James Nisbet Commentary - 1 Timothy 4:7 - 4:7

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James Nisbet Commentary - 1 Timothy 4:7 - 4:7

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:


‘Exercisx thyself rather unto godliness.’


It is often said that you cannot make a man moral by Act of Parliament. Well, that means that all that Parliament can do is to diminish the opportunities and occasions of doing wrong.

I. You must come to religion to give a man moral strength.—A good deal can be done when the Church and the nation and Parliament work together. The Church can stir up and make a sound public opinion, and that means that good laws will get passed; but besides that, the Church must do her own part in building up the strong, sound moral character which will be, as it were, independent of those laws. The Church will work in two ways. It will try to get good laws passed, and it will build up that which no laws can ever make—the moral character which is able to resist temptation.

II. In all moral questions it is difficult to draw the line between what is right and what is wrong, and it is even best to draw two lines. That is to say, we draw a line here, and we say, all on this side is perfectly harmless and innocent; and then we leave a space and draw another line and say that all on the further side of that is wrong and sinful. The space between these two lines is doubtful and debatable. The ground about which we are not certain is dangerous ground, and when we pray ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ what we really mean is that we may not be allowed to stray on to it. We are determined that we will not court a fall. Therefore we shall sympathise with and honour any one who refuses to cross the line on one side of which he knows that all is safe.

III. A firm stand needed.—It is, of course, very easy to say this from the pulpit, but difficult to put it into practice on account of the pressure of social life. At the same time it is worth while being what people call ‘unsociable’ in such a matter as this. For instance, no game is worth playing if it cannot be played without money. In cricket we never think of money, and in billiards we need not. And certainly when we hear of young girls being led into all sorts of trouble through being obliged to play bridge in country houses for stakes far above what they can afford, we must consider that this principle is worth making a stand for. Is it really good for me? Does it lift me or does it lower me? That is what we have to consider in all these cases where the ground is doubtful or debatable.

Rev. T. R. Hine-Haycock.


(1) ‘You who have been much at the seaside know that we can often walk along a cliff path very near a precipice, but quite safe. Some day we come to a hurdle which bars the path. A new path has to be made some ten or twenty feet inland. Then, by and by, you get to the old path again. We know by that that some part of the cliff has fallen away and that other parts are cracking. If we are rash and young, very likely we jump over the hurdle and walk over the debatable or doubtful ground a dozen times without any harm. But the dozen-and-first time may be our last. And so it is between what is right and what is wrong.’

(2) ‘In every large town the practice of betting among men and boys, and even among women and girls, has been on the increase, causing a great deal of wrong and misery. We all feel that something should be done to create a sounder opinion on this matter. If a really strong public opinion existed, it would be impossible for many forms of betting to continue, but without such public opinion little can be done to hinder the shameful wrongdoing of the man who bets—the misery he brings upon himself and also upon his home, his wife, and his children. There are, unhappily, thousands who indulge in this practice with perfectly clear consciences. Some of them discover when it is too late that the passion has taken hold of them, and that it is a curse and a slavery. It is said that there is a difficulty in this, as in every matter, in drawing the line between what may be innocent and harmless and what is certainly sinful and wrong. But do we not feel that a man is wise and right who refuses to bet or play cards, even for small stakes? It is just as well for all of us to guard against a practice which, although it may begin in a small way, is yet fraught with enormous danger.’