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it is an offering unto God; or if he considers it as a removal from his labours, a departure to a better and heavenly country. The aged Apostle, indeed, well knew that he was about to suffer by the hand of violence; but this moved him not. In describing this event, he bestows not a word on the external instruments of his death, nor even on its peculiar nature: he looks only to the cause for which he was to suffer, and the acceptance and grace of his Saviour. His martyrdom was in this view the pouring out of a libation on a sacrifice3; a sacred act; a part of his religious devotion. He seems to speak of it with the noble dedication of mind which he expresses in another passage, None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself; for whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord's. Or rather in the still more triumphant tone of his language to the Philippian converts: Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you alls. Every Christian, it is true, presents his body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is his reasonable service; but the martyr who seals his doctrine with his blood, may, with a peculiar emphasis,
1 Ἐγὼ γὰρ ἤδη σπένδομαι.
5 Phil. ii. 17.
Rom. xiv. 7, 8.
6 Rom. xii. 1.
be described as offered unto God. Such a sacrifice is not indeed the ransom of our souls, the expiation of our sins, or the meritorious cause of our justification:-in this higher import our Lord and Saviour hath by one offering perfected for ever them that are sanctified" ;—but it is an example of patience, it is an act of fidelity, it is a confirmation of the truth of the Gospel, it is a great and acceptable proof of our love to Christ, it is a consecration, in the most trying exigency, of our bodies and souls to his service. In this view, death, however violent, is stripped of its ordinary character; it becomes a sacred and voluntary offering unto God, on which the sufferer at the time may look with cheerfulness, and the surviving church afterwards with joy.
For in truth, if we consider the removal of the Apostle from the present scene of things, it was only his departure to a purer and happier world. He speaks not of it as a privation or a banishment. It is the sojourner who, having tarried for a season, takes up his tent at the time appointed, and moves onward to another place. It is a child who has been in exile and under sufferings and afflictions, and who is now recalled to his father's house. It is the stranger and pilgrim whose home is not on earth, who has long been expecting the time of his de
parture to a better country, that is, an heavenly, and who, receiving at length the notice of his dismissal, hails the summons with unspeakable complacency. The expression marks a holy contempt of death. It is in the same spirit that our Apostle speaks in his Epistle to the Corinthians: We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. St. Peter also has a similar sentiment, when he says, in his second Epistle, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me. Thus is death overcome by faith. Whatever pains or sufferings may attend it, it is only an offering of obedience and devotion to God; whatever separations it may occasion, it is only a removal to heavenly mansions. The Apostle speaks of it in either view with composure and even cheerfulness, according to his earnest expectation and his hope, that in nothing he should be ashamed; but with all boldness, as always, so then also, Christ should be magnified in his body, whether it were by life or by death. All the ill that death could do him, was to release the soul from
8 Heb. xi. 16.
2 Peter, i. 13, 14.
92 Cor. v. 1.
2 Phil. i. 20.
the tenement and prison of the body, that it might escape to its proper home, to detach and disentangle it from the confinement, the sorrows, and the temptations of time, that it might weigh anchor from these tempestuous shores, and launch into the peaceful ocean of eternity.
2. But it is not merely the calmness with which the Apostle speaks of death, that was to excite Timothy to the more strenuous discharge of his duties; the grateful exultation which he expresses in looking back on the whole period of his labours, is to have a similar effect.—I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith. This is triumphant language; but let it not be supposed that it is in the slightest degree the language of vain-glory: no, the occasion demanded it: it is the charity of an Apostle who encourages his disciple; it is the tenderness of a father who consoles his
; it is the gratitude of a Christian who renders glory to God. The Apostle was now in the hands of a cruel and capricious tyrant. He had seen himself deserted by his friends in his greatest extremity 3; a violent death was before him. In this situation, he solemnly reviews his past conduct. And what is the result? Does he betray the secret consciousness of guilt? Does he intimate the slightest suspicion of the weak
3 2 Tim. iv. 16, 17.
ness of his cause? On the contrary, does he not, in the words before us, upon the most calm and deliberate survey, triumph in the part he has acted, and earnestly recommend it to his beloved pupil to follow his example in espousing the same glorious design, even at the hazard of similar sufferings? In this view these expressions are as sublime as they are appropriate and consolatory.
The allusion in the two first members of the sentence is to the well-known Grecian games; and in the third, to the fidelity of one who guards a deposit; he had fought the good fight, as a combatant; he had finished his course, as a racer; he had kept the faith, as one intrusted with a valuable charge.
St. Paul had, from the time when Christ had called him to the Apostleship, fought the good and honourable fight 5. As a Christian he had valiantly contended against sin and Satan. He had waged war against his old habits, and his inward disorders of mind and temper; he had been engaged in subduing the whole body of sin; he had wrestled against the snares and assaults of Satan, and the frowns and seductions of the world. As an Apostle, also, he had at Christ's command entered on the combat against the kingdom of darkness, and had struggled, by
4 See Doddridge Intr. to 2 Tim.
5 Τὸν ἀγῶνα τον καλὸν