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2. To those who have received it, I would say,
This was the direction given to Timothy : "Stir up the gift of God that is in thee;" that is, stir it up, as you would a fire which is in a languishing condition. The fire, which burned upon the altar, came down, as you well know, from heaven; but it was to be kept alive by the care of man. So must the fire that is kindled in us be ever kept burning on the altar of our hearts: we must " stir it up," by reading, meditation, and prayer: and the very opposition which is made to the Gospel must call forth in us the greater energy in its defence. Paul was now imprisoned for the Gospel sake. This might be a source of alarm to Timothy, and induce him to draw back from that measure of activity and zeal which might bring down similar vengeance upon his head. But the Apostle says to him, "Be not ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, nor of me his prisoner; but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel, according to the power of God"." So say I to you. Let" none of you be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ;" but rather account it an honour if you are called to bear a measure of those afflictions which are allotted to the followers of the Lamb. They will try your graces: they will also tend to quicken them, and make them burn with redoubled brightness. Let growth in grace, then, be henceforth your great concern; and, whatever will conduce to that end, do it with diligence, or welcome it with delight.]
f ἀναζωπυρεῖν, ver. 6.
g ver. 8.
2 Tim. i. 9. Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
THE deepest truths of our religion were familiar to the mind of the Apostle Paul. He introduced them, on all occasions, as the most forcible motives to obedience. Amongst us, their practical efficacy is denied, and their importance questioned. The very maintaining of them is not unfrequently deemed
a The consideration of God's electing love is here urged as a motive to induce Timothy to constancy and perseverance in the path of duty.
a crime; but we must not conceal the truth, because some reprobate it as error. We will state it cautiously; and it will commend itself to all. In the text, we have ample instruction in relation to the Christian's calling: we see,
I. The nature of it
There is an outward call of the Gospel, which is resisted by many; but that of which the text speaks, is inward and effectual
It is a call,
1. To salvation as the end
[If it were only, as many think, a call to outward privileges, it still would establish God's right to bestow his blessings on whomsoever he will. But the Scriptures represent it as a call to the adoption of children, to eternal life, to everlasting salvation. The connexion between salvation and the call, is, as in the text, uniform and inseparable.]
2. To holiness as the way
[If holiness were not included in the call, the doctrine of election would certainly be open to insurmountable objections: but holiness is that to which we are immediately and distinctly called. It is required of us, not only in general", but in this particular view. It is declared to have been particularly in the mind and intention of God, in our predestination*, election', vocation, and in the whole work of his grace upon our hearts". Our perseverance also in good works was equally in his contemplation. When our acceptance and salvation are most distinctly spoken of as the end, holiness is carefully stated as the medium through which we are to attain them3.]
The Christian's calling is further to be considered, in reference to,
II. The grounds of it
b If God has a right to confer the means of salvation on some and not on others, he has a right to confer salvation itself. If the one would be unjust, so must the other be; and if the one be admitted, so must also the other.
© Eph. i. 5.
f Rom. viii. 30.
1 Thess. iv. 7.
h Heb. xii. 14.
1 Eph. i. 4.
• John xv. 16.
Hence it is denominated in the text, an holy
Nothing can be more plain than the Apostle's statement: he tells us, both negatively, what our calling does not arise from; and positively, what it does :
1. It is not founded on our works
[It cannot be founded on any good works already done; for we never had done, or could do any, till we were called by grace. It could not be founded on good works foreseen: for they were to be the fruits of our calling, and therefore could not be the ground or occasion of it. Had our works, whether done or foreseen, been the proper ground of our calling, we should have had a ground of boasting before God. Hence God has repeatedly and expressly declared, that they never operated in any respect or degree as inducements with him to confer upon us his converting grace 1.]
2. It is founded solely on his purpose and grace
[God formed his purposes from all eternity'; and agreeably to them he acts". In consequence of them we were given to Christ, as his purchased possession; and a promise of life was given to us in him, and for his sake". It was in conformity to them that the Jews were made God's peculiar people; and in conformity to them we Gentiles also are called to a participation of his favour'.]
From hence we shall take occasion to answer some important QUESTIONS:
1. How shall I know whether I have been effectually called?
[It cannot be determined by any dreams, or visions, or fanciful experiences. It can be known only by the fruits which we produce.]
2. What have I to do on the supposition I have been called?
[You are not at liberty to indulge supineness, as though you were sure of heaven at all events. You should exceed all others in holiness, as much as you profess to surpass them in your prospects. You should walk worthy of the favours conferred upon you, and of the Benefactor who conferred them.]
3. What privileges do I enjoy as one of God's elect?
[Survey the wheels of a watch, and see how, in all their complicated motions, they accomplish one important end. Thus does all the machinery of the universe, whether more or less connected with men or devils, move in reference to your present and eternal good. Of this you may be assured; and may well endear to you the doctrines in the text.]
c Rom. viii. 28.
DEATH ABOLISHED, AND LIFE REVEALED.
2 Tim. i. 10. Who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.
TO the free and sovereign grace of God must all our blessings be traced. Nothing did we ever merit at his hands, or can we ever merit, but wrath and indignation. From all eternity did God ordain to give us whatever he has bestowed. The gift of a Saviour was the fruit of his eternal love; as was also the gift of salvation by him. Both the one and the other are the fruit of his eternal counsels and the appearing of Jesus Christ, as the author of these blessings, was, not the cause, but the result and evidence, of purposes already formed, even of " purposes which from all eternity he had purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
But, not to insist on this, I would call your attention simply to the fruits of God's purpose; and shew you what, in consequence of his eternal counsels, the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us. I will shew, I. What he has done for us in his own person—
Death had been introduced by sin; and it reigned over the whole human race". In the curse denounced against transgression, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die," both the body and the soul were alike consigned to death. But from this b Rom. v. 12, 17. 1 Cor. xv. 22.
a ver. 9, 10.
curse the Lord Jesus Christ has delivered us.
has abolished death,"
1. From the soul
[The soul, by reason of transgression, was despoiled of all spiritual life, and was doomed to everlasting death. But the Lord Jesus Christ, by "becoming a curse for us," has so cancelled our guilt, that "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." His death has been a sufficient "propitiation for the sins of the whole worlde" "all who believe in him are justified from all things f
By his Holy Spirit, too, the same Divine Saviour removes spiritual death from our souls. He infuses into us a principle of life, whereby we are enabled to live unto our God in righteousness and true holiness. Previous to the implantation of this principle in our souls, we have no more activity in spiritual exercises than a dead body has of sense and motion. But, when raised by him, every sense receives a spiritual power and direction. We see, and hear, and taste, and feel, and savour the things of the Spiritand "walk from thenceforth in newness of life"
2. From the body
[True it is, that "the body is still subjected to death";" as it is said, "It is appointed unto men once to die." But to those who believe in Christ, the nature and character of death are changed. It is not so properly death as sleep: "Our friend Lazarus sleepethi." "Stephen," in martyrdom, "fell asleepk." And all the saints, instead of dying, merely fall "asleep in Jesus!" Hence we find the saints triumphing over it as a vanquished enemym;" yea, and numbering it amongst their richest treasures: "All things are yours, whether life or death"."
But, allowing it a short and momentary triumph, it will at last be totally" abolished." For in the last day, all that are in the graves shall come forth, every one possessing his own proper body: for "what has been sown in corruption and weakness and dishonour, shall be raised in incorruption and power and glory;" and "this mortal shall put on immortality"." We see in our Lord Jesus Christ both a pattern and a pledge of our own resurrection: for "our vile bodies shall be fashioned like unto his glorious body P," and be partakers with the soul in all the glory and felicity of heaven
e 1 John ii. 2. h Heb. ix. 27.
1 1 Thess. iv. 14.
P Phil. iii. 21.