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Commentary on Timothy, Titus, Philemon
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Titus 3:1-3

1. Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,

1. Admone illos principibus et potestatibus subditos esse dicto oboedire ad omne opus bonum paratos esse

2. To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.

2. neminem blasphemare non litigiosos esse modestos omnem ostendentes mansuetudinem ad omnes homines

3. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.

3. eramus enim et nos aliquando insipientes increduli errantes servientes desideriis et voluptatibus variis in malitia et invidia agentes odibiles odientes invicem

1 Remind them to be subject to principalities and powers From many passages it is evident that the Apostles had great difficulty in keeping the common people subject to the authority of magistrates and princes. We are all by nature desirous of power; and the consequence is, that no one willingly is subject to another. Besides, perceiving that nearly all the principalities and powers of the world 256256     “Toutes des principautes et puissances du monde.” were at that time opposed to Christ they thought them unworthy of receiving any honor. The Jews especially, being an untamable race, did not cease to mutiny and rage. Thus, after having spoken of particular duties, Paul now wishes to give a general admonition to all, to observe peaceably the order of civil government, to submit to the laws, to obey magistrates. That subjection to princes, and that obedience to magistrates, which he demands, is extended to edicts, and laws, and other parts of civil government.

What he immediately adds, To be ready for every good work, may be applied to the same subject, as if he had said, “All who do not refuse to lead a good and virtuous life, will cheerfully yield obedience to magistrates.” For, since they have been appointed for the preservation of mankind, he who desires to have them removed, or shakes off their yoke, is an enemy of equity and justice, and is therefore devoid of all humanity. Yet if any prefer to interpret it without any immediate relation to the context, I have no objection; and indeed there can be no doubt that, in this sentence, he recommends to them kind offices towards their neighbors throughout their whole life.

2 To speak evil of no one He now lays down the method of maintaining peace and friendship with all men. We know that there is nothing to which the disposition of every man is more prone than to despise others in comparison of himself. The consequence is, that many are proud of the gifts of God; and this is accompanied by contempt for their brethren, which is immediately followed by insult. He therefore forbids Christians to glory over others, or to reproach them, whatever may be their own superior excellence. Yet he does not wish them to flatter the vices of wicked men; he only condemns the propensity to slander.

Not given to fighting As if he had said, “Quarrels and contentions must be avoided.” The old translation has therefore rendered it better, Not quarrelsome; for there are other ways of fighting than the sword or the fist. And from what follows it is evident that this is the meaning; for he points out the remedies for the evil, when he enjoins them to be kind, and to shew all meekness towards all men; for “kindness” is contrasted with the utmost rigor of law, and “meekness” with bitterness. If, therefore, we are disposed to avoid every kind of contentions and fighting, let us learn, first, to moderate many things by gentleness, and next to bear with many things; for they who are excessively severe and ill-tempered carry with them a fire to kindle strife.

He says, towards all men, in order to intimate that he should bear with even the lowest and meanest persons. Believers, holding wicked men in contempt, did not think them worthy of any forbearance. Such severity, which arises from nothing else than pride, Paul wished to correct.

3 For we ourselves 257257     “We ourselves, who had the oracles of God, that had greater privileges than others, were carried out with as strong an impetus naturally, till grace stopped the tide, and, after stopping, turned it against nature. When the mind was thus prepossessed, and the will made the lusts of the flesh its work and trade, there was no likelihood of any co-operation with God, in fulfilling his desires, till the bent of the heart was changed from the flesh and its principles. The heart is stone before grace. No stone can cooperate with any that would turn it into flesh, since it hath no seed, causes, or principles of any fleshly nature in it. Since we are overwhelmed by the rubbish of our corrupted estate, we can no more co-operate to the removal of it than a man buried under the ruins of a fallen house can contribute to the removal of that great weight that lies upon him. Neither would a man in that state help such a work, because his lusts are pleasures; he serves his lusts, which are pleasures as well as lusts, and therefore served with delight.” — Charnock. also were formerly foolish Nothing is better adapted to subdue our pride, and at the same time to moderate our severity, than when it is shewn that everything that we turn against others may fall back on our own head; for he forgives easily who is compelled to sue for pardon in return. And indeed, ignorance of our own faults is the only cause that renders us unwilling to forgive our brethren. They who have a true zeal for God, are, indeed, severe against those who sin; but, because they begin with themselves, their severity is always attended by compassion. In order that believers, therefore, may not haughtily and cruelly mock at others, who are still held in ignorance and blindness, Paul brings back to their remembrance what sort of persons they formerly were; as if he had said, “If such fierce treatment is done to those on whom God has not yet bestowed the light of the gospel, with equally good reason might you have been at one time harshly treated. Undoubtedly you would not have wished that any person should be so cruel to you; exercise now, therefore, the same moderation towards others.”

In the words of Paul, there are two things that need to be understood. The first is, that they who have now been enlightened by the Lord, being humbled by the remembrance of their former ignorance, should not exalt themselves proudly over others, or treat them with greater harshness and severity than that which, they think, ought to have been exercised towards themselves when they were what those now are. The second is, that they should consider, from what has taken place in their own persons, that they who to-day are strangers may to-morrow be received into the Church, and, having been led to amendment of their sinful practices, may become partakers of the gifts of God, of which they are now destitute. There is a bright mirror of both in believers, who

“at one time were darkness, and afterwards began
to be light in the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8.)

The knowledge of their former condition should therefore dispose them to συμπάθειαν fellow-feeling. On the other hand, the grace of God, which they now enjoy, is a proof that others may be brought to salvation.

Thus we see that we must be humbled before God, in order that we may be gentle towards brethren; for pride is always cruel and disdainful of others. In another passage, (Galatians 6:1,) where he exhorts us to mildness, he advises every one to remember his own weakness. Here he goes farther, for he bids us remember those vices from which we have been delivered, that we may not pursue too keenly those which, still dwell in others.

Besides, seeing that here Paul describes briefly the natural disposition of men, such as it is before it is renewed by the Spirit of God, we may behold, in this description, how wretched we are while we are out of Christ. First, he calls unbelievers foolish, because the whole wisdom of men is mere vanity, so long as they do not know God. Next, he calls them disobedient, because, as it is faith alone that truly obeys God, so unbelief is always wayward and rebellious; although we might translate ἀπειθεῖς unbelieving, so as to describe the kind of “foolishness.” Thirdly, he says that unbelievers go astray; for Christ alone is “the way” and the “light of the world.” (John 8:12; 14:6.) All who are estranged from God must therefore wander and go astray during their whole life.

Hitherto he has described the nature of unbelief; but now he likewise adds the fruits which proceed from it, namely, various desires and pleasures, envy, malice, and such like. It is true that each person is not equally chargeable with every vice; but, seeing that all are the slaves of wicked desires, although some are carried away by one and others by another desire, Paul embraces in a general statement 258258     “The Apostle speaks of what naturally we all were. This, then, is a most merciful influence that is given forth in the regenerating work. It is as if God should have said, I see those poor creatures are perishing, not only tending to hell, but carrying with them their own hell into hell, ‘hell being at last cast into hell’ (as the expression in the Revelation is.) It is a throwing hell into hell, when a wicked man comes to hell; for he was his own hell before. God, beholding this forlorn case of wretched creatures, saith, I must either renew them or lose them; I must either transform them, or they must perish: they are in the fire of hell already. Such and such we were, but of his mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing by the Holy Ghost. O! the compassionate influence that is shed upon a soul in this case! The balmy dews that descend from heaven upon a distempered soul, which quench the flames of lust, and which implant and invigorate (after their implantation) a divine principle, in-create a new life, that leads to God and Christ, and the way of holiness and heaven at last.” — Howe. all the fruits that are anywhere produced by unbelief. This subject is explained towards the close of the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans.

Moreover, since Paul, by these marks, distinguishes the children of God from unbelievers, if we wish to be accounted believers, we must have our heart cleansed from all envy, and from all malice; and we must both love and be beloved. It is unreasonable that those desires should reign in us, which are there called “various,” for this reason, in my opinion, that the lusts by which a carnal man is driven about are like opposing billows, which, by fighting against each other, turn the man hither and thither, so that he changes and vacillates almost every moment. Such, at least, is the restlessness of all who abandon themselves to carnal desires; because there is no stability but in the fear of God.


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