2 Timothy 1:6
Why I put you in remembrance that you stir up the gift of God, which is in you by the putting on of my hands.
They that think that every Christian may be a preacher, and that the ministry, considered as a distinct calling or employ, is nothing but usurpation, and some ambitious men's affecting a superiority over their brethren, like the cynic of old trampling upon Plato's cloak, make themselves guilty of greater pride than that which they pretend to condemn. The church is called a building, and we know that every flint or pebble is not fit to be a foundation or corner-stone, much less to be set into the ephod, and there to shine in oracles and responses. It is called a body too, and this hath various members, and these various offices, which cannot be all eyes and overseers; if they were, where would be the hearing? An ecclesiastical jurisdiction lodged in Timothy, an overseer constituted and appointed by St. Paul, even by the laying on of his hands, whereof he puts him in mind in the text, and of the gift that was bestowed upon him by that imposition of hands, and of his duty to exercise it. And here, before I enter upon the apostle's exhortation, or the duty contained in it, I cannot but take notice of the softness and gentleness of his address, "I put thee in remembrance." Practical discourses and salutary admonitions to men of learning and good education are a refreshing of their memories rather than teaching or illuminating their understandings. Discourses of this nature may put you in remembrance of a duty, which multiplicity of business would not suffer you to think of, or contemplations of other matters tempted you to overlook.
I. WHAT THE GIFT IS WHICH WAS IN TIMOTHY, AND MAY STILL BE SUPPOSED TO BE IN ALL THOSE WHOM GOD CALLS TO THE SAME OFFICE. I shall particularise, the gift communicated to Timothy; and if we take St. Paul for our guide, we shall find this gift was a Divine power vouchsafed to this man of God, which enabled and disposed him to teach, and live, and act, and do, answerable to the duties incumbent upon him, as a governor of the house of God. The apostle in the following verse calls it the spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind; the spirit of Christian fortitude, of charity, and of sedateness and tranquillity of temper.
1. The spirit of fortitude, which consists in being undaunted at danger, fearless of the frowns of men while we do no more than our duty, and a steady freedom to vindicate the truth of the gospel and the honour of Christ Jesus, whatever may be the effect or consequence of it.
2. The spirit of love. It was not without very great reason that our Saviour asked St. Peter thrice, "Lovest thou Me?" and "Lovest thou Me more than these?"
3. The spirit of a sound mind. This seems to be a temper able to curb the passions, inordinate lusts, desires, and perturbations of the mind, an admirable spirit! To know when to be angry, and when to be calm; when to be severe, and when to be moderate and gentle. The mind is then sound when it keeps the lower faculties in good order, and it is an argument of wisdom to judge of things without heats, or prejudice, or prospect of self-interest, and to keep the wild desires of corrupted nature in awe, and to do things with prudence and moderation.
II. HOW THIS GIFT WAS ANCIENTLY AND IS STILL BESTOWED AND COMMUNICATED. By the putting on of my hands, saith St. Paul; and in 1 Timothy 4:14 he adds, by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, i.e., of the whole apostolical college, or the greater part of the apostles, who it is like were present upon the place. This rite or ceremony of imposition of hands on a person designed for Church offices and the service of the tabernacle, Isidore and others derive from Isaac's blessing his son Jacob, which they suppose was done by the Patriarch's laying his hands upon Jacob's head; from Jacob's laying his hands on his grandchildren and blessing them; from Moses's laying his hand on Joshua, and communicating part of his spirit to him. The ancient Romans used to lay their hands upon their slaves when they made them free; and Numa Pompilius had hands laid on him when he was made High Pontiff; but it is probable that even these fetched it from the Jews. The Christian Churches, who retained what was good and praiseworthy among the Jews, seeing nothing in this rite but what was grave, and decent, and solemn, and serious, adopted it into their service. In sacrificing beasts to the honour of God the priest laid his hands on the victim's head, to show he dedicated it to God, and from common, separated it to a holy use, and dismissed it from the service of men into that of the most high God; all which significations did wonderfully well agree with the end of the ministerial function under the gospel, and therefore the Christians had no reason to reject this useful and decent custom. This imposition of hands was no physical cause of conveying the Holy Ghost, but an external assurance, that as surely as the hands were laid on the head of the person ordained, so surely would the spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind, light upon his soul if he did not obstruct it by wilful departing from the living God. That this rite hath lasted in the Church from the apostles' time unto this day is what the concurrent testimonies of all ages witness.
III. HOW THIS GIFT IS TO BE STIRRED UP, AND WHAT IS THE BEST AND MOST PROPER WAY TO DO IT. In the original it is ἀναζωπυρε1FC0;ιν, which is as much as stirring up the fire, or blowing the coals, and making the fire burn that lies mingled with the ashes. So that the Spirit of God conferred upon sacred persons by the imposition of hands is lodged in the soul, as the treasure in the gospel was hid in the field, which required digging and searching to make it useful. It is like gold in the ore, which requires melting, and cleansing, and purifying; like a stock of money which requires improvement by trading; like seed sown in the ground, which requires watering and other labour and industry to make it come forth, and grow, and spread, and yield fruit, and strengthen man's heart. This stirring up of the gift of God respects either the means that are to be used, or the duty itself. The means hinted in this and the preceding Epistle are chiefly three — prayer, reading, meditating.
1. Prayer. Who can live without it? Who can act or do anything of moment without the assistance of this spiritual engine? Nature teaches mankind to begin their works of concernment with God; grace therefore must be supposed to press this duty infinitely more, on you particularly, the heirs of Timothy's office, in order to this stirring up the gift of God that is in you, by the imposition of hands. God that gives you talents intends not that you should bury them in the earth, or lay them up in a napkin, but occupy and traffic with them, and be gainers by them; and to do this His help is necessary, who gives strength to the weak and power to the feeble; and this help is not to be had without importunate cries and solicitations. These prayers must have fire; it is their fervour that unlocks the secret cabinet of the Almighty.
2. Reading. This the apostle expressly recommends to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:13) in order to his stirring up the gift of God. Reading what? No doubt the Holy Scripture, and therefore our Church proscribes, delivering a Bible into the hands of the person upon whom episcopal hands are laid. The great examples you meet with here, the industry of Moses, the zeal of Elijah, the fervour of St. Paul, the vigour of St. Stephen, the courage of St. Peter, the assiduity of Apollos, the sincerity of Barnabas, what are these but so many motives to stir up the gift of God that is in you? Add to all this the glorious, the precious, the large, the sweet, the wonderful promises, promises of Christ's assistance, promises of comfort, of support, of eternal life and glory, which will animate and enliven, and prompt you to blow up the fire of the sanctuary and the coal of the altar, that it may consume the dross and tin, not only that which cleaves to your own souls, but that also which sticks to others, that see and hear you, and converse with you.
3. Meditating. This is also urged among the means, not to neglect the gift of God. "Meditate upon these things, give thyself wholly to them" (1 Timothy 4:15). The bare reading will make no great impression. Meditation digests and rouses the soul from her slumber. This quickens the faculties, sets all the wheels a-going, incites to labour, prompts to industry, and moves and even compels us to imitate the great examples set down in the Word of God, and to follow their faith, and wisdom, and hope, and love, and charity. But in what doth the stirring up of the gift of God consist? Chiefly in these three particulars.
1. Feeding the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind, neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock. Ye are the captains, the generals in Christ's army, while you bear the heat and burden of the day, detract no labour, spare no pains, live like faithful stewards of the mystery of God, vindicate your Master's honour, act like persons who have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, and by manifestation of the truth commend yourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God; you make good the glorious titles and the names which are given you, such as angels, and stars, and lights of the world, and the salt of the earth, and a city set on a hill, etc.
2. Labouring and making it your business to reform abuses.
3. Enduring hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, a duty very warmly recommended to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:3). In discharging your duty faithfully, you must expect obloquy, and slanders, and reproaches, and other inconveniences.
(A. Horneck, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.