A Whit-Sunday Sermon
2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Many readers of this passage, I doubt not, place the emphasis on the word us. They suppose St. Paul to say, "An ordinary man, who occupied the position which you occupy, the overseer of a society which is composed of various and contradictory elements, in which strange doctrines are appearing, which is exposed to all the influences of a commercial and corrupt city, would fear and tremble. It is your privilege to be as free from fightings and terrors as I, your spiritual father, am." What encouragement, then, could he give to Timothy? Precisely that which he had found necessary in his own case, precisely that to which he had been driven by the experience he has described to us. His spirit might be palsied with fear; but there was a Spirit near him and with him which was not a spirit of fear, to which he could turn as the Deliverer from fear, the Restorer of energy, the Quickener of hope. That Spirit had been given not to him (Paul), but to the Family of which he was a member;-if in any special sense to him, to him only because he was a servant of that Family, because he needed powers that were not his own, to make his ministries for it effectual.

I. I suppose we have all felt tempted, at times, to use language which is just the reverse of the apostle's. We have read in records of the past — we have known on a larger or smaller scale among cur contemporaries — such instances of strange panic and cowardice, of counsel and heart failing just when the need for them was the greatest, that we have been ready to exclaim, "Surely there is something Divine in this! We cannot attribute such a loss of nerve and energy to the pressure of outward circumstances; these often evoke the greatest courage when they are most appalling. We cannot attribute it merely to a natural want of courage; those same men, or bodies of men, at other crises, showed that they were capable of manly effort. Their fear is surely supernatural. God has given them this spirit of fear." Such a mode of speaking is not uncommon; it is not without strong excuse. But I think also that our consciences wilt tell us that we pervert such passages of Scripture if we set them in opposition to the doctrine of St. Paul in the one now before us. We need not study the records of the past, or the actions of our fellow-men, to learn what the spirit of fear or cowardice is. Each has, perhaps, known something of that cowardice which springs from self-distrust, from the apprehension of lions in his path, from doubtfulness, which of several paths he should choose, from the foretaste of coming evils.

II. The Spirit of God is said to be a Spirit of POWER. Consider the different kinds of power before which men bow, and those which they covet most to exercise. There is none more familiar or more wonderful than that of the orator. There is another power mixed frequently with this, but yet different in its direction and its nature, which also can be limited to no country, or circumstances, or stage of cultivation. The physician, the healer, is welcomed in all lands by different titles, but always for this reason, that he can in some way act on the life of men, can oppose the powers that are threatening life. In some regions his functions are hardly distinguished from those of the priest, because he too is conversant about life and death, a life or death that may continue when the resources of the ordinary physician are exhausted. The most simple, naked exhibition of human power is in that royal Will, which obtains supremacy by claiming it — which compels individuals and nations, they know not how, to own that it is meant to rule them, and that they must needs obey. That such a force as this exists, it is as idle to deny as to deny the force of sea or wind. We are certain that the most settled, organised tyranny is still a rebellion, and must end as rebellions end. What is the warrant for this conviction? Whit-Sunday says it is this, that the highest power, the all-ruling Will, was manifested in One who took upon Him the form of a Servant. It says that His noblest gift to men is His own Spirit of Power. It says that to that Spirit all spirits must at last bow; that any will which is mere arbitrary will — which does not seek to deliver and to raise those whom it rules — must be broken in pieces; that the only effectual power will be proved at last to be that which can give up itself.

III. If the world was to be instructed that nil power of speech, of imparting life and wisdom to men, of governing societies, is of God, and is tits gift to His creatures, certainly no teachers could be so suitable as those Galileans. And yet I know not whether there was not something even more wonderful in the selection of these men to show that all Love is of God; that His Spirit is the author of whatever love men are able to exhibit in acts or to feel within. For as Jews they had learnt to despise and hate all the uncircumcised; as Galileans they must often have been jealous of that more favoured part of their own race, which looked down upon them. They had been chosen, indeed, by a Teacher who bore all their narrowness and ignorance; who educated them by a careful and gracious discipline for the work to which He had destined them. Their affection had been drawn out towards Him; that affection had been a bond to each other, though interrupted by continual desires in each of them to be the chief in His kingdom. But their affection had been tried, and had broken down. It had failed towards the Master; what strength could there be in it towards any of their fellows? If love was their own, or had its springs in them, it must be utterly dried up. Then reflect how it burst forth, how it poured itself out first upon Jews, who scorned them; next upon Gentiles, whom it had been part of their religion to scorn; to see what it could endure. So they were trained to understand that there must be about them and with them a Spirit of over-living, long-suffering love, the heights and depths of which they could never measure — of which they could only say, It is the Spirit of Him who died upon the Cross, and who in that death manifested the very nature of His eternal Father and His purposes to men. What is the original falsehood of all who speak of their love to God and man? This: they take credit to themselves for a love which is moving them to noble thoughts and good deeds, but which has another source than their hearts; which is Divine, not earthly; universal, not partial.

IV. Finally, this Spirit is said to be the Spirit of a SOUND MIND. You cannot make any estimate or guess of the wildness and madness into which man may be led. And therefore you cannot provide the remedy for this wildness and madness, or any adequate protection against it. Do you think you know of some adequate remedy or protection? Perhaps you will say it lies in the Church. May not this be, after all, the one security against these excesses? May not the Spirit of God keep better watch over those minds which He has taken into His guardianship, than you can keep? A Spirit who knows how all are tempted — who knows what temptation is strongest for each — who is seeking to unite them in a common fellowship — who is guiding them to the same haven — who will suffer none who would act rightly to be without the necessary aids to action, none that would seek truth to be lost in falsehood; who will continually assist the desire to do right in those who are conscious of the inclination to wrong — who will for ever kindle afresh the zeal for truth in those who feel that they are beginning to acquiesce in plausible lies? To tell men that such a guiding Spirit of Power, of Love, of a Sound Mind, has been given them, and is with them — this is not dangerous, but safe.

(F. D. Maurice, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

WEB: For God didn't give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control.

A Sound Mind not Easily Attained
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