Project Canterbury






St. Augustine's College,














Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2008


2 TIM. i. 7.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

IT seems probable, from more than one of St. Paul's expressions with reference to Timotheus, that the character of this disciple, whom he so dearly loved, though most earnest and self-denying, was timid and wavering, and that he shrank from the duty of boldly confessing Christ before men. Quite early in his Christian career it was deemed necessary to give assurances of his real devotion to the Gospel. Thus, the Corinthians are exhorted, (1 Cor. xvi. 10) if Timotheus come, to see that he may be with them without fear, for he worketh the work of the Lord, so that no man should despise him. In the first Epistle addressed to himself, he also is warned to suffer no man to despise his youth, as if his chief danger were from inconsistency and weakness; and to keep himself pure, that is, as the context shews, from negligently yielding to the wishes or persuasion of others. And, in the second Epistle, St. Paul speaks to him more than once, in a tone almost of severity, on the necessity of Christian boldness in dealing with the errors and difficulties of the time. In the third chapter, the Apostle seems to fear that, as Demas had [3/4] deserted him, so Timotheus might shrink from the danger of joining him at Rome; he reminds him that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus must expect to suffer persecution; and the charge to preach, rebuke, exhort, and endure afflictions, is solemnly given as in the sight of God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead, at His appearing and His kingdom. Thus, too, at the beginning of the passage before us, it is necessary to remind him of the unfeigned faith which dwelt in his grandmother Lois, and in his mother Eunice, and to put him in remembrance that he stir up the gift of God which was in him by the laying on of the Apostle's hands. For this gift, the grace and power conferred upon him by his solemn dedication to God's work, of which the laying on of hands was the visible sign and seal, might be stifled or nullified by his own negligence, and by timidly yielding to the fear of opposition; just as, in another Epistle, we read the more general warning, Quench not the Spirit. It rests with ourselves either to extinguish, or to fan into a brighter flame, both the help which God has given us to discharge a particular office in His Church, and the gift of the Spirit imparted to all believers. It is quenched by indolence, weakness, and negligence in our duty; it is fed and strengthened by watchfulness and prayer. For the Spirit of God, working in man's spirit, to quicken, and elevate, and sanctify it, is not the spirit of fear, or cowardice, or weakness; not the spirit which timidly shrinks from work and duty, even in the midst of danger and difficulty; but that spirit of power, which enables us, boldly and firmly, to carry out the convictions of conscience; that spirit of love, in which we are ready to sacrifice ease, and security, and personal advantages, for the sake of others; that spirit of a sound mind, or self-mastery, in which we ourselves are thoughtfully and prudently controlled by ourselves, and preserved alike from the weakness of a self-complacent indifference, and the extravagance of an [4/5] unreasoning zeal. These are the moral convictions which the Apostle places before Timotheus, as the essential qualifications for his high calling; these are the exhortations, in which he warns him against the danger of timidity, and of that gentle, amiable, loving disposition, which, though in itself an unspeakable blessing to its possessor, and to those who come under his influence, yet is liable to yield to the temptation of complying too readily with the wishes or threats of others.

But in bringing this passage before you to-day, I have no intention of dwelling chiefly on this fault which the Apostle observed and regretted in the character of Timotheus. Doubtless there are those in every congregation who are exposed to it: and so must there must be some in this chapel, who in their future work as missionaries will have need to watch and pray lest they dishonour the Gospel of Christ by the spirit of fear and timidity. A warning against it, therefore, might not be out of place to you, any more than it was to him who was left at Ephesus to watch over the infant Church, and to represent its founder during his absence. But I think it better to speak. more generally: to view the text on its positive rather than its negative side, not to speak against the particular fault which occasioned the words of the text, but to dwell on the general requisites for the Christian ministry, which are described in them. For when a stranger addresses a congregation of strangers, the statement of general lessons, which must be always applicable, seems more appropriate than the discussion of special errors which at any time may or may not be prevalent.

1. St. Paul then tells us that the Spirit which God gives to those whom He calls by His grace to work for Him in His Church, is the spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. It is well for us to remember that all three characteristics are put together, all declared to be the gifts of God, all represented as practically of equal importance. Now I [5/6] doubt whether in the ordinary thoughts and feelings with which we regard the character of a good Christian, or an earnest minister of the Gospel, we attend sufficiently to all these three requisites. Rather, perhaps, we bring one of them into exclusive prominence. None of us would deny that every true follower of Jesus Christ, much more every preacher of His Word, must be filled with the spirit of love. For love is the fulfilling of the law, and the first principle of the Gospel; it was through love that Jesus Christ came down from Heaven to die for us, and there is no precept of the New Testament so generally accepted in theory, however little it may be observed in practice, as that he who is without love is but as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. But we are not equally attentive to the declaration, that the spirit which God gave us is also the spirit of power and of a sound mind. It cannot, indeed, be denied, that in the New Testament we find the gentler characteristics of the Christian, love, meekness, humility, dwelt upon more frequently and more prominently than those which are sterner or more thoughtful. But this is easily accounted for. Humility and meekness were graces practically unknown to the forms of religion which had preceded Christianity, whereas heroism and wisdom had never wanted admirers; so that our Lord and the Apostles naturally exhorted their hearers more forcibly to love one another, and to yield to one another, than to be energetic, and prudent, and wise. There are not, indeed, wanting abundant proofs that power and a sound mind are essential parts of Christian goodness, and if the passage before us stood alone, it would afford an ample warning against the danger of undervaluing or neglecting them. Power means firmness, energy, ability; varying, doubtless, according to the natural disposition, and even the intellectual capacity, of each: yet still it is God's gift, and therefore like all His blessings, it is capable of improvement and development; it may be stirred up, according to the [6/7] language of the verse which precedes the text, by watchfulness, by prayer, by the use of all means and opportunities which are placed within our reach. Nor is it otherwise with the gift of a sound mind. You may remember that when the passage before us is quoted in one of our services, the expression a sound mind is altered into soberness. Remember that thou stir up the grace of God which is given thee by this imposition of our hands: for God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and soberness. Soberness and a sound mind are both results from the great gift of self-control, to which the Apostle here exhorts us. The original word sophronismos implies self-control; a thoughtful and prudent moderation; a distrust of all religious violence and extravagance; a calm perseverance in duty, unshaken by all solicitations to turn aside, to the right hand or to the left; a determination to act justly and fairly in all our dealings with others, unbiassed by party spirit, or clamour, or the love of popularity; a wise insight into the nature of the Gospel, which can discern between essential truths, which must be proclaimed upon the house-tops, and variations of opinion, which are lawful, and even necessary; a quiet prudence, which is saved from all danger of running into timidity, because it is associated with power; or into a calculating selfishness, because it is leavened and controlled by love. The spirit of power, and love, and soberness, is the spirit of the Christian minister, and, therefore, especially of the Christian missionary; their union is the grace and the endowment of the perfect man of God, throughly furnished unto all good works; love, without power and soberness, is apt to be weak, and irresolute, and wanting in discrimination; power, without soberness and love, to be angry, and over vehement; soberness, without love and power, to be unimpassioned and ungenerous; but when the three are combined, then the blessed Spirit of God and Christ is carrying out in the heart His perfect work.

[8] I have said that our first impulse is to value and practise the duty of love more than that of power and soberness. Most eminently may this be the case here. You, my brethren, who are about to devote yourselves to a most solemn office in the Christian Church, must remember that to your zeal for souls, and love for those in whose behalf Christ died, you must add a sober and wise self-control in forming plans, and an active resolute will in carrying out their execution. To be firm and wise, and tender in all your dealings with others, especially with those to whom you may hereafter be actually ministering, or whom you may desire to win over as baptized Christian converts to the flock of Christ, must be the secret of all great success, and is the one line of conduct which will receive God's blessing. Now we have seen that the gifts of power and soberness, like all other gifts, may be improved and strengthened, and among the appointed means for doing this must be reckoned the discipline of the mind by study, and the diligent pursuit not only of theological, but of invigorating secular learning. In an institution like this, a student is apt to undervalue all reading which does not bear obviously and directly on the great calling to which his life is to be devoted. Nay, some may even think that the careful and minute study of theology is apt to lead them astray from the great object of saving souls, and that they may trust entirely to the spirit of love and zeal. But the Church of God must be built up by the spirit of power and wisdom also; and the diligent cultivation of our mental gifts furnishes the chief means, under the blessing of Him, without whom nothing is strong any more than holy, by which that spirit may be roused and stirred up within us. Certainly, if any students of this college are hereafter placed in that great diocese which I in God's Providence have been called to govern, they will find that the subtle philosophy of the Hindu, and the obstinate prejudice of the Mussulman, cannot be [8/9] resisted without the spirit of power and wisdom, as well as of love: and there, in the work of winning souls to Christ, no mental gift, no kind of knowledge, no ability, acuteness, or power of reasoning or imagination will fail to find its fit employment; for all are weapons in the Lord's armoury, all will help you to do battle against the wiles of His enemy.

2. These reflections, brethren, naturally occur from considering the text as it were, in detail, from separating it into its component parts, and observing the three characteristics of the Spirit which God bestows upon the faithful minister of His word. But we must not conclude without observing how high, how solemn, nay, how sublime is the estimate which it gives of the calling to which you have devoted your lives. The qualifications for that calling are said to be the gifts of God himself: all that is low or unworthy is expressly excluded from them, they are the characteristic graces of three main divisions of the human mind, the more tender and gentle feelings, the power of vigorous and energetic action, the thoughtful spirit of wise and calm reflection. Such a calling should not be lightly estimated, nor approached without constant watchfulness and prayer. This warning applies, no doubt, to every office in the Christian ministry, most obviously and directly to that which is in one sense the noblest of its offices, the work of a missionary. For though we must not for a moment undervalue the vast amount of work which has to be carried on for Christ's cause in England, or venture to depreciate the noble and self-denying exertions of those who are labouring for Him at home, yet undoubtedly to go forth and preach His Gospel in a foreign land, and seek to add kingdoms and races to His Church, is the most direct imitation of the work to which He consecrated His own Apostles. But in a place like this, where you are surrounded by so many comforts and advantages, where your studies are cheered by the friendships with teachers and contemporaries [9/10] which form the happiest feature of English education; where you are surrounded by the associations of the past, and by recollections connected with the brightest page in English history; and at a time like this, when the progress of civilization has softened many of the hardships, and enlivened much of the dreariness of a missionary life, at least in many parts of the world, there is a danger lest you should regard your future work as a matter of course; look upon your calling as an ordinary profession; forget its peculiar greatness and sanctity; and, above all, fail to bear continually in mind your deep need of personal purity and holiness, of a living, constant, practical communion with God, by prayer in the Name of His Son. Even here, where the very place is set apart for devoted piety, a secular spirit may intrude; you may forget whose servants you distinctly are, whose ordained ministers and messengers you will be; you may look on your gifts, your studies, your daily employments, as ordinary talents and occupations, not as the direct gifts of God, and pursuits immediately devoted to His glory. Consider for a moment how varied, as well as solemn, is your future calling. As Englishmen, you will be commissioned to warn Englishmen against the dangers of colonial life, or of life in a heathen country; against the coarseness, the self-seeking, the love of gain, which defiles the one; the sin of falling away from the Gospel code of morality, which is always very near the other. As ministers of the Church of Christ, it will be your great and glorious privilege to labour in the blessed work of extending its boundaries, and preaching the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus. As individual Christians, set in positions of deep responsibility, each of you must be, like Timotheus, an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. For this high vocation, God in His mercy grants you now a quiet season of preparation; neglect therefore no means which are here [10/11] placed before you, to brace and nerve and fit you for your work, to strengthen your understanding, to animate your activity, to deepen your faith, to enlarge your charity, to enable you even in bodily things to do good to those among whom you are to labour. Regard the peaceful years of industrious repose in this place as a blessed privilege and opportunity; they will be over only too soon; they must not be wasted in sloth or indifference, or a mere common-place acquiescence in its studies and in its discipline; they must be years of willing obedience, of patient waiting, of humble but cheerful hope, of growth in knowledge and goodness, of struggling against sin, of constant and earnest prayer. To think of the variety of duties before you, is to ask almost in despair, Who is sufficient for these things? but to remember the abundance and richness of the Gospel promises, rich and abundant in proportion to the various difficulties which they are designed to meet, is to thank God and take courage, and to believe that those who truly seek Him will be prepared against any contingency by His manifold gifts of grace, by the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and ghostly strength, the spirit of knowledge and true godliness, the spirit, not of that base fear and timidity which flees from toil or danger, but of that holy fear which is the beginning of wisdom, now and for ever.


Printed at St. Augustine's College Press, Canterbury.

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