on 1-timothy 5 :25
Likewise also the good works of some - Though those who are very holy and very useful in the Church cannot be unknown, yet there are others not less holy who need to be brought forward; who do much good in private; and their character and good works are not fully known till after diligent inquiry. These are they who do not let their left hand know what their right doeth.
1. After so long and minute an examination of the subjects in this chapter, little remains to be said in the way of farther and more satisfactory explanation. The whole account concerning the widows, who they were, and what their provision, and what their occupation, and how supported, are to me questions of considerable difficulty. In the notes I have given the best account of the different subjects in my power. If the reader be satisfied and edified, I have gained my end.
2. On the subject of the imposition of hands, or what is vulgarly but improperly called ordination, I have not said much here, having given my views of the subject elsewhere in these notes. See on 1 Timothy 3:1 (note), etc. I must again state my conviction that what is said on this subject in this chapter, and indeed in the epistle, is rather to be understood prophetically; and to have been intended for a much lower age of the Christian Church. That any person should, from impure or secular motives, desire to be appointed to the ministerial office at such a time, when poverty and persecution were the least they would reasonably expect, to me seems altogether inexplicable. But that many, after the Church got accredited and established, and an ample revenue appointed for its ministers by emperors and kings, should wish to get into the priesthood for its emoluments, is a melancholy truth, which every year's experience testifies. To those who have the authority from the state to appoint ministers for the Church, this chapter reads a solemn and awful lesson. And not to them only, but to all who have the appointment of ministers or preachers in every sect and party. How few are there who would kindle a fire on God's altar were there not secular emoluments attending it! I am afraid the Scottish poet spoke the truth who said: -
"'Tis gow'd maks sogers feight the fiercer,
Without it, preaching wad be scarcer."
Gold or money is the primum mobile through every department of life. Proh dolor!
on 1-timothy 5 :25
Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand - The character of some people is clear, and accurately understood. There can be no doubt, from their works, that they are good people. We need not wait for the day of judgment to determine that, but may treat them here as good men, and introduce them to offices which only good men can fill. The idea here is that their character may be so certain and undoubted that there need be no hesitation in setting them apart to the office of the ministry.
And they that are otherwise cannot be hid - That is, they cannot be ultimately concealed or misunderstood. There are arrangements in the divine government for bringing out the character of every man so that it may be clearly understood. The expression here refers to good men. The idea is, that there are some good men whose character is known to all. Their deeds spread a glory around them, so that no one can mistake what they are. They correspond, in respect to the publicity of their character with those mentioned in 1 Timothy 5:24, whose "sins are open beforehand;" for the good deeds of the one are as manifest as the sins of the other. But there are those who are "otherwise." They are modest, retiring, unobtrusive, unknown. They may live in obscurity; may have slender means for doing good; may be constitutionally so diffident that they never appear on the stage of public action. What they do is concealed from the world. These correspond in respect to publicity with those mentioned in 1 Timothy 5:24, "whose deeds follow after them." Yet, says the apostle, these cannot always be hid. There are arrangements for developing every man's character, and it will be ultimately known what he is. The connection here, seems to be this. As Timothy 1 Timothy 5:24 was to be on his guard in introducing men into the ministry, against those whose character for evil was not developed, but who might be concealing their plans and practicing secret sins, so he was to endeavor to search out the modest, the unobtrusive, and those who, though now unknown, were among the excellent of the earth, and bring them forward to a station of usefulness where their virtues might shine on the world.
Apart from the reference of this beautiful passage 1 Timothy 5:24-25 to the ministry, it contains truth important to all:
(1) The character of many wicked people is now clearly known. No one has any doubt of it. Their deeds have gone before them, and are recorded in the books that will be open at the judgment. They might even now be judged without the formality of appearing there, and the universe would acquiesce in the sentence of condemnation.
(2) the character of many wicked people is concealed. They hide their plans. They are practicing secret iniquity. They do not mean that the world shall know what they are. More than half the real depravity of the world is thus concealed from human view, and in regard to more than half the race who are going up to the judgment there is an entire mistake as to their real character. If all the secret wickedness of the earth were disclosed, no one would have any doubt about the doctrine of human depravity.
(3) there is a process steadily going forward for bringing out the real character of people, and showing what they are. This process consists, first, in the arrangements of Providence for developing their character here. Many a man, who was supposed to be virtuous, is shown, by some sudden trial, to have been all along a villain at heart. Many a minister of the gospel, a lawyer, a physician, an officer in a bank, a merchant, whose character was supposed to stand fair, has been suffered to fall into open sin, that he might develope the long-cherished secret depravity of his soul. Secondly, the process will be completed on the final trial. Then nothing will be concealed. Every man will been seen as he is. All they whose characters were understood to be wicked here, will be seen then also to be wicked, and many who were supposed on earth to have a good character, will be seen there to have been hollow-hearted and base hypocrites.
(4) every man in the last day will be judged according to his real character. No one, however successful he may have been here, can hope to practice a deception on his final Judge.
(5) there is a fitness and propriety in the fact that there will be a final judgment. Indeed, there must be such a judgment, in order that God may be just. The characters of people are not fully developed here. The process is not completed. Many are taken away before their schemes of iniquity are accomplished, and before their real characters are understood. If they were to live long enough on the earth, their characters would be ultimately developed here, but the divine arrangement is, that man shall not live long here, and the development, therefore, must be in the future world.
(6) the modest, the retiring, the humble, and those here unknown, will not be overlooked in the last great day. There is much good, as there is much evil in the world, that is now concealed. There are many plans of benevolence formed which they who formed them are not permitted to complete; many desires of benefiting others are cherished which there are no means of gratifying; many a deed of kindness is performed which is not blazoned abroad to the world; and many a wish is entertained for the progress of virtue, the freedom of the enslaved, the relief of the oppressed, and the salvation of the world, which can find expression only in prayer. We are not to suppose then that all that is concealed and unknown in the world is evil.
(7) there will be amazing developments in the last great day; and as it will then be seen in the revelations of the secret deeds of evil that human nature is corrupt, so it will be seen that there was much more good in the world than was commonly supposed. As a large portion of the wickedness of the earth is concealed, so, from the necessity of the case, it is true that no small portion of the goodness on earth is hidden. Wickedness conceals itself from shame, from a desire better to effect its purposes, from the dread of punishment; goodness, from its modesty, its retiring nature, and from the want of an opportunity of acting out its desires; but whatever may have been the cause of the concealment, in all cases all will be made known on the final trial - to the shame and confusion of the one class; to the joy and triumph of the other.
on 1-timothy 5 :25
5:25 They that are otherwise - Not so manifest. Cannot be long hid - From thy knowledge. On this account, also, be not hasty in laying on of hands.