2Ti_4:1-2. I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.
RELIGION is a matter of far greater importance than men generally imagine. The appointment of an order of men on purpose to instruct mankind in the knowledge of it, and by all possible means to advance it in the world, is itself a proof, that, in God’s estimation, it is indispensably necessary for the happiness of man. In truth, there is nothing else that is of any importance in comparison of it. How St. Paul laboured to diffuse it, is well known. And here we see how earnestly he inculcated on others the duty of labouring to the utmost to excite an attention to it, throughout all classes of the community. A more solemn charge can scarcely be conceived than that which he here gives to Timothy. The age of this pious youth might render him too diffident and timid in the discharge of his ministerial office: and therefore, in this epistle, St. Paul again gives him the solemn charge which he had repeatedly given in his former epistle [Note: 1Ti_5:21; 1Ti_6:13.], to acquit himself to that God who had sent him, and to that Saviour who would judge him in the last day.
In discoursing on the words before us, I shall consider,
The charge given [Note: If this were a subject addressed, to Ministers, the first head should constitute the whole body of the Sermon; and the second head he reserved, in a way of corollary, for the conclusion of it. But, to a common audience, the present distribution is better.]—
“The word” is that which every minister must “preach.” He is not at liberty to amuse the people with the fancies and conceits of men, but must declare simply the mind and will of God. He is sent of God for that very end. He is an ambassador from God to man, authorized to declare on. what terms God will be reconciled to his rebellious subjects. And this ministry he is to discharge,
[Day and night should he labour in his vocation, with all diligence. The priests under the law had their appointed seasons for sacrifice: but, for the ministration of the Gospel, and the advancement of the interests of the Redeemer’s kingdom, no time should be deemed unseasonable. A servant of God should never lose sight of the object which he is commissioned to promote. Whether in public or in private, whether on the Sabbath or other days, whether early or late, whether in a season of peace or of the bitterest persecution, he should be alike active, and alike intent on fulfilling the will of his Divine Master. He should “be instant in season, out of season” — — — ]
[In his discourse, he should adapt himself to the necessities of men, and “change his voice towards them” as occasion may require. If there be errors in the Church, he must “reprove” them, and establish the truth in opposition to them. If there be any sins committed, he must “rebuke” them; and, if need be, with sharpness and severity too, “that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.” If there be any discouraged by reason of the difficulty of their way, he must exhort and comfort them; according to that injunction of the prophet, “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees; and say to them that are of a fearful heart, Fear not; your God will come and save you [Note: Isa_35:3-4.].” He is not to fear the face of man; but to address all, without respect of persons; and to declare to them the truth, “whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear [Note: Eze_2:7.].”]
[He may labour long, and see but little fruit of his labour: but, “like the husbandman, he must wait with patience for the early and the latter rain [Note: Jam_5:7].” He must be content to give “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.” And if, in return for all his kindness, he meet with nothing but reproach and persecution, he must still persist in using his best efforts, if by any means he may at last be made useful even to one. Confident that his “doctrine” is right, he must labour to inculcate it on all; and leave to God the issue, whether it be to blind and harden men, or to convert and save their souls [Note: Isa_6:9-10.].
All this is the bounden duty of a minister: and of his labours in it he must give account to “the Judge of quick and dead, in the great day of his appearing.”]
But, that we may adapt the subject more to the edification of all, let us consider,
The charge implied—
It is evident, that, if such be the duties of those who preach, there must be corresponding duties attaching to those who hear. On these, therefore, the charge enjoins,
A due improvement of the ministry—
[If we are to “preach the word,” you, my brethren, are to hear it: and to hear it too, “not as the word of man, but as the word of God,” and as the word of God to your souls.
Nor are you ever to become remiss in your attention to it. It should “be daily your delight,” and “more to you than your necessary food.” At all times, and under all circumstances, you should look to it, as your sure directory, and your never-failing support.
Whether read in your secret chamber, or preached to you in the public assembly, your submission to it should be deep and unreserved. Every sentiment of your heart should be regulated by it; every lust should be mortified in obedience to it; and every duty performed in accordance with it. You must, in particular, guard against itching ears and a rebellious heart; neither affecting novelty on the one hand, nor quarrelling with old-established truths on the other [Note: ver. 3, 4.].
Nor should you ever be “weary in well-doing.” Whatever it may cost you to conform to God’s blessed word, it must be done: nor should you ever rest, till your whole souls be cast into the very mould of the Gospel.]
A diligent attention to your own personal concerns—
[If ministers have their duties, so have you also yours, to which you are bound to pay all possible attention. Though you minister not in public, you should be as priests in your own houses, and perform towards your respective families all that the most faithful minister attempts for you.
But, supposing that you have none to whom you owe these friendly offices, you must at least watch over your own souls, and with all diligence and fidelity endeavour to bring them into subjection to the commands of God. You must bear in mind your responsibility to God for your every act, and word, and thought; and must so walk before your Lord and Saviour, that you may stand with boldness and confidence before him in the great day of his appearing.]
In conclusion, let me bring the “charge” more directly to your hearts and consciences—
[Almighty God is here present with us, and has heard every word that has been spoken to you. The Lord Jesus Christ, too, is present with us; and records in the book of his remembrance every word that is delivered in his name. And soon will he descend from heaven, and summon the universe to his tribunal. Then will his kingdom be complete; and every member of it, from the first to the last, shall stand before him. Now, as in the immediate presence both of the Father and of the Son, I speak unto you; and in their sacred name I charge you all. You shall all, ere long, stand at the judgment-seat of Christ, and “give an account of yourselves to God;” and receive at his hands according to what you have done in the body, whether it be good or evil. It becomes YOU, then, to “receive with meekness every word” that is delivered, as it becomes me also to “speak even as the oracles of God.” The Lord grant that I may so speak, and ye do, as those who shall be judged by God’s perfect law [Note: Jam_2:12.]; and that both the one and the other of us may so approve ourselves to Christ, as “not to be ashamed before him at his coming [Note: 1Jn_2:28.].”]