2Ti_4:10. Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.
TO have our minds well established with principles, is doubtless very desirable: but in matters which are confessedly beyond the comprehension of man, we should be modest and diffident in drawing conclusions from them, lest, through an excessive zeal for one principle, we subvert others which are not less true or less important. An inattention to this rule has been productive of incalculable injury to the Church of Christ: for persons giving themselves up, as it were, to some particular sentiment, have wrested the Scriptures to make every part of them speak the same language; and have indulged in most acrimonious feelings against all who did not accord with their views. But we should remember, that there are in revelation, as in all the other works of God, depths which we cannot fathom; and that our true wisdom is, not so much to be making the Scriptures a theatre whereon to display our controversial skill, as to deduce from them the great practical lessons which they were intended to convey. Were we, for instance, to take occasion from the passage before us to argue about the decrees of God, and the final perseverance of the saints, we might dispute well, but it would be to little profit! but, if we enter upon the subject with fear and trembling, and with a view to our own spiritual advantage, we shall find it replete with the most valuable instruction to our souls.
Let us consider then,
The fact here recorded—
A more melancholy fact is scarcely to be found in all the sacred records. Let us notice,
The fact itself—
[Demas was a man of great eminence in the Church of Christ. St. Paul, in the salutations which usually close his epistles, twice mentions him in immediate connexion with St. Luke; “Salute Lucas and Demas.” In one of these places he calls Demas one of his fellow-labourers in the work of the Gospel [Note: Philem. ver. 24.]: in the other, after having mentioned Demas with honour, he gives to another minister, Archippus, a most solemn warning, on account of the lukewarmness which he had manifested in the discharge of his ministry: “Say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it [Note: Col_4:14; Col_4:17.].” From hence then we conclude, that he saw no occasion for such an admonition in the case of Demas. Yet behold, we find at last, that “Demas had forsaken him,” and gone to a great distance from him, and altogether abandoned the work in which he had been engaged. Had we been told, that this servant of Christ had erred in some particular, or even that he had declined in zeal for his Master’s cause, we should not have been so much surprised; because we are aware that the greatest and best of men are but weak, and that there are changes in their spiritual, as well as their corporeal, health: but, when we are informed that he forsook the Apostle, forsook him too in his greatest extremity, when by reason of his imprisoment and approaching martyrdom he needed all possible support; and that, in forsaking the Apostle, he forsook his Lord and Master also; we are confounded, almost as the Philistines were, when they saw their champion dead upon the field.
Seeing the fact, we are eager to inquire into,]
The occasion of it—
[Whence could this proceed? To what shall we trace an event so calamitous, so unforeseen? We are not left in doubt respecting it: the Apostle, at the same time that he announces the fact, declares the reason of it: “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.” Alas! alas! What did he find in this world worthy of his affections? Had he never known any thing of spiritual and eternal objects, we might account for his attachment to the things of time and sense: but we are amazed, that, after having once tasted of living waters, he could ever afterwards find satisfaction in the polluted streams of this world.
But, supposing him to love this present world; is there any thing in that to draw him from Christ, and to make him cast off all concern for his eternal interests? Yes: the love of God and of the world are incompatible with each other; insomuch that, “if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him [Note: 1Jn_2:15.].” Light and darkness are not more opposed to each other than are the things of this world, and the things of God. “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life,” what have they to do with heavenly-mindedness? “The person who liveth in pleasure, is dead whilst he liveth [Note: 1Ti_5:6.]:” “the cares and indulgences of this world choke the good seed, and render it unfruitful [Note: Mat_13:22.]:” and the seeking honour from men, instead of seeking it from God only, is absolutely incompatible with a saving faith [Note: Joh_5:44.]. The cross of Christ, if duly valued, would crucify us unto the world, and the world to us [Note: Gal_6:14.].
Here then we see whence this deplorable evil proceeded. Demas had yielded to a concern about his carnal ease and interests. This gradually weakened his anxiety about his spiritual and eternal welfare. Then he became remiss in secret duties: then his strength to resist temptation declined: then his natural corruptions regained their former ascendant over him: then the Spirit of God, being grieved, and quenched, left him to himself: then he became the sport of temptation, and the prey of Satan: and then his abandonment of Christ and of his Gospel followed of course.]
Whilst we mourn over this unhappy man, and lament his apostasy, let us proceed to consider,
The instruction to be derived from it—
Surely we may learn from it—
That whatever attainments any man has made, it becomes him not to be too confident about the issue of his spiritual warfare—
[If we are upright before God, we need not give way to distressing fears: they are dishonourable to God, and unprofitable to ourselves. But at the same time we should guard against a presumptuous confidence: for no man knows what a day may bring forth. David, previous to his fall, if told what sins he would commit, might have replied with Hazael, “Is thy servant a dog, that he should do such things?” And Peter, so far from thinking it possible that he should ever deny his Lord, was confident that nothing could ever shake his constancy. So, if Demas, when, in his better state, had been told in what it might end, he would have thought it absolutely impossible that he could ever so “make shipwreck of his faith.” Shall we then, after seeing the failure of such men presume to say, “My mountain standeth strong, I shall not be moved?” Let us never forget, that if God withdraw his hand from us for one moment, we shall fall and perish: and let our prayer to him therefore be continually, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.” To every man among you, though he were as eminent as St. Paul himself, I would say, “Be not high-minded, but fear [Note: Rom_11:20.].” “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall [Note: 1Co_10:12.].”]
That we must watch with all carefulness against the first beginnings of spiritual decay—
[Had Demas attended to the first encroachments of a worldly spirit, and resisted them as he ought, he had never been left to final apostasy. But the first breach being neglected, an inundation ensued; and the leak being disregarded, his vessel sank. Let me then put you all upon your guard against a decay in your spiritual affections, and an attempt to serve God with a divided heart. From the moment that you embrace the truth, and “put your hand to the Gospel plough, you must not so much as look back [Note: Luk_9:61-62.];” you must “forget all that is behind, and press forward to that which is before [Note: Php_3:13.].” O, “remember Lot’s wife [Note: Luk_17:32.].” Her sin might be thought small: but it was not so in the estimation of her God: and she is made a monument to all future generations. Be “jealous over yourselves with a godly jealousy;” and to the latest hour of your lives adopt the habit of St. Paul, who “kept under his body, and brought it into subjection, lest, after having preached to others, he himself should be a cast-away [Note: 1Co_9:27.].”]
That, if we have unhappily forsaken the Lord, the door of mercy is not yet closed against us—
[Of Demas we know no more than what is here spoken. But of Mark, who is also called John, and who was a companion of Paul and Barnabas in their travels, we do know. He, like Demas, forsook those holy men in a time of danger, and “went no more with them to the work [Note: Act_13:13; Act_15:38.].” But God in mercy granted him repentance unto life; so that he not only obtained mercy of the Lord, but became afterwards profitable even to St. Paul himself in the discharge of his apostolic office [Note: ver. 13. the very verse after the account of unhappy Demas.]. Let not any one therefore despair. Let it be remembered, that as long as we are in the body, God addresses us in these gracious words, “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings, and love you freely [Note: Jer_3:22. Hos_14:4.].” Be persuaded then to return to him without delay: for if you return not, “it would have been better for you never to have known the way of righteousness, than, after having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to you [Note: 2Pe_2:20-21.].” But, if you return with penitential sorrow, then shall your Father’s arms be open to receive you, and every member of his family give thanks to him in your behalf.]