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“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Jesus Christ, to Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
What is the reason of his writing this second Epistle to Timothy? He had said, “I hope to come unto thee shortly” (1 Tim. iii. 14.), and as this had not taken place, instead of coming to him, he consoles him by a letter, when he was grieving perhaps for his absence, and oppressed by the cares of the government, which he had now taken in hand. For even great men, when they are placed at the helm, and are charged with the direction of the Church, feel the strangeness of their position, and are overwhelmed, as it were, by the waves of business. This was particularly the case when the Gospel was first preached, when the ground was everywhere unturned, and all was opposition and hostility. There were, besides, heresies commencing from the Jewish teachers, as he has shown in his former Epistle. Nor does he only comfort him by letters, he invites him to come to him: “Do thy diligence,” he says, “to come shortly unto me,” and, “when thou comest, bring with thee the books, but especially the parchments.” (2 Tim. iv. 9; 13.) And he seems to have written this Epistle when his end was approaching. For he says, “I am now ready to be offered up”; and again, “At my first answer no man stood with me.” (2 Tim. iv. 6; 16.) To set all this right, he both offers consolation from his own trials, and also says,
Thus at the very commencement he raises up his mind. Tell me not, he says, of the dangers here. These obtain for us eternal life, where there is no peril, where grief and mourning flee away. For He hath not made us Apostles only that we might encounter dangers, but that we might even suffer and die.1314
Not merely his “son,” but, “dearly beloved”; since it is possible for sons not to be beloved. Not such, he means, art thou; I call thee not merely a son, but a “dearly beloved son.” As he calls the Galatians his children, but at the same time complains of them; “My little children,” he says, “of whom I travail in birth again.” (Gal. iv. 19.) And he bears particular testimony to his virtue by calling him “beloved.” For where love does not arise from nature, it must arise from the merit of the object. Those who are born of us, are loved not only on account of their virtue, but from the force of nature; but when those who are of the faith are beloved, it is on account of nothing but their merit, for what else can it be? And this especially in the case of Paul, who never acted from partiality. And further, he shows by calling him his “beloved son,” that it was not because he was offended with him, or despised him, or condemned him; that he did not come to him.
These things which he before prayed for, he again invokes upon him. And observe how, at the very beginning, he excuses himself for not having come to him, nor seen him. For his words, “Till I come,” and, “Hoping to come to thee shortly,” had led Timothy to expect his coming soon. For this he excuses himself, but he does not immediately mention the cause of his not coming, lest he should grieve him mightily. For he was detained in prison by the emperor. But when at the end of the Epistle he invited him to come to him, then he informed him of it. He does not at the outset plunge him into sorrow, but encourages the hope that he shall see him. “Greatly desiring to see thee,” and “Do thy diligence to come unto me shortly.” (2 Tim. i. 4; and iv. 9.) Immediately therefore he raises him up, and proceeds to praise him.
Ver. 3, 4. “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I might be filled with joy.”
“‘I thank God,’ he says, ‘that I remember thee,’ so much do I love thee.” This is a mark of excessive love, when a man glories in his affection from loving so much. “I thank God,” he says, “Whom I serve”: and how? “With a pure conscience,” for he had not violated his conscience. And here he speaks of his blameless life, for he everywhere calls his life his conscience. Or because I never gave up any good that I purposed, for any human cause, not even when I was a persecutor. Wherefore he says, “I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Tim. i. 13.); all but saying, “Do not suspect that it was done of wickedness.” He properly commends his own disposition, that his love may appear sincere. For what he says is in fact, “I am not false, I do not think one thing and profess another.” So in the book of Acts we read he was compelled to praise himself. For when they slandered him as a seditious man and an innovator, he said in his own defense, “Ananias said to me, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee that thou shouldest know His will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of His mouth. For thou shalt be His witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.” (Acts xxii. 14, 15.) In the same manner here, that he may not, as if he had been forgetful, have the character of one void of friendship and conscience, he justly praises himself, saying, that “without ceasing I have remembrance of thee,” and not simply that, but “in my prayers.” That is, it is the business of my prayers, that which I constantly continue to perform. For this he shows by saying, “For this I besought God day and night, desiring to see thee.” Mark his fervent desire, the intensity1315
“Which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice.”
For Timothy, it says, “was the son of a certain woman which was a Jewess, and believed.” How a Jewess? how believing? Because she was not of the Gentiles, “but on account of his father, who was a Greek, and of the Jews that were in those quarters, he took and circumcised him.” Thus, as these mixtures of Jews and Gentiles took place, the Law began gradually to be dissolved. And mark in how many ways he shows that he did not despise him. “I serve God,” he says, “I have a true conscience” for my part, and thou hast thy “tears,” and not thy tears only, but for “thy faith,” because thou art a laborer for the Truth, because there is no deceit in thee. As therefore thou showest thyself worthy of love, being so affectionate, so genuine a disciple of Christ; and as I am not one of those who are devoid of affection, but of those who earnestly pursue the Truth; what hindered me from coming to thee?
“And I am persuaded that in thee also.”
From the beginning, he means, thou hast had this excellency. Thou receivedst from thy forefathers the faith unfeigned. For the praises of our ancestors, when we share in them, redound also to us. Otherwise they avail nothing, but rather condemn us; wherefore he has said, “I am persuaded that in thee also.” It is not a conjecture, he means, it is my persuasion; I am fully assured of it. If therefore from no human motive thou hast embraced it, nothing will be able to shake thy faith.
You see how greatly dispirited and dejected he considers him to be. He almost says, “Think not that I despise thee, but be assured that I do not condemn thee, nor have I forgotten thee. Consider, at any rate, thy mother and thy grandmother. It is because I know that thou hast unfeigned faith that I put thee in remembrance.” For it requires much zeal to stir up the gift of God. As fire requires fuel, so grace requires our alacrity, that it may be ever fervent. “I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, that is in thee by the putting on of my hands,” that is, the grace of the Spirit, which thou hast received, for presiding over the Church, for the working of miracles, and for every service. For this grace it is in our power to kindle or to extinguish; wherefore he elsewhere says, “Quench not the Spirit.” (1 Thess. v. 19.) For by sloth and carelessness it is quenched, and by watchfulness and diligence it is kept alive. For it is in thee indeed, but do thou render it more vehement, that is, fill it with confidence, with joy and delight. Stand manfully.
That is, we did not receive the Spirit, that we should shrink from exertion, but that we may speak with boldness. For to many He gives a spirit of fear, as we read in the wars of the Kings. “A spirit of fear fell upon them.” (Ex. xv. 16?) That is, he infused terror into them. But to thee He has given, on the contrary, a spirit of power, and of love toward Himself. This, then, is of grace, and yet not merely of grace, but when we have first performed our own parts. For the Spirit that maketh us cry, “Abba, Father,” inspires us with love both towards Him, and towards our neighbor, that we may love one another. For love arises from power, and from not fearing. For nothing is so apt to dissolve love as fear, and a suspicion of treachery.
Moral. Let us then not be distressed at the evils that happen to us. This is sobriety of mind. “In the season of temptation,” he says, “make not haste.” (Ecclus. ii. 2.) Many have their several griefs at home, and we share in each other’s sorrows, though not in their sources. For one is unhappy on account of his wife, another on account of his child, or his domestic, another of his friend, another of his enemy, another of his neighbor, another from some loss. And various are the causes of sorrow, so that we can find no one free from trouble and unhappiness of some kind or other, but some have greater sorrows and some less. Let us not therefore be impatient, nor think ourselves only to be unhappy.
For there is no such thing in this mortal life as being exempt from sorrow. If not to-day, yet to-morrow; if not to-morrow, yet some later day trouble comes. For as one cannot sail, I mean, over a long sea, and not feel disquietude, so it is not possible to pass through this life, without experience of sorrow, yea though you name a rich man; for in that he is rich, he hath many occasions of inordinate desires,1318
Hear therefore what philosophy is taught by the example of Job in holy Scripture! Hear also what Paul saith: “Weep with them that weep”; and again, “Condescend to men of low estate.” (Rom. xii. 15, 16.) For, by the communication of sorrow, the extreme burden of it is lightened. For as in the case of a heavy load, he that bears part of the weight relieves him who was bearing it alone, so it is in all other things.
But now, when any one of our relatives dies, there are many who sit by and console us. Nay, we often raise up even an ass that has fallen; but when the souls of our brethren are falling, we overlook them and pass by, as if they were of less value than an ass. And if we see any one entering into a tavern indecently; nay, if we see him drunk, or guilty of any other unseemly action, we do not restrain him, we rather join him in it. Whence Paul has said: “They not only do these things, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Rom. i. 32.) The greater part even form associations1321