Take heed unto thyself - This may be understood as relating to everything of a personal nature that would qualify him for his work. It may be applied to personal piety; to health; to manners; to habits of living; to temper; to the ruling purposes; to the contact with others. In relation to personal religion, a minister should take heed:
(1) that he has true piety; and,
(2) that he is advancing in the knowledge and love of God. In relation to morals, he should be upright; to his contact with others, and his personal habits, he should be correct, consistent, and gentlemanly, so as to give needless offence to none. The person of a minister should be neat and cleanly; his manners such as will show the fair influence of religion on his temper and deportment; his style of conversation such as will be an example to the old and the young, and such as will not offend against the proper laws of courtesy and urbanity. There is no religion in a filthy person; in uncouth manners; in an inconvenient and strange form of apparel; in bad grammar, and in slovenly habits - and to be a real gentleman should be as much a matter of conscience with a minister of the gospel as to be a real Christian. Indeed, under the full and fair influence of the gospel, the one always implies the other. Religion refines the manners - it does not corrupt them; it makes one courteous, polite, and kind - it never produces boorish manners, or habits that give offence to the well-bred and the refined.
And unto the doctrine - The kind of teaching which you give, or to your public instructions. The meaning is, that he should hold and teach only the truth. He was to “take heed” to the whole business of public instruction; that is, both to the matter and the manner. The great object was to get as much truth as possible before the minds of his hearers, and in such a way as to produce the deepest impression on them.
Continue in them - That is, in these things which have been specified. He was ever to be found perseveringly engaged in the performance of these duties.
For in doing this thou shalt both save thyself - By holding of the truth, and by the faithful performance of your duties, you will secure the salvation of the soul. We are not to suppose that the apostle meant to teach that this would be the meritorious cause of his salvation, but that these faithful labors would be regarded as an evidence of piety, and would be accepted as such. It is equivalent to saying, that an unfaithful minister of the gospel cannot be saved; one who faithfully performs all the duties of that office with a right spirit, will be.
And them that hear thee - That is, you will be the means of their salvation. It is not necessary to suppose that the apostle meant to teach that he would save all that heard him. The declaration is to be understood in a popular sense, and it is undoubtedly true that a faithful minister will be the means of saving many sinners. This assurance furnishes a ground of encouragement for a minister of the gospel. He may hope for success, and should look for success. He has the promise of God that if he is faithful he shall see the fruit of his labors, and this result of his work is a sufficient reward for all the toils and sacrifices and self-denials of the ministry. If a minister should be the means of saving but one soul from the horrors of eternal suffering and eternal sinning, it would be worth the most self-denying labors of the longest life. Yet what minister of the gospel is there, who is at all faithful to his trust, who is not made the honored instrument of the salvation of many more than one? Few are the devoted ministers of Christ who are not permitted to see evidence even here, that their labor has not been in vain. Let not, then, the faithful preacher be discouraged. A single soul rescued from death will be a gem in his eternal crown brighter by far than ever sparkled on the brow of royalty.
Take heed unto thyself - See that the life of God remains and the work of God prospers in thine own soul. Take heed to thy doctrine, that the matter be pure and orthodox; that thou teach nothing for truth but what God has revealed.
Continue in them - i.e., In taking heed to thyself and to thy doctrine; for this must be thy continual study. Without this, the Divine influence shall recede from thy heart, and the Divine gift from thy intellect; and, like Samson shorn of his strength, thou wilt soon become as another man, as any common man; thy power will depart from thee, and thou shalt be no longer able to persuade; the Unction shall depart from thee, and, destitute of spiritual feeling thyself, thou shalt not be able to cause others to feel. Take the apostle's advice, and thou shalt save thy own soul, and the souls of them that hear thee.
In the course of the preceding notes I have referred to Bishop Newton's opinion and application of the prophecy contained in the first five verses. Not being fully persuaded in my own, mind to what Church this, and the prophecy in the Epistle to the Thessalonians, should be applied, I produce an accredited author, who, for his Dissertations on the Prophecies, has a high and, honored name in the Church.
"I. The first thing to be considered is, the apostasy here predicted. 'Some shall depart, or rather apostatize, from the faith.' An apostasy from the faith may be either total or partial; either when we renounce the whole, or when we deny some principal and essential article of it. It is not every error, or every heresy, that is apostasy from the faith. It is a revolt in a principal and essential article, when we worship God by any image or representation, or when we worship other beings besides God, and pray unto other mediators besides the one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. This is the very essence of Christian worship, to worship the one true God, through the one true Christ; and to worship any other god, or any other mediator, is apostasy and rebellion against God and against Christ. Such is the nature of apostasy from the faith; and it is implied that this apostasy shall be general, and affect great numbers. For, though it be said only some shall apostatize, yet by some, here, many are understood. The original word frequently signifies a multitude and there are abundant instances in Scripture where it is used in that sense, as the reader may perceive from John 6:64-66; Romans 11:17; 1 Corinthians 11:5, 1 Corinthians 11:6. This apostasy may be general and extensive, and include many but not all.
"II. It is more particularly shown wherein the apostasy should consist, in the following words: Giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; or rather: `Giving heed to erroneous spirits and doctrines concerning demons.' Spirits seem to be much the same in sense as doctrines, the latter word may be considered as explanatory of the former; and error sometimes signifying idolatry, erroneous doctrines may comprehend idolatrous as well as false doctrines. But it is still farther added, for explanation, that these doctrines should be doctrines of devils or of demons, where the genitive case is not to be taken actively, as if demons were the authors of these doctrines, but passively, as if demons were the subject of these doctrines. In Jeremiah 10:8; Acts 13:12; Hebrews 6:2, the genitive case is used in this manner; and, by the same construction, doctrines of demons are doctrines about or concerning demons. This is, therefore, a prophecy that the idolatrous theology of demons, professed by the Gentiles,should be revived among Christians. Demons, according to the theology of the Gentiles, were middle powers between the gods and mortal men; and were regarded as mediators and agents between the gods and men. Of these demons there were accounted two kinds: one kind were the souls of men deified or canonized after death; the other kind were such as had never been the souls of men, nor ever dwelt in mortal bodies. These latter demons may be paralleled with angels, as the former may with canonized saints; and as we Christians believe there are good and evil angels, so did the Gentiles that there were good and evil demons. It appears then as if the doctrine of demons, which prevailed so long in the heathen world, was to be revived and established in the Christian Church. And is not the worship of saints and angels now, in all respects, the same that the worship of demons was in former times? The name only is different, the thing is essentially the same. The heathens looked upon their demons as mediators and intercessors between God and men; and are not the saints and angels regarded in the same light by many professed Christians? The promoters of this worship were sensible that it was the same, and that the one succeeded the other; and as the worship is the same, so likewise it is performed with the same ceremonies. Nay, the very same temples, the very same images, the very same altars, which once were consecrated to Jupiter and the other demons, are now reconsecrated to the Virgin Mary and other saints. The very same titles and inscriptions are ascribed to both; the very same prodigies and miracles are related of these as of those. In short, the whole almost of paganism is converted and applied to popery, the one is manifestly formed upon the same plan and principles as the other.
"III. Such an apostasy as this - of reviving the doctrines of demons, and worshipping the dead - was not likely to take place immediately, it should prevail and prosper in the latter days. The phrase of the latter times or days, or the last times or days, signifies any time yet to come; but denotes more particularly the times of Christianity. The times of Christianity may properly be called the latter times or days, or the last times or days, because it is the last of all God's revelations to mankind. Hebrews 1:1, Hebrews 1:2; 1 Peter 1:20.
"IV. Another remarkable peculiarity of this prophecy is, the solemn and emphatic manner in which it is delivered: The Spirit speaketh expressly. By the Spirit is meant the Holy Spirit of God, which inspired the prophets and apostles. The Spirit speaking expressly, may signify his speaking precisely and certainly, not obscurely and involvedly, as he is wont to speak in the prophets; or it may be said, The Spirit speaketh expressly, when he speaks in express words in some place or other of Divine writ; and the Spirit hath spoken the same thing in express words before in the prophecy of Daniel. Daniel has foretold, in express words, the worship of new demons or demi-gods; Daniel 11:38. The mauzzim of Daniel are the same as the demons of St. Paul; gods protectors, or saints protectors, defenders and guardians of mankind. This, therefore, is a prophecy, not merely dictated by private suggestion and inspiration, but taken out of the written word. It is a prophecy not only of St. Paul's, but of Daniel's too; or rather of Daniel, confirmed and approved by St. Paul.
"V. The apostle proceeds, 1 Timothy 4:2, to describe by what means and by what persons this apostasy should be propagated and established in the world. Speaking lies in hypocrisy, etc.; or rather, through the hypocricy of liars, having their conscience, etc.; for the preposition rendered in, frequently signifies through or by. Liars too, or speaking lies, cannot, possibly be joined with the original word rendered some, and that rendered giving heed, because they are in the nominative case, and this is in the genitive. Neither can it well be joined in the construction with the word rendered devils, or demons; for how can demons, or devils, be said to speak lies in hypocrisy, and to have their conscience seared, etc.? It is plain, then, that the great apostasy of the latter times was to prevail, through the hypocrisy of liars, etc. And has not the great idolatry of Christians, and the worship of the dead particularly, been diffused and advanced in the world by such instruments and agents? by fabulous books, forged under the names of the apostles and saints; by fabulous legends of their lives; by fabulous miracles, ascribed to their relics; by fabulous dreams and revelations; and even by fabulous saints, who never existed but in imagination.
"VII. The last mark and character of these men is: Commanding to abstain from meats, etc. The same lying hypocrites who should promote the worship of demons, should not only prohibit lawful marriage, but likewise impose unnecessary abstinence from meats; and these too, as indeed it is fit they should, usually go together as constituent parts of the same hypocrisy. It is as much the law of monks to abstain from meats, as from marriage. Some never eat any flesh; others only certain kinds, on certain days. Frequent fasts are the rule and boast of their orders. So lived the monks of the ancient Church; so live, with less strictness perhaps, but with greater ostentation, the monks and friars of the Church of Rome; and these have been the principal propagators and defenders of the worship of the dead, both in former and in latter times. The worship of the dead is indeed so monstrously absurd as well as impious, that there was hardly any probability of its ever prevailing in the world but by hypocrisy and lies. But that these particular sorts of hypocrisy - celibacy, under pretense of chastity; and abstinence, under pretense of devotion - should be employed for this purpose, the Spirit of God alone could foresee and foretell. There is no necessary connection between the worship of the dead, and forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats; and yet it is certain that the great advocates for this worship have, by their pretended purity and mortification, procured the greater reverence to their persons, and the readier reception to their doctrines. But this idle, popish, monkish abstinence is as unworthy of a Christian as it is unnatural to a man; it is preventing the purpose of nature, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving by believers, and them who know the truth." See Bishop Newton's Dissertations on the Prophecies; and Dr. Dodd's notes.
Which mode of interpretation is best, I shall not attempt to say: to determine the meaning of prophecies is a difficult task; and, in a case of this kind, I rather choose to trust to the judgment of others than to my own. It is to be deplored that all the preceding particulars apply but too well to the corruptions in the Romish Church, therefore to it they appear peculiarly applicable. But whether God had this Church alone in view, I dare not affirm.
If we desire to reform others we must ourselves practice the principles which we would enforce upon them. Words, however good, will be powerless if contradicted by the daily life. Ministers of Christ, I admonish you: “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine.” Do not excuse sins in yourselves which you reprove in others. If you preach on meekness and love, let these graces be exemplified in your own life. If you urge others to be kind, courteous, and attentive at home, let your own example give force to your admonitions. As you have received greater light than others, so is your responsibility increased. You will be beaten with many stripes if you neglect to do your Master's will. 5T 160.1
Satan's snares are laid for us as verily as they were laid for the children of Israel just prior to their entrance into the land of Canaan. We are repeating the history of that people. Lightness, vanity, love of ease and pleasure, selfishness, and impurity are increasing among us. There is need now of men who are firm and fearless in declaring the whole counsel of God; men who will not sleep as do others, but watch and be sober. Knowing as I do the great lack of holiness and power with our ministers, I am deeply pained to see the efforts for self-exaltation. If they could but see Jesus as He is, and themselves as they are, so weak, so inefficient, so unlike their Master, they would say: If my name may be written in the obscurest part of the book of life, it is enough for me, so unworthy am I of His notice. 5T 160.2
It is your work to study and to imitate the Pattern. Was Christ self-denying? so must you be. Was He meek and lowly? so must you be. Was He zealous in the work of saving souls? so must you be. Did He labor to promote the glory of His Father? so must you. Did He often seek help from God? so must you. Was Christ patient? so will you be patient. As Christ forgave His enemies, so will you forgive. 5T 160.3Read in context »
16. “Take Heed Unto Thyself.”—“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine.” Thyself needs the first attention. First give yourself to the Lord for sanctification to His service. A godly example will tell more for the truth than the greatest eloquence unaccompanied by a well-ordered life. Trim the lamp of the soul, and replenish it with the oil of the Spirit. Seek from Christ that grace, that clearness of comprehension, which will enable you to do successful work. Learn from Him what it means to labor for those for whom He gave His life. The most talented worker can do little unless Christ is formed within, the hope and strength of the life (The Review and Herald, August 19, 1902). 7BC 916.1Read in context »
Preaching and Practicing—At this period of time every minister of Christ is to heed the charge Paul gave to Timothy, “Take heed unto thyself,” to your character, your words, your conduct, “and unto the doctrine” [1 Timothy 4:16]. The minister must practice the doctrine he preaches, else he needs that someone should teach him the first principles of pure doctrine.... VSS 304.2Read in context »
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. 1 Timothy 4:16. TMK 177.1
Some seem to think that there is a certain amount of virtue in expressing their dissatisfaction in whatever is being done by others.... TMK 177.2Read in context »