Preface to the Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy
In the preface to the first of these epistles, particular mention has been made of the parentage, country, and education of Timothy; his call to the evangelic office; and of his appointment to the presidency of the Church at Ephesus. And for every particular of this kind the reader is referred to that preface. What remains to be done in reference to the present epistle is to inquire into the time in which it was most probably written. The disagreement on this question among learned men is very great; some arguing that it was written about the year 61, others referring it to the year 66. Some asserting that it is the first, in order of time, of these two epistles; and that it was written on Paul's first imprisonment at Rome. Several of the most eminent critics are of this opinion; and they have supported their sentiments with arguments of no small weight. Hammond, Lightfoot, and Lardner, as well as several critics on the continent, contend for this earlier date. Macknight and Paley take the opposite side. Were I convinced that the weight of the argument lay with the former, I should have fixed its chronology accordingly; but the latter appearing to me to have the more direct and the most weighty evidence in their favor, I am led, from the reasons which they give, to adopt their opinion.
Dr. Paley observes, that it was the uniform tradition of the primitive Church that St. Paul visited Rome twice, and twice there suffered imprisonment; and that at the conclusion of his second imprisonment he was put to death; and he thinks that the opinion concerning these two journeys of St. Paul is confirmed by many hints and allusions in this epistle, compared with what St. Paul has said in other epistles, which are allowed to have been written from Rome. I shall give his principal reasons: -
"That this epistle was written while Paul was a prisoner is distinctly marked by the 8th verse of the first chapter: 'Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner.' And that it was written whilst he was prisoner at Rome is proved by the 16th and 17th verses of the same chapter: (2 Timothy 1:16, 2 Timothy 1:17) 'The Lord give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.' Since it appears from the former quotation that St. Paul wrote this epistle in confinement, it will hardly admit of doubt that the word chain in the latter quotation refers to that confinement - the chain by which he was then bound, the custody in which he was then kept. And if the word chain designate the author's confinement at the time of writing this epistle, the next words determine it to have been written from Rome: 'He was not ashamed of my chain, but when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently.'" Dr. Macknight thinks that Paul was now a close prisoner, very different in his circumstances from his first imprisonment, in which he was permitted to dwell alone in his own hired house, and receive all that came to him, and publicly to preach the Gospel, being guarded only by a single soldier. That he was in close confinement he argues from the circumstance that when Onesiphorus came to Rome he found that Paul was no longer that well-known public character which he had been while in his first imprisonment, but being closely confined he had some difficulty to find him out; and this appears to be fully implied in the apostle's words: Σπουδαιοτερον εζητησε με, και εὑρε. "He very diligently sought me out, and found me;" 2 Timothy 1:17 And, that crimes were now laid to his charge widely different from those formerly alleged against him, appears from 2 Timothy 2:9 : Κακοπαθω μεχρι δεσμων, ὡς κακουργος· "I suffer evil even to bonds as a malefactor;" plainly implying that he was not only abridged of all liberty, but was bound hands and feet in a close dungeon. And this was probably on the pretense that he was one of those Christians whom Nero accused with having set Rome on fire. Hence the word malefactor, κακουργος, which may mean here that the apostle was treated as the worst of criminals.
That this epistle was not written during St. Paul's first imprisonment at Rome, or during the time in which the Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon were written, may be gathered, says Dr. Paley, with considerable evidence from a comparison of these several epistles with the present.
I. "In the former epistles the author confidently looked forward to his liberation from confinement, and his speedy departure from Rome. He tells the Philippians, Philippians 2:24 : 'I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly.' Philemon he bids to prepare for him a lodging; 'for I trust (says he) that through your prayers I shall be given unto you;' Plm 1:22. In the epistle before us he holds a language extremely different. 'I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day;' 2 Timothy 4:6-8."
Those who espouse the contrary opinion suppose that these words only express the strong apprehensions and despair of life which the apostle had when he was first imprisoned; but that afterwards, finding he was treated with kindness, he altered his language, and so strongly anticipated that he predicted his enlargement. This reflects little honor upon the apostle's character; it shows him to be a person subject to alarms, and presaging the worst from every gloomy appearance. The whole of St. Paul's conduct shows him to have been the reverse of what this opinion represents him.
II. "When the former epistles were written from Rome, Timothy was with St. Paul, and is joined with him in writing to the Colossians, the Philippians, and Philemon; the present epistle implies that he was absent.
III. "In the former epistles Demas was with St. Paul at Rome: 'Luke the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.' In the epistle now before us: 'Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is gone to Thessalonica.'
IV. "So the former epistles Mark was with St. Paul, and joins in saluting the Colossians. In the present epistle Timothy is ordered to bring him with him, 'for he is profitable to me for the ministry;' 2 Timothy 4:11."
The circumstance of Demas being with St. Paul while he wrote the former epistles, which was certainly during his first imprisonment, and of his having forsaken him when he wrote this, is a strong proof of the posterior date of this epistle; nor can the feelings of the apostle, so contradictorily expressed in this and the preceding epistles, be ever cleared (on the supposition of their relating to the same time and circumstances) from weakness and contradiction.
Lewis Capellus has suggested the following considerations, which are still more conclusive: -
1. "In 2 Timothy 4:20, St. Paul informs Timothy that Erastus abode at Corinth, Εραστος εμεινεν εν Κορινθῳ· the form of expression (the verb being in the first aorist) implies that Erastus had stayed behind at Corinth when St. Paul left it: but this could not be meant of any journey from Corinth which St. Paul took prior to his first imprisonment at Rome; for when Paul departed from Corinth, as related in the 20th chapter of the Acts, Timothy was with him; and this was the last time the apostle left Corinth before his coming to Rome, because he left it on his way to proceed to Jerusalem soon after his arrival, at which place he was taken into custody, and continued in that custody till he was brought to Caesar's tribunal.
There could be no need, therefore, to inform Timothy that Erastus stayed behind at Corinth, upon this occasion; because, if the fact were so, it must have been known to Timothy, who was present as well as St. Paul.
2. "In the same verse our epistle also states the following article: 'Trophimus have I left at Miletus sick.' When St. Paul passed through Miletus, on his way to Jerusalem, as related Acts 20, Trophimus was not left behind, but accompanied him to that city. He was indeed the occasion of the uproar at Jerusalem, in consequence of which St. Paul was apprehended: 'For they had seen,' says the historian, 'before with him in the city, Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.' This was evidently the last time of Paul's being at Miletus before his first imprisonment; for, as has been said, after his apprehension at Jerusalem he remained in custody till he was sent to Rome.
"In these two articles we have a journey referred to, which must have taken place subsequent to the conclusion of St. Luke's history; and, of course, after St. Paul's liberation from his first imprisonment. The epistle, therefore, which contains this reference, since it appears from other parts of it to have been written while St. Paul was a prisoner at Rome, proves that he had returned to that city again, and undergone there a second imprisonment.
"These particulars," adds Dr. Paley, "I have produced, not merely for the support they lend to the testimony of the fathers concerning St. Paul's second imprisonment, but to remark their consistency and agreement with one another. They are all resolvable into one supposition, viz., that this epistle was not written during St. Paul's first residence at Rome, but in some future imprisonment in that city. The epistle touches upon names and circumstances connected with the date and with the history of the first imprisonment, and mentioned in letters during that imprisonment; and so touches upon them as to leave what is said of one consistent with what is said of others, and consistent also with what is said of them in different epistles."
From the whole, there seems the fullest evidence,
1. That this epistle was not written during St. Paul's first imprisonment at Rome.
2. That he was at Rome when he wrote this epistle.
3. That he was there a prisoner, and in such confinement as we know, from the Acts of the Apostles, he was not in during the time of his first imprisonment there.
4. That this must have been some subsequent imprisonment.
5. That as the general consent of all Christian antiquity states that St. Paul was twice imprisoned at Rome, and that from his second imprisonment he was never liberated, but was at its conclusion martyred; therefore this epistle must have been written while St. Paul was in his second imprisonment at Rome, and but a short time before his martyrdom.
And as the Christian Church has generally agreed that this apostle's martyrdom took place on the 29th of June, a.d. 66, the Second Epistle to Timothy might have been written sometime towards the end of the spring or beginning of summer of that year. It is supposed that St. Paul went from Crete to Rome, about the end of the year 65, on hearing of the persecution which Nero was then carrying on against the Christians, on pretense that they had set Rome on fire: for, as he knew that the Church must be then in great tribulation, he judged that his presence would be necessary to comfort, support, and build it up. Like a true soldier of Jesus Christ, he was ever at the post of danger; and in this case he led on the forlorn hope.
Other matters relative to the state and circumstances of the apostle, and those of Timothy; and the Church at Ephesus, will be carefully brought before the reader in the course of the notes on this epistle.
Paul's address to Timothy, and declaration of his affection for him, 2 Timothy 1:1-4. His account of the piety of Timothy's mother and grandmother, and the religious education they had given their son, 2 Timothy 1:5. He exhorts him to stir up the gift of God that is in him, and not to be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, 2 Timothy 1:6-8. How God has saved them that believe; and how Christ has brought life and immortality to light by the Gospel, 2 Timothy 1:9, 2 Timothy 1:10. The apostle's call to preach it, and the persecutions which he had been obliged in consequence to endure, 2 Timothy 1:11, 2 Timothy 1:12. Timothy is exhorted to hold fast the form of sound words, 2 Timothy 1:13, 2 Timothy 1:14. And is informed of the apostasy of several in Asia: and particularly of Phygellus and Hermogenes, 2 Timothy 1:15. And of the great kindness of Onesiphorus to the apostle in his imprisonment, 2 Timothy 1:16-18.
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,Paul an apostle - St. Paul at once shows his office, the authority on which he held it, and the end for which it was given him. He was an apostle - an extraordinary ambassador from heaven. He had his apostleship by the will of God - according to the counsel and design of God's infinite wisdom and goodness. And he was appointed that he might proclaim that eternal life which God had in view for mankind by the incarnation of his Son Jesus Christ, and which was the end of all the promises he had made to men, and the commandments he had delivered to all his prophets since the world began. The mention of this life was peculiarly proper in the apostle, who had now the sentence of death in himself, and who knew that he must shortly seal the truth with his blood. His life was hidden with Christ in God; and he knew that, as soon as he should be absent from the body, he should be present with the Lord. With these words he both comforted himself and his son Timothy.
To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.To Timothy, my dearly beloved son - See the note on 1 Timothy 1:2.
I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;Whom I serve from my forefathers - Being born a Jew, I was carefully educated in the knowledge of the true God, and the proper manner of worshipping him.
With pure conscience - Ever aiming to please him, even in the time when through ignorance I persecuted the Church.
Without ceasing I have remembrance of thee - The apostle thanks God that he has constant remembrance of Timothy in his prayers. It is a very rare thing now in the Christian Church, that a man particularly thanks God that he is enabled to pray for Others. And yet he that can do this most must have an increase of that brotherly love which the second greatest commandment of God requires: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. It is also a great blessing to be able to maintain the spirit of a pure friendship, especially through a considerable lapse of time and absence. He that can do so may well thank God that he is saved from that fickleness and unsteadiness of mind which are the bane of friendships, and the reproach of many once warm-hearted friends.
Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;Being mindful of thy tears - Whether the apostle refers to the affecting parting with the Ephesian Church, mentioned Acts 20:37, or to the deep impressions made on Timothy's heart when he instructed him in the doctrine of Christ crucified, or to some interview between themselves, it is not certainly known. The mention of this by the apostle is no small proof of his most affectionate regards for Timothy, whom he appears to have loved as a father loves his only son.
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.The unfeigned faith that is in thee - Timothy had given the fullest proof of the sincerity of his conversion, and of the purity of his faith.
Which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois - In Acts 16:1, we are informed that Paul came to Derbe and Lystra; and behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, who was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek. Luke, the historian, it appears, was not particularly acquainted with the family; Paul evidently was. Luke mentions the same circumstance which the apostle mentions here; but in the apostle's account there are particulars which argue an intimate acquaintance with the family and its history. Luke says Timothy's father was a Greek, consequently we may believe him to have been then in his heathen state; Paul, in mentioning the grandmother, mother, and son, passes by the father in silence; which intimates that either the father remained in his unconverted state, or was now dead. Lois and Eunice are both Grecian, and indeed heathen names; hence we are led to conclude that, although Timothy's mother was a Jewess according to St. Luke, yet she was a Grecian or Hellenist by birth. Lois, the grandmother, appears to have been the first convert to Christianity: she instructed her daughter Eunice, and both brought up Timothy in the Christian faith; so that he had a general knowledge of it before he met with St. Paul at Lystra. There, it appears the apostle was the instrument of the conversion of his heart to God; for a man may be well instructed in Divine things, have a very orthodox creed, and yet his heart not be changed. Instruction precedes conversion; conversion should follow it. To be brought up in the fear of God is a great blessing; and a truly religious education is an advantage of infinite worth.
Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee - The gift which Timothy had received was the Holy Spirit; and through him, a particular power to preach and defend the truth. This gift is represented here, under the notion of a fire, which, if it be not frequently stirred up, and fresh fuel added to it, will go out. This is the precise idea which the apostle had in his mind; hence the term αναζωπυρειν, which signifies to stir up the fire; to add fresh fuel to it. From this it plainly appears, that if Timothy had not continued to be a daily worker with God, he would have received the grace of God in vain. The Latins have a similar metaphor, excitare igniculos ingenii, to stir up the sparks of genius.
By the putting on of my hands - See on 1 Timothy 4:14 (note).
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.God hath not given us the spirit of fear - Here is an allusion to the giving of the law on mount Sinai. This was communicated with such terrible majesty as to engender fear in all the Israelites: even Moses, on the occasion, did exceedingly fear and tremble. The Gospel was ushered in, in a much milder manner; every thing was placed on a level with the human intellect; and within reach of every human spirit. Nothing was terrific, nothing forbidding; but all was inviting. The very spirit and genius of it was a spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind.
Instead of δειλιας, fear, some MSS. and versions have δουλειας, servitude or bondage; God hath not given unto us the spirit of Bondage - but of power, δυναμεως, to work miracles, to confound enemies, to support us in trials, and enable us to do that which is lawful and right in his sight. And of love, which enables us to hear, believe, hope, and endure all things; and is the incentive to all obedience. Of a sound mind, σωφρονισμου, of self-possession and government, according to some. But a sound mind implies much more; it means a clear understanding, a sound judgment, a rectified will, holy passions, heavenly tempers; in a word, the whole soul harmonized in all its powers and faculties; and completely regulated and influenced so as to think, speak, and act aright in all things. The apostle says, God hath given the spirit of these things; they are not factitious; they are not assumed for times and circumstances; they are radical powers and tempers; each produced by its proper principle.
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;Be not - ashamed of the testimony - The testimony of Christ is the Gospel in general, which proclaims Christ crucified, and redemption through his blood. In the sight of the world, there appeared to be reason why a man should be ashamed of this; ashamed of him who was crucified as a malefactor; but, when this Gospel became the power of God to the salvation of every one that believed, it was a subject to exult in. Hence the apostle, Romans 1:16 (note), said, I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.
Nor of me his prisoner - When our friends are in power and credit, we can readily acknowledge them, and take opportunities to show that we have such and such connections; but when the person falls into disgrace or discredit, though we cannot pretend not to know him, yet we take care not to acknowledge him. This induced Cicero, in relation to friendships, to give for a maxim - Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur: "A true friend is known in adverse circumstances;" and from this we have borrowed our proverb, A friend in need, is a friend indeed.
Be thou partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel - No parent could love a child better than Paul loved Timothy; and, behold! he who could wish him nothing but what was great, honorable, and good, wishes him to be a partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel! Because, to suffer for Christ, and suffer with Christ, was the highest glory to which any human being in this state could arrive. The royal way to the crown of glory, is by the cross of Christ.
According to the power of God - While thou hast no more affliction than thou hast grace to sustain thee under, thou canst have no cause to complain. And God will take care that if a faithful discharge of thy duty shall expose thee to afflictions, his power manifested in thee shall be in proportion to thy necessities. His load cannot be oppressive, who is strengthened to bear it by the power of God.
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,Who hath saved us - From sin; the spirit of bondage, and all tormenting fear. This is the design of the Gospel.
And called us with a holy calling - Invited us to holiness and comfort here; and to eternal glory hereafter.
Not according to our works - We have not deserved any part of the good we have received; and can never merit one moment of the exceeding great and eternal weight of glory which is promised. See the notes on the parallel passages.
Before the world began - Προ χρονων αιωνιων. Before the Mosaic dispensation took place, God purposed the salvation of the Gentiles by Christ Jesus; and the Mosaic dispensation was intended only as the introducer of the Gospel. The law was our schoolmaster unto Christ, Galatians 3:24. See the parallel places, and the notes there.
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:But is now made manifest - This purpose of God to save the Gentiles as well as the Jews, and call them to the same state of salvation by Jesus Christ, was, previously to the manifestation of Christ, generally hidden; and what was revealed of it, was only through the means of types and ceremonies.
Who hath abolished death - Καταργησαντος μεν τον θανατον. Who has counterworked death; operated against his operations, destroyed his batteries, undersunk and destroyed his mines, and rendered all his instruments and principles of attack useless. By death here, we are not to understand merely natural death, but that corruption and decomposition which take place in consequence of it; and which would be naturally endless, but for the work and energy of Christ. By him alone, comes the resurrection of the body; and through him eternal life and glory are given to the souls of believers.
Brought life and immortality to light - The literal translation of the original is, He hath illustrated life and incorruption by the Gospel. Life eternal, or the doctrine of life eternal, even implying the resurrection of the body, was not unknown among the Jews. They expected this, for they found it in their prophets. It abounded among them long before the incarnation: and they certainly never borrowed any notion in it from the Christians; therefore the Gospel could not be stated as bringing to light what certainly was in the light before that time. But this doctrine was never illustrated and demonstrated before; it existed in promise, but had never been practically exhibited. Jesus Christ died, and lay under the empire of death; he arose again from the dead, and thus illustrated the doctrine of the resurrection: he took the same human body up into heaven, in the sight of his disciples; and ever appears in the presence of God for us; and thus, has illustrated the doctrine of incorruption. In his death, resurrection, and ascension, the doctrine of eternal life, and the resurrection of the human body, and its final incorruptibility, are fully illustrated by example, and established by fact.
Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.Whereunto I am appointed a preacher - Κηρυξ, a herald. See the notes at Matthew 3:17.
And an apostle - Sent immediately from God to man.
A teacher - One whose business it is to instruct men, and particularly the Gentiles, to whom he was especially sent; to proclaim the doctrines of eternal life, the resurrection and final incorruptibility of the human body; and, in a word, the salvation both of the body and soul of man by Christ Jesus.
For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.I am not ashamed - Though I suffer for the Gospel, I am not ashamed of the Gospel; nor am I confounded in my expectation; his grace being at all times sufficient for me.
For I know whom I have believed - I am well acquainted with the goodness, mercy, and power of Christ; and know that I cannot confide in him in vain.
That which I have committed unto him - This is variously understood. Some think he means his life, which he had put, as it were, into the hands of Christ, in order that he might receive it again, in the resurrection, at the great day. Others think he means his soul. This he had also given into the hands of his faithful Creator, knowing that although wicked men might be permitted to take away his life, yet they could not destroy his soul, nor disturb its peace. Others think that he is speaking of the Gospel, which he knows will be carefully preserved by the great Head of the Church; for, though he shall be soon called to seal the truth with his blood, yet he knows that God will take care that the same truth shall be proclaimed to the world by others, whom God shall raise up for that very purpose.
Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.Hold fast the form of sound words - The word ὑποτυπωσις signifies the sketch, plan, or outline of a building, picture, etc.; and here refers to the plan of salvation which the apostle had taught Timothy. No man was left to invent a religion for his own use, and after his own mind. God alone knows that with which God can be pleased. If God did not give a revelation of himself, the inventions of man, in religious things, would be endless error, involving itself in contortions of unlimited confusion. God gives, in his mercy to man, a form of sound words or doctrines; a perfect plan and sketch of the original building; fair and well defined outlines of every thing which concerns the present and eternal welfare of man, and his own glory.
In faith and love - Faith credits the Divine doctrines. Love reduces them all to practice. Faith lays hold on Jesus Christ, and obtains that love by which every precept is cheerfully and effectually obeyed.
That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.That good thing - The everlasting Gospel, keep by the Holy Ghost; for without a continual spiritual energy man can do nothing. This indwelling Spirit will make them effectual to thy own salvation, and enable thee to preach them to the salvation of the souls of others.
This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.All they which are in Asia - It seems as if the apostle must refer to the Asiatic Christians which were then at Rome, or had been lately there. Finding the apostle in disgrace, and thinking it dangerous to own him or his cause, they neither visited him, or confessed Christianity. He cannot be speaking of any general defection of the Asiatic Churches, but of those Asiatics who had professed a particular friendship for him.
Phygellus and Hermogenes - These were two of the persons of whom he complains; but who they were, or what office they held, or whether they were any thing but private Christians who had for a time ministered to St. Paul in prison, and, when they found the state determined to destroy him, ceased to acknowledge him, we cannot tell.
The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:The Lord give mercy - Onesiphorus had acknowledged him, and continued to do so; he, and his house, or family, ministered to him in prison, and were not ashamed of their imprisoned pastor, nor of the cause for which he was in disgrace and suffering. As he showed mercy to the apostle, the apostle prays the Lord to show mercy to him.
But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.When he was in Rome - Onesiphorus was no doubt an Asiatic, (probably an Ephesian, see below), who had frequent business at Rome; and when he came sought out the apostle, who, it is supposed, had been confined in some close and private prison, (see the preface), so that it was with great difficulty he could find him out. This man had entertained the apostle when he was at Ephesus, and now he sought him out at Rome. Pure love feels no loads. Here was a true friend, one that sticketh closer than a brother.
The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.The Lord grant - that he may find mercy of the Lord - Some think that this is a prayer to God the Father to communicate grace to him, that he might find mercy in the great day at the hand of Jesus Christ the Judge. It is probably only a Hebraism for, God grant that he may here be so saved by Divine grace, that in the great day he may receive the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. See a similar form of expression, Genesis 9:16; Genesis 19:24; Exodus 24:1, Exodus 24:2.
It is impossible to read this chapter over without feeling deeply interested for this most noble and amiable of men. To what trials did God expose him! His life was a life of perils and tribulations, his labors were superabundant, and his success all but incredible. Wherever he went, he left a track of light and life behind him. To him, as the grand instrument of God, the Gentiles, the whole habitable world, owe their salvation. Yet see him, in his old age, neglected by his friends, apparently forsaken of God, and abandoned to the hands of ruthless men; in prison and in chains; triumphing over sufferings and death; perfectly unshaken, unstumbled, with the evils with which he is obliged to contend, having the fullest persuasion of the truth of the doctrines which he had preached, and the strongest and most encouraging anticipation of the glory that was about to be revealed. He felt no evil, and he feared none. Sin had lost its power, and death its sting; the grave its victory, and hell its horrors. He had the happiness which heathenism spoke of, but could not attain, because it knew not the great Source whence it must proceed. This God he knew, feared, loved, obeyed, and was happy. Who but the righteous man can sing: -
Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas;
Atque metus omnes et inexorabile fatum
Subjecit pedibus, strepitumque Acherontis avari! -
Illum non populi fasces, non purpura regum
Flexit, et infidos agitans discordia fratres; -
Non res Romanae, perituraque regna.
Virg. Georg. ii. v. 490.
No murmur is heard from his heart; he is persuaded that all things work together for good to them that love God; the miserable uncertainty of friendship, the defection of cowardly brethren, and the apostasy of once zealous professors, did not move him. As far as it is lawful, he courts death, knowing that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Glorious system of truth by which such an apostle was formed! and glorious apostle by whom this system was illustrated and confirmed! The character and conduct of St. Paul must make Christianity doubly amiable to believers and highly respectable even to its enemies.