"For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." (2 Timothy 1:12)
Not one of us all can say, "I shall spend another New Year's Day on earth," or "I shall be in my accustomed place in Church on another New Year's Day." No. We all know that. Before another year rolls by many of us here assembled may be in our graves. These are common-place observations, to be sure, but still there is a solemnity beneath them that is calculated to strike the soul of the thinker, for they suggest the question, "If we shall not be here, where shall we be--in heaven or hell?" Of course many are ready to say, "We hope to be in heaven;" but whence is the hope? What is its foundation? The hope that is not founded on a scriptural and experimental basis is like a leap in the dark, like pursuing a shadow. There is nothing to be depended on, nothing to be gained, nothing to satisfy. He who says he has a hope of being in heaven, and has no experimental knowledge of Christ, might as well tell me he has a hope of being prime minister of England, whilst he possesses neither talents nor education nor influence. To have "a good hope through grace," a hope of being in heaven when we die, we must have a clear knowledge of Christ, of His need, of His value, of His power, of His mercy. We must be distinct and decided upon them all, though we may not have had very deep experimental knowledge of the last. I cannot understand that man's hope of heaven who is not convinced of the all-sufficiency of Christ for salvation, or who keeps shuffling between the creed of works and of grace, or who is not thoroughly humbled and repentant on account of sin. The pharisee can have no hope, the formalist can have no hope, the free-willer can have no hope, but what will be swept away as a spider's web. Oh, may the Lord give us a hope like the apostle's! May He enable us to say, whenever it may please Him to summon us, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day!" Now I would, under God, open up this text for you. (2 Tim. 1:12) In this passage we may trace out five things:--
I. Suffering for the Gospel's sake.
II. Great moral courage under suffering.
III. A creed declared.
IV. A confidence in the apostle's soul.
V. A day contemplated by him, and evidently so well known to Timothy that there was no need for it to be defined.
I would say a word or two on each of these things.
I. Suffering for the Gospel's sake.--How little of this is known in the present day! Of course a deal of the comparative immunity from physical suffering we enjoy may be accounted for by civilization, and the march of intellect and liberty in the present day. People would not stand physical persecution for religion now, at least in this country; but is there any Scripture warrant for believing that the followers of Christ are not to suffer, in some shape or other, for His sake? I think not. The Lord's words, and Paul's and Peter's words, clearly indicate suffering for Christ's sake on the part of the members of His body throughout time. "Ye shall be hated of all men for my sake." (John 15:18) "If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him." (2 Tim. 2:12) "Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you." (1 Pet. 4:12) If suffering a trial were to be confined to physical persecution, then would many of the Lord's people be without a precious mark of relationship, for many of them have escaped physical persecution; but, if we take suffering for the Gospel's sake to include moral hatred, spite, and malignity, then we shall be able to establish a connection between the Lord and us. Now, it requires no proof that it is quite possible to suffer for the Gospel's sake, as well as from the tongue and the pen as from the sword. And I'll take upon me to say that we all, who have boldly avowed our belief in the Christ of God, the Christ of Revelation, have suffered more or less through these vile instruments. O blessed marks of an interest in Christ! "If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him." I hold that is a man suffers not for Christ he has neither part nor lot in the matter. The apostle Paul suffered more than we all, and he prided himself in the fact. May we drink in of his spirit, and be enabled to glory in our tribulations. "Suffering is a sure sign of heavenly nobility," said an old saint.
II. But now about the moral courage beneath this suffering.--"Nevertheless I am not ashamed," says Paul. What moral courage must the man have had, when the whole world was against him, when the learned sneered, and the pious mocked, and the profane laughed outright at the doctrines of the grace of God--when his own family and friends forsook him or turned against him! "Nevertheless I am not ashamed," says he. Where did he get this courage, think you? Not from the earth, not from beneath, not from within himself, but from above. Oh, it was supernatural and heavenly! It was from God. He himself confesses this. "By the grace of God I am what I am." (1 Cor. 15:10) "I can do all things through Christ who strengthened me." (Phil. 4:13) "The Lord stood by me." Yes, my hearers, it was the Lord who stood by him when all men forsook him, who made him triumph over all opposition, and made him speak out boldly as he ought to speak. It is the same power that must make you and me superior to all fear and dread and cowardice in regard to the Gospel of Christ. If we have it not, we shall assuredly be ashamed of Christ and of His words; and you know there is a terrible threat hanging over all such. "Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words," says Christ, "of him shall I be ashamed when I come with the glory of my Father, and of the holy angels." (Luke 9:26) Oh, for this moral, this supernatural courage in the midst of sufferings for the Gospel! Believe me, we need it today as much as Paul ever needed it. True, we have not the sword or the whip or the dungeon staring us in the face, but we have what is worse--a polite and philanthropic and a reasoning devil, seducing us from our fealty to the God of revelation; all sorts and shapes and sizes of sly opponents of the Gospel surround us. If the learned skeptic frightens us, the tenderhearted unbeliever presents himself. If both fail, we have the reasoning pietist appealing to our common sense, undermining our precious faith. Circumstances have lately happened that are calculated to terrify the people of God. Heretical dignitaries in our own Church, and pretending pietists amongst the dissenters, have both been showing themselves in their true colors as opponents of the Gospel of the grace of God. Talk of Colenso! Nothing that he has ever said or written can surpass in blasphemy a production that has lately been circulating in this village. O my hearers, I pray God for myself and for you to be given courage not to be ashamed of the Gospel of the grace of God.
III. Next we have Paul's creed: "I know."--His creed was not simply belief, it was more; it was assurance. Some of us have not come to that yet; but let me tell you for your comfort you need not the assurance of a Paul in order to be interested in Jesus Christ. Listen to divine testimony: "These things have I written to you that believe," says John, "that ye may know that ye have eternal life." (1 John 5:13) Now, these words evidently imply that is possible to be a true believer, and yet not have assurance. It is possible to be in Christ, and yet not have that unwavering, unclouded conviction that we are savingly in Him. But Paul had this assurance. Observe the language: "I know," etc. He does not say, "I know the truths and doctrines I have taught," but, "I know that gracious Person in whom I have believed." Have we any knowledge of this sort? Many may be able to say, "I know how I stand in the world; I know how my accounts are; I know that I can meet my payments," etc. All this is well as far as it goes; but can I say, "I know whom I have believed?" Others may be able to say, "I know the secrets of chemistry, the discoveries of astronomy, the facts of geology, but can I say, "I know whom I have believed?" That is the question. Ah, be assured that men may know all the stars in the heavens, and yet not know the bright and morning Star. Men may know the contents of all the books in the world, and yet not know the Lord as Paul knew Him. This is pre-eminently a day of knowledge and understanding; men seem to know everything but the one thing, their need of an almighty Saviour. It strikes me many a time during the week with wonder that men can know everything, and will positively believe everything, but the Gospel. Oh, what deep things do many men know; and what foolish nonsensical things do many believe! But where are they who believe the Gospel? Few and far between indeed. And what think you did Paul mean by this knowledge of his respecting the Lord Jesus Christ? Why, manifestly that Christ was to him more than a mere notion or speculation; He was a reality. Christ had come with power and conviction into his heart. He knew by experience that the Son of God was all He had represented Himself to be. He knew He was light, love, and power in His soul. In short, Paul had a deep experimental knowledge of Christ, such as is only attained by the inward teachings of the Holy Ghost. You know that many a one knows Christ as they know letters or art or science. They have learnt all about Him with their heads, but He has never entered their hearts. But Paul's knowledge was altogether different. Paul could not only say, "Jesus is the Saviour," but, "Jesus is my Saviour." Oh, brethren, what a comfort to know as Paul knew--to have all this settled and established in our souls when we come to die, and not then to have to seek this knowledge! Of course, all who are quickened cannot say this now; but sure I am that all who are quickened are anxiously wanting to be enabled to say thus.
IV. Let us now consider Paul's confidence. Paul had committed something to the Lord Jesus Christ's keeping; what was it? Estate he had none; his life he knew was nothing but a vapor, a shadow that continueth not. These are not worth this solemn act recorded here. No: but it was his immortal soul, that which death cannot destroy, he had committed to Christ's care. Oh, this soul of Paul's! These souls of ours! Of what importance! "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36) Angels minister to this soul; devils quarrel about it; who can keep it but the omnipotent Lord! Mark you well, it is not to the Church Paul delivers his soul; not to the priest, not to angels, but to Christ! The Church needs to be taken care of itself and so do priests, and so do angels. At highest they are but ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation, but they cannot keep themselves, much less others. But you ask, "How did Paul commit his soul to Christ?" I answer, Just as you or I commit our souls to Christ. It is by an act of thought and feeling. Say, if you have ever bowed the knee at the Saviour's footstool, and from the depth of your heart you have thus said, "Blessed Jesus, I have ruined this soul; it is fallen; it is guilty; it is perishing; it is dying; I cannot take care of it myself; I cannot, I dare not, commit it to the care of any creature; but to Thee, O Lamb of God, I would commit it: wash it in Thy blood; clothe it in Thy righteousness; sanctify it by Thy Holy Spirit; inspire it with Thy love; unite it to Thyself!" Have you ever in the depths of sincerity said thus? Then you have committed your soul to the care of Jesus, and depend upon it He will keep it! What was the ground of the apostle's persuasion? Christ's undertaking to keep the souls entrusted to His care. Now, whatever Christ undertook to do He accomplished, otherwise He would be no Saviour, no Redeemer, no God! But Paul knew in whom he believed, and was persuaded He was able to keep that which he had committed to Him. O blessed faith in lively exercise! May it be ours on a bed of death, and in the day of judgment! How different is the true believer's language to that of the doubting, suspicious, wary skeptic, who would recommend us to say, "We hope so, we trust so." Away with this faltering phraseology, and in its stead let us adopt the bold uncompromising words of Paul, and say, "I know whom I believe," etc.
V. And now about the day of our text. "That day;" what day? The day that will settle all disputes, and that will close all conflicts; the day when the tares shall be rooted up, and the "righteous shall shine forth as the sun." It is that day, brethren, when this world will be burnt up, and the Church of God will be assembled around the Lord yonder in the air. That day when Jesus will say to His Father, "Behold, here I am with the children Thou hast given me; (Isa. 8:18) Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to me, and none of them is lost" (John 17:12)--that day in which we shall for ever part with sin and sorrow and mortality, see Christ as He is, and know even as we are known. O glorious day! How my poor weary, sin-sick soul longs for it; for from that time forward I shall never displease my blessed Lord and Father any more.