I’m finally on Easter Break! You know what that means? I get to read! So, I’m reading a sermon by John Calvin called Pure Preaching of the Word, and I have found it to be especially enlightening in light of recent arguments about Heaven and Hell. This is a hefty passage from the sermon, but I think that you’ll find yourself enjoying what Calvin has to say. May the Gospel of Christ on the Cross, his resurrection and gift of the Holy Spirit refresh and renew you this season.
2 Timothy 2:16, 17, 18
But shun profane and vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymeneus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
We have already shown that St. Paul hath, not without cause, diligently exhorted Timothy to follow the pure simplicity of the word of God,without disguising it. The doctrine which is set forth to us in God’s name, to be the food of our souls, will be corrupted by the devil, if in his power : when he cannot destroy it, he blendeth things with it, in order to bring it into contempt, and destroy our knowledge of the will of God. There are many at this day, who put themselves forward to teach: and what is the cause of it? Ambition carrieth them away: they disguise the word of God: and thus satan goeth about to deprive us of the spiritual life.
But this he is notable to accomplish, unless by some means the doctrine of God be corrupted. St. Paul repeateth the exhortation; that we must shun all unprofitable babbling, and stay ourselves upon plain teaching, which is forcible. He not only condemneth manifest errours, superstition, and lies, but he condemneth the disguising of the word of God: as when men invent subtleties, to cloy men’s ears; bringing no true nourishment to the soul, nor edification in faith, and the fear of God, to the hearers. .
When St. Paul speaketh of vain babbling, he meaneth that which contenteth curious men; as we see many that take great pleasure in vain questions* wherewith they seem to be ravished. They do not openly speak against the truth, but they despise it as a thing too common end base; as a thing for children and fools; as for them, they will know some higher and more profound matter. Thus they are at variance with that which would be profitable for them. Therefore, let us weigh well the words of St. Paul; vain babbling; as though he said, if there be nothing but fine rhetoric, and exquisite words, to gain him credit that speaketh, and to show that he is well learned, none of this should be received into the church; all must be banished.
For God will have his people to be edified; and he hath appointed his word for that purpose. Therefore, if we go not about the salvation of the people, that they may receive nourishment by the doctrine that is taught them, it is sacrilege: for we pervert the pure use of the word of God. This word profane, is set against that which is holy and dedicated to God. Whatsoever pertaineth to the magnifying of God, and increases our knowledge of his majesty, whereby we may worship him: whatsoever draweth us to the kingdom of heaven, or taketh our affections from the world, and leadeth us to Jesus Christ, that we may be grafted into his body, is called holy.
On the contrary, when we feel not the glory of God, when we feel not to submit ourselves to him, when we know not the riches of the kingdom of heaven, when we are not drawn into his service to live in pureness of conscience, when we know not what the salvation meaneth which was purchased by our Lord Jesus Christ, we belong to the world, and are profaned. The doctrine which serves to mislead us in such things, is also called profane. Thus we see what St. Paul’s meaning is: to wit, when we come together in the name of God, it is not to hear merry songs, and to be fed with wind ; that is, with vain and unprofitable curiosity; but to receive spiritual nourishment. For God will have nothing- preached in his name, but that which will profit and edify the hearers; nothing but that which containeth good matter.
But it is true, our nature is such, that we take great pleasure in novelty, and in speculations which seem to be subtle. Therefore, let us beware, and think as we ought; that we may not profane God’s holy word: Let us seek that which edifieth, and not abuse ourselves by receiving that which hath no substance in it. It is hard to withdraw men from such vanity, because they are inclined to participate in it: But St. Paul showeth, that there is nothing more miserable than such vain curiosity: ««For they will increase unto more ungodliness.” As if he had said, my friends, you know not at first sight what hurt cometh by these deceivers; who go about to gain credit and estimation among you, and with pleasant toys endeavour to please you: but believe me, they are satan’s instruments; and such as in no wise serve God; but increase unto more wickedness: that is, if they are let alone, they will mar the christian religion; they will not leave one jot safe and sound. Therefore, see that you flee them as plagues; although – at first sight, the poison which they bring be not perceived.
Every one of us should suspect himself, when we have to judge of this doctrine. And why so? Because, (as I said before,) we are all weak; our minds are altering and changing; and besides, we have a foolish desire that draweth to things which are unprofitable. And therefore let us beware that we do not satisfy our own desires. Although this doctrine may not seem bad to us at the first view, yet notwithstanding, if it has not a tendency to lead us to God, and strengthen us in his service, to confirm us in the faith and hope that is given us of everlasting life, it will deceive us in the end; and prove to be but a mixture which serveth no purpose, except to take away the good which we had received before.
To be short, those that have not this in view, to draw the world to God, and build up the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he may rule among us, mar all. All the labour and pains they take, but increases their wickedness: and if they be suffered to go on in this way, a gate is set open to satan, whereby he may bring to nought whatsoever is of God: although this is not done at the first blow, yet we see the end is such. To express this the better, St. Paul adds, “Their word will eat as doth a canker.”
‘The word “eat,” mentioned here, is not commonly understood; it is what the chirurgeons call, on eating sore; and what is also called, St. Anthony’s fire: that is to say, when there is such an inflammation in any part of the body, that the sore eateth not only the flesh and sinews, but the bones also; in short, it is a fire that devoureth all: the hand will cause the arm to be lost, and the foot the leg ; unless at the beginning, the part that is affected be cut off: thus, the man is in danger of losing his members, unless there be fit remedies provided for it; in this case we should spare no pains, but cut off the part affected, that the rest be not utterly destroyed.
Thus we view it here. spiritually: for St. Paul showeth us, that although we may have been well instructed in wholesome doctrine, all will be marred, if we give place to these unprofitable questions, and only endeavour to please the hearers, and feed their desires. Seeing we understand what St. Paul’s meaning is, let us endeavour to put this exhortation into practice. When we see men go about, endeavouring to turn us aside from the true doctrine, let us shun them, and shut the gate against them. Unless we take it in hand at the first start, and entirely cut it off, it may be as difficult to control, as the disease of which we have spoken.
Therefore, let us not be sleeping; for this is a matter of importance; it will prove a deadly disease, unless it be seen to in time. If this exhortation had been observed, things would be in a better condition at the present day in Christendom. For this doltishness of papistry, is but the vain babbling spoken of by St. Paul. Even those who would be counted the greatest doctors among them, who are of many years standing, yea, and have spent their whole life in it, think upon nothing but foolish prattling; which serveth no other purpose than to lead men astray: as no man knoweth what they mean. It seemeth that the devil hath forged this language by a miraculous subtlety, in order that he might bring all doctrine into confusion.
It is plainly perceived that they have conspired to do contrary to that which St. Paul hath in God’s name forbidden. For they that have thus turned the word of God into a profane language of barbarous and unknown words, shall be much less able to excuse themselves. Many there are that would gladly have pleasant things taught them ; they would make pastime of the word of God, and recreate themselves thereby; thus they seek vain and unprofitable teaching. They would bring errour, contention, and debate into the church, and endeavour to bring the religion we hold into doubt, and obscure the word of God.
Therefore we must be so much the more earnest to serve God, and continue constantly in the pureness of the gospel. If we have a desire to obey our God as we ought, we must practise that which is commanded us, and pray him to cleanse the church from these plagues; for they are the devil’s instruments. This might be applied to all corruptions and stumbling-blocks invented by the devil; but it is here spoken of, concerning the doctrine whereby we are quickened; which is the true food of the soul.
Hope you enjoyed that.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.