about a scientific man and popular author, who left a very celebrated minister for a seat in Bloomsbury Chapel. He brought a letter from Dr. H___ to Dr. Brock. “Before you open it, sir,” said the author, “allow me to state that I am a man of science, and that I have much to do with beetles, butterflies, and spiders. Well, I get tired of them in six days, and on the seventh, the Sabbath, I don’t want to hear anything about them. But our good, genial minister is also a man of science, and he will talk about scientific topics in the pulpit to illustrate the Word. Well, last night, the Sabbath, you know, he gave us a sermon full of spiders! I could not stand it any longer, so I went into the vestry, and said, ‘Doctor, that sermon on spiders has finished me; give me a letter to Dr. Brock.’“ “So,” said the pastor, laughing, “he came to us because he knew I didn’t preach about spiders.” (Memoir of Dr. Brock.)
The polemical and the practical Christian
Two learned physicians and a plain honest countryman, happening to meet at an inn, sat down to dinner together. A dispute presently arose between the two doctors on the nature of aliment, which proceeded to such a height, and was carried on with so much fury, that it spoiled their meals, and they parted extremely indisposed. The countryman, in the meantime, who understood not the cause, though he heard the quarrel, fell heartily to his meat, gave God thanks, digested it well, returned in the strength of it to his honest labour, and in the evening received his wages. Is there not sometimes as much difference between the polemical and practical Christian?
Controversy foolish and unprofitable
As in the burning of some wet fuel we cannot see the fire for smoke, so the light of the Scriptures is dusked by the vapours of controversies. (T. Adams.)
It is better not to try to understand too much
He that would comprehend all things, apprehends nothing. As he that comes to a corn heap, the more he opens his hand to take, the less he graspeth, the less he holdeth. Where the Scripture hath no tongue, we should have no ear. (T. Adams.)
The right and wrong use of genealogies
I. The second thing which Titus must resist are genealogies, which also must be rightly taken, because there always was, and yet is, an excellent use of them in Scripture. Before Christ they were so necessary, as the Jews were commanded to keep public and private records of their tribes and families--yea, and if there were any that could not tell or find his genealogy, he was not to be admitted, or, if inconsiderately he were, was to be deposed from public office (Numbers 1:18; Nehemiah 7:62); and to this purpose some holy writers of Scripture have set down for the use of the Church to the end whole books of genealogies, but especially that the Jews might be able to bring their descent from the patriarchs, as we read of Paul, who no doubt could bring his line down from Benjamin (Philippians 3:5). The use of these genealogies was to manifest the truth of God in the Scriptures.
I. In the accomplishment of many special prophecies to particular persons.
II. What is it, then, the apostle condemneth? Not any such as serve to the edification of the faith of the Church, whereof this of Christ a public person and Saviour of the world is the chief of all; neither the keeping of the descent so far as serveth to the preservation of right justice and civil peace. In which respect kings and nobles, yea, and other inferior persons, may inquire into that right which their ancestors have made their due, and must so hold their genealogy as they may hold their right against all claims. But here is condemned all that recounting of kindred and pedigree in all sorts of men, which proceedeth from a vain mind, and tendeth to worldly pomp and vainglory. For this was the sin of the Jewish teachers, that whereas now by Christ’s appearance all distinction of families was in religious respect abrogated, and now was no such need of genealogy as before, unless it were before infidels and such as were not persuaded of the right descent of Christ, yet they out of their pride would be much and often in extolling of their tribes and kindred, and so not only for these accessories let go the substance of religion, but, as if they would build up that polity again which was now abolished, to the great hurt of their hearers, would much busy themselves in fruitless discourses. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
An heretic … reject
The treatment of heresy
Heresy is not an unsound opinion, but an unsound life. A man may hold an erroneous opinion, and hold it sincerely; but the word used here denotes one who seeks to promote discord in the Church (See Romans 16:17).
II. Heresy is to be dealt with firmly, but gently.
1. Firmly--by admonition.
2. Gently--by repeated admonitions.
III. Hardened heretics are to be rejected.
1. But this only applies to exclusion from Church fellowship.
2. It is no warrant for persecution.
3. Excluded heretics are to be deemed objects of pity. (F. Wagstaff.)
Treatment of heretics
Paul having exhorted Titus both to teach the truth according to godliness, as also to resist all such foolish and vain doctrine as might do hurt in the Church of God. Titus might object: This indeed is my duty wherein I extend to exercise myself with diligence; but when I have laboured and done all I can, many there are who will not yield to the truth, nor submit themselves to this ordinance of God; how am I to carry myself towards such? Answer: The apostle, careful to prevent all such things as he foresaw might be hurtful to the Church, giveth direction in these two verses how to proceed in this business also. The former, giving direction and laying down the duty; and the latter, enforcing the same by moment of reason. In the former are three things to be considered:
1. The persons against whom Titus is to deal--here called heretics.
2. The direction how he is to behave himself towards them--reject them.
3. The orderly manner of proceeding, after once or twice admonition.
The latter verse containeth the reason of this severity, because such persons are incurable and incorrigible; which is proved by two arguments.
1. Such a one is subverted, that is, turned or cast off the foundation.
2. He sinneth against his own conscience, being damned of his own self, that is, he wittingly and willingly spurneth against that truth of which his conscience is by the former admonition convinced. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
Heresy not to be trifled with
I am asked sometimes to read an heretical book. Well, if I believed my reading it would help its refutation, and might be an assistance to others in keeping them out of error, I might do it as a hard matter of duty, but I shall not do it unless I see some good will come from it. I am not going to drag my spirit through a ditch for the sake of having it washed afterwards, for it is not my own. It may be that good medicine would restore me if I poisoned myself with putrid meat, but I am not going to try it: I dare not experiment on a mind which no longer belongs to me. There is a mother and a child, and the child has a book to play with, and a blacklead pencil. It is making drawings and marks upon the book, and the mother takes no notice. It lays down one book and snatches another from the table, and at once the mother rises from her seat, and hurriedly takes the book away, saying: “No, my dear, you must not mark that, for it is not ours.” So with my mind, intellect, and spirit; if it belonged to me I might or might not play tomfool with it, and go to hear Socinians, Universalists, and suchlike preach; but as it is not my own, I will preserve it from such fooleries, and the pure word shall not be mingled with the errors of men. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Contagion of false doctrine
Sin is like the bale of goods which came from the East to this city in the olden time, which brought the pest in it. Probably it was but a small bale, but yet it contained in it the deaths of hundreds of the inhabitants of London. In those days one piece of rag carried the infection into a whole town. So, if you permit one sin or false doctrine in a church knowingly and wittingly, none can tell the extent to which that evil may ultimately go. The Church, therefore, is to be purged of practical and doctrinal evil as diligently as possible That sour and corrupting thing which God abhors must be purged out, and it is to be the business of the Christian minister, and of all his fellow helpers, to keep the church free from it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Dilution of the truth
I have likened the career of certain divines to the journey of a Roman wine cask from the vineyard to the city. It starts from the wine press as the pure juice of the grape, but at the first halting place the drivers of the cart must needs quench their thirst, and when they come to a fountain they substitute water for what they had drunk. In the next village there are numbers of lovers of wine who beg or buy a little, and the discreet carrier dilutes again. The watering is repeated, till, on its entrance into Rome, the fluid is remarkably different from that which originally started from the vineyard. There is a way of doctoring the gospel in much the same manner. A little truth is given up, and then a little more, and men fill up the vacuum with opinions, inferences, speculations, and dreams, till their wine is mixed with water, and the water none of the best. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Heresy, in the New Testament, is most commonly used in an indifferent sense, and but seldom in a bad one. It generally signifies no more than a sect or party in religion. Thus we read of the sect, or heresy, of the Sadducees; of the sect, or heresy, of the Pharisees; St. Paul is styled a ring leader of the sect, or heresy, of the Nazarenes; and he says of himself that, after the strictest sect (where the same Greek word is used) of the Jewish religion, he lived a Pharisee. In this last passage particularly nothing can be more plain than that the word has an innocent meaning, since the apostle rather commends than charges himself with anything criminal for having been a Pharisee before his conversion to the Christian faith. And we find it applied in the same manner in Acts 28:22. I shall mention but one text more, and that is, “For there must also be heresies among you,” etc. (1 Corinthians 11:19). The evident design of which is, that considering the various tempers of men, their different views, passions, prejudices, their selfishness, ambition, vanity, and the like, it was natural to expect that they would divide into parties about religion, as well as about politics, and the civil affairs of life; and that the providence of God wisely permitted this for the trial of their integrity, and to distinguish the indolent, careless, and insincere from the real friends of truth, persons of an honest, inquisitive, and ingenuous temper. Now, according to this account, the general notion of a heretic is no more than this, viz., one that sets up to be the head, or chooses to join himself to a particular religious sect. I say who makes this the matter of his choice because it is implied in the original signification of the word; and, besides, nothing can be supposed to have any concern with religion but what is a voluntary action. A heretic, therefore, in a bad sense, must be one who knowingly espouses a false doctrine, is insincere in his profession, and asserts and defends what he is convinced is contrary to Christianity, and, consequently, one who maintains and supports the interest of a faction, to serve some base designs. According to St. Paul’s account in the text, a heretic is not only subverted or turned aside from the true faith, he not only entertains wrong sentiments of Christianity, but sinneth, i.e., doth this wilfully, and with an ill attention. He is one that makes religion a cloak for his immoralities, and espouses and propagates what he knows to be false, to promote the ends of his ambition, covetousness, or sensual pleasure; who, indeed, thinks it his interest to retain the name of a Christian, and in that circumstance only differs from a thorough and wilful apostate from Christianity, but which incurs the greater guilt may perhaps be hard to determine; for as the one rejects the Christian religion altogether, the other out of choice corrupts it, and opposes its true doctrines, even while he pretends to believe and reverence its authority. Such as these, I say, persons of such vile and dishonest principles, and of so flagitious a character, are the heretics condemned by St. Paul; and therefore to fix it as a term of reproach on any in whom there does not appear hatred of the truth, a sensual mind, and a profligate conscience, must be unChristian and scandalous. And if we examine other passages of the New Testament we shall find that they all concur in giving us the same idea of heresy. It is represented as a work of the flesh, because it has its foundation in the corrupt inclinations of human nature. It is reckoned among the most heinous and execrable vices--such as adultery, idolatry, hatred, variance, seditions, murders. And heretics are constantly described as men of no probity or honour, strangers to all the principles of virtue, and embracing such opinions only as were calculated for the gratification of irregular appetites, and advancing selfish and worldly views (1Ti 1:19; 2 Peter 2:1.)
1. It appears from what has been said that no mere error of the judgment can be heresy. For heresy is a high degree of wickedness; and necessarily supposes irregularity of the affections and a depraved and vicious choice; whereas erroneous conceptions and apprehensions of things are no crime at all, but natural to mankind in the present weak and imperfect state of the faculties.
2. We may infer that no honest man can possibly be a heretic. He may, indeed, have errors (and who is there among us that has not?)--nay, he may err in points of importance too, but his mistakes cannot be dangerous while he takes care to maintain a good conscience.
3. If heresy be an error of the will, and such only can be guilty of it who are condemned of themselves, how can we certainly know, in most cases at least, whether a man be a heretic or not? Let each of us put this question to himself impartially, and if we cannot answer it to our satisfaction, let us, however, learn thus much from our ignorance, to be modest in the censures we pass upon others. If it be said that such wicked deceivers are generally known by their fruits, and that their vicious lives will show us by what views they are acted, and the vile design of their imposture, I answer that, even upon this supposition, I should think it better that they be rejected for their immorality, which is notorious and palpable, than for heresy, of which we cannot so certainly judge.
4. Though it be a point of great nicety to judge of heresy in particular instances, the persons who come nearest the character of the old heretics are violent party men, who confine Christianity to their own faction, and excommunicate all that take the liberty to differ from them; the rigid imposers of human schemes of doctrine and modes of worship, as essential branches of religion, and laws binding conscience, these, I say, are most like the heretics condemned in Scripture, notwithstanding their insolence and presumption. (James Foster.)
I. What patience the Lord useth in His just proceedings, even against the worst men, whom He wilt. Not have condemned nor cast out of the Church upon suspicions, or surmises; nor nor presently after an open sin is committed; but there must be a time between wherein the Church must rightly inform herself, that she may know the nature and degree of the sin before she turn her to any censure or sentence. Yea, and further, the sin being apparent, she must not reject any, till all good means of reclaiming have been in vain used. Which may teach us, that to hasten excommunications ipso facto; or (as it is often) before the party can come to the knowledge or suspicion of any such proceeding, is to swerve from the rules of the Word, and those weighty reasons also upon which they are grounded. As namely:
1. Some offenders are curable; and what man in his wits will cut off his arm or leg so soon as it beginneth to ache and pain him, and not rather use means of surgery and cure? is any member in the body so despised?
2. Ourselves must not be so uncharitable as presently, to despair of any man’s conversion. God may in time raise the most desperate stoner unto repentance.
3. The means used are not lost; for if it attain no other end, yet shall it make them more inexcusable, the censure more just, and the Church’s proceeding more equal and moderate.
4. Add here unto the Lord’s example, who never striketh before He have sufficiently warned; He never precipitateth either sentence or execution, but first cometh down to see (Genesis 18:21), and hearkeneth and heareth (Malachi 3:16), and accordingly passeth sentence.
II. Note that when a sinner is known to sin of obstinacy, the best way is to avoid him and cast him out.
1. For labour is but lost on such a one.
2. He doth but tread holy things under his feet; of which holy things the Church is the keeper, and must be faithful.
3. He sins not only of judgment and reason, but of affection; and this is the reason why very few heretics are converted, when many unregenerate men and outrageously wicked in other kinds are, who sin not of affection and wilfulness, but of corrupt judgment only.
4. The Lord’s example (Hosea 4:17).
III. Note hence, also, what use the Lord maketh of a wicked conscience, even in desperate sinners. It shall be the accuser, witness, and judge to pronounce the sentence of death against his own soul; and so shall make way unto the Lord’s most righteous judgment. Use.
1. It letteth us see what an intolerable torment a wicked conscience is. Use.
2. This further teaches us not to neglect the checks of conscience, nor our own hearts reproving us of our ways; as those men who are resolved to hold on their lewd courses, let the word and spirit, yea, their own spirits, suggest what they will or can against it. For the time cometh when thou canst not set the voice of thy conscience so light, and then that conscience which hath checked thee shall judge thee, and that heart which hath reproved thee shall torment thee, and thou shalt never be able to turn off the charge of it, but shalt by it be accused and convicted to have been a wilful chooser of thine own destruction. Use.
3. This consideration also teacheth us to look that in everything we keep good consciences before God and all men, the use of which will be manifold.
(1) To keep us from errors and heresies, and contain us in the profession of the true faith; for let good conscience be put away, there must needs follow a shipwreck of faith; as is to be seen in all heretics. Hence are we counselled to make pure conscience as the coffer to keep faith in (1 Timothy 3:9).
(2) In doing any action lawful in itself, a good con science only maketh it good to the doer; for to do even the will of God against my conscience is sin to me, be the same in itself never so materially good.
(3) In suffering or enduring anything for well doing (as not the pain, but the cause maketh a martyr so), not the cause so much as the conscience of the sufferer worketh out his boldness and peace in the midst of the combat, and giveth him security, in his conflict; whereas a bad conscience will betray the best cause.
(4) In enjoying any condition of this present life, a good conscience is a sweet companion; even a dry morsel with peace of heart is better than a house full of sacrifices with strife and war within. In outward afflictions there is inward rejoicing, for let the heart be pacified in God, it can rejoice in tribulation. The disciples can go away rejoicing from the council that they were counted worthy to be beaten and suffer rebuke for Christ (Acts 5:41). The martyrs can kiss the stake, embrace the fire, and sing in the midst of the flames.
(5) Yea, it doth not only through the whole life minister joy and comfort even in the remembrance of death, as in 2 Timothy 4:7-55.4.8, but it followeth a man after death, when all things else forsake him; and as a most faithful friend it goeth with him before God’s judgment seat, and pleadeth for him at the bar of Jesus Christ; yea, testifieth with him, and cleareth, and quite acquitteth him from the judgment of the great day. All which being so, what pains and labour can be thought too much in the getting and keeping of such a jewel, which bringeth in so rich a recompense for so little labour, and how worthily doth he forfeit all these sweet fruits of it, who will be at no costs nor pains for it. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
You can imagine a husbandman who would neglect to care for his soil, and go out after squirrels and all manner of vermin that were eating his grain if he had any that they could eat--who would go out to shoot weasels in the wall, foxes in the field, wolves in the wood, and bears everywhere; and who, when he could find nothing to shoot, would lie out at night, watching for racoons, and range up and down through the day, searching for some stray dog, where there should be sheep, but where there are none. There are in the Church what may be called heresy hunters. They always carry a rifle--a spiritual rifle under their arm. You will find them forever outlying, watching for heresy--not so much in their own hearts, not so much in their own Church, not so much in their own minister, but in other people’s hearts, in other people’s Churches, in other people’s ministers. If any man happens to hold an opinion respecting any doctrine which does not accord with their own peculiar views, they all spread abroad to run him down. They are taking care of and defending the faith! They are searching for foxes, and wolves, and bears, that they suppose are laying waste God’s husbandry! They never do anything except fire at other folks. I have no doubt that Nimrod was a very good fellow in his own poor, miserable way, but a Nimrod minister is the meanest of all sorts of hunters. (H. W. Beecher.)
Treatment of heretics
In what way are the directions here given to Titus to be used for our own guidance at the present time? They do not apply to persons who have always been, or who have ended in placing themselves outside the Christian Church. They refer to persons who contend that their self-chosen views are part and parcel of the gospel, and who claim to hold and teach such views as members or even ministers of the Church. Secondly, they refer to grave and fundamental errors with regard to first principles; not to eccentric views respecting matters of detail. And in determining this second point much caution will be needed; especially when inferences are drawn from a man’s teaching. We should be on our guard with regard to assertions that a particular teacher virtually denies the Divinity of Christ, or the Trinity, or the personality of God. But when both these points are quite clear, that the person contradicts some of the primary truths of the gospel, and that he claims to do so as a Christian, what is a minister to do to such a member of his flock? He is to make one or two effects to reclaim him, and then to have as little to do with him as possible. In all such cases there are three sets of persons to be considered: the heretic himself, those who have to deal with him, and the Church at large. What conduct on the part of those who have to deal with him will be least prejudicial to themselves and to the Church, and most beneficial to the man himself? The supreme law of charity must be the guiding principle. But that is no true charity which shows tenderness to one person in such a way as to do grievous harm to others, or to do more harm than good to the person who receives it. Love of what is good is not only consistent with hatred of what is evil; it cannot exist without such hatred. What we have to consider, therefore, is this. Will friendliness confirm him in his error? Would he be more impressed by severity? Is intercourse with him likely to lead to our being led astray? Will it increase his influence and his opportunities of doing harm? Is severity likely to excite sympathy in other people, first for him, and then for his teaching? It is impossible to lay down a hard and fast rule that would cover all cases; and while we remember the stern instructions which St. Paul gives to Titus, and St. John to the “elect lady,” let us not forget the way in which Jesus Christ treated publicans and sinners. (A. Plummer, D. D.)
Condemning of himself
Ferdinand, Emperor of Germany, possessed a great number of watches, in collecting of which he had a fancy. “It pleased him once,” says our quaint author, “to put this, his variety of speaking gold, upon a table, as if he would expose it to sale: he then stepped aside. A stander-by, driven by a desire of stealing, filched one of them (a repeater), which the emperor espying aslant, called him, and without accusation, kept him in various discourse till the watch striking disclosed the hour and his theft. (Saturday Magazine.)
Bring Zenas the lawyer
Sermon to the legal profession
This man of my text belonged to a profession which has often had ardent supporters of Christ and the gospel.
Among them, Blackstone, the great commentator on English law; and Wilberforce, the emancipator; and Chief Justices Marshall, and Tenterden, and Campbell, and Sir Thomas More, who died for the truth on the scaffold, saying to his aghast executioner: “Pluck up courage, man, and do your duty: my neck is very short; be careful, therefore, and do not strike awry.” Among the mightiest pleas that ever have been made by tongue of barrister, have been pleas in behalf of the Bible and Christianity--as when Daniel Webster stood in the Supreme Court at Washington, pleading in the famous Girard will case, denouncing any attempt to educate the people without giving them at the same time moral sentiment, as “low, ribald, and vulgar deism and infidelity”; as when Samuel L. Southard, of New Jersey, the leader of the forum in his day, stood on the platform at Princeton College commencement, advocating the literary excellency of the Scriptures; as when Edmund Burke, in the famous trial of Warren Hastings, not only in behalf of the English government, but in behalf of elevated morals, closed his speech in the midst of the most august assemblage ever gathered in Westminster Hall, by saying: “I impeach Warren Hastings in the name of the House of Commons, whose national character he has dishonoured; I impeach him in the name of the people of India, whose rights and liberties he has subverted; I impeach him in the name of human nature, which he has disgraced; in the name of both sexes, and of every rank, and of every station, and of every situation in the world, I impeach Warren Hastings.” Yet, notwithstanding all the pleas which that profession has made in behalf of God, and the Church, and the gospel, and the rights of man, there has come down through the generations a style of prejudice against it. So long ago as in the time of Oliver Cromwell, it was decided that lawyers might not enter the parliament house as members, and they were called “sons of Zeruiah.” The learned Doctor Johnson wrote an epitaph for one of them in these words:
“God works wonders now and then,
Here lies a lawyer, an honest man!”
There is no man who has more temptations, more trials, or graver responsibilities than the barrister, and he who attempts to discharge the duties of his position with only earthly resources, is making a very great mistake. Witness Lord Thurlow, announcing his loyalty to earthly government in the sentence: “If I forget my earthly sovereign, may God forget me,” and yet stooping to unaccountable meanness. Witness Lord Coke, the learned and the reckless. No other profession more needs the grace of God to deliver them in their temptations, to comfort them in their trials, to sustain them in the discharge of their duty. While I would have you bring the merchant to Christ, and while I would have you bring the farmer to Christ, and while I would have you bring the mechanic to Christ, I address you today in the words of Paul to Titus, “Bring Zenas the lawyer.” By so much as his duties are delicate and great, by so much does he need Christian stimulus and safeguard. God alone can direct him. To that chancery he must be appellant, and he will get an answer in an hour. Blessed is that attorney between whose office and the throne of God there is perpetual, reverential, and prayerful communication. That attorney will never make an irreparable mistake. True to the habits of your profession, you say, “Cite us some authority on the subject.” Well, I quote to you the decision of the Supreme Court of Heaven: “If any lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.” There are two or three forms of temptation to which the legal profession is especially subjected.
1. The first of all is scepticism. You get so used to pushing the sharp question “why” and making unaided reason superior to the emotions, that the religion of Jesus Christ, which is a simple matter of faith, and above human reason, has but little chance with some of you. Scepticism is the mightiest temptation of the legal profession, and that man who can stand in that profession, resisting all solicitations to infidelity, and can be as brave as George Briggs of Massachusetts, who stepped from the gubernatorial chair to the missionary convention, to plead the cause of a dying race: then on his way home from the convention, on a cold day, took off his warm cloak and threw it over the shoulders of a thinly-clad missionary, saying: “Take that and wear it, it will do you more good than it will me”; or, like John McLean, who can step from the Supreme Courtroom of the United States on to the anniversary platform of the American Sunday School Union--its most brilliant orator--deserves congratulation and encomium. O men of the legal profession, let me beg of you to quit asking questions in regard to religion, and begin believing. If you do not become a Christian, O man of the legal profession, until you can reason this whole thing out in regard to God, and Christ, and the immortality of the soul, you will never become a Christian at all. Only believe. “Bring Zenas the lawyer.”
2. Another mighty temptation for the legal profession is to Sabbath breaking. What you cannot do before twelve o’clock Saturday night, or after twelve o’clock Sunday night, God does not want you to do at all. Beside that, you want the twenty-four hours of Sabbath rest to give you that electrical and magnetic force which will be worth more to you before the jury than all the elaboration of your case on the sacred day. Every lawyer is entitled to one day’s rest out of seven. If he surrender that, he robs three--God, his own soul, and his client. Lord Castlereagh and Sir Thomas Romilly were the leaders of the bar in their day. They both died suicides. Wilberforce accounts for their aberration of intellect on the ground that they were unintermittent in their work, and they never rested on Sunday. “Poor fellow!” said Wilberforce, in regard to Castlereagh--“Poor fellow! it was nonobservance of the Sabbath.” Chief Justice Hale says, “When I do not properly keep the Lord’s day, all the rest of the week is unhappy and unsuccessful in my worldly employment.”
3. Another powerful temptation of the legal profession is to artificial stimulus. The flower of the American bar, ruined in reputation and ruined in estate, said in his last moments: “This is the end. I am dying on a borrowed bed, covered with a borrowed sheet, in a house built by public charity. Bury me under that tree in the middle of the field, that I may not be crowded; I always have been crowded.”
4. Another powerful temptation of the legal profession is to allow the absorbing duties of the profession to shut out thoughts of the great future. You know very well that you who have so often tried others, will after awhile be put on trial yourselves. Death will serve on you a writ of ejectment, and you will be put off these earthly premises. On that day all the affairs of your life will be presented in a “bill of particulars.” No certiorari from a higher court, for this is the highest court. The day when Lord Exeter was tried for high treason; the day when the House of Commons moved for the impeachment of Lord Lovatt; the day when Charles I and Queen Caroline were put upon trial; the day when Robert Emmet was arraigned as an insurgent; the day when Blennerhasset was brought into the courtroom because he had tried to overthrow the United States government, and all the other great trials of the world are nothing compared with the great trial in which you and I shall appear, summoned before the Judge of quick and dead. There will be no pleading there “the statute of limitation”; no “turning State’s evidence,” trying to get off ourselves, while others suffer; no “moving for a non-suit.” The case will come on inexorably, and we shall be tried. You, who have so often been advocate for others, will then need an advocate for yourself. Have you selected Him? The Lord Chancellor of the Universe. Lord Ashburton and Mr. Wallace were leading barristers in their day. They died about the same time. A few months before their decease they happened to be at the same hotel in a village, the one counsel going to Devonshire, the other going to London. They had both been seized upon by a disease which they knew would be fatal, and they requested that they be carried into the same room and laid down on sofas, side by side, that they might talk over old times and talk over the future. So they were carried in, and lying there on opposite sofas, they talked over their old contests at the bar, and then they talked of the future world upon which they must soon enter. It was said to have been a very affecting and solemn interview between Mr. Wallace and Lord Ashburton. My friends, my subject today puts you side by side with those men in your profession who have departed this life, some of them sceptical and rebellious, some of them penitent, childlike, and Christian. These were wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever, while these others went up from the courtroom of earth to the throne of eternal dominion. Through Christ, the advocate, these got glorious acquittal. In the other case, it was a hopeless lawsuit. An unpardoned sinner versus the Lord God Almighty. O what disastrous litigation! (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
That nothing be wanting unto them
Titus’ duty to his fellow ministers
Ministers ought to abound in the fruits of kindness to one another, and most to those whose circumstances render the expressions of brotherly kindness needful. Probably Titus could not, from his own purse, furnish everything that was needful to his brethren who were travelling in the service of the Churches. But he might, through his influence, do by the hands of others what was not in his own power. The apostle had already said that the doctrine of salvation by grace teaches and constrains men who believe it to maintain good works. And here he calls on the believers under the care of Titus to embrace the occasion that was presented to them, of testifying their faith by their works, and learning to practise the duties by which they were to approve themselves unto God as faithful Christians. There are too many who form good resolves, but when opportunities offer of putting them into practice, suffer them to pass unimproved. They intend to do what they know to be right, but are in no haste to perform it. But let ours, those who belong to our holy society, learn not only to do, but to stand foremost in doing, good works, on all necessary occasions. An opportunity for doing good ought to be as much valued by us as an opportunity for receiving it, for we are sure that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” We know not what opportunities we may afterwards have to do good; but the present opportunity will not return; and we may feel the same disposition to neglect a second and a third as a first opportunity of usefulness. How then shall we approve ourselves fruit-bearing branches in the true vine, and not to be found among the barren branches against whom the terrible sentence is pronounced, that the great Husbandman will take them away, and they shall be gathered, and cast into the fire and burned? “Bring Zenas the lawyer, and Apollos, diligently on their way,” and in supplying their necessities let our people learn to excel, or go before others, in good works, that they be not unfruitful. Zenas had probably been a Jewish lawyer. And against that class of men awful things had been spoken by our Lord. Amongst others, it is said that they took away the key of knowledge from men. But the grace of God can make a most effectual change in those from whom least good and most evil is to be expected. He was now travelling with the key of knowledge to open the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven to Gentiles as well as Jews. Apollos was a well known and an eminent labourer in the gospel. And those who were not ready to afford encouragement and facilities to such labourers for Christ, and for the souls of men, gave too much reason to suspect that they were themselves barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour. Let us be fellow helpers to the truth, that we may not incur the punishment of those who are lukewarm in the cause of Christ (Revelation 3:1-66.3.22). (G. Lawson, D. D.)
Christianity enjoins courtesy
Christianity hindereth not, but commendeth and enjoineth civil courtesy and all kind of humanity. For
1. Whatsoever pertaineth to love and good report, that must believers think on and do (Philippians 4:1-50.4.23).
2. The wisdom which is from above is gentle, peaceable, full of mercy and good fruits (James 3:17).
3. Those many commandments, that Christians should salute and greet one another, and that with a holy kiss (1 Thessalonians 5:26), called by Peter the kiss of love; usual in those East countries, by which outward testimony they declared mutual love and kindness.
4. Outward courtesy is a necessary virtue even for the maintaining of the bond of Christian peace; yea, availeth much for the nourishing and increasing the communion of saints, and society with God’s people.
5. How disgraceful a thing were it for the profession of Christ, that such as profess faith in the Lord Jesus should show themselves inhuman or hoggish, who should be as lambs and little children, for such are they who have entered into the kingdom of Christ, as the prophet witnesseth. Let this point, therefore, be well thought of, that as faith and love cannot be separate, so must good conscience and good manners go together. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
Let ours also learn
The mutual property and purpose of good men
The mutual property of good men. “Ours.”
1. A mutual appreciation.
2. A mutual accumulation.
II. The mutual purpose of good men. “To maintain good works.”
1. What are good works? Works that grow out of supreme love to God, and tender and disinterested sympathy with man.
2. Why is the maintenance of good works so transcendently important?
(1) Because they are essential to the building up of a true moral character.
(2) Because they are necessary to the spiritual reformation of mankind. (Homilist.)
That they be not unfruitful
The metaphor implieth that as the Church is God’s orchard or garden, and His ministers are His planters and waterers, so the faithful are the trees, even trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, and planted by the rivers of waters, that they might bring forth their fruit in due season; and teacheth that true Christianity is not a barren but a fruitful profession, unto which Christians are everywhere called. In Ezekiel 47:12, we have a notable resemblance of those manifold fruits, which by the power of the gospel should be by believers produced in the Church of the New Testament. The vision was of waters which ran from the Temple, and from under the threshold of the sanctuary. And wheresoever these waters should run, they should cause admirable fruitfulness, in so much as on both sides of the river shall grow all kind of fruitful trees, whose leaves shall not fade, and their fruit shall not fail. These waters are the gospel which issue from under the threshold: that is, from Christ the door, typified by that beautiful gate of the Temple; from the Temple at Jerusalem these waters were with swift current to run not only over Judaea, but all the world in a short space: hence was the Church mightily increased, for though these waters run into the dead sea, wherein (if we believe histories) abideth no living thing, yet such a quickening power they carry with them, as even there everything shall live; such as were dead in trespasses and sins are hereby quickened, and become trees of righteousness green and flourishing, yea, and constantly fruitful in all godly conversation. And this the same which our Saviour noteth (John 15:17), that His Father is the husbandman, Himself is the Vine, Christians are the branches of that vine, who if they be found, His Father purgeth that they may bring forth more fruit; teaching us hereby that it is the Lord’s scope and aim that Christians should be abundant in fruits beseeming their profession. The Apostle Paul accordingly exhorteth the Philippians to be much in goodness, to abound in love, in knowledge, and in all judgment; yea, to be filled with fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God. And the same apostle calleth rich men to be rich in good works.
I. The conditions of this fruitfulness.
1. Every Christian must be fruitful; for every fruitless branch is cut down and made fuel for the fire.
2. Every Christian must bring forth good fruit.
3. This fruitfulness must proceed from good causes.
(1) The tree must be good, for men gather not grapes of thistles.
(2) He must have a good root (John 15:4),
(3) He must draw thence good sap and juice through the fellowship and communion of Christ’s death and resurrection.
(4) He must have the Spirit of the Son to be a principal agent in the setting and ripening of these fruits.
(5) He must have the love of God within him, constraining him, which will be as the sun helping on these fruits to their perfection.
(6) He must have good ends in his eye, viz., God’s glory and man’s good (Philippians 1:2).
4. Every Christian must bring forth much fruit, and not for clusters scarce berries, trees of righteousness are: laden with the fruits of the Spirit; and herein is the Father glorified, that ye bring forth much fruit (John 15:8).
5. Christians must continue fruitful, and grow daily more fruitful (John 15:2).
II. Reasons to move Christians to this fruitfulness.
1. God’s pains and costs with us.
2. It is more than time to yield up our fruits. Let us consider how much we have already lost, and how little remaineth behind, and this cannot but be as a loud voice in our ears unto fruitfulness.
3. Heavenly wisdom which is from above is full of good fruits; which, if it have taken up our hearts, will bewray itself in love, in joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, and such like; and as naturally we rejoice to see everything about us fruitful--our fields, our cattle, our orchards--even so this supernatural wisdom would make it the delight of our souls to see our hearts and lives laden with the best fruits.
4. The barren condition hath little comfort in it, and the danger of unfruitfulness is very great; for God’s fearful displeasure disburdeneth itself, and seizeth on such persons by sundry degrees.
(1) The Lord rejecteth them.
(2) Degree of God’s curse on such fruitless branches is the withering which presently followeth their casting forth, and this the Lord bringeth on them two ways: sometimes by removing means of fruitfulness, and so having laid His vineyard waste, He threateneth, in the next place, that the clouds should not rain upon it (Isaiah 5:6): and sometimes by blowing upon the gifts He had given, he shall lose his sap and greenness he once had; the unprofitable servant after conviction must have his talent taken from him; and this curse is so eminent upon many men that, comparing them with themselves not long since, a man may say, as the disciples of the fig tree, against which the curse was passed from the mouth of Christ, “How soon is the fig tree withered!”
(3) Another degree is, that no means shall be able henceforth to do such a person any good; but the curse being passed against him, this is one branch of it, that he shall be like the heath in the wilderness, which shall not see when any good cometh. Now the heath it hath good coming upon it, the rain falleth, the sun shineth, the spring and summer season returneth upon it, but it seeth none of this good, but remaineth a dry and parched heath still; even so it is with a barren soul which God hath begun to curse--the rain, the sun, the season, the Word, sacraments, days of grace, Jesus Christ Himself do him no good; he sees no good towards him in all these; nay, the Word judgeth him, the sacraments are poison unto him, and Christ Himself is a rock of offence to him, on whom he breaketh the neck of his soul.
(4) After all these cometh the heavy sentence, unto which by all these this sinner hath been prepared. Cut him down, bring now the are, for the pruning knife hath done him no good; hew him down by death from the ministry under which he hath been so long fruitless, bind him hand and foot, make a faggot of him, and east him into hell fire--cast, I say, that unprofitable servant into utter darkness, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth: and this is the woeful hire of unfruitfulness.
III. The hindrances of this fruitfulness.
1. Superfluity of lusts and inordinate desires, which are as dead branches, and therefore must be lopped off before fruit can be expected; the denial of a man’s self so far as corrupt is the first lesson in Christianity.
2. The unfitness of the soil, as if it be stony, or near unto a rock where it cannot take deep roots; the hard and stony heart suffereth not any good seed to take root, and much less rise up to fruit. Or if the soil be a dry ground on which the rain falls not, or on a high and hilly ground on which the rain stayeth not; so the haughty and proud heart shutteth off the rain as fast as it cometh; it moisteneth the crust and outside a little, but it stayeth not to get within it to prepare it to fruitfulness. Or if the ground be shaded that the sun cannot, or seldom, look upon it; if the mind and affections are otherwise distracted, that seldom men set themselves under the means of instruction; the Sun of Righteousness shining in His Church not enlightening, not warming nor cherishing them, not bringing back a new spring upon them, how can we expect fruit from such, unless we can look that a tree which hath been fruitless all the summer should be laden with fruit in the midst of winter.
3. Sundry vain conceits suggested by the devil, and assented unto by men to keep them in unfruitful courses.
(1) As many will not stick to object, I hope notwithstanding I have not been hitherto so fruitful as you speak of, yet I have done well enough all this while, and why may I not do so still? and thus resolve because God hath used patience and spared them, He will therefore spare them still in their unfruitfulness. But this is the devil’s logic, the clean contrary whereof is the conclusion of the Scripture. Hath God spared thee the second and third year, and art thou still fruitless? He must now needs call for the axe, and this is that which thou must expect.
(2) Another saith, “Oh, but I am a member of the Church, and what talk you to me. I hear the Word, receive the sacraments, and though I be not so forward and strict, I hope I shall do well enough.” Which is all one as if a fruitless tree should reply to the master and say, “I hope, master, thou wilt not cut me down, I am in thy orchard, and stand near thy house; if I were in the waste I should think thou should care less for me.” But will not the master reply, that “Thou must rather go down, because thou standest unprofitable in my orchard.”
(3) Others say, “Oh, but we are not so fruitless as you take us, and what desire you more?” Whereunto I say, that such have great need to desire better evidences to allege for themselves than this. Thou must not be a privative, but a positive Christian, laden with the fruits of the Spirit, else thou hast lost all thy labour. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
Fruifulness the true test
It is with professions of religion, especially such as become so in a time of outpouring of the Spirit of God, as it is with blossoms in the spring; there are vast numbers of them upon the trees which all look fair and promising, but yet many of them never come to anything, and many of those that in a little while wither up, drop off, and rot under the trees, yet for a while look as beautiful and gay as others; and not only so, but smell sweet and send forth a pleasant odour, so that we cannot, by any of our senses, certainly distinguish those blossoms which have in them that secret virtue which will afterward appear in the fruit, and that inward solidity and strength which shall enable them to bear, and cause them to be perfected by the hot summer sun that will dry up the others. It is the mature fruit which comes afterward, and not the beautiful colour and smell of the blossoms, that we must judge by. (Jonathan Edwards.)
Greet them that love us in the faith
Hence note that religion bindeth man to man in the straightest bond; for
The Spirit is the tier of it; and hence is it called the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; and indeed it must be a wonderful bond that can reconcile such deadly enemies as men are before they come into the kingdom of Christ (Isaiah 11:6).
2. God’s image, wheresoever it is, is exceeding beautiful, and a great binder, especially where renewed and repaired; which being once espied, let the outward condition be what it can be, a religious heart seeth sufficient matter of love, and will knit the soul unto the soul of such a one.
3. It addeth strength and firmness to all other bonds of nature, affinity, desert, etc., and maketh them more natural. What a true friend was Jonathan to David! Because he saw that God was with him his soul clave unto him; though the kingdom was to be rent from him for it, yet could he not rend his heart from David. If Joseph had not had more than nature, he could not but have revenged such infinite wrongs upon his brethren; whereas the grace of his heart made him say, “It was not you, my brethren, but God sent me before you.” Consider also of the example beyond all imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself to the death for us when we were yet His enemies.
4. This love must needs be most lasting; for being love in the truth for the truth’s sake, it shall continue so long as the truth doth; but the truth abideth with us, and shall abide with us forever; and this is the cause, that whereas the love of nature dieth with it, and the love of wicked men dieth with their persons, this love liveth in death, yea, when it goeth to heaven with a man, and getteth strength and perfection thee faith ceaseth, and hope vanisheth away.
1. Whence we are taught most familiarly to embrace them that love us in the faith, and to make most account of their love. Many love in the face, many in the flesh, many in nature, only the love of Christians is a fruit of faith, a work of the Spirit, and therefore a surer bond than they all. Well knew the apostle that none was in comparison worth having but this; he calleth for no other, he careth for no other, he mentioneth no other.
2. Such as set into any society with others, if he would have it comfortable unto him, let him strengthen all other natural or civil bonds by this bond of religion; let him labour to begin his love in the faith, or, if he have begun elsewhere already, let him reform the same hereby if he look for any sound comfort in his estate; for this is the cause that men often have so little return of love from their wives, so little obedience from their children, so little duty from their servants, so slender respect from their equals, because they begin their love and duties at a wrong end, and have for other respects affected those with whom they live, but the least, if at all, for grace and religion, which of all is the soundest, most profitable, and most comfortable. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
Shake hands with somebody as you go out of church. The more of it the better, if it is expressive of real interest and feeling. There may be a great deal of the spirit of the gospel put into a hearty shake of the hand. Think of St. Paul’s four times repeated request--“Greet one another”--after the custom then in common use, and one which is expressive of even warmer feeling than our common one of handshaking. Why not give your neighbours the benefit of the warm Christian feeling that fills you to your finger tips, and receive the like from them in return? You will both be benefited by it; and the stranger will go away feeling that the Church is not, after all, so cold as he had thought it to be.
A lady and her little daughter, passing out of church, the child bade goodbye to a poorly dressed little girl. “How did you know her?” inquired the mother. “Why, you see, mamma, she came into our Sabbath School alone, and I made a place for her on my seat, and I smiled and she smiled, and then we were acquainted.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Titus 3". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent