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2 TIM. ii. 24, 25. "And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient; in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves."
THE Apostle dedicates this and the former epistle to Timothy, of whom in the bowels of Christ he seems remarkably fond. He styles him his own son in the faith; not only because he had begotten him in the bonds of the gospel, for in this sense he had many sons, but because there seemed so much of the spiritual image and heavenly likeness of the father about him: "I trust to send Timotheus; for I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state;" and because of his dutiful deportment and diligent attendance and readiness to assist his venerable father in the word and work of the Lord; "But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel;" Philip. ii. 22. And because there seemed so strong an affection in Timothy to his aged sire in the faith, with whom he could seldom part dry eyed, "I thank God," says Paul the aged," whom I serve from my forefathers
pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy."
When the apostle wrote this epistle he was about taking his leave of the world, and of his dearly beloved son. It was written just before Paul was brought before Nero the Emperor the second time, where he received sentence and lost his head, but not his covenant head. Paul was aware that his departure would greatly affect Timothy; and the removal of him who had been so long set for the defence of the gospel, would open a way for the second in command to appear at the front, and in the hottest of the battle; he therefore labours hard to comfort him, counsel him, and caution him; he advertises him and advises him, instructs and encourages him.
He comforts him by telling him of the unfeigned faith that was in him, which dwelt first in his grandmother and in his mother, and Paul was persuaded that it dwelt in him also. He informs him that God had not given him the spirit of fear, but of power, to support and fortify; of love, to enlarge, attract, and embolden; and of a sound mind, to keep him heavenly, stedfast in the truth, and valiant for it. He counsels him not to be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, or of the gospel which the Lord himself had testified; nor to be ashamed of Paul the Lord's prisoner, who was then imprisoned for the sake of his Lord
and his word, and to keep a good conscience toward him.
He counsels him to be a partaker of the afflictions of the gospel, or of the cruelties that men or devils might be permitted to inflict on the adherents to it, knowing that if he suffered with Christ he should reign with him.
He cautions him to beware of Alexander the coppersmith, who had done him much evil, and greatly withstood Paul and his gospel, which I suppose was done before the tribunal of Nero. He cautions him against tickling itching ears, that will be calling for candour, who will require heaps of teachers to scratch them, none being able long to please.
He advertises him that the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; that many will be lovers of themselves, and envy every faithful servant that the Lord owns as rivals of their own honour; covetous, aiming more at the fleece than the flock; at a stock in hand, independent of Providence, instead of the good of souls; boasters of their own merit and carnal learning; proud, wearing long robes, despising the poor and illiterate, attempting to affect the passions of depraved nature by cunning artifice and the empty sound of eloquent oratory; unthankful for the spoils their profession brings in; and unholy in heart and life; without natural affection for them that eclipse their glory; truce-breakers, who swear and vow to preach the doctrines of the Lord, and then
turn Arminians; false accusers, calling others Antinomians when themselves are nothing else; incontinent, aiming more at old widows and their pockets than at espousing souls to Christ, or making them rich in faith; fierce opposers of the illiterate ones that God sends out; despisers of those that are made good by the Holy Ghost; traitors, who will betray half the truths of the Bible to swim in the stream of applause; pawn conscience, and expose it to damnation, for the empty titles of candid men, or men of moderate principles; heady or headstrong, not against errors, nor in defence of truth, but against others in behalf of their own honour; how can they believe that receive honour one of another, and not that honour that cometh from God only? High minded, not in heavenly things, but aiming at high and lofty phrases, to please the worldly wise, embalm the pharisee, charm the hypocrite, and deceive the simple with swelling words of vanity; making a pompous appearance, climbing in dress to the height of the session, to live in a lofty style, associating with those of the highest rank, and disdaining to condescend to men of low degree; lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; men that can sit and play glees upon a harpsichord for two hours together, and then get into a pulpit and preach against party spirit, and prove all that he says by the chords of his instrument; having a form of godliness, desiring to mimic the learned and dignified priest, using service-books for the want of
spiritual matter to serve with; denying the power of godliness in others, calling it enthusiasm and antinomianism, in order to bring the grace of God, the servants of God, and divine inspiration, into contempt; from such Paul bids his son turn away, lest they should corrupt him. They creep into houses, to prejudice the minds of people against the servants of the Lord, as they of the circumcision used to do, who subverted whole houses; ever learning scraps of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus.
Paul advises his son to flee youthful lusts, to follow righteousness in heart and life; faith also, the object of it, the doctrines of it, the grace of it, the exercise of it, and the life of it. Charity, or love to God as the supreme object; and to the saints, the objects of God's love, or to all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth; and to follow peace with all that call on the Lord out of a pure heart; but not with them that call on the Lord to bless their slander, ridicule, or villany.
He instructs him, telling him that in a great house, as God's church is, there are not only vessels of gold; that is, there are not only vessels of mercy, with precious and tried faith in them, and vessels of silver, purified and made white; but there are vessels of wood, barren trees, dry sticks, fruitless professors, and withered branches, fit for nothing but fuel; and vessels of earth, without