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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
2 Timothy 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

2 Timothy 2:1

Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

The connection

οὐν points back to the defection of others, contrasting it with what St. Paul is satisfied will prove The faithfulness of Timothy. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)

Imitate the loyal

It is as though he said, Imitate the one loyal follower (Onesiphorus), and make up to me for the faithless conduct of so many false friends. (H. D. M. Spence, M. A.)

Strength through partnership with Christ

Steven Gerard once told a poor cartman to purchase a cargo of sugar, promising to back him. From that moment the cartman’s wisdom and credit were equal to Gerard’s, for Gerard was his. If the cartman had forgotten his wise, rich friend, and acted on his own judgment and credit, he would have been weak again, and as foolish as weak. The cartman alone was nothing without wisdom or credit, but the cartman and Gerard were strong. Our strength is in partnership with Christ. Christians strong in Christ Jesus:--

I. Consider the duty incumbent on all who have a mind for heaven, namely, to be strong. What is it to be strong in the sense of the text? It presupposeth one thing, namely, they must be spiritually alive. To be strong imports three things.

1. To be ready for action, according to the difficulties you may meet with in your way.

2. That you be resolved. Thus David exhorts Solomon, “Take heed now,” said he, “for the Lord hath chosen thee, to build an house for the sanctuary: be strong and do it.” That is, be fully resolved and peremptory, so as not to be diverted by any emerging difficulties.

3. That you be of good courage.

What need is there to be strong?

1. You have much work before you. The work of your own salvation is upon your hand (Philippians 2:12). You have also to serve your generation, by the will of God.

2. You will meet with much opposition in your work. I now proceed--

II. To consider the direction, namely, that those who would be strong, must be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. What is the grace that is in Christ Jesus?

1. Relative grace, that is the free favour of God to poor sinners, by which they are embraced in the arms of His love unto salvation.

2. Real grace, that is the fulness of the Spirit, and His graces, lodged in Jesus Christ, as the fountain and head of influences, from which they are to be derived, into all His members. “For it hath pleased the Father, that in Him should all fulness dwell. And out of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.”

What is it to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus?

1. It is to be animated to duty by the faith of that grace that is in Christ Jesus for us, both relative and real.

2. It is to be strengthened to duty by supplies of grace derived from Christ Jesus by faith.

Why must those that would be strong be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus?

1. Because all those that would be strong must be strong as members of Christ, as branches of the vine.

2. Because the grace that is in Christ Jesus is only sufficient to bear us through. (H. Boston, D. D.)

Strength of grace

I. Multiplicity of arguments should provoke to obedience. “Thou, therefore.”

II. Men regard those most who are the likest minded to themselves. “My son.”

III. Strength of grace is necessary for a christian.

1. Comeliness pleads for it. For is not Christ the root, we the branches? He the foundation, we the building? Our head, and we His members? And betwixt these ought there not to be an analogy, a just proportion, otherwise, would it not be unseemly? Should one finger stand still, would we not repute it a blemish? and shall we not do the same in this mystical body?

2. Necessity requires it. We must fast, watch, and pray, fight with principalities, powers, and spiritual enemies, which are in high places. And will not crosses come, thick and threefold--temptations, desertions, sickness, and death, too? What can or will do these, suffer these things, anything but strength of grace, spiritual power? What manner of men ought ministers to be, thundering in preaching, fervent in prayer, shining in life, burning in spirit? And what is necessary for a preacher is required of every Christian, strength of grace. Strength is tried--

Helps to grow strong in grace.

1. Hast thou, in thy apprehension some seed of sanctification? then seriously think of it, highly esteem of it, and bless thou the Lord for it.

2. Resolve with thyself the highest period of grace, whereof a created nature is capable. Scholars aim at the highest degree; citizens, at the most honourable office; and all tradesmen, at the increase of goods: so should weak Christians to be rich in the grace of God: strong in the Lord.

3. Add to these two, practice: exercise thy talent; put it forth, for Thy own, and thy Master’s advantage. Is it not written that many acts produce an habit, and to him that hath shall be given?

4. Neglect no means whereby grace is begun, or increased.

IV. All grace is from Christ Jesus. Whether we consider the beginning, kinds, or degrees; all grace is in Him, and by Him. Is it not written, that Christ ascended on high; gave gifts unto men? Of His fulness, are we not said to receive grace for grace? that is of all the kinds which are in the Head, the same be derived to His members. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Moral energy

I. Moral energy a Divine gift. This verse deals with the great motive power of the Christian religion, what imparts inward strength to frail humanity. Much besides is, so to speak, machinery, and this--the grace of Christ, is the steam, the driving force, without which the most perfect machinery is useless. Paul enjoins Timothy to obtain this force, this inward energy of the soul; and by calling it “grace” the apostle teaches that it is not like the unconscious forces of nature--the power of wind, or water, or fire, or gravity-which human skill can have at command and direct; but a power of a different, a spiritual order, and bestowed on other conditions. For it flows from the grace or kindness of God, and it is, therefore, called “grace,” just as an act prompted by kindness is called a kindness, and the same with a favour.

II. Christ the source of moral energy. The Christian faith is that the Lord Jesus Christ is the fountain of all power, and the tire of all love, dwelling in the heart, as well as in heaven: “Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” That is the faith of Christ; and it cannot be said of it that it is a weak, unsubstantial, and merely sentimental religion. It is based on the most sublime facts, for which it offers appropriate evidence; and the power of those facts to arrest, attract, rivet, and renew the hearts of weak and sinful men, and awaken in them an enthusiasm of trust, and gratitude, and devotion--the history of our religion for eighteen hundred years must declare, for no mere language can.

III. The command to be strong in Christ. It is very characteristic of Scripture, and of its close conformity to human nature, even in its problems, that this great central thought, of the Divine source of moral energy, should be put into the form of a command to be obeyed--an injunction, for the observance of which man is responsible. It is not said to us, “Lie helpless till the Divine energy of Christ flows into your soul”; but, “Be inwardly strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” “I charge you to become empowered with that energy.” Such is our strange life, our mysterious nature. Dependent on God yet responsible to Him! “It is God that worketh in you.” “Work out your own salvation.” “I, yet not I,” says Paul. “By grace ye are saved” and healed; and this grace has its centre and fount in Christ. But it is your duty to have much of it. (T. M. Herbert, M. A.)

Our true strength

Luther relates concerning one Staupicius, a German divine, that he acknowledged that before he came to understand the free and powerful grace of Christ, he resolved and vowed a hundred times against a particular sin; yet could never get power over it, nor his heart purified from it, till he came to see that he trusted too much to his own resolutions, and too little to Jesus Christ; but when his faith had engaged against his sin, he obtained the victory. (J. L. Nye.)

Christ qualifies His servants

We are His “servants.” A master does more than engage a servant: he also gives him the means whereby he may work. The tradesman does not put his servants into a shop wherein there are no goods to sell; the farmer does not send his servants into the field without plough, harrow, or spade; the surgeon does not withhold drugs; nor the lawyer parchment and pens from his servant. It is even so with our great Master. He calls us to work, and, if we ask Him, He will qualify us for it. (T. R. Stevenson.)

Self-sufficiency

A certain alchemist who waited upon Leo X. declared that he had discovered how to transmute the baser metals into gold. He expected to receive a sum of money for his discovery, but Leo was no such simpleton; he merely gave him a huge purse in which to keep the gold which he would make. There was wisdom as well as sarcasm in the present. That is precisely what God does with proud men, he lets them have the opportunity to do what they boasted of being able to do. I never heard that so much as a solitary gold piece was dropped into Leo’s purse, and I am sure you will never be spiritually rich by what you can do in your own strength. Be stripped, brother, and then God may be pleased to clothe you with honour, but not till then. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Strong in Christ Jesus

When Wingfield expressed his pity for Kirby, who was condemned to die for the truth, the undaunted martyr replied, “Fire, water, and sword are in His hands, who will not suffer them to separate me from Him.” Here was power from on high perfected in human weakness. Nor was it less manifested in another who exclaimed, “If every hair on my head were a man, they should suffer death in the faith in which I now stand.” It was in the exhaustion of age, and after long imprisonment, hardship, and ill treatment, that Latimer, when brought out to be burnt at Oxford, lifted his wrinkled hands towards heaven, and cried, “O God, I thank Thee that Thou hast reserved me to die this death.” (C. Graham.)

Christ’s sufficiency never failing

In travelling through the West of England, you come ever and anon upon large tracts of country, bleak, barren, and desolate; no tree, no flower, no blade of grass, no habitation of man. In these wild and dreary wastes you find proofs in abundance that the spots were not always desert. The deep, black, yawning shaft of many a mine; the broken or decaying timbers which still stand around, or over the mouth of those mines; the remains of cottages; all, all tell you that the place was not always a wilderness. But the mines have been rifled of their treasures, the last vein has been opened, the last bucket of precious ore has been drawn up to the surface of the ground; there is nothing more to be gotten from the once rich earth; and so the miners have all departed to seek a supply elsewhere. Now, as you stand there, in that solitude and desolation, hearing no more the miner’s song, and missing the busy hum of labour, which perhaps years before had greeted you as you walked over those Cornish lands, you can scarcely help contrasting those empty mines with that ever rich and overflowing treasury of blessing which a gracious God has opened to all His people in Jesus Christ. (A. C. Price, B. A.)

Strong through faith

On an occasion of great drought, which the rain-makers attributed to the missionaries, a Bechuana chief with twelve spears came to command Robert Moffat to leave the territory on pain of death; but he said, “You may shed my blood, you may burn my dwelling; but my decision is made: I do not leave your country.” And the cause of all this was his faith. He was a man of wonderful faith; he believed the Gospel was the power of God unto salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus. He felt that his Master was ever as near to him, and as full of love, as the wife of his bosom; he felt that Christ must reign until He should put all things beneath His feet; and just because he was so strong in faith, he was so strong altogether. (J. C. Harrison.)

The conflict and the strength

(2 Timothy 2:1-7):--In these seven verses I see--

I. The apostle enumerating the sort of labours and sufferings which his young disciple Timothy would have to endure.

II. The grace which is suggested to Timothy as sufficient to support him. (D. Wilson, M. A.)

The holy calling of the minister of the Lord

I. The extent of this calling (2 Timothy 2:1-7). Presented under figures

1. Of the soldier.

2. Of the athlete.

3. Of the husbandman.

II. Motives for the exercise of this calling (2 Timothy 2:8-13).

1. A look backwards (2 Timothy 2:8).

2. A look around about one (2 Timothy 2:9-10).

3. A look orwards (2 Timothy 2:11-13). (Van Oosterzee.)


Verse 1-2

Verse 2

2 Timothy 2:2

The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses commit to faithful men, able to teach others also.

How the Church is to be continued

I. CARE IS TO BE HAD THAT THE CHURCH MAY BE CONTINUED. Art thou a ruler in Christendom, like Jehosaphat? Send Levites into the dark corners of the land. Rich? Found colleges, relieve the sons of the prophets, and repair the decayed walls of Jerusalem. Hast thou children? Nurse them up in the fear of God, teach them the principles in the holy letters, and, with Hannah, dedicate thy firstborn to the Lord. If thou be poor, yet pray for Jerusalem.

II. By the Word preached the Church is continued.

III. The more witnesses, the greater encouragement to well-doing.

IV. All ministers are to teach the same things. AS there is but one true God, one Saviour, Redeemer, Faith, Love, etc., so but one law, gospel, doctrine, baptism, which is to be preached for their glory and our salvation. Thrash thy corn out of God’s barn, beat it forth of the apostolical rick of the holy letters; bring thy grain into the market of the Church, which prophetical spirits have in former ages set to sale; and it shall feed thee and thine to life eternal, for be thou assured that the soundest testimony is this, that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

V. Ministers must be faithful. And this faithfulness is in--

1. Doctrine.

2. Life.

Thou hast known, saith Paul to Timotheus, my doctrine, manner of living. To be faithful in doctrine, the matter what, and the manner how, to be delivered are both to be regarded. For matter, it must be what we have received from the Lord. For the manner, a double condition is to be observed. First, that the word of truth be divided aright; each person have his portion, according to his spiritual estate and disposition. And secondly, the doctrine must be intelligible, else how should the people be edified? Now, as faithfulness in doctrine, so in life is required of a minister. What they preach they are to practice, for the vulgar sort be more led by examples than rules, patterns than precepts. Should ministers be faithful? Then let such as have in their power ordination, and induction, lay hands rashly on no man; make choice of faithful, able persons.

VI. Ability to teach is necessary for a minister.

1. Some knowledge of the tongues and arts is necessary. For as the form lieth closely couched in the matter, the kernel in the shell, so doth the truth in the several languages.

2. To be an able man requires a sound memory. For the truth being invented, orderly disposed, is then firmly to be retained.

3. A door of utterance is also necessary. When we have invented, judged, and methodically disposed of Divine truths, then we must clothe them with the garment of apt words.

4. And to omit many; an able minister must have his whole carriage in the delivery of his doctrine, suitable and correspondent to it. His countenance, elevation, pronunciation, gesture, and action, are to vary and be altered as the matter in handling requireth. And let all men make mention of them in their prayers.

VII. The same truth shall be continued unto the end of the world. For Christ received it from the Father, the Holy Ghost from Christ, the apostles from Him, faithful men from them; and so by a successive communication it shall continue for ever. As one sun shall enlighten the world, so one gospel the minds of men, until Jesus returns to judge all the posterity of Adam. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Able teachers

The apprentice, who has just entered the blacksmith’s shop, may wear a leathern apron, and blacken his hands and face, but though he may try to make other boys think he is a blacksmith, everybody knows that it requires years of hard labour to make him an able workman; and even after an apprenticeship, some men are but very poor hands at their trade. So, the having one’s name entered as a certified instructor does not certify that a man is an able teacher. Is not goodness higher than arithmetic, and is not virtue nobler than grammar? Is it not a glorious position to be a teacher of little children? A certain philosopher was often talking about the garden in which he studied and recreated, and one day a friend calling to see it, was surprised to find it consisted of only a few square yards. The friend said, “Why this is a very small place; it is only a few strides across!” The philosopher replied, “Small! Ah, you only look at the ground; but if you look up, you will see that it reaches to the sky!” So it is with a little child. It may be small; you have power to break its back across your knee, as well as break its heart; but in this little child there is a pathway to the heart of God, and angels walk therein. Lord Beaconsfield said of Greece, “Let it be patient; it has a great future”; so I say that you must be patient with every child, for it has a great future. Let us be gentle in the teaching of little children. Do you know how barbarous men teach bears to dance? Let me tell you. They play a flute, and put the bear on a hot iron. Do not let us teach children as if they were hears. Children have to be “trained.” You know how a crooked plant is trained. It is held in its place by a soft band that will not hurt it, until it grows in the right direction. So children should be trained in mind and body, gently yet firmly, to be good and strong. No two children are alike either in body or mind, and individual peculiarities must be studied and accommodated. We should, one and all, become teachers of children by our example, which is far more powerful than precept; and we should take care that our faults do not turn them against the religion we profess. (W. Birch.)

A faithful custodian

The grand battlefield of Drumclog is where the hardy, faithful Covenanters routed the cruel Claverhouse. I have stood upon that battlefield and looked upon a schoolhouse erected there by a Scotchman, though there was not a house to be seen near it, because he wanted the faith and the zeal of his forefathers to dwell in those that might come afterwards. I went, after looking at that field, into the house of a poor weaver. I heard he had a relic of the great fight in his possession, and I thought I should like to purchase it. He unfurled a flag that had been held by his forefathers on the great day of the fight, and on that flag were these words, “God and our sworn covenant.” I asked him if he would sell the flag. “I will never sell the flag,” said he, “except with my own life. I hold it as an heirloom, and, however poor I may be, I will hand it down to my children; and I hope they will hand it down to their children.” The incident reminds us that Christians carry a banner, and are pledged by their covenant relationship to Christ to seek the salvation of sinners, and thus be true to the memory of those who preceded them in the holy warfare. (A. McAulay.)

The undying energy of truth

Sir Bernard Burke thus touchingly writes in his “Vicissitudes of Families”: “In 1850 a pedigree-research caused me to pay a visit to the village of Fyndern, about five miles south-west of Derby. I sought for the ancient hall. Not a stone remained to tell where it had stood! I entered the church. Not a single record of a Finderne was there! I accosted a villager, hoping to glean some stray traditions of the Findernes. ‘Findernes!’ said he, ‘we have no Findernes here, but we have something that once belonged to them: we have Findernes’ flowers.’ ‘Shew them me,’ I replied, and the old man led me into a field which still retained faint traces of terraces and foundations. ‘There,’ said he, pointing to a bank of garden flowers grown wild, ‘there are the Findernes’ flowers, brought by Sir Geoffrey from the Holy Land, and, do what we will, they will never die!’” So be it with each of us. Should our names perish, may the truths we taught, the virtues we cultivated, the good works we initiated, live on and blossom with undying energy. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Setting others to work

Nasmyth says that when he introduced his great steam-hammer, it not only itself produced marvellous results, but “its active rhythmic sound, by some sympathetic agency, quickened the strokes of every hammer, chisel, and file in his workmen’s hands, and nearly doubled the output of work.” And is not ibis true of some noble workers whom we could name? More than half Mr. Moody’s power consists in his capacity of setting other people to work by his own earnestness. (W. Fullerton.)

The genius of the true teacher

Speaking of art training, Mr. Ruskin says: “Until a man has passed through a course of academy studentship, and can draw in an improved manner with French chalk, and knows foreshortening and perspective, and something of anatomy, we do not think he can possibly be an artist. What is worse, we are very apt to think that we can make him an artist by teaching him anatomy, and how to draw with French chalk; whereas the real gift in him is utterly independent of all such accomplishments.” So the highest powers of the teacher or preacher, the power of interpreting the Scriptures with spiritual insight, of moving the hearers to camest worship and decision, may exist with or without the culture of the schools. Learned Pharisees are impotent failures compared with a rough fisherman Peter anointed with the Holy Ghost. Inspiration is more than education. (H. O. Mackey.)

The worth of colleges

The great importance of the work none m our educational institutions for young ministers was never more strikingly emphasised than by the missionary Judson, who said, as he was approaching Madison University, “If I had a thousand dollars, do you know what I would do with it?” The person asked supposed he would invest it in Foreign Missions. “I would put it into such institutions as that,” he said, pointing to the college buildings. “Planting colleges, and filling them with studious young men, is planting seed corn for the world.”

An ignorant preacher

Of the late Bishop Ames the following anecdote is told. While presiding over a certain conference in the West, a member began a tirade against the universities and education, thanking God that he had never been corrupted by contact with a college. After proceeding thus far for a few minutes, the bishop interrupted with the question, “Do I understand that the brother thanks God for his ignorance?” “Well, yes,” was the answer; “you can put it that way if you want.” “Well, all I have to say,” said the bishop, in his sweetest musical tone--“all I have to say is, that the brother has a good deal to thank God for.”

College life

He whose spiritual life evaporates under processes of ministerial culture could hardly resist the temptations of any other form of life. (H. Allon, D. D.)


Verse 3

2 Timothy 2:3

Endure hardness as a good soldier.

The Christian soldier

Every Christian, and especially every Christian minister, may be regarded as a soldier, as an athlete (2 Timothy 2:5). as a husbandman (2 Timothy 2:6); but of the three similitudes the one which fits him best is that of a soldier. Even if this were not so, St. Paul’s fondness for the metaphor would be very intelligible.

1. Military service was very familiar to him, especially in his imprisonments. He must frequently have seen soldiers under drill, on parade, on gourd, on the march; most have watched them cleaning, mending, and sharpening their weapons; putting their armour on, putting it off. Often, during hours of enforced inactivity, he must have compared these details with the details of the Christian life, and noticed how admirably they corresponded with one another.

2. Military service was also quite sufficiently familiar to those whom he addressed. Roman troops were everywhere to be seen throughout the length and breadth of the empire, and nearly every member of society knew something of the kind of life which a soldier of the empire had to lead.

3. The Roman army was the one great organisation of which it was still possible, in that age of boundless social corruption, to think and speak with right-minded admiration and respect. No doubt it was often the instrument of wholesale cruelties as it pushed forward its conquests, or strengthened its hold, over resisting or rebelling nations. But it promoted discipline and esprit de corps. Even during active warfare it checked individual license, and when the conquest was over it was the representative and mainstay of order and justice against high-handed anarchy and wrong. Its officers several times appear in the narrative portions of the New Testament, and they make a favourable impression upon us. If they are fair specimens of the military men in the Roman Empire at that period, then the Roman army must have been indeed a fine service. But the reasons for the apostle’s preference for this similitude go deeper than all this.

4. Military service involves self-sacrifice, endurance, discipline, vigilance, obedience, ready cooperation with others, sympathy, enthusiasm, loyalty.

5. Military service implies vigilant, unwearying and organised opposition to a vigilant, unwearying, and organised foe. It is either perpetual warfare or perpetual preparation for it. And just such is the Christian life; it is either a conflict or s preparation for one. (A. Plummer, D. D.)

The minister a good soldier

Ministers above all should be leaders and exemplars in this contest. For the apostle’s fear of disapproval at last relates to him as a herald or preacher to others, calling them to the spiritual warfare. They should be like the statues of ancient heroes in the Palcestra, which the Roman youth were sent to admire and emulate, while they recounted the history of their achievements. (J. Leifchild, D. D.)

The good soldier of Jesus Christ

Fight, not as Joash, who smote the ground with the arrows thrice and stayed before he was bidden, for which he was denied a full victory. Fight, not as Israel in Canaan, who, instead of seeking the decreed extermination of all the ancient inhabitants, suspended their conquests, and allowed many of them to remain in their immediate neighbourhood and intercourse; for which they received not the promise of full rest and enjoyment. But fight as Joseph, who said, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God!” Fight as Paul did, when he laboured to bring under his body and keep it in subjection. Fight as Christ told His disciples to fight, by cutting off the right hand and plucking out the right eye that causes them to offend. Fight as did your great Lord and Master Himself with the arch-traitor, when he sought to inject into His mind thoughts of discontent, of ambition, and of a debasing servility of soul: repelling him with a holy indignation, and saying, “Get thee hence, Satan, for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.” (J. Leifchild, D. D.)

Aggressive goodness

The Saviour expects true saintliness will always be an aggressive thing. Where it is such, its activities rouse enmity. We have different views from the Saviour on this subject of aggressive goodness. We think saintliness is at liberty to be an unobtrusive, self-saving thing: carefully restricting its service to the quiet influence of its example, content to develop its own life sweetly. But the Saviour calls for something more vigorous than passive piety. Prince of Peace as He was, He proclaims: “I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword”--to set a man at variance with those around him. He defines His object to be to “send fire on the earth,” and tarries only until it is kindled. He assumes that evil must be assailed, that falsehood will be contradicted, and sin denounced. He intends a true peace to be reached by the disturbance of the false. He expects sanctity ever to have something of the soldierly quality, and that the life will be a fight of faith. He did not contemplate sanctity adopting a live-and-let-live policy in the presence of falsehood and evil Silence is the earth in which the talent of truth is buried. He expects us to be His witnesses; bids us say, “Repent!” not merely to men in general, but to sinners in particular; expects us to reprove all evil, as well as to point to Him who is the source and pattern of all good. Wherever love is thus aggressive, truth thus bold, mercy thus active--hatred of the intensest kind must rise. For who can bear to have his ways denounced as evil; his views as false; his destiny--perdition; his duty--repentance? Moreover, the Christian has to be the reformer in a world of vested interests. And there is no evil under heaven, from idolatry to drunkenness, from gambling to gaiety, from heresy to vice, but some have an interest in maintaining it. You will not achieve any usefulness of any sort without the cry, “This our craft is in danger!” rising to the lips of those profiting by others ignorance, or servitude, or evil. In these circumstances, however meek and peace-making the saint of God may be, if he is faithful to his Saviour, and to the interests of men, he will suffer from the bitter speech or the deed of hatred of those who resent his whole spirit and activity. (R. Glover.)

Earnestness demanded

During the Crimean War a young chaplain, newly arrived in camp, inquired of a Christian sergeant the best method for carrying on his work, among the men. The sergeant led him to the top of a hill and pointed out the field of action. “Now, sir,” said he, “look around you. See those batteries on the right, and the men at their guns. Hear the roar of the cannon. Look where you will, all are in earnest here. Every man feels that this is a life and death struggle. If we do not conquer the Russians the Russians will conquer us. We are all in earnest here, sir; we are not playing at soldiers. If you would do good, you must be in earnest; an earnest man always wins his way.” Such was the advice of Queen Victoria’s servant to the servant of King Jesus. (A. A. Harmer.)

A recruiting sergeant

In writing the life of Uncle John Vassar, Dr. Gordon has so dealt with the materials at command that the successive chapters are made to pourtray the “good soldier of Jesus Christ,” and to enforce the injunction--“Fight the good fight of faith.” Uncle John not only deserves to be called a “good soldier.” He was something more, for, while lighting the Lord’s battles himself, he was an active recruiting sergeant, and never seems to have missed a chance of pressing home the question, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” Accosting a gentleman on one occasion with the familiar question, “My dear friend, do you love Jesus?” he was met with the rejoinder, “I do not know that that concerns you, sir.” Uncle John was too shrewd a tactician to be disconcerted, and at once followed up the assault with the remark, “Oh, yes it does. In these days of rebellion does it not concern every citizen as to which side every other citizen may take? How much more when a world is in rebellion against God, should we be concerned to know who is on the Lord’s side!” In this way he fenced the resentment which the obtrusion seemed likely to provoke, and justified his advance as the anxious inquiry of an interested friend. Resisted or repulsed in his spiritual warfare, Uncle John never appears to have been vanquished. The word defeat was not found in his vocabulary.

Every Christian a soldier

Not only ministers, but laymen, should be Christ’s ambassadors. Must a soldier be an officer in order to fight well? By no means. Minus gold lace and cocked hat, he may do good service. Hard blows may be given, or a sure aim may be taken, by him who is quite destitute of ribbon and medal. Thus is it spiritually. Eminent talent and honourable position are non-essentials in benevolent effort. The humblest warrior in the Saviour’s army can be valiant and victorious. And he ought to be. Excuse here is quite vain. None that are saved have a right to be idle; all are to evangelise. The work is not to be delegated to one order or class. Each is expected to take his share. What should we think of him who refused to rescue a drowning man because he was not connected with the Royal Humane Society? “Let him that heareth,” as well as him that preacheth, “say Come.” (T. R. Stevenson.)

Enemies not to be depised

It is said that the Duke of Wellington on one occasion, when asked why it was that he was so generally on the side of victory, replied that he never despised an enemy.

Every convert a recruit

As the young Hannibal was brought by his father to the altar of his country, and there sworn to life-long hatred of Rome, so should we be, from the hour of our spiritual birth, the sworn enemies of sin, the enlisted warriors of the Cross; to fight on for Jesus till life’s latest hour, when all shall be “more than conquerors through Him that hath loved us.” The Spartan mother, as soon as her child was born, looked upon the babe as having in it the possibilities of share; and the whole training of the Lacedemonians aimed solely at producing good soldiers, who would honour the race from which they sprung. So should we look upon every young convert as a recruit; not merely as one who has been himself saved, but as having within his new-born mature the possibilities of a good soldier of Jesus Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

“In my shirt sleeves”

I am much of the opinion of the soldier who, being brought before the Duke of Wellington and a committee of the House of Lords, on being asked if he had to fight the battle of Waterloo over again how he would like to be dressed, said, “Please, your Lordship, I should like to be in my shirt sleeves.” And, depend upon it, the freest dress is the right costume of war. There is nothing like the shirt sleeves for hard gospel work. Away with that high stock and the stiff coat, in which you find it difficult to fight when you come to close contact with the enemy. You must dispense with pipeclay and bright buttons when it comes to blood, fire, and vapour of smoke. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ provides for His soldiers

Our filthy garments are to be taken off; we are to go to the Royal Fountain and wash; we are to go to the Royal Wardrobe to be clothed; we are to go to the Royal Armoury for our equipment; we are to go to the Royal Banqueting House to be fed; we are to go to the Royal Treasury to be paid. Christ’s soldiers have no reason to care about the future. (C. Garret.)

A soldier always

You cannot be a saint on Sundays and a sinner in the week; you cannot be a saint at church and a sinner in the shop; you can not be a saint in Liverpool and a sinner in London. You cannot serve God and Mammon. You are a soldier everywhere or nowhere, anti woe to you if you dishonour your King. (C. Garret.)

The inspiration of a true leader

The personal magnetism of General McLellan over his soldiers in the Civil War was a constant experience. Once when the tide of success seemed to go against the Union forces, and dismay was gradually deepening into despair, his arrival in the camp at night worked a revolution among the troops. The news “General McLellan is here” was caught up and echoed from man to man. Whoever was awake roused his neighbour, eyes were rubbed, and the poor tired fellows sent up such a hurrah as the army of the Potomac never heard before. Shout upon shout went out into the stillness of the night, was taken up along the road, repeated by regiment, brigade, division, and corps, until the roar died in the distance. The effect of this man’s coming upon the army--in sunshine or in rain, darkness or day, victory or defeat--was ever electrical, defying all attempts to account for it. (H. O. Mackey.)

Enduring hardness

It behoves thee not to complain if thou endure hardness; but to complain if thou dost not endure hardness. (Chrysostom.)

The Christian must be prepared for trial and conflict

Some of God’s people seem to forget this. They think they are soldiers on pay days and at reviews: but as soon as the fiery darts begin to fall around them, and the road gets rough and rugged, they fancy they are deserters. A strange mistake this. You are never so much a soldier as when you are marching or fighting. I fear the fault of this mistake lies very much with some of us who may be called recruiting sergeants. In persuading men to enlist we speak much more of the ribbons, the bounty money, and the rewards, than we do of the battle-field and the march. Hence, perhaps, the error. But if we are to blame in this respect our great King is not. The whole of His teaching is in the other direction. He puts all the difficulties fairly before us, and we are exhorted to count the cost, so that we may not be covered with shame at last. (C. Garrett.)

Christian courage

Thomas Garrett, of America, when he was tried and heavily fined for concealing fugitive slaves, and his judge said he hoped it would be a warning to him to have nothing to do with runaway slaves for the future, replied: “Friend, if thou knowest of any poor slave who is coming this way, and needs a friend, thou canst tell him I shall be ready to help him.” (C. Garrett.)

Enduring hardness

The old wrestlers did not decline ten months of laborious and abstemious training to make their bodies supple and their will indomitable; so much so, that “a wrestler’s health” became a proverb. If Plato challenged his disciples--“Shall our children not have energy enough to deny themselves for a much more glorious victory?” (“De Leg.,” 7:340), a greater man than Plato urged, “Now they do it for a corruptible crown, but we for an incorruptible”; and our ardour, self-denial, and moral training, or, as St. Paul calls it, our spiritual gymnastics, should exceed theirs, in some such ratio as our prize exceeds theirs; and thus, “if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (J. B. Owen, M. A.)

No feather-bed soldiers

A young Christian officer said, “Our heavenly Captain wants no feather-bed soldiers. He wants those who are not afraid of camp bed and marching orders, who don’t mind “roughing it a little by the way, because they know that perfect rest awaits them when their home-call sounds, and their race here is ended.”

A sham battle

At the festival of Treviso, to which the neighbouring towns were invited, the chief feature was the storming of a fortress, defended by the most beautiful ladies and their servants, by noblemen who made war with fruits, flowers, sweetmeats, and perfumes. (H. O. Mackey.)

A good soldier

I remember a story of a French grenadier, who, in a war with the Austrians, was in charge of a small fort commanding a narrow gorge, up which only two of the enemy could climb at a time. When the defenders of the fort heard that the enemy were near, being few in number, they deserted, and left the brave grenadier alone. But he felt he could not give up the place without a struggle, so he barred the doors, raised the drawbridge, and loaded all the muskets left behind by his comrades. Early in the morning, with great labour, the enemy brought up a gun from the valley, and laid it on the fort. But the grenadier made such good use of his loaded muskets that the men in charge of the gun could not hold their position, and were compelled to retire; and he kept them thus at bay all day long. At evening the herald came again to demand the surrender of the fort, or the garrison should be starved out. The grenadier asked for a night for consideration, and in the morning expressed the willingness of the garrison to surrender if they might “go out with all the honours of war.” This, after some demur, was agreed to, and presently the Austrian army below saw a single soldier descending the height with a whole sheaf of muskets on his shoulder, with which he marched through their lines and then threw them down. “Where is the garrison?” asked the Austrian commander, astonished. “I am the garrison,” replied the brave man, and they were so delighted with his plucky resistance that the whole army saluted him, and he was afterwards entitled the “First Grenadier of France.” (Major Smith.)

Luxury unfits for soldiership

The Commons of England being very importunate with Edward

IV. to make war with France, he consented to satisfy their importunity, though willing rather to enjoy the fruits of his wars and toils, and spend the rest of his days in peace. When he took the field he ordered to accompany him a dozen of fat, capon-eating burgesses, who had been most zealous for that expedition. These he employed in all military services, to lie in the open fields, stand whole nights upon the guard, and caused their quarters to be beaten up with frequent alarms, which was so intolerable to those fat gentry accustomed to lie on soft down, and that could hardly sit on a session’s bench without nodding, that a treaty being desired by King Louis, none were so forward to press the acceptance of his offers, or to excuse so little done by the king with so great preparations. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

A war for fireside

“Home guards to the front!” was the cry of ‘65. Look at them, slight lads stooping under their heavy muskets, decrepit men tottering on with cane in one hand and gun in the other; convalescent, furloughed soldiers rising like a wounded war-horse. And has war come to this? Yes, and worse. It has seen the nursing mother, and feeble, aged women, and delicate girls, defending the parapet. The hearth must be protected, and the husband, the little lad, and the white-haired father are gone, dead, dead in their blood! Women are to the front only because there are no men, none at all. But wait; there is a war for home and fireside, a war for rights more dear, and from foes more cruel, in which women face its fury, not because the men have fallen first, but because men shirk. Yes, men shirk the discipline, the hardships, the responsibility of this war. Not all men, thank God! yet many do. Happy in their homes, receiving the blessings of Christianity, they are willing to see the wives and mothers fight the battle. The hosts of hell, with black flag unfurled, surround us, menacing the peace of home, threatening slavery and death. With dreadful malice and cruelty they contend for every inch of ground. It is a battle remorseless, ceaseless, momentous. It appeals to all that is manly in men to take their places in it, to submit to its discipline, to endure its hardships, to shoulder its responsibility. (R. S. Barrett.)

A good soldier of Jesus Christ

I. A soldier must be enlisted.

II. The soldier after having been enlisted has to be drilled--that is to say, he has to learn his business. A good soldier is not to be made in a day; there must be time and pains spent upon him; he must be trained and taught, and that very carefully, before he is fit to fight against the enemies of his country. And it is just the same with Christian soldiers. They have to learn to act together, so as to support and help one another in the conflict with evil. And then they have to learn the use of their weapons--of one more especially, which is called the “sword of the Spirit.”

III. We have enemies to fight with--real enemies, not imaginary ones: “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” In order to enable you to understand what is meant by fighting against the “flesh” and “the devil,” I will tell you a story, or rather, two stories, both of them true. Some years ago there lived a good and holy man, who was a most useful minister of the gospel. This good man’s Christian name was William. Now when he was a little boy, about four or five years old, he one day was left in the dining-room alone, and on the table was a plate of sweet cakes, of which he was particularly fond, but which he had been forbidden to touch. Somebody coming quietly into the room found the boy looking at the cakes, his little hands tightly clasped together behind his back, and saying to himself over and over again, as if he were saying a lesson, “Willie mustn’t take them, ‘cause they are not Willie’s own.” Now this was a victory over the “flesh.” The flesh said, “These cakes are very nice, Willie; just smell them. No one will see you, Willie, if you do take one. Mamma will not miss the cakes, Willie, there are so many of them.” But little Willie would not do wrong, although he was sorely tempted to it. He fought with the “flesh,” and came off conqueror. But there was one sad occasion on which Willie, now grown up to be a tall, handsome lad of seventeen, was beaten by the enemy. There was a servant in the family who was a wicked man; and wicked men, whether they know it or not, are agents for the devil, and do his work. This servant, annoyed at his young master’s goodness, said once, in a sneering sort of way, and in William’s hearing, “Oh! as for Master William, he’s not man enough to swear.” The taunt--it was just like a fiery arrow shot from Satan’s bow--stung the young lad beyond endurance; and for the only time in his life, I believe, he took God’s holy name in vain, and swore a terrible oath. Whenever William spoke of the matter--years, long years, after--it was with expressions of the bitterest regret, though he felt in his heart that God had forgiven him. Well, that was a fight with the devil in which the devil was the victor. The Christian soldier was beaten, for the moment. Satan, through the mouth of one of his servants, triumphed over him.

IV. The apostle tells us that we are to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. A “good” soldier obeys orders strictly; does not get tired of his duty, but sticks to it; and never dreams of turning his back and running away when the enemy is coming.

V. And now let me tell you by what means we are to become good soldiers. A good general makes good soldiers. He infuses his own spirit into them, and leads them to victory. And we have a good general, the Lord Jesus Christ. Put yourselves, then, into His hands, and He will make you what you ought to be. I wish you especially to notice that you cannot be a true Christian warrior without possessing that loyal devotion to Christ which springs from love. (G. Calthrop, M. A.)

A good soldier

Much as war is at variance with the spirit of Christianity, there are few things to which the Scriptures more frequently allude when treating of the spiritual life. There is reason for this; for, notwithstanding all that is objectionable in the soldier’s occupation, there are many things in the personal qualities of the man which pertain to the very noblest type of character. That which makes him a good soldier would also, if combined with other elements, make him a higher style of man.

I. The first thing required of a good soldier is hearty service. “One volunteer is worth many pressed men.” The adage was singularly verified during the war between Austria and Prussia. The Austrian soldiers fought well, but not with the enthusiasm of men who cordially approve of the object for which they fight. Drawn from various nationalities--believing, some of them, that the war was hostile to the dearest interests of their country--they were not so much free agents as machines forced into the strife; and this fact, perhaps, more than bad generalship or insufficient equipment, accounted for their signal defeat. Whereas the Prussians, although not enlisted voluntarily in the first instance, nevertheless entered voluntarily into the conflict. With an appreciation of the purposes of the war which few gave them credit, believing that it was to promote the much-coveted unity of the Fatherland, they fought with an enthusiasm which is the surest pledge of victory; and to this, quite as much as to the superiority of their arms and their leaders, did they owe their splendid triumphs. And so to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ, we must freely and enthusiastically engage in His service.

II. The second thing required of a good soldier is implicit obedience to his commander’s orders. Much has been said of the drill and discipline of the Prussian soldiers as accounting for that marvellous succession of victories which, culminating in Sadowa, changed the map of Europe. The far-seeing men who contemplated and conducted the war, with a keen appreciation of the means by which their end was to be gained, had been drilling most severely for years, until the soldier had become a kind of living machine. And that is really what is required in order to good soldiership.

III. A third quality essential to the good soldier is faith in his leader. In the war to which we have referred, the Austrian soldiers, after two or three defeats attributable to mismanagement, lost all faith in the capacity of their general, and not only ceased to fight with spirit, but were forthwith changed into a panic-stricken rabble. Even the brave Italians, with all their enthusiasm, recovered slowly from their defeat at Custozza, because of the manifest bungling which brought about the disaster. Whereas the Prussians, having in their leaders men whose clearness of vision and capacity for command were equal to their own fighting efficiency and power of endurance, do not seem ever to have faltered in their victorious career. Such confidence is manifestly indispensable. The private soldier knows little or nothing of the plan of the battle in which he is an actor, knows not why he is led into this position or that, or how he is to be led out of it, knows not why he is required to do this or that; but his general knows, and unless he has full confidence in the men who are directing the movements of the troops he will fight with very little courage, and prove himself but a poor soldier. And in our warfare we are equally required to have faith in our King.

IV. A fourth quality is careful training. In the war referred to, the best trained and most intelligent men proved the best fighters. Intelligence consists with, and is conducive to, the highest state of discipline; and of the human machine, which the soldier must needs become, the thinking is by far the most efficient specimen. So in our warfare the best soldier, other things being equal, is the man whose mind is most thoroughly trained. The servants of Christ should seek to understand the requirements of their time, and prepare to meet them. The conditions of warfare and the works required of the Christian soldier now are not what they were once; and unless men have understanding of the times, they may, though with the best intentions, render very bungling service. The worthier the master, the more efficient should his servants be.

V. Heroic effort and patient endurance are necessary. We cannot understand in what sense they are soldiers of Christ who enter His service simply with a view to their own comfort. Their notion is that they are to have a nice pleasant time, plenty of sweet experiences, and no trials, with temporal comforts to match the unruffled smoothness of their spiritual course. So much has been said of making the best of both worlds, that the highest con ception which many form of Christianity is that it is a system which rewards men in the next world for seeking to be comfortable in this. Young men should under stand that a soldier’s life is one of warfare and endurance. In order to your being good soldiers of Jesus Christ, there must be--

VI. Concerted action. Union is strength, insomuch that one small band of men, acting together for one purpose and under one head, will scatter thousands who have neither leader nor organisation. (W. Landels, D. D.)

A good soldier of Jesus Christ

Many men, many minds. In reference to what a Christian is there have been very many and diverse opinions. Paul’s description of a Christian in the text is that of a soldier, and that means something very far different either from a religious fop, whose best delight is music and millinery, or a theological critic who makes a man an offender for a word, or a spiritual glutton who cares for nothing but a lifelong enjoyment of the fat things full of marrow, or an ecclesiastical slumberer who longs only for peace for himself. The Christian is a self-sacrificing man as the soldier must be. A soldier is a serving man. A soldier is full often a suffering man. Once again, the true soldier is an ambitious being. Paul does not exhort Timothy to be a common, or ordinary soldier, but to be a “good soldier of Jesus Christ”; for all soldiers, and all true soldiers, may not be good soldiers. David had many soldiers, and good soldiers too, but you remember it was said of many, “These attained not unto the first three.” Now Paul, if I read him rightly, would have Timothy try to be of the first three, to be a good soldier.

I. We shall endeavour to describe a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

1. We must begin with this fundamental--he must be loyal to his King.

2. He is obedient to his Captain’s commands.

3. To conquer wilt be his ruling passion.

Wellington sent word to his troops one night, “Ciudad Rodrigo must be taken to-night.” And what do you think was the commentary of the British soldiers appointed for the attack? “Then,” said they all, “we will do it.” So when our great Captain sends round, as he doth to us, the word of command, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” if we were all good soldiers of the cross, we should say at once, “We will do it.” The passion for victory with the soldier often makes him forget everything else. Before the battle of Waterloo, Picton had had two of his ribs smashed in at Quatre Bras, but he concealed this serious injury, and, though suffering intensest agony, he rode at the head of his troop, and led one of the greatest charges which decided the fortunes of the day. He never left his post, but rode on till a ball crushed in his skull and penetrated to the brains. Then in the hot fight the hero fell. In that same battle one of our lieutenants, in the early part of the day, had his left fore-arm broken by a shot; he could not, therefore, hold the reins in his hand, but he seized them with his mouth, and fought on till another shot broke the upper part of the arm to splinters, and it had to be amputated; but within two days there he was, with his arm still bleeding, and the wound all raw, riding at the head of his division. Brave things have been done amongst the soldiers of our country--Oh, that such brave things were common among the armed men of the Church militant!

4. A good soldier is very brave at a charge.

5. A good soldier is like a rock under attack.

6. He derives his strength from on high.

This has been true even of some common soldiers, for religious men when they have sought strength from God have been all the braver in the day of conflict. I like the story of Frederick the Great; when he overheard his favourite general engaged in prayer, and was about to utter a sneering remark, the fine old man, who never feared a foe, and did not even fear his majesty’s jest, said, “Your Majesty, I have just been asking aid from your Majesty’s great ally.” He had been waiting upon God. In the battle of Salamanca, when Wellington bade one of his officers advance with his troops, and occupy a gap, which the Duke perceived in the lines of the French, the general rode up to him, and said, “My lord, I will do the work, but first give me a grasp of that conquering right hand of yours.” He received a hearty grip, and away he rode to the deadly encounter. Often has my soul said to her Captain, “My Lord, I will do that work if Thou wilt give me a grip of Thy conquering right hand.” Oh, what power it puts into a man when he gets a grip of Christ, and Christ gets a grip of him!

II. Thus I have described a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Give me a few minutes while I exhort you to be such.

1. I exhort you who are soldiers of Christ to be good soldiers, because many of you have been so. Dishonour not your past, fall not from your high standing. “Forward” be your motto.

2. Be good soldiers, for much depends upon it.

3. Good soldiers we ought to be, for it is a grand old cause that is at stake.

4. I implore you to be good soldiers of Jesus, when you consider the fame that has preceded you. A soldier when he receives his colours finds certain words embroidered on them, to remind him of the former victories of the regiment in which he serves. Look at the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, and see the long list of the triumphs of the faithful. Remember how prophets and apostles served God; recollect how martyrs joyfully laid down their lives; look at the long line of the reformers and the confessors; remember your martyred sires and covenanting fathers, and by the grace of God I beseech you walk not unworthy of your noble lineage.

5. Be good soldiers because of the victory which awaits you.

6. Besides, and lastly, if I want another argument to make you good soldiers, remember your Captain, the Captain whose wounded hands and pierced feet are tokens of his love to you. Redeemed from going down to the pit, what can you do sufficiently to show your gratitude? Assured of eternal glory by-and-by, how can you sufficiently prove that you feel your indebtedness. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Fellow soldiers

Let no one say that he has no taste for warfare. Each one of us is pledged to fight. Each one of us bears the sign of the Cross, which binds him to be Christ’s soldier till his life’s end. Once, in the old wars, an English drummer-boy was taken prisoner by the French. They amused themselves by making the lad play on his instrument, and presently one asked him to sound the retreat. The drummer answered proudly that he had never learnt how to do that! So in our warfare there is no retreating. It was the boast of Napoleon’s soldiers--the guard dies, but never yields! We Christians are bidden to be faithful unto death, and Jesus promises us a crown of life. When Maximian became Emperor of the West he did his utmost to destroy Christianity. There was in the Roman army a famous legion of ten thousand men, called the Thebian Legion. It was formed entirely of Christians. Once, just before going into battle with the enemy, the Emperor commanded the Thebian Legion to sacrifice to idols. Their leader, in the name of his ten thousand soldiers, refused. The Emperor then ordered them to be decimated--that is, every tenth man to be killed. Still they were firm, and again, the second time, the cruel order was given for every tenth man to be slain. Fully armed, with their glittering eagles flashing on their helmets, the Christian soldiers stood in the perfect discipline of Rome, ready to die, but not to yield. Again they were ordered to sacrifice, and the brave answer was returned, “No; we were Christ’s soldiers before we were Maximian’s.” Then the furious Emperor gave the order to kill them all! Calmly the remaining soldiers laid down their arms, and knelt whilst the other troops put them to the sword. So died the Thcbian Legion, faithful unto death! Each one of us is in one sense a martyr, a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. Those of us who bear hard words, and cruel judgments, and harsh treatment, patiently, rendering not evil for evil, are martyrs for Jesus. Again, as fellow soldiers, let us remember the Name under which we serve. To a Roman soldier of old the name of Caesar was a watchword, which made him ready to do or die. In the wars of the middle ages, when our countrymen went into battle the cry was, “St. George for Merry England,” and every soldier was ready to answer with his sword. They tell us that the name of the great Duke of Wellington was alone enough to restore courage and spirit to the flagging troops. Once when a regiment was wavering in the fight, the message was passed along the ranks, “The Duke is coming,” and in an instant the men stood firm, whilst one old soldier exclaimed, “The Duke--God bless him! I had rather see him than a whole battalion.” The name of our Leader is one indeed to inspire perfect faith, courage, and hope. In all ages certain regiments have had their distinguishing names. Among the Romans of old time there was one famous band of warriors known as the Thundering Legion. In later times there have been regiments known as the “Invincibles,” the “Die-hards.” One famous corps has for its motto a Latin sentence meaning “By Land and Sea,” and another has one word for its badge, meaning “Everywhere.” These mottoes remind the soldier that the regiment to which he belongs has fought and conquered, served and suffered, all over the world. The proud badge of the county of Kent is “Invicta--unconquered; that of Exeter is “The Ever-faithful City.” All these titles belong of right to our army, the Church of Jesus Christ. It is said that in New Zealand, some years ago, many of our troops were mortally wounded by concealed natives, who hid them selves in holes in the earth, and thence darted their deadly spears upward against the unsuspecting soldier. So our spiritual enemy, Satan, hides himself in a thousand different places, and wounds us with some sudden temptation when we are least aware. (H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)

The children’s crusade

I suppose many of you have read of those strange wars called the Crusades? They were undertaken to deliver the Holy Sepulchre of Jesus at Jerusalem out of the hands of the heathen. Thousands of brave men, besides their friends and followers, went to the Holy Land, at different times, to fight in the Crusades. The warriors wore a blood red cross on their clothing, from which they got their name of Crusaders, and their motto was, “The Will of God.” It was a very good motto, but not a very true one for them, for I am afraid they did many cruel and wicked things which certainly were not the will of God; and thousands of people perished miserably abroad, who might have been doing useful work at home. Well, amongst these Crusades there was one called the Children’s Crusade. A boy in France went about singing in his own language--

“Jesus, Lord, repair our loss,

Restore to us Thy Holy Cross.”

Crowds of children followed him, singing the same words. No bolts, no bars, no fear of fathers, or love of mothers, could held them back, they determined to go to the Holy Land, to work wonders there! This mad crusade had a very sad ending; of course young children could do nothing, being without leaders, or experience, or discipline, and they all perished miserably either by land or sea. Now I want you to think about another Children’s Crusade, in which you are all engaged. What do you think is required of a good soldier?

I. First of all he must be brave. We all like to hear about acts of bravery, like that of the little midshipman who spiked the Russian guns in the Crimean war; or of the boy Ensign, Anstruther, who at the battle of the Alma planted the colors of the 23rd Regiment on the wall of the great Redoubt, and then fell, shot dead, with the colours drooping over him like a pall. But the courage which is thought most of in heaven is the courage to do right. I have read a story of a wounded soldier lying on a battlefield, whose mouth had been struck by a shot. When the doctor placed a cup of water to his mouth, the man was eagerly going to drink, when he stopped and said, “My mouth is all bloody, it will make the cup bad for the others.” That soldier, in giving up self for the sake of others, was more of a hero then than when charging against the foe. Try to remember that story, children, and if you are tempted to do anything selfish or wrong, stop and think, “It will make it bad for the others.”

II. You must expect to find enemies and difficulties if you do what is right. Every one was against Daniel because he prayed to God. Every one was against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, because they would not bow down to an idol. But God was on their side. There was once a famous man of God named Athanasius. He was bold enough to maintain the true faith of Christ against Emperors, and Bishops, and he was driven into banishment over and over again. Some of his friends advised him to give in, for, said they, the world is against you; “Then,” answered Athanasius, “I am against the world.” Now you must, as Christ’s soldiers, “learn to suffer and be strong.” To win a victory we must fight, to get to the end of a journey we must bear fatigue. Let me tell you a fable about that. Three animals, an ermine, a beaver, and a wild boar, made up their minds to seek a better country, and a new home. After a long and weary journey, they came in sight of a beautiful land of trees and gardens, and rivers of water. The travellers were delighted at the sight, but they noticed that before they could enter this beautiful land, they must pass through a great mass of water, filled with mud and slime, and all kinds of snakes and other reptiles. The ermine was the first to try the passage. Now the ermine has a very delicate fur coat, and when he found how foul and muddy the water was, he drew back, and said, that the country was very beautiful, but that he would rather lose it than soil his beautiful coat. Then the beaver proposed that as he was a good architect, as you know beavers are, he should build a bridge across the lake, and so in about two months they might get across safely. But the wild boar looked scornfully at his companions, and plunging into the water, he made his way, in spite of mud and snakes, to the other side, saying to his fellow-travellers, “Paradise is not for cowards, but for the brave.” Dear children, between you and the Paradise of God there lies a long journey, the enemy’s country, where the devil and his angels will fight against you, where there are deep pools of trouble to be gone through, rough, stony roads of temptation to be traversed, high rocks of difficulty to be climbed: but don’t be afraid, only be brave, and go forward, and follow Jesus year leader, and you will be able to say, as St. Paul said, “Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

III. Well, we have seen that soldiers must be brave, what else must they be? obedient. God told Saul to do a certain thing, and he did not, and God would no longer have him as a soldier. Do you remember what was said to him? “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” (H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)

The good soldiers

The question before us is,--How may we become good soldiers of Jesus Christ?

I. We must wear the uniform of Christ. This uniform is not made up of different-coloured cloth, such as we see other soldiers wear. No; but it is made up of the tempers, or dispositions, which form their character. To wear the uniform of Jesus, then, is to have the same mind, or spirit, or temper that He had.

II. The second thing for us to do, if we would be good soldiers of Jesus Christ, is to--obey the orders of Jesus. Some time ago, a largo ship was going from England to the East Indies. She was carrying a regiment of soldiers. When they were about half-way through their voyage, the vessel sprang a leak, and began to fill with water. The lifeboats were launched and made ready, but there were not enough of them to save all on board the ship. Only the officers of the ship, the cabin passengers, and some of the crew, could be taken in the boats. The soldiers had to be left on board, to go down with the ship. The officers determined to die with their men. The colonel was afraid the men would get unruly if they had nothing to do. That he might prevent this he ordered them to prepare for parade. Soon they all appeared in full dress. He set the regimental band on the quarter-deck, with orders to keep on playing lively airs. Then he formed his men in close ranks on the deck. With his sword drawn in his hand, he took his place at their head. Every officer and man is at his post. The vessel is gradually sinking; but they stand steady at their post, each man keeping step. And then, just as the vessel is settling for its last plunge, and death is rushing in upon them, the colonel cries,--“Present arms!” and that whole regiment of brave men go down into their watery grave, presenting arms as death approached them. Those were good soldiers. They had learned to obey orders. But this is a hard lesson to learn. Several boys were playing marbles. In the midst of their sport it began to rain. One of the boys, named Freddie, stopped and said, “Boys, I must go home. Mother told me not to stay out in the rain.” “Your mother--fudge!” said two or three of the boys. “The rain won’t hurt you any more than it will us.” Freddie turned on them with a look of pity, and yet with the courage of a hero, while he calmly said, “I’ll not disobey my mother for any of you.” That was the spirit of a good soldier. After a great battle once, the general was talking to his officers about the events of the day. He asked them who had done the best that day. Some spoke of one man who had fought very bravely, and some of another. “No,” said the general, “you are all mistaken. The best man in the field to-day was a soldier who was just lifting up his arms to strike an enemy, but when he heard the trumpet sound a retreat, he checked himself, and dropped his arm without striking the blow. That perfect and ready obedience to the will of his general is the noblest thing that has been done to-day.”

III. We must follow the example of Jesus. When Alexander the Great was leading his army over some mountains once, they found their way all stopped up with ice and snow. His soldiers were tired out with hard marching, and so disheartened with the difficulties before them, that they halted. It seemed as if they would rather lie down and die than try to go on any farther. When Alexander saw this, he did not begin to scold the men, and storm at them. Instead of this, he got down from his horse, laid aside his cloak, took up a pickaxe, and, without saying a word to any one, went quietly to work, digging away at the ice. As soon as the officers saw this, they did the same. The men looked on in surprise for a few moments, and then, forgetting how tired they were, they went to work with a will, and pretty soon they got through all their difficulties. Those were good soldiers, because they followed the example of their leader. (Richard Newton, D. D.)

A good soldier

I. What is implied in being a soldier?

1. A soldier is a person wire has enlisted in an army. Had looked at the reasons for and against entering the army, and at last he enlisted.

2. He is the property of the king. Gives up his free agency. Gives up his very name. Known and called by the number he bears.

3. He is provided for by the king. Must take off his own clothes, whether of best broadcloth or corduroy. Must be clothed, and fed, and armed by the king.

4. He must always wear his regimentals. A soldier can always be recognised as such.

5. He is prepared for trial and conflict. Soldiers are the result of war, and if there were no war, there would be no soldiers. He enlisted to fight. For this purpose he is armed, and trained, and drilled.

II. What is implied in being a soldier of Christ? It is implied that Christ is a King, that He has enemies, that He has an army, and that the person spoken of belongs to this army. I have to glance at the ground we have already passed--You have enlisted, etc.

III. What is implied in being a good soldier of Christ? There are soldiers and soldiers. There are some who are idle and dissipated: a disgrace to the profession to which they belong. Others only swell the numbers and fill up the ranks, they look very well at reviews, but don’t count for much in the battle-field. Others are so true and faithful that they cover the army to which they belong with glory.

1. A good soldier is thoroughly loyal. Not a mercenary, fighting for pay. Proud of his uniform, his name, his king.

2. Patriotic. Loves his country. Every soldier is his comrade. The defeat of the army is his sorrow; its success his joy.

3. Obedient. He may be at home in the midst of his family--a telegram comes; by the next train he leaves to join the army, perhaps to cross the seas and perish in a distant land.

4. Earnest.

5. Brave.

6. Patient. Not enlisted for a day, but for life. Often put where there is nothing to excite or gratify ambition. There will be the long wearisome march, or the still more wearisome halt. While his comrades are assaulting cities and winning victories, he has to stand and watch, or lie and suffer.

7. Self-denying.

8. Modest. His motto, Deeds not words. It is said that the word “glory” is not found in the despatches of the Duke of Wellington. He merely states what the army had done. So with the Christian. What are you? A rebel? Your defeat is certain. A deserter? Return. A penitent, longing to be enlisted in Christ’s army? Come. A soldier? Be “a good soldier.” (C. Garrett.)

A good soldier of Jesus Christ

The contrast between the saints of the Old Testament and of the New Testament is very great, especially in the relation which they bore to war. No great saint or apostle of the New Testament was a soldier. But in the Old Testament we read of the faith of Abraham, of the wisdom of Moses, of the courage of Joshua, of the nobility of David, of the piety of Josiah, of the zeal of Nehemiah; and all these had at some parts of their lives to go forth to the battle-field. But it was not so with Peter, James, John, Paul, and the rest of the early disciples. The distinction is to be accounted for partly by the circumstances in which they severally lived. In Old Testament and primitive times men had to obtain a footing for their very life, and to contend for national existence. But in the time of Christ the Roman Government secured the safety of person and property, and within certain limits left the Jew to indulge in his national customs. So, in the history of our own country, we see how greatly circumstances have changed. In the time of Queen Elizabeth Englishmen of every creed were compelled to have the soldierly spirit unless they wished to succumb to the Spaniard. And in the time of the Stuarts men were obliged to keep their armour bright unless they were prepared to put their liberties at the mercy of a tyrant. Thus we have in both periods of English history, and also during the struggles of Jewish history, saints who were also and literally soldiers. Bat there is a deeper reason for the change which has come about. And that reason is to be seen in the gentle and forgiving spirit which is inculcated by the Christian religion. The religion of Christ banishes war by taking away its occasions and its causes. It bids its adherents still enter on a battle. It utilises those pugnacious principles which exist in us all, by confronting us with the great moral struggle between good and evil, where every man must choose his side. There are certain plain and palpable qualifications of a good soldier of Christ which we will point out.

I. A good soldier understands his captain.

II. Understands his weapons.

III. Understands his place in the battle.

IV. Loves the cause in which he fights. (S. Pearson, M. A.)

Christianity and soldiers

The metaphor which the apostle here chooses to describe the work of a primitive Christian bishop cannot bat strike us as remarkable. Himself a servant of the Prince of Peace, and writing to another servant of the Prince of Peace, he might, we may think, have gone somewhere else for his metaphor than to the profession of arms. How are we to explain the honour which the apostle puts upon the military profession when he points to a soldier as embodying, at any rate, some of the qualities which he desires to see in a ruler of the Church of God? We cannot say, by way of reply, that the metaphor is so accidental or so singular that stress ought not in fairness to be laid on it, for there is a great deal more religions language with a military colour or flavour about it, not merely in the Old Testament, but in the New. The relation between the military profession and religion thus traceable in Scripture reappears in the history of the Church. If, in her higher moments, the Church has done her best to check or condemn bloodshed, as when St. Ambrose excommunicated the Roman Emperor Theodosius, at the very height of his power, for the slaughter of Thessalonica, she has distinguished between the immediate instruments in such slaughter and the monarchs or the captains who were really responsible for it. If, in the first centuries of the faith, Christians were often unwilling to serve in the Roman ranks, and in some eases preferred martyrdom to doing so, the reason was that such service was then so closely bound up with pagan usages that to be an obedient soldier was to be a renegade from the Christian faith. When this difficulty no longer presented itself, Christians, like other citizens, were ready to wear weapons and to serve in the wars, and so long as warfare is defensive--devoted, not to the aggrandisement of empire, but to maintaining the peace and the police of the world--the Christian Church, while deploring its horrors, cannot but recognise in it at times a terrible necessity. When the great Bishop Leo of Rome or the great soldier Charles Martel set their faces against the destructive inroads of barbarism, they had behind them all that was best and purest in Christendom; and the rise of the military orders, the Knights of the Temple and the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, marks a yet closer intimacy, the form of which was determined, no doubt, by the ideas of the twelfth century rather than of our own, between a soldier’s career and the profession of religion. We cannot pass that noble home of the law, as it is now, the Temple, without remembering that it was once tenanted by an Order of soldiers, bound by religious obligations, devoted to the rescue and the care of those sacred spots which must always be dearest to the heart of Christendom. Here, then, let us ask ourselves the question, What are the qualities which are common to a good soldier and to a good Christian? The answer will explain and will justify the language of the apostle.

I. The first is, that each, the Christian and the soldier, does his work well in the exact degree of his devotion to his commander. The greatest generals have been distinguished by the power of inspiring an unbounded confidence in and attachment to their persons. This is true in different senses of Alexander, of Hannibal, of Caesar, of Napoleon. And what is the deepest secret of the Christian life if it be not an unbounded confidence in the Captain of our salvation, Jesus Christ our Lord, devotion to His person, undoubting belief in His Word, readiness to do and to endure whatever He may order?

II. And the second virtue in a soldier is courage. In the conventional language of the world, a soldier is always gallant, just as a lawyer is learned, just as a clergyman is reverend. Whatever be a man’s real character, the title belongs to him by right of his profession. There are virtues in which a soldier may be wanting without damage to his professional character, but courage is not one of these.

III. And a third excellence in a soldier is the sense of discipline. Without discipline an army becomes an unmanageable horde, one part of which is as likely as not to turn its destructive energies against another, and nothing strikes the eye of a civilian as he watches a regiment making its way through one of our great thoroughfares in London more than the contrast which is presented by the unvarying, I had almost said the majestic, regularity of its onward movement and the bewildering varieties of pace, gesture, direction, costume of the motley crowd of curious civilians who flit spasmodically around it. Discipline in an army is not merely the perfection of form, it is an essential condition of power. Numbers and resources cannot atone for its absence, but it may easily with small resources make numbers and greater resources powerless.

IV. And one more characteristic of the military spirit is a sense of comradeship. All over the world a soldier recognises a brother in another soldier. Not only members of the same regiment, of the same corps, of the same army and country, but even combatants in opposing armies are conscious of a bond which unites them, in spite of their antagonism; and the officers and men of hostile armies have been known to engage in warm expressions of mutual fellowship as soon as they were free to do so by the proclamation of peace. This generous and chivalrous feeling which survives the clash of arms confers on a soldier’s bearing an elevation which we cannot mistake. When, in the later years of his life, Marshal Soult, who had been in command in the Peninsula, visited this country, he came to St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the monument which most interested him, and which then had been recently erected in the South Transept, was that of Sir John Moore, the hero of Corunna. “Soult,” says one who witnessed it, “stood for some time before the monument; he could not speak; he could hardly control himself; he dissolved in a flood of tears.” Certainly it was meant to be so m the Church. “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one towards another.” But there is an important difference between the services. The one terminates, if not before, yet certainly and altogether at the moment of quitting this earthly scene. The last possible point of contact that even a Wellington can have with the profession of his choice is seen in the device on his coffin, in the epitaph on his grave. The other service--that of Jesus Christ--although under changed conditions lasts on into that world to which death is but an introduction, and which He, our Captain, has opened to us by His death on the cross, by His resurrection from the dead. (Canon Liddon.)

Endurance

Here the apostle is not thinking of the soldier on the field of battle engaged in conflict with the enemy. His exhortation to Timothy is not to fight well, but to endure, or, as the same word is rendered elsewhere (2 Timothy 1:8), to suffer affliction well. He thinks of the soldier being drilled and disciplined for the fight. As a prisoner at Rome he would be, very probably, a daily eye-witness of the severe training through which the emperor’s troops had to pass. These were good soldiers of Caesar. They were true patriots, laying upon the altar of their country their very lives. Now Timothy was, like the apostle himself, a soldier; but the soldier of avery different King from Caesar, and had a very different warfare to wage than such wars as the Roman soldiery were so frequently engaged in. He was the soldier of Jesus Christ.

I. Let me remind you that there is hardness to be endured by all of us. Christianity means to-day as it always did, continual cross-bearing. The word “duty” has still a rough edge. For example, here is a Christian merchant who has so many shares in a concern which he has for some time back had good reason for thinking is in a rather shaky condition, and an opportunity occurs for his selling out, and that at a good price. Just at present a few hundred pounds in hard cash would be of immense service to him in his business. But no, he won’t sell. He means to be the true Christian gentleman, and he feels that that he cannot be and sell as good that what he has his doubts about. Yet it is hard, especially if one can see at his back a wife and so many daughters inclining rather to be extravagant, and who cannot appreciate “father’s scruples.” This is his cross, and as a good soldier of Jesus Christ he bears it. Come what may, he will be honest--will not finger a shilling that does not come to him lawfully. I think, then, that in the region of commercial morality those of us who belong thereto will find occasion for the exercise of the precept, “Thou, therefore, endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

II. Let me see if I can give the true word of direction; if I can at least indicate to you the spirit in which we are to endure. I think Paul does this himself for us. We are to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. That is, we also, like Timothy--and like those good soldiers at Rome which Paul saw--are to take to our task kindly. We are not to despise the cross that is laid upon us. We are not to run out of the way of duty. We are not to rebel when our Master chastens.

III. Let me see if I can say anything that may help to stimulate us to dare and do the right, So that we may not repeat the mistakes of the past which have brought to us so much misery and unrest. Observe, then, what Paul says--“As a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” That is, as a soldier under Jesus Christ. Think of that name--Jesus Christ. Can we for a moment suppose that He would give an unkind command or put upon us an unnecessary burden? Jesus! Why the name suggests all that is kindest, and noblest, and gentlest, and truest. But there is one other thought here I should like to take up and lay upon your hearts, “As a good soldier of Jesus Christ”--that is, of Jesus Christ as our Leader. He is not the Master to say “Go.” His way is always to say “Come.” The heaviest cross ever borne was that which He bore. (Adam Scott.)

Moral soldiership

I. Let us understand the meaning of the injunction, “endure hardness.” The reference is to the life of privation and suffering which a soldier, far more in those times than now, had to undergo, and which in all times he is expected to bear without murmuring, to endure willingly, as a part of that profession which he has voluntarily embraced. Endurance is not merely bearing suffering, but bearing it manfully. To bear hardship with the spirit of a hero is to “endure hardness as a good soldier.” Samuel Rutherford, when in prison, used to date his letters from “Christ’s Palace, Aberdeen,” and when Madam Guyon was confined in the castle of Vincennes, she said, “It seems as if I were a little bird whom the Lord has placed in u cage, and that I have nothing now to do but sing.” Paul, too, did not tell his son in the faith to do more than he had done himself.

II. The Christian’s profession, as a soldier, implies a voluntary change of position in life.

III. It is now nearly universally allowed that an intelligent acquaintance with the plans of the general, and with the purposes for which the battle is fought, or the campaign undertaken, by begetting confidence in his leader, enables the soldier to render more efficient service. So in proportion as a Christian grows in the knowledge of God and of His plans for the redemption of our world as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, in that proportion he throws his whole soul into the fight. Four special conditions in which a soldier is called upon to “endure hardness.”

1. In standing his ground. Wellington brought peace to Europe by his stand at Waterloo. To retire would have been disgrace, to advance would have been destruction. Holding his position brought victory. The battle of Inkermann was won by an eight hours’ resistance of six thousand men to sixty thousand. So a Christian soldier often finds himself so hotly assaulted by the world, the flesh, and the devil, that he is unable to advance a foot. But a firm, resisting stand is conquest.

2. A soldier must endure hardness in marching. The chief care of one who has a long march before him is to be well shod. If this be not attended to, even things so insignificant as thorns and briars will occasion suffering, and may unfit the soldier for the fight. So the lesser vexations and petty cares and trials of patience in everyday life, if not guarded against, will weary and wound the “feet of the soul,” as Bishop Home calls the affections, and, footsore and wearied, he will be ill-prepared for those special encounters with the enemy to which he is always liable.

3. The soldier must endure hardness in action.

4. Although many an earthly soldier endures who is never crowned, no soldier of Christ is overlooked in the day of victory. The only condition is endurance. (W. Harris.)

Soldiers of Christ

It sometimes happens that a verse in our English Bible contains a Scriptural rule of the utmost value, though it represents neither the best reading nor the accurate translation. Such is the case with this text. The true translation in reading it is: “Share, my son, in my suffering as a fair soldier of Jesus Christ”; and yet the words “endure hardness” convey a most valuable general lesson, and involve the exhortation of the entire context. Perhaps some careless epicurean man of the world, perhaps some envious fashionable woman of the world, perhaps some easy, self-indulgent, godless youth asks me, “Why should I endure hardness? Life has troubles enough in store; why should I add to them? There is no religion in making myself uncomfortable; how can God be pleased by self-denials which will only be a burden to me?”

1. My first answer to your question is, Do it for your own sakes because we men cannot live like beasts to be cloyed with honey; because sickness and satiety are the just nemesis of self-indulgence; because, by the very constitution of the nature God has given you, it is a bad thing as well as ruinous to all earthly happiness that the body should be pampered, since where the body is pampered the spirit is almost necessarily starved. We have bodies; but we are spirits. He who would truly live must walk in the Spirit, and he who would walk in the Spirit must keep the body under stern control.

2. But we go further and say, endure hardness also because it is the manifest will of God. See what pains God takes to teach us that it is His will. The everlasting hills are full of their mineral riches, but to get them men must drive the tunnel and sink the shaft. The soil teems with golden harvests, but to win them man must scatter his seeds into the furrow, and breathe hard breath over the plough. Nature has priceless secrets in her possession; but she holds them out to us clenched in a granite hand, which sheer labour must unclasp. Everywhere in nature God teaches us the same great lesson. Anything worth having is not to be had for nothing.

3. Endure hardness also because it is the training-school of worth. When God wants a nation to do Him high service, to fight His battles, to wrestle in His arenas, then lie gives that nation labours and sorrows too. He takes them out of the sluggish levels of Egypt, and makes them climb His granite mountains and listen to the wild music of His desert winds. A nation of greedy slaves might have been contented to live and die in gluttonous animalism; but when God wants heroes, then out of His house of bondage He calls His sons. Read God’s lessons written on the broad page of history. The type of Egypt’s centuries of sluggish placidity is but the cruel, motionless, staring Sphinx; but the type of immortal Greece and the brave flash of her glory is the Apollo launching at the Python with his arrows. What would Sparta have been had she never had Thermopylae? What would Athens have been but for Salamis and Marathon?

4. Endure hardness, scorn sloth, embrace labour, despise sham, practise self-denial in the path of duty, because Christ did it. It is the will of Christ; because there is no virtue and there is no holiness possible without it. The word “virtue” occurs but once in the whole of the New Testament; because the pagan world has made of it too dwarfed an ideal, and Christianity had better words than that; but even the pagan world saw that broad is the path of evil--broad, and straight, and smooth to ruin by the steps of sin. The type of nobleness, even to the pagan world, was not Sardanapalus, but Hercules; not Apicius, the glutton, but Leonidas, the king. They knew it was difficult to be a good man--difficult, and not so easy as it seems; they knew that any fool could be a money-getter, or a drunkard, or a debauchee; that out of the very meanest, vilest clay that ever was you can make an effeminate corrupter, or selfish schemer, or a slanderer, or a thief; but that it takes God’s own gold to make a man, and that it wants the furnace and the toil to make of that gold and fine gold; and it is strange how unanimous all nations have been on this point. David Hume has a passage in his writings about virtue, and her affability, and her engaging manners, nay, even, at proper intervals, her frivolity and gaiety, and her parting not willingly with any pleasure, and requiring a just calculation, and her ranking us as enemies to joy and pleasure, as hypocrites, or deceivers, or the less favoured of her votaries; whereupon one of our men of science, far from being a dogmatist, says that in this paean of virtue there is more of a dance measure than will sound appropriate in the ears of most of the pilgrims who toil painfully, not without many a stumble, along the rough and steep road that leads to the higher life. But if virtue be difficult of acquirement, far more is holiness. (F. W. Farrar, D. D.)

Enduring hardness as a soldier

The apostle Paul, a true and valiant hero, gives counsel in the text to each minister of God who stands up in any age to do battle for the Lord. He must not only understand the art of war as a theory, but put his know ledge into practice, going before the mighty host of God’s elect in order that they may triumph gloriously--“Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” The apostles all set this example to the world. The advice of St. Paul in the text had reference in its original application to the clergy, but it is no less a rule which is binding on all Christians. The fact that we are Christian soldiers suggests three corresponding duties.

I. The will of the soldier should be wholly absorbed in that of his commander. “My life consists in being, rather than in doing,” said a good Christian woman, when cut off from active work by long-continued sickness. “I cannot fight much, but if I can hold the standard for other eyes, I may inspire tired soldiers with fresh courage, and so, if nothing but a colour bearer, help in the good cause!” Yes, brave and devoted woman, many a jaded and disheartened one will take heart and hope, as you thus bear aloft with unflinching hand the standard of faith and patience!

II. A soldier, to deserve the name, must possess true courage.

III. A soldier must be ready to endure hardness. (J. N. Norton.)

The good soldier of Jesus Christ

Suppose a young man went of his own will for a soldier, was regularly sworn in to serve the Queen, took his bounty, wore the Queen’s uniform, ate her bread, learnt his drill and all that a soldier need learn, as long as peace lasted. But suppose that as soon as war came and his regiment was ordered on active service, he deserted at once and went off and hid himself. What should you call such a man? You would call him a base and ungrateful coward, and you would have no pity on him if he was taken and justly punished. But suppose that he did a worse thing still. Suppose that the enemy, the Russians say, invaded England, and the army was called out to fight them; and suppose this man of whom I speak, be he soldier or sailor, instead of fighting the enemy, deserted over to them, and fought on their side against his own country, and his own comrades, and his own father and brothers, what would you call that man? No name would be bad enough for him. If he was taken he would be hanged without mercy, as not only a deserter but a traitor. And who would pity him or say that he had not got his just deserts? Are not all young people, when they are old enough to choose between right and wrong, if they choose what is wrong and live bad lives instead of good ones, very like this same deserter and traitor? For are you not all Christ’s soldiers, every one of you? Did not Christ enlist every one of you into His army, that, as the baptism service says, you might fight manfully under His banner against sin, the world, and the devil--in one word, against all that is wrong and bad? And now when you are old enough to know that you are Christ’s soldiers, what will you deserve to be called if, instead of fighting on Christ’s side against what is bad, you forget you are in His service. But some may say, “My case is not like that soldier’s. I did not enter Christ’s service of my own free will. My parents put me into it when I was an infant without asking my leave. I was not christened of my own will.” Is it so? Do you know what your words mean? If they mean anything, they mean that you had rather not have been christened, because you are now expected to behave as a christened man should. Now is there any one of you who dare say, “I wish I had not been christened”? Not one! Then if you dare not say that; if you are content to have been christened, why are you not content to do what christened people should? But why were you christened? not merely because your parents chose, but because it was their duty. Every child ought to be christened, because every child belongs to Christ. You have now no right to choose between Christ and the devil, because Christ has chosen you already--no right to choose between good and bad, because God, the good God Himself, has chosen you already, and has been taking care of you, and heaping you with blessings ever since you were born. And why did Christ choose you? As I have told you, that you may fight with Him against all that is bad. But if we go on doing bad and wrong things, are we fighting on Christ’s side? No, we are fighting on the devil’s side, and helping the devil against God. Do you fancy that I am saying too much? I suspect some do. I suspect some say in their hearts, “He is too hard on us. We are not like that traitorous soldier. If we do wrong, it is ourselves at most that we harm. We do not wish to hurt any one; we do not want to help the devil.” (Chas. Kingsley.)

Fortitude

Weakness and effeminacy have ever accompanied the latter stages of all human civilisation. Either society actually rottens and falls to pieces by the dissolving influence of its own vices, or, weakened by indulgence, it falls a ready prey in its turn to the sword of some ruder but manlier enemy. In the ancient nations of the world such has been the invariable process. The question has often been asked, Does the law still hold good, and must the nations of modern Europe decay and die, as the great nations of antiquity have done? If we had nothing but human nature to look to the reply would be an unhesitating, Yes. But we have another element in our case, what our Lord calls the leaven, to spread its own healthy influence through the otherwise fermenting mass of humanity; and upon its regenerating force all our hopes of a happier future must rest. If Christianity keeps us from effeminacy, it will keep us from ruin. I cannot for a moment doubt its power, because it is the power of God. But it therefore follows that, if it is to save us, it must be a real Christianity--a Christianity such as God originated and such as God will work by. Now it is, I think, the most serious thing in the present condition of the world that, not only has a luxurious civilisation weakened the domestic virtues, especially among some women, whose extravagances have become almost a satire upon womanhood--I say among women, because the love of athletic sports to a considerable degree checks the tendency among men; hut that our Christianity itself has caught the infection and is demoralised by self-indulgence. The effeminacy has reached even our religion. Words and sentiments take the place of deeds. The charm of the eye and the ear are substituted for great inward principles; the grandest truths are welcomed, admitted, admired, but not acted upon in daily life. The Church is enormously below her own standard. A refined self-indulgence spreads everywhere, and if it continues to spread till it touches the very heart of the Church and nation, then indeed there can be no hope for us. I cannot doubt that it is the providential object of the struggles of faith belonging to our day to revive the manliness, the independence, the reality, and power of our religion, just as nations amid sufferings and disaster recover the manly virtues which have rusted in prosperity and ease. There are many obvious reasons for cultivating a more robust and manly earnestness in our religion.

I. It is due to the character of the great Master whom we serve. We look up to the Captain of our salvation, and every imaginable motive which can nerve the human heart combines to inspire us with dauntless courage and unflinching fortitude.

II. A robust earnestness is due to the necessities of the work. God takes every possible precaution in His Word that we should count the cost, before we enlist under our Captain’s banner. We have, indeed, Divine strength to help us; but it is given to help, not to supersede. Our battle requires all our strength, and nothing less will suffice. The very saints hardly press into the kingdom: they take it by violence, and enter like soldiers after a hard-fought fight--wounded, bleeding, and weary, but conquering. And this endurance of hardness is the more necessary because, not only are habits of personal self-denial and self-restraint, watchful devotion and earnest effort, the conditions of victory, but they are actual parts of the victory themselves.

III. Manly vigour is due to the abundance of the reward. Salvation itself is not of reward; it is all of grace. But once let the soul find Christ, let it be accepted within the family circle, let it fairly take service beneath the banner of Christ as the faithful soldier and servant of a crucified Master, and then God deals with it by rewards. (E. Garbett, M. A.)

The Christian a soldier

I. The soldier giving up the direction of his own actions and exertions, gives himself up to the service of another. The Roman soldier, to whose case St. Paul must be supposed particularly to refer, was nothing but a soldier. So it is with the Christian: he may not serve the world and his God together. He must either be all Christ’s or none of His.

II. The service into which the soldier enters is for the most part a service accompanied by peril and privation.

III. The third point of similarity observed in the conditions of the soldier and the Christian is, that each is bound to be faithful in the discharge of the duties of his profession by the obligation of a solemn oath. At the time St. Paul wrote, the Roman soldier, when first enrolled, took an oath to obey the commands of his emperor, and never to forsake his standard: and this oath was yearly renewed. A Christianised imagination found a parallel to this in the solemn engagement entered into at baptism, and renewed in the holy communion of the supper of the Lord, “obediently to keep God’s holy will and commandments, and to walk in the same all the days of our life.” For this very reason those two awful rites of our religion received from the primitive Church the name which they yet bear, the name of sacraments. Sacrament was the usual term for the soldier’s military oath, and it was transferred by the ancients to baptism and the eucharist, because in them the believer, as it were, binds himself by solemn compact faithfully to serve in the spiritual armies under the orders of the King of heaven. (W. H. Marriott.)


Verses 3-7

Verse 4

2 Timothy 2:4

No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life.

Roman soldiers

were not allowed to marry or to engage in any husbandry or trade; and they were forbidden to act as tutors to any person, or curators to any man’s estate, or proctor in the cause of other men. The general principle was, that they were excluded from those relations, agencies, and engagements, which it was thought would divert their minds from that which was to be the sole object of pursuit. (A. Barnes.)

The soldier of Jesus Christ, enduring, and unentangled

(2 Timothy 2:3-4):--Soldiers read and scan attentively the military orders which are put forth from time to time by their commanding officers. Let us see what, in the articles of Christian warfare, are placed here for our instruction to-day.

I. The Christian soldier is to endure suffering for Christ. This is the true rendering of the expression, “Endure hardness.” It means, suffer or endure for Christ’s sake. The faithful soldier never deserts his duty. The hardships on the battle-field are fearful, but never, in his thought, unendurable. Officers in the Crimean war (as they themselves have told me) had for weeks nothing else than the hard rock for their pillow, and the sky (often obscured by deluging rain clouds) for their ceiling. Yet they “endured” it, and the soldiers “endured” it with them, and thus they “suffered” or endured hardness together, as “good soldiers” under a gracious queen!

1. The good soldier of Jesus Christ will often “endure” suffering by reproaches for Christ’s name.

2. And you must not wonder, if you have to endure persecution also, by taunts openly spoken in your hearing.

II. That Christian soldiers are not to “entangle themselves with the affairs of this life.”

1. The Christian is a warrior--is a “man that warreth.” There is the daily watch to he kept over yourself, and to bar out Satan, and to keep out the world. Ay, and all is not done even then, for there are those occasional surprises, when the enemy would pounce upon us from an ambush; for the Christian knows that sometimes he is vigorously assaulted at the time, and from the point where he thought injury impossible, and when he deemed himself quite secure. Then, too, there is the well planned attack, when Satan brings all his legionaries to the fight, and the hosts of temptations are directed against you with unceasing violence.

2. Well, then, be mindful you do not entangle yourself. You need not be entangled--if you become so, you entangle yourself.

I answer--

1. By watchfulness against first dangers. You know in an army, “pickets” are sent to the very outskirts of the camp, who give signal of the earliest beginning of any attack. Be you always on your guard; let conscience have fidelity and watchfulness, ever on the alert to give notice of the least cause of danger.

2. Then, next, daily prayer is as needful to a Christian soldier as daily food is to the winner of the earthly fight.

3. And, lastly, you will do well to make a profession. A man is just as brave in fustian as in full regimentals, but it is a fact long ago established, that the ornament and distinctive dress are extremely useful. (Geo. Venables.)

The military discipline

1. I begin with the particular matter suggested by the apostle; viz., the putting off or excision of the world, as an interruptive and disqualifying power. The only way to make great soldiership, as the military commander well understands, is to take his men completely out of the home world and have them circumscribed and shut in by drill, as being mortgaged in body and life for their country.. Trained to flinch at nothing, and suffer anything, he makes them first impassive, and so, brave. And under this same law it is that all Christian disciples are required to strip for the war, throwing off all their detentions, all the seductions of business, property, pleasure, and affection. All such matters must now drop into secondary places, for the understanding is, that no one gets the great heart, or becomes in any sense a hero, till his very life is drunk up in his commander, and his supreme care to please him that hath chosen him to be a soldier.

2. Consider next how the military discipline raises spirit and high impulse by a training under authority, exact and absolute. Does it reduce the soldiers and all the subordinate commanders of an army to mere cyphers, when they are required to march, and wheel, and lift every foot, and set every muscle by the word of authority; when even the music is commandment, and to feed, and sleep, and not sleep are by requirement? Why, the service rightly maintained invigorates every manly quality rather; for they are in a great cause, moving with great emphasis, having thus great thoughts ranging in them and, it may be, great inspirations. God’s all dominant, supreme authority is our noblest educator.

3. How often is it imagined by outside beholders, or felt by slack-minded, self-indulgent disciples, that the military stringency of the Christian life is a condition of bondage. Liberty is not the being let alone, or allowed to have everything oar own way. If it were, the wild beasts would be more advanced in it than all states and peoples. No, there is no proper liberty but under rule, and in the sense of rule. It holds high sisterhood with law, nay, it is twin-born with law itself.

4. Ungenial and repulsive as the law of the camp may be, there is no such thing in it as enduring hardness for hardness’ sake, no peremptory commandment for commandment’s sake. Such kind of discipline would not be training, but extirpation rather. And yet how many of us Christian disciples fall into notions of Christian self-denial that include exactly this mistake. As if it were a proper Christian thing to be always scoring, and stripping, and mortifying ourselves. The truth is, that our human nature is made to go a great deal more heroically than some of us think; and our soldiers in the field are just now making this discovery. Why, if the fires of patriotic impulse can help our sons and fathers in the field to rejoice in so great sacrifice for their country, what pain can there be to us in our painstakings, what loss in our losses, when the love of God and of His Son is truly kindled in us?

5. The military discipline has as little direct concern to beget happiness, as it has to compel self-abnegation. It is never altogether safe for such as we to be simply happy, and that may be the reason why the best and solidest of us never are.

6. There is yet one other point of this military analogy, where in fact it is scarcely any proper analogy at all, but a kind of universal law, running through all kinds of mortal endeavour, secular, moral, mental, and spiritual; viz., that whatever we get, we must somehow fight for it. What begins in the conflicts of tribes and empires runs down through all kinds of experience. Fighting a good fight is the only way to finish the course, and the crown of glory comes in nowhere, save at the end. (H. Bushnell, D. D.)

The Christian warfare

What are the things with which we are in danger of entangling ourselves?

1. Doubtless we are in the greatest danger from our sins and especially from our besetting sin, i.e., that peculiar sin to which each one is liable either from some natural bias, or from acquired habit arising out of the evil within. We are in danger of entangling ourselves with our sins--

2. But the Christian’s dangers arise not only from his sins, but also from the ordinary affairs of daily life. These are more especially meant in the text. And what snare can be greater? Actual sin we may generally know to be sin. But in the affairs of this life, our daily occupations and our lawful enjoyments, it is often hard to find where the entanglement begins. If as moralists say and as experience proves, the difference between things lawful and unlawful is frequently one of degree, it must require both an enlightened conscience and much self-examination to ascertain the middle path of safety. Then keep as your safeguard the motive the text supplies: “to please Him who hath chosen you to be a soldier.” It is possible, we may think we do God service by acts which a more enlightened judgment would convince us do not; we cannot mistake a sincere desire to please Him. The old Crusader who, his heart aroused by the preaching of a Bernard or a Peter, laid his hand on his breast and swore to scare away the infidel from the holy sepulchre by his good broadsword, needed more light to learn that “our weapons are not carnal”; and yet who can doubt his desire to please his Saviour? Let us, then, see to it that we have this motive--Am I desirous to please Him who hath chosen me to be a soldier? (G. Huntingdon, M. A.)

The affairs of this life may entangle us

1. From weakness of judgment.

2. From inordinate affection.

3. From the rebellion of the will. Let us use all helps to avoid the danger; and

Not entangled with the world

St. Paul does not suggest that Christians should keep aloof from the affairs of this life, which would be a flat contradiction of what he teaches elsewhere (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). He has a duty to perform “in the affairs of this life,” but in doing it he is not to be entangled in them. They are means, not ends; and must be made to help him on, not suffered to keep him back. If they become entanglements instead of opportunities, he will soon lose that state of constant preparation and alertness which is the indispensable condition of success. (A. Plummer, D. D.)

Carnal ease not becoming a soldier

Milton excuses Oliver Cromwell’s want of bookish application in his youth thus: “It did not become that hand to wax soft in literary ease which was to be inured to the use of arms and hardened with asperity; that right arm to be softly wrapped up amongst the birds of Athens, by which thunderbolts were soon afterwards to be hurled among the eagles which emulate the sun.” Carnal ease and worldly wisdom are not becoming in the soldier of Jesus Christ. He has to wrestle against principalities and powers, and has need of sterner qualities than those which sparkle in the eyes of fashion or adorn the neck of elegance. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Wholly a soldier

Let not the minister of the gospel have one foot in the temple and the other in the curia. (Melancthon.)

Military service

Those who regard relationship are not fit for military service. (Tamil Proverb.)

Devotion to duty

The Countess of Aberdeen, speaking at Millseat, said, “If you have noticed Mr. Gladstone as I have done, he considers it a sacred duty never to think any part of his time his own while he is in office. He considers he has no right to have anything to do with his own private affairs. He has told me himself that he never reads a book which he does not think will help in some way to prepare his mind for the work which he has to do for the country. He never takes any relaxation, any recreation, but what he thinks is just necessary to prepare him in doing the work of his country. It is a life of hard and coutinuous work, and yet we all look upon that as the most honourable place in the country, that of being absolutely the servants of the country.” (British Weekly.)

That he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

That I may please Him

As we read his epistles, we feel that we know St. Paul better even than those who saw his face or heard his voice; and more and more the consciousness of his greatness becomes impressed upon us. There are two things in this greatness of his which strike us most forcibly. The first is his success in living the Christian life. What was the secret of this strength and success, making St. Paul’s life so different from the lives of other men? Another thing which strikes us, as we read his writings, is his deep spirituality. What was the secret of this spirituality? Perhaps the text wilt furnish us with an answer. There you have the ringing key-note of St. Paul’s whole life, the one thought that was ever uppermost in his mind, “‘That I may please Him.” There are three aims, or motives, under which men act, and these three give birth to three different kinds of lives. Each of these principles of action is exclusive.

I. Living to please self. This is the keynote of most lives--the central force into which they resolve themselves when they are analysed and dissected. The principle first manifests itself when the unconscious life of childhood passes into the conscious life of manhood or womanhood.

II. The second type of life is that in which the first aim is to please others. The highest good, some say, is to sacrifice all for selfish pleasure. The highest good, say others, is to sacrifice all to gain the approbation and admiration of the world. Some men will give honour and reputation for gold. Others will give gold for honour and reputation. Here you have the distinction between these two motives.

III. From the slavery of these two motives--living to please self, and living to please others--let us now turn to the glorious liberty of the third--St. Paul’s motive--living to please Christ. The Christian religion is different from all other religions in this one respect: it is founded, not upon a system, but upon a person. Remember that this is not a dead person who lived eighteen hundred years ago, and then went back to heaven. It is not the memory of a life. It is a present life. II is a living person--“Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.” Here is the fountain of spirituality--the constant contact of heart and soul with the living Christ. We Christians are men of but one principle. We, with that feeling of loyalty in our hearts to Christ, have hut one simple rule of action: Will it please Him? (H. Y. Satterlee, D. D.)

One mind rules the army

Nowhere else is it so true that the will of one becomes lost in that of another as in the case of the soldier. In an army it is contemplated that there shall be but one mind, one heart, one purpose--that of the commander; and that the whole army shall be as obedient to that as the members of the human body are to the one will that controls all. The application of this is obvious. (A. Barnes.)

Heart devotion to Christ

Ofttimes a commander is so beloved and idolised by his soldiers, that they know no higher wish than to please him for his own sake. A French soldier lay sorely wounded on the field of battle. When the surgeons were probing the wound in the breast to find the bullet, the soldier said: “A little deeper, gentlemen, and you will find the emperor.” So heart-deep was his devotion to his captain. But there never, never was a captain who so held the heart and charmed the love of His soldiers as Immanuel does. For Him they fight, for Him they live, for Him they suffer, and for Him they die! if only they may “please Him who hath called them to be a soldier.” This Commander loves to mention his beloved “braves” in His despatches, and these are kept as a book of remembrance. (J. J. Wray.)

Duty more than safety

In evil times it fares best with them that care most careful about duty, and least about safety. (J. Hammond.)

Erratic soldiers

Erratic Christians, who dash about like Bashi-Bazouks, working according; to no law save the bidding of their own caprice, are sorry specimens of soldiers. (W. Landels, D. D.)

Obey orders and leave results

When Stonewall Jackson, who was personally a very tender man, was asked whether he had no compunctions in shelling a certain town, which had been threatened unless it surrendered, he replied, “None whatever. What business had I with results? My duty was to obey orders.” (H. O. Mackey.)


Verse 5

2 Timothy 2:5

Not crowned, except he strive lawfully.

Lawful striving

The athlete who competes in the games does not receive a crown, unless he has contended law fully, i.e., according to rule ( νομίμως νόμος). Even if he seem to be victorious, he nevertheless is not crowned, because he has violated the well-known conditions. And what is the rule, what are the conditions of the Christian’s contest? “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” If we wish to share Christ’s victory, we must be ready to share His suffering. No cross, no crown. To try to withdraw oneself from all hardship and annoyance, to attempt to avoid all that is painful or disagreeable, is a violation of the rules of the arena. This, it would appear, Timothy was in some respects tempted to do; and timidity and despondency must not be allowed to get the upper hand. Not that what is painful, or distasteful, or unpopular, is necessarily right; but it is certainly not necessarily wrong; and to try to avoid everything that one dislikes is to ensure being fatally wrong. (A. Plummer, D. D.)

Lawful diet

The phrase “lawfully” which is found in precisely the same connection in Galen (Comm. in Hippocrates 1.15) was technical, half-medical, and half belonging to the training schools of athletes, and implied the observance of all rules of life prior to the contest as well as during it. Failure to keep to the appointed diet and discipline, no less than taking an unfair advantage at the time, excluded the competitor from his reward. (E. H. Plumptre, D. D.)

Regulations for athletic contests

The following were among the regulations of the athletic contests. Every candidate was required to be of pure Hellenic descent. He was disqualified by certain moral and political offences. He was obliged to take an oath that he had been ten months in training, and that he would violate none of the regulations. Bribery was punished by a fine. The candidate was obliged to practise again in the gymnasium immediately before the games, under the direction of judges or umpires, who were themselves required to be instructed for ten months in the details of the games. (Conybeare and Howson.)

Lawful striving

I. A Christian is a striver.

1. In the breast and forefront of this strife thou must contend with ignorance, which adversary, though his eyes be put out, and he be as blind as a mill-horse, yet his strength is like behemoths, his weapons Goliahs, his blows the batterings of a tearing cannon; for if this giant be not quelled, killed, he will lead you into mazes of error.

2. This monster being put to flight, you are to encounter with aged superstition.

3. Close after idolatry follows covetousness.

4. At the heels of every striver you shall have sloth and idleness.

II. Eternal life is called a crown. For the worth and excellency of it.

III. The lawful striver shall be crowned. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

The lawful strife

Man likes to choose his own way; but the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has marked out a way for him: hence one reason at least of his unwillingness to go along it. The text tells us that we must put off this perverseness of the old man, and put on all the obedience of the new man, following the direction which the Lord hath given. Man’s will is to have no change of his ways, no sorrow for the past, no amendment (but he will not call it amendment) for the future. All this is too humbling to his pride, too much of a curb upon his self-will. But our Lord’s precept is repentance: you must come to Me, and receive that which I give along the road of repentance. The making repentance a step, and not a course, merely a gate of introduction, and not a road also of daily conduct, is one of the short cuts by which men think to arrive at the prize, without going through all the prescribed rules of the struggle. And not only must we bring our minds to submit to the rules which our Lord hath laid down, but also our hearts to understand them: indeed, we must first understand them before we can truly accept them. We cannot in any case effectually bind ourselves to a duty of which we know not the extent; we cannot be sure of accomplishing a thing of which we have not counted the cost. Now our blessed Lord bath set before us our course, both by example and precept. And what remains is to make up our minds to rise and follow. In His trials we have the model of our lawful strife. In His ascension unto glory we see the assurance of our crown. His flesh was crucified: so must we crucify the flesh. He rose again; even so we must rise again unto newness of life. He is seated in heaven: so we must set our affections on things above. The rules are plain; they cannot he confounded with the rules of strife for any worldly mastery. We see, then, what we have to contend against. It is a compliance with the course of a sinful world; a reluctance to change our course into one which is not in conformity with it, but even in a contrary direction. It is putting God’s end, indeed, before us, even the prospect of eternal life, but not using His means, but putting our own in their place, because we find them much more agreeable: it is, in short, the indulgence of our nature. (R. W. Evans, B. D.)

Lawful strife

We gather from this figure that in spiritual things there is a striving lawfully and a striving unlawfully, and that the prize is not necessarily given to him who wins the race, if he has not complied with certain rules laid down. I think, then, we may say that there are three distinct ways of striving.

1. There is an unlawful striving after unlawful objects.

2. An unlawful striving after lawful objects.

3. A lawful striving after lawful objects.

I. As what is right is often more clearly shown by holding up what is wrong, I shall attempt to describe what it is to strive unlawfully after unlawful objects.

1. To strive, then, after pre-eminence, to be a Diotrephes in a church (John 3:9).

2. All strife about vain and idle questions (2 Timothy 2:14).

3. To seek after a form of godliness, whilst secretly denying the power thereof, or to have a name to live when dead in sin.

4. To strive after fleshly holiness and creature perfection.

5. To seek to find an easier and smoother path than the strait gate and the narrow way.

II. But now I come to another kind of striving, which is unlawful striving after lawful objects. Now God has laid down in His word of truth three solemn rules, laws you may call them if you like, which constitute lawful striving.

1. The Holy Ghost must begin, carry on, and finish the inward work of grace.

2. The soul must be brought under His Divine teaching to be thoroughly stripped and emptied of all creature wisdom, strength, help, hope, and righteousness.

3. The glory of a Triune God must be the end and motive of all. Any departure from these three rules of striving makes a man strive unlawfully.

III. But we come now to the only striving which the Lord crowns--a lawful striving after lawful objects.

1. Now we will begin with the first rule, which is this, that the Holy Spirit must work in us all the power, wisdom, grace, faith, strength, and life, that we strive with.

2. The second rule of lawful striving is, that the runners in this race should have no strength. “He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.”

3. And this enables you to comply with the third rule of lawful strife--to give God all the glory. Surely you can take no glory to self, when self has been proved, and found wanting. Now these lawful strivers after lawful objects are crowned, and they only. This crown is twofold--a crown here and a crown hereafter, a crown of grace set on the heart below, and a crown of glory set on the head above. (J. C. Philpot.)

Lawful striving

(2 Timothy 2:5 with 1 Corinthians 9:25):--Let us glance first at--

I. The fact that the Christian life is a warfare, a running and a wrestling, a course of self-restraint, and of earnest labour and striving after a great end. Let us consider--

II. The manner of the strife. There are two words which describe this, both of which are significant. “Lawfully” is the one, and “certainly”--or to put the double negative as the apostle has it, “not uncertainly”--is the other; and the “not as one that beateth the air” is only an expletive, or repetition of that.

1. This “lawfully” requires that all our effort and striving should be in accordance with Divine rule. And this implies at least two things--

2. “Certainly.” The certainty is secured by the lawfulness. Those who are guided by Christ’s will are not in any doubt either as to what they ought to do, or as to the result of doing it. Let us notice--

III. The object of our effort and striving. The apostle defines this object in the words, “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection,” and in this he but describes the warfare of the spirit against the flesh, or of the new man against the old, which is characteristic of the Christian life. And this leads me to notice in the fourth and last place--

IV. The motive of the apostle’s striving.

1. That he might not be a castaway. “A castaway.” Try to realise what that word means, if you would understand the full significance of the text, and the mighty force of the motive by which the apostle was actuated. “A castaway.” There was a picture so designated painted some years ago, and engravings of it were frequently met with. One of these you may have seen, and the remembrance of it will help you to a conception of what the apostle dreaded. In that picture a gaunt figure with unshaven head and unkempt hair, badly clad and hunger-stricken, is seen seated on a raft in the midst of a raging rainy sea, sheltering his face with his arm from the blinding drift, straining his hollow eyes to descry a sail in the far distance. He is the very picture of umnitigated, hopeless, unpitied misery. He is not only alone in the universe, but tile whole universe, so far as it is visible, seems to be against him. The sky frowns on him; the rain descends on his unsheltered head, tile wind smites him; the sea dashes over, and threatens to engulf him; hungry monsters of the deep are waiting to make him their prey. There is no ear to hear his cry, no eye to witness his miserable and forlorn plight, no hand to help him, no haven near, no friendly star gleaming through the darkness to show him where he is. He is left alone of men, cast out by the world, persecuted by the elements. The only thing that befriends him is the raft to which he clings. Now to be a castaway in the spiritual sense is worse even than that--unspeakably worse. The word is fraught with all kinds of imaginable and unimaginable horrors. To be rejected by the universe of being, to be despised and spurned, to be expelled from any circle into which it is desirable to enter, to be disowned by all the good, tormented by ell the bad, to see every door of hope closed, to find everything in the universe hostile, every force operating unfavourably, every object wearing a frown, no eye to pity, no hand to help, no car to hear, no voice to utter one consoling word, no means of mitigating, no friendly raft even to bear up amidst the engulfing misery! What conception can be more horrible than that?

2. Paul was not only actuated by the desire to escape being a castaway, but also by the desire to gain a crown. “They do it,” he says, of the competitors in the games, “to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible.” (W. Landels, D. D.)

Law

As the chemist, the navigator, the naturalist attain their ends by means of law, which is beyond their power to alter, which they cannot change, but with which they can work in harmony, and by so doing produce definite results, so may we. (Shorthouse, John Inglesant.”)

Obedience

If a boy at school is bidden to cipher, and chooses to write a copy instead, the goodness of the writing will not save him from censure. We must obey, whether we see the reason or not; for God knows best. (New Cyclopaedia of Illustrations.)

Conquest the condition of entrance into heaven

Many years ago the Turks and the Christians had a great battle, and the Christians were defeated, and with Stephen, their commander, they fled toward a fortress where the mother of the commander was staying. When the mother saw her son and his army flying in disgraceful retreat, she ordered the gates of the fortress to be closed against them, and the gates were dosed, and then the mother stood on the battlement and cried to her son, “You cannot enter here except as a conqueror.” Then the commander rallied his scattered troops, and resumed battle and won the day--twenty thousand scattering like flying chaff two hundred thousand. Ah! my friends, defeated in this battle with sin and death and hell, there is no joy, no reward, no triumph for you. Only shame and everlasting contempt. But for those who gained the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ the gates of the New Jerusalem are open, and you will have abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Obedience and freedom

The truest freedom is secured by the most implicit obedience. Those who profess themselves free in the sense of being superior to law do but make themselves the slaves of sin. It is in the observance of rule that we find the fullest scope for the development of our individuality and the improvement and elevation of all our natural powers. They soar highest, and act with the greatest vigour, and move with the greatest freedom, who keep themselves most completely subject to the restraints of law. Loyalty elevates. We are ensnared and deteriorated when we follow our own caprice; for the liberty which is lawless is essentially degrading. The worlds describe their brilliant course over the dark brow of night because of the force which binds them to their great centre; let that force be destroyed, and they are free to rush whithersoever the centrifugal force propels. Their movement may be swifter than the lightning, and their track more dazzling than its path, but it will soon end in darkness and destruction. And so it is with the mind and the law of duty which hinds it to God. The freedom which comes from the violation of that law is a freedom which, instead of securing its welfare and elevation, only lands it in deeper degradation and death. (W. Landels, D. D.)


Verse 6

2 Timothy 2:6

The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.

The laboring husbandman

The order of the Greek shows that the emphatic word is “labours.” It is the labouring husbandman who must be the first to partake of the fruits. It is the man who works hard and with a will, and not the one who works listlessly or looks despondently on, who, according to all moral fitness and the nature of things, ought to have the first share in the fruits. This interpretation does justice to the Greek as it stands, without resorting to any manipulation of the apostle’s language. Moreover, it brings the saying into perfect harmony with the context. It is quite evident that the three metaphors are parallel to one another, and are intended to teach the same lesson. In each of them we have two things placed side by side--a prize, and the method to be observed in obtaining it. Do you, ass Christian soldier on service, wish for the approbation of Him who has enrolled you. Then you must avoid the entanglements which would interfere with your service. Do you, as a Christian athlete, wish for the crown of victory? Then you must not evade the rules of the contest. Do you, as a Christian husbandman, wish to be among the first to enjoy the harvest? Then you must be foremost in toil. (A. Plummer, D. D.)

The minister a husbandman

1. He must prepare good seed--i.e., sound doctrine. For in this sense we may truly say: what a man soweth, he shall reap; such as thy seed is, such will be thy harvest.

2. Understand the nature of the soil, the spiritual estate of thy people, and let the seed be in degree and measure suitable. Seed that is hot and dry must be sown in a cold and moist ground; if cold and moist, in a land that is hot and dry, else no multiplication. He that preaches mercy to the wicked is like him who soweth wheat on dry sandy mountains; judgment to the righteous, rye in wet and watery valleys--neither of both will, can prosper.

3. Get skill in the manner of sowing.

4. When the seed is sown, weeds will grow up with it. These must be plucked up, kept under, else the corn will not prosper.

5. In any case, go not thou beyond thy bounds, but sow in that soil where God commands thee. That great seedsman, Paul, had ill success among the Jews, being chiefly sent to teach the Gentiles.

6. Cast not off thy calling; wax not weary in this husbandry; and to encourage thee, consider the excellency of thy function. The husbandman waiteth long; be thou also patient, for a time of gathering will come--shall come. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

What the Christian teacher can learn from the husbandman

1 No fruit without labour.

2. No labour without reward. (Van Oosterzee.)

The minister a husbandman

1. He must cultivate the people, and sow the good seed.

2. He must not be discouraged if he does not reap fruit at once.

3. As the fruits of the ground sustain the husbandman, so should the people sustain the minister. (W. Burkitt, M. A.)

Reward of work

A few years since, Motley shot up to the first position as an historian. Many wondered; but it was no wonder. He had wrought patiently for years in the libraries of the Old and New Worlds, unseen of men. The success of the great artist Dore was years of study in the hospitals, and practice in the studio behind it. This path to success is open to all. (New Cyclopaedia of Illustrations.)

No work, no reward

Gilbert Wakefield tells us that he wrote his own memoirs, a large octavo, in six or eight days. It cost him nothing, and, what is very natural, is worth nothing, You might yawn scores of such books into existence; but who would be the wiser or better? We all like gold, but dread the digging. The cat loves the fish, but will not wade to catch them. (J. Todd, D. D.)

The pleasure of sloth inconsistent with the reward of toil

They are utterly out that think to have the pleasure of sloth and the guerdon of goodness. (J. Trapp.)

Work and joy

Work is heaven’s condition of prosperity and enjoyment in everything. A workless world would be a joyless world. (Homilist.)

Partaking of the fruit

A young man came to a man of ninety years of age, and said to him, “How have you made out to live so long and be so well?” The old man took the youngster to an orchard, and; pointing to some large trees full of apples, said, “I planted these trees when I was a boy, and do you wonder that now I am permitted to gather the fruit of them?” We gather in old age what we plant in our youth. Sow to the wind, end we reap the whirlwind. Plant in early life the right kind of a Christian character, and you will eat luscious fruit in old age, and gather these harvest apples in eternity.

The present rewards of service

Of the husbandman it is said that he first shall eat of the fruit of his labour. Here we have an intimation of the rewards of Christian life that come before the final distribution. The soldier must wait until the war is over; the contestant shall not be crowned until the games are over; but the husbandman has continuous incomings of the fruits of his labours all the time. He first partakes of the fruit of his labour. The loaf on his table, the milk in his dairy, the fruit of his storehouse--these are kept plenished and plentiful all the time. Then comes harvest and autumn, with their laden garners and their orchard spoil. So it is with the rewards of the Christian. Let him be as a soldier brave, as contestant striving, as a husbandman diligent and thrifty, and he shall have the reward of his labours even now--in grace and favour, in strength and peace, in hope and heavenly mindedness, and in the joy of doing good. Plenty to go on with, and a harvest to follow--the fruits immortal, that await the plucking from the bending branches of the trees of life! (J. J. Wray.)


Verse 7

2 Timothy 2:7

Consider what I say, and the Lord give thee understanding.

Reflection aids discernment

The better rendering gives, “For the Lord will give thee.” This gives also a better meaning: “Make the effort to reflect; for if thou do, the Lord will give thee the discernment which thou needest.” (E. H. Plumptre, D. D.)

Enlightenment aids personal application of truth

De Wette and others object to this verse, that it is impossible to suppose that St. Paul would imagine Timotheus so dull of apprehension as not to comprehend such obvious metaphors. But they have missed the sense of the verse, which is not meant to enlighten the understanding of Timotheus as to the meaning of the metaphors, but as to the personal application of them. (Conybeare and Howson.)

Consideration

I. Consideration is a duty to be practised.

1. For hath not God given man a discoursive faculty? What creature but he hath understanding, the angels only excepted? Were it not vanity to have an eye, and close it? an ear, and stop it? a hand, and not move it? And is it not wickedness to bare a faculty of discourse and not employ it? And wherein better than in consideration?

2. The life of man differs little from a beast without consideration? This soundly lessons those that approve of it but never practise it. Will you hear how they excuse, clear themselves?

(a) Wouldst thou love God? Then consider how He hath chosen thee, redeemed thee, given thee a being in these glorious days of the gospel, conferred on thee many earthly favours. Consider the many sins He hath pardoned, prevented; the evils spiritual, corporal, He hath removed; the petitions He hath granted; and of what great things thou art assured.

(b) Is thy faith feeble? Consider the depth of God’s mercy, the firmness of His promise, the might of His power, the unchangeableness of His nature. Shall not these relieve thee?

(c) Art thou impatient? Do afflictions overlade thee? Consider the greatness of thy sins, whereby thou hast deserved far worse evils. Think, and think often, that they come from the hand of thy heavenly Father; how He hath an eye to thy weakness, that they shall not exceed thy ability; and at their departure, like an overflowing river’s rich mud, leave a blessing behind them.

(d) And what external action can, without consideration, be well discharged? Did magistrates take up their minds, exercise themselves in this duty, would it not make them resolute for the execution of their function?

(e) Can ministers preach and neglect this action?

(f) Why do men hear much, understand little, and practise nothing? It is want of consideration. The most run to God’s house, as travellers to an inn, hear the Word as some well-told tale, not knowing, like that rude company, for what end they came together.

(g) In a word, consideration will give us matter of prayer, and kindle the little spark of grace within us, put us in mind of our vow in baptism, and provoke us to perform it--yea, all our promises.

II. GOD’S WORD IS TO RE CONSIDERED.

1. For the Author’s sake. Is it not the Book of God?

2. And is not the matter holy, just, good?

3. What admirable effects will it work? David hereby became wiser than his teachers--a man according to God’s own heart.

III. Exhortation is to be seconded with prayer,

IV. God giveth man understanding,

V. Men of much knowledge may better their understanding. Knowledge in a threefold respect may be increased--

1. In the faculty.

2. In the object.

3. In the medium of it.

VI. In all divine truths we are to have understanding. Had not Moses a pattern of the Tabernacle--to a broom, a snuffer, a curtain-ring? Shall we, then, be ignorant of any one principle in the whole frame of religion? (J. Barlow, D. D.)

On hearing the Word

I. Show in what manner we are to hear the word.

1. Consider well the matter or import of what is spoken.

2. Attend to the truth and propriety of what is delivered.

3. Consider the weight and importance of what is delivered.

4. Consider the personal concern you have in the truths delivered.

II. The motives which should induce us well to consider what we hear.

1. Think in whose Name the ministers of the gospel speak, and whose Person they represent.

2. Consider the great end they aim at in their ministrations.

3. By the Word that we hear we shall be judged at the last day. (B. Beddome, M. A.)

The young invited to consider

I. I begin by calling your attention to a thought which you should never have wholly absent from your minds- namely, for what purpose has life been given you? For what other purpose than to prepare for eternity, by loving and serving your Creator now, that you may serve and enjoy Him for ever?

II. From this thought, then, which I beg you seriously to lay to heart, consider what provision God has made for your attaining this glorious end of your being.

III. And this introduces another thought of vast importance. “Consider,” then, “what I say,” as to the fitting period for making this surrender of yourselves to God. When should it be done? Our answer is, it cannot be done too early.

IV. Consider the happiness of a life thus early given to god, to be spent in His service, to end in His glory. (J. Haslegrave, M. A.)

Consideration

Consideration is the bed where the incorruptible seed is sown, and on the ground thus prepared the Sun of Righteousness doth shine, and by His warmth produces in the soul all manner of pleasant fruits. (Anthony Horneck.)

Men need instruction

A man’s understanding is very much like a window. The sun-light is all of one colour; but all the light that goes through the window is not. Sometimes the audience have a scarf of yellow running over them, sometimes one of blue, and sometimes one of red, according as the window is painted. Man’s reason being like a painted window, the light that goes through it and falls upon his conscience is bizarre, grotesque, wrinkled, bent, or distorted. I have known men whose understanding had in it hideous saints, crowned monsters, apocalyptic visions, and what not--things that took the colours which were painted on the window of that reason. It is very important, therefore, that men should be instructed. (H. W. Beecher.)

God’s teaching

When the Prince of Wales landed at Portsmouth, after his tour in India, I was in the crowd with my little boys; and as the Prince and his Princess and children drove past, I lifted my younger boy on my shoulder, and this enabled him to see better and further than the tallest person around us. So those whom God teaches and helps will discern better and further than those who just look out for themselves, or merely get information from others. (H. R. Burton.)

Instruction from God

When a sceptic once went to a Christian minister to have his doubts and difficulties solved, the minister asked, “Have you gone and asked God, the fountain of light and the source of all wisdom, for the solution of your difficulties?” On the perplexed man’s replying he had not, the minister declined to try and assist him out of his perplexities till he had attended to this necessary and important duty. When we ask wisdom as well as light and instruction from God, He will give us mental and spiritual capacities, to prepare us for rightly apprehending truths; and He will also give us sufficient opportunities for gaining wisdom, and then aid and prosper us in our effort to acquire it. Wisdom is to knowledge like what the engineer is to the locomotive--a director, a controller, and a manager. Religion is the highest wisdom of all. (See Proverbs 4:7; Deuteronomy 32:29; Psalms 90:12; Proverbs 2:6; James 1:5.) (H. R. Burton.)

Thinking of Christ

Dr. Cullis tells, in one of his reports, of an aged Christian who, lying on his death-bed in the Consumptives’ Home, was asked the cause of his perfect peace, in a state of such extreme weakness that he was often entirely unconscious of all around him. He replied, “When I am able to think, I think of Jesus; and when I am unable to think of Him, I know He is thinking of me.”

Remembrance of Christ

There is no Christianity where there is no loving remembrance of Christ. If your contact with Him has not made Him your friend, whom you can by no possibility forget, you have missed the best result of your introduction to Him. It makes one think meanly of the chief butler that such a personality as Joseph’s had not more deeply impressed him--that everything he heard and saw among the courtiers did not make him say to himself: There is a friend of mine in the prison hard by, that for beauty, wisdom, and vivacity would more than match the finest of you all. And it says very little for us if we can have known anything of Christ without seeing that in Him we have what is nowhere else, and without finding that He has become the necessity of our life, to whom we turn at every point. (Marcus Dods, D. D.)


Verse 8

2 Timothy 2:8

Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead.

“Bear in mind,” the connection seems to be. But, with all its toils and sufferings, the gospel has also its stores of abounding consolation. The remembrance of the risen and victorious Saviour is the comfort and support of His ministers. (Speaker’s Commentary.)

Remember Jesus Christ

Every Christian who has to endure what seems to him to be hardships will sooner or later fall back upon this remembrance. He is not the first and not the chief sufferer in the world. There is One who has undergone hardships, compared with which those of other men sink into nothingness; and who has expressly told those who wish to be His disciples that they must follow Him along the path of suffering. But merely to remember Jesus Christ as a Master who has suffered and who has made suffering a condition of service will not be a permanently sustaining or comforting thought if it ends there. Therefore St. Paul says to his perplexed and desponding delegate, “Remember Jesus Christ as one risen from the dead.” Jesus Christ has not only endured every kind of suffering, including its extreme form, death, but He has conquered it all by rising again. Everywhere experience seems to teach us that evil of every kind--physical, intellectual, and moral--holds the field and appears likely to hold it. To allow one’s self to be mastered by this thought is to be on the road to doubting God’s moral government of the world. What is the antidote to it? “Remember Jesus Christ as one risen from the dead.” When has evil ever been so completely triumphant over good as when it succeeded in getting the Prophet of Nazareth nailed to the tree, like some vile and noxious animal? That was the hoar of success for the malignant Jewish hierarchy and for the spiritual powers of darkness. But it was an hour to which very strict limits were placed. Very soon He who had been dismissed to the grave by a cruel and shameful death, defeated, and disgraced, rose again from it triumphant, not over Jewish priests and Roman soldiers, but over death and the cause of death; that is, over every kind of evil--pain and ignorance and sin. But to “remember Jesus Christ as one risen from the dead” does more than this. It not only shows us that the evil against which we have such a weary struggle in this life, both in others and in ourselves, is not (in spite of depressing appearances) permanently triumphant; it also assures us that there is another and a better life in which the good cause will be supreme, and supreme without the possibility of disaster, or even of contest. What the Son of Man has done, other sons of men can do and will do. The solidarity between the human race and the Second Adam, between the Church and its Head, is such that the victory of the Leader carries with it the victory of the whole band. Once more, to “remember Jesus Christ as one risen from the dead” is to remember One who claimed to be the promised Saviour of the world and who proved His claim. And this leads St. Paul on to the second point which his downcast disciple is to remember in connection with Jesus Christ. He is to remember Him as “of the seed of David.” He is not only truly God but truly Man. The Resurrection and the Incarnation--those are the two facts on which a faltering minister of the gospel is to hold fast, in order to comfort his heart and strengthen his steps. This is the meaning of “according to my gospel.” These are the truths which St. Paul has habitually preached, and of the value of which he can speak from full experience. He knows what he is talking about, when he affirms that these things are worth remembering when one is in trouble. The Resurrection and the Incarnation are facts on which he has ceaselessly insisted, because in the wear, and tear of life he has found out their worth. (A. Plummer, D. D.)

Our Lord’s resurrection

The high value which the apostle attributes to the bodily resurrection of the Lord, here and in other passages, is, in a remarkable way, in contrast with the spiritualistic and indifferentistic evaporisation of this chief article of the gospel, on the side of the modern speculative rationalism of our days. (Van Oosterzee.)

Remembrance

I. Divine truths are to be remembered. Ii. Remembering is a reflecting of the eye of our mind on that which by the senses or the understanding hath been perceived. In remembrance are four things to be considered.

1. The apprehension of an object by the external or internal senses.

2. A reposing of it in the memory.

3. A retaining of it there.

4. A reflecting of the eye of the understanding on it. This last act is properly called remembrance.

Helps follow.

1. Get a true understanding of things..

2. Meditate much on that thou wouldst remember. Roll the thing to and fro in thy mind, look often at it, mark it well; so shall it, like a bird by struggling in the gin or lime bush, stick faster.

3. Labour for love. Will a maid forget her ornament? a bride her attire? the covetous man his coin, lad long ago in some secret corner? Wherefore, love the Word once, and then forget it if thou canst.

4. Be jealous of thy remembrance. He who carrieth a vessel in his hand may suddenly let it fall; whereas had he feared he would have held it faster. For jealousy, though a bad getter, is an excellent keeper.

5. Use repetition. Have that oft in thy tongue thou wouldst hold in thy mind. For repetition, like a mallet, will cause the piles of Divine truths to stick fast in the soil of man’s memory.

6. Study for method. Things in order laid in the head will with the more facility be held. Method (say some) is the mother of memory.

III. The choicest of divine truths are chiefly to be remembered. Have thy senses exercised, through long custom, to discern betwixt things that differ--good and evil. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

An appeal to the pattern

In the words preceding this text the apostle Paul has been speaking of the labour and conflict and endurance involved in a true profession of faith in Christ. And now that he has on hand to prove the necessity of enduring hardness in Christian life, he is ready with example as well as argument. “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead, according to my gospel.” But there is more in these words than a mere confirmation of what has gone before. They are a fresh battery brought up to the siege, adapted especially for an assault upon that strong citadel, the human will. But we have not yet got to the bottom of the apostle’s meaning. If we have yielded to the influence of his words they have carried our hearts beyond the subject they were first intended to illustrate. His theme was the endurance of hardship, and his object to brace up the soul of a fellow disciple to this trial; but, in doing so, by the example of the Master Himself, lie has done more; for he has reminded Timothy that Jesus Christ not only suffered, but died; and as elsewhere and often he has taught the necessity of our dying by union with Christ, he surely means no less than to put us face to face with the truth in the present passage. Christianity is the masterpiece of God, the wonderful fabric into which He has woven all Divine and eternal principles; and there is no principle or characteristic of Christianity more plain or more abundantly illustrated than the appointment and use of death for the production of a higher life than that which preceded it. It would be strange, indeed, if man, whose peculiar honour it is to be “called into the fellowship of God’s Son,” were an exception to this rule of death and life; or if, in his case, it were only to be known by the dissolution of his earthly body. But Scripture teaches otherwise. Christ has not merely given His life a ransom for ours. He has done this, indeed, and this is the great news of the gospel; but He has done more. He has put Himself at the head of an army which must conquer as He conquered when alone--by suffering. And thus only can we understand His words, “If any man serve Me let him follow Me!” “He that taketh not up his cross and followeth not after Me cannot be My disciple”; “He that loveth his life shall lose it, but he that loseth his life for My sake the same shall find it.” (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)

Remember Jesus Christ

We know how one recollection, distinct and dominant in the mind, has often been the decisive force at a critical moment; how upon the battlefield, for instance, or under the almost overpowering pressure of temptation, the thought of a man’s country, of his home, of his ancestral traditions, has reinforced, as with a fresh tide of strength, his faltering heart, and borne him on to victory, whether by success or death. We may recall the scene in one of our African campaigns, the scene preserved for us by a clever artist, where the thought of a man’s old school, and the boyish eagerness anyhow to bring it to the front, was the impulse of a splendid courage. Yes, there are images in most men’s minds which, if they rise at the right moment, will do much to make them heroes; a word, a glance, some well-known sight, some old familiar strain of music, may beckon the image out of the recesses of the memory, and if the man has in him the capacity of generous action he will use it then. It is on this characteristic of human nature that St. Paul relies as he writes to Timotheus the words of the text. He would avail himself of this; he would raise it to its highest conceivable employment; he would enlist it as a constant, ready, powerful ally on the side of duty--on the side of God. He may never see Timotheus, never write to him again; well then, he will leave dinted into his mind, by a few incisive words, one commanding and sustaining Image. For it is not, as it appears in our English version, an event of the past, however supreme in its importance, however abiding in its results, that St. Paul here fastens upon the memory of his disciple; it is not the abstract statement of a truth in history or theology, however central to the faith, however vast in its consequences; it is a living Person, whom St. Paul has seen, whose form he would have Timotheus keep ever in his mind, distinct, beloved, unrivalled, sovereign--“Bear in remembrance Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.” Let us take two thoughts this Easter morning from the counsel which St. Paul thus gives. First, that he is trying to lodge at the heart of Timotheus’s life and work that which has been the deepest and most effective force in his own. St. Paul was convinced that he had seen the risen Lord; and the energy, the effect, of that unfading Image throughout his subsequent life might go some way to prove that the conviction was true. Physical weight is sometimes measured by the power of displacement; and in the moral and spiritual sphere we tend, at least, to think that there must be something solid and real to account for a change so unexpected, so unworldly, so thorough, so sustained through every trial, so vast in its practical outcome, as was the conversion of St. Paul. Let St. Paul’s conviction be taken in its context; let justice be done to the character it wrought in him; to the coherence and splendour of the work it animated; to the penetrating, sober insight of his practical teaching; to the consistency, not of expression, but of inmost thought and life, which is disclosed to any careful study of his writings; lastly, to the grasp which his words have laid upon the strongest minds in Christendom through all succeeding centuries, the prophetic and undying power which, amidst vast changes of methods and ideas, men widely different have felt and reverenced in these Epistles--let these distinctive notes of St. Paul’s work be realised, together with its incalculable outcome in the course of history, and it will seem hard to think that the central, ruling impulse of it all was the obstinate blunder of a disordered mind. This, at least, I think, may be affirmed, that, if there were against belief in Christ’s resurrection any such difficulty as the indisputable facts of St. Paul’s life and work present to disbelief, we should find it treated as of crucial importance, and that, I think, not unjustly. “Bear in remembrance Jesus Christ raised from the dead.” It is the form which has made him what he is, for life or for death, that St. Paul would with his last words, it may be, leave clenched for ever on the mind and heart of his disciple. The vision of that form may keep him true and steadfast when all is dark, confused, and terrible around him. May not we do well to take the bidding to ourselves? There are signs of trouble and confusion in the air, and some faint hearts begin to fail; and some of us, perhaps, “see not our tokens”--so clearly as we did. But One we may see, as we lift our eyes this Easter Day; it is He who liveth and was dead; and behold He is alive for evermore; He who cannot fail His Church, or leave even the poorest and least worthy of His servants desolate and bewildered when the darkness gathers, and the cry of need goes up. (F. Paget, D. D.)

The testimony of St. Paul

St. Paul was a man who could have been trusted beyond perhaps any other man of his time to take a calm, clear, and accurate view of any alleged historical fact, and to estimate its practical hearings; and if, after the whole evidence for the Resurrection had been brought to bear upon his mind, he felt himself constrained to believe and proclaim it to the dire extremity of martyrdom--that fact becomes the strongest possible evidence for its truth. The testimony of St. Paul to the truth of the Resurrection has a double value. In the first place there is his personal witness, “Last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” It is allowed on all hands that Paul at any rate asserted simply what he believed to be the truth. It is, in the judgment of his hostile critics, a case of hallucination, not of wilful perversion of the truth. Well, men are subject to hallucinations, no doubt, especially men of genius. B at the world, the hard rough world, is a great dispeller of hallucinations. No man lives and works through a long and intensely active life as the victim of hallucination: either it vanishes and leaves him in free possession of all his faculties, or it makes him incapable of taking part to any real purpose in the business of his fellow-men. It must be remembered that this statement of Paul does not stand alone. It is in harmony with many appearances of Christ after the Resurrection, which rest on the incontestable evidence of numerous disciples; and it seemed real enough to make a vital change in the character, the beliefs, the aims, the life-work of one of the very ablest, most self.controlled, most masterly men whom we meet with in the records of universal history. But there is a second point of view from which the testimony of St. Paul to the truth of the Resurrection is so deeply important. It is the testimony of one who had mastered the whole argument in its favour, and who believed it to be irresistible. We cannot examine the witnesses, and sift their evidence; all the details are beyond our reach for ever; but we have the proofs sifted for us, weighed and stamped as valid beyond shadow of doubt or question by the regal intellect of St. Paul. His evidence has, however, a value beyond this, to which I must call your attention before I close. St. Paul not only was not a disciple, but he had been the most bitter and uncompromising enemy of the truth. Nor had he been a silent opponent. Though but a youth, by his brilliant powers he had already made for himself a name of renown among his country-men. He was the coming leader of the people, the rising man, on whom the hopes of the elders were set as the future champion of the oppressed nation in the perilous times which were manifestly coming on the world. I have said that the evidence is the evidence of disciples. I have explained how that is its strength and its glory. But one longs sometimes to know what was actually said in the Sanhedrim and in chief-priestly circles against it. We have no contemporary record of this; if any was written, no note of it has reached us, but St. Paul stands forth to supply the want. His is a voice out of the hostile camp, confessing that the opposition was in hopeless collapse. The fact that a man of such keen and eager intellect, who left no objection unanswered, no nook of argument unexplored, never condescends in any of his writings to notice the counter statements of opponents, is proof absolute that there was no validity in them. They evidently had left on his mind not a shadow of question, and brought forward nothing which it was worth his while to trouble himself to refute. Then, having borne his witness lifelong to the Resurrection, he died with the testimony on his lips. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)

The resurrection of our Lord Jesus

I. Let us consider the bearings of the fact that Jesus rose from the dead.

1. It is clear at the outset that the resurrection of our Lord was a tangible proof that there is another life. Have you not quoted a great many times certain lines about “That undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns”? It is not so. There was once a Traveller who said, “I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go away I will come again and receive you unto Myself; that where I am there ye may be also.” He said, “A little time, and ye shall see Me, and again a little time and ye shall not see Me, because I go to the Father.” His return from among the dead is a pledge to us of existence after death, and we rejoice in it. His resurrection is also a pledge that the body will surely live again and rise to a superior condition; for the body of our blessed Master was no phantom after death any more than before.

2. Christ’s rising from the dead was the seal to all His claims. It was true, then, that He was sent of God, for God raised Him from the dead in confirmation of His mission. The rising of Christ from the dead proved that this man was innocent of every sin. He could not be holden by the bands of death, for there was no sin to make those bands fast. Moreover, Christ’s rising from the dead proved His claim to Deity. We are told in another place that He was proved to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.

3. The resurrection of our Lord, according to Scripture, was the acceptance of His sacrifice.

4. It was a guarantee of His people’s resurrection.

5. Once more, our Lord’s rising from the dead is a fair picture of the new life which all believers already enjoy. There is within us already a part of the resurrection accomplished, since it is written, “And you hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Now, just as Christ led, after His resurrection, a life very different from that before His death, so you and I are called upon to live a high and noble spiritual and heavenly life, seeing that we have been raised from the dead to die no more.

II. Let us consider the bearings of this fact upon the Gospel; for Paul says, “Jesus Christ was raised from the dead according to my gospel.”

1. The resurrection of Christ is vital, because first it tells us that the gospel is the gospel of a living Saviour. We have not to send poor penitents to the crucifix, the dead intone of a dead man. Notice next that we have a powerful Saviour in connection with the gospel that we preach; for He who had power to raise Himself from the dead has all power now that He is raised.

2. And now notice that we have the gospel of complete justification to preach to you.

3. Once again, the connection of the Resurrection and the gospel is this: it proves the safety of the saints, for if when Christ rose His people rose also, they rose to a life like that of their Lord, and therefore they can never die. I cannot stop to show you how this resurrection touches the gospel at every point, but Paul is always full of it. More than thirty times Paul talks about the resurrection, and occasionally at great length, giving whole chapters to the glorious theme.

III. The bearing of this resurrection upon ourselves. Paul expressly bids us “remember” it. Now, if you will remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David rose from the dead, what will follow?

1. You will find that most of your trials will vanish. Are you tried by your sin? Jesus Christ rose again from the dead for your justification. Does Satan accuse? Jesus rose to be your advocate and intercessor. Do infirmities hinder? The living Christ will show Himself strong on your behalf. You have a living Christ, and in Him you have all things. Do you dread death? Jesus, in rising again, has vanquished the last enemy.

2. Next remember Jesus, for then you will see how your present sufferings are as nothing compared with His sufferings, and you will learn to expect victory over your sufferings even as He obtained victory.

3. We see here, in being told to remember Jesus, that there is hope even in our hopelessness. When are things most hopeless in a man? Why, when he is dead. Do you know what it is to come down to that, so far as your inward weakness is concerned? You that are near despair, let this be the strength that nerves your arm and steels your heart, “Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to Paul’s gospel.”

4. Lastly, this proves the futility of all opposition to Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The resurrection of Christ

I. I would first say a few words on the fact of the resurrection. It is a main point in our faith. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a pledge of ours.

II. I would next direct your attention to the position of the believer in this life. As connected with the risen Saviour, the believer is regarded in the Word of God as “risen with Christ.” We see, then, that Paul would stir Timothy by our text to remember his privileges. He would, in effect, say to him, “Timothy, remember you have the life of Christ now; and it is His risen life which is to animate you to work and to suffer, and to ‘endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.’”

III. But there is another point to which I would direct your attention, and that is, union. It is most important to observe that this oneness of life between Jesus and the believer is just that which constitutes union. Nothing short of this is union. It is the resurrection life of Jesus that believers are united with; and this is possible only to the “new creature,” only to the “man in Christ.” We see, then, a little, I trust, of the force of the text. It is a wonderful text, and we see the power there is in it to comfort the believer and to strengthen him for service; and just as he understands in his own experience these things will he realise his privileges. In Jesus Christ he will see how the doctrine of the resurrection is calculated to make him “endure hardness.” (J. W. Reeve, M. A.)

The resurrection of Christ

I desire to speak to you on the importance of connecting the fact of the Saviour’s resurrection with two other facts, namely, first, that Christ was of the seed of David, and secondly, that the resurrection of Christ is so essential a part of the gospel of Christ that the one may be described as according with the other. There can be no dispute that it could not be needful for St. Paul to characterise Jesus as of the seed of David, in order to distinguish Him from any other being whom the name might recall to the mind of Timothy. I deny, therefore, altogether, that there is anything whatsoever of the fanciful or the far-fetched in our ascribing any particular emphasis to this casual introduction of the human lineage of Messiah. I look on the name of Jesus, and its every syllable seems to burn and blaze with divinity. I may explain and interpret it; I may expound it as promising salvation, as eloquent of deliverance to our fallen race; but in exact proportion as I magnify the wonder, I remove, as it were, the being unto whom it belongs from all kindred and companionship with the sinful tenantry of a ruined creation. The title of anointed Saviour, full though it be of magnificent mercy, consisting of attributes and principles bearing the impress of a superhuman greatness; and, however stupendous the truth, that Deity has interposed on behalf of the helpless, still the Saviour of man must be one who could hold communion and fellowship with man; He must not be separated from him by the appalling attributes which mark a Divine Creator. If there must be a celestial nature to afford the succour, there must also be a terrestrial nature to ensure the sympathy. Hence, I think it just to imagine that when the apostle sent to a beloved disciple this short compendium of Christian consolation, which he desired might be carefully borne in mind, he would not fail to interweave into such compendium a distinct reference to the complex nature of the Redeemer’s person; and, not content himself with referring him to Jesus Christ, he would add some such description as this--“of the seed of David,” in order to mark His real humanity. There is, however, a distinct allusion to other truths, as well as to the Redeemer’s humanity, in this accurate specification. It is a wonderful thing to cast one’s eye over the prophetic pages and behold how years past and years that are to come do alike burn with the deeds and triumphs of David’s Son, under the name and title of a descendant from the man after God’s own heart. It concerns not my argument to examine into the reasons which might induce the frequent introduction of the name of David whenever the triumphs of Messiah are the subject of discourse. I appeal simply to the fact, and demand of every student of Holy Writ whether there be any title under which prophecy tenders so vast revenue of honour as it does to the seed, or heir, or antitype of David. Truly, the more the mind ponders over the combination of ideas which are gathered into this apparently brief and superfluous message of Paul to Timothy, the more will it be struck with the beauty and consolation it conveys. Now, I have dealt at sufficient length on the first head of discourse; and much that I have advanced in illustration of the importance of the clause, “of the seed of David,” applies equally to the other, “according to my gospel,” which I would, in the second place, exhibit to you, as giving strength and emphasis to St. Paul’s commemoration of the death and resurrection of our Saviour. You remember the strong terms in which St. Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, states the importance of the resurrection as an article of the Christian faith. He may be said to resolve the whole of our religion, all its truth, all its value, all its beauty, into the one fact that Christ Jesus had been raised from the dead. “If Christ be not raised”--thus it is he speaks--“your faith is in vain; you are yet in your sins: then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” By stating the fact that life and immortality have been brought to light by the gospel, to which I suppose St. Paul to allude when he speaks of Christ Jesus as “raised from the dead according to my gospel,” I suppose him designing to remind his son Timothy, not so much of the simple truth of the Saviour’s resurrection as of the colouring and character which this event gave to the whole system of Christianity. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The place of the resurrection of Jesus in the theology of the New Testament

The resurrection was far more than any mere sign, though so unique and remarkable. Like the miracles of Christ, only in a still profounder measure, it was in itself a display of mercy--an instrument of His mighty and beneficent mediation. When the apostles taught it they not only bore witness, but they preached a “gospel”; they not only announced a wonderful fact, but they presented that fact to men as in itself at the same time a measure of Divine grace. Apart from the resurrection of Christ you could not construct the faith, impart the solace, urge the appeal, or sway the inspiration of Christianity. It is not simply that there would be no sign, but there would be no power. It is, so to speak, the blood “which is the life,” the blood that circulates through every vein to every limb and member of the Christian system. This is the fact I want to impress in my present discourse. Perhaps it will surprise you to hear my full belief that, but for the resurrection, you would have had in your hands no such exposition as you now possess of who and what Christ was and did for men. Christ Himself did not write any book about His life; not a line. How, then, came we to know what we do about Him? Right down to the end of His life, to the end of the Gospels, the disciples remained strangely ignorant of the great work their Master came to achieve. Dull, ignorant, confused, bewildered, they were the last men in the world to take up a forlorn cause, redeem it, and carry it to triumph. Contrast with this state of mind the speech and conduct of those self-same men in the stirring scenes with which the Acts acquaint us. You may search all literature, I believe, and you will not find a greater contrast. How did this happen? The only book that gives the history lets us into the secret. I claim, then, on the authority of this only history, to say that but for the resurrection of Jesus we had had no portraiture of Christ, no Gospels, no Acts, no Epistles, setting Him forth to the world for its salvation and joy. No other writers of the age have depicted Him; and these who have all refer their knowledge and appreciation to the illumination of that Spirit whom He sent on His exaltation to heaven. Again. It is the constant representation of the writers of the New Testament that Christ offered Himself in some way as a sacrifice for sin, and that that offering was presented in His death. But what had that sacrifice been without Christ’s revival from death? With the greatest force does the letter to the Romans teach us, “He was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.” Paul does not hesitate to declare that apart from it there is no pardon: “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” Another point of our “precious faith” at which the resurrection of Christ meets us with infinite power and solace is seen at death, when we bury our dead out of sight, or are ourselves laid in the grave. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” None of the apostles had a higher standard of the Christian life than the Apostle Paul; none more keenly realised its contrast with the former habits of sin, or more acutely felt the struggle, fierce and constant, by which it alone was to be attained and maintained; none more clearly perceived the organic relation of one part of that life to another; and Paul strove by a most beautiful and expressive image to urge the believer to all vigilance and mortification of unworthy impulse and passion in its culture. Christ’s death and resurrection furnished the image. “We are buried with Him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life,” etc. If Christ be not risen from the dead, the day of judgment, as solemnly delineated in the New Testament, is denuded of many of its most sublime and thrilling features. There is no judgment-seat of Christ; for though Christ has died, He has not risen and revived that He might be Lord both of the dead and the living. Neither, for the same reason, can we look for His appearing, or expect Him from heaven, since He is not gone thither. I should have to quote a vast number of passages from all the great sections of the New Testament Scriptures were I to set forth the claims, according to their teaching, of the Lord Jesus on our worship, His power and readiness to hear our prayers and satisfy our trust. But these are obviously of no authority and service to us if He did not rise from the grave. The writer to the Hebrews has repeatedly described Him as seated at the right hand of God, but of course he is mistaken; Christ is in the grave. He has imputed illimitable efficiency to His intercession. But he is mistaken; Christ is not capable of making any intercession at all. Believers are designated by Paul as those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; but they were all deluded, for Christ was not risen nor ascended. Nor would the example of Christ as an all-perfect pattern of holiness and love in a world governed by infinite holiness and power occasion us less hopeless embarrassment, if He be not risen, than the facts just dismissed. We should, in that case, have the frightful spectacle of a righteousness, truth, goodness, and mercy that never faltered or failed expending themselves to the very uttermost, and this without Divine acknowledgment and vindication. A greater shock to all virtue could not be conceived. And in this instance it would be aggravated by the very measure with which this Great Exemplar had indulged the hope of reward. The resurrection stands to us a pledge and pattern of our own; and while our dust may await its final recovery, our spirits shall be with Him. Nay, He will even be our convoy through the gates of death, and then receive us into the mansions of His Father’s house, that where He is we may be also. (G. B. Johnson.)

My gospel

The apostle is not contrasting his gospel with that of other preachers, as if he would say, “Others may teach what they please, but this is the substance of my gospel”; and Jerome is certainly mistaken if what is quoted as a remark of his is rightly assigned to him by Fabricius, to the effect that whenever St. Paul says “according to my gospel” he means the written gospel of his companion St. Luke, who had caught much of his spirit and something of his language. It would be much nearer the truth to say that St. Paul never refers to a written gospel. In every one of the passages in which the phrase occurs the context is quite against any such interpretation (Romans 2:16; Romans 16:25; cf. 1 Timothy 1:11). In this place the words which follow are conclusive: “Wherein I suffer hardship unto bonds, as a malefactor.” How could he be said to suffer hardship unto bonds in the Gospel of St. Luke? (A. Plummer, D. D.)

Each man has his own conception of the gospel

We may be sure, then, that the phrase “my gospel” is not used by St. Paul in the spirit either of the Pharisee or of the bigot. He is not one who refuses to recognise the excellence in those who may not exactly agree with him, or assumes that to him alone is committed a trustworthy form of the faith. Nevertheless, the phrase has a distinct force of its own. It suggests that St. Paul looked at the gospel from his own standpoint, and that the gospel as he represented it had aspects differing somewhat from the same gospel as represented by others. We need not be afraid to admit this. If you look at any great mountain from several points of view, its parts are at once brought into varying relations to each other. Standing here you see clearly great peaks, which from another position would be hidden. Nay, if you look at the same mountain from the same standpoint at different times, it will present different aspects--now dim and mysterious in the grey morning, and now rosy with the after-glow when the sun has set. Yet it is the same mountain, presenting itself in varying guise to different spectators. So with St. Paul. When he speaks of “my gospel,” it is not another gospel in the sense of being contradictory, or even deficient as compared with the gospel proclaimed by other apostles. It is the same gospel, seen, however, from his own standpoint--“the gospel according to Paul.” (T. B. Stephenson, D. D.)

The unity underlying the various conceptions of the gospel

The West Indies are a long chain of islands, seeming to be widely and completely separated from each other, each one a lovely jewel resting on the heaving bosom of the sea. But if you look below the surface of the ocean you discover that each of these islands is bound to all the others; that they are, in fact, the topmost points of one long mountain chain which has been submerged. So that whilst each island seems to be separate, all rest upon and are a part of the vast and substantial unity which lies far below. “My gospel”: each one of the Churches may correctly use the phrase, yet these are not many gospels, but in essence and substance one.


Verses 8-10

Verse 9

2 Timothy 2:9

Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the Word of God is not bound.

“The Word of God is not bound”

The apostle is imprisoned, but his tongue and his companion’s pen are free. He can still teach those who come to him; can still dictate letters for others to Luke and the faithful few who visit him. He has been able to influence those whom, but for his imprisonment, he would never have had an opportunity of reaching--Roman soldiers, and warders, and officials, and all who have to take cognisance of his trial before the imperial tribunal. “The Word of God is not bound.” While he is in prison Timothy and Titus and scores of other evangelists and preachers are free, Those who are left at large ought to labour all the more energetically and enthusiastically in order to supply whatever is lost by the apostle’s want of freedom, and in order to convince the world that this is no contest with a human organisation, or with human opinion, but with a Divine word and a Divine Person. “The Word of God is not bound,” because His Word is the truth, and it is the truth that makes men free. How can that of which the very essence is freedom, and of which the attribute is that it confers freedom, be itself kept in bondage? (A. Plummer, D. D.)

God’s Word free

He perhaps changes the expression from “my gospel” to the “Word of God” in order to indicate why it is that, although the preacher is in prison, yet his gospel is free, because the Word which he preaches is not his own, but God’s. (A. Plummer, D. D.)

Suffering furthers the gospel

The sufferings of the witnesses for Christ was, and is at all times, one of the most powerful agencies for the furtherance of the gospel (comp. Philippians 1:12-14; Colossians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 1:5-7). (Van Oosterzee.)
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Suffering for the gospel

I. The gospel may occasion trouble.

1. For it bruiseth Satan’s head, discovereth his plots, overturneth his kingdoms.

2. Besides, it pulleth down the pride of man, provoketh to repentance, presseth him to deny himself, put confidence in Christ, and its worth is not known in the world.

II. The enemies of the church afflict the godly under a pretence of law.

1. For the conversation of the godly is holy, honest, harmless; that without such pretences they could have no seeming cause to afflict them.

2. The wicked, in their generation, are wise; therefore, to cover and cloak their mischiefs they must have some pretence of law.

III. Godly preachers may have great persecutions.

1. Because not many wise, mighty, or noble men are called neither to embrace the gospel nor preach it.

2. And godly preachers speak with power, curb men’s raging corruptions, wound their rebellious spirits, and never prophesy of peace unto them.

IV. The liberty of God’s word is greatly to be regarded.

1. For it is the instrumental cause of man’s conversion.

2. It increaseth grace, supports in trouble, and directeth to heaven.

3. And by the Word are not our adversaries foiled?

V. The persecution of preachers doth not always infringe the liberty of the Word.

1. Because then the Lord hath a special care to His own cause.

2. The example of some will embolden others. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

The Word of God not bound

1. The first idea suggested by the words in their original connection is, that Paul’s incarceration did not hinder his own personal exertions as a preacher of the gospel. The practical lesson taught by Paul’s example, in this view of it, is obvious. It is a reproof of our disposition to regard external disadvantages, restraints, and disabilities as either affording an immunity from blame if we neglect to use the power still left us, or discouraging the hope of any good effect from using it.

2. It was still true, however, that Paul’s bonds diminished his efficiency. While he avoided the extreme of abandoning all hope, he equally avoided that of foolishly imagining that he could personally do as much for the diffusion of the gospel in his own hired house at Rome, as in the wide sweep of his itinerant apostleship. His work, though not yet at an end, was interrupted, and how should his lack of service be supplied? The answer is a plain one: By the labours of others. This was a large ingredient in the cup of the apostle’s consolation. He rejoiced not only in the labours of others during his comparative inaction, but in that inaction as the occasion, the exciting cause, of other men’s exertions. Nay, he could even go so far as to consent to be wronged and dishonoured, if by that means his ruling passion might be gratified (see Philippians 1:12-21). What is the principle involved in this sublime profession of heroic devotion to the cause of Christ? Plainly this, that while Paul was ever ready to magnify his office as apostle to the Gentiles, and correctly appreciated both the honour and the difficulty of the work assigned to him, he never dreamed that it was meant to be entirely dependent upon his individual activity. It was not at himself, but at the word that he continually looked. Here, too, the lesson to ourselves is obvious. The apostle’s example ought to shame us out of all undue reliance upon certain human agencies and influences. Especially ought this to be the case in relation to our own share of the work to be performed for the honour of God and the salvation of the world.

3. One of the most important lessons, couched in this significant expression or deducible from it, would be lost upon us if we went no further. I refer to the doctrine that the truth of God is independent, not only of particular human agents, but of all human systems of opinion, organisations, and methods of procedure. “The Word of God is not bound” or restricted, in its salutary virtue, to the formal and appreciable power exerted upon Churches and Christian communities, or through the ordinary modes and channels of religious influence, however great this power may be, however indispensable to the completion of the work which God is working in our days. We may even admit that it is relatively almost all, but it is still not quite all; and the residuary power may be greater, vastly greater, than it seems to us before attentively considering the other less direct, less formal, less appreciable ways, in which the Word of God, the truth revealed in Scripture, is at this moment operating on the condition of society, apart from its constant and direct communication through the pulpit, the school, and the religious press. These are the agencies, indeed, by which sound doctrine is maintained in your Churches and impressed upon your youth; and this, in its perfection, is the highest end that can be wrought by the diffusion of the truth. But let us not forget that much may be effected even when this highest end is not attained. In many a heresy, for instance, how much truth maybe mingled, saving it from absolute corruption, and perhaps the souls of those who hold it, from perdition. Infidelity, in all its forms, affects to treat religion with contempt, as the offspring of ignorance; but its own discoveries are mere mutilations of the truths which it has stolen from its despised enemy. The attempt of infidelity to do away with the great doctrines of religion is the prowess of a dwarf mounting on a giant’s shoulders to put out his eyes. The same thing is true as to those slighter and more trivial, but for that very reason more effective, forms of unbelief, which are propagated, not in philosophical abstractions, but in poetry, romance, and other current literature. The novelist or journalist who, with a scorn of Christianity only to be equalled by his ignorance of what it teaches, undertakes to Show his readers “a more excellent way,” often brings them at last to some elementary truth, already wrought into the mind and stamped upon the memory of every child who reads the Bible. What a tribute is this to the pervading, penetrating force of truth, that it can find its way even into such dark places, and at least serve to make the darkness visible! Look, too, at the schemes of civil government and social order framed by irreligious men, or unbelievers in the Scriptures, and observe these two facts easily established: that every departure from the lessons of God’s Word is a demonstrable evil or defect in relation even to the lower object aimed at; and that everything conducive to a good end in the system is an adaptation of some Christian doctrine to a special purpose. It would be easy to pursue the same inquiry through every field of science and every walk of art, and to show that even there the Word of God has first been followed as a guide, and then expelled as an intruder; that its light has first been used to kindle others, and then vain attempts made to extinguish it for ever; in a word, that its enemies have first resorted to it in their time of need, and then ungratefully forgotten or unblushingly denied the obligation. If this be a correct view of the influence exerted even indirectly by the Word of God; if over and above its certain and complete results, it shines through the interstices of unknown caverns, and mitigates the darkness of unfathomed depths; if in fertilising one spot it sheds even a few scattered but refreshing drops upon a multitude of others; if in doing all for some, it incidentally does some for all, let me ask, in conclusion, What should be the practical effect of this belief?

1. We need not tremble for the truth itself.

2. There is some hope for the world itself, and even for those parts of it, and those things in it, which otherwise might seem to be confined to hopeless, irrecoverable ruin.

3. It may teach us a valuable lesson as to the true spirit of philanthropy, as being not a formal, rigid, mathematical attempt to save men’s souls by certain rules, and in the use of certain ceremonial forms; but a generous, impulsive, and expansive zeal for the glory of God in the salvation of the lost. And as the surest way of gaining this end, let us flood the world with the pure and unadulterated Word of God. (J. A. Alexander, D. D.)

Not bound yet

I. In what sense is it true, that “the Word of God is not bound”?

1. It is not bound so that it cannot be preached. Paul could preach it even when in bonds, and he did preach it, so that the gospel was made known throughout Caesar’s palace, and there were saints in the imperial household. Nineteen centuries after Paul we have still an open Bible and a free pulpit. When Hamilton was burned in Scotland, there was such an impetus given to the gospel through his burning that the adversaries of the gospel were wont to say, “Let us burn no more martyrs in public, for the smoke of Hamilton’s burning has made many eyes to smart until they were opened.” So, no doubt, it always was. Persecution is a red hand which scatters the white wheat far and wide.

2. “The Word of God is not bound” so as to be no longer a living, working power among men. Sometimes the enemies of truth have thought that they had silenced the last witness, and then there has been an unexpected outburst, and the old faith has been to the front again. The enemies of the gospel have attempted also to bind it by the burning of books. I have in my possession an early copy of Luther’s sermons, and I was told how very rare it was, because at first the circulation was forbidden, and afterwards they were bought up and burned as soon as ever they were met with. And what did they do? They only put fire into Luther when they burned his sermons; they drove him to be more outspoken than he otherwise might have been, and so they helped the cause they thought to destroy. As the sun is not blown out by the tempest, nor the moon quenched by the night-damps, so is not the gospel destroyed by the sophistries of perverse minds.

3. The Word of God is not bound so that it cannel reach the heart. God has ways of reaching the hardest hearts and melting them, and He can do it at moments when such a work is least expected. Sometimes it happens to those whom we love that they are removed from the means of grace, but even then the Word of God is not bound. Had we not, a little while ago, an instance of one whom we were praying for at a prayer-meeting, and that night, while we were praying, it was a moonlight night, and as he was walking the deck of the ship, the Lord met with him? When no tongue was able to reach him, the memory of what he had heard at home came over his soul, and he was humbled before God. I was telling, just a little while ago, at our prayer-meeting, a very singular instance of how, just lately, three or four sermons on Sunday evenings have been made most useful to a young friend. He was going away to Australia unconverted, and without God. He went on board to depart, and when the vessel steamed out of dock, it ran into another ship, and he was obliged to wait and spend almost a month here, whilst the vessel was being repaired. The Lord met with him on those Sunday nights, and he has gone now, leaving in his mother’s heart the sweet persuasion that he has found his mother’s God. But sometimes we are apt to think a case is more hopeless still, when, in addition to natural depravity, and the absence of the means of grace, there springs up a scepticism, perhaps a downright derision of the Word of God, and of things sacred. I knew a man who had lived a life of carelessness and indifference, with occasional outbursts of drunkenness and other vices. This man happened one day, on Peckham Rye, to hear a preacher say that if any man would ask anything of God, He would give it to him. The assertion was much too broad, arid might have done harm; but this man accepted it as a test, and resolved that he would ask, and thus would see if there was a God. On the Saturday morning of that week, when he was going early to his work, the thought came upon him, “Perhaps there is a God after all.” He was ready to swoon as the possibility struck him, and there and then he offered the test petition, concerning a matter which concerned himself and his fellow-workmen. His prayer was granted in a remarkable manner, and he came then to be a believer in God. He is more than that now, and has found his way to be a believer in all that God has spoken, and has found peace through believing in Jesus Christ.

4. It is not bound as to its power to comfort the soul.

5. The Word of God is not bound in the sense that it cannot be fulfilled. I now allude principally to the promises and prophecies of God’s Word.

6. The Word of God is not bound so that it cannot endure and prevail unto the end.

II. What are the reasons why the word of God is not bound?

1. It is not bound, because it is the voice of the Almighty. If the gospel be indeed the gospel of God, and these truths be a revelation of God, omnipotence is in them.

2. Moreover, the Holy Ghost puts forth His power in connection with the Word of God, and as He is Divine He is unconquerable.

3. If you wanted another reason less strong than these two, I should say, “How can it be bound while it is so needful to men?” There are certain things which if men want they will have. I have heard say that in the old Bread Riots, when men were actually starving for bread, no word had such a terribly threatening and alarming power about it as the word “Bread!” when shouted by a starving crowd. I have read a description by one who once heard this cry: he said he had been startled at night by a cry of “Fire!” but when he beard the cry of “Bread! Bread!” from those that were hungry, it seemed to cut him like a sword. Whatever bread had been in his possession he must at once have handed it out. So it is with the gospel: when men are once aware of their need of it, there is no monopolising it. None can make “a ring” or “a corner” over the precious commodity of heavenly truth.

4. The Word of God is not bound, because, when once it gets into men’s hearts, it works such an enthusiasm in them that you cannot bind it. There is Master Bunyan; they have put him in prison, and his family is nearly starving, and they bring him up, and they say, “You shall go out of prison, John, if you won’t preach. Go home, and tag your laces, that is what you have to do, and leave the gospel alone; what have you got to do with that?” But honest John answers, “I cannot help it. If you let me out of prison to-day, I will preach again to-morrow, by the help of God. I will lie here till the moss grows on my eyelids, but I will never promise to cease preaching the gospel.”

III. One or two other facts run parallel to the text. Paul is bound, but the Word of God is not bound. Read it thus: the preacher has had a bad week, he is full of aches and pains, he feels ill: but the Word of God is not ill. “What will become of the congregation when a certain minister dies?” Well, he will be dead, but the Word of God is not dead. “Oh, but the worker is so feeble!” The Word of God is net feeble. “But the worker feels so stupid.” But the Word of God is not stupid. “But the worker is so unfit.” But the Word of God is not unfit. But you bitterly and truthfully lament that Christian men are nowadays very devoid of zeal. “All hearts are cold in every place”; the old fire burns low. But the Word of God is not cold, nor lukewarm, nor in any way losing its old fire. “Yes,” says one, “but I am disgusted with the cases I have lately met with of false brethren.” Yes, but the Word of God is not false. “But they walk so inconsistently.” I know they do, but the Word of God is not inconsistent. “But they say they have disproved the faith.” Yes, they have disproved their own faith, but they have not disproved the Word of God for all that. “Oh, but,” says one, “it is an awful thing to think of the spiritual ruin of so many that are round about us, who bear the gospel, and yet after all wilfully refuse it, and die in their sins.” Truly this is a grievous fact: they appear to be bound by their sins like beasts for the slaughter, but the Word of God is not bound or injured. It was said of old that it would be a sweet savour unto God in them that are saved, and in them that perish--in the one a savour of life unto life, and in the other a savour of death unto death. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Word of God not bound

Liberal Christianity may be defined, not as any belief, nor as any system of opinions, but as something going deeper. It is a habit of mind; a way of considering all opinions as of secondary importance; all outward statements, methods, operations, administrations, as not belonging to the essence of religion. Liberal Christianity comes from that spiritual insight which penetrates the shell and finds the kernel; sees what is the one thing needful, and discovers it to be not the form, but the substance; not the letter, but the spirit; not the body, but the soul; not the outward action, but the inward motive; net the profession, but the life. Liberal Christianity began when the first struggle began between the spirit and the letter, and that was the great battle which emancipated Christianity from Judaism. It was thought, at first, that the Word of God was bound to Judaism, and that no man could be a Christian unless he were also a Jew. Paul rooted that weed out of Christianity, and won for the whole Ethnic world--Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Persians, Hindoos, Germans--the right of becoming Christians at once, just as they were, without first having to become Jews. But intolerance is the natural growth of strong soils. Out in the West, when the primeval forest is felled, there comes up in regular order, a whole succession of weeds, which are killed out, one after another, by culture. So it has been in the progress of Christian civilisation. This progress has killed off, one afar another, a similar series of weeds which came up in the Christian Church. The Jewish intolerance was the first weed. Paul weeded the Church of that so thoroughly that it never came up again. The next weed was the Church intolerance, which said, “No man can be a Christian who is not a member of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, and partakes of its sacraments, and submits to its authority.” Martin Luther weeded Christianity of this form of intolerance, and made it possible for man to be a Christian without being a Roman Catholic. But not being as liberal a Christian as Paul, he left another weed growing in its place--the weed of dogmatic intolerance. The dogmatists said, “The Word of God is not bound to the Roman Catholic Church; but it is bound to certain essential doctrines--the Trinity, total depravity, the atonement, everlasting punishment.” This weed has also been nearly eradicated in our time. The principle of liberal Christianity has pervaded all denominations. It has taken the shells and husks and outward coverings from the Word of God, and these are now seen to be like those envelopes which God puts around the fruits of the earth, until they are ripe, but which then are taken off and thrown away. Nothing abides, nothing is permanent in Christianity, says Paul, but faith, hope, and love. The Word of God is not bound to any Church or to any creed; it goes outside of all Churches and all creeds. The same cool breeze which fans the hot cheeks of the labourers on the plains of Hindostan, sweeps on across the Indian Ocean, gathering moisture as it goes, and pours it down in rain on the parched regions of Central Africa. So God sends His prophets and teachers of truth to every race, to help them according to their separate needs; sends some knowledge of Himself, some intuitions of duty, some hopes of immortality, to all the children of men. The Word of God is not bound to the Bible. It is not the prophecies of the Bible which are essential--“for whether there be prophecies, they shall fail.” It is not its verbal inspiration which gives to it its supreme importance--“for whether there be tongues, they shall cease.” Nor is its vitality even in the doctrinal truth it teaches--“for whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.” But it is the faith, the hope, the love which are in the Bible which will abide, and will cause the Bible to remain always a permanent blessing to mankind. Nor is the Word of God bound to any belief we may have about the outward history of Jesus--His miraculous birth, His own miracles, or any particular outward facts of His life. The essential thing, even in His resurrection, is not the outward part of it, but the inward part; not the particular way in which He arose, as that He did go up to a higher life; that He is now alive, and that death has no dominion over Him. Faith in Christ is not believing this or that fact about Him, but it is faith in Himself, faith in the truth and love, which are incarnate in Him, and which were breathed forth in all He said and did and was. Deny His miracles, if you please; you cannot deny the great miracle of His influence on mankind. Such a vast effect must have its cause. If we have faith in the spirit of Jesus, in the Divine piety which made Him the well-beloved Son, dwelling always in the bosom of the Father; in the Divine charity which made Him the Friend and the Helper of the humblest of God’s children; if we have faith in these as the true life to lead here and as salvation hereafter, then we have the real Word of God in our hearts, and believe in the real Christ. Finally, the Word of God is not bound to any particular religions experience. Men come to God in all sorts of ways--the important thing is to come to Him. Some are converted suddenly; others grow up, by an insensible process, into the love of God. God has a great many means of making men good. If a man find that formal and regular prayers help him, let him pray that way. If he finds that he comes nearer to God by endeavouring to live a pure and honest life, and leaning on God’s help to do it, let him pray that way. He who loves truly prays well. Here is a poor woman who is obliged to be away from her children all day, working hard for their support. When she comes home at night she finds that her oldest boy has been sawing the wood and bringing the water, and that the oldest girl has been taking care of the little children all the time she has been gone. That pleases her more than all the affectionate words they could say to her. That is the best proof of their love. If we take care of God’s poor, and His sick and His sorrowful children, that will be counted to us, I think, for faith and prayer and conversion and piety. (J. Freeman Clarke.)

The Word of God not bound

I. By any restrictions imposed by god. God may permit certain circumstances, but He has not imposed any restrictions. The Old Testament and New Testament, the voice of the prophets, and of Him who is greater than prophets, alike concur (Psalms 67:5; Psalms 98:3; Isaiah 49:6; Mark 16:5). The character of God, the end of the gospel, the state of man, confirm this.

II. By any artificial or conventional restraints imposed by man. Look at the history and progress of Christianity (Acts 4:18; Acts 5:28; Acts 6:6; Acts 12:24; Acts 19:20); history of early Church--Reformation--of missionary labours.

III. By any degree of human guilt or depravity. Look again at first days of gospel (Luke 15:2; Luke 19:1-11; Luke 23:39-44; 1 Corinthians 6:9-12. St. Paul himself a witness (1 Timothy 1:12-17). But if the Word of God is not bound, why do not all men receive it, and live by it? Not because the gospel is bound, but because the natural heart is bound. (E. A. Eardley-Wilmot, M. A.)

The invincibility of the Divine Word

As a word expresses a thought, and so places one in a definite relation to another, so the Word of God is that by means of which He places Himself in a definite or thinkable relation to us. It is an expression of the purpose of God; that purpose in accordance with which He seeks to place Himself in a relation of abiding concord with the children of men, on the basis of which all men may be brought into the perfect knowledge and love of God. By the declaration that the Word of God is not bound, I understand the apostle to assert that this word, as a revelation of the purpose of God to bless and save men, must infallibly succeed in making that purpose known, and must also, from the very nature of the case, effect in some sense and way the realisation of the purpose itself. In so far as the Word of God is concerned, there is nothing to prevent the salvation and everlasting blessedness of every human being.

1. The Word of God is not bound by either of the two conditions of all created existence: the conditions of time and space. The Word of God is not bound as regards time, because it is the revelation of a purpose that runs through all time, originating in eternity and reaching unto eternity. It is true that the revelation is made in time. It moves in the line, works on the plane, and manifests itself through the sphere of the natural World; still its distinctive feature is this, that it is a revelation of that which exists in the supernatural: and, therefore, while existing in time, it also transcends time, and cannot, in the whole extent of its existence, be limited by time. And yet there are people who practically believe that the Word of God is bound as regards time. What is the error of all traditionalism, if it be not this, that nothing is good for us in the matter of religion, but that which has been handed down to us as a finished result from the past; and that, therefore, a new truth is necessarily not a truth at all, having no right to call itself a truth, except on the explicit understanding of its being the merest echo of an idea uttered long ago. Space, again, is that in which we have the notion of the comprehension of existence. It is that in which all things exist, and are held together, each in its own place. Space itself has no outline, but everything, as existing therein, has a Given outline, within which it exists. But the Word of God is not bound as regards space. And yet there are those who would confine the Word of God not merely to this earth, which is but a speck in the boundlessness of space, but would limit it still further to some particular spot of the earth. The people who believe in consecrated places, and make pilgrimages to them, in the hope of getting spiritual benefit thereby, are the unhappy dupes of the delusion that the Word of God is bound--bound as to place.

2. The Word of God is not bound by either of the two highest forms of supernatural existence, viz., Christ and the Church, It is in the person of Jesus Christ that God has placed Himself in a definite relation to us. Hence Christ is spoken of as the living or incarnate Word, God manifest in the flesh. Is not the Word of God, then, it may be said, as thus embodied in the person of Christ, in some sense limited or bound? It exists under the conditions of human nature; appears in a particular country; is spoken in a particular language; submits to the restrictions of a somewhat limited sphere, experience, and term of life; and have we not in all this that which fulfils, in the most complete sense, the notion of the conditioned or bound? In a word, is not the Incarnation at best a mere anthropomorphism, under which we have only a partial view of God? To this objection it may be answered in a general way that the supernatural is not necessarily bound when it moves in the line, works on the plane, and manifests its power through the sphere of the natural world, any more than a father is bound, when he freely stoops to take the hand of his child, and keeps pace, for a time, with the shorter step of the little one, in order that the child may ultimately be brought up, as nearly as possible, to the level of the father; and no more is God, as the self-existent One, bound when He reveals Himself under the forms of nature, or comes as Christ into a more definite relation to us, in order that we may be able thereby to think ourselves up to the ideas of God. At the same time, it must be admitted that if the supernatural came down into any form of permanent subordination to the natural, it would undoubtedly to that extent be bound. Accordingly, up to the time of the first advent, or prior to the ascension of our Saviour, to the right hand of God in heaven, there was a sense in which the supernatural was bound, to some extent, in its relation to the natural. That partial and temporary dispensation has given place to the dispensation of the Spirit, under which those former limitations and restrictions have passed away. If, then, the Word of God is no longer bound, even as it was by the circumstances of our Saviour’s life upon the earth, how can it be bound by any other individual, such as an infallible Head of the Church upon the earth, by an historical succession of apostles, or priestly caste of any kind, in whose hands alone that Word is supposed to reside, and by whom alone saving grace can be communicated to their fellow-men? The exaltation of Christ to the right hand of God in heaven and to the absolute supremacy of the whole world, puts an end for ever to all such pre tensions. But the objection may still be pursued under the form of the Church. We require to lay hold of some clear idea of the Church in its relation to the Word of God. Undoubtedly it is the Divinely-appointed expounder of that Word; but so long as the Church is broken up into so many little sects, and so long as spiritual matters are disposed of by the merest majority, it may be even of a sect, it is difficult to see how the whole truth of the Divine word ever can be brought out before the world, the only organ through which the Holy Spirit speaks in fullest form being a truly Catholic Church. In the existence, then, of such a body there is no restraint put upon the Word of God, because the creed of that Church would be the ever-growing and ever-brightening expression of the mind of God as contained in the sacred Scriptures.

3. The Word of God is not bound by either of the two essential qualities of personal being; viz., thought and speech. If every idea is the identity of a thinking subject and an object thought, the one absolute law of thought is the law of identification. No doubt thought in its course reveals a number of opposites or contradictories, but its last function is to unite the whole. There cannot be legitimately different schools or types of thought, any more than there can be different laws of thought in different individuals, or different principles of understanding and reason in different parts of the world. Therefore, we deem it a fallacy to say that men cannot attain to unanimity of sentiment in regard to the highest of all subjects; because they have only to be true to the deepest principles of their own intellectual being in order to come to the most perfect harmony in respect of all these important matters. If so, the Word of God is not bound when it comes under the conditions of human thought, seeing that, in its essential principles, it is one with the very laws of thought themselves. But it may still be objected--and this is the last point with which we have to deal--that if the Word is not bound by the limits and laws of thought, it is so by the limits and laws of speech. As regards the Bible there need not be much difficulty. It is simply a record of spiritual facts. It merely notes the different points in the historical development of the Divine purpose. It professes, indeed, to be a veritable history of the supernatural, as a phenomenon working itself out, in, and through the natural. And it is altogether to be tested from the point of what it claims to be. The letter of the Bible is no more a fetter on the living purpose of God than any word or letter is to the thought of which it is the free and adequate expression. It is not so evident, however, that the Word of God is not bound, when we come to the written creed of the Church; and on that account some sections of the Church dispense altogether with a written creed. It becomes, therefore, a question as to what the creed of the Church is, and what the relation of the Church to her creed. And the whole question seems to resolve itself into this--that on a basis of perfectly clear and immovable conviction, about which no one can have any real difficulty, who believes in God at all, and without which the Church, as a whole, can have no existence, every one ought to be free to carry out in detail, to the minutest and remotest ramifications of thought, those subordinate shades of spiritual life and conviction that belong to the experience of one individual as compared with another. In such a case the creed would only be an arrangement, in their simple and natural order, of the leading conceptions of Divine revelation; and thus the whole mind of the Church would be left perfectly free to explore the depths, to bring out the riches, and to reveal the glory of the Divine Word. (F. Ferguson.)

God’s Word not bound

Under the Church of Santa Maria via Lata, on the Corse, in Rome, is an ancient house which is said to have been St. Paul’s “hired house,” where be dwelt daring the two years of his abode in the Imperial City; and where, as tradition says, he converted his keeper, a soldier named Marcellus. In this house is to be seen an antique marble pillar and a rusty chain, hundreds of years old, riveted into it, bearing the inscription: “Sed verbum Dei non est alligatum”--“The Word of God is not bound.” Our Divine Master Himself was bound to the accursed tree, but His gracious words are heard throughout the world. St. Paul’s bonds turned out to the furtherance of the gospel; and God’s Word is set free by the endurance and sufferings of its preachers. The apostle’s manacled hand still pointed to the cross of his Divine Lord. When Admiral Ver Huce, a Protestant of whom Buonaparte entertained the highest opinion, went over to London, a few years after the battle of Waterloo, to represent the Bible Society of France, at the annual meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society, he and Admiral Gambler met on the platform. The last time they had met was in deadly combat on the ocean; met as enemies, amidst the roar of cannon and all the accompaniments of a bloody conflict. Now they met, not simply as friends, but as brethren in the faith of a common Saviour, to advocate and help forward His glorious reign of righteousness and peace. As the two brave old men rushed into each other’s arms, and wept aloud, the immense assembly arose with one accord, profoundly moved by a spectacle so unlooked for and so touching. Although the Bible is the best book in the world, it has always had enemies who have tried to do away with its teachings, if they could not succeed in destroying it. For three hundred years after our Saviour lived upon earth, the emperors of Rome did their utmost to hinder the advance of the gospel, by shutting up its ministers in prison, or by putting them to death. They stirred up dreadful persecutions against Christians, some of which lasted ten years; and during one of these, more than a hundred and fifty thousand followers of Jesus were slain. Diocletian was so confident that he had accomplished his purpose that he caused a medal to be struck, bearing this inscription: “The Christian religion is destroyed; and the worship of the gods restored.” After the overthrow of the Roman empire, and the rise of the Papacy, stringent measures were inaugurated against the circulation of the Holy Scriptures. Fulgentio once preached in Venice from the text, “Have ye not read?” “If Christ were now to ask you this question,” said the bold friar, “all the answer you could make would be, ‘No, Lord, we are not suffered to do so.’” On another occasion, when preaching on Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” he told his hearers that he had been long searching for it, and had at last found it. Holding up the New Testament, he said, “Here it is in my hand!” Then, returning it to his pocket, he observed, with an arch look, “The Book is prohibited!” He was a little too venturesome in his zeal for the truth, and was burned alive. In 1553, when Pope Julius

III. asked some of his counsellors as to the best mode of strengthening the Church, several bishops gave him this advice--the original document being still in existence--“We advise that as little as possible of the gospel be read in the countries subject to your jurisdiction. The little which is usually read at Mass is sufficient, and beyond that no one whatever must be permitted to read. While men were contented with that little, your interests prospered; but when they read more, they began to decay.” A company of bigoted priests once met in Earl Street, Blackfriars, London, to consult together concerning an edition of the Bible which Wyclif had just published in the English tongue. As might be expected, they not only condemned this excellent clergyman as a bad man, but they passed this resolution: “The Bible is a dangerous book. It shall not be circulated.” These instances of the efforts made to suppress the Holy Scriptures might be indefinitely multiplied; but, instead of dwelling on so painful a subject, let us rather ask, how have such attempts succeeded? It is certainly a wonderful ordering of Providence, that on the very spot where those misguided priests met to destroy the Bible, the building erected for “The British and Foreign Bible Society” now rears its head. Aye, more than this, millions of copies of the Word of God are scattered abroad, every year, in all the languages of the earth. In Rome herself, where the Bible was so long a sealed book, it is now openly sold and distributed by colporteurs; and within a stone’s throw of the place where St. Paul was imprisoned, a large apartment has been fitted up, where multitudes of soldiers gather every night to listen to the reading of the Bible, and to learn to read it for themselves. These men come from every part of Italy, and are generally from the better classes of the peasantry. After staying in Rome for three years, they will be removed to other parts of the kingdom, or go back to their homes, carrying the Bible with them. M. Guizot, the famous French scholar and historian, on taking his seat as president of “The French Bible Society,” in Paris, truthfully and forcibly remarked, “The more the Bible is contested, the greater the number of devoted defenders who arise to affirm it and to send it forth. The Bible renews itself through trials, and its battles lead only to new conquests.” “The Word of God is not bound” to any person who preaches it. The weak and the unlearned often confound the wise and the mighty. In 1821, some wretched slaves were crowded into a Portuguese ship, on the coast of Guinea, and among them a boy of eleven, who, when the slaver was captured by a British cruiser, was carried to England. The boy manifested such excellent qualities of mind and heart that he was placed at school, where he occupied a high position in his class, and became a tutor, and then a clergyman. He returned as a missionary to his native land, and one of the first who heard the glad tidings of the gospel from his lips was his widowed mother. Converts multiplied, and a bishop was needed to govern and instruct this new community of Christians. All eyes were turned on Samuel Crowther; and on St. Peter’s day, 1864, in the grand old cathedral of Canterbury, the slave-boy was consecrated to the high office which St. Paul himself had filled.

2. “The Word of God is not bound” to any form in which it is preached.

3. “The Word of God is not bound” to any time, place, or circumstance. (J. N. Norton.)

The Word of God not bound

“When I was cast into prison all knew that I was locked up because I had read the Gospel,” said Ratushny, a Russian Christian. “When I was locked up for the second time people wondered again, and began to search after the gospel with greater zeal, and to read it. That is how our doctrines have spread, and not, as some people think, through my having propagated it.” (Sunday at Home.)

Fame through opposition

In 1834, there was a little book published by the Abbe de la Manuals, entitled, “The Words of a Believer,” which began to make some noise because of its Republican sentiments. The reigning Pope, however, went out of his way to condemn it in an Encyclical letter, which gave it an additional popularity, caused it to be widely read, and translated into the principal European languages. (H. O. Mackey.)

Useful though in prison

The Earl of Derby’s accusation in the Parliament house against Mr. Bradford was that he did more hurt (so he called good evil) by letters and conferences in prison than ever he did when he was abroad by preaching. (J. Trapp.)


Verse 10

2 Timothy 2:10

I endure all things for the elect’s sake.

God’s chosen ones, whether already in the Church, or to be called into it afterwards. (Speaker’s Commentary.)

The visible church for the sake of the elect

If we were asked what was the object of Christian preaching and instruction, what the office of the Church, considered as the dispenser of the Word of God, I suppose we should not all return the same answer. Perhaps we might say that the object of Revelation was to enlighten and enlarge the mind, or to make us good members of the community. St. Paul gives us a reason in the text different from any of those which I have mentioned. He laboured more than all the apostles; and why? not to civilise the world, not to smooth the face of society, not to facilitate the movements of civil government, not to spread abroad knowledge, not to cultivate the reason, not for any great worldly object, but “for the elect’s sake.” And when St. Paul and St. Barnabas preached at Antioch to the Gentiles, “As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” When St. Paul preached at Athens, “some mocked,” others said, “We will hear thee again,” but “certain men clave unto him.” And when he addressed the Jews at Rome, some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. Such was the view which animated, first Christ Himself, then all His apostles, and St. Paul in particular, to preach to all, in order to succeed with some. Our Lord “saw of the travail of tits soul, and was satisfied.” St. Paul, as His servant and instrument, was satisfied in like manner to endure all things for the elect’s sake; or, as he says in another place, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” And such is the office of the Church in every nation where she sojourns: she attempts much, she expects and promises little. This is a great Scripture truth, which in this busy and sanguine day needs insisting upon. There are in every age a certain number of souls in the world, known to God, unknown to us, who will obey the truth when offered to them, whatever be the mysterious reason that they do and others do not. These we must contemplate, for these we must labour, these are God’s special care, for these are all things; of these and among these we must pray to be, and our friends with us, at the Last Day. In every nation, among many bad, there are some good; and, as nations are before the gospel is offered to them, such they seem to remain on the whole after the offer--“many are called, few are chosen.” And to spend and be spent upon the many called for the sake of the chosen few is the office of Christian teachers and witnesses. That their office is such seems to be evident from the existing state of Christian countries from the first. Christianity has raised the tone of morals, has restrained the passions, and enforced external decency and good conduct in the world at large. Still, on the whole, the great multitude of men have to all appearance remained, in a spiritual point of view, no better than before. Trade is still avaricious, not in tendency only, but in fact, though it has heard the gospel; physical science is still sceptical as it was when heathen. Lawyers, soldiers, farmers, politicians, courtiers, nay, shame to say, the priesthood, still savour of the old Adam. Human nature remains what it was, though it has been baptized; the proverbs, the satires, the pictures, of which it was the subject in heathen times, have their point still. The knowledge of the gospel then has not materially changed more than the surface of things. Our Saviour’s words, spoken of the apostles in the first instance, relate to the Church at large--“I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou has given Me, for they are Thine.” In like manner St. Paul says that Christ came, not to convert the world, but “to purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works”; not to sanctify this evil world, but to “deliver us out of this present evil world according to the will of God and our Father.” This has been the real triumph of the gospel, to raise those beyond themselves anti beyond human nature, in whatever rank and condition of life, whose wills mysteriously co-operate with God’s grace, who, while God visits them, really fear and really obey God, whatever be the unknown reason why one man obeys Him and another not. It has laboured for the elect, and it has succeeded with them. This is, as it were, its token. An ordinary kind of religion, praiseworthy and respectable in its way, may exist under many systems; but saints are creations of the gospel and the Church. Not that such a one need in his lifetime seem to be more than other well-living men, for his graces lie deep, and are not known and understood till after his death, even if then. But in process of time, after death, their excellence perhaps gets abroad; and then they become a witness, a specimen of what the gospel can do. There are many reasons why God’s saints cannot be known all at once;--first, as 1 have said, their good deeds are done in secret. Next, good men are often slandered; they are mistaken by those, whom they offend by their holiness and strictness. Then, again, their intentions and aims are misunderstood. It is no triumph, then, for unbelievers that the gospel has not done what it never attempted. From the first it announced what was to be the condition of the many who heard and professed it--“Many are called, few are chosen.” Though we laboured ever so much, with the hope of satisfying the objector, we could not reverse our Saviour’s witness, and make the many religious and the bad few. We can but do what is to be done. We cannot destroy the personal differences which separate man and man; and to lay it as a fault to baptism, teaching, and other ministrations, that they cannot pass the bounds predicted in God’s Word, is as little reasonable as attempting to make one mind the same as another. There is nothing to hinder the poorest man from living the life of an angel, living in all the unearthly contemplative blessedness of a saint in glory, except so far as sin interferes with it. I mean, it is sin, and not poverty which is the hindrance. Such is the case with the poor; now, again, take the case of those who have a competency. They too are swallowed up in the cares or interests of life as much as the poor are. While want keeps the one from God by unsettling his mind, a competency keeps the other by the seductions of ease and plenty. The poor man says, “I cannot go to Church or to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, till I am more at ease in my mind; I am troubled, and my thoughts are not my own.” The rich man does not make any excuses,--he comes; but his “heart goeth after his covetousness.” No; such a one may be far other than a mere man of the world,--he may be a religious man, in the common sense of the word; he may be exemplary in his conduct, as far as the social duties of life go; he may be really and truly, and not in pretence, kind, benevolent, sincere, and in a manner serious; but so it is, his mind has never been unchained to soar aloft, he does not look out with longing into the infinite spaces in which, as a Christian, he has free range. A sort of ordinary obedience suffices them as well as the poor. Alas! and is it so? is the superhuman life enjoined on us in the gospel but a dream? is there no meaning in our own case, of the texts about the strait gate and the narrow way, and Mary’s good part, and the rule of perfection, and the saying which “all cannot receive save they to whom it is given?” God grant to us a simple, reverent, affectionate, temper, that we may truly be the Church’s children, and fit subjects of her instructions! (J. H. Newman, M. A.)

Sufferings on behalf of the elect

The question doubtless arises, does St. Paul here, and also in Colossians 1:24, regard his own afflictions as a part of the redemptive suffering by which the elect should receive the gift of Christ’s salvation and inherit their eternal glory? This would, undoubtedly, contradict the whole tenor of his teaching elsewhere. “Was Paul crucified for you?” rings out (in 1 Corinthians 1:13) his own indignant disclaimer of any such position. Still he does assert his hope and conviction that direct and positive advantages may accrue to the elect of God from his own sufferings. The “salvation” is “in Christ Jesus”; still there are “things lacking” in the afflictions of the Lord which he and other saints are called upon to supplement, to fill up from another source. They are to be filled up in the persons of the members of Christ’s suffering body. Because these bitter sorrows effectuate or tend to produce a closer resemblance to Christ, because they may lead to a more intense consecration on the part of the elect of God, he willingly endures them all. We take it that these θλίψευς of Christ are not His atoning or sacrificial agonies, but all the contumely and repression which He endured for us and with us, and also which He endured for us and with us, and also which He, in sublime sympathy, continues to suffer in His body the Church, and which will not be completed until the last battle has been fought and the last enemy overcome. Thus the Lord dignifies every patiently borne cross, every holy death, as part of His own affliction for the sake of the elect. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)

The redemptive end of affliction

I. Afflictions are the more willingly sustained when they further the liberty of the Gospel.

1. For when the Word runs the plots of the wicked are prevented.

2. The wandering sheep gathered.

3. The body of Christ perfected.

4. The kingdom of God enlarged.

II. A grown Christian can suffer all kinds of afflictions.

1. For experience have taught him that afflictions are good for him.

2. Many acts make a habit; whence it falls out that tribulation worketh patience.

3. He believeth that though sorrows be bitter at the entrance, they shall be sweet in the end.

4. The Lord assisteth him, by whose strength he can do and suffer all things.

III. There be an elect people. Now concerning the elect, two things are not unworthy of our consideration--the one, their number, the other their prerogatives. For their number absolutely taken is great. The prerogatives are many, and all excellent, which are proper to the elect, for they be the objects of God’s love. The redeemed of His Son; temples of the Spirit; and co-heirs with Christ of all things.

IV. All the goodness of our sufferings is in respect of their ground and end.

V. Of the two, a true christian man had rather save souls than prosper in this world. For such know, that to save a soul is more worth than to win the world; and that they shall shine as the sun for ever and ever. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

A noble purpose

A man’s purpose in life should be like a river which was born of a thousand little rills in the mountains; and when at last it has reached its manhood in the plain, though, ii you watch it, you shall see little eddies that seem as if they had changed their minds, and were going back again to the mountains, yet all its mighty current flows, changeless, to the sea. If you build a dam across it, in a few hours it will go over it with a voice of victory. If tides check it at its mouth, it is only that when they ebb it can sweep on again to the ocean. So goes the Amazon or Orinoco across a continent--never losing its way or changing its direction for the thousand streams that fall into it on the right hand and on the left, but only using them to increase its force, and bearing them onward in its resistless channel. (H. W. Beecher.)

Supporting others

A curious old tree that supports other trees is described in a South American journal. It is stated that in Columbus there is a china tree that grew up very tall. Several years ago the top was taken off, leaving the main trunk of the tree about twenty feet high. On the top it has become somewhat decayed, but is making up for lost life by supporting a young forest. There are several different shrubs growing on its top, among others an evergreen three or four feet in height, a blackberry bush, which has put on leaves and flowers, and a water-oak which is about two inches in circumference. It is said that the spectacle is a very remarkable one, and arboriculturists take great interest in it. The old tree is a type of many lives. When God has withdrawn one of His children from active service, he is frequently able to continue his usefulness in another way, by supporting others, lifting them nearer to Heaven and sustaining them with his own stalwart spiritual growth.

Enduring for the elect’s sake

An ordinary person may rest in his bed all night, but a surgeon will be called up at all hours; a farming-man may take his ease at his fireside, but if he becomes a shepherd he must be out among the lambs, and bear all weathers for them; even so doth Paul say, “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Suffering to help others

Suppose that by some painful operation you could have your right arm made a little longer; I do not suppose you would care to go under the operation; but if you foresaw that by undergoing the pain you would be enabled to reach and save drowning men who else would sink before your eyes, I think you would willingly bear the agony, and pay a heavy fee to the surgeon to be thus qualified for the rescue of your fellows. Reckon, then, that to acquire soul-winning power you will have to go through fire and water, through doubt and despair, through mental torment and soul distress. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The believer’s salvation obtained by Christ and connected with glory

I. Let us consider the nature of this salvation.

1. It is a salvation from the condemnation of a broken law.

2. It is a salvation from the power and dominion of sin.

3. It is a salvation from the bondage of Satan.

4. It is a salvation from the temporary triumphs of the grave.

II. Let us inquire in what respects this salvation is in Christ Jesus. Because it was with His Son Christ Jesus that God was pleased to enter into covenant, respecting human redemption, before the world was.

III. Let us glance at the eternal glory with which this salvation is connected.

1. The persons of the saints will then be glorious. The body will be no longer subject to hunger and thirst, to pain and weariness, or to disease and decay. And then in respect to the soul, it will be formed after the Divine image, in righteousness and true holiness, made to partake, so far as a finite creature is capable, of the image of God.

2. The mansions of which the redeemed shall take possession will be glorious.

3. The society to which they will be admitted will be glorious.

4. The employments of the believer will be glorious. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

That they may also obtain salvation.--Rather, that they also may; they as well as we. (Speaker’s Commentary.)

Salvation in Christ

Having Christ we have salvation also, while without receiving Christ Himself we can not have the salvation. Having the fountain we have its issuing streams. Cut off from the fountain the streams will not flow to us. Christ offers Himself to be the Bridegroom of the soul. The mistake is that of seeking the salvation instead of seeking the Saviour. Just the same mistake that the affianced would make if she should seek to have the possessions of him to whom she was engaged made over to her from him, without their union in wedlock, instead of accepting his offer of himself, and having the hymeneal bond completed by which he and all he has would become hers. (W. E. Boardman.)

Salvation

I. The nature of salvation.

1. Salvation is the great and constant theme of the whole Bible,

2. Salvation is a word of pleasing import.

3. Salvation is a full and complete deliverance from all past guilt and condemnation.

4. Salvation is a glorious deliverance from all the miseries of sin and the bondage of Satan.

5. Salvation is a deliverance from the envenomed sting of death.

6. This salvation is a deliverance from the resurrection of damnation, the horrors of the judgment, and the miseries of the lost in hell. Now for the peculiar characteristics of this salvation.

II. The author and source of salvation. It is “Christ Jesus.”

III. Let us point out its method. Some persons try to mystify the plan. But it is simple. The way is easy. Some want to purchase the gift of salvation, but it is not to be bought. It is here--“Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth.” Turn your eyes from the world and sin, and, by faith, look to Christ! (R. Key.)

Heaven, or the final happiness of the righteous

Let us attend to what notices we can gain from the scriptures of truth of the heavenly state, as coming under the notion of salvation and glory. Each of these sometimes is put alone for the whole of it; but being here joined together, they make the description of it more complete; the former directly signifies the negative part, a deliverance from all evil, and the latter the positive, the possession of the highest and greatest good our nature is capable of. And how significantly and emphatically is this salvation with eternal glory said to be in Christ Jesus? It is in Him, as possession purchased, in whose right we can only obtain it. It is in Him as an inheritance kept in truth, and to be conveyed by Him to the appointed heirs. It is in Him as the grand Exemplar in His human nature of the complete and final happiness of the saints. It is in Him both as a beatific object, and as a perpetual medium through which the blessed will see and enjoy God.

I. The Christian shall obtain instantly on his arrival at heaven, and everlastingly possess, a complete salvation, a perfect freedom from all manner of evil.

1. In heaven there will be a perfect and eternal salvation from all sin.

2. The salvation of heaven will be an absolute and perpetual deliverance from the temptations of Satan. In heaven, too, all wicked men, as well as evil angels, shall cease from troubling or tempting; for there shall be none of them there, no more than any matter of temptation in that blessed world.

3. This salvation will be a deliverance from all natural weaknesses; from slowness of apprehension, errors of judgment, slipperiness of memory, levity of will, a rashness or tardiness in resolving, and a heaviness in acting.

4. It will be a deliverance from all the diseases and pains which attend our mortal frame, together with the great variety of disagreeable accidents our life on earth is continually liable to.

5. It will be a deliverance from all God’s wrath and anger.

6. It is a deliverance from all relative and sympathising sufferings and sorrows.

7. It will be a deliverance from death. But it is time now to say somewhat--

II. Of the positive felicity of the heavenly world, of which the less will suffice, as several of its ingredients are easily understood from the evils and miseries which they stand in opposition to, and because we can have but a general idea of this part, rather knowing what heaven is not, than what in particular it is. However, what belongs to this state is all great, excellent and glorious. It is glory itself. Now, the glory which continues the heavenly happiness is both objective and subjective, and these reciprocally influencing each other and inseparably concurring to form it. There is a glory without, objects of unspeakable lustre and glory which will be exhibited and presented to the saints in heaven to converse with. And there will be a glory within themselves. All the parts and powers of their nature will be rendered inexpressibly glorious, as by an elevation of them into a fitness to converse with the glorious objects before them, so by an actual exercise on them and the most satisfying gratification by them. Hence the frequent expression in Scripture of their happiness in heaven is their being glorified. And it is the glory of God either way, as it is often called. He realms all the glory of heaven; He is the principal object Himself of the saints’ beatific converse, and He forms all the other objects, as well as themselves, glorious. And here we may observe that all these glories will be revealed in a propitious and amiable light. God will manifest Himself to His saints as their own God, and all His perfections and operations are arrayed in love. No room will be left for terror and dismay from the full blaze of His Majesty above, as but a few beams of it breaking in on some of His people here have oppressed their souls with the most dreadful apprehensions. Again, the revelation of heavenly glories will be made to the blessed in a measure exactly suited to their faculties and capacities. There will be no deficiency to cause an uneasy and an unsatisfied craving; no excess to overpower and exhaust the spirits.

1. There will be a perfect knowledge in heaven: a knowledge in the very best manner of the best and noblest things. This knowledge will in a great measure be intuitive, and so consequently very comprehensive, easy, clear, and satisfying.

2. In heaven there will be a perfect rectitude, and regular harmony in all the powers of the soul. As the understanding clearly and steadily beholds the beauties of holiness, the soul will naturally take and keep a correspondent impress, and be satisfied with this Divine likeness.

3. In consequence of this, the active powers will be fully and most delightfully employed in the incessant praises of God and of the Lamb, and in whatever unknown services may be assigned them, all noble and pleasurable. (J. Hubbard.)


Verse 11-12

2 Timothy 2:11-12

If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him.

Union with Christ in death and life

I. The first branch of this “faithful saying” is, “If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him.” There seem to be two ways chiefly in which the soul “is dead with Christ.” If we look at the operation of the law as a manifestation of the justice of God, the law was the cause of the death of Christ--that is to say, the law being broken by the Church in whose place Christ stood, He, as a Substitute and a Surety, stood under its curse, and that curse was death. If, then, we are to die with Christ, we must die under the law just as Jesus died under the law, or else there is no union with Christ in His death. But further, Christ died under the weight of sin and transgression. Every living soul then that shall die with Christ spiritually and experimentally, must die too under the weight of sin--that is, he must know what it is so to experience the power and presence of sin in his carnal mind, so to feel the burden of his iniquities upon his guilty head, and to be so overcome and overpowered by inward transgression, as to be utterly helpless, and thoroughly unable to deliver himself from the dominion and rule of it in his heart. But there is another way in which the soul dies with Christ. Christ not only died under the law and died under sin, but He died unto the law, and He died unto sin. But in living with Christ, there will be, if I may use the expression, a dying life, or a living death, running parallel with all the experience of a child of God, who is brought to some acquaintance with the Lord Jesus. For instance, the apostle says, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”

II. But we go on to consider another branch of this vital union with Christ. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.” There can be no suffering with Christ, until there is a vital union with Christ; and no realisation of it, until the Holy Ghost manifests this vital union by making Christ known, and raising up faith in our hearts, whereby He is embraced and laid hold of. And there is no “reigning with Christ,” except there first be a “suffering with Christ.” I believe that reigning not only signifies a reigning with Him in glory hereafter, but also a measure of reigning with Him now, by His enthroning Himself in our hearts.

III. “If we deny Him, He also will deny us,” that is the next branch. The words have a twofold meaning; they apply to professors, and they apply to possessors. There were those in the Church who would deny Him, for there were those who never knew Him experimentally, and when the trial came, they would act as Judas acted. And then there were those who were real followers of Him, but when put to the test might act as Peter acted. (J. C. Philpot.)

Christ and the Christian

In matters of great worth and difficulty prefaces are used: so here. Whence observe we, that--

I. Afflictions are not easy to be endured,

II. God’s word is faithful.

III. Christ and a Christian are fellow-sufferers.

IV. Christ and a christian shall live together. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Dead with Christ

In the fourth century a young earnest disciple sought an interview with the great and good Macarius, and asked him what was meant by being dead to sin. He said, “You remember our brother who died and was buried a short time since. Go to his grave, and tell him all the unkind things you ever heard of him. Go, my son, and hear what he will answer.” The young man doubted whether he understood; but Macarius only said, “Do as I tell you, my son; and come and tell me what he says.” He went, and came back, saying, “I can get He reply; he is dead.” “Go again, and try him with flattering words--tell him what a great saint he was, what noble work he did, and how we miss him; and come again and tell me what he says.” He did so, but on his return said, “He answers nothing, father; he is dead and buried.” “You know now, my son,” said the old father, “what it is to be dead to sin, dead and buried with Christ. Praise and blame are nothing to him who is really dead and buried with Christ.” (Christian Herald.)

Dead with Christ

“Believe, my dear Pris, what I am just beginning to learn, and you knew long ago, that the death of Christ is far, very far, more than a mere peace-making, though that view of it is the root of every other. But it is actually and literally the death of you and me and the whole human race; the absolute death and extinction of all our selfishness and individuality. So St. Paul describes it in Romans 6:1-23. and in every one of his Epistles. Let us believe, then, what is the truth and no lie--that we are dead, actually, absolutely dead; and let as believe further that we are risen and that we have each a life, our only life, a life not of you nor me, but a universal life--in Him. He will live in us and quicken us with all life and all love; will make us understand the possibility, and, as I am well convinced, experience the reality, of loving God and loving our brethren.” (F. D. Maurice to his sister.)

Suffering and reigning with Jesus

I. Suffering with Jesus, and its reward. To suffer is the common lot of all men. It is not possible for us to escape from it. We come into this world through the gate of suffering, and over death’s door hangs the same escutcheon. If, then, a man hath sorrow, it doth not necessarily follow that he shall be rewarded for it, since it is the common lot brought upon all by sin. You may smart under the lashes of sorrow in this life, but this shall not deliver you from the wrath to come. The text implies most clearly that we must suffer with Christ in order to reign with Him.

1. We must not imagine that we are suffering for Christ, and with Christ, if we are not in Christ.

2. Supposing a man to be in Christ, yet it does not even then follow that all his sufferings are sufferings with Christ, for it is essential that he be called by God to suffer. If a good man were, out of mistaken views of mortification and self-denial, to mutilate his body, or to flog his flesh, aa many a sincere enthusiast has done, I might admire the man’s fortitude, but I should not allow for an instant that he was suffering with Christ.

3. Again, in troubles which come upon us as the result of sin, we must not think we are suffering with Christ. When Miriam spoke evil of Moses, and the leprosy polluted her, she was not suffering for God. When Uzziah thrust himself into the temple, and became a leper all his days, he could not say that he was afflicted for righteousness’ sake. If you speculate and lose your property, do not say that you are losing all for Christ’s sake; when you unite with bubble companies and are duped, do not whine about suffering for Christ--call it the fruit of your own folly. If you will put your hand into the fire and it gets burned, why, it is the nature of fire to burn you or anybody else; but be not so silly as to boast as though you were a martyr.

4. Be it observed, moreover, that suffering such as God accepts and rewards for Christ’s sake, must have God’s glory as its end.

5. I must mind, too, that love to Christ, and love to His elect, is ever the main-spring of all my patience; remembering the apostle’s words, “Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

6. I must not forget also that I must manifest the spirit of Christ, or else I do not suffer with Him. I have heard of a certain minister who, having had a great disagreement with many members in his church, preached from this text, “And Aaron held his peace.” The sermon was intended to pourtray himself as an astonishing instance of meekness; but as his previous words and actions had been quite sufficiently violent, a witty hearer observed, that the only likeness he could see between Aaron and the preacher was this, “Aaron held his peace, and the preacher did not.” I shall now very briefly show what are the forms of real suffering for Jesus in these days.

II. Denying Christ, and its penalty. “If we deny Him, He also will deny us,” In what way can we deny Christ? Some deny Him openly as scoffers do, whose tongue walketh through the earth and defieth heaven. Others do this wilfully and wickedly in a doctrinal way, as the Arians and Socinians do, who deny His deity: those who deny His atonement, who rail against the inspiration of His Word, these come under the condemnation of those who deny Christ. There is a way of denying Christ without even speaking a word, and this is the more common. In the day of blasphemy and rebuke, many hide their heads. Are there not here some who have been baptized, and who come to the Lord’s table, but what is their character? Follow them home. I would to God they never had made a profession, because in their own houses they deny what in the house of God they have avowed. In musing over the very dreadful sentence which closes my text, “He also will deny us,” I was led to think of various ways in which Jesus will deny us. He does this sometimes on earth. You have read, I Suppose, the death of Francis Spira. If you have ever read it, you never can forget it to your dying day. Francis Spira knew the truth; he was a reformer of no mean standing; but when brought to death, out of fear, he recanted. In a short time he fell into despair, and suffered hell upon earth. His shrieks and exclamations were so horrible that their record is almost too terrible for print. His doom was a warning to the age in which he lived. Another instance is narrated by my predecessor, Benjamin Keach, of one who, during Puritanic times, was very earnest for Puritanism; but afterwards, when times of persecution arose, forsook his profession. The scenes at his deathbed were thrilling and terrible. He declared that though he sought God, heaven was shut against him; gates of brass seemed to be in his way, he was given up to overwhelming despair. At intervals he cursed, at other intervals he prayed, and so perished without hope. If we deny Christ, we may be delivered to such a fate. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Deniers of Christ

I. Difficult duties are greatly to be pressed.

II. To conceive the estate of a Christian is to have an eye to his latter end.

III. God’s method and the devil’s differ. He begins with death, ends with life: but Satan the contrary.

IV. Christ is not to be denied.

V. The deniers of Christ shall de denied. Helps against this sin--

1. Deny thyself.

2. Never dispute with flesh and blood.

3. Look not on death as death: but on God’s power, which is manifest in our weakness.

4. Consider the examples of so many martyrs. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

The encouragement to suffer for Christ, and the danger of denying Him

“It is a faithful saying.” This is a preface used by this apostle to introduce some remarkable sentence of more than ordinary weight and concernment. I shall begin with the first part of this remarkable saying: “If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.”

1. What virtue there is in a firm belief and persuasion of a blessed immortality in another world, to support and bear up men’s spirits under the greatest sufferings for righteousness’ sake; and even to animate them, if God shall call them to it, to lay down their lives for their religion.

2. How it may be made out to be reasonable to embrace and voluntarily to submit to present and grievous sufferings, in hopes of future happiness and reward; concerning which we have not, nor perhaps are capable of having, the same degree of certainty and assurance which we have of the evils and sufferings of this present life. Now, granting that we have not the same degree of certainty concerning our future happiness that we have of our present sufferings, which we feel, or see just ready to come upon us; yet prudence making it necessary for men to run this hazard does justify the reasonableness of it. This I take to be a known and ruled case in the common affairs of life and in matters of temporal concernment; and men act upon this principle every day. The matter is now brought to this plain issue, that if it be reasonable to believe there is a God, and that His providence considers the actions of men; it is also reasonable to endure present sufferings, in hope of a future reward: and there is certainly enough in this case to govern and determine a prudent man that is in any good measure persuaded of another life after this, and hath any tolerable consideration of, and regard to, his eternal interest. In the virtue of this belief and persuasion, the primitive Christians were fortified against all that the malice and cruelty of the world could do against them; and they thought they made a very wise bargain, if through many tribulations they might at last enter into the kingdom of God; because they believed that the joys of heaven would abundantly recompense all their sorrows and sufferings upon earth. And so confident were they of this, that they looked upon it as a special favour and regard of God to them, to call them to suffer for His name. So St. Paul speaks of it (Philippians 1:29). If we could compare things justly, and attentively regard and consider the invisible glories of another world, as well as the things which are seen, we should easily perceive that he who suffers for God and religion does not renounce happiness; but puts it out to interest upon terms of the greatest advantage. I shall now briefly speak to the second part of this remarkable saying in the text. “If we deny Him, He also will deny us”; to which is subjoined in the words following, “if we believe not; εἰ ἀπιστοῦμεν, if we deal unfaithfully with Him; yet He abideth faithful, He cannot deny Himself”; that is, He will be constant to His word, and make good that solemn threatening which He hath denounced against those who, for fear of suffering, shall deny Him and His truth before men (Matthew 10:33). If fear will move us, then, in all reason, that which is most terrible ought to prevail most with us, and the greatest danger should be most dreaded by us, according to our Saviour’s most friendly and reasonable advice (Luke 12:4-5.) (J. Tillotson, D. D.)

If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.

Suffering with Christ

In the olden time when the gospel was preached in Persia, one Hamedatha, a courtier of the king, having embraced the faith, was stripped of all his offices, driven from the palace, and compelled to feed camels. This he did with great content. The king passing by one day, saw his former favourite at his ignoble work, cleaning out the camel’s stables. Taking pity upon him he took him into his palace, clothed him with sumptuous apparel, restored him to all his former honours, and made him sit at the royal table. In the midst of the dainty feast, he asked Hamedatha to renounce his faith. The courtier, rising from the table, tore off his garments with haste, left all the dainties behind him, and said, “Didst thou think that for such silly things as these I would deny my Lord and Master?” and away he went to the stable to his ignoble work. How honourable is all this! (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ’s martyrs

Christ’s true martyrs do not die, but live. (E. Thring.)

Ennobled in death

“Henry V. on the evening of Agincourt found the chivalric David Gamin still grasping the banner which through the fight his strength had borne and his right arm defended. Often had the monarch noticed that pennon waving in the foremost van of the men of England who that day pierced, broke, and routed the proud ranks of France. The king knighted him as he lay. The hero died, but dying was ennobled!”(S. Coley.)

Cyril, the boy martyr

Let me tell you of a young soldier of His, who bore much for his Lord. We must go back to the early days of Christianity, and picture a martyr being led to death in the city of Antioch. At the place of execution is the judge surrounded by a guard of soldiers. The man about to die for his love to his heavenly King says to the judge--“Ask any little child here whether we ought to adore the many false gods whom you serve or the one living and true God, the only Saviour of men, and that child will tell you.” Close by there stood a Christian mother and her boy of ten years old named Cyril. She had brought her son there to see how a true servant of God could die for his Lord. As the martyr spoke, the judge spied the lad, and asked him a question. To the surprise of all, Cyril answered--“There is but one God, and Jesus Christ is one With Him.” At these words the judge was very angry. “Wretched Christian,” he said, turning to the martyr, “it is thou who hast taught the boy these words.” Then more gently, he said to the child--“Tell me, who taught thee this faith?” Little Cyril looked lovingly up to his mother, and answered, “The grace of God taught my mother, and she taught me.” “Well, we will see what this grace of God can do for thee,” cried the judge. He signed to the guards, who, according to the custom of the Romans, stood with their sheaves of rods. They came near and seized the child. Passionately the mother pleaded that she might give her life for that of her son. But none heeded her entreaties. And all that she could do was to cheer her child, reminding him of the Lord who loved him and died for him. Then cruel strokes fell upon the bare little shoulders of Cyril. In a tone of mocking, the judge said--“What good is the grace of God to him now?… It can enable him to bear the same punishment which his Saviour bore for him,” answered the mother decidedly. One look from the judge to |he soldiers, and again the cruel blows fell on the tender flesh of the boy. “What can the grace of God do for him now?” again asked the pitiless judge. Few of the spectators could hear unmoved the mother, who, with heart bleeding at the sight of her boy’s sufferings, answered--“The grace of God teaches him to forgive his persecutors.” The child’s eyes followed the upward glance of his mother, as she raised her pleading for him in earnest prayer. And when his persecutors asked whether he would not now worship the gods they did, that young soldier answered--“No, there is no other God but the Lord, and Jesus is the Redeemer of the world. He loved me, and I love Him, because He is my Saviour.” Stroke after stroke fell upon the boy, and at last he fell fainting. Then he was handed to his mother, and the question was once more repeated: “What can the grace of God do for him now?” Pressing her dying child to her heart, she answered--“Now above all, the grace of God will bring him gain and glory, for He will take him from the rage of his persecutors to the peace of His own home in heaven.” Once more the dying boy looked up and said, “There is only one God, and one Saviour, Jesus Christ--who--loved--me.” And then the Lord Jesus received him in His arms for evermore. The boy martyr went in to be with his King, that Saviour “who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

Suffering for Christ rewarded

Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great, once expressed a desire that his friend Caligula might soon come to the throne. Old Tiberius, the reigning monarch, felt such a wish, however flattering to Caligula, to be so little kindly to himself, that he threw the author of it into a loathsome dungeon. But the very day Caligula reached Imperial power, Agrippa was released. The new emperor gave him purple for his rags, tetrarchies for his narrow cell, and carefully weighing the gyves that fettered him, for every link of iron bestowed on him one of gold. Think you that day Agrippa wished his handcuffs and his leg-locks had been lighter? Will Jesus forget the wellwishers of His kingdom, who, for His sake, have borne the burden and worn the chain? His scales will be forthcoming, and assuredly those faithful in great tribulation shall be beautified with greater glory. (S. Coley.)

Happy ending of a suffering life

We have sometimes watched a ship entering the harbour with masts sprung, sails torn, seams yawning, bulwarks stove in--bearing all the marks of having battled with the storms, and of having encountered many a peril. On the deck is a crew of worn and weather-beaten men, rejoicing that they have reached the port in safety. Such was the plight in which many believers of old reached the haven of rest. They met with dangers and encountered difficulties. But if their course was toilsome, their end was happy. It was their joy to labour and suffer for their Lord’s sake, and they are now sharing His kingdom and His glory. (Bp. Oxenden.)

If we deny Him, He also will deny us.--

Denying Christ

There are many ways of denying Christ, both by word and action. We may take the part of His enemies, or ignore His supreme claim to our allegiance; we may transform Him into a myth, a fairy tale, a subjective principle, or find a substitute in our own life for His grace; and we may assume that He is not the ground of our reconciliation, nor the giver of salvation, nor the sole Head of His Church. If so, we may reasonably fear, lest He should refuse to acknowledge us when upon His approval our eternal destiny will turn. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)


Verse 13

2 Timothy 2:13

If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful.

Faithless

“If we are faithless”--that is, untrue to the vows of our Christian profession, the faithlessness implies more than mere unbelief in any of the fundamental doctrines of the faith, such as the resurrection of the Lord or His divinity. (H. D. M. Spence, M. A.)

The unchangeableness and independence of Christ, proofs of His divinity

If you open any professed treatise on the divinity of Christ, you will find that one series of proofs is deduced from the ascription to our Lord of attributes or properties which can belong only unto God. And the words which we have just read to you from the writings of St. Paul contain, as it would seem, two instances of this kind of evidence. Amongst the characteristics of the Creator, characteristics which can never be transferred to a creature, we justly reckon unchangeableness and independence. You may learn from the context, it is of Christ, “the one Mediator between God and men,” that St. Paul affirms that “He abideth faithful,” and that “He cannot deny Himself.” And first, then, as to unchangeableness. You know that with the Father of lights “there is no variableness neither shadow of turning.” When it is said of God “He cannot change,” you should understand the phrase in its largest and most literal acceptation. We are as much borne out by reason as by revelation, in pronouncing it impossible that God should change. To suppose that He could change is to suppose that He could cease to be perfect, and we need not prove to you that an imperfect God would be no God at all. There is no passage in the Bible in which this unchangeableness is more distinctly ascribed to the Father than it is in our text to the Son. “He cannot,” He is not able to “deny Himself.” Such language could never have been applicable to Christ had He not been God. There is nothing in the nature of a creature, not even though it come nearest in glory and greatness to that unchangeable Being from whom its existence was derived--there is nothing, I say, in the nature of a creature which renders it impossible that it should deny itself. Now, unchangeableness is not the only attribute of Godhead which is here ascribed to Christ; a little examination will show you that independence is equally ascribed. Sublimely as God is enthroned on His own essential majesty, He depends neither on angel nor on man for one jot of His honour, for one tittle of His happiness. And you are to observe that this independence which is necessarily to be reckoned among the Divine attributes is actually incommunicable; that is, it can belong only to God, and cannot be imparted to what is finite and created. And yet the mode of expression adopted by the apostle in our text appears to me strictly to imply that the being of whom he speaks is independent. “If we believe not,” what then? will it make any difference to Christ? must His purposes be altered, as though to meet an emergency? must the terms of His gospel be lowered, so as to square better with our prejudice or our infidelity? Nothing of all this. “If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself.” Everything will follow the same course; we may turn the willing ear, or the deaf; we may march in the train of the Captain of our salvation, or we may fight under the banner of the apostate. “Yet He abideth faithful”; or, as the verse is paraphrased by an old prelate of our church, “He loveth nothing by it; the misery and the damage is ours; but for Him, He is the same that He was, whatever become of us.” Now, we are very anxious that whenever a portion of Holy Writ on which we are meditating contains any indirect testimony to the divinity of Christ, such testimony should be carefully worked out and set before you in its strength and in its simplicity. And there is no doctrine to which there is a greater assemblage of these indirect testimonies than there is to the divinity of Christ. Passages occur in almost every leaf of the New Testament, which do not indeed assert the divinity of Christ, which do not even seem to allude to the divinity of Christ, but which, nevertheless, are stripped of aft force, yea, of all sense, if doubt be thrown on the divinity of Christ. In reading the Epistles we seem reading the writings of men who never thought of the divinity of Christ as of a questionable or debateable thing. They buckle on the armour of controversy when the sir, fatness of the human race is to be demonstrated, and when the method of justification is to be vindicated, and when the errors of Judaising teachers are to be exposed; but, except in one or two instances, there is nothing that looks like controversy in regard to the divinity of Christ. And we attach the greatest possible worth to this indirect kind of evidence, a specimen of which we have found in our text. Certain doctrines there may be, which rest only on certain passages, and which consequently we should find a difficulty in establishing if those passages were removed. But this cannot be affirmed of the main pillar of our faith, the divinity of Christ. The doctrine rests not upon isolated passages; leave us a page of the New Testament, and I think you will have left us proof of Christ being God. And now let us take a different view of the text. It contains much both of what is alarming and what is encouraging. The threatenings and the promises of Christ, each of these, as we may learn from the text, will take equal effect, whether we ourselves believe them or whether we disbelieve them. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Eternal faithfulness unaffected by human unbelief

I. The sad possibility, and the consoling assurance--“If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful.” I must take the sad possibility first--“if we believe not,” and I shall read this expression as though, first of all, it concerned the world in general, for I think it may so be fairly read. If mankind believe not, if the various classes of men believe not--yet He abideth faithful. The rulers believed not, and there are some that make this a very great point. They said concerning Jesus, “Have any of the rulers believed on Him?” Well, if our greatest men, if our senators and magistrates, princes and potentates, believe not--it does not affect the truth of God in the smallest conceivable degree--“yet He abideth faithful.” Many, however, think it more important to know on which side the leaders of thought are enlisted, and there are certain persons who are not elected to that particular office by popular vote, who nevertheless take it upon themselves to consider that they are dictators in the republic of opinion. However, we need not care because of these wise men, for if they believe not, but becloud the gospel, yet God abideth faithful. Yes, and I venture to enlarge this thought a little more. If the rulers do not believe, and if the philosophical minds do not believe, and if in addition to this public opinion, so called, rejects it, yet the gospel is still the same eternal truth.

2. Now, having spoken of our text as referring to the world in general, it is, perhaps, a more sorrowful business to look at it as referring to the visible church in particular. The apostle says, “Though we believe not,” and surely he must mean the visible church of God.

3. Once more I will read the text in a somewhat narrower circle. “If we believe not”--that is to say, if the choicest teachers and preachers and writers believe not, yet He abideth faithful. Here, then, is the fearful possibility; and side by side with it runs this most blessedly consoling assurance--“He abideth faithful.” Jesus Christ abideth: there are no shifts and changes in Him. He is a rock, and not a quicksand. He is the Saviour whether the rulers and the philosophers believe in Him or refuse Him, whether the Church dud her ministers are true to Him or desert Him. And as Christ remains the same Saviour, so we have the same gospel. And as the gospel is the same, so does Christ remain faithful to His engagements to His Father.

II. A glorious impossibility with a sweet inference that may be drawn from it. “He cannot deny Him self.” Three things God cannot do. He cannot die, He cannot lie, and He cannot be deceived. These three impossibilities do not limit His power, but they magnify His majesty; for these would be infirmities, and infirmity can have no place in the infinite and ever blessed God. Here is one of the things impossible with God--“He cannot deny Himself.” What is meant by that?

1. It is meant that the Lord Jesus Christ cannot change as to His nature and character towards us, the sons of men.

2. His word cannot alter.

3. He cannot withdraw the salvation which He has presented to the sons of men, for that salvation is indeed Himself.

4. And then the atonement is still the same, for that, too, is Himself: He has by Himself purged our sins.

5. And the mercy-seat, the place of prayer, still remains; for if that were altered He would have denied Himself, for what was the mercy-seat, or propitiatory, that golden lid upon the covenant ark? What was it but Christ Him self, who is our propitiatory, the true mercy-seat?

6. And here is another sweet thought: Christ’s love to His Church, and His purpose towards her cannot change, because He cannot deny Himself, and His Church is Himself.

7. Nor will any one of His offices towards His Church and people ever fail.

8. Now, my last word is about an inference. The text says, “If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful”: it runs on that supposition. Take the other supposition: Suppose we do believe. Will He not be faithful in that case? And will it not be true that He cannot deny Himself? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Divine immutability

Weak as man is, all powerful as God is, there is one thing which weak man can do, and which Almighty God cannot do. Man can pass his word, and almost in the same breath can call it back again. God, on the other hand, cannot promise or denounce a thing without fulfilling it to the very uttermost. This is a doctrine which there are few el us, I fear, who thoroughly believe. Whilst there are many of us who are making light of the threatenings of God, and flattering ourselves with the profane idea that they will never be fulfilled, there are others again who are equally distrustful of God’s promises. If we trust God in spirituals we mistrust Him perhaps in temporals. If we believe Him as the God of grace, we sometimes seem to doubt Him as the God of providence. If we trust Him for eternity, we are half afraid to rely on Him for time. (A. Roberts, M. A.)

Faith in God ennobles reason; unbelief degrades reason

1. Faith in God involves, in its very act, a rational appreciation of evidence. Hence it is distinct from credulity, which is belief without evidence; from scepticism, which is unbelief, though evidence is at hand; and from infidelity, which is the rejection of evidence sufficient to convince. In each of these there is either the neglect or the abuse of the reason, and a consequent injury to the intellectual as well as to the moral powers of the soul. But faith in God, distinct from all these, is belief on sufficient evidence.

2. Faith in God promotes the highest exercise of reason, because also it rests upon the most substantial and durable foundation. If, in the investigation of natural truth, it is philosophical to seek for first principles, it is equally or more so to require them in the reception of revealed truth. Now to have faith in God is to rest on first principles, and to build up knowledge and hope on a sure foundation.

3. Faith takes in the sublimest truths, and the widest circle of thought.

4. If this be our philosophy we shall not stumble at miracles. While faith admits the miracles as facts, reason co-operates with faith by showing that they are wise and good. Moreover, the great first miracle displayed in the world’s creation, which we receive by faith, prepare the mind for all other miracles, however stupendous they may be (Hebrews 11:1).

5. Guided by the philosophy of faith, we shall not stumble at mysteries. For what are mysteries? Grand truths as yet but palatally revealed; the first syllables of some vast volume to be unrolled hereafter.

6. Nor at alleged contradictions between science and revelation. We are free to admit that there are difficulties, real difficulties, between science and revelation; and there may be even greater still. What then? We are but in the position in which patriarchs and prophets were placed for ages.

7. Supported by the philosophy of faith, we shall not faint under the delay of promised good. “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years,” etc. (W. Cooke, D. D.)

Faith and the gospel

I. Unbelief is a sin. What more in the holy letters checked, condemned? Does not Christ dissuade from it? His apostles forbid it? and God everywhere commands the contrary? May not arguments be produced, if any doubt of it, to confirm, ratify it?

II. A man may not have faith yet possess the Gospel. To try the truth of thy faith, let these two rules following be well weighed of thee: First, he who hath faith receives Christ, as the wife does her husband. He will have Him and no other from this time forward, for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health, according to God’s holy ordinance, till (and after that) death shall them part. In the second place, how does thy faith work? Faith, if true and sound, will embrace Christ, purify the heart, lift up the wing of thy soul and cause thee to soar on high. It will do what God enjoins, though it strip him of reputation, promotion, life and all.

III. In preaching the word ministers are not to exclude themselves.

IV. The Lord is faithful.

V. The Lord is without change. (J. Barlow, D. D.)


Verses 13-18

Verse 14

2 Timothy 2:14

Put them in remembrance.

Repetition

I. Repetition of the same things is warrantable.

1. For at the first delivery of a thing we may not fully apprehend it; the eye of our mind is but opened by degrees.

2. Our faith by often repetition may be confirmed.

3. It is a help to cause the truth in the soil of our memories to take the deeper impression.

4. We are slow to practise what we conceive, believe, and remember: therefore the reduplication of Divine things is profitable.

II. The doctrine of christ is above all things to be desired. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Repetition

A preacher must often repeat an exhortation, because we dwell in a land of forgetfulness. (Cramer.)

A good memory

Abraham Lincoln had a marvellous memory; nothing seemed to escape his recollection. A soldier once struck a happy description of him when he said, “He’s got a mighty fine memory; but an awful poor forgetery.” How many Christians have good “forgeteries.” Charging them before the Lord.

Preaching in the sight of God

The whole section is applicable to ministers throughout the Church in all ages; and the words under consideration seem to be well worthy of attention at the present time, when so many unworthy topics and so much unworthy language may be heard from the pulpit. One is inclined to think that if ministers always remembered that they were speaking “in the sight of God” they would sometimes find other things to say, and other ways of saying them. We talk glibly enough of another man’s words and opinions when he is not present. We may be entirely free from the smallest wish to misrepresent or exaggerate; but at the same time we speak with great freedom and almost without restraint. What a change comes over us if, in the midst of our glib recital of his views and sayings, the man himself enters the room! At once we begin to measure our words and to speak with more caution. Our tone becomes less positive, and we have less confidence that we are justified in making sweeping statements on the subject. Ought not something of this circumspection and diffidence to be felt by those who take the responsibility of telling others about the mind of God? And if they remembered constantly that they speak “in the sight of the Lord,” this attitude of solemn circumspection would become habitual. (A. Plummer, D. D.)

Strive not about words to no profit.--

The spirit of controversy

The spirit of controversy is a bad thing in itself; but the evil is intensified when the subject of controversy is a question of words. Controversy is necessary, but it is a necessary evil; and that man has need of searchings of heart who finds that he enjoys ii, and sometimes even provokes it, when it might easily have been avoided; but a fondness for strife about words is one of the lowest forms which the malady can take. Principles are things worth striving about when opposition to what we know to be right and true is unavoidable. But disputatiousness about words is something like proof that love of self has taken the place of love of truth. The word-splitter wrangles, not for the sake of arriving at the truth, but for the sake of a dialectical victory (see 1 Timothy 6:4). And here the apostle says that such disputes are worse than worthless, they tend to “no profit”; on the contrary, they tend “to the subverting of those who listen to them.” This subversion or overthrow is the exact opposite of what ought to be the result of Christian discipline, viz., edification or building up. The audience, instead of being built up in faith and principle, find themselves bewildered and lowered. They have a less firm grasp of truth and a less loyal affection for it. It is as if some beautiful object, which they were learning to understand and admire, had been scored all over with marks by those who had been disputing as to the meaning and relation of the details. (A. Plummer, D. D.)

Controversy

It has been a favourite device of the heretics and sceptics of all ages to endeavour to provoke a discussion on points about which they hope to place an opponent in a difficulty. Their object is not to settle, but to unsettle; not to clear up doubts, but to create them; and hence we find Bishop Butler in his Durham charge recommending his clergy to avoid religious discussions in general conversation; because the clever propounder of difficulties will find ready hearers, while the patient answerer of them will not do so. To dispute is to place truth at an unnecessary disadvantage. (A. Plummer, D. D.)

Strife of words

Christians are not to strive about words.

1. It wasteth time, consumeth good hours, which are to be redeemed.

2. Prevents better matter.

3. Kindles strife and contention.

4. And for idle words we are to give an account.

Now, for the avoiding of these fruitless disputes, observe these following directions:--

1. Get a sound mind, a good judgment, to discern betwixt things that differ.

2. Root self-love and pride out of thy heart.

3. In matters of less moment reserve thy judgment; publish it not, lest thou trouble others.

4. Take heed of overmuch curiosity: pry not into God’s ark; neither presume above that which is written.

5. Consider wherein thou and the party with whom thou hast to deal do agree, and let that consent make a stronger union than the dissent can a separation.

6. Abandon such companions as are always complaining of Church government. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

The hydrostatic paradox of controversy

If a fellow attacked my opinions in print, would I reply? Not

I. Do you think I don’t understand what my friend the Professor long ago called the hydrostatic paradox of controversy? Don’t know what that means? Well, I will tell you. You know that if you had a bent tube, one arm of which was of the size of a pipe-stem, and the other big enough to hold the ocean, water would stand at the same height in one as in the other. Controversy equalises fools and wise men in the same way--and the fools know it. (Q. W. Holmes.)

Controversy

Controversy has kept alive a certain quantity of bitterness, and that, I suspect, is all that it would accomplish if it continued till the day of judgment. I sometimes, in impatient moments, wish the laity in Europe would treat their controversial divines as two gentlemen once treated their seconds, when they found themselves forced into a duel without knowing what they were quarrelling about. As the principals were being led up to their places one of them whispered to the other, “If you will shoot your second, I will shoot mine.” (A. J. Froude.)

Controversy a sign of moral poverty

In the course of more than twenty-seven years, I never knew one exemplary Christian a disputer, whether amongst Dissenters or in our own Church; and it is a rule with me to conclude any person who can be taken up with a desire to make men converts to any notion, and not to Christ, or to be zealous for anything more than the life of faith and holiness from knowledge of Christ crucified, is a sounding empty professor, or, at best, in a very poor low state. (H. Venn.)

Cavilling and disputation

When Endamides heard old Xenocrates disputing so long about wisdom, he inquired very gravely, but archly, “If the old man be yet disputing and inquiring concerning wisdom, what time will he have left to use it?” Controversy may be sometimes needful; but the love of disputation is a serious evil. Luther, who contended earnestly for the truth, used to pray, “From a vainglorious doctor, a contentious pastor, and nice questions, the Lord deliver His Church.” Philip Melancthon, being at the conferences at Spires, in 1529, made a little journey to Bretton to see his mother. This good woman asked him what she must believe amidst so many disputes, and repeated to him her prayers, which contained nothing superstitious. “Go on, mother,” said he, “to believe and pray as you have done, and never trouble yourself about religious controversies.” (Sunday School Teacher.)


Verse 15

2 Timothy 2:15

Study to show thyself approved unto God.

Approved

The word which he uses ( σπουδάζειν) is one which scarcely occurs in the New Testament, except in the writings of St. Paul. And the corresponding substantive is also much more common in his Epistles than it is elsewhere. It indicates that ceaseless, serious, earnest zeal, which was one of his chief characteristics. And certainly if the proposed standard is to be reached, or even seriously aimed at, abundance of this zeal will be required. For the end proposed is not the admiration or affection of the congregation, or of one’s superiors, nor yet success in influencing and winning souls; but that of presenting one’s self to God in such a way as to secure His approval, without fear of incurring the reproach of being a workman who has shirked or scamped his work. The apostle’s charge is a most wholesome one, and if it is acted upon it secures diligence without fussiness, and enthusiasm without fanaticism. The being “approved” implies being tried and proved as precious metals are proved before they are accepted as genuine. (A. Plummer, D. D.)

The minister approved of God

I. In what way and manner a minister ought to show himself approved of God. It appears to me that something more is required to convince men that a minister has the smile of God than his own belief. Our text evidently implies that by his work a minister must show that God is with him. In his work four things will be found which tend to show this.

1. Its quality. It must be such as God commands.

2. Its quantity; which shall evince diligence.

3. The difficulties attending its performance; which is the trial of sincerity.

4. The spirit in which it is done. It is a work which requires a spirit of compassion and kindness.

II. What are the signs of a minister’s approval of God which should be accepted by persons?

1. I would place conversions as an evidence of Divine approval. They show Divine favour. The moral miracle of a true conversion evinces the Divine presence and power equally with any other miracle.

2. The convictions of truth and duty, which are made by his preaching to the consciences of sinners.

3. The last sign we shall notice of God’s approbation of His minister, is the effects of his preaching on the hearts of them that believe. Those that are spiritual can judge whether his preaching is scriptural. (W. Moore.)

God’s approval

Advert continually to His presence with reverence and godly fear; consider Him as always looking on the heart; trust in His almighty protection; believe in Him as a holy sin-hating God and reconciled to sinners of mankind only in Jesus Christ; value His favour above all the world, and make it the settled sole aim of your lives to approve yourselves to His pure eyes. (T. Adam.)

Desire for God’s approbation

“If you were an ambitious man,” said a person one day to a minister of talent and education, who was settled in a retired and obscure parish, “you would not stay in such a place as this.” “How do you know that I am not an ambitious man?” said the pastor. “You do not act like one.” “I have my plans as well as others--the results may not appear as soon, perhaps.” “Are you engaged in some great work?” “I am; but the work does not relate to literature or science. I am not ambitious, perhaps, in the ordinary sense of the term. I do not desire to occupy the high places of the earth, but I do desire to get near my Master’s throne in glory. I care but little for popular applause, but I desire to secure the approbation of God. The salvation of souls is the work He is most interested in, and to the successful prosecution of which He has promised the largest rewards.” (H. L. Hastings.)

“Vibration in unison”

“Something is the matter with your telephone; we can hardly hear you,” was the response, that in a faint voice came to us from the Central Office when we had answered their signal ring with the usual “Halloo!” A few minutes afterwards a young man from head-quarters stepped into our study, and taking the telephone in his hand commenced to investigate. “Yes, here it is,” he exclaimed, as he began to unscrew the ear-piece. “The diaphragm is bulged, and dust has collected around it to such an extent that it does not vibrate in unison with ours up in the office, and that spoils the sound. You see,” he added, while brushing the instrument, “that the telephones at both ends of the wire must act in harmony or there will be no voice. There,” he said, “it is all right now.” And sure enough the lowest word could be distinctly heard, There was, of course, nothing remarkable in this incident, and yet the words “vibrate in unison,” “must act in harmony or there will be no voice,” suggested higher thoughts as well. The human heart is God’s telephone in man. Through it He purposes to speak to our inner consciousness; and when our conscience, our affections, and our desires “vibrate in unison” with the breath of His lips we can hear His voice within us.

A workman that needeth not to be ashamed.

The single word which represents “that needeth not to be ashamed” ( ἀνεπαίσχυντος). is a rare formation, which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Its precise meaning is not quite certain. The more simple and frequent form ( ἀναίσχυντος) means” shameless,” i.e., one who does not feel shame when he ought to do so. Such a meaning, if taken literally, would be utterly unsuitable here. And we then have choice of two interpretations, either

The gospel workman

I. Look, first, at the designation the Christian minister must try to earn for himself, to be “a workman approved of God,” one whose work will bear trying in the fire; having nothing counterfeit about it, but discovering the fine gold of an unadulterated service--truthful, hearty, honest towards God and man.

1. Such a man will strive to be approved of God for his diligence, his earnestness, the anxious concentration upon the duties of the ministry of all the powers which God has given him.

2. “Approved of God,” again, a minister should strive to be for his faithfulness. Now, this faithfulness, in relation to the stewardship of souls, consists in a bold and unfaltering adherence to the terms of our gospel commission; in a jealousy, before all things, for the honour of the Lord we serve; in a deter mination that, neither in public nor in private, will we exercise any timid reservations whether men will hear or whether they will forbear.

II. But the text invites us, in the next place, to consider the Christian minister in His office as a public teacher.

1. Where note, first, it is the “word of truth” he has to divide; an expression with which we may compare the language of the same apostle on another occasion, where he says, “When ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as is in truth the word of God.” This mode of speaking of Holy Scripture seems well calculated to meet that irrepressible craving for certainty on moral subjects, which is the first need of the awakened mind.

2. But this word or truth, we are told, is to be “rightly divided”; that is, we may interpret the expression, to have all its parts distributed and disposed after some law of connection and coherence and scientific unity. The general spirit of this injunction goes to reprove all that mutilated or partial teaching in which, through an over-fondness for particular aspects of theological truth, a man is betrayed into negligence, if not into culpable reticence, about all the rest.

III. But I proceed to the last point which calls for notice in our text, or that which leads us to contemplate the Christian minister in his personal character and qualifications.

1. “Needeth not to be ashamed,” in regard of his mental culture, and attainments,, and general fitness to cope with the demands of an intellectual age.

2. “Needeth not be ashamed,” once more, in regard of his personal and experimental acquaintance with the truths he is ordained to teach. Every profession in life has its appropriate and distinctive excellence. We look for courage in the soldier; integrity in the merchant; wise consistency in the statesman; unswerving uprightness in the judge. What is that which, before all things, should distinguish the Christian minister, if it be not pre-eminent sanctity of deportment, and the spirit of piety and prayer? (D. Moore, M. A.)

Rightly dividing the word of truth.--

Cutting straight

Literally “cutting straight.” The figure has been very variously derived; from a priest dividing the victim, the steward distributing the bread or stores, a stonemason, a carpenter, a ploughman, a road-cutter. The last has been most frequently adopted. Perhaps they are right, who, like Luther and Alford, consider that the figure had become almost lost sight of in common usage, and that the word had come to mean little more than to “manage” or “administer.” (Speaker’s Commentary.)

Fearless faithfulness

The metaphor is taken from cutting roads. The characteristic of the Roman roads would be well known to the apostle, and this idea is given in the margin of the revision “holding a straight course in the word of truth.” The expression denotes a fearless faithfulness--a simple straightforwardness in the proclamation of the truth of God, whatever may be the opinions or the conduct of men. The Word has to be preached whether men will hear or whether they will forbear. (R. H. S.)

Defection dangerous

I am disposed to think that we may perhaps class this among the medical words with which these Epistles abound, and see in it a reference to the work of the surgeon, in which any deflection from the true line of incision might be perilous or even fatal. The reference in 2 Timothy 2:17 to the gangrene or cancer seems to carry on the train of thought. (E. H. Plumptre, D. D.)

Right handling

The idea of rightness seems to be the dominant one; that of cutting quite secondary; so that the Revisers are quite justified in following the example of the Vulgate (recte tractantem), and translating simply “rightly handling.” But this right handling may be understood as consisting in seeing that the word of truth moves in the right direction, and progresses in the congregation by a legitimate development. (A. Plummer, D. D.)

Straight-forwardness

St. Paul summons Timothy to a right straightforward method of dealing with the Divine word. He would have him set out clear lines for the intellect, a plain path for the feet, a just appeal to the emotions, a true stimulant of the conscience. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)

Rightly dividing the word of truth

I. The Vulgate version translates it--and with a considerable degree of accuracy--“Rightly handling the word of truth.” What is the right way, then, to handle the word of truth?

1. It is like a sword, and it was not meant to be played with. It must be used in earnest and pushed home.

2. He that rightly handles the word of God will never use it to defend men in their sins, but to slay their sins.

3. The gospel ought never to be used for frightening sinners from Christ.

4. Moreover, if we rightly handle the word of God we shall not preach it so as to send Christians into a sleepy state. We may preach the consolations of the gospel till each professor feels “I am safe enough: there is no need to watch, no need to fight, no need for any exertion whatever. My battle is fought, my victory is won, I have only to fold my arms and go to sleep.”

5. And, oh, beloved, there is one thing that I dread above all others--lest I should ever handle the word of God so as to persuade some of you that you are saved when you are not.

II. But my text has another meaning. It has an idea in it which I can only express by a figure. “Rightly dividing, or straight cutting.” A ploughman stands here with his plough, and he ploughs right along from this end of the field to the other, making a straight furrow. And so Paul would have Timothy make a straight furrow right through the word of truth. I believe there is no preaching that God will ever accept but that which goes decidedly through the whole line of troth from end to end, and is always thorough, earnest, and downright. As truth is a straight line, so must our handling of the truth be straightforward and honest, without shifts or tricks.

III. There is a third meaning to the text. “Rightly dividing the word of truth” is, as some think, an expression taken from the priests dividing the sacrifices. When they had a lamb or a sheep, a ram or a bullock, to offer, after they had killed it, it was cut in pieces, carefully and properly; and it requires no little skill to find out where the joints are, so as to cut up the animal discreetly. Now, the word of truth has to be taken to pieces wisely; it is not to be hacked or torn as by a wild beast, but rightly divided. There has to be discrimination and dissection.

1. Every gospel minister must divide between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.

2. We need also to keep up a clear distinction between the efforts of nature and the work of grace. It is commendable for men to do all they can to improve themselves, and everything by which people are made more sober, more honest, more frugal, better citizens, better husbands, better wives, is a good thing; but that is nature and not grace. Reformation is not regeneration.

3. It is always well, too, for Christian men to be able to distinguish one truth from another. Let the knife penetrate between the joints of the work of Christ for us, and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Justification, by which the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, is one blessing; sanctification, by which we ourselves are made personally righteous, is another blessing.

4. One other point of rightly dividing should never be forgotten, we must always distinguish between the root and the fruit. “I want to feel a great change of heart, and then I will believe.” Just so; you wish to make the fruit the root.

IV. The next interpretation of the apostle’s expression is, practically cutting out the word for holy uses. This is the sense given by Chrysostom. I will show you what I mean here. Suppose I have a skin of leather before me, and I want to make a saddle. I take a knife, and begin cutting out the shape. I do not want those parts which are dropping off on the right, and round tiffs corner; they are very good leather, but I cannot just now make use of them. I have to cut out my saddle, and I make that my one concern. The preacher, to be successful, must also have his wits about him, and when he has the Bible before him lie must use those portions which will have a bearing upon his grand aim.

V. One thing the preacher has to do is to allot to each one his portion; and here the figure changes. According to Calvin, the intention of the Spirit here is to represent one who is the steward of the house, and has to apportion food to the different members of the family. He has rightly to divide the loaves so as not to give the little children and the babes all the crust; rightly to supply each one’s necessities, not giving the strong men milk, and the babes hard diet; not casting the children’s bread to the dogs, nor giving the swine’s husks to the children, but placing before each his own portion.

VI. Rightly to divide the word of truth means to tell each man what his lot and heritage will be in eternity. Just as when Canaan was conquered, it was divided by lot among the tribes, so the preacher has to tell of Canaan, that happy land, and he has to tell of the land of darkness and of death-shade, and to let each man know where his last abode will be. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Appropriate truth

Paul no doubt meant by this simile, that as a father at the dinner-table cuts and carves the meat, and divides it in proper shares to his family--a big piece for the grown-up son who works hard, and a small tender bit for the wee bairn who is propped up in a high chair next the mother--so all Christian workmen should divide religious truth, according to the capacity and the wants of the people amongst whom they labour. We are told in a fable that a half-witted man invited a number of creatures to a feast, at which he gave straw to the dog, and a bone to the ass. So, unless we think and reason, we shall be giving the wrong sort of food to the people who look to us for spiritual nourishment. When you are invited to visit the death-bed of a man whose life has been self-indulgent and occasionally vicious, and you see the tears of repentance in his eyes, it is a blunder to read him an account of the last judgment in the 25th of Matthew; but it is rightly dividing the truth to open the 15th chapter of Luke, and tell him the touching story of the father’s love to his penitent prodigal son. If you are asked to preach religious truth to a sceptic, do not ask him to believe that the whale swallowed Jonah; or that, one day, the sun stood still while an army fought out its battle. It would be like giving straw to a hungry god. Tell the sceptic the Divine parable of the humane Samaritan, and say, “If you copy the spirit of that man, you shall find it one of the gateways to God.” Would you influence for good a young man who is leaving home for the great city? Then, tell him the story of virtue as exhibited in the life of Joseph, who as a son, a brother, a slave, a servant, a overseer, a prisoner, and a prince, benefited man and glorified God. If you have to speak to children, tell them of the child Samuel, who prayed to God, and was consecrated to His service in one of the most illustrious lives of the Old Testament; and when you wish to impress upon a child that he should trust in God, read and expound to him the psalm which begins with the thrilling words, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”; and tell him of the sacred Saviour who took the little ones in His arms and blessed them, saying, “Of such little children is the kingdom of heaven.” If you are asked to go to a prison and speak to the convicted wretches, tell them of the poor, naked, dying thief on the cross who saw Jesus, believed in Him, prayed to Him, and the same day was received into paradise. And are you moved to give a word to the outcasts? Then, give them their share of suitable spiritual food. Tell them of Mary Magdalene whose heart was cleansed from its impure demons and filled instead with sacred love. And when the penitent outcasts weep while you speak of the Divine love, one may reply, “But, sir, no good woman will befriend such as we have been!” Then, tell them that when Mary Magdalene was converted she became the companion of the mother of Christ; and that if they trust in God and do the right, He will make a sacred path for them through the world and make them perhaps as useful and as honoured as the Magdalene whose service to Christ and His mother is the charm of the world. Yes; there is in this grand gospel history a share of food for everybody; and it should be for us to find it and bestow it according to the needs of the people. (W. Birch.)

Rightly dividing the word of truth

Truth is of various kinds--physical, mathematical, moral, etc.; but here one particular kind of truth is referred to, called the word of truth--that is, the truth of the Word of God--the truth of Divine revelation--theological truth. The Bible was not given to teach men philosophy, or the arts which have respect to this life; its object is to teach the true knowledge of God, and the true and only method of salvation.

1. The truths of God’s Word must be carefully distinguished from error.

2. But it is necessary to divide the truth not only from error, but from philosophy, and mere human opinions and speculations.

3. The skilful workman must be able to distinguish between fundamental truths, and such as are not fundamental.

4. Rightly to divide the word of truth, we must arrange it in such order as that it may be most easily and effectually understood. In every system some things stand in the place of principles, on which the rest are built. He who would be a skilful workman in God’s building must take much pains with the foundation; but he must not dwell for ever on the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, but should endeavour to lead His people on to perfection in the knowledge of the truth.

5. A good workman will so divide the word of truth, as clearly to distinguish between the law and the gospel; between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.

6. Another thing very necessary to a correct division of the word of truth is that the promises and threatenings contained in the Scriptures be applied to the characters to which they properly belong.

7. But finally, the word of God should be so handled that it may be adapted to Christians in different states and stages of the Divine life; for while some Christians are like “strong men,” others are but “babes in Christ, who must be fed with milk, and not with strong meat.” (A. Alexander. D. D.)

The right division of truth

We will suppose a workman dealing with the yet unrenewed and unshapen material--with the unconverted of his hearers; and we will study to show you how, if he would “rightly divide the word of truth,” and approve himself of his Master, he must use different modes according to the different characters upon which he has to act. To illustrate this we may refer to a passage in St. Jude, where the apostle thus expresses himself “Of some have compassion, making a difference; and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire.” Here you have gentle treatment prescribed; and you have also harsh treatment. Let us see how both will be employed by “a workman, that needeth not to be ashamed.” Of some, the minister is to “have compassion.” Is he not to have compassion of all? Indeed he is. Let him lay aside instantly the ministerial office; let him be pronounced utterly wanting in the very first qualification for its discharge, if there be the sinner whom he does not pity, for whom he is not anxious, or whose danger does not excite in him solicitude. All are to be regarded with a feeling of pity, but all are not to be treated with the same mildness and forbearance. Behold that young man whose family is irreligious, who, with perhaps a sense of the necessity of providing for the soul, is laughed out of his seriousness by those who ought to be urging him to piety--hurried to amusements which are only fitted to confirm him in enmity to God, and initiated into practices which can issue in nothing but the ruin of the soul. I could not treat that young person sternly. I could not fail, in any intercourse with him, to bear in mind his peculiar disadvantages. And though it would be my duty--else could I be “studying to approve myself unto God”?--to remonstrate with him on the madness of allowing others to make him miserable for eternity, the very tone of my voice must show that I spake in sorrow, and not in anger. Or, behold, again, that man in distressed circumstances, on whom press the cares of a large family, and who is tempted perhaps to gain the means of subsistence through practices which his conscience condemns--Sunday trading, for example. Could I go to the man in harshness and with severity? I must not, indeed, spare his fault. I must not allow that his difficulties are any excuse for the offence. I had “need to be ashamed as a workman,” if I did this; but, surely, when I think on his peculiar temptations, and hear the cries of his young ones who are asking him for bread, you will expect me to feel great concern for the man, and so to “divide the word of truth,” as to show that concern, by the manner in which I reprove his misdoing. Or, once more, a man of no very strong intellect, and no very great reading, is thrown into the society of sceptical men perhaps of brilliant powers, and no inconsiderable acquirements. Why, he will be no match for these apostles of infidelity! His little stock of evidence on the side of Christianity will soon be exhausted; and he will not be able to detect the falsehoods, and show the sophistries of the showy reasoners; and presently, by a very natural, though most unfair process, he will be disposed to conclude that what he cannot prove wrong must be right. Towards a man thus seduced our prevailing feeling will be compassion--a feeling which you cannot expect us to extend towards those who have seduced him, except in the broad sense that we are aware of their danger, and would snatch them from ruin. Again, it is melancholy to think how many an inquirer may have been repulsed, how many a backslider confirmed in apostasy, how many a softening heart hardened, how many a timid spirit scared by the mode in which the truth has been pressed on their attention. It requires great delicacy and address to deal successfully with a very sensitive nature; more especially where--to use the language of the world--there is much to excuse the faults which we are bound to rebuke. But if there be a right division of the word of truth, it is evident that whilst some of you may require the gentle treatment, others will need the more severe. There are cases of hardened and reckless men, reckless men, of the openly dissolute and profane--men living in habitual sin, and showing unblushing contempt for the truth of God. And we must not so speak as to lead you to suppose us sure that there are none amongst yourselves requiring the harsh treatment. There are men who cannot possibly be in any doubt as to the wrongness of their conduct, who cannot plead ignorance in excuse, or the suddenness of temptation, or the pressure of circumstances; but who have a decided preference for iniquity, and a settled determination to gratify their passions, or aggrandise their families--pursuing a course against which conscience remonstrates, and who would not themselves venture to advance any justification. And if we would “rightly divide the word of truth,” what treatment must we try with such men? Oh! these men may yet be saved! The word of truth does not shut them up to inevitable destruction. We are not despairing of any one amongst you, and we will not. We can yet again bring you the message of pardon. And thus whilst directed to make an effort to save you, and, therefore, assured that you are not past recovery, the word of truth enjoins severe and peremptory dealing. These are those of whom St. Jude uses the remarkable expression--“Others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire.” (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Adaptation in preaching

King Oswald, of Northumbria, sent for missionaries from the monastery of Iona. The first one despatched in answer to his call obtained but little success. He declared on his return that among a people so stubborn and barbarous success was impossible. “Was it their stubbornness or your severity?” asked Ardan, a brother sitting by; “did you forget God’s word to give them the milk first and then the meat?” (H. O. Mackey.)

Adaptation

A divine ought to calculate his sermon, as an astronomer does his almanac, to the meridian of the place and people where he lives. (J. Palmer.)

Close preaching

Do you not know that a man may be preached to liturgically and doctrinally, and never be touched by the truth, or understand that to which he listens? Suppose I were to preach to you in Hebrew, how much would you understand? Now, when I preach so that a banker, who has all along been sitting under the doctrinal preaching, but has never felt its application to his particular business, feels the next day, when counting his coin, a twinge of conscience and says, “I wish I could either practice that sermon or forget it,” I have preached the gospel to him in such a way that he has understood it. I have applied it to the sphere of life in which he lives. When the gospel is preached so that a man feels that it is applied to his own life, he has it translated to him. And it needs to be translated to merchants and lawyers, and mechanics, and every other class in society, in order that all may receive their portion in due season. (H. W. Beecher.)

Eccentric souls to be saved

Success in soul winning is only given to skill, earnestness, sympathy, perseverance. Men are saved, not in masses, but by careful study and well-directed effort. It is said that such is the eccentric flight of the snipe when they rise from the earth, that it completely puzzles the sportsman, and some who are capital shots at other birds are utterly baffled here. Eccentricity seems to be their special quality, and this can only be mastered by incessant practice with the gun. But the eccentricity of souls is beyond this, and he had need be a very spiritual Nimrod, a “mighty hunter before the Lord” who would capture them for Christ. (H. O. Mackey.)

False exposition

Few sermons are more false or dangerous than those in which the teacher professes to impress his audience by showing “how much there is in a verse.” If he examined his own heart closely before beginning, he would find that his real desire was to show how much he, the expounder, could make out of the verse. But entirely honest and earnest men often fall into the same error. They have been taught that they should always look deep, and that Scripture is full of hidden meanings; and they easily yield to the flattering conviction that every chance idea which comes into their heads in looking at a word is put there by Divine agency. Hence they wander away into what they believe to be an inspired meditation, but which is, in reality, a meaning less jumble of ideas, perhaps very proper ideas, but with which the text in question has nothing whatever to do. (John Ruskin.)

“Pray that sermon”

A young beginner at preaching, after throwing off a highly wrought, and, as he thought, eloquent gospel sermon in the pulpit, in the presence of a venerable pastor, solicited of his experienced friend the benefit of his criticisms upon the performance. “I have but just one remark to make,” was his reply, “and that is, to request you to pray that sermon.” “What do you mean, sir? I mean, literally, just what I say; pray it, if you can, and you will find the attempt a better criticism than any I can make upon it.” The request still puzzled the young man beyond measure; the idea of praying a sermon was a thing he never heard or conceived of; and the singularity of the suggestion wrought powerfully on his imagination and feelings. He resolved to attempt the task. He laid his manuscript before him, and on his knees before God, undertook to make it into a prayer. But it would not pray; the spirit of prayer was not in it, and that, for the very good reason--as he then clearly saw for the first time--that the spirit of prayer and piety did not compose it. For the first time he saw that his heart was not right with God; and this conviction left him no peace until he had “Christ formed in him the hope of glory.” With a renewed heart he applied himself anew to the work of composing sermons for the pulpit; preached again in the presence of the pious pastor who had given such timely advice; and again solicited the benefit of his critical remarks. “I have no remarks to make,” was his complacent reply, “you can pray that sermon.” (Sword and Trowel.)

In the closet

Of Mr. John Shepherd, of the United States, it is recorded that he was greatly distinguished for his success in the pulpit. When on his death-bed he said to some young ministers who were present, “The secret of my success is in these three things:

1. “The studying of my sermons very frequently cost me tears.

2. Before I preached a sermon to others I derived good from it myself.

3. I have always gone into the pulpit as if I were immediately after to render an account to my Master.” All who knew that devoted man would have united in expressing his secret in three words, “In the closet.” (Sword and Trowel.)

Nor by the depth either

A young minister having preached for Doctor Emmons one day, he was anxious to get a word of applause for his labour of love. The grave doctor, however, did not introduce the subject, and the young brother was obliged to bait the hook for him. “I hope, sir, I did not weary your people by the length of my sermon to-day?” “No, sir, not at all; nor by the depth either.” (Sword and Trowel.)

A useful preacher

I know a clergyman who valued as one of the best testimonies to his pulpit ministry the remark of a servant, overheard by a friend, after a sermon specially addressed to servants: “One would think he had been a servant himself.” (J. C. Miller, D. D.)

Advice to preachers

On the fly-leaf of a Greek Testament used by Dr. John Gregg, Bishop of York, are carefully written out the following memoranda for his own guidance. They will be found interesting to those who aim at speaking in appropriate language on a subject previously studied and thought over, and they will know that the hints given are the results of much experience: “Much depends on vitality and vigour of body, much depends on the mood and spirit in which you are; therefore pray, and feed your mind with truth, and attend to health. Much depends on subject; therefore select carefully. Much on preparation; therefore be diligent. Much on kind and number of hearers. Much on method; therefore arrange. Much on manner; therefore be simple and solemn, spirit earnest, tender and affectionate. Much on language; therefore be choice. All on the Spirit; therefore invoke His presence, and rely on His power, that you may expect docere, placere, movere. Energy depends on the state of mind and body, ease on calmness and self-possession; lifts on constant intercourse with people and variety of ranks, and much practice. Read aloud various passages and portions. Think much, and read select authors. Converse with refined and well-informed persons. Prepare well for each public occasion. Exercise your powers in public often, and always do your best. Let your public manner be an enlargement of your private, and let that be natural and simple, graceful without awkwardness or affectation.”


Verse 16

2 Timothy 2:16

Shun profane and vain babblings.

Shun

The word rendered “shun” is a strong one, and signifies, literally, to make a circuit so as to avoid; or as Alford paraphrases it, “the meaning seems to come from a number of persons falling back from an object of fear or loathing, and standing at a distance round it.” The word is used in Titus 3:9. (H. D. M. Spence, M. A.)

They will increase unto more ungodliness.

Will increase

προκόψουσιν. The metaphor is from pioneers clearing the way before an army, by cutting down all obstacles: hence to make progress, to advance. (James Bryce, LL. D.)

A lax life connected with erroneous doctrine

The close connection between grave fundamental errors in doctrine and a lax and purely selfish life is constantly alluded to by St. Paul. (H. D. M. Spence, M. A.)

Error is of an encroaching nature

Let the serpent but wind in his head, and he will quickly bring in his whole body. He that saith Yea to the devil in a little, shall not say Nay when he pleases. (J. Trapp.)

The odium theologicum, the worst of social devils

On approaching my subject I shall premise four things:

1. I have no disposition to underrate the importance of right beliefs in religion.

2. I hold it to be the right of every man to endeavour to propagate his beliefs.

3. I recognise the value of a rightly-conducted theological controversy.

4. The controversy of which I have to speak is that of a conventional theology. By a conventional theology I mean a theology which a man has received from others, rather than reached by his own research; a theology which has been put into his memory as a class of propositions, rather than wrought out of his soul as spiritual convictions; a theology which is rather the manufacture of other men than the growth of individual reflection and experience; a theology which is more concerned about grammar than grace--symbol than sense--sign than substance. Now, such controversies, in the nature of the case, must always be marked by two features.

I. Such controversies develop the most impious arrogancy. All the arrogancy of mere worldly men pales into dimness in the glare of the arrogancy which that man displays who dares pronounce a brother heretic because he subscribes not to his own views.

II. Such controversies develop the most lamentable dishonesty. The polemic of a mere scribe theology has ever been a cheat.

1. He cheats by the representation he makes of himself. He would have his readers or hearers believe that he has reached the conclusions in debate by a thorough study for himself of the holy Book. It is false. It is a law that self-reached convictions expel dogmatism. But the polemic of a mere scribe-theology cheats also by representing himself as being inspired only in the controversy by love for truth. It is not lore for truth; it is love for his own opinions.

2. He is dishonest in his representation of his opponents, he imputes motives not felt--ideas and conclusions not held.

III. Such controversies develop a most disastrous perversity. The conventional controversialist perverts the Bible, the powers of the intellect and the zeal of the heart.

IV. Such controversies develop the most heartless inhumanity. They blind the polemic to the excellences of others. The technical theologue who looks at a brother through the medium of his own orthodoxy, will fraternise with a modern scoundrel if he is orthodox; but, like Caiaphas of old, will rend his robes with pious horror at incarnate virtue if it conform not to his own views. What inhumanities have not been perpetrated in the name of orthodoxy! What built the inquisition? What kindled the flames of martyrdom? What animated Bonner? What prompted Calvin to murder Servetus? What roused the Jewish rabbis to put the Son of God to death? The remarks made will suffice to justify the proposition that the controversies of a mere conventional theology are the most effective means of developing depravity. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Profane babbling to be avoided

I. Profane vain babblings are to be avoided. How often does our apostle condemn them? Why are they to be avoided?

1. Because the branches which bear them are evil; as weakness of judgment, frowardness of will, and disorder in tile affections.

2. And do they not blemish our reputation? obscure the gloss of grace? hinder the acts of it? kindle corruption? and turn from the faith?

II. The causes which increase sin are to be removed. (J. Barlow, D. D.)


Verse 17

2 Timothy 2:17

Their word will eat as doth a canker.

Gangrene

The substitution of “gangrene” for “cancer” is an improvement, as giving the exact word used in the original, which expresses the meaning more forcibly than “cancer.” Cancer is sometimes very slow in its ravages, and may go on for years without causing serious harm. Gangrene poisons the whole frame, and quickly becomes fatal. The apostle foresees that doctrines, which really ate out the very heart of Christianity, were likely to become very popular in Ephesus, and would do incalculable mischief. The nature of these doctrines we gather from what follows. (A. Plummer, D. D.)

Unsound opintions

I. The Church in all ages hath been pestered with vain babblers,

II. Unsound opinions are of a spreading nature. And this is true of all sin, original and actual.

1. For doth not corruption, like a disease, disperse itself, and pollute every power of the soul and member of the body? What part is not infected with that leprous contagion? Hath it not spread also, by natural propagation, to all Adam’s posterity?

2. Will not all actual sin spread also? For unbelief, hath it not run into atheism? fear, into despair? anger, into fury? and that, to revenge? Foolish mirth will become madness; temporary faith, high presumption; and speculative lust, actual whoredom. Were not images, in the beginning, for civil use, to put men in mind of deceased friends; and are they not at this day, by the Romanists, religiously adored?

3. Shall we not see one error beget another?

4. Moreover, unsound opinions spread from person to person.

III. Sin will destroy, if not destroyed. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Justification by faith

This is a most striking and accurate description of the nature of heresy--it never remains inactive--it is sure to spread; an error in any essential point is sure, eventually, to corrupt the whole body of truth, just as a gangrene in the human body appearing, at first, as a small spot, gradually spreads, eating into the sound parts near it, and they, in their turn, infecting the rest, until the whole body is destroyed. The reason for this is very simple. The truths of religion are not a set of independent and unconnected notions bound up together in a creed, as men bind loose sticks into a bundle; they are closely connected parts of a great whole, arising one out of the other, so that you cannot deny one without denying or perverting a great many others; for once you admit a truth, you admit all its consequences; once you deny a truth, you must be prepared to deny, in like manner, all its consequences. God declares that false doctrine eats into the faith of the Church like a canker. Sacramental justification does this--therefore it is false. In order to show the injurious results of this false doctrine, we will take, for our example, that Church which most strongly holds it. The Church of Rome gives us the most awful instance of its effects. The Church of Rome holds that, at his baptism, every one is made perfectly holy; that if he remain in this state of grace, or if, after falling from it, he is restored to it again, so that he be in it at his death, then he is saved. Now let us suppose a church, as yet sound upon all other points, adopting this opinion. We shall see how it eats its way. And firstly, it must lead to the perversion of the doctrine of original sin. But further; every one knows that he is constantly committing little faults. “In many things we offend all.” But Rome affirms that some sins are venial, while others are mortal. But the law of God commands as welt as forbids, and they must, by their good works, continue to deserve God’s favour! Now, in such a system, every work must have its own proper value, it must be just so much merit towards justification: a man who works because he has been justified, does not stop to reckon or to price his good works; he works from love--he cannot do too much; but he who works that he may be justified, must keep count of his good deeds, and try to ascertain their value, that he may be sure he has really done enough to secure his justification. But this is not all. In such a system of external observances, it is clear that the man most remarkable for his lastings and his many prayers is the holiest man. But we may trace it further still. These holy men, who dwell apart from the common crowd, have clearly attained a degree of holiness greater than is necessary for their own salvation. May they not, then, bestow some of it on others? So far we have been tracing the effects of this false doctrine on those who believe that they are still in a state of justification because they have retained their baptismal purity. We have now to see its effects upon those who have reason to fear that they have lost their justification. Even when men have raised their own righteousness to the utmost, and lowered God’s law to the lowest, still the uneasy doubt will intrude itself--What if, after all, I have not done enough? what if I have fallen into mortal sin? Now, in such a case, of whom would the anxious sinner seek advice and consolation? who shall decide for him each nice case of conscience, and say what is venial and what is mortal sin? what are good works and what are not? Who but his pastor, God’s minister, whose province it is to study such matters? He wilt naturally ask him to decide for him what his state may be; but if so, he must confess all his sins to him: this spiritual physician must know all the symptoms of his case before he can give his opinion upon it; and, accordingly, the penitent will soon acquire the habit of auricular confession of all his sins to his priest. But what if this adviser, when consulted, shall decide that he has fallen from grace and is even in mortal sin? The priest cannot re-baptize him; how shall he regain his justification? This confessor has a right to declare God’s forgiveness; he preaches remission of sins; what if he have a right to give it? it is but a step from saying “You are forgiven,” to “I forgive you.” The fears of the penitent, the ambition of the priest, soon take it; the inquisitor becomes a judge, the ambassador assumes the authority of the king, the minister of Christ attempts to give the sinner the peace he needs, by usurping the office of his Lord and Master, who alone tins power on earth to forgive sins. The canker eats its way! There may, however, be cases where time is too short for the performance of penance--death may be imminent. For such a state another provision must be made--it is ready. There is a scriptural and primitive custom, that the elders of the Church should pray over a sick man, “anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” All that is necessary is, to make of this rite, a sacrament conveying to the insensible, sick man remission of sins, as baptism was supposed to have given it to the insensible infant; and then his salvation is secured. Mark, now, how the true doctrine of justification preserves from all this error. Being justified by faith “I have peace”; what need have I then to confess to man? I may come boldly into the holy of holies, through the new and living way; I need no man to tell me how great my sins may be; I can ask God to “pardon my iniquity, for it is great!” If I address myself to my fellow man, it is for counsel and consolation, not for pardon. I have no need of extreme unction, I have “an unction from the Holy One”; I have no need of purgatorial fire, for “the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin.” “Being justified by faith I have peace with God.” (W.G. Magee.)


Verse 18

2 Timothy 2:18

Saying that the resurrection is past already.

Error concerning the resurrection

The resurrection of the body, always a difficulty in ancient modes of thought, was especially so to those who, with the Essenes amongst the Jews, the Neo-Platonicians, and most of the early sects which afterwards expanded into Gnosticism, had adopted the dualism of the East, and held matter to be evil--sometimes the Evil Principle or his embodiment. Hence they were ready to avail themselves of the other sense of resurrection, the rising of those who were baptized into Christ to newness of life (Romans 6:3; Romans 6:5; Colossians 2:12); and they denied that any further revelation was to be believed. This error had been early taught in the Corinthian Church (1 Corinthians 15:12). (Speaker’s Commentary.)

And overthrow the faith of some.

Overthrowing the faith of others

After an infidel had succeeded in sapping the foundation of his mother’s faith in the Christian religion, he received a letter from her one day, informing him that she was near death. She said that “she found herself without any support in her distress; that he had taken away that only resource of comfort upon which in all cases of affliction she used to rely, and that she now found her mind sinking into despair. She did not doubt that her son would afford her some substitute for her religion; and she conjured him to hasten to her, or, at least, to send her a letter containing such consolations as philosophy could afford to a dying mortal.” He was overwhelmed with anguish on receiving this letter, and hastened to Scotland, travelling day and night; but before he arrived his mother expired.

Unreliable ministers

A misplaced buoy caused the wreck of a steamer worth £25,000, the loss of a valuable cargo and peril to many lives recently. The steamer, which was called the City of Portland, left Boston on her voyage to St. Johns, N.B., with seventy passengers on board and considerable freight. The night was clear, and as the steamer passed the Owl’s Head just before daybreak, the captain saw a striped buoy indicating the presence of a sunken rock. The course was altered in accordance with the position of the buoy, but in a few minutes the steamer struck a ledge. The pumps were started at once, distress colours set, and the boats cleared. The officers and crew retained their presence of mind, and despatched a boat for help. In a short time a steamer arrived, and took off the terrified passengers, but the steamer and cargo were a total loss. The captain of the ship was in no way blameable. The buoy, which was put there to be a means of safety, was by its displacement the cause of disaster. It had drifted. Similarly some preachers drift from orthodox positions, and their change of position may cause the wreck of the souls of those who flock to hear them.

Ministerial responsibility

During a voyage, sailing in a heavy sea near a reef of rocks, a minister on board the vessel made, in a conversation between the man at the helm and the sailors, an inquiry whether they should be able to clear the rocks without making another tack, when the captain gave orders that they should put off to avoid all risk. The minister observed, “I am rejoiced that we have so careful a commander.” The captain replied, “It is necessary I should be very careful, because I have souls on board. I think of my responsibility, and remember that, should anything happen through carelessness, souls are very valuable.” The minister, turning to some of his congregation who were upon the deck, observed, “The captain has preached me a powerful sermon; I hope I shall never forget, when I am addressing my fellow-creatures on the concerns of eternity, that I have souls on board.” (Archbp. Benson.)


Verse 19

2 Timothy 2:19

The foundation of God standeth sure.

Nevertheless

We should give full force to the μέντοι. If the spirit of the apostle was perturbed with vain babblings, or cruel mortification, or the spread of plausible or perilous theories, he required to fall back upon great and deep principles. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)

The foundation

Rather, “God’s firm foundation stands,” i.e., the Church, the “great house” of 2 Timothy 2:20, but here designated by its “foundation,” because the antithesis is to the baseless fabrics of heresy. Other explanations have been: the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, the promises of God, the fidelity of God, Christ, the Christian faith, the election of God. But the context and the analogy of Ephesians 2:19-22 leave little doubt of the correctness of the first interpretation. (Speaker’s Commentary.)

The foundation of God

The scene here is one of destruction and desolation. On all sides houses are shaken and overturned. The houses are individuals or communities professing to believe the gospel. The faith of some, of many diversely minded and diversely influenced, is overthrown. But, amid the storm and wreck occasioned by false principles issuing in corrupt practice, there is a building which standeth sure. Now it may be the Church collective of which it is said, the Church which has the Lord’s promise that the gates of bell shall not prevail against her. But it may also be the individual believer that is intended; for the collective Church and the individual believer are on the same footing. For my present purpose I take the text in this latter view, and hold it to be descriptive of the Christian man, continuing steadfast and firm in his faith amid many surrounding instances of backsliding and apostasy. He is a tower, or temple, or building of some sort standing sure; being the foundation of God. And in token of that security he is sealed. He is doubly sealed; sealed on both sides.

I. “The Lord knoweth them that are His.”

1. The Lord knoweth them that are His by signs or marks or tokens bearing on His interest or right of property in them, His ownership of them. Thus, He knows them as given to Him by the Father from before all worlds, in the everlasting covenant. The Lord knoweth them that are His as redeemed by Him. He knows them by the Spirit’s work in them also.

2. The other class of marks or tokens by which the Lord knoweth them that are His, those bearing upon their interest or right of property in Him, do unquestionably come within the range and sphere of your consciousness and experience. They are, in fact, in the main, but an expansion, or unfolding, of the last of the three former ones, the work of the Spirit making you Christ’s, and Christ yours, and keeping you evermore in this blessed unity.

Now, put together all these marks by which the Lord knoweth them that are His, and say what must His thus knowing them mean? what must it imply and involve? Nay, rather, what will it not include of watchful care, tender pity, unwearied sympathy, unbounded beneficence and liberality and bountifulness?

II. “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

1. Naming the name of Christ comes before departing from iniquity. This is the evangelical arrangement. And it is the only one that can meet the sinner’s case.

2. Naming the name of Christ is to be followed by departing from iniquity: and that not only in the form of a natural and necessary consequence to be anticipated, but in that of obedience to a peremptory command. It is not said, He that nameth the name of Christ may be expected, or will be inclined, or must be moved by a Divine impulse, to depart from iniquity. But it is expressly put as an authoritative and urgent precept. “Let him that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

3. Naming the name of Christ and departing from iniquity thus go together. They are not really twain, but one. There is not first a naming of the name of Christ, as if it were an act or a transaction to be completed at once, and so disposed of and set aside; and then thereafter a departing from iniquity, as its fitting consequence and commanded sequel. The two things cannot be thus separated. For, in truth, naming the name of Christ involves departing from iniquity; and departing from iniquity is possible only by naming the name of Christ. (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

The palace and its inscription

I. The safety of the church is founded on God’s immutability. Whether the truth is regarded as an abstract existence, or as personified in the Church, it takes its stand on this attribute of the Divine Being. All ecclesiastical history is but a commentary upon the fact that “the foundation of the Lord standeth sure.” The pledge of Church safety rests on Fact and Promise. Time would fail us to trace out the former. We see it in that dark vessel ploughing the waves of an ocean-sepulchre, and settling on the crest of Ararat. We see it in those weeping tribes by the river of Babylon; for though their harps are silent, the very breeze that stirs the willow echoes the voice of Israel’s God! We see it in that pillar of cloud and in that pillar of light. We hear Daniel rejoicing over it in the lion’s den, and the faithful Hebrews proving it in the furnace of fire, and all the countless multitudes of Christ’s confessors deepen the voice of confirmation! History is our stronghold of proof. We dare the sceptic to unbolt the door of the past, and show us wherein the Divine immutability has failed. Shall we turn to Promise, to show the Church’s safety? It is like turning to a sky lighted with constellations of suns, or to a world bespangled with rarest flowers, or to a land flowing with milk and honey. To record the promises were a task almost equal to transcribing the entire Bible.

II. The seal with which God has enstamped the Church partakes of his immutability. There is no mistaking it. Time does not obliterate it. The “seal” cannot be successfully counterfeited in the eye of God. He knows His own.

1. This “seal” is ornamental. A monarch’s star is a mere toy--give it time and it will rot. Young men, you seek after the decorative, here it is! It “shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.”

2. This “seal” is a passport to confidence. Christianity has won many compliments in its practical outworking, from those who effect to despise the evidence on which its claim to divinity is founded!

3. This “seal” is an earnest of future glory. Such is the testimony of Scripture (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 4:30).

III. The seal indicates discrimination and appreciation of character. “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” What mean those strange words? In the wide sense of creation all men are God’s--in the sense of Providence all are the pensioners of His bounty; and Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world. There are standing places in the universe, from which all humanity may be regarded as the peculiar property of God. But there is an inner circle in which are found hearts differing from the majority--hearts bearing the “seal” of God-property.

1. The thought that God appreciates the Christian character, and will finally glorify it, is to the believer a source of comfort.

2. This thought, moreover, imparts a sense of security.

3. This thought, again, suggests principles of action. Fond as we may be of comfort, and anxious to be assured of security, there is something positive expected from our Divine relationship. If God knows me, the world must know me too. The Christian has a profession to maintain.

IV. Distinctions in moral character may exist without the seal of divine appreciation. If all men were God’s in the peculiar sense of the text, there would be no special meaning in its terms. A class is referred to, in contradistinction to all other classes. There are only two sections in the domain of moral being--the good and the bad; these again being broken up into almost endless sub-divisions, shades and stages of development. To make the leading proposition clearer, take a sample of instances:--

1. Here is a man of keen religious sensibility. A tender heart is a great treasure, indeed, but let not a few tears be considered proof of penitence.

2. Here is the rigid formalist. Religion is a life, not a form: it is an actual power and not an elaborate creed. The Cross, and not the pew, is the true way to heaven.

3. A third hopes in the mercy of God. A benevolent God, he argues, will not destroy one of His own creatures. He forgets the harmony of the Divine attributes. Overlooking an outraged justice, he hopes in an insulted love. Terrible is the portion of those who bear not God’s seal (Revelation 9:3-4).

V. The church, as a palace, must have unity, completion, and design. The Church is not a broken fragment or a shattered limb. It is a whole, where individual members have their part to play. The largo stones and the small ones must be side by side. The position that each shall occupy in the temple must be determined by the wise Master-builder. If one member is jealous of another’s position there is an end to unity and progress. We are each dependent on the other. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The firm foundation

The time in which we live presents two striking, and to many minds incongruous, features.

1. There is great unrest in the realm of religious thought and life. On every side are heard voices of dissent from both theological and ecclesiastical dogmas. Schools and Churches are shaken with strife. Many are anxiously questioning concerning the stability of the Christian faith, and not a few are prophesying evil. There is a strong and increasing revolt against traditionalism. But With this commotion in the realm of religious thought there is

2. a great increase of practical Christianity. Missions both at home and abroad are pushed more vigorously than ever, and with larger results. Education for the people advances with leaps and bounds. Philanthropic enterprises multiply in number and increase in wisdom and efficiency continually. The Church is stripping off her dainty garments and grappling with social problems in a new spirit. There is a broadening application of Christianity to life, such as no past age has witnessed. In a word, the situation is this: The power of dogma wanes, but the power of truth waxes; forms are decadent, life is crescent; religious authority is challenged on every side, spiritual influence broadens and deepens. Here is a seeming contradiction or anomaly. Many do not understand the times. In their alarm over the upheaval in the realm of religious thought they fail to see or to appreciate the uplift in the realm of religious life. Can we not see that

“God fulfils Himself in many ways,

Lest one good custom should corrupt the world”?

There is a “firm foundation of God.” A careful study of the Scriptures, of history, and of experience makes clear--

The foundation and its seal

I. First, let us think of the lamentable overthrow which the apostle so much deplored.

1. The apostle observed with sorrow a general coldness. It was in some respect coldness towards himself, but in reality it was a turning away from the simplicity of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith (see the 15th verse of the previous chapter).

2. Furthermore, the apostle saw with much alarm that teachers were erring. He names two especially, Hymenaeus and Philetus, and he mentions the doctrine that they taught--not needlessly explaining it, but merely giving a hint at it. They taught, among other things, that the resurrection was past already. I suppose they had fallen into the manner of certain in our day, who spiritualise or rationalise everything.

3. In Paul’s day many professors were apostatising from the faith because of the evil leaders. Sheep are such creatures to follow something that, when they do not follow the shepherd, they display great readiness to follow one another.

4. Paul also deplored that ungodliness increased. He says that the profane and vain babblings of his time increased unto more ungodliness.

II. Now let us turn to the subject which supplied Paul with consolation. He speaks of the abiding foundation: “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure.” What is this foundation which standeth sure? Those who have interpreted the passage have given many meanings to it, but I believe that all those meanings are really one. For the sake of clearness I would give three answers to the inquiry: the foundation is, secretly, the purpose of God; doctrinally, the truth of God; effectively, the Church of God; in all, the system of God whereby He glorifies His grace.

III. Now, we are to look at this foundation and observe the instructive incription. I think this figure best expresses the apostle’s intent; he represents the foundation-stone, as bearing a writing upon it, like the stone mentioned by the prophet Zechariah of which we read, “I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.” The custom of putting inscriptions upon foundation-stones is ancient and general. In the days of the Pharaohs, the royal cartouche was impressed upon each brick that was placed in buildings raised by royal authority. The structure was thus known to bare been erected by a certain Pharaoh. Here we have the royal cartouche, or seal, of the King of kings set upon the foundation of the great palace of the Church. The House of Wisdom bears on its forefront and foundation the seal of the Lord. The Jews were wont to write texts of Scripture upon the door-posts of their houses; in this also we have an illustration of our text. The Lord has set upon His purpose, His gospel, His truth, the double mark described in the text--the Divine election and the Divine sanctification. This seal is placed to declare that it belongs to the Lord alone, and to set it apart for His personal habitation. If I might use another illustration, I can suppose that when the stones for the temple were quarried in the mountains, each one received a special mark from Solomon’s seal, marking it as a temple stone, and perhaps denoting its place in the sacred edifice. This would be like the first inscription, “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” But the stone would not long lie in the quarry, it would be taken away from its fellows, after being marked for removal. Here is the transport mark in the second inscription: “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” The first mark--

1. Is concerning God and us. “The Lord knoweth them that are His.”

2. The text teaches us that the Lord discriminates. Some who bear His name are not His, and He knows them not.

3. “The Lord knoweth them that are His” signifies that He is familiar with them, and communes with them. They that are really the Lord’s property are also the Lord’s company: He has intercourse with them.

4. Further, the words imply God’s preservation of His own; for when God knows a man He approves him, and consequently preserves him. The second seal is concerning us and God--“Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Observe how the practical always goes with the doctrinal in holy Scripture. Those whom free grace chooses, free grace cleanses. This is a sweeping precept as to the thing to be avoided: let him “depart from iniquity”--not from this or that crime or folly, but from iniquity itself, item everything that is evil, from everything that is unrighteous or uuholy. The text is very decisive--it does not say, “Let him put iniquity on one side,” but, “Let him depart from it.” Get away from evil. All your lives long travel further and further from it. Do you know where my text originally came from? I believe it was taken from the Book of Numbers. Read in the sixteenth chapter the story of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. In the Septuagint almost the same words occur as those now before us. The Lord Jesus is exercising discipline in His Church every day. It is no trifling matter to be a Church member, and no small business to be a preacher of the gospel. If you name the name of Christ, you will either be settled in Him or driven from Him. There is continually going on an establishment of living stones upon the foundation, add a separating from it of the rubbish which gathers thereon. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The stability of God’s purpose

It may be asked, how did it happen that under the direct observation of the apostles themselves, standing as they did on such exclusive ground, acting in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, and clothed with all the awful powers of their high office--how happened it that so many and such dangerous errors arose? It might be permitted--

1. To ascertain the faith and put to the test the obedience of the sincere. There must be heresies that these may be proved and made manifest.

2. To show that the claims of the religion of Jesus Christ are not guided or influenced by secular authority, and that men’s minds are left perfectly free, at liberty to think and determine for themselves.

3. To illustrate the nature of the early discipline of the Christian Church. It was not such as affected men’s properties or lives, as has too frequently been the case where ecclesiastical authority has been felt. Paul put down error by virtue of his authority as an apostle; but we find nothing carnal in any of his proceedings.

4. To furnish occasions for developing more clearly the essentials of Christianity. Three topics of reflection are suggested to us here--

I. The stability of God’s purpose. The idea which we found on this part of the subject is, the certain continuance and continual accomplishment of God’s purposes, spite of all difficulties, oppositions, and enemies. But it has respect chiefly--

1. To the truth of God; and

2. To the Church of God.

II. The special objects of God’s purpose. “The foundation of God standeth sure; having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His,” etc.

1. In speaking of the special objects of God’s love, we shall notice chiefly the character under which they are described--they are “His.” This implies knowledge, discrimination, approbation, acknowledgment. They are “His”--His by dedication.

2. His in consequence of a gracious influence on their hearts.

3. His in consequence of an interest in Christ. But this question is naturally suggested: How are we to determine whether we are His? How are we to know that we belong to the number of the called, and chosen, and faithful? The answer is ready--“Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity,” and this leads us--

III. To consider the Holy character which ought to result from Christian principles. Consider here--

1. The profession assumed. They “name the name of Christ.” This includes in it an admission of His authority--a reception of His doctrines--a public avowal of their sentiments and convictions.

2. The obligation enjoined. Let him “depart from iniquity.” To depart from iniquity is to hate it--to be habitually opposed to the commission of it--to avoid it with the greatest circumspection--to seek and pursue whatever is opposed to it.

3. This is enjoined by the authority of Him whose name we bear. Can we think on that holy name without calling to mind the purity it should inspire? He gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity. Think of His character--it was holy and heavenly: of His doctrines--every word of God is pure: of His institutions--they are all designed to promote our sanctification: of the great ends and designs of His government--these are all connected with our purity. There is not a doctrine, not a testimony, not a precept which Christ has laid down, not a promise which He has caused to be recorded, which does not lead to the inculcation of holiness. On all parts of the Christian system we see inscribed, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”

4. This is enforced by the peculiar discoveries of revelation. Can you mention a doctrine which does not lead to holiness?

5. This departure from iniquity is an essential and constituent part of the salvation of the gospel.

6. This is provided for by the continual agency of the Holy Spirit.

7. This is the design of all gospel institutions.

8. This is the great end of all providential dispensations.

9. It is that without which all our professions would be nullified and useless. (J. Fletcher, D. D.)

What is religion

We have come in our day into times precisely like those of the apostle, in which there is a great movement throughout the whole civilised world, and a great change of feeling, either of apprehension or of words, in regard to the stability of the Christian religion. I declare that the essential elements of Christianity were never so apparent as to-day; that they were never so influential; that they were never so likely to produce institutions of power; that they never had such a hold on human reason and human conscience; and that the religious impulse of the human race was never so deep and never so strong in its current. In the first place, then, we must recollect that there may be very great changes around about religion, in its external forms, without any essential interior change, nay, even with the augmentation of its interior power. Some men think that anything which is a revelation from God must be always one and the same thing; but God’s revelation is alphabetic; it is a revelation of letters, and they can be combined and recombined in ten thousand different words, varying endlessly. The great facts which are fundamental to consciousness, once being given, are alphabetic; and these facts may be combined; and with the development of the human race in intelligence and moral excellence they go on taking new forms, and larger experiences must have a larger expression. It is said that men do not believe in virtue. Well, when a man tells me that the refinements of the schoolmen are lapsing on questions which relate to eternal regeneration through the Son of God, and that many of the fine distinctions between ability natural and ability spiritual are going outer men’s thoughts and out of much use, I admit it; but I say that the great fundamental truths of religion, namely, the nature of man, the wants of man, and Divine love as a sufficient supply for human wants--instead of growing weaker are growing stronger in men’s minds. After all the pother that is made about the doctrines of human depravity, and the need of regeneration by the power of the Holy Ghost, are they not true? Men kick them about like so many footballs; but do they not recognise them as true when they are stated in a different way from that in which they have been accustomed to hear them stated, and in a way which is suited to the experience of our times? Men think these truths are passing out of the world; but I say they are simply taking another form of exposition. The truths themselves are inherent, universal, indestructible. Religion is not one thing. It means the moving of the human soul rightly toward God, toward man, and toward duty. He who is using his whole self according to laws of God is religious. Some men think that devotion is religion. Yes, devotion is religion; but it is not all of religion. Here is a tune written in six parts, and men are wrangling and quarrelling about it. One says that the harmony is in the bass, another that it is in the soprano, another that it is in the tenor, and another that it is in the alto; but I say that it is in all the six parts. Each may, in and of itself, be better than nothing; but it requires the whole six parts to make what was meant by the musical composer. Some men say that love is religion. Well, love is certainly the highest element of it: but it is not that alone. Justice is religion; fidelity is religion; hope is religion; faith is religion; obedience is religion. These are all part and parcel of religion. Religion is as much as the total of manhood, and it takes in every element of it. All the elements of man hood, in their right place and action, are constituent parts of religion; but no one of them alone is religion. It takes the whole manhood, imbued and inspired of God, moving right both heavenward and earthward, to constitute religion. I ask you to consider what religion is according to the definition of Paul--“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” I do not care whether a man whitewashes or blackwashes his fence, or whether he uses guano or barn-yard manure, or what his mode of cultivation may be, the question is, Does he get good fruit? If he does, his method is good. Now, I take it that the apostle is speaking of religion when he speaks of the fruit of the Spirit; and the fruit of the Spirit is what? Orthodoxy? Oh, no. Conscience? Not a bit of it. One of the fruits of the Spirit is love; and is love dead? Another fruit of the Spirit is joy; and is joy gone? Peace, the strangest of fruits--is it not slowly coming to be that which is the unison of all other qualities with blessedness in the soul? Ye, then, who mourn because particular modes are changing, and think that religion is dying out, look deeper, and pluck up hope out of your despair, and confidence out of your fear; and to you that think religion is going away because of science, let me say that science is the handmaid of religion. It is the John Baptist, oftentimes, that clears the way for true religion. By religion I do not mean outward things, but inward states. I mean perfected manhood. I mean the quickening of the soul by the beatific influence of the Divine Spirit in truth, and love, and sympathy, and confidence, and trust. That is not dying out. (H. W. Beecher.)

The sure foundations

It is the nature of truth, as it is developed by human intelligence and used for practical purposes, to gather to itself instruments and institutions. The permanence of great fundamental truths, and the infinite variability of the exponents of truth, in the form of law, custom, philosophical statement--these are the two great truths with which we are to expound the past history of religion in the world, and by which also we are to prepare the way for its development in the days that are to come. After a while men lose sight of the truth in the instruments of it. They cease to worship the thing, and worship its exponent; so that, by-and-by, it is not the truth that men follow so much as its institutions. And so, as soon as this takes place, men, following their senses and their lower nature, begin a process of idolatry, of professionalism; and they become worshippers of the sensuous. So it comes to pass that all religions tend on the one side downward, and on the other side upward. The tendency to carry on truth to a higher and nobler form co-exists with another tendency to hold the truth in just the same confined forms with which it has hitherto been served. And so Churches find in themselves the elements of explosion and of controversy. Then comes revolution or reformation. Then comes sectarianism, or the principle, rather, from which sects grow. Now, in the time of St. Paul, vast changes were taking place. Mosaism, or religion as developed through the instrumentality of Mosaic institutions, had ripened and gone to seed, and was passing away; and in so far as the Gentile world was concerned, there was no further attempt on the part of the apostles to teach religion by the old forms and under the old methods. If you turn your eyes toward the Greek nation, which was the thinking nation of the world, they had knowledge, philosophy and art, but they had no moral sense. If you turn to the Roman empire, there was organisation, there was law, and an effete idolatry. Now came Christianity. But Christi-unity in itself, in its very origin, was vexed with schisms, with disputings; and it was in the midst of these confusions that Paul made the declaration of our text, that “the foundation of God standeth sure.” No matter what this man thinks, or that man teaches; no matter what shadows come or go, be sure of one thing--that the immutable foundations of religion stand. They will not be submerged permanently, nor will they rot in the ground; and they have this seal or superscription, written, as it were, on the corner-stone: “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” There is the great truth of Divine existence, and intelligence, and active interference in human affairs. God is not blotted out by men’s doubts, or reasonings, or philosophies, themselves caused by the interpenetration of Divine thought upon human intelligence. “God knoweth them that are His.” “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” That is the other seal--aspiration for goodness; departure from all evil; an earnest, thorough and persistent seeking after a godly manhood. There are the two elements. There are fundamental elements in a Christian Church which we ought to speak of, and which we ought to mean when we speak of fundamental doctrines, and there are those which are necessary for the formation of the individual character, and for the transformation of man from an animal to a spiritual being. These are the fundamental truths which stand connected with the existence, government, and power of God in the world; and also with the organised development of human nature, that it may rise toward God. Now, it so happens that there are a great many things fundamental to theology which are not at all fundamental to human nature; and it so happens, on the other side, that there are in human nature a great many things which are fundamental to the organisation of a noble and manly character, but are hardly recognisable in theology at all. We ought, then, to clear our minds of the misuse of the term fundamental doctrines. No doctrines are fundamental except those that teach the Divine existence and government, or that teach the condition and wants of human nature, and its reconstruction, its re-organisation into Christian manhood. Men cannot live without religion. They cannot be men without it. The State calls for it; art calls for it; home and domesticity call for it; the voice of mankind and the voice of the ages have called and are calling for it; and they are either ignorant or cowardly who fear that any great disaster is going to befall religion in consequence of the progress which is taking place in the investigation of truth. Do you believe in a providence? Is this great world floating without a rudder, without a pilot or a captain? is time made up of chance-drifts? or is there a God? If there is a God, has He a future, and is He steering time and the race towards that future? And will He sleep or forget, and allow the race to run to ruin? The Word of God, the foundations of God, stand sure. Now, this general fear will lead us to take into Consideration the necessity of a closer union and affiliation of true Christian people. It seems to me what we need is, not to go back to old systems, or to cling to the old Churches, but simply this: that we should search for the great fundamental facts and truths which stand connected with the development of human nature from animalism to spirituality, and work together on these common grounds. Not that I would abolish ordinances, days, or institutions. I say to every sect, “Act according to your belief in regard to these things. Keep your theory; ordain as you think best; organise as you think best; let your ordinances be such as you think best; make your philosophical systems such as you think best; but stand with your brethren. Do not let the veins of your life run just as far as the walls of your church, and then come back again; let them go forth throughout Christendom.” (H. W. Beecher.)

The foundations of the Christian faith

The scepticism which we have to meet to-day concerns itself not with specific doctrine, but with the very roots and foundation of Christian faith itself. Time was when t, he foundation of Christian faith was the authority of the Church. The authority of the Church as the foundation of Christian faith has passed away. Nor is the Bible, the printed Book, in any true and profound sense the foundation of our Christian faith. Underneath the Bible there is a foundation on which the Bible itself rests. Now modern thought proposes, in lieu of these two foundations, another, the human reason, and it asks us to bring all our questionings and our faiths to the bar of the intellect, and have them adjudged and determined there. I shall not stop to argue whether reason be a sufficient foundation for our Christian faith; but I undertake to say that it is not the foundation of our Christian faith, and that we believe not because things are asserted by the Church, not merely because they are printed in the Book, not merely because they commend themselves to our reason. Deep down in the human life there is yet a foundation underneath all these. We do not object to bringing all Christian faiths to the bar of reason. We believe our Christian faith is not unreasonable; but there are truths which are not arrived at by argumentative processes; they are not reached by processes of logic; they are not demonstrated; they are known. AEsthetic truths, we do not prove them, we see them. All our moral beliefs rest on this foundation; we do not argue them, we know them. Love, patriotism, honesty, justice, truth, by what chemical processes will you analyse these? How will you put them into the scales and weigh them; by what logical demonstration will you prove they exist? Now that which is true in respect of all the aesthetic elements of life, that which is true in respect of the moral element of life is true in respect of the great spiritual realm. Our articles of Christian faith rest on our vital, personal, living experience in them. Why do I believe in God? Why do you believe in your mother? You have seen her. I beg your pardon; you never saw your mother. You have seen the eyes, the forehead, the cheeks, the face--that is not mother. If that be mother, then why, when the form lies prostrate, and you press the kiss upon the lips, and they give no answering kiss back, and you press the hand, and it gives no answering pressure back, why burst you into tears? Why wring your hands with grief? The lips are there, the brow is there, the cheeks are there, all that you ever saw is there. But mother is gone; and love, patience, fidelity, self-sacrifice, long-suffering--that is what makes the mother that you loved--that you have never seen. And we believe in God because we have known the tenderness of His love, because in times of great weakness He has strengthened us, and in times of great sorrow He has comforted us, and in times of great darkness He has guided us, because we have known in our inmost experience the power that is of God in life’s struggle. Why do you believe in immortality? It is not because of the philosophical arguments that have been addressed to you; it is not because of the proof texts you can find in the Scriptures; we know that we are immortal, as the bird knows that it has power to fly while yet it lies in its nest, and waits for the moment when it shall soar off into the invisible air. There is no better argument for immorality than that of the French Christian to his deistical friend. When the deist had finished a long scholastic argument, the Christian Frenchman replied, with a shrug of the shoulders, “Probably you are right; you are not immortal, but I am.” Now, when this view of the foundation of the Christian faith is employed, men sometimes object to it and say, “You are appealing to our feelings, you are not willing to test Christian truth where all truth must be tested, in the clear light of reason; you are appealing to our feelings, to our prepossessions, to our desires, to our sentiments.” Not at all. I am putting our Christian faith on that foundation on which all our knowledge and all our belief rest, albeit our Christian faith stands closer to the foundation than anything else. All that science has taught us, all that travel, all that history, all that observation, either of our own or observations of others, all is based, in the analysis, upon this--the truthfulness either of our own personal consciousness, or of the consciousness of others. Now, we carry in our hearts the consciousness of a Divine presence outside ourselves. We look upon this life of Christ, and it stirs within us a new and a Divine life. We know the power there is in the pardoning and atoning grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why do we believe the Bible is an inspired Book? Because it is an inspiring Book, because it has given us comfort that no other book ever did, life that no other book ever gave, strength that no other book ever gave, because in our own personal use and experience of it it has been the life of God in our hearts. Moreover, our Christian faith rests not merely upon our own consciousness, it rests upon the concurrent consciousness of innumerable witnesses. But mark you one thing more. Our Christian faith rests on our consciousness, on the concurrent consciousness of witnesses verified by actual testimony. Christianity is not a theory. It proposes to do something for me. Compare old Rome with England or America of to-day with all our vices, with all our shortcomings, with all our corruptions, and behold what is the answer of history to the claim that Christ has made. Why, when Mr. Morse first proposed the magnetic telegraph it was not strange that men were sceptical. When he said “By touching a little key here I communicate a message to a man a thousand miles yonder,” no wonder that wise and conservative people shook their heads and shrugged their shoulders, and said, “Impossible!” But when the wire had been laid from Washington to Baltimore, and the first message was flashed through that wire, “Behold what God hath wrought,” how could any man doubt when the work was achieved? Some of you will say, “Ah! this will not give us a well-defined theology.” Well, perhaps not. But who can stand and look out into the vast future, and define immortality? Who can look up into the heavens and define God? Who can look into his own soul and define there the sins that have oppressed him, or the Saviour that has redeemed him from them? No, no; our experiences do transcend all our definitions, being beyond them. And some of you will say, “This is well for those of you that have this experience, but I have it not.” Is that any reason why you should not believe? Now, let us reason this matter one moment. Because you do not enjoy the music of Beethoven will you therefore conclude that all musical enjoyment is a myth? Because you, standing on the deck of an Atlantic steamer, cannot see the light of the far-distant lighthouse which the ship captain with his better trained eye does see, will you conclude that he is mistaken and you are right? If it be true that there is a testimony coming from innumerable hosts of witnesses to the reality of God’s presence, to the certainty of immortality, to the inspiration of God’s Book, to the vital saving power of a living Christ, will you reject the light because you are blind? Will you deny the truth because you see it not? A father and his son stand on the shores of the Bay of Fundy. A great tidal wave forty feet in height comes roiling in, when the boy catches the father’s hand in terror, and cries, “Run, father, run; the ocean is going to wash us away.” The father looks and smiles upon the lad, and says, “Wait, wait.” The great wave dashes itself into innumerable atoms of foam upon the great rock, and sweeps back into the ocean. And when this tidal wave of scepticism shall have expended its force it will be found broken into innumerable atoms of foam at the foot of a rock which shall stand through all the future, as in all the past, the Rock of Ages. (L. Abbott. D. D.)

The Lord knoweth them that are His.

All God’s people favourites

It is said of Tiberius, the emperor, that he never denied his favourite Sejanus anything, and often prevented his request; so that he needed only to ask and give thanks. All God’s people are His favourites, and may have all that their hearts can wish, or their need require. (J. Trapp.)

Affectionate remembrance

At Bury St. Edmunds, I went to the infirmary of the workhouse, where, amongst other patients in bed, I conversed with an old m an, who, if I remember rightly, was over eighty years of age. As it lay outside the counterpane, I noticed that his arm from the elbow to the wrist was covered, after the manner of sailors’ tattooing, with numerous letters. On asking him what they were, he said, “Why, you see, sir, I’ve had nine children, and all are gone; some I know be dead, and some I don’t know whether they be dead or alive, but they’re all the same to me; I shall never see any of them again in this world. But I’ve got all their initials here on my arm; and it’s a comfort to me as I lie here to look at ‘em and think of ‘em.” It was all that this poor old man could do for his sons; but he held them in affectionate remembrance, though he needed not the sight of their initials to remember them by. Our heavenly Father knoweth and taketh pleasure in all them that are His. He bears them all on His heart, and His power to help and to bless them is as great as His wealth of love. (B. Clarke.)

Hidden Christians

There are stars set in the heavens by the hand of God, whose light has never reached the eye of man; gems lie covered in the dark abysses of earth that have never yet been discovered by the research of man; flowers which have grown in blushing beauty before the sun, that have never been seen by the florist; so there may be Christians, made such by God, who are hidden from the knowledge of this world. (John Bate.)

Unknown, yet well known

Many of the greatest saints have lived and died unknown and uncared for by the world. These are God’s secret ones, unknown to men, well-known to God. About some of the saints and apostles we hear much; the lives and works of St. Paul and St. Peter are familiar to us all. It is not so with St. Bartholomew, and yet none of the martyrs worked more faithfully, or suffered more severely. He who laboured so successfully for Christ, and suffered so severely, is only mentioned four times in the New Testament, and then very slightly. There is no word to record his hard toil, his burning love, his patient suffering, and his noble death. And so it is with many of the greatest of God’s saints. No one knows the name of Naaman’s little servant, who brought her master to God. The names of the Holy Innocents appear in no earthly book. That pious widow who gave all she had to the Temple is not named; and there are thousands of others, who though “unknown, are well known to God, whose names are not written on earth, but are written in heaven. There are many who are now living for God, and working for Him, and suffering for Him, of whom this world knows nothing. There will not be, perhaps, a paragraph about them in the newspapers, but “the Lord knoweth them that are His.” God has hidden saints in everyplace, dwelling under cottage thatch, as well as in great houses. These are the gems which no earthly eye has ever valued, but they will shine none the less brightly on that day when God makes up His jewels. (H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)

The Lord knoweth them that are His

The Church at Ephesus, at a very early age, suffered from that stumbling-block--the “falling away” of professors. Oh! I do not wonder at the pain and the perplexity which the young missionary at Ephesus seemed to feel, at the thought of “the falling away” of many whom he had been wont to teach, and love, and hope, and pray for. But mark the delightful emphasis of that “nevertheless”--“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure.” Perhaps, of those who set out with you on the road to heaven, some years ago, it may have been your painful lot to see one after another stop, lie down, and go to sleep, and die. “Nevertheless, nevertheless! the foundation of God standeth sure.” Or, look again at that “nevertheless.” One by one the friendships and the happinesses of life have been melting away from you. And now every idol has been pulled down; and now almost the only hope of your earthly support is gone: oh! with what sweetness at such amoment will that thought come back to you, “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure!” You have a Friend that never can leave you. Or it may come closer than this. It may please God to bring trial more home to your heart. He may lead you through a long, dark cloud, where it may seem to you as if every trace of comfort was obliterated for ever,--“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure.” Beneath the feet the “foundation” stands. The building may fall, but the “corner-stone” is safe. There is pardon; though there is no sense of it. There is faith; though there is not “the joy in believing.” There is Christ; though there is not the feeling of Christ. That cloud will roll over, and when the morning breaks, it will light up that “foundation,” brighter, clearer, and more saving, for ever. For “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure.” You see, then, that the whole of a man’s peace and all his security depend upon this,--What is his “foundation”? It is the plainest of all plain Scriptural truths, that the only “foundation” of any soul’s safety is the Lord Jesus Christ. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus.” “Other foundation” may have a momentary peace; but this only can support the super-structure for eternity. Now this truth the apostle carries out into a little more detail. In order to do it, his mind borrows an image from a ceremony common at the commencement of the erection of a public building, when a king, as he lays the foundation-stone, sets upon it the impression of the royal seal. In like manner, as if to give the believer’s hope a two-fold security, God is said not only to “lay the foundation,” but to “seal” it; and when He “seals” it, He seals it to Himself, by the “oath” with which He “confirms it”; and to the believer, by the Spirit in which He gives it. Now, that “seal,” with which God stamps every converted soul, is two-fold. Or, to speak more accurately, it is a single “seal” which has two faces. Accordingly, on the heart of every child of God, on the ground of it, there will be found two inscriptions, which the hand or” seal” of God has engraven there. In other words, there are two fundamental principles which God has placed there. The one stands out clear, legible, and large--“The Lord knoweth them that are His.” And the other is like unto it--“Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” The “seal” must have been twice stamped--both inscriptions must have been there--before the soul is safe, and stands quite “sure.” Now, let us look at the two sides of that “seal”; first, separate; and then together.

I. The first in the relation, as also the first that is laid upon the heart, is the impression of God’s love. “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” This records that truth of truths on which the whole gospel rests, as upon one base--that salvation is all of God’s eternal, sovereign love. This must be held by every man who wishes to enjoy the peace of God: that it was God who “knew” me, loved me, and cared for me, and drew me long before I ever had any thoughts of Him. The whole of a man’s safety depends upon this: “The Lord knew” me from all eternity; “the Lord knew” me when He drew me to Himself; “the Lord knows” me now--all my little thoughts and works: “the Lord knows” I am trying to serve Him; “the Lord knows” I wish to love Him. But as the one side of God’s “seal” is privilege, the other is duty.

II. The one is God’s love, the other is your holiness. “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” The two sides must never be divided. But as the stamp of God’s love is laid, so must the stamp of man’s obedience be laid. God’s love first, to teach that there can be no real obedience till there is first a sense of God’s love. Feelings often have deceived us, and they will deceive again. But the question is, practically, Are you “departing from iniquity”? Observe the expression. It is not one single act; but it is a gradual, progressive retiring back from evil, because, more and more, the good prevails. Now, bow is it? Say you have conquered the acts of sin, have you conquered the desires? Say you have conquered the desires, have you conquered the thoughts? Do you think that your temper is being every day more subdued? Is your pride lessened? Your worldliness, and your covetousness--are they receding? Would your own family--would your own dearest friend have cause to say, that you are growing every day in grace? Is it a “seal,” think you, that can be “read of all men” upon you? Could they see it exemplified? (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Inscription on foundation stones

The figure is probably drawn from the practice of engraving inscriptions on one or both sides of the foundation-stone. So, in Revelation 21:14, the names of the twelve apostles are found on the twelve foundations of the mystical Jerusalem. “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” Not as expressing the knowledge that flows from an inscrutable decree, but, as in 1 Corinthians 8:3; 1 Corinthians 13:12; John 10:14, the knowledge, implying love and approval, which Christ has of those who are truly His. This represents one side of the life of the believer, but, lest men interpret the truth wrongly, the other side also needs to be put forward, and that is found in personal holiness. (E. H. Plumptre, D. D.)

The chosen known to God

“The Lord knoweth them that are His” is a citation from the Septuagint of Numbers 16:5, and a moment’s consideration will show bow appositely the apostle quotes this passage. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram had gathered themselves together against Moses on the plea of the holiness of the whole congregation: “all the congregation,” they said, “are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye yourselves up above the congregation of the Lord?” Hero then certain bad men had got hold of a true principle, but were applying it wrongly and rebelliously. It was quite true that all the congregation were holy, but it was also true that God had especially sanctified the sons of Levi above the remainder of His people. Korah and his company came forward with specious pretensions to superior spirituality; they asserted that all the people of Israel were priests of God--a great truth in itself, but not, therefore, to supersede another truth, viz., that God had chosen a certain tribe to be specially His priests. So Hymenaeus and Philetus asserted a great truth, viz., the nature and importance of the spiritual resurrection; but because they so asserted it as to supersede by it another plainly revealed truth, they undermined and overthrew the very faith itself, and proved themselves to be the children of Satan, and not of God. (M. F. Sadler, M. A.)

Inconspicuous lives related to heaven

In modern times it has been found out that, by a wise adaptation of electricity, an organ can be played many miles away, under certain conditions. If the keyboard is connected with the battery, and the wires run, no matter how far, even hundreds and thousands of miles--if the battery be properly charged and the wires run, say, to New Orleans, the organist sitting here may thunder there the majestic tones of an anthem. And if you consider that the human soul is a battery, and that all its wires run into the heavenly land, there are many inconspicuous persons living in the world of whom we see and hear and know nothing, but from whom to heaven wires go, and around whose souls are angel assemblies gathered together chanting joyful songs; and there are many men a knowledge of whom the telegraph wires are busy communicating, and about whose fame the newspapers pile telegraph upon telegraph; there ate many noisy men respecting whom there is much ado made on earth, but there is not a single wire that runs between them and the other life. (H. W. Beecher.)

God’s knowledge of His children

I remember a story of Mr. Mack, who was a Baptist minister in Northamptonshire. In his youth he was a soldier, and calling on Robert Hall, when his regiment marched through Leicester, that great man became interested in him, and procured his release from the ranks. When he went to preach in Glasgow he sought out his aged mother, whom he had not seen for many years. He knew his mother the moment he saw her, but the old lady did not recognise her son. It so happened that, when he was a child, his mother had accidentally wounded his wrist with a knife. To comfort him she cried, “Never mind, my bonnie bairn, your mither will ken you by that when you are a man.” When Mack’s mother would not believe that a grave, fine-looking minister could be her own child, he turned up his sleeve and cried, “Mither, mither, diona ye ken that?” In a moment they were in each other’s arms. All, the Lord knows the spot of His children! He acknowledges them by the mark of correction. What God is to us in the why of trouble and trial is but His acknowledgment of us as true heirs, and the marks of His rod shall be our proof that we are true sons. He knows the wounds He made when exercising His sacred surgery. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Pretended spirituality

It is as if Paul said, “Here are false teachers who, under a show of great spirituality, have overthrown the faith of some in the Church. They have come as angels of light. They have said, “The only real resurrection is the resurrection of a dead soul to the knowledge of God. Why trouble yourselves about any other resurrection except this?” And by these specious words--words which apparently only highly spiritual men could say--they have opened the flood-gates of unbelief; but God, after all, knows who are sound and who are rotten at heart. The Lord knoweth them that are His. The Lord sees through every pretence of sanctity. The sure foundation of God standeth, for God knows the souls who really and truly belong to Him. He knows them infallibly, and no one knows them but He. You see, St. Paul evidently implies that these falsely spiritual teachers, and those who were led by them, were not in heart God’s true people. We learn from this that our faith may be subverted and our souls ruined by pretenders to spirituality in religion. We may extend this to our doctrines of the faith besides the resurrection of the body. The two sacraments, for instance, have each an outward part, which touches the body, or which is received by the body; and God has made the reception of the inward grace of the sacrament to depend, ordinarily speaking, on the reception of the outward sign. And now I have to put you on your guard against another form of specious yet false spirituality, with which a very large proportion of our modern religious literature is saturated. Beware of books and tracts, and appeals and sermons, full of deep doctrine and evangelical statements, without any duty--any lowly, common-place, homely Christine duty, mixed up with such doctrine or Gospel statements. No book of religion can possibly be more spiritual than St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. And yet, what sort of exhortations have we in the fourth chapter of this most spiritual Epistle? What I have said respecting the teaching of St. Paul is equally true of that of his brother apostles, SS. Peter, James, and John. Remember, then, that ii our standard of Christianity is the teaching of the apostles, then writings, full of high experience or sweet assurance, without any inculcation of lowly duty, are simply unscriptural, and so unspiritual. (M. F. Sadler, M. A.)

The seal of the foundation of God

The inscription is twofold; the first part relating to God, the second to ourselves; the first confirming our faith, the second directing our practice; the first permitting us to trust our all on our Redeemer, the second inciting us to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.”

I. In the visible Church the bad are mingled with the good. Many bear the name of Christian who have not even the outward appearance of the reality; others profess much with their lips, but are strangers to the power of religion in the heart: others, again, are despised by man, who yet bear about with them that pearl of great price--a true and lively faith, without which the rich are poor, and with which the poor are richer than all the world could make them. But all this is surrounded with such a mist Of circumstances and forms and conventional habits, that the difference is well nigh imperceptible to human eyes. Certain broad lines of distinction between those who may be the Lord’s, and those who certainly are not, may easily be drawn; but much will still be left where we may hope or fear, but cannot know. But God knows. His eye pierces through the outward covering of professions, and looks directly on the heart. And there is much comfort in the belief that God thus “knoweth them that are His.”

1. It is a guarantee of the safety of those who are His, whatever may be their station, or how powerful soever their enemies.

2. Joined to this belief also is the comfortable conviction that, where God” has begun a good work, He will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

3. And this truth furnishes a key to the mystery, that in the visible Church the bad are ever mingled with the good. To human eye they are, but not to God’s.

II. But this is but part of the seal or inscription on the foundation of God’s temple, and the part with which, however confirmatory of our faith and consolatory to our weakness, we have the less immediate concern. This relates to God’s knowledge, the other to our duties. “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

1. God’s foreknowledge does not at all diminish man’s responsibility, nor detract from the necessity of our own endeavours.

2. Man’s holiness is the end of God’s predestination. He has chosen those who are His, not simply to be happy, but to be holy. Would we read God’s eternal counsels concerning ourselves? We may do so with reverence and trembling hope; but only in our growing freedom from sin, and the increasing holiness of our lives. (John Jackson, M. A.)

Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.--“Iniquity” here includes the teaching of those false men above alluded to, as their teaching led away from the truth, and resulted in a lax and evil way of life. (H. D. M. Spence, M. A.)

Departing from iniquity the duty of all who name the name of Jesus

We are--

I. To show who they are whom the Lord charges to depart from iniquity. The text tells you it is everyone who names the name of Christ.

1. Baptized persons, capable to discern betwixt good and evil.

2. Who profess faith in Christ, and hope of salvation through Him.

3. Who pray to God through Christ.

4. Who profess faith in Christ, and holiness of life also.

5. Communicants who name the name of Christ in a most solemn manner, by sitting down at His table, before God, angels, and men.

II. To show what is implied in this departing from iniquity which God chargeth us to aim at. Here let us inquire in what this departure, this happy apostasy, lies. There is--

1. A giving up with our rest in sin. God chargeth you to awake and bestir yourself, to spring to your feet, and prepare to make progress in the ways of holiness.

2. A going off from sin, and giving up with it: “If I have done iniquity, I will do no more” (Job 34:32).

3. A standing off from sin, as the word properly signifies: “Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away” (Proverbs 4:15).

4. A going off to the other side, namely, to Christ and holiness.

5. A going farther and farther from sin. Let us inquire what of iniquity God charges us to depart from. It is the accursed thing, with which we have nothing to do. We must depart from all sin, from the whole of it. We must depart--

We now proceed--

III. To explain the nature of this charge. You may know the nature of this charge given to them in the text, by these following properties. It is--

1. An universal charge, and this in two respects.

2. A peremptory charge (Acts 17:30).

3. A charge for the present time (Psalms 95:7-8).

4. A charge with certification, a charge upon your highest peril (Hebrews 12:25). We are now

IV. To show why those particularly who name the name of Christ are charged to depart from iniquity. All to whom the gospel comes are so charged, but those who profess Christ are in a special manner thus charged. For--

1. The practice of iniquity is a contradiction to their profession; so that they cannot have this practice, but they give the lie to their profession.

2. Whosoever partakes of Christ’s salvation departs from iniquity; for salvation from sin is the leading and chief part of Christ’s salvation.

3. The practice of iniquity is in a peculiar manner offensive to God, and grieving to His Spirit.

4. It reflects a peculiar dishonour upon God; such sins bring a scandal upon that holy name and religion which they profess (Romans 2:24). We are now--

V. To make some practical improvement. This doctrine shows us--

1. That all and every one amongst us, by the authority of God who made us, and in whose name we were baptized, are obliged to depart from iniquity.

2. That for men to abstain from the sacrament of the supper, to this end that they may not be abridged of their liberty in sinful courses, is not only impious, but childish and foolish.

3. That they are bold adventurers, and run a dreadful risk, who come in their sins, unrepented of, and not sincerely resolved against, and sit down at the Lord’s table.

4. Behold here how the Lord’s table is fenced, by a fence of God’s own making. Our text debars from this holy table whosoever will indulge themselves in, and will not part with, any known sin whatsoever; particularly--

5. Behold how the door of access to the Lord’s table is opened to all true penitents, whose hearts are loosed from, and set against, all sin.

6. This shows us the necessity of self-searching, examining ourselves on this occasion (1 Corinthians 11:28). We exhort you to depart from iniquity, turn from your sins, since you name the name of Christ. (T. Boston, D. D.)

How is gospel grace the best motive to holiness? -

I. Departing from iniquity is no cause of justification.

II. Departing from iniquity hath its influence upon, though no cause of, our salvation (Hebrews 12:14).

III. Holiness is indispensably necessary unto all justified persons. As it was necessary that Christ should take upon Him our flesh, so it is as necessary that we should receive from Him His Spirit. As it is storied of one who was very debauched and wicked, and, taking up a Bible, which by his religion he had not been acquainted with (being a Papist), he confessed that whatsoever book that was, it made against him; so unless thou dost sincerely labour after holiness, there is never a word in all the book of God that speaks any comfort unto thee, none of the fruit that grows upon the Tree of Life can be tasted by thee. This might be more evinced if we fix our mind on these following reasons:--

1. From the nature of God. I mean the essential holiness of His nature, by which He cannot have communion with any one that is unholy, no more than light can have “fellowship with darkness”; but He indispensably hates and opposes all wickedness, and hath declared His enmity against it. Neither can the gospel change God’s nature, or make Him less to abhor sin. It is indeed a declaration of the way and means which God hath ordained to exalt his grace and mercy to the sinner by; but it is in saving of him from his sin, and not with it.

2. From the requisites in the gospel itself. All the privileges of the gospel do include or pre-suppose departing from iniquity. How did the Jews search every hole and corner of their houses to find out leaven, and how earnestly did they cast it away I or else the paschal lamb would not have availed them, and the destroying angel would not have passed from them. And “these things are our examples” (1 Corinthians 10:7), and tell us, that unless we industriously search out and cast away the leaven of sin and Wickedness, the very death of Christ, the Lamb of God, will profit us nothing. Let us take a view of the privileges of those that are saved by the gospel, and see how they are obliged to holiness by them.

3. It is written in our very natures, did we but understand them. Every man that receives a reasoning soul is, by his receiving of it, obliged to give God a reasonable service.

IV. Free pardon the best motive to become holy.

1. If it be to expiate for by-past offences, or to merit undeserved favours, it must needs be abominable in the sight of God, being the highest act of pride or presumption that can be imagined. Let our works be what they will, though the best “are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6), if they be offered unto God by way of barter or exchange, they become most abominable: as if God stood in need of something that we have, or that we were so sufficient as to be able to benefit God too.

2. To depart from iniquity, or to labour in holiness, in order to express our thankfulness unto God for His mercies in Jesus Christ, is most grateful and most forcible.

3. Love unto God for all His glorious excellencies, especially for His mercy in Christ Jesus, is the best principle of holiness and of our departing from iniquity. God requires His children to give Him their heart (Proverbs 23:26). Now love is as a fire which “many waters cannot quench.” Difficulties will be overcome, and obedience will be permanent, where true love to God is. And this love in the soul to God is begun by and flows from God’s love first unto the soul, as fire kindles fire: “He loved us first” (1 John 4:19). (T. Boston, D. D.)

The obligation of Christians to a holy life

I. What obligation the profession of Christianity lays upon men to live holy lives.

1. He that professeth himself a Christian professeth to entertain the doctrine of Christ, to believe the whole gospel, to assent to all the articles of the Christian faith, to all the precepts and promises and threatenings of the gospel. Now the great design, the proper intention of this doctrine, is, to take men off from sin, and to direct and en courage them to a holy life.

2. He that professeth himself a Christian professeth to live in the imitation of Christ’s example, and to follow His steps, “who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.”

3. He that calls himself a Christian hath solemnly engaged himself to renounce all sin and to live a holy life. Thus you see what obligation the profession of Christianity lays upon us to holiness of life. From all which it is evident that the gospel requires something on our part. For the covenant between God and us is a mutual engagement; and, as there are blessings promised on His purl, so there are conditions to be performed on ours.

II. I come now to the second thing propounded, and that is, to persuade those who profess Christianity to answer those obligations to a Holy life, which their religion lays upon them.

1. Consider how unbecoming it is for a man to live unsuitably to his profession.

2. Consider how great a scandal this must needs be to our blessed Saviour and His holy religion. As we would not proclaim to the world that the gospel is an unholy and vicious institution, let us take heed that we bring no scandal upon it by our lives, lest the enemies of our religion say as Salvian tells us they did in his time--“Surely if Christ had taught so holy a doctrine, Christians would have lived holier lives.”

3. And, lastly, let us consider the danger we expose ourselves to by not living answerably to our religion. Hypocrites are instanced in Scripture as a sort of sinners that shall have the sharpest torments and the fiercest damnation. (J. Tillotson, D. D.)

The obligations of Christians to depart from iniquity

I. Every professing Christian does name the name of Christ, and is called by His name, even as the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch; nay, even before that naming at Antioch, every believer in Christ--every one baptized into His name--was virtually so called. And we may say, as every pupil or disciple of the various schools and sects of philosophy acknowledged the master, and assumed the name of the school to which he belonged; and as the soldier wore the badge of the commander, and of the corps to which he was attached; and as idolaters had the name of the idol-god whom they worshipped upon their hands or upon their forehead; so, in like manner, in a far higher and in the most eminent and religious sense, every Christian showed his school, the company, the corps to which he belonged, to be that of Christ Jesus the Lord, whose name he bears, and into whose service he has been admitted.

II. Press upon you departure from all sin.

1. One great end of the religion of Jesus is the destruction of sin and the encouragement of holiness. Can any one doubt of this? Can the most superficial examination of its terms, and language, and ordinances, leave any one to doubt of this? I appeal to the testimony of enemies, of wicked men, and of evil spirits in proof of this. Why has the gospel been so hated and opposed? And, from the whole current of prophecies, types, and positive declaration of the great Author of the Gospel, is it not undeniable that the destruction of the works of the devil was the grand end of the wondrous dispensation?

2. If any spark of gratitude be kindled in your hearts to Him who hath given Himself for you, to deliver you from this present evil world, and to bless you in turning every one of you from your iniquities, and who hath done this at such an expensive rate, redeeming you not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with His own precious blood, surely you will depart from all iniquity.

3. Again, the credit of religion, regard to the honour of Christ, should lead you to depart from all iniquity. It is said of the Pythagoreans, an ancient sect of philosophers, that they used to send a coffin to unworthy members who had disgraced the sect, intimating that they were considered as dead and gone.

4. Finally, if you would maintain your peace of mind and your good hope through grace, and have the first part of this text and motto secured--“The Lord knoweth them that are His”--see that the second part of it which we have been illustrating be fulfilled and carried through, even “departing from all iniquity.” (W. H. Burns.)

Christians bound to cultivate holiness of heart and life

I. Consider to whom the text is addressed.

1. It may be said of all professing Christians that they have named the name of Christ. The text is not addressed to infidels. Those who have merely named the name of Christ have His name, but have nothing of His nature; they have something to do before they can depart from iniquity. It is idle to tell the captive to leave his prison till the fetters are broken which chain him to its floor; before a dead man walks he must live; before the branch bears ii must be grafted; before the water wells from the frozen fountain the springs must be thawed; and the breeze and the breath of heaven must blow down the valley before its dry bones are changed into living men; and so before a man can, by one step, leave iniquity, he must be made a new creature in Jesus Christ.

2. Our text is addressed to real Christians. When the apostle said, “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity,” it was a very different thing to do so then and to do it now; it is one thing to swim down the stream and another thing to make head against it; the mere naming the name of Christ is nowadays no evidence at all that a man is a true lover of Jesus.

II. Christ’s people are called on to depart from iniquity. The text calls on you who are lovers of Jesus not only to abstain from open and barefaced iniquity, not only to maintain before the world the high honour of your Master’s cause, but to part with your secret and your sweetest sins.

III. The love of Christ should lead us to depart from all iniquity. Can a lover of Jesus think of the shame, the spitting, scourging, crucifying, and very tempest of evils they rained down on the head of a beloved Saviour, and not hate his sins?

IV. Seek Divine grace to enable you to depart from all iniquity. Sin is like the negro’s colour: it is not an accidental property; he is born with it; the water of the broad sea cannot wash it away; the art of man cannot remove it; in change of climate he remains unchanged; you may carry him to shiver amid the snows of Greenland; he may exchange the shadow of his palm trees for a hut of snow, the burning sands for the frozen sea, he is as dark as ever; nothing but a miracle of nature can change the negro’s colour, and nothing but a miracle of grace can change the sinner’s heart; “though you wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord.” You have one of two things to choose--you must either depart for Christ from iniquity, or you must depart for iniquity from Christ. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

The moral tendency of the gospel

I. The great design of almighty God in the dispensation of the gospel is our improvement in holiness and virtue here, in order to the attainment of eternal life hereafter. The gospel is not a fanciful theory, containing a system of speculative opinions, which have little or no connection with virtue and happiness. Universal obedience is declared to be requisite. Having thus considered the nature of our holy religion, we are now--

II. To consider the consequences of living unsuitably to that profession.

1. He who names the name of Christ, without departing from iniquity, exposes himself to reproach and contempt. Men will not be imposed upon by an empty possession. They cannot indeed see into our hearts, and notice the motives by which we are actuated; but they can observe our good or bad actions, and judge whether our lives be answerable to our profession.

2. But the consequences of vice in a professed Christian extend farther than to the sinner himself. A wicked life in a professed Christian is attended with more than ordinary mischief: it not only serves to seduce, like every other evil example, but it has a strong tendency to stagger a weak and honest mind. Perplexities crowd upon his mind. He begins to suspect the truth of religion, and to regard it as an empty profession. His zeal abates; he relaxes in the discharge of his duty; and throws religion away as a mere imposition. His enemies rejoice; his friends weep. Religion has lost an advocate; the world has gained a triumph; but his blood will be required of your hands.

3. But the consequences of iniquity, in a professed Christian, extend farther than individuals; they extend to the cause of Christianity; nay, even to our blessed Savior Himself. It is an indignity offered to Christ, and an outrage committed upon the gospel, in the disguise of a friend. It seems to declare either that Christianity countenances immorality, or that it wants authority to enforce its laws. On both which suppositions it destroys its authority as coming from God.

4. A wicked life, as it injures the weak and reflects discredit on religion and its author, also exposes the sinner himself to the most imminent danger. There are many circumstances which aggravate the guilt, and will add to the punishment of a wicked Christian. The more indulgent the father who commands, the more ungrateful is the son who disobeys; the more plain and reasonable the command, the more inexcusable the breach of it; the more powerful the motives to obedience, the more obstinate the disobedience; the more advantages and means of improvement, the more culpable the neglect, and the more dreadful the condemnation. (Andrew Donnan.)

Particular in small things

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a man of rare integrity, and so particular about small things as to be punctilious. One day a new cooking-stove had been provided for his house, and although the stove came highly recommended it proved thoroughly refractory and aggravating, and did everything but what it was expected to do. At length the family was in despair, and some one suggested sending it to auction. “What!” exclaimed Emerson, “transfer our own perplexity to another pair of shoulders? No, never! unless the stove be labelled ‘imperfect.’” And “imperfect” it was labelled, and sold at a heavy discount. (New Zealand Methodist.)

A holy life

The following testimony borne to the character of the Rev. John Fletcher by Wesley, in the funeral sermon which he preached for him soon after his death, serves to explain the powerful influence which he exerted on the age in which he lived, an influence which has not yet died out. “I was intimately acquainted with him for about thirty years. I conversed with him morning, noon, and night, without the least reserve, during a journey of many hundred miles; and in all that time I never heard him speak an improper word, or saw him do an improper action. To conclude: many exemplary men have I known, holy in heart and life, within fourscore years; but one equal to him I have not known, one so inwardly and outwardly devoted to God. So unblamable a character in every respect I have not found either in Europe or America, and I scarce expect to find another such on this side eternity.”

Power of holy lives

I was once privileged to lead an aged man across a thoroughfare--that old man of whom you may read in a tract called, “I never Lost but Once.” Some rough men, attracted by his patriarchal appearance, cleared a way for him through the carts and boys, and as he acknowledged their kindness with a low bow of his silver head, I heard one man say, “If ever there was a godly party, that is one; the face don’t tell lies.”

A good life enforces teaching

A gentleman from England wrote that he went to some one of our cities in the morning prayer-meeting of one of the churches; that during the meeting a man spoke with little or no animation, and the address was wanting in all the elements calculated to produce an impression. Yet, to his astonishment, the entire meeting appeared to be listening with rapt attention, and it was but a little before he saw many of the people were in tears. He was so utterly surprised at the result that he was led to inquire about it at the close of the service. He was told that the man who had spoken was so remarkable for his uniform Christian consistency, and was so gentle and affectionate, that his words were always weighty, for that his life had secured him the affection of the whole church. This visitor wrote further that he went to the meeting the following morning, and was much interested in the whole service, and specially so in a gentleman’s address, who spoke with such fervour and eloquence as to excite his feelings intensely, so that he found him self weeping profusely, and supposed that everybody in the meeting would be as much excited as himself; but on looking around, he found that he was the only weeper to be seen. Again he was astonished; but the solution was the fact that while his brethren did not question his being a Christian, his life had not compelled their homage. (S. B. Halliday.)

Running from sin

We once heard Dr. W. F. Broadus tell of a little girl who, in the days when the conversion of children was not the subject of as much prayer as now, applied for membership in a Baptist chapel. “Were you a sinner,” asked an old deacon, “before this change of which you now speak?” “Yes, sir,” she replied. “Well, are you now a sinner?” “Yes, sir, I feel I am a greater sinner than ever.” “Then,” continued the deacon, “what change can there be in you?” “I don’t know how to explain it,” she said, “but I used to be a sinner running after sin, but now I hope I am a sinner running from sin.” They received her, and for years she was a bright and shining light; and now she lives where there is no sin to run from.

Sin ruinous

A man must have hell taken out of him if he is to escape hell. (Norman Macleod.)

The stability of holiness

A building which demands holiness, carries within itself no ground of dissolution and overthrow. (Van Oosterzee.)

Inconsistent Christians false witnesses

Dr. E. W. Benson (Archbishop of Canterbury) said that a well-known advanced freethinker had told him that he was more impressed by the inconsistency between the theoretical teaching and the social practice of cultivated and active-minded Christians in respect of wealth, advancement, and luxuriousness than by our doctrinal difference. And what was his inference? That the standard of the gospel was too high--that its morality was impracticable, as tested by the lives of those who accepted it, and that it was, therefore, not divine.

The power of a good life

A sceptic towards whom a Christian had shown great kindness, said to him, “I don’t believe in Christ, but I do believe in you, and I will try to believe in Christ because you tell me it is He who has made you what you are.” (J. Clifford, D. D.)

Christ dishonoured by the inconsistencies of His professed people

A recently-erected edifice has fallen: how do men treat the fact? They instantly connect it with the architect or the builder. When a chemical experiment has failed, how is it looked upon? Instantly the manipulator is blamed for want of skill, or for want of judgment in the selection of the quality of his materials. So all the practices of the Church are carried back to Christ, and He is magnified or “crucified afresh,” according to their nature. (J. Parker, D. D.)


Verse 20-21

2 Timothy 2:20-21

In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour and some to dishonour.
If a man, therefore, purge himself from these he shall be a vessel unto honour.

The house and its vessels

The words imply a parable which is not formally interpreted. Rising as it does, however, from the thought of the “foundation” in 2 Timothy 2:19, we shall not be far wrong in assuming that the “great house” is (as in 1 Timothy 3:15) the Church of God. The sequel of the parable presents questions of greater difficulty. Are we, with the majority of interpreters, to identify the vessels made to honour with silver and gold, those of wood and earth with the vessels made to dishonour? In this case the difference between the two sets of vessels is, in the interpretation of the parable, purely ethical. All true members of Christ are as the gold and sliver, all unworthy members as the wood and clay. And, as the material of which the vessel is made does not depend upon itself, it might seem at first as if we had here, as in the parable of the tares and the drag-net, to interpolate the thought that the man whom the vessel represents may, by purifying himself, transmute his nature, and pass from the one class to the other. I venture to think that a different interpretation gives a far truer meaning. The classes of vessels correspond to the gifts which men have received (as in the parable of the talents we have the five, the two, the one), and each has its proper use and honour in the great house of the Church of God. But in each case, of the gold as of the clay, it is true that purity is the one essential condition of honourable use. The man of poorer gilts (to pass from the sign to the thing signified) may, if he keeps himself pure, be a vessel made to honour. If the silver and gold are allowed to be defiled by that which is unclean, if “holiest things find vilest using,” then even they are in danger of serving only as vessels for dishonour, of showing (not ceasing even then to fulfil a Divine purpose) that the righteous judgment of God is against them that commit such things. In this case the words, “If a man purge himself” retain their full significance, and we have no need to interpolate the idea of a self-transmuting process, changing the earthen vessel into gold. (E. H. Plumptre, D. D.)

The Church a kingly house

I. The true visible Church is like a great and kingly house. For, did net the King of kings contrive its platform? lay its foundation? rear its walls? and perfect its building? Doth He not protect it, dwell in it, and prescribe laws to govern it? For its circle, is not that also great, spacious? Doth it not extend itself to the four corners of the world? Who can number the inhabitants of it? or tell the tenth part of this household? Is not its provision wonderful? Do not its servants eat angels’ food, bread from heaven, and drink the choicest wines, the water of life?

II. In the visible Church are good and bad persons.

III. All God’s servants are not equally sanctified.

IV. Strong Christians are like vessels of gold. First, they are resembled to vessels, both good and bad persons; this is common to all. Secondly, unto vessels of gold and silver; this is proper to the good, not the bad. Why to vessels? Because they are capable to receive the water of grace and corruption, as vessels any liquid or solid matter. Again, they are of use in God’s house, like vessels in man’s. And grown Christians are like golden vessels; for they are rare, precious, pure, glorious; of honour, profit, and will endure the fire, hammer, and come out of the furnace the more purged from tin, dross, corruption. And, as noblemen engrave their arms on the one, so doth God imprint His image on the other. But you will say, How may I know myself to be such? Well enough; for golden vessels have the most fiery trials, endure much hammering, are strongest set on by the devil, have the hottest skirmishes in their captain’s army, scatter the words of grace the farthest, and rejoice in the greatest tribulation.

V. Weaker Christians are like vessels of silver.

VI. The wicked are not equally corrupted.

VII. Persons less profane are like wooden vessels.

VIII. The basest sort of men be like earthen ones.

IX. The final estate of men is but twofold. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

The house of God and utensils of it

I. What is the great house here spoken of? The Church is sometimes in Scripture called the house of God (1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 3:2), and here a great house. If the greatness of that material house of God, erected by Solomon, was measured by the number of workmen, which were 200,000, and of the years wherein it was a building, which were seven; much more may we conceive this spiritual house great, which hath been from the beginning of the world a setting up, both by God’s own hand, and infinite numbers and millions of workmen, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, pastors, teachers, martyrs, confessors, professors, and holy men in all ages. And for the parts, the foundation is of pure gold, even Jesus Christ. The stones not dead, as in other houses, but living stones (1 Peter 2:5). And the whole house is, saith St. Peter, a spiritual house; so as great things are spoken, and might more be spoken, of this great house of God.

II. What are these vessels of gold and silver, of wood and earth? As in the material house of God, the temple, were vessels for all services, both more honourable, of gold and silver, and others of baser matter; so in this spiritual house (typified by that) are vessels, that is, persons of sundry sorts, distinguished in our text.

1. in themselves, by their matter, gold, silver, wood, earth.

2. In their use and end, honour and dishonour.

Now, out of each part observe somewhat.

1. In that the Church is the house of God, and we all profess ourselves to be within this house, we learn two things:

2. In that the Church is the house of God, it follows every Christian is a part of this house (Hebrews 3:6). And therefore we must--

1. Note that there must necessarily be a mixture of good and bad in the visible Church; vessels of divers sorts.

2. Note how the Lord esteems of a godly man, though he be good but in part. He calls him a vessel of gold and a vessel of honour, even where much dross remains to be purged.

But how shall I know that I am indeed a vessel of honour?

1. In respecter himself, he purgeth himself from these things. What is this purging or purifying? According to our former resemblance, we may conceive the metaphor to be taken from goldsmiths, who used to try and purify their metals from dross, before they can frame it to a vessel of honourable use and service. Even so doth the Lord with His chosen. Who must cleanse and purify? Every man himself, none excepted, that will be a golden vessel. This purging is all one with our sanctification; the whole work of which is God’s, as appears--

And yet we are said to purge ourselves; yea, to convert ourselves, and make ourselves new hearts. When--

1. Being renewed by the Spirit, we co-operate with Him in using the means, In not resisting His work. From what must a man purge himself? From these things--that is, lusts and defilements, errors in judgment and practice, in faith and manners, of which he had spoken before; implying sin to be the foulest filthiness in the world, and that it defiles the whole man. But when must he purge himself? The apostle speaks in the present time, for there is no purgatory hereafter. Again, the present time noteth a continued act; so as every man must always while he liveth be purging away these things.

2. The second mark for the trial of such a one is in respect of God. He is meet for the Lord. Before God can use men as vessels of honour, Himself must first fit and prepare them to honourable services. We are His workmanship, created in Christ unto good works (Ephesians 2:10).

3. The third is in respect of godliness. Prepared to every good work. Where--

The great house and the vessels in it

“After all,” says the apostle in effect, though in fewer words, “it is not such a very great wonder that there should be persons in the Church who are not of the sterling metal of sincerity, nor of the gold and silver of truth, which endures the fire. You must not look at Hymenteus and Philetus as if they were prodigies, there have been many like them and there will be many more; these ill weeds grow apace, in all ages they multiply and increase.” Where beneath the skies shall we find absolute purity in any community? The very first family had a Cain in it, and there was a wicked Ham even in the select few within the ark. Isaac, with all his quiet walk with God, must be troubled with an Esau, and ye know how in the house of Jacob there were many sons that walked not as they should. “I have chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil.” In the great field which Christ has sown, tares will spring up among the wheat, for the enemy takes pains to sow them; neither is it possible for us to root them up. In the king’s garden briars will grow, thorns also and thistles will the most sacred soil yield to us. Even the lilies, of Christ grow among thorns. You cannot keep the best of churches altogether pure. Yea, lift your eyes even to the skies, and though there be myriads of stars, yet ye shall mark wandering stars among them, and meteors which are and are not, and are quenched in the blackness of darkness for ever. Until we shall come to the heaven of the Most High we must expect to find chaff mixed with the wheat. Coming to the text, the apostle suggests the encouragement I have already given, under a certain metaphor. The Church of God being ill the world has its common side and its common vessels, but being also a heavenly house has also its nobler furniture, far more precious than gold which perisheth though it be tried with fire.

I. First let us consider the great house. The apostle compares the Church to a great house. We feel sure he is not speaking of the world; it did not occur to him to speak about the world, and it would have been altogether superfluous to tell us that in the world there are all sorts of people,--everybody knows that. The Church is a great house belonging to a great personage, for the Church is the house of God, according to the promise--“I will dwell in them, and walk in them.”

1. It is a great house because planned and designed upon a great scale.

2. Because it has been erected at great cost, and with great labour.

3. Because its household arrangements are conducted on a great scale. Speak of fine flour--behold, He has given us angels’ food; speak of royal dainties--behold, the Lord hath given us fat things full of marrow, wines on the lees well refined. What a perpetual feast doth the Lord Jesus keep up for all His followers.

4. For the number of its inhabitants. How many have lived beneath that roof-tree for ages. What a swarm there is of the Lord’s children, and yet not one of the family remains unfed. The Church is a great house wherein thousands dwell, yea, a number that no man can number.

5. Because of its importance. The Church is a great house because it is God’s hospice, where He distributes bread and wine to refresh the weary, and entertains wayfarers that else had been lost in the storm. It is God’s hospital, into which He takes the sick, and there He nourishes them until they renew their youth like the eagle’s. It is God’s great pharos with its lantern flashing forth a directing ray so that wanderers far away may be directed to the haven of peace. It is the seat of God’s magistracy, for there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David. The great house of the Church is the university for teaching all nations, the library wherein the sacred oracles are preserved, the treasury wherein the truth is deposited, and the registry of new-born heirs of heaven. It is important to heaven as well as to earth, for its topmost towers reach into glory.

II. We will now go inside the great house, and we at once observe that it is well furnished. Our text, however, invites us to note that it contains a number of meaner vessels, articles of the coarser kind for ordinary and common uses. Here are trenchers and buckets of wood, and pitchers and pots and divers vessels of coarse pottery. Some have thought that this figure of vessels to dishonour relates to Christians of a lower grade, persons of small grace and of less sanctified conversation. Now, although believers may from some points of view be comparable to earthen vessels, yet I dare not look upon any child of God, however low in grace, as a vessel to dishonour. Moreover, the word “these” refers to the earthen and wooden vessels, and surely they cannot represent saints, or we should never be told to purge ourselves from them. Besides, that is not the run of the chapter at all. The real meaning is, that in the Church of God there are unworthy persons serving inferior and temporary purposes, who are vessels to dishonour. They are in the Church, but they are like vessels of wood and vessels of earth, they are not the treasure of the mansion, they are not brought out on state occasions, and are not set much store by, for they are not “precious in the sight of the Lord.” The apostle does not tell us how they came there, for it was not his intent to do so, and no parable or metaphor could teach everything; neither will I stay to describe how some professors have come into the Church of God, some by distinct falsehood and by making professions which they knew were untrue, others through ignorance, and others again by being self-deceived, and carried away with excitement. The parable does not say how they got there, but there they are, and yet they are only vessels of wood and vessels of earth. The vessels in the great house are, however, of some use, even though they are made of wood and earth; and so there are persons in the Church of God whom the Lord Jesus will not own as His treasure, but He nevertheless turns them to some temporary purpose. Some are useful as the scaffold to a house, or the dogshores to a ship, or the hedges to a field. I believe that some unworthy members of the Church are useful in the way of watch-dogs to keep others awake, or lancets to let blood, or burdens to try strength. Some quarrelsome members of the Church help to scour the other vessels, lest they should rust through being peaceful. There is one thing noticeable, viz., that the wooden and earthen vessels are not for the Master’s use. When He holds high festival His cups are all of precious metal. How sad it is that many Christians are useful to the Church in various ways, but as for personal service rendered to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, in that they have no share whatever and never can have till grace changes them from wood to silver, or from earth to gold. Note that in these vessels of which the apostle speaks the substance is base. They are wood, or they are earth, nothing more. So are we all by nature of base material, and grace must make us into silver or into golden vessels, or the Master cannot Himself use us, nor can our use in the Church ever be to honour. These vessels unto dishonour, though turned to some account, require a good deal of care on the part of the servants. When our forefathers used to eat from wooden trenchers, the time the good wives used to spend in scalding and cleaning to keep them at all sweet to eat upon was something terrible, and there are members of the Church who take a world of time from pastors and elders to keep them at all decent; we are continually trying to set them right, or keep them right, in the common relationships of life.

III. We are now going into the treasury, or plate room, and will think of the nobler vessels. These are, first of all, of solid metal, vessels of silver and vessels of gold. They are not all equally valuable, but they are all precious. Did you ever hear how vessels come to be golden?--

“There stood a golden chalice wondrous fair,

And overflowing with deep love for him.

He raised it to His gracious lips, and quaffed

‘The wine that maketh glad the heart of God,’

Then took the cup to heaven.”

1. On the vessels to honour you can see the hall mark. What is the hall mark which denotes the purity of the Lord’s golden vessels? Well, He has only one stamp for everything. When He laid the foundation what was the seal He put upon it? “The Lord knoweth them that are His, and let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from all iniquity.” That was God’s seal, the impress of the great King upon the foundation-stone. Do we find it here? Yes, we do. “If a man, therefore, purge himself from these he shall be a vessel unto honour.” You see that the man who is the golden or silver vessel departs from all iniquity, and that is the token of his genuine character.

2. Notice, however, that they are purged, for the Lord will not use filthy vessels be they what they may.

3. And then notice that these gold and silver vessels are reserved as well as purged. They are made meet for the Master’s use. As Joseph had a cup out of which he alone drank, so the Lord takes His people to be His peculiar treasure, vessels for His personal use.

4. Oh, for a holy character and holy communion with God; then we shall be golden vessels fit for the Master’s use, and so, according to the text, we shall be ready for every good work, ready for the work when it comes, and ready at the work when it has come, because completely consecrated to God and subject to His hand,

IV. We must speak about the Master.

1. He is introduced here, you see, as having certain vessels meet for His use, and this shows that He is in the house. Secondly, the Master knows all about the house, and knows the quality of all the vessels. And then reflect that the Master will use us all as far as we are fit to be used. What comes of this, then, lastly? Wily, let us bestir ourselves that we be purged, for the text says, “If a man therefore purge himself.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Christian vessel

1. Vessels of gold and silver. We are reminded here of the vessels used in tabernacle and temple service, golden basins for the blood, golden dishes for the bread, golden flagons for the wine, golden snuffers, snuff dishes, and oil vessels, for the lamps. Then there were the silver sockets for the foundations of the tabernacle, silver fillets and hooks, silver vessels, attached to the brazen altar. To prepare these, the gold and silver needed refining theft the dross might be purged away by the fire. In figure we see the refining process through which God passes His people that they may be fit for His use (Malachi 3:2-3). He sits and watches until the reflection of Himself is visible in the hearts and lives of those whom He is refining. If we would be honoured in special service in the sanctuary, and be found prepared unto every good work, we must cheerfully and willingly submit to the refiner, and the refiner’s fire. Self must be consumed, all impurity of motive must be purged away, all the faith that God esteems so precious must be tried to its utmost power of endurance.

2. Vessels of wood and of earth. These are the vessels for everyday and ordinary use--for the Master’s constant use in His house. A wooden vessel is formed out of the rough timber, and must undergo the sharp cutting of saw, plane, and chisel. The Lord finds many knots and guarls in the rough material, from which He fashions these vessels, and He knows how to use the sharp tools of discipline and trial. He will shape our lives according to His own design, and the pattern after which we are made will be a heavenly one. An earthen vessel is made out of the clay under the hands of the potter. “We are the clay” (Isaiah 64:8). Some are inclined to boast of superiority of ancestry, but after all it is only clay. To be made into vessels the clay must needs be soft to receive the impression of the hand of the potter. It must be free from grit and other hard substances, otherwise it will not yield to the hand. God would have us as the clay, able to take the impression, and yield to the pressure of His will. He must remove all the grit of self and pride, and the many hard substances that find their way in, otherwise “the vessel will be marred in the hands of the potter” (Jeremiah 18:5). The wheel was a horizontal disk on which the clay was placed, and made to rotate rapidly. Day by day, the wheel of our life spins round, and God would fashion us by our daily circumstances and surroundings. When the wheel stops how will He find us? Finished or unfinished? Unto honour or dishonour? Complete or marred? Has He not frequently almost stopped the wheel, and, finding the vessel marred, has “made it again another vessel, as it hath pleased Him”? Many can thank God for the change in their lives, produced through sickness sanctified to their souls.

3. All the famous porcelain works have their private marks burned into the vessels they produce, so that they can be easily identified at any time. So the Great Potter has placed His private mark on all who are His handiwork, and the mark has been burned in by the fire of His love, thus becoming indelible, and easy of identification.

4. The vessel made and marked, and prepared in the furnace, is now fit for use, and is to be in constant use, by being filled with treasure. Look for a moment into yonder house. It is breakfast-time, and the little white earthenware mug stands full of milk on the table for little Mary. Afterwards it is washed and put away ready for use, and in the course of the morning her little brother asks for a drink of water. Mary fills her mug and give it to him. Again the vessel is put aside ready for use. A friend calls and leaves a nosegay of flowers. Down runs the child to fill her mug with water to revive the flowers, and the house is filled with their perfume. At the door later on a poor creature falls fainting and exhausted, and the mug, ready again, is quickly brought containing some wine or other restorative, that is poured down the sufferer’s throat. It is only an earthen vessel, but it is prepared for every good work by being kept clean. What shall we be? Only vessels, to do one thing, only a Sunday-school teacher, only a tract distributor, only a church member. Let us ask the Master to use us in every way He chooses. Let us be for Him the basin wherewith He may wash some soiled ones, or a vessel wherewith He may give of the milk of the Word to His babes, or the bearer of the message of atoning blood, or all these, as He may have need. Let us purge ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit; be sanctified by the truth, and reserved absolutely for His use and for no other.

5. If not a “vessel of mercy,” then a” vessel of wrath,” If not in His hand for His use in His household, then to be dashed in pieces, and to be but a potsherd cast away amongst the rubbish. (G. Soltan.)

Holy vessels

I. The vessels of honour are originally unholy. Were it not thus, why are we commanded to purge, to cleanse ourselves?

II. The vessels of honour are to be purged.

III. The holy are honourable.

1. For, are not such the nearest unto the nature of God?

2. Set apart for the most noble ends?

3. Can any else truly hate evil? detest base courses?

4. And who but they shall be crowned with immortal glory?

IV. Sanctified men are meet instruments for the use of their master.

V. The Lord hath use for his holy vessels.

VI. Sanctified persons for every good work are prepared. Not for one, but all. They can fast, pray, hear, read, meditate; deny themselves, afflict their souls, give alms, do and suffer anything. What God affirms they believe, what He commands they obey, what He doth they approve. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Fitness for the Lord’s service

I. Our text describes the service to which Christians are called. It is described in three ways.

1. A Christian in his service should be an honour to himself. Worthy of the nature God has given him, worthy of his capabilities, worthy of his privileges, and worthy of his position and opportunities and means. Now we naturally estimate all service by the heart there is in it. There are differences in true service; some lower and some higher. The supreme aim of Christian men must be spiritual service by spiritual means.

2. A Christian in his service must be useful to his Master. “Meet,” etc. It is intimated in this view of our service that we do not work apart and alone as master-workmen, choosing our own work, choosing how to do it, and finishing and round-it off by ourselves. We work under a master, we receive out” work at his hands, we do it according to his directions, we do it under his eye, and when it is done we bring it to him that he may put it to its proper use. It is the glory of a master-worker that he can use the services of a thousand workmen, give full scope to their faculties, and then by the’ use he makes of their work double its value.

3. A Christian in his service should be “prepared unto every good work.” Prepared for good work. There are stages in goodness. There is good desire, the conception and digestion of the plan for carrying out the desire, the provision of means, and, last of all, the actual work. Prepared unto every good work. The world is wide; human needs are great; God calls sinful men to a high destiny. The obstacles in the way are great and many; how great must the design be, and how manifold the work which embraces all. But our Master is prepared unto every good work, and He gives His servants power like His own.

II. The preparation necessary for such service. In every department of God’s kingdom fitness is the law of service. It is true that what man deems fit may be foolishness with God; and what God deems fit may be foolishness with man. In this sense the Cross, and the preaching of the Cross are foolishness. Again, it has pleased God to accomplish great results by slender human instruments, that He might teach us rightly to estimate the value of our own work and His. But all this does not alter the fact that so far as man’s work is used, it is used according to its fitness. God does not employ ignorant men to teach wisdom, nor worldly men to produce spirituality, nor lovers of ease to conduct great enterprises, nor selfish men to generate enthusiasm of love. Wherein does preparation consist?

1. In purity of life. Personal worth is the foundation of service, and the measure of personal worth is the measure of fitness for service. Two considerations show the need of eminent personal worth as a preparation.

2. Purity of doctrine is not less necessary than purity of life. Personal excellence enables a man to do good chiefly by enabling him to bear witness of Christ. John the Baptist was as eminent in personal worth as any man that ever lived; yet he spoke of himself as only a voice. It was needful for the work appointed him that he should be a man of sterling worth; but what would his personal worth have done for Judea apart from his witness to Christ? The personal worth of God’s people does not enable them to save men; but it does enable them to bear witness to Him who can save. (John Pilhans.)

The Master’s use

I. First comes meetness. In the renewed spirit, the chastened imagination, the energised conscience, the obedient will, we find the highest ineptness for spiritual service.

1. Meetness comes from faculty patiently used. This is true of all faculty. Mr. Ruskin shows us how hard it is to draw a straight line, how none but an accustomed hand can do it. Men shrink from commencement. If you wish to skate, you must not mind a fall, the graceful curve is not a gift, but a growth. The most able musician once had the drill of exercises. The most perfect classic once toiled over unpoetical grammar-books. Christian service is not an easy service; to teach a child is not merely an inspiration, but an education. Of course faculty varies, and there are diverse adaptations. Talents are differentiated--ten, five, one--but all have talents.

2. Meetness comes through suffering patiently borne. Many of the Church’s best angels are not the ablest or the cleverest, but the humblest. Sorrow often does what no other agency can achieve. Suffering creates sympathy and tenderness to the erring, and consciousness of our own frailty. Moreover the heavenly world becomes clearer to the eye that is purified by trial.

3. Meetness comes from instrumentalities faithfully employed. These are divine and wonderful. As soldiers, we have the perfect panoply of the heavenly armour. As stewards, we have each a many-acred farm to care for. As vine-dressers, we have the sun and shade and shower, and God has given us our own sweet vineyard of Church or home. If we do not the work nearest to us, we shall do no other. Reynolds, it is said, could sit thirty-six hours before the canvas without a break to bring out in beauty the human face divine. How seldom have we ever lingered enthusiastically at our work to bring out on the living canvas of the human heart the beautiful likeness of Jesus Christi Let us be diligent. Meetness will come through meditation which is prayer in preparation, and prayer which is meditation spoken; and, above all, from the consciousness of dependence on the spirit of the living God, who will strengthen us with all might in our inner man.

II. Ministration. We come here to the word “use.” Use characterises all the works of God. The running stream is more than a line of silver beauty in the landscape; it brings fertility and blessing with it. The sea bears the freight of commerce, and brings the healthful ozone on its bosom, as well as spreads its broad expanse of beautiful blue. The tree gives you shade in summer, and breathes out its air of oxygen. We cannot as yet discern all uses; but use there is, delicate and exquisite, in all the works of God.

1. The Christian man is to be a useful man, not a self-indulgent one. We are under a Master. Alas! how many take Christ as a Saviour who do not take Him as a Master, and seldom ponder how much they can obey Him!

2. We are of use to the Master. He has condescended to link His kingdom in its extension with our poor endeavours. Christian work is not merely a kind of spiritual exercise. Your living and your loving heart, your sanctified energies, are useful to the Master.

3. We must give our best to the Master. It is sad, in this England of ours, to think how little faculty is cultured. The Scotch set us a splendid example in this respect, so do the Germans. Dr. Guthrie’s autobiography shows what Scotch lads did and do to rise, not merely in position, but in attainment! They have had heroes other than those who fought at Bannockburn--heroes of the parish school and college. It is not lamentable to find faculty so little cultivated amongst us? How few fit themselves for higher posts! (W. M. Statham.)

The holiness of use

Who are they whom the apostle sees enthroned; his vessels unto honour; the people whom the law of creation praises and places on high? They are the “sanctified,” he writes. A favourite epithet with him, which our translators frequently rendering thus, have sometimes rendered, “hallowed” and sometimes “holy,” and the fundamental idea of which is “separation.” Hence its ancient application to the firstlings of the Hebrew flocks and herds as being animals taken out from the rest, and set apart for God, to be laid upon His altar. St. Paul’s sanctified ones, then, are God’s sacred ones--God’s saints. But that is not telling us much. What is it to be a sacred person, we ask; what is a saint? They, you know, have been designated “sacred” who have withdrawn from common mundane pursuits to occupy themselves mainly with religious exercises, in the performance of religious rites and ceremonies; and “saint,” you may hear applied, not seldom, with half a sneer; to those who are interested in and zealous for theological dogmas, or scrupulous in abstaining from practices and amusements to which the generality are addicted, or given to church worship and pious talk. The real sacredness, however, the real sanctity in men, consists according to the implication and suggestion of the term employed here, in personal surrender to the Divine claims upon us; in separation from self-indulgence and self-will, from contrary inclinations and propensities, to be what Heaven would have us be, to cultivate conformity to the Divine ideal. This is glory, teaches the apostle; this is to enjoy rank and commendation; being good and doing nobly. But now, we have not advanced very far after all. Our explanatory words wait to be explained. What is it to be good and do nobly, to be worthy and act well our part, which St. Paul describes theologically as “sanctification,” or devotion to the will of God? In whom is it exemplified? and our writer answers shortly: In those who are “meet for the blaster’s use,” or, more correctly, in those who are “useful for the Master.” The saint, then, is eminently the useful person. Holiness is use. It is not in mere having, nor yet in being and doing, that it is reached; but in being and doing beneficially. But while without some use we are naught, there is a certain special use which it is necessary to yield in order to be a saint, and the yielding of which reveals and marks the saint. “Useful for the Master,” says the apostle. He has been comparing society to a house containing divers kinds of vessels--of which house he has implied that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Head; and the hallowed vessels therein are the vessels, he tells us, that are profitable to Him. Now, we may be said to be profitable to another, as we are contributing to the fulfilment of his wishes and ideas, as we are instrumental in forwarding his views, in advancing his purposes. We are useful for Christ, can only be useful for Him in that way--by helping to promote His ends. And what are they? What was His grand passion, the object that burdened and consumed Him? Was it not, speaking broadly, and according to His own constant testimony, that men might be quickened and raised to live more abundantly? But here, probably, many an earnest, well-meaning soul will be moved to say, “I really do not know, I really cannot tell, whether or no I am of any such use in the world, and, what is more, I seem to have so little chance or power; my scope is so narrow, my ability so small.” And as if to meet and answer these, and encourage and assure them, St. Paul hastens to add to the words, “Useful for the Master,” the qualifying explanatory clause, “being prepared or ready to every good work.” We do not know, we cannot tell, whether we are divinely helpful. Not a few are so to a considerable extent without perceiving it. They live sincerely and beautifully, and die wearily, unconscious of how noble or wide their effect has been. But while unable to decide concerning the amount of our helpfulness, we can tell whether we are ready to do every good work that may be done by us in our sphere; whether we carry about within us a spirit and disposition to serve; whether we are alive to each open door of opportunity and quick to enter in and occupy; whether we have a heart sensitively responsive to needs that appeal, to the calls and claims of the hour; whether our desire and aim is to make a good work of whatever is laid upon us to do, to do it according to our light and power in the best and perfectest way, let it be the painting of a picture or the sweeping of a room, preaching a sermon or managing a business. We can tell whether it is thus with us. But what then? Why the apostle implies that such alertness to do well at every step, on every occasion, is certain to involve the radiation from us of some helpfulness; that you may conclude you are for some use if only you are eager and anxious to discharge faithfully each duty as it presents itself, to answer duly to the requirements of the time and place, to the facts before you. And now a word in conclusion, concerning what is necessary in order to reach and maintain this hallowed state of use in preparedness for every good work. “If a man purge himself from these,” says St. Paul, that is, from the vessels unto dishonour, of which he has been speaking, as mixed with others in the house--“If a man purge himself from these, then shall he be a vessel unto honour.” It is intimated, you see, that none are found saints to begin with; that to become such and remain such we must need engage and persevere in effort, in effort to cleanse and emancipate ourselves; that there is that which has to be shaken off and risen out of. And there is, around us, morally adverse, morally opposing atmospheres, unavoidable contacts and intercourses that tend to deaden and depress, popular maxims and sentiments, prevailing ideas and fashions, the spirit of the world seeking other things altogether than the things which are Jesus Christ’s, and encountered continually at every turn, insinuating and insidious. All this has to be resisted and surmounted. (S. A. Tipple.)

Sanctifted and meet for tile Master’s use

For a moment the apostle drops the figure of the house and the foundation, to take it up again in the remaining portion of the sentence. Purification from vessels would be a very incongruous figure. What St. Paul says is--If therefore any man shall have purged himself from these evil associations or corrupting ideas, from persons whose words are like the deadly poison of contagious gangrene, then he will be a vessel unto honour, whether his faculties cause him to resemble the golden goblet or the silver lamp; the wooden bowl or the porcelain vase; if pure and conscientious, faithful and good, he will be consecrated to noblest uses, serviceable to the Master of the house, and prepared for every good work. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)

Fit for use

I remember reading of a man who, having a grudge against a railway company, threw a bar of soap into their tank of water. The soap was dissolved, introduced into the boiler, and as soapy water does not generate steam, the engine by and by came to a standstill. The fires were all right but there was no steam; and we must, figuratively speaking, keep the soap out, or God cannot use us. Remember we owe allegiance to Him who needs every thought of the heart. (G. F. Pentecost.)

A clean vessel

If in haste we would give a draught of refreshing water to a traveller, we take from our shelf the first vessel which is clean. We pass over the elegant and richly-chased cup for the earthenware mug, if the latter has a cleanliness which the former lacks. And our Lord Jesus will gladly use us for His service, though we be but common ware, if only we are clean and ready for use. In our hospitals the instruments used in operations are constantly kept in carbolic acid, that they may not carry the slightest contagion to the open wound; and we cannot touch the open and festering wounds which sin has caused without injury to ourselves and others, unless we are ever in the flow of the blood and water of which St. John speaks. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

Holiness and service

Through the whole of Scripture we find that whatever God sanctifies is to be used in the service of His holiness. Holiness and selfishness, holiness and inactivity, holiness and sloth, holiness and helplessness, are utterly irreconcilable. Whatever we read of as holy was taken into the service of the holiness of God. Holiness is essential to effectual service. In the Old Testament we see degrees of holiness, not only in the holy places, but as much in the holy persons. In the nation, the Levites, the priests and then the High Priest, advance from step to step; as in each succeeding stage the circle narrows, and the service is more direct and entire, so the holiness required is higher and more distinct. It is even so in this more spiritual dispensation; the more of holiness, the greater the fitness for service; the more there is of true holiness the more there is of God, and the more true and deep is the entrance He has had into the soul. The hold He has on the soul to use it in His service is more complete. (Andrew Murray.)

Various vessels

All the vessels of Christ’s house are not of one size. (S. Rutherford.)

What service might have been done by greater sanctification

When “Nelson served under Admiral Hotham, and a certain number of the enemy’s ships had been captured, the commander said, “We must be contented: we have done very well.” But Nelson did not think so, since a number of the enemy’s vessels had escaped. “Now,” said he, “had we taken ten sail, and allowed the eleventh to escape when it had been possible to have got at her, I could never have called it well done.” If we have brought many to Christ we dare not boast, for we are humbled by the reflection that more might have been done had we been fitter instruments for God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The stimulus of holiness

Holiness is a source of every kind of human excellence. For it sets to work all our powers, and sets them to work in the best possible direction. It gives to intellectual effort its noblest aim, viz., to comprehend and to convey to others the life-giving truth of God; and it guards intellectual success from the perils which surround it. It gives the noblest motive for the care and development of the body; for it shows us that the powers even of our perishing body may work out eternal results. And it gives the only pure motive, and a very strong motive, for effort after material good; for it teaches that this world’s wealth may be a means of laying up treasure in heaven. Thus holiness quickens, develops, and elevates all our powers. (J. A. Beet.)

The beauty of service

Once upon a time, says the legend, a dispute arose between three young ladies as to which had the most beautiful hand. One sat by a crystal stream and dipped her snowy hand into the water and held it up. Another plucked strawberries till the ends of her tapering fingers were pink. Another gathered violets till her hands were fragrant. Thereupon an aged woman passed by, hungry, emaciated, decrepit. “Who will give me a gift,” said she, “for I am poor?” All three young ladies denied her request; but a poor peasant girl, who stood near, unwashed in the stream, unstained by the pink of strawberries, unadorned with flowers, gave her a simple gift and cheered the aged pilgrim. Then, turning back, she asked the three young ladies what they disputed about. They told her, and lifted up their beautiful hands for her to decide. “Beautiful, indeed!” exclaimed she, with radiant countenance. “But which is the most beautiful?” asked they. “It is not the hand that is washed in the purling brook,” said she; “it is not the hand that is tipped with delicate pink; it is not the hand garlanded with fragrant flowers, it is the hand which gave a gift to the destitute that is most beautiful.” And as she spoke her body was slowly transfigured, her wrinkles gradually vanished, her staff suddenly dropped, and there flew up to heaven, in a blaze of glory, the radiant form of an angel of God. Yes, the sanctification of man means the sanctification of all that the man has to do. It means the sanctification of the hand, the feet, the brain, the heart, the temper, the disposition, the pocket, the whole man, inwardly and outwardly. It is the perfecting of the heart that makes the perfection of every state in life.

The service of love

We may be blameless without being faultless. If it be asked what practical difference there is in such a distinction, we may take, as an example, a little child whose loving heart is bent upon pleasing her mother. Her first little task of needlework is put into her hands. But the little fingers are all unskilled, nor has she any thought of the nicety required; still with intense pleasure she sets stitch after stitch, until at last she brings it to her mother; she has done her best and does not dream of failure. And the mother taking it, sees two things: one is a work as faulty as it well can be, with stitches long and crooked; and the other is that smiling, upturned face, with its sweet consciousness of love. Not for anything could she coldly criticise that work. She thinks of the effort to please, and how little she could expect in a first attempt. It is the child’s best for the time being. So she commends her and even praises the poor, imperfect work, and then gently and most lovingly shows her how she may do still better. The child is blameless, but her work not faultless. It will be nearer and nearer faultless, as day after day she gathers skill, and even new ideas of care and faithfulness in her tasks; but still in her mother’s eyes she is at first, as well as at last, her blameless child. (S. F. Smiley.)

Reasons why you are not used

You are admitted into a great house, along the walls of which are four shelves; on the lower shelf the gold, on the second the silver, on the third the wood, and on the fourth--high, way up where you would think the dust collected--the earthern vessel. Upon one of these four shelves there is each one of those in this congregation. You say, “I am not gold, I am not silver, I am rather wooden if anything, or earthenware; my place is on the very top shelf,” and when I ask if you can tell which of those four shelves holds the vessels to honour, you say, “Oh, I suppose those golden or silver ones beneath, and my lot will never be there.” The Master enters. “Wilt Thou tell us to-day, for our hearts are all aflame to be used by Thee in the foreign mission or home mission field, where we may stand, to be vessels of honour?” And He says: “I cannot tell by the outside appearance. I must look in.” He takes the gold, and says: “That won’t do, it is not clean.” He takes the silver one and puts it back with a sad look. It is not clean. Bat it may be He comes to those upper shelves, and takes down one of the very commonest of the vessels, and I see a smile come over His face as He lifts it, and He presses it to His lips, and says: “This will do; this is a vessel to honour, this is a choice vessel, it is clean. If a man cleanse himself he shall be a vessel to honour.” “Ah, but, Master, there is nothing inside of it.” “That doesn’t matter. I will put inside what has got to be put inside. I only want a clean vessel to put it in.” God says, “My child, you have failed, not because you lack the talent or power, but are deficient in the one thing you might accomplish, having the cleansed heart.” (F. B. Meyer.)


Verse 22

2 Timothy 2:22

Flee youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace.

Flee the passions of youth

Timothy was no longer a young man, but he was still in the strength of his manhood, when he might easily suffer from desires and passions which are comparatively venial in a youth. The juvenilia desideria, the immoderate hilarity, the irregular longings of the flesh and mind, the rashness of judgment, the self-indulgence, the love of admiration, which are weakness and failure of youth, not its beauty nor its charm. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)

The Christian young man

To the word “lust” a specific meaning is now popularly attached, which we do not find in the original; the term there used being much more extensive, and, with the addition of the epithet, “youthful,” much more expressive. It signifies the inclination of the mind; and thus it includes what is evil in the spark as well as in the flame, in the blossom as well as in the fruit, in the deep, though still fountain, as well as in the rolling, turbid, and impetuous stream. And with good reason; for however small and obscure the beginning, the end may be most momentous, most irreparable. Hear it plainly stated: “Lust, when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” Watch over inclination, lest it become desire; watch over desire, lest it become appetite; watch over appetite, lest it become passion; watch over passion, lest it become, in the evil and extreme sense, “lust.” And this applies equally to voluptuousness, ambition, covetousness, revenge, and all the characteristic vices of youth.

I. And this is to be done by avoiding, as far as it be possible, the companionship of the ungodly. On this subject, indeed, the wise man, teaching from experience, is earnest even beyond his wont; counselling with an emphatic iteration: “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men; avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.” It is against the first step that young men should be exhorted especially to guard; to beware of the first act, against which conscience enters and records its solemn protest.

II. While, however, you “flee youthful lusts” by avoiding companionship with the wicked, flee them also by cultivating companionship with the heart; and weigh well those associations, habits, and pursuits, which give a direction to the mind. Beware lest inclination assume the reins of action; beware lest interest or convenience usurp that supremacy over the purposes and the practices, which ought to be exercised only by conscience and by principle. Test all things by one standard; try all men by one rule; and let that be the Word of God. Whenever, therefore, in a judgment administered upon such principles, and directed to such an cud, the bent of the mind and the will are found to be in any particular instance opposed to the great purpose, for which all who bear, by their own consent, the name of Christian, must for that very reason profess to live, it is clear that the course of life must be altered, the stream of thought and desire must be turned, the current must be made to flow in an opposite direction. And if this only be done as soon as the necessity is discerned, it will be done effectually, and it will be done comparatively without an effort.

III. Not only, however, are we exhorted in the text to “flee youthful lusts,” but to cultivate those Christian graces and dispositions, which can never appear to greater advantage than when they are associated with the natural transparency ann ingenuousness of youth.

1. Follow, then, after righteousness. Give God what is His due; and you will never withhold from man what is his.

2. Follow not only after righteousness, but, as the apostle exhorts his son Timothy, after “faith.” Account, that as practical righteousness, the rendering of everything that is due to man, so faith is the expectation of all that is needful from God.

3. Next, you are exhorted to follow “charity” or love. Love is the essence of righteousness, for it is “the fulfilling of the law”; it is also the evidence of faith, for “faith worketh by love.”

4. Lastly, in the words of the apostle, “follow after peace.” This, indeed, is the subject of one of the most earnest petitions that ever fell from human lips: “Now the God of peace Himself give you peace always by all means.” Nor can the apostles of the Lord and Saviour better express the fervour of their love for the brethren than by the prayer that “grace, mercy, and peace may be multiplied to them through Jesus Christ.” Yes, peace is indeed an object worthy to be followed by man, a blessing worthy to be multiplied by God. Follow after peace, then, and ye will find it, in all its varieties of excellency and of loveliness. Peace of conscience; for your sins, however multiplied and aggravated, shall be made as though they had never been. Peace of mind; for “great peace have they that love Thy law, and nothing shall offend them.” Peace with man in life, for “the work of righteousness is peace”; and peace--the “peace that passeth understanding”--in death, for “mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace.” Now we have looked upon four objects of moral excellency and social usefulness, which the young Christian is to follow--righteousness, faith, charity, peace. Let us contrast these with four “youthful lusts,” desires, inclinations, or tendencies, call them which you will, from which he is to flee. The love of self, as opposed to righteousness; the pride of philosophical unbelief--unbelief that calls itself philosophical--as opposed to faith; covetousness, or the desire of accumulation, as opposed to charity; and the turbulence of mirth, revelry, and excess, as opposed to peace. (T. Dale, M. A.)

Admonitions to the young

I. Consider what you ought to avoid--“Flee youthful lusts.” The objects of abhorrence are distinctly specified in this short but impressive caution. No palliating epithets are employed to divest them of their disgusting qualities. They are not pleaded for by being called, as too many in modern times represent them “mere juvenile indiscretions,”--“youthful follies,” which maturer age will correct; but they are marked by a term, which at once describes and condemns them. Lust, in the language of Scripture, has an extensive latitude of meaning; it is applied to evil desire in general--the desire of what is in itself unlawful and forbidden, or the intemperate desire of what is in itself lawful and allowed. This explanation accords with the assertion of the apostle John in his first Epistle, in which he gives an accurate classification of evil desires: “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world.” The passions and appetites of our nature are powerful principles of action. Were they always subjected to the government of enlightened reason, they would become sources of innocent gratification; indulgence would leave no stain, and remembrance would awaken no remorse. But from their fatal predominance over the convictions of the understanding, and the remonstrances of conscience, what streams of sin and misery have inundated the world! To these, as their immediate sources, may be traced innumerable diseases which ruin the body, by causing its premature debility, and securing its inevitable destruction. But their direst evil is that they “war against the soul,” impair the mind, and pollute the heart. In order to render the impression more vivid, let us consider to what evil desires the young are peculiarly exposed; what are the unhallowed passions that require their utmost vigilance and opposition.

1. I would first exhort you, my young friends, to guard against the seductions of sensuality; against what are emphatically termed “fleshy lusts.” On no subject are the sacred writers more frequent, or more alarming in their denunciations than on this. Aware of the wide-spreading nature of the contagion, they continually remind us of its evil, and direct us to the means of counteracting and expelling it.

2. Beware of intemperance. By intemperance, I mean particularly the excessive indulgence of those appetites of our nature on which our existence depends. It is sometimes said that such indulgence, so basely irrational, places a man on a level with the brutes that perish. But it is insulting to brutes to make the comparison. The laws of animal instinct teach them moderation, and the dictates of universal conscience as well as the “grace of God,” should teach men, that “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, they should live soberly in this present evil world.” Intemperance is the baneful source of most destructive evils; it is the powerful stimulus to the commission of crimes, which men would shudder to perpetrate in the cool moments of sobriety.

3. Amongst the evil principles which the apostle warns us to avoid, may be included also high-mindedness, for immediately after the exhortation in the text, he says, “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves.” And to enforce this impressive caution he predicts the approach of “perilous times,” when all the symptoms of unhallowed self-exaltation should be manifest in the prevailing characters of men. I have adopted a term of extensive application, because it includes the various modifications of pride, haughtiness, conceit, vanity, and ambition. It is worthy of your attentive regard that the admonition in the text is levelled at the very seat and principle of iniquity. The tyranny of the passions is enthroned on the heart; and it is from that interior dominion they must be expelled. The axe is therefore laid at the root of the tree, that all its branches and fruit may be destroyed. The apostle does not merely say, Flee evil habits, impure connections, and all the scenes of temptation, but he says what virtually includes all this, by denouncing their pernicious origin: “Flee youthful lusts”; let not the desire be indulged; “the thought of foolishness is sin.” As the venerable Elisha purified the waters of Jericho, by sprinkling salt on the fountain whence they flowed, so the apostle directs us to cleanse the springs o! action; persuaded that they will send forth wholesome streams when healed from the contamination of sin.

II. Our next general inquiry respects the opposite principles and tempers which ought to form the objects of your constant and unremitting pursuit what should you follow? He was persuaded that in order to “abhor that which is evil,” we must “cleave to that which is good.” Let us attend to his wise and salutary directions.

1. Follow righteousness. This term frequently occurs in the sacred writings, with various, though connected acceptations. In its most important reference it is applied to that perfect “obedience even unto death,” by which our exalted Lord “magnified the law and made it honourable.” The Scriptures which so clearly reveal this righteousness as the exclusive basis of acceptance with God, announce the method of obtaining its blessings. “Not to him that worketh, but to him that believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” This righteousness, the possession of which justifies a sinner in the sight of God, will infallibly secure as its invariable consequence, an inherent rectitude of principle--that personal righteousness, “without which no man can see the Lord.” In conformity with this statement, I would earnestly exhort you, my young friends, to cultivate all the fruits of righteousness. Aim at the entire agreement of your spirit and actions with the unerring rule of righteousness, laid down in the sacred Word. There you behold its nature clearly defined, and its wide extent unfolded. It is not a variable, shifting principle, adapted to the changes of custom, and the fluctuations of caprice. Its nature and obligations are not dependent on views of expediency, which may happen to agree with its dictates to-day, and suggest an opposite rule of conduct to-morrow. Righteousness is the conformity of the heart and life to the immutable laws of equity which God has established; an equity, unbending in its decisions, and unalterable in its claims.

2. If you “follow righteousness,” your character will be adorned by fidelity. This I conceive is what the apostle meant by “faith”; and the word has precisely this rendering, in the Epistle to Titus, in which servants are exhorted to “show all good fidelity.” Fidelity is an important part of righteousness; it is one of the essential expressions of it, and all pretensions to rectitude without it are but as “tinkling cymbals and as sounding brass.”

3. With “righteousness and fidelity,” the apostle connects charity and peace. The principles and duties of justice are intimately blended with those of benevolence. The latter derive all their value and stability from the former, and give them in return “an ornament of grace--a crown of glory.” Charity, or love, is of essential importance to Christian character. It is often referred to as a decisive test of real religion. It is well described by the apostle Paul as the “bond of perfectness.” It unites and combines all the other graces, “fitly framing them together,” giving them beauty, proportion, and effect. The apostle Paul has presented a full-length portraiture of Charity. Are you surprised that peace should spring from that charity which “endureth all things”? This is its rational and invariable result. The peace which flows from believing, and which consists in reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ, will be connected with a pacific temper and disposition. These are the objects of pursuit exhibited to your attention, in the exhortation of the text. You are commanded to follow them, wherever they may lead you; to aim at attaining them, whatever they may cost you; anti with unremitting diligence to persevere in the path which they have prescribed. With peculiar propriety has the apostle connected this wise direction with the preceding caution. Every disposition marked out as the object of pursuit, immediately tends to the subversion of those unhallowed desires which you are warned to avoid. You cannot indulge in one “youthful lust” but you violate the claims of “righteousness, faith, charity, and peace.” Let these holy principles exist, and you will be effectually armed against the enemies of your souls.

III. with whom should you associate? “With them that call on the Lord with a pure heart.” Religion does not extirpate the social affections of our nature; but it directs their exercise, and consecrates them supremely to the glory of God. The fellowship of a Christian Church is designed to bring them under the guidance of those laws which Christ has revealed in His Word, and to regulate all our voluntary associations. The influence of pernicious example is peculiarly felt in the circle of intimate friendship. There your opinions and practices receive their strongest confirmation; and your character and habits, if at first opposed to the prevailing complexion of those with whom you associate, will be almost imperceptibly changed. Consider the infinite importance of being now “numbered with the saints,” “on the Lord’s side,” that you may not be “gathered with sinners” at the day of final separation and unalterable decision! (Jos. Fletcher, M. A.)

Purity

Antony William Boehme, a German divine, once preached from Exodus 20:14 : “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” A chevalier, who was one of his hearers, felt himself so much insulted that he challenged Boehme to fight a duel, because he thought his sermon designed entirely to offend him. Boehme accepted the challenge, and appeared in his robes; but instead of a pistol he had the Bible in his hand, and spoke to him in the following manner: “I am sorry you were so much offended when I preached against that destructive vice; at the time I did not even think of you. Here I appear with the sword of the Spirit, and if your conscience condemns you, I beseech you, for your own salvation, to repent of your sins and lead a new life. If you will, then fire at me immediately, for I would willingly lose my life if that might be the means of saving your soul l” The chevalier was so struck with this language that he embraced him and solicited his friendship. A bold man was this preacher, and reminds you of another bold man in English history, Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester, who presented to Henry VIII. for a new year’s gift a New Testament, doubled down at the leaf where is written, “Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4). God’s truth must be told, and not be kept back. The Seventh Commandment concerns our own and our neighbour’s chastity: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” It forbids all acts of uncleanness, with all those fleshly lusts which produce those acts and war against the soul; and all those practices which cherish and excite those fleshly lusts, as looking in order to lust, which Christ tells us is forbidden in this commandment (Matthew 5:28). The eyes, like Jacob’s cattle, too firmly fixed on beautiful objects, make the affections bring forth spotted fruit, and it is as easy to quench the fire of Etna as the thought fixed by lust. Lusting is often the result of looking, as in David, who saw Bathsheba bathing, and in Joseph’s mistress, who set her eyes upon Joseph. Lust is quicksighted. How much better Job, who would not look, lest he should think upon a maid! He had learned to keep in his eyes from roving to wanton prospects. Samson’s eyes were the first offenders that betrayed him to unlawful desire of carnal pleasure; therefore are his eyes first pulled out, and he led a blind captive to Gaza, where before he had with carnal appetite gazed on his Delilah. Among the things which in our baptismal vow we promised to renounce are the sinful lusts of the flesh. The text enforces that promise upon us. Carnal pleasures are the sins of youth; ambition and the love of power the sins of middle age: covetousness and carking cares the crimes of old age. “Flee fornication,” etc. (1 Corinthians 6:18-19). He that commits this sin sinneth against his own body; and inasmuch as his body was created for God’s Holy Spirit to dwell in, it is a defilement of the temple of God. This sin of fornication is, therefore, the more hateful, because by committing it a man sins both against himself, against his fellow-creature, and against his God. By indulging in this sin he debases his noblest faculties; he defiles and destroys God’s handiwork; he makes vile that which God made holy. By the just judgment of God all these irregular and sinful connections are married to death. Neither prostitutes, whore mongers, nor unclean persons of any description can live out half their days. Parents! beware of the example of Eli! He was a good man himself, but his children were extremely wicked--he restrained them not. Parents! see that your children do not associate with corrupt companions--“Evil communications corrupt good manners.” Indulged children, like Dinah (Genesis 34:1-31.), often become a grief and shame to their families. Her pretence was to see the daughters of the land, to see how they dressed, and how they danced, and what was fashionable amongst them; she went to see--she went to be seen too; she went to gain an acquaintance with those Canaanites, and to learn their way. See what came from Dinah’s roving! The beginning of sin is as the letting forth of water--“Give the water no passage, neither an unprotected daughter liberty to gad abroad” (Ecclus). Carefully avoid all occasions of sin and approaches to it. Parents! let your household arrangements be such as never to endanger your children’s purity of character; never let the blush of shame be needlessly raised on their cheeks. Whatever sacrifice it may cost you in other ways, do not put them in jeopardy by crowding your family into too small a space, thus rendering it impossible that a sense of decency and modesty should be preserved. It is a false and fatal economy that would tempt you to do this. Much depends on you, landlords, masters, employers of labour. But whatever may be done by parents or by masters, to you, young men and young women, we must mainly look. The celebrated John Newton, as the commander of a slave-ship, had a number of women under his absolute command, and knowing the danger of his situation on that account, he resolved to abstain from flesh in his food, and to drink nothing stronger than water during the voyage, that by abstemiousness he might subdue every improper emotion. Upon his setting sail, the sight of a certain point of land was the signal for his beginning a rule which he was enabled to keep. (R. A. Taylor, M. A.)

Helps against lusts

1. Get a sound knowledge of them.

2. Mortify thy carnal members.

3. Labour for a broken heart.

4. Be diligent in thy calling.

5. Abandon lewd companions.

6. And strive to taste deeply of the water of life; favour the best things. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Youthful lusts

And thy lusts of youth are principally these: pride, idleness, pleasure, wantonness. To avoid these See thou--

1. Set a watch over all thy external senses. In presence, view not, touch not. In absence, talk not, think not on wanton affections.

2. Sleep little, eat little, work much, pray much; for take away the fuel and the fire will be quenched.

3. When wandering cogitations or suggestions reflect on thy fancy, divert them the contrary way. Forget not this.

4. Attend to good counsel, and follow it; and see before thou purpose anything what the best men advise thee. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

A choice between the higher and lower life

Thou hast a double nature. Choose between the worse and the better that is within thee. Thou hast it in thy power to become the slave of passion, the slave of luxury, the slave of sensual pleasure, the slave of corruption. Thou hast it in thy power to become the free master of thyself, to become the everlasting benefactor of thy country, and the unfailing champion of thy God. (Dean Stanley.)

Passions to be early checked

There was once an old monk walking through the forest with a little scholar by his side. The old man suddenly stopped and pointed to four plants close at hand. The first was beginning to peep above the ground; the second had rooted itself pretty well into the earth; the third was a small shrub; whilst the fourth and last was a full-sized tree. Then the old monk said to his young companion: “Pull up the first.” The youth easily pulled it up with his fingers. “Now pull the second.” The youth obeyed, but not so easily. “And the third.” But the boy had to put forth all his strength, and to use both arms, before he succeeded in uprooting it. “And now,” said the master, “try your hand upon the fourth.” But lo! the trunk of the tall tree, grasped in the arms of the youth, scarcely shook its leaves, and the little fellow found it impossible to tear its roots from the earth. Then the wise old monk explained to his scholar the meaning of the four trials. “This, my son, is just what happens with our passions. When they are young and weak, one may, by a little watchfulness over self, and the help of a little self-denial, easily tear them up; but if we let them cast their roots deep down into our souls, then no human power can uproot them, the Almighty hand of the Creator alone can pluck them out. For this reason, watch well over the first movements of your soul, and study by acts of virtue to keep your passions well in check.”

The bloom of youthful purity

There grows a bloom and beauty over the beauty of the plum and apricot, more exquisite than the fruit itself--a soft, delicate flush that overspreads its blushing cheek. Now, if you strike your hand over that, it is gone for ever, for it never grows but once. The flower that hangs in the morning impearled with dew, arrayed as a queenly woman never was arrayed with jewels; once shake it so that the beads roll off, and you may sprinkle water over it as you please, yet it can never be made again what it was when the dew fell silently on it from heaven. On a frosty morning you may see panes of glass covered with landscapes, mountains, lakes, and trees, blended in a beautiful fantastic picture. Now, lay your hand upon the glass, and by a scratch of your finger, or by the warmth of your palm, all the delicate tracery will be obliterated. So there is in youth a beauty and purity of character, which, when once touched and defiled, can never be restored-a fringe more delicate than frost-work, and which, when torn and broken, will never be re embroidered. He who has spotted and soiled his garments in youth, though he may seek to make them white again, can never wholly do it, even were he to wash them with his tears. When a young man leaves his father’s house with the blessing of a mother’s tears still wet upon his brow, if he once lose that early purity of character, it is a spot that he can never make whole again. Such is the consequence of crime. Its effects cannot be eradicated; it can only be forgiven.

Righteousness

Let me exhort you to put on the righteousness of Christ Jesus, as by application, so in imitation. When thou art to deal with God, and to appeal in His court, see thou have this wedding garment: clothe thy nakedness with the mantle of Jesus; cover thy sinful person with no other robe; wear not linsey woolsey; mix not thy pigeon feathers with this eagle’s plumes; blend not thy flash water with this fresh wine, lest thy nakedness appear, and death be found in the pot. But with him, who knew what he did (Philippians 3:8-9), cast off thy rags, trample them under foot, and apparel thyself with the pure linen of Christ our Lord; for Solomon in all his royalty was not clothed like him, who hath put on Christ Jesus. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Faith

By faith the righteousness of Christ is unfolded, apprehended, put on. Knowledge, like the eye, may direct us unto the wedding garment. But faith, as the hand, must take hold of it, apparel ourselves with it. What if we be said to live by faith? so are we by our hands. Yet doth any man eat his fingers? No; it is by that which faith applieth; and the motion of the hand procureth and receiveth. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Following peace

For thy help take these directions:--

1. Be at peace with God; for that will keep thy heart and mind in the acknowledgment and love of the truth (Philippians 4:7; Philippians 4:9).

2. Have peace with thyself. In all things be in subjection to the Spirit (James 3:14-15). For if wars be in us, peace will not be without us (Galatians 6:16),

3. Depart with part of thine own rights; so did Abraham to Lot (Genesis 13:9). Christ paid tribute to preserve peace (Matthew 17:1-27., ult.). And for peace sake we should suffer wrong (1 Corinthians 6:7).

4. Abandon self-love, and pray for peace. When men will have their own actions still go forward, without doubt, it is a work of the flesh (Galatians 6:20).

For motives--

1. Are we not the sons of God? and is not He the King of Peace? (1 Corinthians 14:33).

2. Be we not subjects to Him who is the Prince of Peace? (Isaiah 9:6).

3. Is not a Christian called to live in peace? (1 Corinthians 7:15).

4. And if we continue in peace, will not the God of love and peace be with us? (2 Corinthians 13:11). (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Self-control inspired by the thought of God

A heathen may herein teach multitudes of unconverted men and many professing Christians a lesson. We read of Cyrus, that when, after one of his victories, a captive of singular beauty, Panther, the wife of Abradates, king of Susiana, was taken, he refused to see her, and entrusted her to the keeping of Araspes, giving him a very prudent admonition respecting his conduct, and was thus assured by him; “Fear nothing; I am sure of myself, and I will answer with my life that I shall do nothing contrary to my duty.” This young nobleman was notwithstanding overcome by her beauty, and in danger of basely violating his promise, had not Panthea given Cyrus intelligence of his baseness. Araspes, when cited to appear before his prince, was overwhelmed with shame and fear, and spoke of the control over his desires which he had when in Cyrus’ presence, and his weakness when left to himself (see “Rollin’s Ancient History,” bk. 4., ch. 1., sec. 4.). If the presence of a fellow-creature, however marked by purity and moderation, availed to curb the passions of a heathen, how much more should the re collection of a pure and holy God! And if love constrain not, the fear of His displeasure should lead us to beware of danger, and to guard our eyes and our hearts, lest we fall into temptation.

Avoiding danger

Have you never heard the story of a lady who wanted a coachman? Two or three called to see her about the situation, and, in answer to her inquiries, the first applicant said, “Yes, madam, you could not have a better coachman than myself.” She replied, “How near do you think you could drive to danger without an accident?” “Madam, I could go within a yard of it, and yet you would be perfectly safe.” “Very well,” she said, “you will not suit me.” The second one had heard the question upon which the other had been rejected, and therefore he was ready with his answer, “Danger! madam, why I could drive within a hair’s breadth, and yet be perfectly safe.” “Then you will not suit me at all.” When number three came in, he was asked, “Are you a good driver? Well,” he replied, “I am careful and have never met with an accident.” “But how near do you think you could drive to danger?” “Madam,” he said, “that is a thing I never tried, I always drive as far away from danger as ever I can.” The lady at once replied, “You are the kind of coachman I want, and I will engage you at once.” Get such a coachman as that yourself, to guide your own heart, and lead your own character. Do not see how near you can go to sin, but see how far you can keep away from it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Abstinence

A friend who, in the opinion of all who knew him, was very unlikely to take stimulants to excess, and who had very little sympathy with teetotalism, told me the other day that he had given up wine. When I asked him his reason he gave me this suggestive reply: “Because I was beginning to like it and count on it.” It was the wise repression of incipient rebellion before it had asserted itself by overt act. (A. Rowland, LL. B.)

Taken unawares

We have read that “a debtor seeing a bailiff in quest of him ran three miles to a boundary, beyond which he was safe.” The bailiff, seeming calmly to submit to his failure, stretched out his hand and said, “Well, let us part good friends, at any rate.” The debtor, off his guard, accepted the offered hand, whereupon the bailiff, with a desperate effort, pulled him across the line, and clapping him on the shoulder, said, “You are my prisoner.” So men may be overcome by the evil one when they least expect an assault from him, and think themselves most safe. (Sunday School Teacher.)

Self-control

Bishop Ryle, in his “Young Men Exhorted,” makes some pungent remarks on this duty of self-control. “Resolve at once,” he writes, “by God’s help, to shun everything that may prove an occasion of sin. It is an excellent saying of good old Bishop Hall: ‘He that would be safe from the acts of evil must wisely avoid the occasions.’ Never hold a candle to the devil. He that would be safe must not come near the brink of danger. He must look upon his heart as a magazine of gunpowder, and be cautious not to handle one spark of temptation more than he can help. Where is the use of your praying, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ unless you are yourselves careful not to run into it?” “Flee”:--Prayer is not enough. Many have prayed, and have not found it sufficient. Therefore the advice in the Bible is rational--Flee. The usual receipt for resisting sin is, Fight; but I venture to say the Bible and common sense recommend flight rather. There are many sins we must not even look at; to turn away and run is the only resource. The Bible says, “Flee youthful lusts,” and “Look not on the wine.” The brave thing, although it looks the cowardly, is to flee. But it is not into space we are to flee. We are to fly upward, to get into a higher mood, and breathe another atmosphere. (Prof. H. Drummond.)

Temptation’s deceits

In the Fisheries Exhibition the nets were so beautifully hung and draped as to form graceful curtains. How many of Satan’s nets are made to appear charmingly attractive. (H. O. Mackey.)

The conquest of self

The following epitaph was once placed over a soldier’s grave:--

“Here lies a soldier, whom all must applaud,

Who fought many battles at home and abroad;

But the hottest engagement he ever was in

Was the conquest of self in the battle of sin.”

The danger of success

There is danger in success. St. Bernard astonished an immense congregation, intensely interested in his sermon, by suddenly exclaiming, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” He felt that the devil was tempting him to be proud of his eloquence, as though he would win souls by his own enticing words. And when Lacordaire had enthralled thousands by one of his Lenten sermons in Notre Dame, the young monk who went to summon him to the refectory, found him kneeling before a crucifix, with the tears on his cheeks, and inquired, “Oh, father, why are you so sad?” This was the answer, “My son, I am afraid of success.” Be not high-minded, but fear. (Dean Hole.)

Undiscovered character

Every man has in himself a continent of undiscovered character. Happy is he who acts the Columbus to his own soul. (Sir Jr. Stephen.)

Peace with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

This last “peace” must be joined with the words immediately following: “With them that call on the Lord,” etc. The “peace” here signifies absence of contention; it is well paraphrased by, “that spiritual concord which unites together all who call upon and who love their Lord.” (H. D. M. Spence, M. A.)

The Christian young man

It will be manifest, at the very first glance, that when the apostle expresses with whom his son Timothy should, he implies with what kind of persons he should not associate; with those who do not “call upon the Lord,” and with those who do indeed appear to call upon the Lord, but not “out of a pure heart.” First, the unbeliever, whether he be such in appearance, or only in practice; and next, the hypocrite, the formalist, the inconsistent, and the insincere.

1. Our first character is that of the avowed and unblushing sceptic; that of the man who contemptuously characterises religion as the business of women, the trade of preachers, and the toy of men; one who mistakes adroitness in contending against truth in argument, for capability of disproving it, and who is as much delighted with himself, when he has hurled a sarcasm or a sneer against the gospel or the Church, as if he had invented an objection which must tend to the overthrow of them both. This class of persons may be ordinarily identified by one generic feature; namely, that they assume everything, and demonstrate nothing. Avoid, then, as far as possible, all intercourse, all communion, with persons such as these. If they interrogate you, answer; but when you have answered, do not argue.

2. I shall next describe the character of the man whose infidelity is practical; who is only not an atheist because he is nothing; who does not avow or advocate false principles simply because he has no principles at all; and who remains just as indifferent to all that concerns his moral responsibility or his religious duty, as if indeed he were the base degraded thing, to which he endeavours to assimilate himself; as if in truth he were “the beast, whose spirit goeth downward to the earth”--not the rational, immortal, intelligible, accountable man, whose spirit, when dismissed from and disencumbered of its earthly tabernacle, must “return to God that gave it.” The root of the evil is, that so far as the interests of the soul are concerned, persons of this class do not think at all. From such, then, as we have now described, such as “separate themselves” front the assemblies of Christian worship, being “sensual, having not the Spirit”; such as do not “call upon the Lord” in the house of prayer, and therefore cannot be presumed to call upon Him in the closet--you ought to separate yourselves as far as possible, on no other ground than the simple knowledge of the fact. They are far more likely to injure you than you are likely to profit them; for they have an ally, an accomplice, in your own sinful nature.

3. There is yet another class of characters, from whom in following out the spirit of the text, we are constrained to counsel separation. It is the inconsistent, the undecided, the manifestly insincere; those who “call on the Lord,” but not “out of a pure heart”; those who observe proprieties, but who disregard principles; who conform to the ritual without imbibing the spirit of the Church; who profess with their lips that they know God, but in works do deny Him--disguising their practices by their profession, and masking their private vices by their public prayers. Those who “call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” But then understand what this means--the heart of such persons is not innately pure; it is not pure from the first. No, nor is it inherently pure by any natural constitution or organisation peculiar to itself. Nor is it independently pure--without the aids of Divine and spiritual operation, or by influence of its own. Nor is it invariably pure--pure without any apprehension of or capability of change. Its purity is derived and imparted from above; purity in the comparative sense, for all human purity is comparative; and produced by the action of the Spirit of God upon the heart. It is first the purposed, attempted, desired separation from all iniquity--because we “name the name of Christ”; the ceasing to regard it with the heart, as well as admit it knowingly into the life. It is next the fixed, settled, honest purpose, to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”; and to postpone all considerations of present pleasure, interest, or inclination to the “one thing” which is supremely “needful,” even to “win Christ and be found in Him.” Purity, indeed, is but another name for what is elsewhere called “singleness of heart”; that which St. Paul exemplified when he declared, “One thing I do; forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”; and what the Lord Himself delineated when He said, “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” I have already spoken to you about the prudence of avoiding companionship with the ungodly, but this example leads you one step beyond it--to the cultivation of fellowship with the pious. And for this reason: that every friendship, which is formed upon such principles and with such persons, is an additional barrier and defence against the encroachment or aggressions of the enemy. To form a new Christian connection or intimacy is like placing a new warrior within the citadel of the heart, a new sentinel upon the watch-tower, or, it may be, a new defender in the breach. (T. Dale, M. A.)


Verse 23

2 Timothy 2:23

Foolish and unlearned questions avoid.

The Greek word translated “unlearned,” is better rendered ignorant. These “questions,” which the false teachers, with whom Timothy was so much thrown, loved to put forward for discussion, could hardly be termed “unlearned”--much useless learning being often thrown away in these disputings of the schools--but were rather “pointless,” “stupid,” as well as foolish. (H. D. M. Spence, M. A.)

Ignorant questionings

I. Unadvised and unlearned questions are to be avoided.

1. For the ground of them is not good: such spring either from curiosity or ignorance.

2. The fruit therefore will be bitter; for nothing profitable.

II. Sin in the first causes is to be prevented. What of less motion or power than a word--a question? yet such of all men are to be regarded.

III. The causes of sin once discerned are to be resisted, shunned. Thou knowest that fond reasonings, unadvised disputings, beget quarrels, stir up strifes: therefore reject them, flee from them.

IV. Foolish questions raise contentions. It is a wonder to see what abundance of ill fruit one branch of fond reasoning hath produced. Like a bone cast amongst curs, an unlearned question will cause men to snarl, bite, and quarrel. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Foolish questionings

A lady, of whom we beard in our travels, had worried several ministers who sought her good by always telling them that she could not believe till they could explain to her how God could be without a beginning. “For,” said she, “if He never began, then He has not begun, and there can be no God at all.” Very dexterous are certain persons in blocking up their own road, and yet, perhaps, there is no great dexterity in it, for the proverb says, “A fool may put questions which a wise man cannot answer.” In the Vatican at Rome we saw the renowned statue of the boy who has a thorn in his foot, and is busy extracting if. He was doing this when we first saw him, and three years after he was attempting the same operation. We have good reason for believing that he is even now in the same posture, and will be found in like attitude fifty years hence. He is carved in marble, and therefore is excused for making no progress; but what shall be said of living, thoughtful individuals who year after year are trifling with imaginary difficulties, and never set foot on the road to heaven? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Unwise curiosity

The over-curious are not over-wise. (Massinger.)

Metaphysical subtleties

“Defend me, therefore, common sense, say I,

From reveries so airy, from the toil

Of dropping buckets into empty wells,

And growing old in drawing nothing up.”

(Cowper.)

Religious strife

Huxley came to Baltimore to attend a general conference in 1820. A discussion arose on a question of order, whether presiding elders should be elected by preachers or not, and the dispute had waxed warm, not to say hot. Brother Huxley had said not a word through it all, but at the close of the session the Bishop called upon him to make the concluding prayer. He knelt and said, “Now, O Lord, Thou knowest what a time we’ve had here discussing and arguing about this eider question, and Thou knowest what our feelings are. We do not care what becomes of the ark; it’s only who drives the oxen.” (Christian Age.)


Verse 24

2 Timothy 2:24

The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle.

Conciliation

It is noteworthy how, in these Pastoral Epistles--which contain, so to speak, the last general directions to believers in Jesus as to life, as well as doctrine of, perhaps, the greatest of the inspired teachers--so many careful suggestions are given for the guidance of Christians in all their relations with the great heathen world. Conciliation may be termed the key-note of these directions. St. Paul would press upon Timothy and his successors the great truth that it was the Master’s will that the unnumbered people who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death should learn, by slow though sure degrees, how lovely and desirable a thing it was to be a Christian; should come at length to see clearly that Christ was, after all, the only lover and real friend of man. (H. D. M. Spence, M. A.)

Gentleness becometh a minister

He must not be a fighter, quarreller; but meek, quiet, easy to be entreated: for such are fathers, nurses, surgeons, physicians. Oh, how much pity, tenderness of affection is required of them! Lambs, sucking babes, bones out of joints, stand in need of a gentle heart and finger to feed, nourish, and rightly to place them. To be fierce, cruel, outrageous, better befits a dog than a shepherd. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

True spirit of reform

The temper and deportment recommended by St. Paul in the text to those who undertake to serve God in the instruction of man, or in advancing any reformation, approve themselves to our sober judgment as best suited to the work in view, and alone conformable to the example and precepts of our blessed Saviour. But then we look back upon the history of the Church, which is in great part an history of ignorance and instruction, of corruptions and reformations, and we find that among the most prominent of the servants of the Lord, among the most remarkable leaders in religious progress, were those who, though apt to teach were also very apt to strive, and so far from being patterns of gentleness, patience and meekness, were rather remarkable for qualities of an opposite description, for rudeness, for hastiness, and for intemperance of language and action. We ask, whether, considering the task which these men assumed, the obstacles which they were obliged to contend with, and the success which rewarded their efforts, they were not, after all, the right kind of men for the work and for the time; whether their severe and even martial characteristics were not necessary to the accomplishment of their purpose; and whether a different kind of men, of more peaceful sentiments, and moderate designs and measures, would have made any head at all against the torrent of sin and error which they might endeavour to stem. We think of Luther, of Calvin of Knox--fiery, arbitrary, and often abusive men. But were they more so than they ought to have been? Here is the gospel rule on the one side, and here, on the other, are these impressive facts. Now, in few of these facts, must not the gospel rule admit of exception and modification? If this has at any time been my opinion, longer reflection has induced me to renounce it; and I am now convinced that truth never requires the sacrifice of love, that wrath and violence are never necessary to reforms, that the cause of Christianity is never really advanced by the operations of an unchristian spirit. Do i then undertake to say, that what we have been accustomed to call reformations are not reformations, and that the leaders of them do not deserve the name of reformers, which has so long been awarded them? I say no such thing. But I do venture to affirm, that these reformations would have been attended with less suffering and evil, and would have been more extensive than they were, if the reformers had manifested more of the Christian spirit than they did. I would attribute the success of those reformers whom I have already named, such as it was, and it surely was great, not to their failings but to their excellences, not to their vices but their virtues. They possessed in great perfection the energetic virtues: through the force of these virtues, and the force of truth, they succeeded as they did. Their bitterness, their fierceness, did not promote, but on the contrary impeded, the progress of the truths for which they contended. A Christian reform cannot be caused or aided by a spirit which the law of Christ expressly and utterly condemns. The real causes which bring it about are of another character.

1. There is, in the first place, the obviousness of the corruptions which the reformer would abolish, and which the pure and honest portion of society, when their eyes are opened, will unite in abolishing.

2. There is, in the second place, the equal obviousness of some good, which the reformer distinctly presents as an end, and which the well-disposed will assist him to establish.

3. There is, in the third place, the real virtue which the reformer manifests in the exhibition and accomplishment of his purpose.

4. In the fourth place, there is the vast amount of noble enthusiasm which is excited by the prospect of enormous corruptions on the one hand, and of great improvements and blessings on the other, and which enlists itself on the reformer’s side.

5. And, to go no further in the enumeration, there is the help of God, which is always bestowed upon those who, with whatever imperfections, are labouring to accomplish a high and worthy object. I find that my opinion is supported by an authority which, on such a subject, is entitled to more than common weight. “I know,” says the reformer John Wesley, speaking of the reformer John Knox, and of that fierce and barbarous spirit of his followers, which demolished the finest architecture of Scotland, “I know it is commonly said, the work to be done needed such a spirit. Not so; the work of God does not, cannot need the work of the devil to forward it. And a calm, even spirit goes through rough work far better than a furious one. Although, therefore, God did use at the time of the Reformation sour, overbearing, passionate men, yet He did not use them because they were such, bat notwithstanding they were so. And there is no doubt He would have used them much more, had they been of a humbler and milder spirit.” Instances, in sufficient number, might be mentioned beside that of Wesley, of men who, charged with an important message, and meeting with rude and cruel opposition in delivering it, have still delivered it with a kind and loving, and withal a steady voice, and who have been heard and obeyed at last, when opposers grew ashamed of their own ferocity, and sank into quietness from the want of exasperation. But if there were no such instances, I see not what is to forbid our pointing to the Great Redeemer, and requiring that all who work in His name should work with His spirit; and moreover asserting that whatever contradictions of this spirit are manifested by them are to be counted, not among their excellences, nor among qualities which are necessary to their success, but among their defects, and defects which their cause, if a Christian cause, might easily have spared. (F. W. P. Greenwood, D. D.)

Gentleness

It is a suggestive fact that the dove, which is regarded as the emblem of gentleness, has no gall-bladder. (H. O. Mackey.)

Power of gentleness

St. Anselm was a monk in the Abbey of Bec, in Normandy, and upon Lanfranc’s removal, became his successor as director. No teacher ever threw a greater spirit of love into his toil. “Force your scholars to improve?” he burst out to another teacher who relied on blows and compulsion. “Did you ever see a craftsman fashion a fair image out of a golden plate by blows alone? Does he not now gently press it and strike it with his tools; now with wise art, yet more gently raise and shape it. What do your scholars turn into under this ceaseless beating?” “They turn only brutal,” was the reply. “You have bad luck,” was the keen answer, “in a training that only turns men into beasts.” The worst natures softened before this tenderness and patience. Even the Conqueror, so harsh and terrible to others, became another man, generous and easy of speech, with Anselm. (H. O. Mackey.)

The quietness of Christ

One feature of Christ’s teaching which St. Matthew notices, is the quietness in dealing with those by whom it was misunderstood. There was no fighting, no contention of words, no hot disputing, where it could be avoided, but retirement. So we are told that when the Pharisees held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him, He withdrew Himself fulfilling, St. Matthew Sells us, the old words, “He shall not strive nor cry, neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets.” I must, however, draw your attention to yet one more feature, His teaching was positive, not negative. There was much in the religion of the day that was so small, contemptible, and even base, that it might have seemed right and wise to pull down first and then build. But He, by His actions and His words, was constantly justifying His express statement that He came not to destroy, but to fulfil. So far from fulminating against the dead formality of the temple worship, He tried to make it better by purging it and infusing fresh life into it. His life and words were a continual filling in with a new spirit all that was good and helpful. Where He could transform He would never discard. Could we catch something of His spirit by retiring from, instead of fighting with, determined enemies, by transforming instead of discarding, how helpful our service of man in this respect would be! (Prof. G. H. S. Walpole.)

Christian gentleness

I remember to-day two masters I was under at school. One was a huge, burly fellow, with a sharp, unkind word, and a sharper punishment for every boy, big or little, who was guilty of an omission or a fault: and every lad, little or big in the school, hated him, and longed for the time when they would see him no more. The other was by no means a weakling, for he was a splendid fellow in the cricket-field; but he was as gentle as a child. And the roughest and wildest lads, who would have scorned to allow their faces to tell what they suffered under a cruel beating from the first, used to dread a quiet five minutes’ talk with the second master, who in a sweet low voice always used to begin with “my dear boy.” Few lads left the presence of that second master without having felt unable to repress the rising tears, and without a noble resolve to be better for the sake of the Christian gentleness with which the folly or the fault had been dealt with. (J. Bowker.)

Kind words

Kind words never blister the tongue or lips, and we never hear of any mental trouble arising from this quarter. Though they do not cost much, yet they accomplish much. They help one’s own good nature and good will. Soft words soften our own soul; angry words are fuel to the flame of wrath, and make it burn more fiercely. Kind words make other people good-natured. Cold words freeze people, and hot words scorch them; and bitter words make them bitter, and wrathful words make them wrathful. There are such a number of other kinds of words, that we ought occasionally to make use of kind words. There are vain words, and idle words, and silly words, and hasty words, and empty words, and profane words, and boisterous words, and war-like words. But kind words soothe and comfort the hearer; they shame him out of his sour, morose, unkind feelings. We have not yet begun to use kind words in such abundance as they ought to be used. (Pascal.)

Scholars to be considered rather than subjects

If teachers could be convinced that every lesson in which a child, however it has increased its knowledge, has increased its dislike for knowledge, is a lesson worse than lost, then they would consider not only how subjects ought to be treated, but pupils. There are many who do great justice to their subjects, while they do great injustice to their pupils. The nature of the one is understood, but not the nature of the other. (Sunday School Teacher.)

Patient

(see Wisdom of Solomon 2:19.)--Endurance of malicious detraction is one of the victories of grace. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)

Teaching better than controversy

This is what the servant of God should really aim at being: the teacher rather than the controversialist--rather the patient endurer of wrong than the fomenter of dissentions and wordy strifes. (H. D. M Spence, M. A.)

Impatience

Antony, the hermit, heard praise of a certain brother; but when he tested him he found that he was impatient under injury. Quoth Antony, “Thou art like a house which has a gay porch, but is broken into by thieves through the back door.” (C. Kingsley.)

Provocation wisely used

The oyster, when it is feeding, lies with its shell open a little way, so that the water may flow through it; and when any of the very little insects and animals on which it feeds comes floating in with the water, the oyster opens its mouth and swallows them. But it sometimes happens that things float in which the oyster does not want, and which it cannot swallow or eat. When it is lying quietly in the sunshine, and enjoying its meal, a little grain of sand may come inside the shell, so small that you and I could scarcely see it, but so hard and sharp, that if it gets under the oyster’s soft, tender body, it would irritate and pain it. What does the oyster do? It has no hands to catch hold of it and throw it out. Well, it does not, as we should say, get into a passion, and knock itself about the shell; no, it lies quite still, and with some of that beautiful, white, smooth, glossy matter, with which it has lined the inside of its shell, it covers the sand all over, and so makes it smooth too. And more than that, when the oyster is caught, and its shell is opened, if one of these small round beads is found, it is taken out and called a pearl, and sometimes makes a very valuable and handsome ornament. So provocation should be the occasion of developing the pearl of patience.


Verse 25

2 Timothy 2:25

In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God per adventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.

The phrase is difficult as it stands. Strictly translated it would be, “lest at any time”; but this would be out of harmony with the whole strain of the passage. Grave doubt is expressed, but hope is not extinguished. God is the giver of repentance. Scharlitz, quoted by Fairbairn, suggests “whether God may not still give repentance.” Here is expression of the thought that there is room and necessity for the operation of the Spirit of God, over and above the normal action of the truth upon the understanding. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)

Timothy’s ministry

(2 Timothy 2:25-26):--Consider--

I. The characters among whom it was to re exercised--opposers not only of God, but of themselves. They oppose--

1. Their duty.

2. Their conscience.

3. Their peace.

4. Their safety.

II. Its nature. It was a ministry of--

1. Instruction.

2. Meekness.

III. Its design.

1. That sinners may be led to repentance.

2. Led to an acknowledgment of the truth.

3. Recovered from the snares of the devil. (Anon.)

Meekness in the minister

He who cannot bear calmly and reply with dignity to contradiction, is just as little fitted for the ministry of the gospel as the physician would be for his profession who would allow himself to become moved by the abusive speech of a patient in fever delirium either to forsake the sick-bed, or to hurl back the abuse. (Van Oosterzee.)

Thunder rare

But you may reply that ministers must be Boanerges, Sons of Thunder, rattle in a congregation. True; notwithstanding, meekness is to be retained, practised. But to return an answer suitable to the objection.

1. Every thin vapour, light exhalation, will not afford matter to cause a thunder-crack; so each text, subject, doth not give warrant to denounce terrors.

2. Before it thunder we apprehend a light, and then the voice striketh the organ of hearing, and the eye of the mind is to be enlightened in order ere that judgment be threatened.

3. Thunder is rare, not at every season; should the minister continually shoot the shafts of God’s indignation, would not the vulgar begin to smile, laugh him to scorn?

4. After a great crack of thunder the heavens grow black and refresh the earth with sweet showers of water, and when the bolts of justice are cast among the people a preacher is to assume a doleful look, a sad countenance. These rules observed, cry aloud, Thunder and spare not l What shall I more say? In the cause of thy Master be bold, resolute; in thine own, let meekness have her perfect work. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

The spirit of opposition

It was written of Thoreau, the author, that “He was by nature of the opposition; there was a constitutional ‘No’ in him that could not be tortured into ‘Yes.’” (H. O. Mackey.)

The nature of religious truths

I. Here is a supposition laid down--that truth is something real in itself and of importance to men; something that may be found, and which we ought to seek after. Wherever the Scripture speaks of truth it always means such truth as has relation to religion. All truth, of what kind soever it be, is real. But truth in matters of religion is always of the greatest importance; as being the foundation and the support of right practice. These truths of God are like an immovable rock, the basis and foundation of that true religion which approves itself to every man’s understanding by clear reason, and glorifies God by making men like unto Him through virtue and righteousness in their practice. All false religions consist in changing these truths of God into a lie (Romans 1:25).

II. Such is the corrupt state and disposition of mankind, that some there will always be who will set themselves to oppose the truth, Notwithstanding the native excellency and beauty of truth considered in itself; notwithstanding the strength and clearness of reason with which it is generally accompanied; notwithstanding the apparent benefit and advantage to which the knowledge of truth always brings, to mankind; yet so little sensible are men of the intrinsic excellency of things, so unattentive to the strength of the clearest reason, so apt to be imposed upon in judging concerning their own true interests; that nothing is more common than to see the plainest and most useful truths in matters of religion violently and passionately opposed. The principal causes of this opposition are--

1. Ignorance. Meaning here by ignorance not a bare want of knowledge. There is a presumptuous ignorance which despises knowledge, and this makes men oppose the truth before they understand anything of it.

2. Carelessness. They blindly, and without any consideration, follow the customs of the place where they happen to live, and the knowledge of truth seems to them to be of no great importance. They take up their religion at adventures, not from the consideration of the laws of nature or of revelation, but merely from the company they chance to be educated amongst, and thus all religions are put upon an equal foot, varying according to the accidental temper, of the persons among whom they prevail.

3. Prejudice. They have accustomed themselves to found their belief entirely in an implicit reliance upon other men, instead of building it upon the evidence of things themselves which is the foundation of truth.

4. Rut the last and greatest reason of men’s setting themselves in opposition to the truth is the wickedness and corruption of their manners, the love of unrighteousness and debauchery, the desire and power of dominion, the concern they are under for the defence and support of a sect or party without having any knowledge how far they are, or are not, in the right.

III. The direction given us concerning our own duty, that we ought in meekness to instruct those who oppose themselves against the truth. “We cannot always discern who they are that err through ignorance and through a vicious disposition. But if we would, yet meekness is at all times necessarily a fruit of the spirit, and we are commanded to be patient towards all men, towards them that oppose as well as towards them that are only ignorant of the truth.

IV. A particular reason with regard to the persons to be instructed, why our instruction to them ought always to be accompanied with meekness. If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth. In the original it is, “Lest God peradventure should give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth.” The meaning is, we are to instruct them with meekness, lest peradventure, by our heat and passion, we raise in them a just prejudice against us, when, by meek instruction, they might possibly have been brought to repentance, and to the acknowledgment of the truth, and so we, by our ill-behaviour become answerable for their miscarriage. For this reason we so frequently find repeated in Scripture the following admonitions, which may serve for a proper application of this whole discourse: 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:15; 1 Corinthians 10:32; Colossians 4:5; 1 Timothy 3:7; Philippians 2:15; Philippians 4:5; Matthew 5:16. (S. Clarke, D. D.)

Repentance the design of preaching

1. One principal end of the ministry is to bring men to repentance.

2. By meek preaching God may work repentance.

3. Repentance is hopeful and yet doubtful.

4. Ministers are to preach and leave the success to the Lord. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

Meekness in controversy

When Dr. Swift was arguing one day with great coolness with a gentleman who had become exceedingly warm in the dispute, one of the company asked him how he could keep his temper so well. “The reason is,” replied the dean, “I have truth on my side.” A cobbler at Leyden, who used to attend the public dispulations held at the academy, was once asked if he understood Latin. “No,” replied the mechanic, “but I know who is wrong in the argument.” “How?” replied his friend. “Why, by seeing who is angry first.” (Sunday School Teacher.)

Many qualities requisite in a minister

The medical attendant of my brother has just been expressing his surprise to see how much I am worn within this last half year; I am very sensible of it myself, and expect that I shall be much more worn if my people continue in such a grievous state. I would that my eyes were a fountain of tears to run down day and night. Would you believe it? I have been used to read the Scriptures to get from them rich discoveries of the power and grace of Christ: to learn how to minister to a loving and obedient people; I am now reading them really and literally to know how to minister to a conceited, contentious, and rebellious people. Two qualities, I am sure, are requisite, meekness and patience, yet, in some cases, I shall be constrained to rebuke with authority. I have been used to sail in the Pacific. I am now learning to navigate the Red Sea, that is full of shoals and rocks, with a very intricate passage. I trust the Lord will carry me safely through; but my former trials have been nothing to this. (C. Simeon.)

Plain instruction

Who expects to find “Bradshaw” full of Latin questions? You get it as a guide, and you want it to be as plain as possible. You have lost your way among some mountains one night, and are overtaken by some classic--who says, “I will tell you the way to get home in sixteen different languages,” none of which you comprehend. I think you would reply, “I would rather be told it, sir, in one that I could understand.” Or, if some profound professor should inform you that he could explain the geological strata and formation of the soil on which you were standing, I think you would say, “If you could point me to my own abode, I should be more grateful.” And I think if some poor ragged girl or shepherd boy could tell you of a way by which you could escape that wood or yonder precipice and reach a hospitable shelter, such information would undoubtedly be more profitable to you. The sign-post that points the way by the side of the roads never have a quotation of poetry upon them, or sentences from Isocrates or Sophocles. There is just the word, and that is enough. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 26

2 Timothy 2:26

And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will--And that they may return to sobriety from the benumbing intoxication of false philosophy and bad habits, here represented as a snare of the devil, in which, though held captive, they were not yet killed--“out of the snare of the devil, being made living captives of by him.
” So far, there is no difficulty, but the last clause, “according to the will of Him,” leaves the reader in doubt as to its meaning, since two pronouns are used which generally, if not universally, refer to two different subjects. De Wette, Huther, and Davidson disregard the difference of the pronouns, and make them both refer to the devil. But the contrast of the two pronouns is remarkable, and the sense of the passage very obscure, the “will of the devil” being an otiose addition, unless it he translated, as by Davidson, “to do his will.” If
ἐκείνου refers to the more remote antecedent, then “God’s will” is suggested as the gracious accompaniment and occasion of this gift of repentance, or as the exposition of the state of new life, into which such penitents may be brought. The passage will read as follows:--“Whether haply God would grant them repentance, and also whether haply they may return to society, into harmony with His will, out of the snare of the devil, seeing they have been made living captives by him.” (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)

Satan’s temptations are like snares

The devil is a fowler, beholds the world like a great and spacious forest full of all kinds of beasts and birds, and setteth snares and gins in every corner to catch them.

1. In a snare there is subtlety, so in Satan’s temptations.

2. In a snare there is cruelty; so here. He is called Abaddon, Apollion, a murderer, a destroyer.

3. In a snare is strength, and is it not to be found in Satan’s temptations?

4. You shall find in Satan’s temptations, as in snares, pleasures and suddenness. Were it not thus they were not snares properly. Was not the tree, in the eye of Eve, good for meat, pleasant, and to be desired to get knowledge (Genesis 3:6)? Were not the daughters of men fair (Genesis 6:2)? And in these was not a bait to catch the beholders? Have not fowlers a lure and call, as if they were birds themselves, to allure and deceive? Will they not scatter corn and all to seduce and bring within danger the little-suspicious birds? Do they not creep on their hands and knees, stand in close and secret places, and when the fowl is within reach how suddenly is the net pulled! Per adventure, when she is singing, playing, suspecting nothing, she is wound in. When Satan assaults, how eagerly, busily, and suddenly will he follow the prey? He sets a man’s affections on fire, kindles such a heat within him that for the present the object of temptation seems wonderful fair, delightful, honourable; though when he is ensnared he perceives no such thing, but the direct contrary. (J. Barlow, D. D.)

The deluded captives

These words are the concluding portion of a solemn address to Timothy, in reference to the instruction of the ungodly, and is the end pointed out as resulting from that instruction--“And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil.” They present to the thoughtful mind a sad picture, bringing before us on the one hand the devil, in the character of fowler; and on the other hand his victims, as deluded, taken alive, under a hard bondage.

I. The characters spoken of.

II. The means by which they are held in bondage.

III. The means by which they may be recovered from that bondage.

I. They are spoken of as those who are ensnared by Satan, and “taken captive by him at his will.”

1. We must notice who is the captor. It is the devil, the murderer and liar, the destroyer of souls; represented here under the character of a snarer or fowler. It is very important to notice Satan in his character, because it manifests his subtlety. The fowler must be subtle in hiding his net, or otherwise he would miss his prey. It is plain from Scripture that sin was introduced through Satan’s subtlety.

2. In the next place, see the awful force of the language. The expression, “taken captive,” is rendered in the margin “taken alive”; it is an idea derived from fowling, in which the prey is taken alive in snares: so the devil takes men’s souls alive by his subtlety: nay, more, unless they be recovered out of his snares, they must be alive for ever under his sway: lost, yet alive; hopeless, yet alive; tormented, yet alive; ever desiring to die, but never able. The other expression, “at his will,” may bear a double interpretation. It may mean that they have been ensnared by Satan’s arts unto his will; i.e., they were so influenced by him that they complied with his will. It is most important to notice this, because it at once brings out the humiliating truth, that the ungodly comply with Satan’s will: The man who lives in drunkenness, who is a sensualist; or to pass on to sins which are thought little of in the world, the man who is untruthful, a backbiter, a slanderer or deceitful, is complying with Satan’s will. The man who is a neglecter of salvation, who never prays, who is putting off the thought of eternity to a convenient season, is complying with Satan’s will. Again, the expression “at his will,” may have reference to the devil’s will concerning his victims--viz., their destruction. Hence those who are taken alive by Satan at his will are taken alive by him for their destruction, he is leading them on, step by step, with the one end and the one object of dragging them alive into that pit of darkness and agony prepared for himself and his angels. Our look upon this other picture--while Satan wills your destruction, God wills your salvation. “He would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

3. In the next place, notice the bondage itself. It is worse than Egyptian bondage. A sinner, taken captive by Satan, has his immortal soul in captivity, bound in fetters which none can break but the Lord of glory. But we may see the fearfulness of this bondage by looking at it in a threefold point of view.

II. The means by which Satan keeps sinners captive. He does so by his snares. We must look at some of those principle snares by which he deludes and holds captive the unwary.

1. The first snare of Satan which I shall mention is, his making sin pleasant, and hiding its awful consequences. He makes the sinner believe the command not to sin, to be a restriction of his liberty, and, therefore, one which he has no right to listen to. It is the present, and the present only, which the devil seeks to force on the captive’s mind; the present and its gain; but the awfully mysterious future he puts out of sight, veiling from the sinner’s mind his dread connection with it.

2. A second snare of Satan’s is, his insinuating doubts into the mind as to the truth of God’s Word.

3. A third snare of Satan’s is, his presenting God to the soul as one made up of all mercy.

4. A fourth snare of Satan’s is, by persuading the soul that the work of repentance is an easy work: that it need not be thought of till laid on a bed of sickness or a bed of death: and he will suggest to the sinner’s mind examples from God’s Word to bear out this delusion.

5. Another snare of Satan, by which he takes souls captive, is by making himself an object of ridicule. This is one of “the depths of Satan”: he knows that the Bible puts him forward as an object of dread; he takes care, therefore, to put himself forward as an object of ridicule, so as to blind the ungodly, and keep them captive at his will. Mark the consequence: all the warnings of Scripture concerning him, all the representations of him as an adversary, a murderer, fall on the ear of his captives as unmeaning titles, they cannot comprehend why he is to be dreaded. And why is this? Just because they are ignorant of the real reason why they cannot comprehend it--viz., Satan has deceived them, deceived them as to his character, deceived them as to his object, deceived them as to their danger, deceived them as to their end, and, will deceive them to that very hour when, as lost and wretched, they shall open their eyes, to learn then, but, alas I too late, that though the devil appeared to them “an angel of light,” yet he was indeed a deceiver, a liar, and a murderer.

6. Another snare by which Satan takes souls captive at his will is, by making them rest in outward forms instead of true conversion.

III. The means by which souls may be recovered from his bondage. “And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil.” The word which is rendered “recover” is in the margin, “awake.” It properly means to become sober again, as from intoxication; to awake from a deep sleep; and then to come to one’s self, or to a right mind. The idea is, that while men are under the bondage of the devil, they are like men intoxicated, or in a deep slumber, unconscious of their danger. How are they to be roused to a sense of their danger? The answer is given in the previous verse, we are to set before them the “truth,” the simple truth of Christ, If peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledging of it.” Acknowledging, implying not merely confession of the truth, but a vital reception of it as it is in Jesus. It is the truth of Christ borne home to the heart by the Holy Ghost, which is the means of conversion. As long as Satan can spread over us the veil of darkness, so long are we his captives, but no sooner does the light of Christ’s truth break in on the soul, than the darkness is dispersed, Satan is vanquished, and the sinner delivered out of darkness into light, and from the power of sin and Satan unto God. But mark you, it is God alone who can effect this transformation; it is God alone who can bear home the word to the heart, and make it a converting word. (A. W. Snape, M. A.)

The snare of the devil

Forbidden fruit is sweet. It is sweetened by the devil. One forbidden tree in Eden seemed better than a thousand trees allowed. That terrible magician has power to concentrate our gaze upon one object--power to withdraw our eyes from the pure and wholesome fruits of many trees, and rivet them upon that one forbidden thing. He so intensifies our thought upon that one desire that it outgrows all desires, and perhaps life itself for the time seems stale and flat unless that one desire be gratified. That is one of the supernatural powers of the serpent to charm his victims. This dreadful delusion, this deadly fascination, fills common objects with dazzling beauty. The coloured lights of hell are reflected upon earthly things and make them appear heavenly. Thus the gaming-table is made to assume attractions which make money and land and houses insignificant trifles in comparison. Thus a glass of liquor grows in beauty and power that will out-dazzle the love of family, or the joys of home, or even the hopes of heaven. (R. S. Barrett.)

Snared through over-confidence

Naturalists tell us that amongst birds and butterflies, the swiftest, strongest fliers approach man much nearer than those with weaker wings, feeling confident that they can dart away from any threatened danger, and this misplaced confidence brings them into the net of the collector. (W. L. Watkinson.)

Caution necessary

In mountain ranges there is often a loose detritus especially dangerous to mountaineers; these loose or crumbling stones being called “the devil’s stones,” for, owing to their treacherous character, if you step on one incautiously you may be precipitated into the depths. There are many such stones in the path of life. False maxims with sophistical colourings; license stealing the name of liberty; harmful speculations, luring as grand chances; methods of trade outlined square, yet full of betrayal; sandy doctrines simulating the rock; friendships which are flowery graves; occupations, recreations which promise rest and serve only to slip us into mire; these are the things of peril: life is full of them; and he only walks surely who walks discreetly. (W. L. Watkinson.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Timothy 2:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/2-timothy-2.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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