always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.
I. THE ARTS OF THE SEDUCERS. "For of this sort are they who creep into houses, and lead captive silly women."
1. They were of a most proselytizing spirit. Like the Pharisees, they would compass sea and land to make one proselyte.
2. They practised unworthy arts. They wormed their way insidiously into the confidence of families. There was a deceitful and tricky method of gaining access to their victims.
3. They used their stratagems to snare women rather than men. They knew that women, as the weaker vessels, were more accessible to soft blandishments and specious pretences of piety. They counted upon an accession of female converts as, above all things, most contributing to the success of their propaganda.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THEIR VICTIMS. "Silly women laden with sins, led away by divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." These victims of their specious arts were morally and intellectually prepared for them.
1. They were, morally, under the sway of evil passions and desires, full, no doubt, of "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life." Such women would welcome a short cut to peace, or any reconciliation between religion and worldliness that could be devised by the arts of apostasy. The words seem to point to the weight of former sins burdening the conscience, from which they hoped to be released under easier conditions than those prescribed by the gospel.
2. They were incapable, through their sinful life, of attaining a true knowledge of the truth. They were" silly women," with light, frivolous, unbalanced judgments; "ever learning" - with a morbid love of novelties in religion, an insatiable curiosity for the mysteries promised by their false guides, and a constant craving for an adaptation of doctrinal views to their evil desires - "and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." Because their hearts had become indurated through an evil life, and so made inaccessible to the truth. - T.C.
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1. There is in some minds an impatience of process and progress, fatal of itself to safe and solid attainment. "By little and little" is the motto of the spiritual dealing, whether it be in the "putting out of enemies" or in the discovery of truth.
2. Another cause of disappointment lies in confusion of thought as to the nature of spiritual certainty. If God speaks, certainly He will give me proof of it; but a proof in the same region and in the like material with the thing to be proved; not an evidence of sight, touch, or smell, as to things which, by their very hypothesis, lie outside it, but an evidence appealing to conscience, heart, and soul, as He made each; satisfying the whole (not one part) of me, that the thing of which He gives me the information is beneficial, is wholesome, is good for me — and, because good, therefore also true.
3. A further error contributes, in many, to this defeat of knowing, and it is the want of instant action on the footing of the thing learned. Many men listen to a sermon without the slightest intention of doing any one single thing in consequence. A man has been interested in a treatise upon Prayer, upon Inspiration, upon the Atonement. He closes the book with a feeling of satisfaction — now he can give a reason for the hope that is in him. Yet he feels that he has not "come to the knowledge" of that truth. It is not a part of him. It does not enter into his thought, mind, and life. It does not influence him; it has not flowed into him — for that is influence; it will not flow out from him into any one else. Why is this? Because he has not acted upon the thing learned. He has not carried out the acquisition of the head into the heart, if that is its province; or into the conduct, if its region of operation is there. A man powerfully impressed with the reasonableness of prayer will instantly set himself to pray with a new stimulus and a new intensity. If he does not he may have "learned" — as St. Paul would have us distinguish — but he cannot be said to "know." A man who has received a new instruction on the subject of inspiration, forthwith opens his Bible, kneels on his knees with it, feels the breath of God in it all as he reads, and echoes each sentence of it in earnest prayer.
1. The knowledge which is necessary to salvation is open to the most ordinary capacity. The great leading truths of the Bible are plain and simple, and, where the mind is in a right disposition, are easily understood.
2. The knowledge of the truth is not unattainable, because we have the promise of Christ that it shall be imparted to every one, be his condition what it may, who is sincere in seeking it. Without Divine illumination it is impossible for any human being to become wise unto salvation. But this illumination God is willing to pour upon the minds Of all who call upon Him for that purpose. The causes of their failure are to be traced entirely to themselves.(1) One great cause of their coming short of saving knowledge is this — that they do not seek it in the right way. In the Bible God's will is revealed to us, but to understand the Bible, and to derive effectual and saving information from it, we must have recourse to the Author of the Bible. But this method the persons of whom we are speaking do not pursue. Reason, with them, is all-sufficient. Reason, they think, is equal to the investigation of every subject; and the consequence is, that what reason cannot account for, what reason cannot comprehend, they refuse to admit. "The meek will He guide in judgment; and the meek will He teach His way."(2) Another reason why men, though continually learning, come not to the knowledge of the truth, is that they make a wrong use of the means of knowledge; that is, they mistake the means for the end — they mistake the means of religion for religion itself. They have hitherto satisfied themselves with the performance of the outward duties of prayer, reading, and hearing, without ever looking further; without ever asking themselves seriously, "What do we these things for? Have the ordinances of religion produced in us any of the effects for which they were designed?"(3) The secret love of sin is another obstruction to the attainment of saving knowledge. god tells the house of Israel that He will not be inquired of by them because they "set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumbling-block of their iniquity before their face." "If any man will do His will he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God." "The secret of the Lord is with them only that fear Him."(4) They refuse to obey their convictions. They do not act up to the light they possess.
(J. Boucher, M. A.)1. I wish this were not the sin of silly men as well as of silly women, to be always learning, yet never come to the knowledge of the truth; how many are men in years, yet children in understanding (1 Corinthians 14:20). And when for the time they might have been teachers, they had need to be taught the elements of religion (Hebrews 5:12). Though the knowledge of the best in this life be imperfect, and we are always learners here, yet we must strive toward perfection and not always stick in the place of bringing forth (Hosea 13:13); nor be like a horse in a mill, still going round in the same place; or like a picture that grows not, but is the same now that it was twenty years ago. Such barren trees are nigh to cursing (Luke 13:9), and such unprofitable learners are left by God justly to the power of seducers, as malefactors are to jailers. This is the true cause of all those errors and sins amongst us (Psalm 95:10; Jeremiah 9:3; Matthew 22:19). As for ourselves, let us inquire for the good way, and when we have found it, sit not still, but be walking from knowledge to knowledge, from grace to grace, and from strength to strength, till at last we come to our celestial Sion.
2. Since seducers are so ready to seduce women, how careful should that sex be to shun conversing or disputing with them. Let every one know his own strength, and, if he be wise, keep within his own bounds.
3. Since women often are Satan's instruments, by which he seduceth many, take heed of women; let not those syrens enchant thee so as to leap into the depths of errors. Consider how many of thy betters have fallen by them. Whosoever they be that seek to draw thee from thy God, let thy heart and thy hand be against them (Deuteronomy 13:6, 8, 9).
(T. Hall, B. D.)
Homiletic Monthly.There is a right and wrong way of looking at everything. As a rule, whatever is most valuable in its use is most harmful in its abuse. The keener the surgeon's knife, the more serviceable it is in skilled hands, but the more dangerous in hands unskilled. Education — learning — is of the utmost value, rightly acquired and rightly used. Misapplied — used as an end, not a means — it is a cogent factor of evil.
1. It is unsatisfactory and embittering. As a man who ascends the mountain-side far enough to enter the blinding mists, but not far enough to overlook them, so is the man of godless learning.
2. It destroys the humility and childlike simplicity so essential to a knowledge of real truth.
3. It is inefficient to cleanse from sin. Science, philosophy, all the learning of all the schools cannot, with out Christ's atonement, regenerate sinful man. Give us, then, education; but let it be complete, as far as it goes — moral building up as well as intellectual. Cried Grotlus, the eminent historian, on his death-bed: "Ah! I have consumed all my life in a laborious doing of nothing. I would give all my learning and honour for the plain integrity of John Urick" — a poor man of remarkable piety.
(A Raleigh, D. D.)
Original Fables."How wise I am!" cried the finger-post to a willow-stump by his side. "Are you?" said the willow. "Am I?" indignantly retorted the post. "Do you see my arms? Are not the name to the great town, and road to it. and distance from it, plainly written there?" "Ah, yes!" said the willow. "Then you must acknowledge how superior I am to you. Why! I am a public teacher." "True, indeed," answered the willow, "and learned you are; but, as to wisdom, I see little difference between you and me. You know the way to the city, I believe, and are the means of enabling many to find it; but here you have stood these twenty years, and I don't see that you have got a step farther on the road than I have, who don't profess to understand anything about it."
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