Copyright
Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

Faith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary online

. (page 23 of 27)
Online LibraryBenjamin Breckinridge WarfieldFaith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary → online text (page 23 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


concluding summary, added, possibly, by the
Apostle's own hand, in which the whole gist of
the First Epistle to Timothy is summed up. It is
almost as if the Apostle — after all the explanations
and exhortations in which he had instructed and
encouraged his own son in faith to perform the
great duties laid on him in errant Ephesus — had
paused suddenly and said in effect, "Hear the
sum of the whole matter. Be faithful to the Gospel
committed to you and shun all the pretentious
show of superior learning which is proving a snare
to many.'* Such an exhortation, it is manifest,
has its universal and perennial value; and is pe-
culiarly applicable to those in our situation. As
we begin another year of our intellectual prepara-
tion for the ministry of the Gospel of grace, it is
especially becoming that we should have in mind
that it will be our wisdom too, as it is manifestly
our duty, "to keep the deposit inviolate" and to
shun the worldly inanities and contradictions of
falsely so-called knowledge, by making profes-

385



386 FAITH AND LIFE

sion of which so many in every age, and in our age
too, have gone astray with respect to faith.

These latest epistles of Paul are commonly
called Pastoral because of their direct address to
the shepherds of the flock, and every word in such
an exhortation as this, in such an Epistle as this,
has a quasi-technical value. The key word among
these words is the one which I have ventured to
render after the Vulgate, "the deposit," and
which the Authorized Version deals with by means
of a paraphrase: "that which is committed to thy
trust." It does not occur very often, but it does
occur frequently enough to show that it and its
cognate verb are employed by the Apostle as a
well-known designation of the Gospel, considered
as a body of Divine truth entrusted to those whom
God has chosen as its ministers. As such, it
stands in very clear relations with another tech-
nical term employed by the New Testament writ-
ers to describe the function of the ministers of the
Gospel, — the term "witness." The Gospel is a
"deposit"; the function of the minister is, there-
fore, "witnessing." The two ideas, you see, go
necessarily together. The witness is in his es-
sential nature not a producer but a reproducer;
he is not the author of his message but its trans-
mitter; his message is, therefore, not of his own
devising but something committed to his trust, —
a deposit. I do not know where the fundamental
significance of the word "deposit" and its impli-



THE INVIOLATE DEPOSIT 387

cations as to the duty of the minister is more
richly developed than in a Fifth Century exposi-
tion of this passage, by Vincent of Lerins. His
comment is so instructive that I cannot forbear
quoting a part of it to you. "What," he asks,
"is a deposit?" "It is something," he answers,
"that is accredited to thee, not invented by thee;
something that thou hast received, not that thou
hast thought out; a result not of genius but of in-
struction; not of personal ownership but of pub-
lic tradition; a matter brought to thee not pro-
duced by thee, with respect to which thou art
bound to be not an author but a custodian, not
an originator but a bearer, not a leader but a
follower."

It is this that Paul means to emphasize when he
calls the Gospel a "deposit." I rightly say he
means to emphasize this. For he not only calls
the Gospel a "deposit," but he sets it as such in
contrast with its opposite, and that opposite
proves to be just irresponsible speculation. O
Timothy, he says, keep the deposit inviolate ! And
how is he to keep the deposit inviolate.^ "By
shunning the profane inanities and contradic-
tions of falsely so-called knowledge." You see
the contrast is precisely between the Divine de-
posit and worldly knowledge. And he describes
this worldly knowledge by epithets which are suf-
ficiently discrediting to it. It consists of a mass
of inanities and self-contradictions; it is, there-



388 FAITH AND LIFE

fore, not real knowledge but only knowledge
falsely so called. No doubt he had his eye on a
specific instance, — the nascent Gnosticism, let us
call it, which was disturbing the church at Ephe-
sus, and to rebuke and correct which Timothy
was in Ephesus. But I think that it would be
wrong to suppose that the Apostle had this ex-
clusively in mind. Rather he seems to be viewing
it as a type, of a whole class. Or, let us at once
put it as broadly as we think it lay in his own mind;
there is no reason to doubt that the Apostle would
speak in exactly these terms of any worldly knowl-
edge whatever, any form of earthly philosophy or
science, that infringed upon or sought to substi-
tute itself more or less for the "deposit" of the
Gospel of Christ. Any speculation, any philoso-
phizing, any form of learning, any scientific the-
orizing which sought to intrude itself, in the way
of modifying it in the least respect, upon the Gos-
pel of Christ, — which is a sacred deposit com-
mitted to its ministers not to dilute or to alter or
to modify, but to learn, hold, guard and preach, —
would be characterized by Paul without hesita-
tion as among the profane inanities and contra-
dictions of knowledge falsely so called.

Our memory reverts at once to the splendid
passage in the opening chapter of the First Epistle
to the Corinthians, in which Paul magnificently
contrasts the wisdom of the world with the sim-
pHcity of the message of the cross, and passion-



THE INVIOLATE DEPOSIT 389

ately declares that God has made the wisdom of
the world mere foolishness. Yes, there is pas-
sion, a holy passion, but real passion, in Paul's
renunciation of all human wisdom and declaration
that God will destroy the wisdom of the wise and
reject the prudence of the prudent. And some
of that same passion is throbbing in the vigorous
language of our present passage. Not indeed
knowledge as such, but all human knowledge as a
substitute for, or a modifying force in, the Gospel
of Christ, is to Paul a mass of mere profane inan-
ities and self-contradictions, to give oneself to
which is to miss the mark with respect to faith.
Dirt has been illuminatingly defined as matter out
of place. Any substance, no matter how previous
in itself, if out of place is nothing more or less than
just dirt. Gold-dust in your eye is just dirt; wash
it out; it is an offence there. Diamonds scattered
in your porridge are dirt; cast them out. To the
starving man seeking nourishment and life, they
are not only an offensive evil but a destructive evil.
You all know how Kjng Midas found that gold in
the wrong place could become the worst of ills.
So it is with knowledge. What, in its proper
place, is knowledge, — to be sought, loved and cher-
ished as such, to be valued and utilized for its
own good ends, — becomes knowledge falsely so
called whenever it intrudes into a place not its
own; a mass of mere inanities and self-contradic-
tions. And it is just this that Paul means here.



390 FAITH AND LIFE

He is not condemning knowledge as such. He,
too, would say with the poet —

"Who loves not knowledge? Who shall rail
Against her beauty? May she mix
With men and prosper! . . .
. . . Let her work prevail."

But just so soon as it presses beyond its mark
and presumes to substitute itself for the Gospel
of Christ, or to demand an alteration in that Gos-
pel, or a modification of it, however slight, his
righteous passion rises. Dirt! he cries, — matter
out of place! the profane inanities and self-
contradictions of falsely so-called knowledge!

"Falsely so-called knowledge" — that phrase is
his tribute to the value of real knowledge. When
thus debauched knowledge ceases to be knowledge
and becomes mere "falsely so-called knowledge."
"Profane inanities and self-contradictions,'* that
is Paul's description of what knowledge out of place
is; pressing beyond its mark to become procuress
to the lords of hell. For, says he, those that
make so much profession of such knowledge are
too often observed to miss the mark with respect
to faith. The passion that burns in these words
rises to sight everywhere in these epistles, when
the intrusion of human speculation into matters
of faith falls to be mentioned, and quite a choice
vocabulary of reprobation might be extracted
from Paul's expression of it. On the other side,
what a fervour of love is manifested for that " de-



THE INVIOLATE DEPOSIT 391

posit" which is the Gospel of God's saving grace!
He calls it in the present passage, to be sure, sim-
ply "the deposit," but I am not sure that the very
simplicity of the designation is not surcharged
with passionate devotion. "The Deposit," ''The
Deposit," ''The Deposit/' "Guard the Deposit,"
** Keep The Deposit inviolate." It is as if there
were but one deposit conceivable to him and
to those to whom he wrote. And see how he
claims it as his own, in 2 Tim. 1:12, calling it
"my deposit." "I know whom I have believed
and I am persuaded— though I fall by the way
— yet He is able to keep my deposit against that
day." To Paul his deposit was more than life
itself. Paul may go— but what then.? "The
deposit," "his deposit" is safe in the hands of
Him who committed it to him. And then, again,
two verses lower (2 Tim. 1:14), "Keep, O Tim-
othy, keep inviolate, the beautiful deposit through
the Holy Ghost that dwelleth in us." Ah, it is the
devotion of Paul for "the deposit" that makes him
speak such passionate words against that which
would supplement or adulterate it. It is its sur-
passing glory which makes dull the glory of that
which away from it would itself be glorious. The
glory of the world of intellect itself fades like that
of the face of Moses, like that of the old covenant
in the presence of the new, — by reason only of the
glory that surpasses all— the glory of that glorious
Gospel of the grace of God. It is, in a word, the



392 FAITH AND LIFE

inherent preciousness of the Gospel, not the in-
herent valuelessness of knowledge, that makes all
knowledge in contrast with it, but foolishness —
but a mass of profane inanities and self-contra-
dictions which should not be permitted to intrude
into these sacred precincts.

A practical lesson imposes itself upon us. Preach
a full-orbed, a complete Gospel. The deposit is
not yours to deal with as you will; it is another's
entrusted to your care. The deposit is not your
product to be treated as you will ; it is the creation
of another placed in your keeping. You are but
its witnesses. Bear your witness truly and bear
it fully. Keep the deposit inviolate.



THE WAY OF LIFE

Titus 3:4-7: — "But when the kindness of God, our Saviour, and
his love towards man, appeared, not by works done in righteous-
ness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved
us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy
Ghost, which he poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ
our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we might be made
heirs according to the hope of eternal life."

The short epistle to Titus contains, amid its
practical and ecclesiastical directions for the giving
of which it was written, two doctrinal statements
of quite wonderful richness and compression both of
which have been easily brought into the compass
of the passage read in your hearing this afternoon.
They differ from each other in intent and content,
as you will doubtless have observed. But they are
alike in gathering into the narrow space of a few
words the essence of the Gospel, and expressing it in
words of a singularly festal and jubilant character,
words which strike the reader as at once precise and
comprehensive, as at once theologically exact and
peculiarly fitted for public credal use.

Statements of this kind are characteristic of
these latest epistles of the Apostle Paul, which we
class together under the common title of the Pas-
toral Epistles, and which share not only the late
date but also a character appropriate to their

origin at the end of Paul's life when he was busied

393



394 FAITH AND LIFE

with consolidating and extending the churches he
had founded rather than with the first planting
of Christianity in the fresh soil of an unbelieving
world. They present the doctrines of Paul, after
they had been used, and worn round by use. They
represent the sifting down of his doctrinal expo-
sitions into compact form; their compression into
something like pebbles from the brook ready to be
flung with sure aim and to sink into the foreheads
of the Goliaths of unbelief. They represent the
form which his doctrinal expositions had taken as
current coin in the churches, no longer merely
Paul's teaching, though all of that, but the pre-
cious possessions of the people themselves, in
which they were able to give back to him a re-
sponse from their listening hearts. They are no
longer mere dialectical elaboration of the truth;
but have become forms of sound words. As such,
such passages are sometimes accompanied by a
phrase peculiar to these Pastoral Epistles, which
advertises these statements as something other
than a teacher's novel presentations of truth to as
yet untaught hearers: "This is a faithful saying."
"This is a faithful saying" — a "trustworthy say-
ing" — in other words, this is a saying well-known
among you, that has been long repeated in your
ears, that has been tested and found not wanting.
This is good coin; and "worthy," it is sometimes
added, "of all acceptation."

Our present passage is one of these "faithful



THE WAY OF LIFE 395

sayings." "Faithful is the saying," the Apostle
adds on completing it, "and concerning these
things I will that thou shouldst affirm confidently."
Thus he tells us how important, how well-con-
sidered, how final and trustworthy this statement
of truth is. Let us approach its study in a spirit
suitable to so solemn an injunction.

The first thing that we observe in the passage
is the melody that rises from it of praise to God.
It is the "kindness of God our Saviour and his
love towards men" which sets its key-note. The
special terms in which God's goodness is here
praised. His "benignity" and "philanthropy," are
due, indeed, to the context. The Apostle had just
been thinking and speaking about men; and he
could not think or speak of them as either "be-
nignant" or "philanthropic." He would have
them exhorted to be subject to those over them,
obedient, prone to good works, and averse to evil
speaking and contentiousness, gentle and meek.
But such they were not showing themselves.
Christians themselves could remember how afore-
time they lived in malice and envy, hateful and
hating one another. What could be expected
from man? WHiat a contrast when one lifted his
eyes from this scene of lust and malice and envy
and hatred — men striving with one another to
surpass each other in doing injury to their fellows
— and set them on God, to see His benignity and
philanthropy! The whole passage is pervaded by



S96 FAITH AND LIFE

the suggestion of God's kindness and humanity;
thrown out into sharp relief by its contrast with
man's malice and hatred. Nothing can be ex-
pected of or from man; but God has manifested
His benignity and philanthropy to us and by
them saved us. Man would destroy, God saves.
But there is much more than this to be said.
The passage is not only pervaded by the suggestion
of God's general goodness; it is a psalm of praise to
God for His saving love. It sings not only "Gloria
Deo " but "Soli Deo Gloria." Our salvation is its
subject. It not only ascribes salvation in its root
to God's love; it ascribes it in every one of its
details to God's loving activities and to them
alone; it ascribes its beginning and middle and
end to Him and to Him only. The various ac-
tivities that enter into our salvation are enumer-
ated; and every one of them is declared to be a
loving activity of God and of Him alone. This
passage is even remarkable in this respect. Even
in that classical passage in Ephesians, which is
designed to ascribe salvation wholly to God, and
to empty man of all ground of boasting, we have
faith, at least, mentioned: "We are saved by
grace, through faith"; though it is immediately
added: "And that not of yourselves, it is the
gift of God." But this passage leaves faith itself
to one side as not requiring mention. There are
no subjective conditions to salvation, in the sense
of conditions which we must perform in order to



THE WAY OF LIFE 397

obtain or retain salvation. It is God alone who
saves, "not by means of any works in righteous-
ness which we have done ourselves but in con-
sequence of his mercy" and of that alone. Not
even faith itself, that instrument of reception to
which salvation comes, can be conceived of as
entering causally into God's saving work. It is
He and He alone who saves; and the roots of
His saving operations are set deep in His mercy
only. If we are saved at all, it is because — ^not
that we have worked, not that we have believed, —
but that God has manifested His benignity and
philanthropy in saving us out of His mere mercy.
He has, through Jesus Christ, shed down His
Holy Spirit to regenerate and renovate us that
we might be justified "by His grace," — in other
words, gratuitously, not on the ground of our
faith, — and so be made heirs of eternal life.

Our passage empties man of all glory in the
matter of salvation and reserves all the glory to
God. But this is not because it does not know
how to distribute honour to whom honour is due.
Man has no part in the procuring or in the apply-
ing of salvation, but there are Three Persons who
have; and our passage recognizes the praise due to
each, and distributes to each Person of the Holy
Trinity the saving operations which belong to Him.
*^God . . . according to His mercy, . . . saved
us, through the washing of regeneration and re-
newal of the Holy Ghost, which He poured out on



398 FAITH AND LIFE

us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour." The
source of our salvation is to be sought in the loving
mercy of God the Father. The ground of the sav-
ing activities exerted on us is to be sought in the
work of Jesus Christ our Saviour. The agent in
the actual saving work is to be sought in the Holy
Ghost. Here are brought before us God our Lover,
Christ our Redeemer, the Spirit our Sanctifier, as
all operative in the one composite work of salva-
tion. To God the Father is ascribed the whole
scheme of salvation and the entire direction of the
saving work; it is His benignity and philanthropy
that is manifested in it; it is according to His own
mercy that He has saved us; it is He that saved
us; He saved us through the Holy Spirit; He
poured out the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ:
it is His salvation and it is He that has given it to
us. To Jesus Christ is ascribed the work of
"Saviour" by which the outpouring of the Holy
Spirit was rendered possible to God. The nature
of His work is not precisely outlined in our pas-
sage; but in the preceding passage we are told
that "He gave Himself for us, that He might re-
deem us from all iniquity." This it is that the
Son does for us. To the Holy Spirit is ascribed
the actual application of the redemption wrought
out by Christ. The items of this application are
very richly developed, and the development of
them constitutes the strength of the passage.
If we will scrutinize the items in which the ap-



THE WAY OF LIFE

plying work of the Holy Spirit is developed, we
shall perceive that they supply us with a complete
"order of salvation." We are told that God saves
us in His mere mercy, by a renovating work of
the Holy Spirit, founded on the redeeming work of
Christ; and we are told that this renovating work
of the Holy Spirit was in order that we might be
justified and so become heirs. Here the purchase
by the death of Christ is made the condition
precedent of the regeneration of the Holy Spirit;
but the action of the Holy Spirit is made the con-
dition precedent to justification and adoption. We
are bought unto God by Christ in order that we
may be brought to God by the Holy Spirit. And
in bringing us to God, the Holy Spirit proceeds by
regenerating us in order that we may be justified
so as to be made heirs. In theological language,
this is expressed by saying that the impetration of
salvation precedes its application: the whole of
the impetration, the whole of the application.
And in the application, the Spirit works by first
regenerating the soul, next justifying it, next
adopting it into the family of God, and next sanc-
tifying it. In the more vital and less analytical
language of our present passage, this is asserted
by founding the gift of the Holy Ghost upon the
work of Christ: "which He poured out upon us
richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour"; by in-
cluding in the work of the Holy Ghost, regenera-
tion, justification, adoption, and a few verses



400 FAITH AND LIFE

lower dowii, sanctification; and by declaring that
the regeneration of the Holy Spirit is "in order
that being justified we might be made heirs."

Now what are the practical fruits of this teach-
ing? The Apostle says it is faithful teaching,
which he wishes to have confidently affirmed, to
the end that they which have believed God may be
careful to maintain good works. It is encour-
aging teaching to believers to tell them that they
are not their own saviours but God is their Sav-
iour; that their salvation is not suspended on
their own works or the strength of their own faith,
but on the strength of God's love and His mercy
alone; that all Three Persons of the Trinity are
engaged in and pledged to their salvation; that
Christ's work for them is finished and they are
redeemed to God by His precious blood and are,
henceforth, God's purchased possession; that it is
not dependent on their own weakness but on the
Spirit's strength whether they will be brought into
the enjoyment of their salvation; that the Spirit
has been poured richly out upon them; that He has
begun His work of renovation within them; that
this is but the pledge of the end and as they have
been regenerated and justified, so have they been
brought into the family of God and made heirs of
eternal life. This is encouraging teaching for be-
lievers! Shall they, then, because they are saved
out of God's mercy and not out of works in right-
eousness which they have done themselves, be



THE WAY OF LIFE 401

careless to maintain good works? I trow not;
and the Apostle troweth not. Because of this,
they will now be careful "to maintain good works."
Let us see to it then that by so doing we approve
ourselves as true believers, saved by God's grace,
not out of works but unto good works, which He
hath afore prepared that we should walk in them !
This is what the Apostle would have us do.



THE ETERNAL GOSPEL

2 Tim. 1:9, 10: — "Who saved us and called us with a holy
calling, not according to our works, but according to his own pur-
pose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times
eternal, but hath now been manifested by the appearing of our
Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and
incorruption to light through the Gospel."

Second Timothy is the last letter written by
Paul. More than that, it was written during the
last days of his life. He had fought his fight and
finished his course. What had the Gospel he had
preached done for him.'^ What was his attitude
towards the salvation in Christ Jesus which he
had so long proclaimed, now that life was over and
he could look back in a detached sort of a way
over its whole course.^ Did it seem to him in those
sad disillusioning days as — scarcely worth while .^

It certainly is interesting to catch Paul's last
thoughts about the Gospel; to learn what that
Gospel was and what it was to him as the sands of
his life ran out; to compare it with the Gospel he
had grasped with such enthusiasm at the outset
and propagated with such zeal during the days of
his strength and freedom. Well, it is reassuring
to find that the Gospel Paul preached at the end
was just the same old Gospel he had embraced at
the beginning. And more than that, that it was

the same to him.

402



THE ETERNAL GOSPEL 403

Tliere is even an odd echo in the very language
he uses here to describe the Gospel of that which
he had employed in the earlier, lustier days. To
the Romans he had written that he was not
ashamed of the Gospel, because it was the power
of God unto salvation. To Timothy he gives the
exhortation not to be ashamed of the Gospel but


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 23 25 26 27

Online LibraryBenjamin Breckinridge WarfieldFaith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary → online text (page 23 of 27)