Titus 3:10
A man that is an heretic after a first and second admonition avoid.

I. THE TRUE NATURE OF HIS OFFENSE.

1. It is not a case of fundamental or doctrinal error, such as the words "heretic" and "heresy" came to imply in after-ages. Yet it is a mistake to suppose that separatist ways are not caused by divergences of judgment on some points from the settled belief of the Christian community.

2. It was a case of a turbulent sectary, dissatisfied with the Church, who withdrew from her communion to the disturbance of her peace. He would try to justify his course by a difference of opinion upon matters of doctrine, worship, or organization.

II. THE METHOD OF DEALING WITH THE OFFENDER.

1. He was to receive two admonitions in succession. He was to be twice warned not to pursue his divisive courses; he was not to be contended with, but rebuke was to be employed to recover him from his error.

2. His pride or his ambition would not allow him to yield to admonition, he was to be, not excommunicated - the course adopted by the apostle himself in another case (1 Timothy 1:20); but simply avoided. There must be no intercourse with him. This was a virtual excommunication, for he no longer held the place of a Christian brother.

III. THE JUSTIFICATION OF THIS METHOD. "Knowing that he that is such is perverted, and sinneth, being self-condemned." The case is an utterly hopeless one. You must have done with the divisive sectary; let him alone.

1. For he is perverted; implying an inward corruption of character, which steels him against all official admonition of the Church.

2. He sinneth. He errs knowingly, for his course has been authoritatively condemned by the messenger of God.

3. He is self-condemned. This does not mean that he consciously acts a part he knows to be wrong, but that he has condemned himself by his own practice, practically consenting by his separation that he is unworthy the fellowship of the Church, and thus justifying the Church in its rejection of him, or that he stands condemned by the Scriptures which he himself accepts as his rule of faith and life. - T.C.







An heretic...reject
I. HERESY IS NOT AN UNSOUND OPINION, BUT AN UNSOUND LIFE. A man may hold an erroneous opinion, and hold it sincerely; but the word used here denotes one who seeks to promote discord in the Church (See Romans 16:17).

II. HERESY IS TO BE DEALT WITH FIRMLY, BUT GENTLY.

1. Firmly — by admonition.

2. Gently — by repeated admonitions.

III. HARDENED HERETICS ARE TO BE REJECTED.

1. But this only applies to exclusion from Church fellowship.

2. It is no warrant for persecution.

3. Excluded heretics are to be deemed objects of pity.

(F. Wagstaff.)

Paul having exhorted Titus both to teach the truth according to godliness, as also to resist all such foolish and vain doctrine as might do hurt in the Church of God. Titus might object: This indeed is my duty wherein I extend to exercise myself with diligence; but when I have laboured and done all I can, many there are who will not yield to the truth, nor submit themselves to this ordinance of God; how am I to carry myself towards such? Answer: The apostle, careful to prevent all such things as he foresaw might be hurtful to the Church, giveth direction in these two verses how to proceed in this business also. The former, giving direction and laying down the duty; and the latter, enforcing the same by moment of reason. In the former are three things to be considered:

1. The persons against whom Titus is to deal — here called heretics.

2. The direction how he is to behave himself towards them — reject them.

3. The orderly manner of proceeding, after once or twice admonition.The latter verse containeth the reason of this severity, because such persons are incurable and incorrigible; which is proved by two arguments.

1. Such a one is subverted, that is, turned or cast off the foundation.

2. He sinneth against his own conscience, being damned of his own self, that is, he wittingly and willingly spurneth against that truth of which his conscience is by the former admonition convinced.

(T. Taylor, D. D.)

I am asked sometimes to read an heretical book. Well, if I believed my reading it would help its refutation, and might be an assistance to others in keeping them out of error, I might do it as a hard matter of duty, but I shall not do it unless I see some good will come from it. I am not going to drag my spirit through a ditch for the sake of having it washed afterwards, for it is not my own. It may be that good medicine would restore me if I poisoned myself with putrid meat, but I am not going to try it: I dare not experiment on a mind which no longer belongs to me. There is a mother and a child, and the child has a book to play with, and a blacklead pencil. It is making drawings and marks upon the book, and the mother takes no notice. It lays down one book and snatches another from the table, and at once the mother rises from her seat, and hurriedly takes the book away, saying: "No, my dear, you must not mark that, for it is not ours." So with my mind, intellect, and spirit; if it belonged to me I might or might not play tomfool with it, and go to hear Socinians, Universalists, and suchlike preach; but as it is not my own, I will preserve it from such fooleries, and the pure word shall not be mingled with the errors of men.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Sin is like the bale of goods which came from the East to this city in the olden time, which brought the pest in it. Probably it was but a small bale, but yet it contained in it the deaths of hundreds of the inhabitants of London. In those days one piece of rag carried the infection into a whole town. So, if you permit one sin or false doctrine in a church knowingly and wittingly, none can tell the extent to which that evil may ultimately go. The Church, therefore, is to be purged of practical and doctrinal evil as diligently as possible That sour and corrupting thing which God abhors must be purged out, and it is to be the business of the Christian minister, and of all his fellow helpers, to keep the church free from it.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I have likened the career of certain divines to the journey of a Roman wine cask from the vineyard to the city. It starts from the wine press as the pure juice of the grape, but at the first halting place the drivers of the cart must needs quench their thirst, and when they come to a fountain they substitute water for what they had drunk. In the next village there are numbers of lovers of wine who beg or buy a little, and the discreet carrier dilutes again. The watering is repeated, till, on its entrance into Rome, the fluid is remarkably different from that which originally started from the vineyard. There is a way of doctoring the gospel in much the same manner. A little truth is given up, and then a little more, and men fill up the vacuum with opinions, inferences, speculations, and dreams, till their wine is mixed with water, and the water none of the best.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Heresy, in the New Testament, is most commonly used in an indifferent sense, and but seldom in a bad one. It generally signifies no more than a sect or party in religion. Thus we read of the sect, or heresy, of the Sadducees; of the sect, or heresy, of the Pharisees; St. Paul is styled a ring leader of the sect, or heresy, of the Nazarenes; and he says of himself that, after the strictest sect (where the same Greek word is used) of the Jewish religion, he lived a Pharisee. In this last passage particularly nothing can be more plain than that the word has an innocent meaning, since the apostle rather commends than charges himself with anything criminal for having been a Pharisee before his conversion to the Christian faith. And we find it applied in the same manner in Acts 28:22. I shall mention but one text more, and that is, "For there must also be heresies among you," etc. (1 Corinthians 11:19). The evident design of which is, that considering the various tempers of men, their different views, passions, prejudices, their selfishness, ambition, vanity, and the like, it was natural to expect that they would divide into parties about religion, as well as about politics, and the civil affairs of life; and that the providence of God wisely permitted this for the trial of their integrity, and to distinguish the indolent, careless, and insincere from the real friends of truth, persons of an honest, inquisitive, and ingenuous temper. Now, according to this account, the general notion of a heretic is no more than this, viz., one that sets up to be the head, or chooses to join himself to a particular religious sect. I say who makes this the matter of his choice because it is implied in the original signification of the word; and, besides, nothing can be supposed to have any concern with religion but what is a voluntary action. A heretic, therefore, in a bad sense, must be one who knowingly espouses a false doctrine, is insincere in his profession, and asserts and defends what he is convinced is contrary to Christianity, and, consequently, one who maintains and supports the interest of a faction, to serve some base designs. According to St. Paul's account in the text, a heretic is not only subverted or turned aside from the true faith, he not only entertains wrong sentiments of Christianity, but sinneth, i.e., doth this wilfully, and with an ill attention. He is one that makes religion a cloak for his immoralities, and espouses and propagates what he knows to be false, to promote the ends of his ambition, covetousness, or sensual pleasure; who, indeed, thinks it his interest to retain the name of a Christian, and in that circumstance only differs from a thorough and wilful apostate from Christianity, but which incurs the greater guilt may perhaps be hard to determine; for as the one rejects the Christian religion altogether, the other out of choice corrupts it, and opposes its true doctrines, even while he pretends to believe and reverence its authority. Such as these, I say, persons of such vile and dishonest principles, and of so flagitious a character, are the heretics condemned by St. Paul; and therefore to fix it as a term of reproach on any in whom there does not appear hatred of the truth, a sensual mind, and a profligate conscience, must be unChristian and scandalous. And if we examine other passages of the New Testament we shall find that they all concur in giving us the same idea of heresy. It is represented as a work of the flesh, because it has its foundation in the corrupt inclinations of human nature. It is reckoned among the most heinous and execrable vices — such as adultery, idolatry, hatred, variance, seditions, murders. And heretics are constantly described as men of no probity or honour, strangers to all the principles of virtue, and embracing such opinions only as were calculated for the gratification of irregular appetites, and advancing selfish and worldly views (1 Timothy 1:19; 2 Peter 2:1.)

1. It appears from what has been said that no mere error of the judgment can be heresy. For heresy is a high degree of wickedness; and necessarily supposes irregularity of the affections and a depraved and vicious choice; whereas erroneous conceptions and apprehensions of things are no crime at all, but natural to mankind in the present weak and imperfect state of the faculties.

2. We may infer that no honest man can possibly be a heretic. He may, indeed, have errors (and who is there among us that has not?) — nay, he may err in points of importance too, but his mistakes cannot be dangerous while he takes care to maintain a good conscience.

3. If heresy be an error of the will, and such only can be guilty of it who are condemned of themselves, how can we certainly know, in most cases at least, whether a man be a heretic or not? Let each of us put this question to himself impartially, and if we cannot answer it to our satisfaction, let us, however, learn thus much from our ignorance, to be modest in the censures we pass upon others. If it be said that such wicked deceivers are generally known by their fruits, and that their vicious lives will show us by what views they are acted, and the vile design of their imposture, I answer that, even upon this supposition, I should think it better that they be rejected for their immorality, which is notorious and palpable, than for heresy, of which we cannot so certainly judge.

4. Though it be a point of great nicety to judge of heresy in particular instances, the persons who come nearest the character of the old heretics are violent party men, who confine Christianity to their own faction, and excommunicate all that take the liberty to differ from them; the rigid imposers of human schemes of doctrine and modes of worship, as essential branches of religion, and laws binding conscience, these, I say, are most like the heretics condemned in Scripture, notwithstanding their insolence and presumption.

(James Foster.)

I. WHAT PATIENCE THE LORD USETH IN HIS JUST PROCEEDINGS, EVEN AGAINST THE WORST MEN, WHOM HE WILT. NOT HAVE CONDEMNED NOR CAST OUT OF THE CHURCH UPON SUSPICIONS, OR SURMISES; nor nor presently after an open sin is committed; but there must be a time between wherein the Church must rightly inform herself, that she may know the nature and degree of the sin before she turn her to any censure or sentence. Yea, and further, the sin being apparent, she must not reject any, till all good means of reclaiming have been in vain used. Which may teach us, that to hasten excommunications ipso facto; or (as it is often) before the party can come to the knowledge or suspicion of any such proceeding, is to swerve from the rules of the Word, and those weighty reasons also upon which they are grounded. As namely:

1. Some offenders are curable; and what man in his wits will cut off his arm or leg so soon as it beginneth to ache and pain him, and not rather use means of surgery and cure? is any member in the body so despised?

2. Ourselves must not be so uncharitable as presently, to despair of any man's conversion. God may in time raise the most desperate stoner unto repentance.

3. The means used are not lost; for if it attain no other end, yet shall it make them more inexcusable, the censure more just, and the Church's proceeding more equal and moderate.

4. Add here unto the Lord's example, who never striketh before He have sufficiently warned; He never precipitateth either sentence or execution, but first cometh down to see (Genesis 18:21), and hearkeneth and heareth (Malachi 3:16), and accordingly passeth sentence.

II. NOTE THAT WHEN A SINNER IS KNOWN TO SIN OF OBSTINACY, THE BEST WAY IS TO AVOID HIM AND CAST HIM OUT.

1. For labour is but lost on such a one.

2. He doth but tread holy things under his feet; of which holy things the Church is the keeper, and must be faithful.

3. He sins not only of judgment and reason, but of affection; and this is the reason why very few heretics are converted, when many unregenerate men and outrageously wicked in other kinds are, who sin not of affection and wilfulness, but of corrupt judgment only.

4. The Lord's example (Hosea 4:17).

III. Note hence, also, WHAT USE THE LORD MAKETH OF A WICKED CONSCIENCE, EVEN IN DESPERATE SINNERS. It shall be the accuser, witness, and judge to pronounce the sentence of death against his own soul; and so shall make way unto the Lord's most righteous judgment. Use.

1. It letteth us see what an intolerable torment a wicked conscience is. Use.

2. This further teaches us not to neglect the checks of conscience, nor our own hearts reproving us of our ways; as those men who are resolved to hold on their lewd courses, let the word and spirit, yea, their own spirits, suggest what they will or can against it. For the time cometh when thou canst not set the voice of thy conscience so light, and then that conscience which hath checked thee shall judge thee, and that heart which hath reproved thee shall torment thee, and thou shalt never be able to turn off the charge of it, but shalt by it be accused and convicted to have been a wilful chooser of thine own destruction. Use.

3. This consideration also teacheth us to look that in everything we keep good consciences before God and all men, the use of which will be manifold.(1) To keep us from errors and heresies, and contain us in the profession of the true faith; for let good conscience be put away, there must needs follow a shipwreck of faith; as is to be seen in all heretics. Hence are we counselled to make pure conscience as the coffer to keep faith in (1 Timothy 3:9).(2) In doing any action lawful in itself, a good con science only maketh it good to the doer; for to do even the will of God against my conscience is sin to me, be the same in itself never so materially good.(3) In suffering or enduring anything for well doing (as not the pain, but the cause maketh a martyr so), not the cause so much as the conscience of the sufferer worketh out his boldness and peace in the midst of the combat, and giveth him security, in his conflict; whereas a bad conscience will betray the best cause.(4) In enjoying any condition of this present life, a good conscience is a sweet companion; even a dry morsel with peace of heart is better than a house full of sacrifices with strife and war within. In outward afflictions there is inward rejoicing, for let the heart be pacified in God, it can rejoice in tribulation. The disciples can go away rejoicing from the council that they were counted worthy to be beaten and suffer rebuke for Christ (Acts 5:41). The martyrs can kiss the stake, embrace the fire, and sing in the midst of the flames.(5) Yea, it doth not only through the whole life minister joy and comfort even in the remembrance of death, as in 2 Timothy 4:7, 8, but it followeth a man after death, when all things else forsake him; and as a most faithful friend it goeth with him before God's judgment seat, and pleadeth for him at the bar of Jesus Christ; yea, testifieth with him, and cleareth, and quite acquitteth him from the judgment of the great day. All which being so, what pains and labour can be thought too much in the getting and keeping of such a jewel, which bringeth in so rich a recompense for so little labour, and how worthily doth he forfeit all these sweet fruits of it, who will be at no costs nor pains for it.

(T. Taylor, D. D.)

You can imagine a husbandman who would neglect to care for his soil, and go out after squirrels and all manner of vermin that were eating his grain if he had any that they could eat — who would go out to shoot weasels in the wall, foxes in the field, wolves in the wood, and bears everywhere; and who, when he could find nothing to shoot, would lie out at night, watching for racoons, and range up and down through the day, searching for some stray dog, where there should be sheep, but where there are none. There are in the Church what may be called heresy hunters. They always carry a rifle — a spiritual rifle under their arm. You will find them forever outlying, watching for heresy — not so much in their own hearts, not so much in their own Church, not so much in their own minister, but in other people's hearts, in other people's Churches, in other people's ministers. If any man happens to hold an opinion respecting any doctrine which does not accord with their own peculiar views, they all spread abroad to run him down. They are taking care of and defending the faith! They are searching for foxes, and wolves, and bears, that they suppose are laying waste God's husbandry! They never do anything except fire at other folks. I have no doubt that Nimrod was a very good fellow in his own poor, miserable way, but a Nimrod minister is the meanest of all sorts of hunters.

(H. W. Beecher.)

In what way are the directions here given to Titus to be used for our own guidance at the present time? They do not apply to persons who have always been, or who have ended in placing themselves outside the Christian Church. They refer to persons who contend that their self-chosen views are part and parcel of the gospel, and who claim to hold and teach such views as members or even ministers of the Church. Secondly, they refer to grave and fundamental errors with regard to first principles; not to eccentric views respecting matters of detail. And in determining this second point much caution will be needed; especially when inferences are drawn from a man's teaching. We should be on our guard with regard to assertions that a particular teacher virtually denies the Divinity of Christ, or the Trinity, or the personality of God. But when both these points are quite clear, that the person contradicts some of the primary truths of the gospel, and that he claims to do so as a Christian, what is a minister to do to such a member of his flock? He is to make one or two effects to reclaim him, and then to have as little to do with him as possible. In all such cases there are three sets of persons to be considered: the heretic himself, those who have to deal with him, and the Church at large. What conduct on the part of those who have to deal with him will be least prejudicial to themselves and to the Church, and most beneficial to the man himself? The supreme law of charity must be the guiding principle. But that is no true charity which shows tenderness to one person in such a way as to do grievous harm to others, or to do more harm than good to the person who receives it. Love of what is good is not only consistent with hatred of what is evil; it cannot exist without such hatred. What we have to consider, therefore, is this. Will friendliness confirm him in his error? Would he be more impressed by severity? Is intercourse with him likely to lead to our being led astray? Will it increase his influence and his opportunities of doing harm? Is severity likely to excite sympathy in other people, first for him, and then for his teaching? It is impossible to lay down a hard and fast rule that would cover all cases; and while we remember the stern instructions which St. Paul gives to Titus, and St. John to the "elect lady," let us not forget the way in which Jesus Christ treated publicans and sinners.

(A. Plummer, D. D.)

Saturday Magazine.
Ferdinand, Emperor of Germany, possessed a great number of watches, in collecting of which he had a fancy. "It pleased him once," says our quaint author, "to put this, his variety of speaking gold, upon a table, as if he would expose it to sale: he then stepped aside. A stander-by, driven by a desire of stealing, filched one of them (a repeater), which the emperor espying aslant, called him, and without accusation, kept him in various discourse till the watch striking disclosed the hour and his theft.

(Saturday Magazine.)

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