2 Timothy 4:3
For the time will come when men will not tolerate sound doctrine, but with itching ears they will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires.
Solemn Charge to TimothyR. Finlayson 2 Timothy 4:1-8
Application in Preaching Objected ToPreacher's Lantern.2 Timothy 4:3-4
Curious HearersT. Watson.2 Timothy 4:3-4
Dislike to the TruthJ. Trapp.2 Timothy 4:3-4
Inclination the Enemy of TruthJ. G. Butler, D. D.2 Timothy 4:3-4
Smooth Things Preferred2 Timothy 4:3-4
Sound Doctrine ForsakenT. Hall, B. D.2 Timothy 4:3-4
The Waywardness and Restiveness of So Called Christians Afresh Incentive to Fidelity in MinistersT. Croskery 2 Timothy 4:3, 4
Truth Hidden When NeglectedPlain Sermons by Contributors to 'Tracts for the Tithes2 Timothy 4:3-4
This is an argument from the future to tell upon present duty.

I. THE REASON OF THE APOSTASY. "For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine."

1. The gospel doctrine is sound, because it necessitates a holy life, and holds the gratification of sinful passions to be inconsistent with the hopes of salvation.

2. Evil men cannot endure it, because it is so opposed to the corruption of human nature, and therefore treat it with neglect, if not with contempt.

3. The apostle foresees the growth of evil in the Church, and therefore seeks to prepare ministers to war against it.

II. THE EFFECT OF THIS MORAL DISGUST AT THE GOSPEL. "But, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts."

1. They will not discard the ministry absolutely. They will only exchange one class of ministers for another. But they will vastly multiply the number of their religious guides.

2. The itch for novelty led to the multiplication of teachers. They were fickle, unsettled, and uneasy. They wanted to hear new things or smooth things, such as would reflect the caprices of a corrupt nature.

3. The reason for the whole rabble of teachers that they gathered to themselves is to be found in their wish to have their fancies gratified - "after their own lusts." They wanted indulgent guides, who would flatter the pride of human nature, and not lay too great a stress upon the importance of a holy life. The sound doctrine was necessarily allied to a pure morality.

III. THE RETRIBUTION THAT AWAITS ON SUCH A PERVERSION OF JUDGMENT. "And will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables."

1. It is a solemn fact in Divine providence, that when men do not like to return to the knowledge of the truth, God gives them up to a reprobate mind, so that they lose all relish for sound doctrine.

2. It is an equally solemn fact that, if the truth is repudiated, the heart will not therefore cease to exercise itself about religious concerns. The heart cannot long remain empty. Fables rush in to occupy the place which denies a footing to truth, just as infidelity has a vacuum-creating power, which superstition immediately rushes in to fill up. What a waste of soul! - profitless fables taken in exchange for soul-saving truth! - T.C.

They will not endure sound doctrine.
The reason is here assigned for this faithful ministry: one that has always been in force, since human nature has always been the same. Men's own inclinations will become the guide of their conduct concerning truth and duty. Because sound or salutary teaching about their own errors and sins is abasing to their pride and crucifying to their selfish passions, it will not be endured. Yet their minds crave stimulus, and even their moral natures demand some opiate. Hence they will resort to various so-called teachers, in order to obtain fancies that please and rules of life that suit their native tastes. And the effect of this will be that they turn themselves away from truth to falsehood, and are at last given up of God to the fixed delusion of believing a lie, to their own perdition. The picture is sad indeed, and common as sad, in this as in every century and land. None believe so wildly, and none are so hopelessly hardened, as those who finally reject the saving truth of God.

(J. G. Butler, D. D.)

Edward Irving found no favour as a preacher in the commencement of his ministry. After various disappointments, Dr. Chalmers heard and appreciated him, and invited him to be his assistant in Glasgow. Irving, in astonishment and doubt, replied: "I will preach to them if you think fit, but if they bear with my preaching they will be the first people who have borne with it."

Aristotle writeth that vultures are killed with oil of roses. Sweet smells enrage tigers. Swine cannot live in some parts of Arabia, saith Pliny, by reason of the pleasant scent of aromatical trees there growing in every wood.

(J. Trapp.)

1. The grounds of their apostasy — viz., their hatred of the truth; they will not endure sound doctrine; they will reject it and cast it behind their backs; they hate and abhor it. They look upon it as a grievous burden, as Israel did upon the doctrine and visions of the prophets (Jeremiah 13:34, 36). It is not so much they cannot, but they will not endure sound doctrine; they love their lusts above the law, and therefore they hate him that reproves in the gates. Errors they can tolerate, and superstition they can tolerate, but the truth they cannot hear.

2. A second ground of their apostasy is their delight in false teachers; they so dote on them, that one or two will not content them, they must have heaps of them. They love their lusts, and therefore they seek out for such teachers as may not disquiet them. They wittingly and willingly suffer themselves to be deluded by them. The word signifies —(1) An earnest desire of getting such teachers.(2) It notes an indiscreet and confused gathering together of such a multitude of teachers without wit or reason, without any respect either to their life or learning, head nor tail. The disciples create their doctors, the lusts of their followers are their call.

3. A third cause of their apostasy is that innate malice and inbred concupiscence which is in the hearts of men. But the word in the original is "lusts," which implies, not a simple desire or sudden motion, but a vehement, ardent, earnest desire and pursuit of a thing.

4. They have itching ears; this is another reason why they seek out for false teachers; they love not such as deal plainly and faithfully with them, they must have such as please their humours, tickle their fancies with novelties and curiosities, but they must in no wise touch their vices.

5. Here is the issue and consequences of their contempt of the truth — viz., the loss of truth, and following fables.This is the devil's method. First he stops the ear against sound doctrine, and then he opens it to error. Like a cruel thief, he draws the soul out of the right road into some wood, by-lane or corner, and there binds, robs, and rifles it.

1. God not only knoweth what men do at present, and what they have done, but what they will do in time to come. He tells Timothy here what will be done many years after he is dead and gone.

2. The more perfidious the world is, and the more false teachers abound, the more careful must Christ's ministers be to oppose them by preaching sound doctrine. The badness of the times approaching must make us to redeem the present season. The sun will not always shine; tempests will arise, and the night will come when no man can work. Those that reverence Moses to-day, to-morrow are murmuring against him (Exodus 14. ult., and Exodus 15:14).

3. Saving doctrine is sound doctrine.

4. Unsound persons cannot endure sound doc trine. It is salt which searcheth men's sores and puts them to pain. It is light which these sore eyes cannot endure, nor these thieves abide. They do evil, and therefore they hate the light (John 3:20). They do not only fear, but hate the light. They cannot endure to have the law preached, their consciences searched, nor their sins discovered. But as for sound men, they love sound doctrine; they desire it (Psalm 43:3). They come to it (John 3:21), and bless God for it (1 Samuel 25:32, 33).

5. In the last days there will be many false teachers. There will not be one or two, but there will be heaps of them, the world will swarm with them. Men will have variety of lusts, and those call for variety of teachers to uphold them. Good men, and especially good ministers, are rare, they are one of a thousand (Job 33:23), but wicked ones abound; there is much dross, but little gold; much chaff, but little wheat; many weeds, few good flowers. If the devil have any work to do, he wants no agents to effect it. If men once set open their doors, they shall not want deceivers. When men slight truth they shall have teachers which shall be God's executioners to bind them and blind them, and lead them into error.

6. Observe, as all other parts of man, so amongst the rest the ear hath its diseases. Salt is fitter for such than oil: though it be more searching, yet it is more sovereign. This itching disease was never so common as in our days. There is a sinful spiritual itch upon the soul which is sevenfold — viz., an itch of —








(T. Hall, B. D.)

A farmer went to hear John Wesley preach. The farmer was not a converted man; he cared little about religion; on the other hand, he was not what we call a bad man. His attention was soon excited and riveted. John said he should take up three topics of thought — he was speaking greatly about money. His first head was, "Get all you can." The farmer nudged a neighbour and said, "This is strange preaching. I never heard the like of this before. This is very good. Yon man has got things in him; it is admirable preaching." John discoursed of "Industry," "Activity," "Living to purpose," and reached his second division, which was, "Save all you can." The farmer became more excited. "Was there ever anything like this?" he said. Wesley denounced thriftlessness and waste, and he satirised the wilful wickedness which lavishes in luxury; and the farmer rubbed his hands, and he thought, "All this have I been from my youth up"; and what with getting, and what with hoarding, it seemed to him that "salvation had come to his house." But Wesley advanced to his third head, which was, "Give all you can." "Ay dear, ay dear," said the farmer; "he has gone and spoilt it all." There was now no further point of contact, no interest in the farmer's mind.

(Preacher's Lantern.)

Itching ears
Some come to the Word preached, not so much to get grace, as to enrich themselves with notions — "Itching ears" (ver. 3). Austin confesseth that before his conversion he went to hear St. , rather for his eloquence than for the spirituality of the matter. "Thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument." Many come to the Word only to feast their ears; they like the melody of the voice, the mellifluous sweetness of the expression, the newness of the notion (Acts 17:21). This is to love the garnishing of the dish more than the food; this is to desire to be pleased rather than edified. Like a woman that paints her face, but neglects her health, so they paint and adorn themselves with curious speculations, but neglect their souls' health. This hearing doth neither sanctify the heart, nor the Sabbath.

(T. Watson.)

Shall be turned unto fables
From these words we learn that there is such a thing as religious truth, and therefore such a thing as religious error. We learn that religious truth is one, and therefore that all views of religion but one are wrong. And we learn, moreover, that so it was to be that professed Christians, forgetting this, should turn away their ears from the one truth, and be turned, not to one, but to many fables. This is a most solemn thought, and a perplexing one. However, there is another which, though it ought not to be perplexing, is perplexing still, and perhaps has greater need to be considered and explained — I mean that men of learning and ability are so often wrong in religious matters also. Now, if we consult St. Paul's Epistles to the Corinthians, we shall find the same state of things existing even in the first age of Christianity. Even the apostle speaks of those who were blind, or to whom his Gospel was hid; and he elsewhere describes them, not as the uneducated and dull of understanding, but as the wise of this world, the scribe and the disputer. Does not our Saviour Himself say the same thing, when He thanks His Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that He hath hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes? Now it should not surprise us when men of acute and powerful understandings more or less reject the gospel, for this reason: that the Christian revelation addresses itself to our hearts, to our love of truth and goodness, our fear of sinning, and our desire to gain God's favour and quickness, sagacity, depth of thought, strength of mind, power of comprehension, perception of the beautiful, power of language, and the like, though they are excellent gifts, are clearly quite of a different kind from these spiritual excellences — a man may have the one without having the other. This should be kept in mind when Christians are alarmed, as they sometimes are, on hearing instances of infidelity or heresy among those who read, reflect, and inquire; whereas, however we may mourn over such instances, we have no reason to be surprised at them. It is quite enough for Christians to be able to show, as they well can, that belief in revealed religion is not inconsistent with the highest gifts and acquirements of mind, that men even of the strongest and highest intellect have been Christians; but they have as little reason to be perplexed at finding other men of ability not true believers, as at finding that certain rich men are not true believers, or certain poor men, or some in every rank and circumstance of life. A belief in Christianity has hardly more connection with what is called talent, than it has with riches, station, power, or bodily strength. Now let me explain what I mean by a further remark. Is it not plain that earnestness is necessary for gaining religious truth? On the other hand, is it not a natural effect of ability to save us trouble, and even to tempt us to dispense with it, and to lead us to be indolent? Do not we see this even in the case of children — the more clever are the more idle, because they rely on their own quickness and power of apprehension? Is indolence the way to gain knowledge from God? Though there is no art or business of this world which is learned without time and exertion, yet it is commonly conceived that the knowledge of God and our duty will come as if by accident or by a natural process. Men go by their feelings and likings; they take up what is popular, or what comes first to hand. They think it much if they now and then have serious thoughts, if they now and then open the Bible; and their minds recur with satisfaction to such seasons, as if they had done some very great thing, never remembering that to seek and gain religious truth is a long and systematic work. And others think that education will do everything for them, and that if they learn to read, and use religious words, they understand religion itself. And others, again, go so far as to maintain that exertion is not necessary for discovering the truth. They say that religious truth is simple and easily acquired; that Scripture, being intended for all, is at once open to all, and that if it had difficulties, that very circumstance would be an objection to it. And others, again, maintain that there are difficulties in religion, and that this shows that it is an indifferent matter whether they seek or not as to those matters which are difficult. In these and other ways do men deceive themselves into a carelessness about religious truth. And is not all this varied negligence sufficient to account for the varieties of religious opinion which we see all around us? How are the sheep of Christ's flock scattered abroad in the waste world! What religious opinion Can be named which some men Or other have not at some time held? All are equally confident in the truth of their own doctrines, though the many must be mistaken. In this confusion let us look to ourselves, each to himself. There must be a right and a wrong, and no matter whether others agree with us or not, it is to us a solemn practical concern not to turn away our ears from the truth. Let not the diversity of opinion in the world dismay you, or deter you from seeking all your life long true wisdom. It is not a search for this day or that, but as you should ever grow in grace, so should you ever grow also in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. ("Plain Sermons by Contributors to 'Tracts for the Tithes.')

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