The Biblical Illustrator
1 Timothy 5
1 Timothy 5:1-2
Rebuke not an elder.
I. The necessity and the nature of Christian reproof are both suggested. Though age was always to be reverenced, even those in advanced life were to be rebuked when their conduct was inconsistent with their Christian profession. This requires not only a sincere regard for our brother’s welfare, but also at times considerable moral courage. Some find it by no means easy to point out faults even to their own children; but they fairly tremble at the idea of being faithful to those who are in a better social position than themselves, or to those whose age, experience, or learning give them in other departments of life influence and authority. All who have sought to do this are conscious of its difficulty. Speak as you may, you will not improbably offend; for your brother needs as much grace to listen as you need to speak.
II. The mode and spirit in which Christian reproof should be given in specified cases is suggested by the apostle here: “Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters; with all purity.” The word translated “rebuke” means to reprimand sharply, to chide in a rough or arrogant manner, or in a domineering temper; and this is condemned by all the teaching of our Lord about humility and charity. In pointing out faults, we are to be reverent and cautious, as well as earnest and manly; and in discharging this duty of the Christian life we are called upon in the first place to be--
1. Reverent towards age. “Rebuke not an elder” should be, “Rebuke not an elderly person.” The apostle makes no reference here to official standing, but to age. This is obvious from the fact that he speaks first of older and younger men, and then of older and younger women. Ours should be the spirit of Samuel, who, even when he had to convey a message from God, modestly hesitated, waiting for a good opportunity to deliver it, and then spoke with the reverence due to Eli’s age.
2. Love towards the brethren should be conspicuous in every word of reproof. Not anger, nor hatred, nor suspicion, but love--for they are our brothers in Christ.
3. Purity towards women, in thought, as well as in word and act. Nowhere was the exhortation more necessary than in Ephesus, and no one needed it more than Timothy, whose interviews with them were of necessity frequent. (A. Rowland, LL. B.)
Mr. Rothwell, surnamed by the godly of his day the Rough Hewer, from the solemn and powerful manner in which he opened up the corruptions of the human heart, and delivered the judgments of God against all iniquity, was, in his early days, a clergyman without any true sense of religion: he was brought to know the power of Divine things through an admonition given to him by a godly Puritan. Clarke, in his “Lives,” says, “He was playing at bowls among some Papists and vain gentlemen, upon a Saturday, somewhere about Rochdale, in Lancashire. There came into the green to him one Mr. Midgley, a grave and godly minister of Rochdale, whose praise is great in the gospel, though far inferior to Rothwell in points and learning, He took him aside, and fell into a large commendation of him; at length told him what a pity it was that such a man as he should be companion to Papists, and that upon a Saturday, when he should be preparing for the Sabbath. Mr. Rothwell slighted his words, and Checked him for his meddling. The good old man left him, went home, and prayed privately for him. Mr. Rothwell, when he was retired from that company, could not rest, Mr. Midgley’s words stuck so deep in his thoughts. The next day he went to Rochdale Church to hear Mr. Midgley, where it pleased God so to bless the Word that he was, by that sermon, brought home to Christ.” The earnest man who was sent by his Master upon this errand of rebuke, must have felt that he was well rewarded for his holy courage in the after usefulness of Mr. Rothwell; but even had the message failed to bless the person to whom it was delivered, it would not have lacked a recompense from the Great Taskmaster. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
1 Timothy 5:4; 1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Timothy 5:16
But if any widow have children or nephews.
We are reminded here--
I. That home responsibilities are to be accepted as the appointment of God. The sacredness of family relationship is constantly insisted upon both in the Old Testament and the New. All transgressions against it were severely punished under the Mosaic economy, and were condemned still more solemnly by our Lord. A word of exposition on the first clause in the fourth verse is desirable, “If any widows have children or nephews, let them (i.e., not the widows, but the children or nephews)
learn first to show piety (filial love) at home.” The word “nephews” is used by our translators in its old English sense, and is rendered in the Revised Version by its nearest modern equivalent, “grand children,” for in the writings of Chaucer, Sir Thomas More, and John Locke, “nephews” is used to denote grandchildren. And similarly, when it is said they are to requite their “parents,” more is included than fathers or mothers, for the apostle’s word is equivalent to the Scotch “forbears,” for which the English language has no exact synonym. The idea is that we owe a debt of gratitude to those from whom we have derived existence, and to whom we owe the support, care, and education we have received. We are bound to see that to the utmost of our ability their wants in old age are met.
II. That among our God-given responsibilities is the duty of labouring for the support of the weak. Among the blessings of our human relationships is this: that honest work is necessitated. We have seen instances in which a young fellow who has spent all his salary on cigars, dress, and amusements, has after his marriage buckled to work, and displayed an energy and ability for which none had given him credit before. Many a brave young wife and self-sacrificing mother has been ennobled through her home duties, having completely abandoned the foolish and trivial pursuits to which she was once addicted. And what numberless instances there are of men, whose diligence and self-abnegation are beyond praise, who have become what they are by first feeling the responsibility of caring and working for a widowed mother!
III. Paul emphatically declares that those who fail in these responsibilities have denied the faith and are worse than infidels. Stern as the words are, they are true! Even the heathen, certainly the better class of them, were wont to acknowledge filial duties, and would have condemned cynical disregard of parents and refusal to fulfil natural duties towards them. This is an offence against humanity, and therefore, in the deepest sense, an offence against Christ. But a Christian professes to have higher motives in duty than others. Let us never for get that the test of character is to be found in family relationships rather than in those which are ecclesiastical; and that it is in the home first and chiefest of all that Christ’s disciples are to adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour. (A. Rowland, LL. B.)
Piety at home.--
Life at home
A church within a church, a republic within a republic, a world within a world, is spelled by four letters--Hornet If things go right there, they go right everywhere; if things go wrong there, they go wrong everywhere. The door-sill of the dwelling-house is the foundation of Church and State. A man never gets higher than his own garret or lower than his own cellar. In other words, domestic life overarches and underguides all other life. George Washington commanded the forces of the United States, but Mary Washington commanded George. Chrysostom’s mother made his pen for him. As individuals, we are fragments. God makes the races in parts, and then He gradually puts us together. What I lack, you make up; what you lack, I make up; our deficits and surpluses of character being the wheels in the great social mechanism. One person has the patience, another has the courage, another has the placidity, another has the enthusiasm; that which is lacking in one is made up by another, or made up by all. Buffaloes in herds; grouse in broods; quails in flocks; the human race in circles. Our usefulness, and the welfare of society, depend upon our staying in just the place that God has put us, or intended we should occupy. For more compactness, and that we may be more useful, we are gathered in still smaller circles in the home group. And there you have the same varieties again; brothers, sisters, husband, and wife; all different in temperaments and tastes. It is fortunate that it should be so. If the husband be all impulse, the wife must be all prudence. If one sister be sanguine in her temperament, the other must be lymphatic. Mary and Martha are necessities. Then there are those who will, after awhile, set up for themselves a home, and it is right that I should speak out upon these themes.
1. My first counsel to you is, have Jesus in your new home, if it is a new home; and let Him who was a guest at Bethany be in your new household; let the Divine blessing drop upon your every hope, and plan, and expectation. Those young people who begin with God end with heaven.
2. My second advice to you in your home is, to exercise to the very last possibility of your nature the law of forbearance. Prayers in the household will not make up for everything. Some of the best people in the world are the hardest to get along with. Sometimes it will be the duty of the husband and sometimes of the wife to yield; but both stand punctiliously on your rights, and you will have a Waterloo with no Blucher coming up at nightfall to decide the conflict. The best thing I ever heard of my grandfather, whom I never saw, was this: that once, having unrighteously rebuked one of his children, he himself--having lost his patience, and, perhaps, having been misinformed of the child’s doings--found out his mistake, and in the evening of the same day gathered all his family together, and said: “Now, I have one explanation to make, and one thing to say. Thomas, this morning I rebuked you very unfairly. I am very sorry for it. I rebuked you in the presence of the whole family, and now I ask your forgiveness in their presence.” It must have taken some courage to do that.
3. I advise, also, that you make your chief pleasure circle around about that home. It is unfortunate when it is otherwise. If the husband spend the most of his nights away from home, of choice and not of necessity, he is not the head of the household; he is only the cashier. If the wife throw the cares of the household into the servant’s lap, and then spend five nights of the week at the opera or theatre, she may clothe her children with satins, and laces, and ribbons that would confound a French milliner, but they are orphans.
4. I advise you also to cultivate sympathy of occupation. Sir James McIntosh, one of the most eminent and elegant men that ever lived, while standing at the very height of his eminence, said to a great company of scholars: “My wife made me.” The wife ought to be the advising partner in every firm. She ought to be interested in all the losses and gains of shop and store. She ought to have a right--she has a right--to know everything. Your gains are one, your interests are one, your losses are one; lay hold of the work of life with both hands. Four hands to fight the battles. Four eyes to watch for the danger. Four shoulders on which to carry the trials. It is a very sad thing when the painter has a wife who does not like pictures. It is a very sad thing for a pianist when she has a husband who does not like music.
5. I have one more word of advice to give to those who would have a happy home, and that is: let love preside in it. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Home, sweet home
How many are longing for grand spheres in which to serve God. They admire Luther at the Diet of Worms, and wish they had some such daring opportunity in which to exhibit Christian character. Now, the apostle comes to such persons, in my text, and says: “I will show you a place where you can exhibit all that is grand, and beautiful, and glorious in the Christian character, and that place is the domestic circle.” “Let them learn first to show piety at home.” Indeed, if a man does not serve God on a small scale, he never will serve Him on a large scale. I propose to speak to you of home as a test, of home as a refuge, of home as a political safeguard, of home as a school, of home as a type of heaven.
I. The home, in the first place, is the most powerful test of one’s character. A man’s disposition in public may be in gay costume, while in private it is in deshabille. The play actor does differently on the platform from the way he does behind the scenes; and public life is often a very different thing from private life. A man will receive you in his parlour with so much gracefulness that he seems to be the distillation of smiles, while in his heart there is a swamp of nettles. Private life is often public life turned wrong side out. The lips that drop with myrrh and cassia--the disposition that seems to be warm and bright as a sheaf of sunbeams, may only be a magnificent show-window to a wretched stock of goods. The harp that all day sang like an angel, may at night grate like a saw. There are those who are philanthropists in public life, who in home life are the Nero with respect to their slippers and their gown. The great Newton, after he had spent half of his life on one manuscript, came into his study one day and found that his dog had torn the manuscript to pieces. All he said was: “Little Diamond, you know not how much trouble you have given your master.” Audubon, the great ornithologist, with gun and pencil, went all through the forests of this country for the purpose of bringing down and sketching the birds of the land; then went home, put the valuable documents in a trunk, and, after an absence, found that the rats had completely devoured the manuscripts, so that again he took gun and pencil, and again went through the forests of the land, reproducing that which was destroyed; while there are many in private life who, at the loss of a pencil or an article of clothing, will act as though they had met with a severe and irreparable loss, and will blow sharp, and loud, and long as a north-east storm. Let us learn to show piety at home.
II. Again: I remark that home is a refuge. The home is the tent we pitch to rest in, our bayonets stacked, our war caps hung up, our heads resting on the knapsack until the morning bugle sounds, warning us to strike tent and prepare for marching and action. Oh, what a pleasant place it is to talk over the day’s victories, and surprises, and attacks, seated by the still camp-fires of the domestic circle. Life is a stormy sea. With shivered mast, and torn sail, and hulk aleak, we put into the harbour of home. Into this dry-dock we come for repair. Blessed harbour! The candle in the window is to the labouring man the lighthouse guiding him into port. May God pity the poor miserable wretch who has not any home.
III. Again: I remark that the home is a political safeguard. The safety of the State depends upon the character of the home. The Christian hearthstone is the only foundation for a Republic. In the family virtues are cultured which are a necessity for the State; and if there be not enough moral principle to make the family adhere, there cannot be enough political principle to make the State adhere. No home, no free institution. No home makes a nation of Goths and Vandals; makes the Nomads of Central Asia; makes the Numidians of Africa, changing from month to month, and from place to place, as the pasture happens to change.
IV. I go further, and speak of home as a school. Old ground must be upturned by a subsoil plough, and harrowed and re-harrowed, and then it will not yield as good a crop as new ground with less culture. Now, infancy and childhood are new ground, and all that is scattered over that ground will yield luxuriantly. Make your home the brightest place on earth if you would charm your children into the high path of rectitude and religion. Do not always have the blinds turned the wrong way. Let God’s light, that puts gold on the gentian and spots the pansy, stream into your windows. Do not expect your children to keep step to a dead march. A dark home makes bad boys and bad girls to be bad men and bad women. Above all, take into your homes thorough Christian principle. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
I. Our first endeavour will be to show what piety is. This is all the more needful, as mistakes, numerous and fatal, exist on this vital subject, not only in the world, but also in the Church. It is “the mind that was in Christ, leading us to walk as He also walked.”
1. Piety has its principles. It is not like a tree without a root; or a stream without a spring. It is originated, sustained, and cherished by an experimental acquaintance with God in Christ; for “this is life eternal, to know Thee, the true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent.” Here, then, we have the principles of piety--knowledge, faith, love, submission, and holy fear. A cluster of good things; the soul and spirit of true religion; the gift of the Divine hand; the fruit of the Spirit; the purchase of Messiah’s blood; and the earnest of everlasting life.
2. Piety has its enjoyments. “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her.” The forgiveness of sins, access to God as a Father, the communion of Saints, the hope of everlasting life, the possession of a new nature, constitute a well-spring of blessedness to the humble, believing, obedient soul.
3. Piety has its duties. “If ye love Me, said the Saviour, keep My commandments; not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.” With what frequency and earnestness has practical piety been enforced in the law and the prophets, as also by our Lord and His apostles!
II. We proceed to show where piety is to be made manifest. If the principles and rootlets of piety be out of sight, their existence and power may easily be made apparent. Vegetable life in this sweet jessamine, or in yonder blushing rose, is far beyond our ken; but the effects of life are plain enough to be seen--the rind, the bud, the leaf, the flower, tell us that life is there. As to animal life--the sparkling eye, the ruddy countenance, the cheerful voice, the active limb, show us that life is there; but it is as much a mystery as ever; as far out of sight as ever. Steam, as it lies in the bosom of the boiler, is invisible; but the stroke of the piston, the sweep of the u heel, and the speed of the train, as well as the condensing power of the atmosphere, tell us that it is there. So of piety: much of it is hidden from the public gaze--its depths are not seen. Christian life is hid with Christ in God. Yet if spiritual life exists, it will give proof of its existence and power. Hence at Antioch, when Barnabas “had seen the grace of God, he was glad.” And exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. Fire must burn, a fountain must flow, a good tree cannot bring forth bad fruit--Therefore show piety.
1. In general, wherever the providence of God may place you. The shop, the ship, the market, the farm, the factory, the counting-house, will afford you opportunities for confessing your Lord.
2. In particular, let your piety appear at home. Show to those around you, that the fear and love of God control your desires, purposes, words, and deeds; whatever your relation to the family circle--in whatever department your duty lies, act your part with cheerfulness, fidelity, and to the extent of your ability. See, that your piety is such as never can be reasonably questioned.
3. The considerations by which this important duty may be enforced are numerous and weighty. Would to God we could rightly see and feel them. God, our Saviour, has made Christian believers “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, to show forth the praises of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvellous light.” And shall they not do His pleasure? Shall not Christian people acknowledge their Owner--and the claims of Him who hath made, redeemed, and saved them--by giving up themselves to His service, by glorifying Him, both at home and abroad, in their body and spirit, which are His? Besides, as members of the family circle, are we not bound to promote its comfort, safety, and welfare to the extent of our ability? If you feel any interest in the prosperity of the Church, the conversion of poor sinners, the general good of society, show piety at home. Be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Tread in the steps of faithful Abraham, the pattern of believers, and the friend of God, who commanded his children and household after him to keep the way of the Lord. Drink into the spirit of Joshua, who served the Lord himself, and put forth all his strength to lead his family to do likewise. (J. J. Topham.)
The Christian at home
Some characteristics of home piety.
1. A careful respect for the rights of each member of the family. It is our first duty to be just towards each other, and a duty which is obligatory all round, as between husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters, families and their relatives, employers and servants. It is not always easy to be just. It requires thoughtful consideration and some power of imaginative sympathy even on the part of those who desire to do as they would be done by. A great deal of the wrong that is suffered in the world arises out of unwitting injustice. Some persons are grossly and habitually unjust to those about them, misrepresenting their opinions, and imposing upon them sacrifices of feeling and trouble, while in other respects they are singularly generous. Another frequent cause of unhappiness in families is the partiality shown to a favourite child. This also justice forbids.
2. Next to careful respect for the rights of others I may mention great forbearance in asserting our own. A small thing in family life, but most significant as an index to character, is the self-pleasing with which some persons secure their own preferences at table. Even if they make a show of giving up what others like, they do it so ostentatiously that their generosity is generally declined. But real self-denial, that can find pleasure in the gratification of others, will conceal its preferences so that they may enjoy what they like without knowing that it is at the expense of any one else.
3. A third characteristic of home piety is the endeavour to please those about us for their good. A cheerful manner, a flow of wise and genial conversation, sparkling here and there with some bright coruscation of wit, flavoured always with the salt of cultured taste, and sometimes suggestive of serious thoughts, is a fine means of pleasing and benefiting others. Show piety at home by learning to talk well and wisely.
4. Lastly, piety should be shown at home in a devout regard for the honour of God. At the principal meals of the day, and morning or evening, if not both morning and evening, reverence should find suitable expression in acts of worship. You must be guided by your own sense of fitness as to what arrangements you shall make for this purpose. Let us systematically choose the good part, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, endeavour to catch the spirit of our Master, and let its influence be diffused throughout our whole life. (E. W. Shalders, B. A.)
Piety at home
The radiance of a Christian character is to shine around the family hearth. In most minds the word home awakens emotions both sweet and solemn. Our tenderest relations, our strongest affections, our highest joys, our deepest sorrows, all are touched by the thought of home. The great duty which our text enjoins is the cultivation of piety at home.
I. Home is the place where character is most tested; and if piety be not shown there, it cannot be shown anywhere. Our real character is not so much shown in what we do intentionally and with a purpose, as in what we do impulsively and without reflection. Abroad in the world men may wear a cloak--they may deceive others, they may deceive themselves as to their true character; but at home the cloak generally slips aside, the true character comes out, and those who see them in their unguarded hours know them as they really are. Often a word, a look, or even a gesture in the family will give more insight into a man’s heart than years of observation of his public life. The close intercourse of home life tries as well as reveals the real character. That which tries character also helps to form it. Home not only shows what we are, it helps to make us what we shall be for ever. The education which is deepest and most enduring is that of the home school.
II. Home is sometimes the scene of our deepest sorrows: and piety is the best help to enable us to bear these. The causes which disturb the happiness of home are manifold. Unwise marriage unions are the cause of much family misery. Bad habits are a frequent occasion of home sorrow, Evil tempers sometimes ruin the happiness of home. A practical carrying out of our text would speedily correct the evils to which we have referred, and change the character of the home-life where they have been endured. Were all the members of a family to “learn to show piety at home,” what a scene of blessedness that would be! But there are other trials which sometimes convert the home into a “house of mourning,” and which piety alone can enable us to meet. There are homes in which the pinching of poverty has to be endured. There are homes where disease presses with his heavy hand; and homes over which death spreads his black and chilly wing. But if there be only one pious member of the family, how the others will look to him and lean upon him in their hour of bereavement and sorrow! The influence acquired by consistency of character now operates for the good of his afflicted friends.
III. Home ought to be the scene of our highest joy; and piety is the only means to make it so, The mutual love and confidence so essential to family happiness, can be produced and secured by nothing so certainly as by a common affection for the Saviour. How blessed are the ties of nature when they are sanctified and strengthened by grace! (G. D. Macgregor.)
An old Virginia minister said lately, “Men of my profession see much of the tragic side of life. I have seen men die in battle, have seen children die, but no death ever seemed so pathetic to me as the death of an aged mother in my church. I knew her first as a young girl, beautiful, gay, full of joy and hope. She married and had four children. Her husband died and left her penniless. She sewed, she made drawings, she taught, she gave herself scarcely time to eat or sleep. Every thought was for her children, to educate them, to give them the advantages their father would have given them had he lived. She succeeded. She sent her boys to college and her girls to school. When all came home they gave themselves up to their own selfish pursuits. She lingered among them some three years, and then was stricken with mortal illness brought on by overwork. The children gathered around her bedside. The oldest son took her in his arms. He said, ‘You have been a good mother to us.’ That was not much to say, was it? It was much to her, who had never heard anything like it. A flush came over her pallid face, and with faint voice she whispered, ‘My son, you never said so before!’” (Dr. Hoge.)
John Gough and his mother
I remember, when my father was away in the Peninsular war, my mother, who used to work lace very nicely (and she grew very nearly blind by it), went one day from Sandgate to Dover, eight and a half miles, to sell it. I went out to play, having the whole day to myself till she came back. I was a famous reader when I was a little bit of a thing, and I never remember the time when I learned to read, and I can’t remember when I could not read with the book the wrong side up. As I was playing, a boy came up to me and said, “Johnny Gough, Mr. Purday wants you in the library.” Well, I ran into the library, and I remember being taken into a little room, and a girl dipped her hands in water and rubbed my face, and brushed my hair back, to make me look decent, and then took me into the reading-room, where there was a venerable looking gentleman, whom I distinctly remember they called “my lord.” Mr. Purday said, “This is the boy I was speaking of”; and he then put a newspaper into my hands, and asked me to read a certain column to him, which I did. He gave me a five-shilling piece; another gentleman gave me sixpence; and the proprietor of the library gave me two pennies. Oh I how rich I was! I went out to play with the boys; I put my hands in my pockets now and then, and jingled my money, and then went on playing again. After a while a boy came to me and said, “Johnny, your mother has got home.” I ran into the house, and there sat my poor mother upon a stool, faint and weary, with her basket of lace at her side. Her face was buried in her hands; I heard her sob, and I never could bear to hear my mother cry. “Mother, mother,” said I, “what is the matter?” “My poor child,” she said, “I have not sold a farthings-worth to-day, and what we shall do God only knows!” Said I, “Mother, just look at this!” and she did look at it; and she said, “Why John, where did you get that?” “I have been into the library; one gentleman gave me that, another gave me that, and Mr. Purday gave me these two pennies. My mother went upon her knees, clasped me around the neck, lifted up her eyes, thanked God, and then gave me a halfpenny all to myself! And what do you suppose I did with it? I went out and changed it into two farthings, and I never enjoyed money as much as that all the days of my life. (J. B. Gough.)
A widow’s trust in God
M. Poinsot, the devoted Protestant Scripture-reader at Charleroi, has been much blessed in his arduous and heroic work for Christ. He says in his journal--“I visited a poor woman of seventy-six years of age, alone, poor, and ill. I said to her, ‘The nights must seem very long to you, being always alone?’ ‘If I were alone,’ she replied, ‘I should have been dead long ago, but I have a Friend who never leaves me day nor night; I commune always with Him, and His Word comforts me.’ ‘But,’ I said, ‘if you became worse in the night?’ ‘He would take care of me,’ was the reply; ‘He is the best Doctor in Belgium.’”
1 Timothy 5:6
But she that liveth in pleasure.
A life of pleasure a life of death
If this be true--and, being part of the Word of God, it must be true--then the world of pleasure is a region of death, and a life of pleasure is a living death. These are strange tidings for those who live only for pleasure, and who boast that they alone, of all mankind, enjoy life.
I. Who is meant by the person that liveth in pleasure? And this point does require explanation; for the word “pleasure,” is one strangely abused; it has quite a different meaning in different companies, and among different men. There are pleasures in science, pleasures in sin; pleasures in holiness here, and in heaven, we know, there are pleasures for evermore. “Now, she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.” Now this is evidently a character just the reverse; that of one who trusteth not in God, who neglects supplication and prayers. The same character is further described more at length in the eleventh and the thirteenth verses: wantonness, idleness, wandering about from house to house, tattling, the spirit of busy-bodies, speaking things which they ought not--are given as characteristics of her that liveth in pleasure. The original word, “liveth in pleasure,” is very peculiar, and is used in only one other place in the New Testament, namely, in James 5:5. Now, in that passage of St. James, he is addressing the wealthy, and the luxurious: “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that; shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.” Then, in the fifth verse, “Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts as in a day of slaughter”: where the word that is translated “ye have been wanton,” is the very same word with that which, in our text, is rendered “liveth in pleasure”: and the whole passage strikingly describes what kind of character is intended. Thus it is plain already, that to live in pleasure, is to live without trust or faith in God, without constant prayer; in wantonness, idleness, trifling, the pride of wealth; in luxury, sensuality, and self-indulgence. This is the life of worldly pleasure. But there are yet many other Scriptures which describe the life of pleasure; and I am anxious you should feel the Scriptural force of the subject. Thus, in the prophet Ames, in the sixth chapter: “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of nations, to whom the house of Israel came,” etc. Again you see the spirit of the child of pleasure, he makes himself “at ease,” he “puts far away the evil day”: he is self-indulgent, luxurious, gay, and jovial; he feels not for the affliction of God’s afflicted people. In the book of Job, we have another description of men living in worldly pleasure--in his twenty-first chapter: “Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power? Their seed:is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.” Here, again, you see the life of pleasure to be a life of unsanctified prosperity, festivity, mirth, wealth; with the spirit of infidelity mocking at religion, asking, what good in prayer--what end to serve God? Oh, ye that have lived in pleasure, does not your conscience feel, “My life is detected; my character has been described”? So in our Lord’s parable; the rich man, who fared sumptuously every day, and was clothed in purple and fine linen, was evidently a man of pleasure--luxurious, self-indulgent, fond of dress. The city of Sodom was a city of pleasure. Then think of Babylon, once filled with the gayest of the gay; see that city of pleasure described in the prophet Isaiah: “Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate. Take the mill-stones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers,” etc. And let none think that the Scriptural description of one that liveth in pleasure applies only to the rich and the great of this world. But the temptation is common to all ranks, persons in middle life, and persons in the lowest walks of life, may be found to live continually in pleasure. This do all the intemperate. Oh, what sums the poor and labouring classes spend in the present day on needless, noxious, inflammatory drink!
II. Then this is God’s judgment of the state of such “She that liveth in pleasure”--whoever liveth in pleasure--“is dead while alive.” Now that is the sentiment, or rather the sentence, of God Himself. “‘What does it mean?’ She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth’:--how can one be dead while alive?” Think of that serious, pious Christian, once in the circle of your acquaintance, once a friend, and even a brother; but now he seems as one dead to all your pleasures, dead to the world, dead indeed unto sin. You say in scorn, that you might as well ask a dead man as ask him to join your worldly pleasure, he has become what you term a poor lifeless creature; he is buried alive. How true, how just, how striking that description! The dead neither move, nor see, nor hear, nor smell, nor feel. Your heart moves not in love to God; your mind’s eye sees no suitableness in the Saviour; you hear not His voice, you perceive no fragrance in His name, like that of ointment poured forth; you feel not the constraining force of His dying love. Then death is, further, a state of insensibility and helplessness. But further still, “She that liveth in pleasure, is dead while she liveth,” because under sentence of death. If a criminal were convicted of murder, or some capital crime, and sentenced to death, in the interval between his sentence and his execution he is considered as dead in the eye of the law. But are you afraid that you shall now lose all pleasure? You will lose the phantom, and gain the substance; you will throw away the counterfeit, and receive genuine gold; you will drop worldly pleasure, which is connected with death, which has death inseparably tied to it, and enjoy spiritual pleasure, which is connected with eternal life. But I had not meant to say much more which might seem harsh to those who will still be of the world; I was endeavouring to lead those who are desirous of coming out of the world to come into new life. “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” Then how noble, sublime, and glorious, are the objects with which religion is conversant. I add but another thought. Religious pleasures are the best, for they have the approving smile of God on them now, and they can be carried with the soul into another world, and there be ripened into perfection. (J. Hambleton, M. A.)
The woman of pleasure
It is a strong way of putting the truth, that a woman who seeks in worldly advantage her chief enjoyment, will come to disappointment and death. My friends, you all want to be happy. You have had a great many recipes by which it is proposed to give you satisfaction--solid satisfaction.
1. And, in the first place, I advise you not to build your happiness upon mere social position.
2. I go further, and advise you not to depend for enjoyment upon mere personal attractions.
3. Again, I advise you not to depend for happiness upon the flatteries of men.
4. Again, I charge you not to depend for happiness upon the discipleship of fashion. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
A Persian monarch asked an aged man, “How many of the sun’s revolutions hast thou counted?” “Sire,” said the old man, “I am but four years of age.” “What!” interrupted the king, “fearest thou not to answer me falsely, or dost thou jest on the very brink of the tomb?” “I speak not falsely,” replied the aged man; “eighty long years have I wasted in folly and sinful pleasures and in amassing wealth, none of which I can take with me when I leave this world. Four only have I spent in doing good to my fellow-men, and shall I count those years which have been utterly wasted?”
A living death
Alas! many a man is dead while he liveth; yea, all are dead who live in impenitence and presumptuous sins. God is the soul of our soul, and the life of our life; and Christ must dwell in our heart by faith, and be the heart of our heart, to enable us to say with St. Paul, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Just as the heart is the workshop of the soul, from which it distributes natural heat and vital energy into all the veins and members, even so must the Lord Jesus generate in us spiritual life, and diffuse His spirit into all our powers, senses, desires, thoughts, and motions. The ungodly man is a living corpse; the worm of sinful desire consumes his conscience; he is an abomination in the eyes of the Saviour, and offensive to God and the holy angels. (J. Gotthold.)
1 Timothy 5:8
But if any provide not for his own.
The necessity and excellence of family religion
I. I shall prove that family religion is a duty, from the light of nature and of scripture.
1. If family religion be a just debt to the supreme Being, upon account of His perfections and the relation He sustains to us as families, then it must be our duty to maintain it according to the law of nature. Now this is the case in fact. God is the most excellent of beings, and therefore worthy of homage in every capacity, from His reasonable creatures. Again, God is the author of our sociable natures, and as such claims social worship from us. Again, God is the proprietor, supporter, and benefactor of our families, as well as of our persons, and therefore our families as such should pay Him homage. He is the owner of your families, and where is the man that dares deny it?
2. If family religion was the principal design of the institution of families, then is family religion our indispensable duty. And that family religion was the principal end of the institution is evident; for can you think that God would unite a member of immortals, heirs of the eternal world, together in the most intimate bonds, in this state of trial, without any reference to their future state? Were your families made for this world only, or for the next?
3. If family religion tends to the greatest advantage of our families, then it is our duty; and to neglect it is wickedly to rob ourselves and ours of the greatest advantage.
4. You are to consider family religion not merely as a duty imposed by authority, but as your greatest privilege granted by Divine grace. I now proceed to some arguments more purely Scriptural, which prove the necessity of family religion in general, or of some particular branch of it.
II. To show in what seasons, or how frequently, family religion should be statedly performed. Now it is more than intimated in Scripture, that it should be performed every day, and particularly morning and evening. Thus the sacrifices under the law, which were attended with prayer, were offered daily, morning and evening. To this the Psalmist alludes: “Let my prayer be set before Thee as incense” which was offered in the morning, “and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Psalms 141:2). He elsewhere resolves, “Every day will I bless Thee” (Psalms 145:2). Yea, his devotion was so extraordinary, that he resolves, “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray and cry aloud” (Psalms 55:17). So Daniel performed family worship thrice a day.
III. I shall consider, what particular obligation the heads of families lie under, and what authority they are invested with to maintain religion in their houses. In all societies there must be a subordination, and particularly in families, and it is the place of the head of such societies to rule and direct. Particularly it belongs to the head of a family, when there is no fitter person present, to perform worship in it, to use proper means to cause all his domestics to attend upon it.
IV. And lastly, I come to answer the usual objections against this important duty of family religion.
1. “I have no time, and my secular business would suffer by family religion.”
2. “I have no ability to pray; I am too ignorant.”
3. “I am ashamed.”
4. “But, alas! I know not how to begin it.”
5. “But my family will not join with me.”
6. “But I shall be ridiculed and laughed at.” (S. Davies, M. A.)
If any one provide not for his own kindred, and for those of his own house, as parents or children, he lives in a manner so contrary to the Christian faith, that he, in fact, denies it, and is worse than an infidel. “Indeed,” says Archbishop Seeker, “Nature as well as Christianity enjoins this domestic duty so strongly, that the whole world cries out shame where it is neglected.” That man, therefore, deserves censure, who, intent on the interests of others, disregards his own. The astrologer who was looking at the stars, and telling the fortunes of his neighbours, did not see the pit which lay at his feet, and into which he fell. It is well to do a good turn to a stranger, or even to an enemy, but “not to bulge our own vessel in attempting to raise that of our neighbour,” as the following story from AEsop may show. “A wolf that lay licking his wounds, and extremely faint and ill from the bite of a dog, called out to a sheep passing by, ‘Hark’ ye, friend, if you would but help me to a sup of water out of yonder brook, I would manage myself to get something to eat.’ ‘Yes,’ said the sheep, ‘I make no doubt of it; but when I bring you drink, my carcase shall serve you for meat.’“
1 Timothy 5:14
The younger women marry, bear children, guide the house.
A wife’s sphere
Every mother should occupy in the family the position of commander-in chief. Her spirit should rule through the whole establishment, for in proportion as “she looks well to the ways of the household,” with intelligence and discretion, the servants and other members of the family will follow in her path. There is nothing which ought to occupy a more prominent position than this power to rule the house diligently and well. Nor are we alone in this opinion. Goldsmith, in his “Vicar of Wakefield,” says, “The modest virgin, the prudent wife, the careful matron, are much more serviceable in life than petticoated philosophers, blustering heroines, or virago queens. She who makes her husband and her children happy, who reclaims the one from vice, and trains the other to virtue, is a much greater character than the ladies described in romances, whose whole occupation is to murder mankind with shafts from their quiver or their eyes.” Every wife, therefore, should seek, then, to be worthy of the position she occupies and in this way to become “a crown to her husband.” (John W. Kitten.)
True womanly service
Most heartily do we go with Mrs. Fawcett’s remarks upon the industrial and professional employment of women, in connection with which she said that a woman with a family, which she brought up well, was doing as great a work, economically and socially, as any person was capable of performing. Scores of mothers, whose sphere of activity is bounded by the walls of their home, and who sometimes deplore their inability to engage in outside work, may take heart on being reminded of this most certain truth. To train a family of children in the fear of God, and the best habits of feeling and conduct, is as precious a work as any that is done under the sun, exercises the very highest qualities of love, patience, and self-denial, and will be recognized on high as the truest service of Christ. (S. S. Chronicle.)
The Princess Alice, the beloved daughter of Queen Victoria, after an ancient custom of royalty, chose the lark as her emblem, because, as she said, while it lived on the ground and obscurely, it taught that in the discharge of homely duties we find the strength, the knowledge, and the inspiration to fill the air with joyous and soul-stirring music. If this woman of noble birth, the Lady Bountiful in the little state over which her husband ruled, the founder of orphanages and schools, could choose such an emblem, it may well be appropriated by those who move in the ordinary circles of influence and experience. It is in everyday life that opportunity comes to do the best things and gains its sweetest reward of happiness. (Christian Age.)
A Christian mother
Nearly forty years ago in the South of England there was an earnest minister of Christ, whose duties often called him from home. He had a large family, and he feared sometimes he was paying them but little attention because of his many obligations outside. One day he was about to start on a journey, and he stood at the door half-way downstairs, and he heard a voice in prayer. It was the voice of his wife. He listened, and she was praying for the children by name, and when she came to one name, Charles, she said, “Lord, he has a daring spirit; whether for good or for evil, make it Thine own.” And the minister, as he wiped away a tear said, “It is all right; I can go and serve the Lord; it is right with the children”; and that Charles for whom prayer was offered is the beloved brother whom we listened to in St. Andrew’s Hall yesterday--Charles Spurgeon. Who will say that that mother is not a Christian worker? She toiled in her own home, and laboured for her own children; and if there are mothers here I would say, “Go, and do likewise.”
1 Timothy 5:16
May relieve them that are widows indeed.
Charity ruled by wisdom
The first of these main principles of Church charity is--
I. That those received to permanent support should be only such as are aged or weak. In the ninth verse we read, “Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old”; or (as the R.V. more correctly has it) “Let none be enrolled as a widow under threescore years old.” A woman over sixty in Asia Minor (though it would be otherwise in our healthier, cooler climate) could no longer work, nor do much for the Church either, except by her prayers and supplications (another proof that officials are not referred to). Widows thus infirm and aged were to receive constant and generous support. But nothing was to be done, even under the sacred name of charity, which would paralyse personal exertion or weaken the sense of responsibility in relatives and friends. Paul’s second principle is this--
II. That those whose character is Christian have special claims on the support of the Church. He is not referring here to the relief of distress which is the duty of every Christian, hut to the use of the charitable funds given by the Church for distribution among her members. How beautiful is the picture of the true Christian matron, as depicted by the few touches of this masterhand in 1 Timothy 5:5; 1 Timothy 5:10. Think of her motherliness, one who has brought up her children aright. Very beautiful, too, are the thoughts suggested of her lowly, loving ministry. Entertaining strangers, for the Lord’s sake; not necessarily because she was rich, but because she was kind.
III. The last principle which should guide us in the selection of those who may live on the charity of the Church is this, that they should be rejected who would be morally injured by depending on it. At first sight the apostle seems rather hard upon the younger women; although it is evident from the 15th verse that he was not speaking from theory, but from actual and painful experience, and that some in the Church at Ephesus had already fallen into the evils to which he refers, having lost their first simple faith in Jesus Christ, and their former consecration to Him. He implies that ecclesiastical arrangements had aggravated their temptations, and he strongly urges that younger widows who might properly receive special help and solace for a time, ought not to be put on the roll of the Church for perpetual relief. His reason is given plainly enough. “They learn to be idle,” says he, “wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also, and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.” Right as it was to support the aged and infirm, it would be morally injurious to support by charity these younger women. Idleness is always a fruitful parent of sins, of which gossip, meddlesomeness, and unprofitable talk are not the greatest; and the best preventive of this would be to throw Christian women as far as possible on their own resources, to let them take a good opportunity for settling in life, to exert themselves for their own maintenance, or to care for another household, as the brave and patient servants of Jesus Christ. Any one who knows the pernicious effects produced by ill-regulated charity, any one who reflects on the vices common to the idle classes of society, any one who has noticed the moral deterioration of young people who have nothing to do but to while away their time, will thank God for these wise counsels. (A. Rowland, LL. B.)
1 Timothy 5:17; 1 Timothy 5:22
Let the elders that rule well
Duties towards the ministry
Its faithfulness should be honoured. “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour.”
II. Its reputation should be cherished.
1. We ought to be slow to believe evil. “Against an elder” (here used in the official sense and not with reference to age) “receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses,” or (as the Revised Version has it), “except at the mouth of two or three witnesses.” The reference is obviously to a well-known Mosaic law. Timothy was not to be credulous of evil reports, he was to pay no attention to mere gossip, and still less was he to show any encouragement to slanderers. He was not appointed specially as a judge; but in contentions, such as unhappily arose in the Church, his authority would often be appealed to. Again and again noble reputations have been ruined by slander, and the injustice and wickedness of the charges have only been demonstrated when it was too late to repair the wrong. But while we are to be slow to believe evil--
2. We ought to be brave in the rebuke of evil. No fear of man, no mincing words to please fastidious ears, no wish to smother up iniquity, should be ours. “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”
III. Its aspirants should be approved. “Lay hands suddenly (or hastily) on no man.” The custom of the laying on of hands dates back to patriarchal times. Jacob laid his hands on Ephraim and Manasseh when he blessed them. It was an appropriate indication of the subject of prayer, a solemn act of designation and of dedication; and in the apostolic days it was used to sanction and ratify the elective act of the Church. In such work we are not to be ruled by caprice, excluding one we dislike; nor by partiality, appointing our personal friends, or those having some claims upon us. “I charge thee” (says Paul) “before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing by partiality.” What could be a stronger inducement to the keeping of these commands than the realization of the fact that an unseen God and holy angels are near us, and that all our works, and even our purposes, are open and naked before Him with whom we have to do! And there is yet another word here for every Christian, especially for those who work for the Master, namely this: “Be not partaker of other men’s sins; keep thyself pure,” for the emphasis in the original is to be laid just there. It is easy enough to see other people’s faults, and even to rebuke them; but beware lest any have occasion to turn on you and say, “Physician, heal thyself.” Purity in the sense of chastity is, no doubt, included here, for an impure life is fatal to a Christian and ruinous to his influence for good--nay, even if such evil is only harboured within, it will prove the paralysis of spiritual life. (A. Rowland, LL. B.)
Gifts to ministers
I became an usher in a school at Cambridge, and at the same time, when only sixteen years of age, accepted the pastorate at a Baptist chapel in the neighbourhood. After a while I gave up my post at the school, and was thrown on the generosity of the people, and they gave me a salary of L45 a year; but as I had to pay twelve shillings a week for two rooms which I occupied, the salary was not enough. But the people, though they had not money, had produce, and there was not a pig killed by any one of the congregation that I had not some portion of, and one or other of them would bring me bread, so that I had enough bread and meat to pay my rent with. An old man in that place who was a great miser, one afternoon gave me three half-crowns, and as I was wanting a new hat at the time I got it with the money. The following Sunday the old man came to me again, and asked me to pray for him that he might be saved from the sin of covetousness, and said, “The Lord told me to give you half-a-sovereign, and I kept half-a-crown back, and I can’t rest of a night for thinking of it.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Providing for the minister
Claude, the Indian preacher, after his conversion a few years ago in Russian America, began to sing hymns and tell gospel truths to his idol-worshipping fellow-countrymen. The old medicine men there wept, cowed by the felt presence of God’s Holy Spirit. “Claude,” said his companions, “it is too bad for you to chop wood. You ought to tell the people these things all the time.” “I should not have anything to eat if I did not chop wood,” he replied. “We will chop harder and later and get enough for you to live on too,” said they. So Claude began to preach and teach. His support was salmon. Salmon for his breakfast, dinner, and supper, every day all the year. This was the salary of the first Protestant missionary to Alaska. Soon he had sixty scholars and an audience of from four to five hundred. God’s Spirit was poured out. There were sixty converted, and hundreds gave up their devil worship.
Payment of ministers
In one of his conferences with working men Dr. Parker said: Some people sneered at preachers because they accepted pay. He contended that the question of payment ought never to arise in estimating the value of a true ministry. He could order a table to be made and delivered at any time, hut where could he order a character to be made and delivered on such a day? The man who gave them a thought gave them inestimable riches. The man who gave them an inspiration lifted them up above fog and cloud and depression and difficulty and gave them a new start in life. If he were asked to go and speak to the humblest outcasts of London, then the question of payment ought not to arise: they were his brethren and sisters and friends and were in darkness, and he had the light. They should have the light for nothing. But when men came to him and said, “The well-to-do people of Bath, and Newcastle-on-Tyne, and Bristol want to hear you,” he asked, Were they to escape without remunerating the man who instructed them and ministered to their enjoyment? He was prepared to preach for nothing if the landlord, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker were agreeable, but these showed a brutal disregard for his feelings at quarter-day.
A question of payment
When addressing a body of working men, Bishop Wilberforce speaking of the nobility of true work, said, “Though I am addressing an audience of working men, I may claim to be a working man myself, for I work as hard as any man here present.” A voice called out from the middle of the room, “But how about the pay? “A burst of general laughter followed, which was, with some little difficulty, hushed down by those who thought that the bishop would be offended. But not a cloud passed across his face. His eye twinkled as he joined himself in the general merriment, and then, when silence was restored, without a moment’s hesitation, and the smile still playing upon his face, he said, “My friend asks, how about the pay? I will tell him at once. You see I am paid the same whether I work or whether I don’t.” His audience saw at once the significance of his words: Work done for its own sake, not for greed or necessity. And the rafters of the roof above us rang again and again with their cheers. (Memoirs of Bp. S. Wilberforce.)
Ministers need encouragement
I know of a parsonage to which the death-angel came, and took to heaven a faithful and beloved under-shepherd. The kind members of his flock went to that desolate home, and could not say enough in praise of him whom they did truly love. A volume of his sermons was published, and widely circulated. Then the broken-hearted wife said: “Oh, if they had only said one-half to him which they now say to me, how it would have lightened his labour and rejoiced his heart!” I know of another parsonage to which a pastor returned, after a Sabbath of extreme mental fatigue, and of intensely loving work for his people. The almost agonizing tone with which he said: “Not one kind word to-day, and I’ve done my very best,” would have met a kind response from every parishioner’s heart, could all have heard it. “Not one kind word to-day.” I know of a pastor to whom a parishioner said one Sunday evening: “I have been benefited by both sermons to-day.” When his pastor replied: “It always helps me to hear that,” this warm-hearted man said: “If I always told you when I feel benefited by your sermons, it would be very often.” I wish you could have heard the prayer of humble thankfulness which went up to heaven from the family altar in that pastor’s study that night. (Dr. Hoge.)
Doing nothing by partiality.
Partiality to be avoided
A suggestive anecdote comes to us just now from New York. One of the good clergymen of that city lately travelling, was engaged in pleasant conversation with a friend. He presently found himself greatly annoyed by a drunken fellow-passenger on the seat in front, who recognized him, and persisted in trying to take his share in the conversation. At last, losing all patience, our clerical friend arose, and, pushing his annoyer aside rather roughly, exclaimed: “You are drunk, and I don’t want to have anything to do with you.” At this his unfortunate interlocutor was for a moment silent, and then, turning and gazing reproachfully at the irritated clergyman, replied, in a tone so loud as to be heard nearly through the entire car: “Mr.--, ‘pears to me you don’t care very much about my soul.” It is one thing, truly, to care about the souls of the intelligent, and the cultivated, and the agreeable and the clean, to say nothing of the temperate, and quite another thing to care about the souls of the ignorant and the ill-mannered and the unclean. And yet it must not be forgotten that the claims of this latter class are just as strong upon the Christian Church and the Christian worker, as the former, and that in our efforts to bring men to God we are not to select those who present themselves agreeably to us, but are to take them as they come.
1 Timothy 5:22
Neither be partaker of other men’s sins.
How must we reprove, that we may not partake of other men’s sins?
I. How a man maybe said to partake of other men’s sins.
1. By contrivance. Thus Jonadab was guilty of Amnon’s incest, by his subtle contrivance of that wickedness, by being a pander to that villainy (2 Samuel 13:5). When a man shall wittingly and willingly spread a snare in his brother’s way, and either drive him in by provocation, or decoy him in by allurement, he makes himself a partaker of his sin. For example: to provoke a man to passion, to tempt a person to drunkenness and uncleanness, to put a man upon murder and bloodshed, to draw souls into error, heresy, blasphemy, etc.,--this is to espouse and adopt the sin, and to make it a man’s own. You know the story there, 2 Samuel 11:1-27.: Uriah was slain with the edge of the sword; David was many miles off when Uriah was slain: “Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon” (2 Samuel 12:9). The Ammonites slew him, but David murdered him. St. Paul tells us he was a “blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious.”
2. By compliance. By consenting and complying with sin and sinners: so a man makes himself partaker. Though he has no hand in it, yet, if he has a heart in it; though he does not act it, yet if he likes it, and loves it, and approves it. Saul--He had no hand in St. Stephen’s death, he did not cast one stone at him; but because he looked on with approbation, and stood by with consent--“Saul was consenting unto his death” (Acts 8:1). You may murder a man with a thought, as they say the basilisk will with a look.
3. By connivance. By a sinful dissembling, flattering, and winking at others in their wickedness and sins, so men become guilty of others’ sins: “The leaders of this people cause them to err” (Isaiah 9:16): it is in the Hebrew, “The blessers of this people cause them to err.” Beloved, the blessers of men in wickedness are the leaders of men in wickedness.
4. By sufferance. By permitting the sins of others, so we become guilty, by suffering others to sin, whom we are bound in duty, and may be able by authority, to hinder.
5. By influence of bad example. By setting loose and bad examples for others to imitate. So men are guilty of other’s sins; as, namely, when children sin by the examples of their parents, those very parents are guilty of their children’s sins. So it is here: he that sets an evil example sins not alone; he draws hundreds, it may be, into sin after him. He is like a man that sets his own house on fire; if, burns many of his neighbours’, and he is to be answerable for all the ruins.
6. By inference from a bad example, or by imitation. So a man is guilty of another man’s sin, not only by pattern, in setting bad examples, but also by practice, in following bad examples; and thus that man that will be drunk because another was drunk, or that breaks the Sabbath because others do the like--he is not only guilty of his own particular sin, but he is guilty also of “their sins whom he imitates and follows; and the reason is, because bad examples are not land-marks for us to go by, but they are sea-marks for us to avoid. And this is the woful, intricate, perplexed labyrinth into which sin doth precipitate careless and ungodly sinners. If thou committest that sin which none before committed but thee, thou art guilty of all the sins of future generations by thy example--as Adam was in the world, and Jeroboam in Israel. And if thou committest any sin because others have committed it before thee, thou art guilty of all the sins of former generations by thy imitation: and so sin never goes alone; a single sin is as great a solecism in divinity as a single “thank” is in grammar and morality.
7. By countenance. By delightful society and company with wicked men to countenance them, so we become partakers of their sins.
8. By maintenance. By upholding and encouraging men in their sins, though thou never committest them thyself, yet thou art guilty. “He that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 1:11).
II. Why a Christian must be careful to avoid, and not to partake of, other men’s sins.
1. Out of a principle of charity to our brethren.
2. Out of a principle of pity to ourselves.
3. Out of a principle of piety to God.
1. Is there such a thing as “partaking of other men’s sins” after this manner?
2. The second use is of exhortation and caution together.
Is it so, that it ought to be every man’s care not to partake of any man’s sin?
1. To lay down the arguments.
2. What sins we must especially take heed of partaking of. Of all sin whatsoever: “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22); but especially of three sorts of sin, which may be called epidemical plagues.
3. Now, and in the last place, we come to the antidotes: How we must so carry it and order the business, as not to partake of other men’s sins.
Partaking of other men’s sins
It was a frequent petition of the illustrious St.-Augustine, “Lord, forgive other men’s sins!” It is a petition which we all should constantly present to God; for we, all of us, in a greater or less degree, have been instrumental in producing that iniquity which deluges the world.
I. We are to show you by what means we may partake of other men’s sins. We partake of other men’s sins by uttering those sentiments which tend to subvert morality, or diminish our horror for guilt. If we propagate loose doctrines, if we scoff at serious piety, if we persuade men that an holy and heavenly life is not necessary, “if we call evil good and good evil,” we are murdering souls.
II. That we may in future be more guarded, let us attend to some of those motives which enforce the injunction of the apostle.
III. Some directions, to enable you to comply with the injunctions of the apostle.
1. Be careful that your own heart and life are holy. Sin is infectious; and as long as you are polluted with it, you must communicate its poison to those with whom you associate. Besides, if your own life is unholy, your conscience will prevent you from faithfully reproving sin in others, or your ill example will render your reproofs inefficacious.
2. Cultivate a high value and love for the souls of men. That which we love we shall not readily injure; and if we have a proper regard for immortal souls we shall rather forego many pleasures than give a wound to them.
3. Mourn before God for the sins of your brethren. When God passed through Jerusalem to smite it, He spared none but those who cried and sighed for the abominations that were done within it (Ezekiel 9:4).
4. If we would not partake of the sins of others, we must reprove them. (H. Kollock.)
Participation in other men’s sins
I. When do we make ourselves partakers of other men’s sins?
1. Ministers make themselves partakers in the sins of their people, when those sins are occasioned by their own negligence, by their example, or by unfaithfulness in the discharge of their official duties.
2. Parents participate in the sins of their children, when they occasion, and when they might have prevented them. But further, parents partake in the guilt of their children’s sins when they might and do not prevent them.
3. The remarks, which have been made respecting parents, will apply, though perhaps somewhat less forcibly, to masters and guardians, and all who are concerned in the government and education of youth.
4. Churches become partakers of the sins of an individual member, when these sins are occasioned by a general neglect of brotherly watchfulness and reproof, and when they are tolerated by the Church in consequence of a neglect of Church discipline.
5. We all make ourselves partakers in other men’s sins, when we either imitate or in any other way countenance and encourage them.
6. Members of civil communities partake of all the sins which they might, but do not prevent.
7. If private citizens partake of all the sins which they might have prevented, much more do rulers and magistrates. Subjects who have the privilege of choosing their own rulers and magistrates, make themselves partakers of all their sins, when they give their votes for vicious or irreligious characters.
II. To state some of the reasons which should induce us to guard against partaking of other men’s sins.
1. If we partake of their sins, we shall share in their punishment.
2. It is impossible not to perceive how completely our subject justifies the con duct of those much insulted individuals, who have voluntarily associated for the purpose of assisting in executing the laws, and suppressing vice and immorality among us. (E. Payson, D. D.)
Participation in the sins of others
I. To specify some of the ways in which we may become partakers in other men’s sins.
1. When, through the influence of custom, we fall in with habits which Scripture and conscience condemn.
2. When we fail to exert the power or influence we may possess, for the prevention or discountenance of sin.
3. When we connive at them, or lend our sanction to their improper concealment.
4. When we fail to manifest our abhorrence, on either witnessing or hearing of their commission.
5. By inconsiderately introducing them to stations, the duties or dangers of which they are utterly incompetent to meet.
II. How hardening and injurious will probably be the influence of such conduct on the minds of sinners.
III. How adapted such conduct too to weaken in the believer’s own mind impressions of the evil of sin in himself. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)
Other men’s sins
However hideous and hateful our own sins may be, still, from long familiarity with them, or from the pleasure they afford us, we excuse, or palliate, or forget them. But you look with unaffected and unmitigated horror and disgust on the sins of other men. The rich look with horror on the sins of the poor, and the poor with equal indignation loathe the sins of the rich. Now it is this which gives its horror to the thought expressed in our text. It speaks in a language which all can understand. It says to each man, “Be not partaker in other men’s sins.” Let us consider, then, how, or in what way, we may partake in the sins of other men.
I. We may become partakers in other men’s sins by learning to practise them. However alien to our own natural disposition, we are in danger of catching the infection of other men’s sins--in danger of being corrupted and contaminated, and led to commit them, of learning to do and to delight in doing them. This world is like a hospital crowded with patients afflicted with various diseases. And here in our text the physician warns us to take heed lest in addition to our own disease we catch the infection of other diseases from our fellow-men, and aggravate and complicate our own by introducing their poison into our system. Each man has a sin which more easily besets him--a sin to which he is predisposed, which seems born in his nature. But there is no sin, however alien to our disposition at first, which may not be superinduced on our character, and become a second nature. Perhaps of all sins, acquired sins are the most inveterate. Though we escape the infection of other men’s diseases, we may be responsible for their diseases and their death--diseases which we loathe and abominate. This is emphatically the lesson of the text.
II. We become partakers in other men’s sins when we wilfully and knowingly entice or encourage them to sin--ay, even though we should scrupulously keep our hands from doing or our own hearts from desiring to do it. This is an acknowledged principle of eternal justice. It is acknowledged and acted on in our courts of law. He who instigates, or encourages, or countenances a theft is held as guilty as the actual thief. He who loosens the stone from the mountain’s brow is responsible not only for the blade of grass which it crushes in its first tardy movement, but for all the evil that it does in its downward career till it loses the momentum which he gave it, and lies motionless in the plain below. He is responsible for all the ruin it effects though he stands calmly at the top. Even so do we become partakers in all the deepening sins to which our first enticement gave birth. The schoolboy who has whispered in his companion’s ear a filthy word, or taught him an evil thought; the merchant who has shown his apprentice the tricks and fraudulent dishonesties of trade; the master who has enticed his servant to despise the Sabbath; the giddy youth who has defiled the mind of maiden purity or seduced from the paths of innocence--all these are partakers, not only in the first sin to which they were tempted, but in the long, black, ever-deepening catalogue of sins to which that first sin gave birth. True, indeed, the responsibility of their victims is not lessened by their participation in it.
III. We involve ourselves in other men’s sins when we, through heedlessness and inattention, countenance or give them occasion to commit sin. Observe, I do not now speak of those who allow themselves to be corrupted by other men’s sins, as under the first head, nor yet of those who intentionally corrupt others, as under the second head, but only of those who, through heedlessness and inattention, are the unwitting and unwilling occasions of countenancing others in sin. The guilt in this case is less than in the former instances, and the consequences are not so fearful to ourselves. This no less than the last is an acknowledged principle of justice. It is acknowledged and acted on in our courts of law. Has any one through heedlessness or want of attention caused the death of a fellow-man, he is acquitted of the crime of murder, but he is brought in as guilty of culpable manslaughter. His guilt is less, but is as clear. His punishment is less, but it is as sure. Does the traveller meet some accident, to the loss of property or the injury of his person, through the heedlessness or inattention of those who conveyed his property or himself, they are held responsible as persons guilty of culpable negligence, and if still persisted in to the frequent injury of others would be liable to severer punishment. But so it is in sober truth, and this for the first time is the point at which I take up the precise lesson of our text. I do not suppose that Paul thought it needful to warn Timothy against being corrupted by other men’s sins. Nor can I imagine that he thought it necessary to forbid him from intentionally corrupting others. What, then, did he mean, unless it was to warn him that with the best intentions he might inadvertently, through inattention, involve himself in the guilt of other men’s sins, sins which he hated himself, and which he mourned over in others? And so it was. “Lay hands suddenly on no man,” said Paul, and as an argument or motive to care and consideration, he added, “Be not partaker in other men’s sins.” Having thus endeavoured to illustrate the general principles suggested by or embodied in our text, I might now allude to the encouragement and countenance that is given to drunkenness by the multiplied and unnecessary drinking customs which even good men maintain, but by which they become partakers in the sin of those who are thereby led away to excess. (W. Grant.)
Partaking of other men’s sins
There is something which is very striking and very awful in the thought which is suggested to our minds in the words which have just been read. We have often heard it said that it is quite enough for any man in this world to answer for his own doings or misdoings; it is not fair to lay upon him any burden of guilt beyond that which is properly his own; or to attach to him any discredit because he comes, perhaps, of an ill-doing family; or because some one closely related to him has fallen into gross sin and shame. And if, in the nature of things, it is possible for us to help feeling as though a reflected disgrace were cast upon that person whose near kinsman has broken the laws of his country, for instance, and died a felon’s death, still we are ready at once to confess, when the thing is fairly put to us, that it is not fit or just to hold any human being responsible for that which has been done by another; and that it is quite enough to answer for the wrong which he has done himself. We tremble to think of the heavy load of responsibility and guilt which we have accumulated for ourselves. But can it be that this is not all; can it be that we have all of us more to answer for than we have ourselves done. There is a sense in which it is not possible for any man to be partaker in the sin of another. You cannot transfer responsibility. No man can justly be held responsible for that which he did not do; but then a man may do many things besides those which he does directly. A man may do many things at second-hand, so to speak; and in that case he is quite as responsible for them as if he had done them with his own hand. For instance, you can all understand that if any person hires another to commit a murder for him, both parties in that transaction are equally guilty of the crime of murder. And, indeed, in many cases the accomplice is worse than the actual sinner, for in the case of the accomplice there is all the original guilt, with cowardice and meanness added. But may you not likewise be partaker in sins of which at their commission you did not know, and at whose commission you would shudder? May you not, in the moral world, sometimes set the great stone rolling down the hill, with little thought of the ruin it may deal below? As, for instance, you, a parent, neglect the training of your child, that child grows up into guilt which appals you--guilt which terrifies you; but are you not still partaker in that guilt--answerable for that guilt at the bar of God? Ah, you know you are; you know full well that if that neglected child should end at the gallows, the fault, the sin, the shame will still be in a great measure your own! Ah! you may live after you are dead to do mischief--live in the evil thoughts you instilled, the false doctrines you taught, the perverse character you helped to form. When you stand before the judgment throne, you may find yourself called to answer for myriads of sins besides those which you directly committed; and you will feel that your condemnation for these sins is just and right. Let us, then, look somewhat more closely into this great principle which I have been endeavouring to set before you. Let us look more particularly at some of the ways in which we may become “partakers of other men’s sins.” And in thinking, first, of how we may make others to sin by suggesting evil thoughts and feelings, let us take an extreme case by way of example: an extreme case, indeed, but unhappily not an unprecedented one. Let us think of a great genius: of a man to whom God has been pleased to give that rare and wonderful power of excogitating beautiful thoughts which shall come home to the heart and brain of other men, and clothing these beautiful thoughts in words which shall fall like music on the ear. Let us think of such a man applying the noble powers which God gave him for high and pure designs to surround vice with all the fascinations of poetry and romance, to strip it of all its grossness, while leaving all its guilt; let us think of him writing tales and poems, all of the most corrupting tendency; going to undermine the very foundations of all morality and all religion; and wrapping up infidelity and profligacy in thoughts that breathe and words that burn. And in every such case, is not that perverted genius justly chargeable with a share of that sin to which his writings have tempted? You may have done in a lower degree what the bad great man did on a grander scale. Even then, when you allow vice to pass without reproof, for fear of giving offence, are you not thus tacitly encouraging it? Even then, when you soften down the stern requirements of religion, for fear of making some one uncomfortable whom the truth would make uncomfortable, are you not thus practically encouraging him to remain worldly as he is? So far, then, for certain fashions in which by the lip, by speech or by silence, you may become accessory and abetting to other men’s sins; and next we remark that by your life and example you may do so even more effectually. Example, whether good or bad, is always more efficient than precept; and you know quite well that many a man has taken heart to do a sinful deed because he saw another do it, who but for that would never have done so. The higher a man’s profession of religion, the more closely will his practice be watched, both by such as have little religion and by such as have none at all; and who does not know how any inconsistency, any lapse, on the part of a professing Christian is laid hold of by ungodly men to countenance their ungodly lives, and to show that all religion is a pretence and a delusion! The evil principle we instilled, the evil example we set, may ripen into bitter fruit in the murderous blow which shall be dealt a century hence upon Australian plains. How strange, yet how inevitable, the tie which may link our uneventful life with the stormy passions of numbers far away! It is but as yesterday that we heard of the success of that marvellous achievement of science which has set the old world in momently communication with the new; and the most sluggish imagination must have been awakened somewhat in the thought of that slender cable which, far beneath the waves of the great Atlantic, lying still in stirless ocean valleys, and scaling trackless ocean cliffs, maintains the subtle current through those thousands of miles; but more wonderful still, surely, is that unseen fibre along which, from other men’s sins, responsibility may thrill even to our departed souls--a chain whose links are formed, perhaps, of idle words, of forgotten looks, of phrases of double meaning, of bad advice, of cynical sentiment hardly seriously meant; yet carried on through life after life, through soul after soul, till the little seed of evil sown by you has developed into some deed of guilt at which you would shudder, but from some participation in responsibility for which you cannot clear yourself. Yea, the thought widens out beyond anything which I have hitherto suggested; for surely it is nothing more than a legitimate extension of the great principle of the text to say that in some measure we are responsible for the sin which we failed to do our utmost to prevent; and so that even heathen cruelty and heathen idolatry may be in so far chargeable on us, because, though we never bowed to the senseless image, though we never imbrued our hands in a fellow creature’s blood, we yet failed to give of our means, our efforts, our prayers, to send to those dark lands that gospel light, which might have bidden these things die out for ever. In truth, the only way in which it is possible for us to cease to sin in the person of others, is by ceasing to sin in our own; for every sin may waken its echo, every sin is repudiated and reiterated, in other souls and lives. (A. H. K. Boyd.)
Refusing to be a partaker in other men’s sins
Joseph Sturge, the Christian philanthropist, remonstrating one day with a drunken man whom he met, was startled by his reply that he had got drunk at a public-house, adding, “The beer was made from your barley.” His mind was at once made up, and the next Mark Lane Express announced that under no circumstances would the Messrs. Sturge supply barley for malting purposes. This conscientious decision struck off £8,000 a year from their income.
Keep thyself pure.--
A caution to young men
In the abstract, the text, brief as it is, contains a precept impossible to be fulfilled. For who does not know that in His judgment “God looks upon the heart”? and yet, who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin”? The solution of the apparent difficulty lies upon the surface: we can do relatively what we cannot do absolutely; we can do in association with the grace of God what we cannot do without it. We then, accordingly, as ambassadors for Christ, say to each young man whom we address, as the apostle said to Timothy, “Keep thyself pure.” Keep thyself, as one from the beginning separated and set apart for Christ, from everything which is inconsistent with the allegiance which thou must owe to Him; with the attachment which thou oughtest to feel for Him; with the attainment of those blessings which are the purchase of His blood, and which God will bestow on thee through Him alone. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Watch against the beginnings of evil.
1. “Keep thyself pure,” then, young man, as to “doctrine” (for doctrine is the foundation of duty).
2. And not only let Holy Scripture stand first, but let it stand alone. Let it be received, not as “the word of man,” but, as to doctrine, the teacher of truth alone.
3. Again, we say to the young man, “keep thyself pure” from error, by taking Scripture, in all that seems to require “reproof” or refutation, as a test. Whatever is repugnant to thy inherent and instinctive sense of right, whether to be denied as a principle, or to be deprecated as a practice, try it by its agreement or disagreement with God’s Word.
4. Next, “keep thyself pure” in act, by taking the Word of God “for correction,” or setting upright that which hath fallen down, restoring what hath been damaged or decayed through sin. And here the Word is a supreme, unerring standard of right and wrong; and “correction “is but another name for bringing into harmony or accordance with the Word.
5. “Keep thyself pure,” by looking to the Word “for instruction in righteousness”; for instruction, which must extend itself throughout the whole of life, though life were protracted, as of old time, far beyond the narrow limits of threescore years and ten.
6. “Keep thyself pure,” then, young man, but only by the grace of God in Christ. Once throw aside that buckler, and thou wilt become vulnerable by every weapon of the foe. Writ thou “keep thyself pure,” or shall that impurity, which is now thy shame, become thy companion and thy curse throughout eternity? Writ thou be refined as the pure gold, or cast away as the “reprobate silver”? “Keep thyself pure,” then, young man! because “thy breath is in thy nostrils”; because thy sun of life may go down ere it is yet high noon; and that purity of life is essential to the peace of death. But once more we add, “keep thyself pure” for the improvement--yes, and even for the true enjoyment of life. But by the observance of this salutary caution everything is gained, and nothing can be lost; time is rightly occupied, and talent profitably improved. Diligence in the practice of business, coupled with uprightness in its principles, rarely fails to prosper, even in a worldly view. (T. Dale, M. A.)
Purity in a minister
I admire Mr. Whitefield’s reasons for always having his linen scrupulously clean. “No, no,” he would say, “these are not trifles; a minister must be without spot, even in his garments, if he can.” Purity cannot be carried too far in a minister. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A clean record
The last words of a man are of comparatively little importance, but surely Mr. Gough could have uttered no sentence which would have pleased him better if he had known he would never speak again than the last words which he ejaculated as he sank unconscious in the Presbyterian church in which he was lecturing, “Young man, make your record clean!”
1 Timothy 5:23
Drink no longer water.
Timothy charged to take care of his health
I. The first thought presented is, that a living and deep piety, a Christian activity, extended as far as can be imagined, should neither extinguish in us a certain interest in the things of the earth, nor abate the force of the natural and legitimate ties which unite us to parents and friends. St. Paul is certainly a proof of it. What faith was firmer and more ardent than his! A man who said (and what he said he felt): “It is no longer I who live, but Christ that liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). A man who affirmed that he had “a desire to depart, and be with Christ; which was far better” (Philippians 1:23). Well! it is that apostle who, in the midst of a life so filled up, in spite of so many engagements and perplexities of every kind, preserves that freedom of mind necessary to remember the physical infirmities of one of his disciples; it is he who, in a letter of such grave contents and of so serious a tone, in which he discourses on the duties of the evangelical ministry, and where he imparts to him his own personal experiences, finds time, place, and means of reminding him to take care of his health, which, perhaps, he neglected. Does not that attention, so fraternal and so delicate on the part of the apostle, serve to put in the clearest light this truth, which, nevertheless, issues with sufficient clearness from the general contents of the gospel, that a purely contemplative religious life is rather an abuse than the fruit of true Christianity; that faith has by no means the effect of filling our heads with frothy and mystic ideas which are not applicable to every-day life, and that if it elevates us above the world, it is in order to help us over its troubles and free us from its miseries, but not to make us strangers to the various relations which we have to sustain, nor to the duties which we have to practise here? And to speak only of the ties of blood and of friendship, or of those still sweeter and more powerful ones, of Christian brotherhood, does not St. Paul, when exhorting his disciple not to enslave himself to a plan of abstinence which might have become fatal to him, teach us that if we are sincere disciples of the Saviour, His love, which lives in our hearts, should perfect us in that respect and render us capable of sympathizing more and more with the necessities of our suffering and afflicted friends, of understanding their position, of giving us just ideas of their perplexities, of taking part in their burdens. There are Christians who are pre-occupied with the concerns of heaven, to the extent of forgetting a part of the duties which they have to fulfil on this earth, as parents, as friends, as citizens. In their religious rigour the human element is blotted out, rather than freed from the impure alloy of evil.
II. If St. Paul, exhorting his disciple Timothy not to impose unnecessary abstinence upon himself, and to take care of his health, presents to us the model of that tender, vigilant, and delicate character which is fully allied with the highest degree of the religious life. Timothy, who on his part seems to have placed himself in the position of needing that lesson--teaches us, by his example, that a lively concern for the interests of our souls ought not to make us neglect the care of our bodies. This would prove, so to speak, by the way that the most pious and sincere men are subject to fall by excess of zeal into exaggerations, which the Word of God is far from approving of; and it ought to make us feel the necessity of enlightening ourselves more and more on the will of God as regards us, by always joining intelligence with piety, the understanding of Divine things with fervour, or, to speak with the apostle St. Peter, by “adding to faith, knowledge (2 Peter 1:5), lest we should give way to whims and take peculiar paths from which it would be difficult later on to return. No doubt it is better, in the act, to go astray after the manner of Timothy, than to sin after the example of men of the world; and it is beyond all dispute that he who impairs his health through the effect of long and persevering labours, undertaken with the view of advancing the Saviour’s kingdom, and on account of having listened to nothing but the inspirations of a zeal which knew no limit, and which yielded to no obstacle, is, without comparison, infinitely less culpable before God than the carnal man who, on account of having altogether given way to his senses and slackened the bridle of his passions, has ruined his strength and destroyed his body. But, viewed in connection with God, the body is the work of the Creator, and, although degraded by sin, it still bears certain marks of Divine origin. Estimated with relation to our soul, it serves as its organ; it is intended to be the instrument of its desires, the executor of its volitions. Considered in connection with our fellow-men, it has been given us to be a means of communication with them, and in general with the objects and beings which compose the visible world in which we are placed. “Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful, in order to your furtherance and joy of faith” (Philippians 1:24-25). And it was that conviction which led him to save himself for the work of God and for the salvation of the Church. Let us live for heaven, but let us never forget the task which we have to fulfil on earth.
III. Yet, you will have observed, that whilst putting Timothy on his guard against the dangers of an overstrained abstinence, and recommending him not to deprive himself of a natural drink which God has created for the benefit of man, the apostle gives us in passing a lesson of temperance; for instead of simply recommending his disciple to have recourse to the use of wine as a cordial and as a remedy, he takes the precaution of saying to him, “use a little wine.” Unquestionably that restriction was scarcely necessary as regards Timothy, since there is no appearance of his having ever abused the liberty which his teacher gave him; but can we doubt that if St. Paul had expressed himself in a manner more general and without employing that moderation of language, libertines would have hastened to seize upon his words, to confirm themselves in their irregularities? Sobriety, indeed, is, however, at all times obedience to a law established by God Himself in creation, and for the benefit and interest of the man who accepts it and who submits to it. God has so ordered things in the world where He has placed us, that the moderate use of the good things which He dispenses to us brings with it blessing; whilst the abuse of the same enjoyments has for its consequence a curse. It is the same with all the gifts of the Creator--intemperance turns them into poisons, the want of sobriety transforms them into means of destruction. Too much sleep, for example, weakens the body; too much pleasure enervates it; too much rest benumbs it; too much food thickens the burnouts; too much drink agitates and consumes it. “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6). Sober in our sufferings as well as in our joys; in our sadness as well as in our pleasures; sober in rest, sober in activity; sober when watching, sober in sleep; sober in body, sober in mind.
IV. In fine, the advice addressed by Paul to Timothy to drink no longer only water, but to use a little wine on account of his frequent indispositions, gives occasion to a last question which might appear idle at first sight, but which is certainly not so when viewed in its practical consequences; and that question is this: “How is it that St. Paul, who had received from Christ the gift of working miracles, does not apply that gift in order to heal his disciple?” Would it have cost him much, who, in the town of Lystra, restored to an impotent man the free use of his limbs, formerly paralyzed--him who chased from a poor young woman at Philippi the lying spirit with which she had been possessed for a long time--him who at Troas had only to bend over the body of a young man fallen from the third story of a house into the street, in order to call him back into life; would it have cost him, I say, much to deliver Timothy from a malady slight in itself, although serious enough to have brought him into a state of weakness? To these various questions we believe that we can answer, that it does not appear that the apostles could work miracles every time that they wished; that they were in that respect directed from on high, and that in this particular case it is probable that Paul, after having consulted the Lord by prayer, was turned aside from the idea of freeing Timothy from his physical infirmities by means of a miraculous cure, or, at least, that he did not feel free to do it. Miracles are for those who do not believe, to predispose them to faith; but for those who already believe, of what necessity could they be? Timothy, converted to Jesus Christ and a minister of the gospel, had then no need of the manifestation of the power of Jesus Christ in his body, because he felt that same power work in the regeneration of his soul. But what was more necessary than a miracle for him, more profitable than a supernatural cure, was affliction; and that is, without doubt, the reason why the apostle, taught in that respect by his own experience, did not wish to heal him suddenly, although he employed all the counsels of a wise friendship to bring him over gradually and by natural ways to a state of health which he could wish for him, but which he did not believe himself authorized to procure for him instantaneously. Is there any school so good as that of trial? We have seen that we should not voluntarily and by our own fault create trials for ourselves; we should be satisfied with those which the Lord sends us. But if, on the one hand, it would be culpable to plunge into, or to complain in, afflictions of which we ourselves are the manufacturers, we must not, on the other hand, harden ourselves under the hand of the Saviour when it lies heavy upon us. (J. Grandpierre, D. D.)
Paul’s advice to Timothy
I. The speaker, who is undoubtedly the apostle Paul. We have not only to notice his friendship and regard for his son Timothy, but we may learn that it is the duty, and should be the practice, of the ministers of Jesus Christ, to attend to the state of the health of their people. It may be observed, that the apostle recommended the ordinary means; we never find a miracle wrought where common and usual means would answer the purpose. The apostle John could not heal his friend Gaius, and therefore prays heartily for him. Nor could Paul heal Trophimus, and therefore left him sick at Miletus. This proves that the apostles’ power of working miracles, or performing cures, was confined and limited; and it was wise and kind in Providence in confining the prerogative in His own hand, as some, no doubt, would have neglected the use of ordinary means; and in some instances the apostles might have employed their power on improper occasions.
II. The person addressed. Timothy, the pious descendant of a pious mother Eunice, and grandmother Lois. But Timothy, with all his piety, has imperfections; and this furnishes us with the idea, that good men are liable to indispositions. It has been often observed, that the last step of a virtue and the first of a vice are nearly contiguous. Frugality is commendable, but how likely is it to lead to covetousness, which is a vice. This should teach us to avoid extremes, as extremes in all cases are dangerous. From Timothy, the person spoken to, we learn that good and useful men are subject to many infirmities. Besides the many instances left us on record in the Scriptures, we may notice those of more modern ones. That great advocate for reformation, Dr. Owen, the pious and heavenly-minded Richard Baxter, the seraphic James Hervey, and the sweet singer in British Israel, Dr. Watts, not forgetting that laborious preacher George Whitfield, are all instances of the truth of this observation, and could all say many years before their death, “The graves are ready for us.”
III. The import of the advice given. “Take a little wine for thy stomach’s sake,” etc., which furnishes two observations, namely--
1. That it is the duty of Christians to use means, and to take care to restore and preserve the state of their health. Instances may be referred to where this advice, if it had been observed, would have prevented many a fatal sickness. The benefit and blessing of health may be considered in the humble walks of life; in the poor labourer, the support of whose family depends on his labour, and whose labour depends on his health. It may be considered among the higher ranks of life. What is the benefit or enjoyment of a well-spread table, of a well-furnished mansion, of extensive possessions without health? But health is of importance in a religious view.
2. We may observe, that the Christian is not forbid the use and enjoyment of any created good. (W. Jay.)
I. We believe that the sacred Scriptures would be found far more edify ing and consoling than they are at present by many experienced to be, if we were to endeavour to realize to ourselves the personal habits and circumstances of the saints and martyrs whose acts form the groundwork of the inspired volume. Nay, inasmuch as the life of most men is private and domestic, we may think that it would be most advantageous if we possessed a narrative of the secret life of Christ. In the contemplation of St. Timothy harassed with a sick body, and of St. Paul plying his trade of tent-making, in order to obtain daily bread, and probably to provide the funds for future apostolic journeys, we have a lesson of infinite value. We are all, more or less, accustomed to find excuses for our religious deficiencies in the accidents of our state and condition. But every individual has his own excuse, the trade of one occupies his time; the ill health of another prevents his going about doing good; the poverty of a third incapacitates him. As with the laity so with the clergy, we have each our own plea for not doing all that we might, for labouring less than we know in our hearts it is our bounden duty to do. And a very marked rebuke to all such is the contemplation of the old saints and apostles, as we now present them. They had their own private lets and hindrances, draw backs to their utility, impediments to their efficiency; yet what a work was theirs! To be the reformers and restorers of the world, the regenerators of the universe; to bring about the overthrow of idolatry, and the recognition of the one true God. Timothy was overwhelmed with “often infirmities.”’ And yet these were the men who changed the religion of the world! Oh, noble triumph of the spirit over matter! Oh, glorious victory of Divine grace! What excuse have we for our carelessness and remissness, our sluggishness and indolence? What hindrances have we, which they had not tenfold? Are we poor, and therefore seemingly unable to help others? St. Paul worked at tent-making. Are we delicately nurtured and weak in health? Timothy was a man of many infirmities. Are we slow of speech, and unused to address our brethren? St. Paul’s utterance was indistinct.
II. What we have hitherto endeavoured to set before you has been simply this, that the first disciples of Christ had to contend not only with extraordinary but ordinary difficulties. Sickness and infirmity was their portion, even as it is ours: yet they did their work; they did not make their personal weaknesses or their poverty any excuse for spiritual idleness. The lesson is easy. If they, in the face not merely of a hostile world, but in spite of all sorts of personal drawbacks, fought so long and well the fight of faith, how utterly inexcusable are we in making our private engagements, or want of means or health, pleas for remaining idle. Yea, this is the account we have to give you of Timothy, as implied in the text. Wonderfully met in him, health and disease, strength and infirmity. Called to severe labour in the vineyard of his Lord, with the charge of an entire Church upon him, how needful we think must it have been that his frame should be strong, and his health firm. Nevertheless, when God sent him sickness, he desired not to be rid of it. (Bp. Woodford.)
Wine and health
Dr. B. N. Richardson, of London, the noted physician, says he was recently able to convey a considerable amount of conviction to an intelligent scholar by a simple experiment. The scholar was singing the praises of the “ruddy bumper,” and saying he could not get through the day without it, when Dr. Richardson said to him, “Will you be good enough to feel my pulse as I stand here?” He did so. I said, “Count it carefully. What does it say?” “Your pulse says seventy-four.” I then sat down in a chair, and asked him to count it again. He did so, and said, “Your pulse has gone down to seventy.” I then lay down on the lounge, and said, “Will you take it again?” He replied, “Why, it is only sixty-four! What an extraordinary thing!” I then said, “When you lie down at night, that is the way nature gives your heart rest. You know nothing about it, but that beating organ is resting to that extent; and if you reckon it up it is a great deal of rest, because in lying down the heart is doing ten strokes less a minute. Multiply that by sixty, it is six hundred; multiply it by eight hours, and within a fraction it is five thousand strokes different, and as the heart is throwing six ounces of blood at every stroke, it makes a difference of thirty thousand ounces of lifting during the night. When I lie down at night without any alcohol that is the rest my heart gets. But when you take your wine or grog you do not allow that rest, for the influence of alcohol is to increase the number of strokes, and instead of getting this rest you put on something like fifteen thousand extra strokes, and the result is that you rise up very seedy, and unfit for the next day’s work till you have taken a little more of the ‘ruddy bumper,’ which you say is the soul of man below.” (Naval Brigade News.)
Health a duty
Health underlies all there is of a man. I think a man ill-bodied cannot think healthily. It would surprise people to see how many things which have shaken the world with controversy, and burdened it with error, bad their origin in indigestion. Health is a duty. If a man would carry his mind aright, and have it work with power, let him seek to be healthy. (H. W. Beecher.)
Christians should not encourage wine drinking
Some say, “You must not force your principles on other people. I am a teetotaler myself; I would not touch alcohol, but then I will put it on my table for other people.” They say you must not take the liberty of people away. A man that preached the gospel told me that some time ago. He said that some men had to drink it as a medicine, and that was the reason he placed it on his table. I said to him, “Then why don’t you put a dish of pills on the table as well?” We have heard enough about it as a medicine, and it will be a grand day for England when you just sweep the stuff out of the island--the whole of it right out from your tables. Dare to be singular! (D. L. Moody.)
I. A Christian is called upon to care for his physical health. The body is not to be despised or neglected. It is the temple of the Holy Ghost, to be thought of, and dealt with, reverently. Disordered nerves and deranged functions have much to do with gloomy views of God and hopeless views of men. For the sake, therefore, of one’s moral and religious life, all that can be done to keep the body and brain in healthy condition and exercise, should be done religiously.
II. A Christian is bound to control animal appetite. (A. Rowland, LL. B.)
1 Timothy 5:24-25
Some men’s sins are open beforehand.
The law of moral recompenses
Let us proceed to a consideration of this law of recompenses, whether in relation to the bad actions of the sinner, or to the good works of the righteous,
I. And first, let us see how the text brings out the principle we have spoken of, as applied to the case of bad men,--that is of hardened and incorrigible offenders: “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment.”
1. Of this one illustration is to be found in the consequences which, even in the present state, follow upon the commission of sin. That principle of our religious philosophy, laid down by Bishop Butler, that the general constitution of this world’s government is, upon the whole, favourable to virtues and adverse to wrong-doing, is in nothing more manifest, than in the unalterable connection which subsists between sin and misery. Dissipation leads to want, sensuality to enfeebled health, dishonesty drives sleep from the eyelids through the fear of being found out, and it is often literally true that “bloody and deceitful men scarce live out half their days.” Thus, to the end of their days, sinners are constantly finding out that “they who plough iniquity and sow wickedness reap the same.” In the spirit of the Psalmist, though often without his hope, they are left to cry out daily, “My sin is ever before me.” For their first sin haunts them with its consequences to the close of their career. They never escape from its revenges. It tracks their path like a bloodhound. In its initial forebodings the plague of retribution begins here: “Their sins are gone beforehand to judgment.”
2. Again, it is a part of the penalty of the transgressor in this life, and that which sends his sins before him, as it were a herald, to get his place and portion ready, that the longer he continues in a course of evil, the more violently and inevitably is he urged in the same direction. The thought is not sufficiently realized by us, that, in moral things, like produces like; that each separate act of transgression which a man commits leaves its own seminal deposit of evil in the soul, which, unless eradicated by a higher power than his own, must fructify and gather strength till the time of harvest,--till the end of life, or till the end of the world. The process of moral deterioration may be subtle and unobserved, like the stealthy creeping of a pestilence, but, in the majority of cases, it is sure and uniform. The youth determines what the man shall be. And the man determines what the grey hairs shall be. It is a righteous thing with God to let the wicked be the forger of his own fetters, and to leave him with his own hands to bind them on. Such is a law of our moral nature. Thus, while a man is continuing in sin everything is preparing for the end, and hastening the advent of the end. Each repeated act of disobedience exerts an influence upon character; tends to its consolidation and settlement in evil; helps to bring about that which, as far as can be seen, will be its final and everlasting form,--that of hatred of God, and resistance to all good. Except the final consummation of their misery, they have nothing more to wait for. “Their sins are gone beforehand to judgment.”
3. But further, in relation to this great law of retribution, attaching itself to sinful actions, it is added, “some men their sins follow after.” The thought here suggested would seem to be this, that in estimating the penalties due to transgressions we must take into the reckoning the unquestioned fact that the consequences of some men’s sins follow after them, live to produce their mighty havoc and harvest of evil when the men themselves are gone. This is a law of social influences which altereth not. A bad man cannot restrict the consequences of his misdoing to himself. For the evil follows after, even unto many generations. Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, set up two calves, and the consequence was that within a few years two nations fell into the practice of idolatry. Indeed, in its consequences, and, as far as the present economy is concerned, every kind of sin may be regarded as having immortality. Infidelity and falsehood are immortal. The exposed sophistry and the ribald jest will be propagated from mouth to mouth, and from book to book, to the end of time. Thankful should we be to know that there may be an arrest laid upon the mischief, in some cases, or that the grace of God may, and often does, raise up a counteracting influence for good. But too commonly the seed of evil is left to bring forth fruit after its kind: “With some men their sins follow after.”
II. But I proceed to notice, in the second place, the application of this law of recompenses to the good actions of the righteous. “Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand, and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.”
1. First, it is said that the good works of some are manifest even in the present life. “Ye are the light of the world,” said our Lord; “a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” “Thy Father, which seeth in secret, Himself shall reward thee openly.”
2. Again, his good works are manifest beforehand, because they will be sure to take the form of active benevolence, and of endeavor’s to promote the moral and spiritual happiness of mankind.
3. “And they that are otherwise cannot be hid.” What further lesson may we draw from this? why, that no good works of a righteous man can ever be altogether thrown away; can ever fail of producing fruit; can ever, whether in this world or in that which is to come, miss of its fitting and merciful reward. We know that, of vessels chosen for the Master’s use, some are for greater honour, and some for less. “Cannot be hid,” first, because of the effect which a course of good works has upon a man’s own character, and the lasting peace they leave behind, “The path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Faith makes larger discoveries of God, and of the fitness and fulness of the provided atonement. Hid from the world, but not from himself, is his tranquil joy in prayer, his nearness to God in sacraments, his derived strength from Christ, his interchange of thoughts with heaven, as he meditates on the written Word. Hid from the world, but not from himself, are his peace in conflict, his supports in temptation, his thankfulness after a gained victory over the powers of evil, as to God, and to God alone, he gives the praise. Furthermore, a man’s good works “cannot be hid,” because, in all the parts and actions of our life, there are unknown eyes upon us. We, none of us, know the extent of our own influence, how many of those who are associated with us, in the common intercourse and work of life, may be, without acknowledging it, looking up to us as patterns, or at all events are taking observant note where our practice differs from theirs. “Cannot be hid,” once more: because, like the bad man’s sins, good works will follow after. Of every good man it may be said, as of Abel, “He being dead yet speaketh”;--speaketh by the memory of his virtues. Such is the rule of the Almighty’s procedure, whether in dealing with good men or bad. It is based on principles of everlasting rectitude. It is administered after methods of gentlest kindness. It commends itself to the conscience, as answering to the conditions of a reasonable service. It is in harmony with fact, with observation, and with the experience of our own hearts. (D. Moore, M. A.)
The method of penalty
I am certainly within the spirit of the text when I say that some sins anticipate judgment; they invoke it, and receive its sentence, and experience its penalty, apparently before the time; they run their course quickly, and incur their doom in this life. There are other sins that meet with little check; they are slow to overtake their consequences; they come upon little in this life that can be called penalty. Speaking from daily observation, we may say that the retribution of some sins begins in this world; while there are other sins that await their punishment in the next world. We shall best come to an understanding of this truth by looking a little into the method of retribution. It is, as its definition implies, a return of disobedience, or payment, when, in due time, it returns again. It is the natural and inevitable consequence of broken law. If we seek for an explanation of this law, we find none, except that it is so. We perceive its fitness and beneficence, but farther back we cannot go. The law is wrought into our moral nature, and also into our consciousness; certainly, it commands early and universal assent. We notice also that the penalty is akin to the sin; it is under the seed-law--like yielding like. We receive back the things we have done, changed only as mist is changed to water, and heat to flame. And the effect often bears so absolute resemblance to the cause as to arrest the imagination, and is called poetic justice; the murderer drinking the poison he had prepared for another. In human government it is not so, but only because of its imperfection. It is an increated principle, and cannot be superinduced to any great extent. When a man steals, all that human law has yet learned to do is to imprison, or otherwise injure him, inflicting an arbitrary, deterrent suffering. Society merely defends itself. It is seldom skilful enough to establish a natural relation between the crime and the penalty. But that part of human society which is not organized into government, the social relationship of men, is more skilful to connect evil with its natural punishment. If one sins against the conventional laws, or moral instincts, of society, he meets with exclusion or disgrace according to the nature of the offence. Cause and effect; natural order; congruity between the sin and its penalty; these are the unfailing marks that the great teacher put upon the subject. What wisdom, what truth, what justice, is the voice of universal reason and conscience. It is the weakness of human government that it does not employ this principle in the punishment of crime, so far as it might. It was a doubtful policy that abolished the whipping-post and pillory. If a brutal husband whips his wife at home, he can have no better punishment than a whipping in public; or, if this be corrupting to the people, then in private. If these suggestions be thought to imply a retrograding civilization, let me answer, they harmonize with the Divine order. There is but one sound, effective method of punishing wrong-doing, and that is to make the offender feel the evil he has inflicted. As we thus look at retribution in the mingled light of revelation and reason, we are prepared to understand why it is that some sins are punished in this world, while other sins await punishment in a future world. If we were to classify the sins that reap their painful consequences here, and those that do not, we would find that the former are offences that pertain to the body, and the order of this world; and that the latter pertain more directly to the spiritual nature. The classification is not sharp; the parts shade into one another; but it is as accurate as is the distinction between the two departments of our nature. In his physical and social nature man was made under the laws of this world. If he breaks these laws the penalty is inflicted here. It may continue hereafter, for the grave feature of penalty is that it does not tend to end, but continues to act, like force imparted to an object in a vacuum, until arrested by some outside power. But man is also under spiritual laws,--reverence, humility, love, self-denial, purity, and all that are commonly known as moral duties. If he offends against these, he may incur but little of painful consequence. There may be much of evil consequence, but the phase of suffering lies farther on. The soil and atmosphere of this world are not adapted to bring it to full fruitage. Stating our distinction again: punishment in this world follows the sins of the grosser part of our nature--that part which more especially belongs to this world--sins against the order of nature, against the body; sins of self-indulgence and sins against society. The punishment that awaits the next world is of sins pertaining to the higher nature, sins against the mind, the affections, and the spirit. The seed of evil sown in the soil of this world comes to judgment here. The seed of evil sown in the hidden places of the spirit, does not bear full fruit till the spiritual world is reached. Man is co-ordinated to two worlds. They overlap far into one another; the spiritual inter-penetrates the physical; and the physical sends unceasing influences into the spiritual. Still, each is a field whereon evil reaps its appropriate harvest. Illustrations of the first confront us on every side; judgment pronounced and executed here; sin punished here. Take the commonest but most instructive example--drunkenness. As soon as desire becomes stronger than the will, it begins to act retributively. Having sown to the flesh, he reaps to the flesh corruption. His sin works out its penalty on its own ground. I do not say that it ends here, because it is also linked with an order more enduring than this world. For, as one standing over against a mountain may fill the whole valley with the clamour of shouting, but hears at length an echo as if from another world, so these sins, having yielded their first fruits here, may stir up vaster penalties hereafter. The terrible feature of penalty, so far as any light is thrown upon it from its own nature, is that it cannot anticipate an end. The subject finds various illustration: indolence eating the scant bread of poverty; wilful youthhood begetting a fretful and sour old age; selfishness leading to isolation; ambition overreaching itself and falling into contempt; ignorance yielding endless mistake; worldly content turning first into apathy, then into disgust; these every-day facts show that if we sin against the order of this world, we are punished in this world. If we sin against the body we are punished in the body. We turn now to the other point, namely, that sins against the spiritual nature do not incur full punishment here, but await it in the spiritual world. We constantly see men going through life with little pain or misfortune, perhaps with less than the ordinary share of human suffering, yet we term them sinners. They do not love nor fear God; they have no true love for man; they reject the law of self-denial and the duty of ministration; they stand off from any direct relations to God, they do not pray; their motives are selfish; their temper is worldly; they are devoid of what are called graces except as mere germs or chance out-growths, and make no recognition of them as forming the substance of true character. Such men break the laws of God, and of their own nature, as really as does the drunkard, but they meet with little apparent punishment. There may be inward discomfort, pangs of conscience at times, a painful sense of wrongness, a dim sense of lack, but nothing that bears the stamp of penalty. These discomforts grow less, and at last leave the man quite at ease. These men seem to be sinning without punishment, and often infer that they do not deserve it. The reason of the difference is plain. They keep the laws that pertain to this world, and so do net come in the way of their penalties. They are temperate, and are blessed with health. They are shrewd and economical, and amass wealth. They are prudent and avoid calamities. They are worldly wise, and thus secure worldly advantages. But man covers two worlds, and he must settle with each before his destiny is decided: he may pass the judgment seat of one acquitted, but stand convicted before the other. It is as truly a law of our nature that we shall worship as that we shall eat. When, a half century ago, the famous Kaspar Hauser appeared in the streets of Nuremberg, having been released from a dungeon in which he had been confined from infancy, having never seen the face or heard the voice of man, nor gone without the walls of his prison, nor seen the full light of day, a distinguished lawyer in Germany wrote a legal history of the case which he entitled, “A Crime against the Life of the Soul.” It was well named. There is something unspeakably horrible in that mysterious page of history. To exclude a child not only from the light, but from its kind; to seal up the avenues of knowledge that are open to the most degraded savage; to force back upon itself every outgoing of the nature till the poor victim becomes a mockery before its Creator, is an unmeasurable crime; it is an attempt to undo God’s work. But it is no worse than the treatment some men bestow upon their own souls. If reverence is repressed, and the eternal heavens are walled out from view; if the sense of immortality is smothered; if the spirit is not taught to clothe itself in spiritual garments, and to walk in spiritual ways: such conduct can hardly be classed except as a crime against the life of the soul. But one thing is certain. As the poor German youth was at length thrust out into the world for which he was so unfitted, with untrained senses in a world of sense, without speech in a world of language, with a dormant mind in a world of thought--so many go out of this world--with no preparation in that part of their nature that will most be called into use. There the soul will be in its own realm; it will live unto itself, a spirit unto spiritual things. A spiritual air to breathe; spiritual works to do; a spiritual life to live, but the spirit impotent I If there has been absolute perversion of the moral nature here, it must assert itself there in the sharpest forms, but the natural penalty of the greater part of human sin is darkness. This is the condemnation, that men have loved darkness. And the penalty of loving darkness, is darkness: it soul out of keeping with its condition, and therefore bewildered, dazzled by light cannot endure, or blind from the disused sense, it matters not which; it is equally in darkness. (T. T. Munger.)
Open and hidden sins
I. We are, first, to consider who those persons are whose “sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment.” And, in making this inquiry, we must still keep in mind that all sin is condemning. The world makes strange distinctions between what it calls great and little sins; but the word of God simply declares “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). “The wages of sin,” of all sin, “is death” (Romans 6:23). But though all sin is condemning, all sin is not equally open. Many sins which nevertheless subject the soul to eternal death, are kept hidden from man, while some are open and avowed. The unchanged nature may be restrained from exhibiting to the eye of man “sins open beforehand, going before to judgment”; but the evil principle of all sin is there, open to the eye of that God with whom we have to do. Causes there are which work upon the unchanged mind, from letting sin break out in the life; though the real love of sin exists fully in the heart. Such a restraint is natural conscience; such, the laws and expectations of civilized, much more of refined society. But where these restraints are broken through, then the whole body of sin and evil principles which were working in the inward soul before, now become manifest in all ungodliness. They have no fear of God before their eyes; their hearts are hardened, through the deceitfulness of sin: they set the law of God always, and the law of man when they dare do so, at defiance; and so spend their short day upon earth in “sins open beforehand, going before to judgment.”
II. Let us inquire, in the second place, who those are whose sins “follow after.” In the judgment which is formed of sin by men of the world, their minds are manifestly under a great delusion from the father of lies. They do not judge of sin as “the transgression of the law of God,” and therefore hateful in his sight; but they measure it according to the effects which it produces against the safety or conveniences of society. They cannot see that all sin, whether it be “open beforehand,” or whether it “follow after to judgment,” is destructive to the soul, and dishonourable to almighty God; and, consequently, that every child of Adam who dies in any unforgiven sin, is lost. But besides this kind of delusion, which comforts many in their unholy life, and so far prevents their sin from breaking out into open wickedness, there is another cause why sin is oftentimes kept from becoming “open beforehand.” Moral virtue, and a certain external character of religion, have still a share of the world’s permission, nay, in a measure, of the world’s approbation; provided that they do not make acknowledged reference to the power and obligations of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But all this only serves to make sin take deeper root. It is growing, though concealed from the world, in a soil congenial to it, and will increase unto all ungodliness. If, therefore, we retain sin in our heart by living in ignorance of the real state of our soul, while we succeed in establishing an outward character with men, we are passing through life deceiving and being deceived. Think, oh think, of the dreadful exposure in that day of all your secret bosom sins, hidden and unrepented of here, but then made manifest, to your “shame and everlasting contempt.”
III. It now remains that we consider the case of those who have neither sins going before them to judgment, nor sins following after. And who are these? where shall we find them? Not among those who have never sinned: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).” Not among those who sin not now: “For their is not a just man on earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not,” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). They will be found standing in their own peculiar lot: washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11); and none who are such have sins either going before to judgment, or following after. Think upon your privileges in your acceptance in the Beloved. “Ye are washed” from the guilt of past sins, because it is written, “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). It is the “fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness” (Zechariah 13:1). (H. Marriot,M. A.)
The open and secret sinner
This is the condition of all open and notorious sinners. They are sold as slaves to sin; everybody sees and knows them to be such; they know it themselves, and are bitterly conscious of their bondage, however they may affect to think lightly of it, or even glory in it; as there are those whose glory is in their shame, and who boast of being free from the restraints of religion, honour, and public decency. Who ever offended the general conscience of society by a great and public sin, and did not feel himself to be speedily judged, condemned, and degraded? and that not only in other men’s judgment, which he would fain set aside or over-rule if he could, as partial, unreasonable, and unjust, but in the judgment of his own heart, which, in spite of himself, affirms and concurs in that of the world. For though the world itself is full of sin, yet, bad as it is, it does, in an imperfect and irregular way, respect virtue and rebuke vice. And hereby the judgment of the world becomes a token and intimation of God’s judgment, and God makes the conscience and opinion even of wicked men testify against the wickedness of others, though perhaps less wicked than themselves. All open sin goes before to judgment. But how stands the case with regard to secret sins? There is in these, we may suppose, no manifest offence against the decencies and proprieties of society: the world knows nothing of the sin, character is not lost, the sinner’s life may be in other respects unimpeachable. Cannot his sin be covered up? It is a vain hope; the covered sin corrupts the whole life. If open sin is like an overmastering fire, that blazes out at every window and flames up through the roof of the devoted house, secret sin is as the smouldering heat, that preys upon the main timbers, unobserved for a time, but stealthily eating its way from one to another, till at last the crash comes, and the building crumbles into dust and ashes. What calamity is so frightful and appalling as the sudden downfall of a man, long looked upon as of pure and honourable life, but found out at last to have been hiding wickedness under an outward show of virtue? And yet sad as this is, it is not so sad as if the cherished sin had passed undiscovered and unrepented of, till the sinner stood to answer for it before the great judgment-seat. I said that covered sin corrupts the whole life. And is it not so? Of course the secret sinner is ashamed of his sin; at least he is ashamed of it in reference to the effect it would produce against him, if it were known, in the minds of some people for whose opinion he cares. Then he must live in a constant disguise of false appearance. His daily life must be a lie, and he must be under a continual necessity of committing fresh sins to hide former ones. But besides the outward and visible consequence, what I may call the material penalty of sin, whether open or secret, there is an inward one of even greater severity; namely, the alienation of the mind from God, and consequent derangement of all the spiritual faculties and operations of the soul. Can a man who is consciously and designedly dishonest, or an extortioner, or a drunkard, or an adulterer, hold unreserved and refreshing communion with his Maker, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity? It is an old and most true remark, that nobody can go on both sinning and praying; for either praying will make him leave off sinning, or sinning will make him leave off praying. A wilful sinner might keep up the outward form, and be even all the worse for doing so, but he could not exercise the spirit of prayer. For though a person who is notoriously wicked in some particulars may, from mere worldly prudence, and a just appreciation of his own interest, be upright in others, this does not cleanse the blot of his character either to the world or to himself. The thief is not honoured by people of any discernment because he may happen to be sober, nor the adulterer because he may happen to be industrious. And much less can he, upon any reasonable estimate of his own spiritual state, appease his conscience, entertain a comfortable hope that he is in God’s favour or make it the serious business of his life to advance God’s glory. He is, by his works, a manifest enemy to the kingdom of grace. And how stands, in this particular, the case of the secret sinner? We suppose his sin not to be known to the world; his example, therefore, creates no scandal, shocks nobody’s feelings; it may not even be blemished by any apparent inconsistency; but the hidden sin defiles the sinner’s conscience, and bars his approach to God, just as much as open wickedness does. And this is the way in which it operates. The man feels that there is a part of his habitual life that he cannot freely disclose and acknowledge to God; a condemning secret, which he would fain withdraw, if he could, even from the judgment of his own heart. The consequence is that the form of religion, which we are supposing the secret sinner to keep up, is but a deception, a hollow mask to hide the practical infidelity of his character. It is plain that the wilful sinner can have no comfort in the knowledge of God, or in approaching Him in prayer. He has chosen to set himself in opposition to God, and to be holden for an enemy by Him. It may be suggested that the law which forbids the darling sin is not God’s law, the revelation which is supposed to declare it is misstated or misrepresented, or perhaps is no real revelation at all. Nobody wonders that the man who is profligate is also irreligious; and nobody thinks of taking his opinion or his practice into account in any matter in which religion is concerned. But the secret sinner may unsettle the faith of many souls besides his own. The secret sinner, again, will have to recollect, and, so far as he may, to repair any damage that he may have done to the cause of religion by the looseness of his conversation while he was supposed to be, though he really was not, a trustworthy companion for people of sincere and unpolluted minds. But whatever may be the proper outward manifestations of penitence for either open or secret sin, the work itself must be begun and wrought out within the sinner’s heart. This season of Lent has been specially appointed by the Church for the work of self-examination and penitence: not but what we ought to be daily humbling ourselves for those faults which we daily commit, but because through our natural slowness and coldness to spiritual things we are apt to fall into a negligent way of performing these daily duties, and so require to be ever and anon awakened and warned to set ourselves more heartily to our painful task. Let us not, then be withheld by false shame from owning to God and to ourselves, and, if it must be so, to man also, the heinousness of those sins which we may have openly and knowingly committed; nor let us attempt to take refuge in that ignorance of our own acts and of their quality, which, in whatever degree it is wilful, is in that degree an aggravation of sin, not an excuse for what is done amiss; but let us gladly accept the light which the Word and Providence of God afford to us, that we may come to know ourselves as we are known by Him. It may be a painful, but it will be a saving knowledge. (Bp. S. Wilberforce.)
The sins that follow
I. Now there is no difficulty in fixing on the characters described under the former clause, “Some men’s sins are open, going before unto judgment.” From the day of Pentecost until now, the Church has had to contend with a body of men who have set themselves in direct and open hostility to holiness and God; who have mocked at His counsel and would none of His reproof. Their sins have been open; all the world has acknowledged their guilt, and anticipated their condemnation. Their offences go before them invoking God’s judgment. Who are they, we will rather ask, described in the second clause of the text, whose wickednesses are not visible at the moment? In reply, we would remind you of the familiar division of all sin into ignorant and presumptuous. Indeed, indeed, it is quite possible for a man to be persuaded that he stands upright, when in God’s sight he is grovelling in the dust. We will take the case of a man who rejects from his creed one of the articles of the Christian faith. These persona live on contented with their own condition; they are not sensible of any evil from the course they pursue. Now this licensed unbelief in which people, good and amiable in the main, indulge themselves upon particular points--this free thinking upon a few of the minor dogmas of the Church, which seemingly issue in nothing, leads to no harmful result, is just of the nature of those sins which follow after. The secret scepticism, Oh! it does not go before a man, calling down upon his head general reproach; it is not as the crime of dishonesty, or avariciousness, or cruelty, or impurity, which lift up their voices and imprecate judgment; but it hangs about an individual almost without his own knowledge. Noiselessly and stealthily it dogs his steps, never perhaps to be thoroughly developed in all its offensiveness, till the disembodied soul stands shivering in the eternal world. And they are not sins of faith alone which come under the category of the text. How many are they who permit themselves in some habitual breach of God’s law, without ever realizing the fact that they are really guilty of actual sin. How many a tradesman suffers himself to take advantage of the ignorance of those with whom he deals, enlarging his profits by means not thoroughly justifiable, but which custom has sanctioned, and which, therefore, he never dreams of regarding as moral offences. So again a society, in its corporate capacity, will not hesitate to act in a manner in which its members would shrink from acting in their private capacity, as though the individual responsibility which God had stamped upon every unit of our species could be got rid of by associating together with our brethren. And what we have said with regard to things done or left undone, which men know not, and feel not, to be wrong, applies in its degree also to a variety of practices which people do know to be evil, but which yet appear too insignificant to be a cause of uneasiness. And this class of transgressions is one into which an age like the present is especially liable to fall. Men in a simple and uncivilized era are subject to gross vices, men of a refined and cultivated epoch sin small sins. Crimes of exceeding magnitude, as well as heroic virtue, belong to a nation in its infancy. Bloodshed, cruelty, incest, rapine, are the faults of a barbarous empire. Selfishness, coldness, covetousness, vanity, are the transgressions of modern times.
II. We have hitherto considered the text as indicative of two descriptions of sin. The sins that follow after are the sins which men know not, or which they pass by as of little moment. But the words imply, we believe, more than that the sins in question are secret, or insignificant; they further indicate, that we have already indirectly insinuated, that although little recked of, they do in fact pursue a man to his hurt, and even to his condemnation. What is this? It is that these unknown or unregarded transgressions are not really without effect both here and hereafter. They may bear no fruit at the moment, but their fruit is not wanting. Again and again have we heard of individuals who, after a protracted career of uprightness and integrity, have been convicted of some fraud, and overwhelmed with sudden disgrace. The world marvels that one who stood so long should at last fall, that one so regular and steady and sober, and even religious should prove so false to his principles. But could we look deeper, and see as God sees, we should, perhaps, trace the final catastrophe to some single neglect, like that of abstaining from the Lord’s Supper, which the mass never noticed, and if they had, would not have blamed; yea, which the unhappy one himself hardly knew. Yea, and we had almost said that it were well the result of the unknown sin should thus show itself now, even though its revelation be in the midst of dishonour and remorse. Better that the secret disease should be disclosed anyhow, whilst there is a possibility of cure, than that it should lie hid until the end. Death hath a strange power to banish delusions, and unravel self-deceit. When shaking itself free from the coil of flesh, the spirit often shakes off the former dulness of its mental sight, and begins to see things as they are. Then actions which once seemed right appear wrong, and practices once excused are perceived to be indefensible, and omissions which were thought pardonable look foul and terrible when the doors of eternity are unfolding. It is a very strong argument which we derive from the foregoing reasoning, for neglecting no means of grace, for under valuing no transgression. The effects of such neglect are not wholly removed even by repentance. (Bp. Woodford.)
The seeming record of life, not always the actual one
The Paper World informs its readers that in using postal cards they may write so that only the initiated can read the message, and write a misleading message which will disappear. The true message, it says, should be written with a gold or quill pen dipped, not in ink, but in a mixture of one part sulphuric acid and seven parts water. When dry the card bears no trace of writing, but, as a blank card might excite suspicion, it may be covered with writing in tincture of iodine. When heat is applied to the card, the writing in iodine disappears, and the writing in diluted sulphuric acid becomes legible. There is reason to fear that the same process is going on in the record of some people’s lives. In the day when all secrets are revealed and every one appears in the naked light of the great white throne, the records on the tombstones will disappear, and in their place will stand the hidden, true record of the actual life.
A curious discovery of a diamond fraud has been made by a photographer in Boston, U.S. A diamond expert was offered a very large stone for £1,600. He applied to it all the tests used in the trade, and was satisfied that it was genuine. After he had purchased it, some circumstances occurred which led him to suspect that he had been cheated, notwithstanding the apparent genuineness of the diamond. He took the stone to a photographer, and asked him to send a ray of sunlight through it with his camera. Then it was discovered that there was an obstruction in the stone. A ray which passed through other diamonds clear and straight was stopped in the suspected stone. A powerful microscope was used upon it, and it was discovered that the obstruction was some cement which joined two small stones together, the two forming the magnificent gem the merchant had bought. The two stones were separated by chemicals, and were worth about £120 each. There are people who succeed in passing the tests of ministers and Churches who, when the light of God’s throne falls upon them in the day of judgment, will be found fraudulent professors. (Christian Herald.)
Sin and judgment
Recent discoveries have revealed the carcases of prehistoric animals thrown out at the foot of a Siberian glacier. These animals were preserved unchanged, unseen, and unknown, for untold centuries, beneath the frozen mud and the solid ice of the never-hasting, never-resting, ever-moving glacier. And when, at last, these long-preserved carcases came out to the light and warmth and sun, they sent forth their horrid stench. Thus sin may be buried under the mud of materialism, and be frozen in indifference, and hidden in oblivion for years and centuries and cycles, but the on-moving glacier of time will at last reveal them to the light and glory of the judgment day, and then will they stink in the nostrils of God, and of angels and of all the assembled multitudes. (R. S. Barrett.)
The good works of some.--
Good works which cannot be hid
I. Now it is clear that a work cannot derive its goodness from its relation to sin. Water cannot derive its sweetness from a bitter fountain. The limpid brook does not obtain its transparency from the muddy bed over which it flows. A good work, we say, must derive all its goodness from God; and, first of all, He must be its author; His Spirit must teach it; He must be its originator. In other words, a man must be taught of God before he can do aught which is pleasing in God’s sight. But, again, in order to make a deed good, God must be the doer as well as the author of it. We must be led by the Spirit, as well as taught of the Spirit; God must work in us to do as well as to will. Not that our own work is in any degree superseded--not that our diligence is rendered unnecessary, but we are fellow-workers with God. And yet the excellence of the work is not derived from our share in the work, but from God’s. And then for a work to be good God must be the aim of that work. “Do all to the glory of God”--that is our duty. “I have created him for My glory”--that is the Divine purpose.
II. Our text declares of such good works as we have described, that it is impossible to hide them. “The good works of some are manifest beforehand, and they which are otherwise”--that is, they which are not manifest beforehand--“cannot be hid.” It is therefore a mere question of time, and not of fact; all good works shall be manifest, the only difference being that some are revealed beforehand in this life whilst others are reserved till the life to come. But what is meant by this manifestation of works? Clearly not the display of a mere action whether of body or mind. It would be no sort of consolation to the teacher, or visitor, or alms-giver ii you were to tell him that his lessons, or calls, or alms will all be published. That might be a motive for the ostentatious and purse-proud pharisee, but it is no boon to the self-denying and humble child of God. What then? Why, it follows that our text declares, not that the bare works, but that the goodness of these works shall be made manifest. And what is this goodness which shall be revealed? Precisely that which attaches to the work as good in the sight of God, and which we have already described. The origin and motive of the work will be manifested. Men may misinterpret you now; they may call you a mad religious schemer; they may Say that the cross you have taken up is assumed to disguise some dishonesty of heart; they may accuse you of a thousand motives rather than the true one; but what matters it? It shall not always be thus. And then He will make manifest the work’s goodness of execution. He will demonstrate that it was “not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts.” Men thought, and sometimes even you thought, that the good work was done in a wrong way. And, finally, He will make manifest the work’s goodness of aim. But how will He reveal this fact? Will He simply declare that His honour was your object, but unfortunately it failed? No such thing. In every ease He will reveal the full accomplishment of the end whereto He sent the work; in every case He will display before you the most perfect success; in every case He will make manifest goodness consummated, a purpose attained, and glory achieved. In His own way He will show it; but show it He will; there will be no doubt about the fact; the end of the work will be proved good. Sometimes God makes this aim manifest beforehand; He shows us even now that His work is prospering in our hands; He proves to us that His glory is not only our intention, but even the actual and present result of our labours. (D. F. Jarman, M. A.)
Perpetration of character
Years ago in Chicago crowded gatherings were being held in the largest hall in the city, and Mr. Moody was “in command.” Suddenly his shrewd, quick eye fell on one of the ushers; he looked at him for a minute, and then signalled to him to come to the vestry below. When they met there Mr. Moody said: “Where do you come from--Does the senior usher know you? No, sir.” “What do you come here for?” “I wanted to be seen.” “Ah,” said Mr. Moody, “you just drop that usher’s rod and take a back seat, now be smart.” Mr. Moody had never seen the man before, but his wonderfully keen penetration of character had detected something wrong in him. That man’s name was Guiteau, and within four years he murdered the noble Garfield, the President of the United States.
When the Sidonians were once going to choose a king, they determined that their election should fall upon the man who should first see the sun on the following morning. All the candidates, towards the hour of sun-rise, eagerly looked towards the East, but one, who, to the astonishment of his countrymen, fixed his eyes pertinaciously on the opposite side of the horizon, where he saw the reflection of the sun’s orb before the orb itself was seen by those looking towards the east. The choice instantly fell upon him who had seen the reflection of the sun; and by the same reasoning, the influence of religion on the heart is frequently perceptible in the conduct, even before a person has made direct profession of the principle by which he is actuated. (Saturday Magazine.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Timothy 5". The Biblical Illustrator. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25