22. Lay not hands suddenly on any man. There can be no doubt that he intended to guard Timothy against ill — will, and to obviate many complaints, which are continually arising against the godly servants of Christ, who refuse to comply with the ambitious requests of any. For some accuse them of sternness; others of envy; and some exclaim that they are cruel, because they do not at once receive those who boast of having some recommendatory qualities. This is what we abundantly experience in the present day. Paul therefore exhorts Timothy not to lay aside judicious caution, and not to suffer himself to be overpowered by improper feelings; not that Timothy needed such an admonition, but to restrain, by his authority, those who otherwise might have given annoyance to Timothy,
First, the “laying on of hands” means Ordination: fa109 that is, the sign is put for the thing signified; for he forbids him to receive too easily any one that has not been fully tried. There are some who, through a desire of novelty, would wish to receive into the ministerial office, some person hardly at all known, as soon as he has given one or two exhibitions that are reckoned good. It is the duty of a wise and thoughtful bishop, to resist this troublesome feeling, in the same manner as Paul here bids Timothy do.
Neither partake of other men’s sins. He means that he who consents to an unlawful act of ordination is involved in the same guilt as the chief actors in it. Yet some explain it thus: “If he admit unworthy persons, whatever faults they may afterwards commit, to him will be imputed the blame or a part of the blame.” But I think that this is a more simple view of it: “Though others rush forth to such rashness, do not make thyself a partaker with them, lest thou share in their guilt.” Even where our judgment is otherwise sound, it often happens that we are carried away by the folly and levity of others. fa110
Keep thyself pure. I consider this also to have the same reference as the preceding clause. As if he had said, “If others do anything that is wrong, beware lest any contagion reach you, either by consent or by approbation. If you cannot hinder them from polluting themselves, it is at least your duty to have your counsels at all times separated from theirs, so that you may keep yourself pure.” If any prefer to view it as a general statement, let him enjoy his opinion; but, for my own part, I reckon it to be more suitable to limit it to the present context.
23. No longer drink water. There are some who conjecture that this sentence, which breaks off the train of thought, was not written by Paul. But we see that Paul was not so anxious about keeping up the close connection of a discourse, and that it was very customary with him to intermingle a variety of statements without any arrangement. Besides, it is possible that what had been formerly written in the margin of the Epistle afterwards found its way into this passage through the mistake of the transcribers. Yet there is no necessity for giving ourselves much trouble on that point, if we consider Paul’s custom, which I have mentioned, of sometimes mingling various subjects.
What is said amounts to this, that Timothy should accustom himself to drink a little wine, for the sake of preserving his health; for he does not absolutely forbid him to “drink water,” but to use it as his ordinary beverage; and that; is the meaning of the Greek word uJdropotei~n.
But why does he not simply advise him to drink wine? For when he adds, a little, he appears to guard against intemperance, which there was no reason to dread in Timothy. I reply, this was rather expressed, in order to meet the slanders of wicked men, who would otherwise have been ready to mock at his advice, on this or some such pretext: “What sort of philosophy is this, which encourages to drink wine? Is that the road by which we rise to heaven?” In order to meet jeers of this kind, he declares that he provides only for a case of necessity; and at the same time he recommends moderation.
Now it is evident that Timothy was not only frugal, but even austere, in his mode of living; so much so as even not to take care of his health; and it is certain that this was done, neither through ambition nor through superstition. Hence we infer, that not only was he very far from indulging in luxury and superfluities, but that, in order that he might be better prepared for doing the work of the Lord, he retrenched a portion even of his ordinary food; for it was not by natural disposition, but through a desire of temperance, that he was abstemious.
How few are there at the present day, who need to be forbidden the use of water; or rather how many are there that need to be limited to drink wine soberly! It is also evident how necessary it is for us, even when we are desirous to act right, to ask from the Lord the spirit of prudence, that he may teach us moderation. Timothy was, indeed, upright in his aims; but, because he is reproved by the Spirit of God, we learn that excess of severity of living was faulty in him. At the same time a general rule is laid down, that, while we ought to be temperate in eating and drinking, every person should attend to his own health, not for the sake of prolonging life, but that, as long as he lives, he may serve God, and be of use to his neighbors.
And if excessive abstinence is blamed, when it brings on or promotes diseases, how much more should superstition be avoided? What judgment shall we form as to time obstinacy of the Carthusians, fa111 who would sooner have died than taste the smallest morsel of flesh in extreme necessity? And if those who live sparingly and soberly are commanded not to injure their health by excessive parsimony, no slight punishment awaits the intemperate, who, by cramming their belly, waste their strength. Such persons need not only to be advised, but to be kept back from their fodder like brute beasts.
24. The sins of some men are visible beforehand. As there is nothing that distresses more the faithful ministers of the Church, than to see no way of correcting evils, and to be compelled to endure hypocrites, of whose wickedness they are aware and to be unable to banish from the Church many who are destructive plagues, or even to hinder them from spreading their venom by secret arts; fa112 Paul supports Timothy by this consolation, that, when it shall please God, they,’ will one day be brought to public view. Thus he strengthens him for the exercise of patience; because he ought calmly to await the fit time which God in his wisdom has appointed.
There is another kind of base conduct that sorely distresses good and holy pastors. When they have most conscientiously discharged their duty, they are provoked by many unfair statements, are loaded with much ill — will, and perceive that those actions which deserved praise are turned into blame. Paul meets this case also, by informing Timothy, that there are some good works which are reserved for being brought to light at a future period; and consequently that, if their praise is, as it were, buried under ground by the ingratitude of men, that also ought to be patiently endured, till the time of revelation have arrived.
Yet not only does he provide a remedy for these evils, but, because it often happens that we are mistaken in choosing ministers, unworthy persons insinuating themselves cunningly, and the good being unknown to us; and even though we do not go wrong in judging, but still cannot bring others to approve of our judgment, the most excellent being rejected, notwithstanding all our efforts to the contrary, while bad men either insinuate or force themselves forward; it is impossible that our condition and that of the Church should not occasion great anguish. Accordingly, Paul strenuously endeavors to remove, or at least to alleviate, this cause of uneasiness. The meaning may be thus summed up. “We must bear what cannot be immediately corrected; we must sigh and groan, while the time for the remedy is not fully come; and we must not apply force to diseases, till they are either ripened or laid open. On the other hand, when virtue does not receive the honor which it deserves, we must wait for the full time of revelation, and endure the stupidity of the world, and wait quietly in darkness till the day dawn.”
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