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went as a prisoner, and we are indebted to that imprisonment for several of the epistles bearing his name. After his release, in A.D. 58, but little is known of his personal history. We may, however, be sure that the eight or ten years of his remaining life would be devoted to the service of his Saviour. Believing himself a debtor to rude and barbarous nations, as well as to the civilized portions of the world, he may have spent some of these years in discharging the debt wbich he acknowledged. But we have no traditions from which we can determine the spheres in which he labored. One thing is certain, that he returned to Rome, and there received the crown of martyrdom. Long before this second visit, Christianity had gained so many converts that those who were concerned for the maintenance of heathenism became seriously alarmed at the progress of the new religion. To arrest its course, its enemies were ready to resort either to calumny or to violence,—to use either the false tongue or the hurtful sword. Incendiarism, in the burning of Rome; atheism, in renouncing the worship of the gods ; immoral practices and inhuman rites at their secret meetings; were some of the crimes imputed to them; and for the expiation of which the Roman populace demanded the shedding of their blood. The Emperor's gardens were turned into a circus, in which the calumniated Christians were publicly tortured for the gratification of their sanguinary persecutors. It was while these atrocities were being perpetrated, that Paul returned to Rome. Why he ventured back at such a time we know not; but it seems nearly certain that, soon after his arrival, he lost his liberty, and that his imprisonment was much more close and severe than it had been on the former occasion.
Timothy was then at Ephesus taking the oversight of the Church that Paul had planted there. The apostle, having but little prospect of getting to Ephesus again, desired his “son in the faith” to come to him in Rome without delay. He had not been without companions to sympathize with him in his bonds ; but they had left him one by one. Demas
had forsaken him from his love to the present world ; “Crescens was gone to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia;” so that his only remaining attendant was Luke. He wished Timothy to come and bring with him. Mark, who was now “profitable to him for the ministry," that they might comfort him in his trouble, and aid him in his work. Whether his wishes were gratified, and whether Paul and Timothy ever saw each other again, are matters on which we have no information.
This letter to Timothy was evidently written under a strong presentiment that his own end was near,—that “the time of his departure was at hand ;” and he assured his
worst that might befall him. Alluding to the custom of pouring wine on the head of the animal before it was offered in sacrifice, he said, “I am poured upon, ready to be offered;" — almost in the very act of being sacrificed in the cause of the Gospel. But to meet and alleviate the distress which such a statement would occasion, he tells Timothy what were his reflections on his past career, and what his anticipations concerning his future condition. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith : henceforth there is laid up," &c. One part of the text is strictly retrospective ; and this reference to the past is made in metaphorical terms. The second part is prospective; and to describe that prospect, the apostlé employs language which was suggested by one of the most popular customs of the ancient world.
Adopting this natural division of the text we are led to consider :
I. THE VIEW HERE GIVEN OF A LIFE THAT HAD BEEN CONSECRATED TO THE SERVICE OF Christ. To illustrate such a life, and to render the retrospect of it more vivid and clear, Paul employed the most striking and accurate similitudes. Among the ancient Romans there was a class of strong, athletic, men, called gladiators, who fought with swords in
the amphitheatre and other places, either for their own glory, or for the gratification of their numerous spectators. They are said to have originated with the Etrurians, from the custom of killing slaves and captives at the funeral pyres of the dead. In the third century before Christ they were exhibited at Rome by Marcus and Decimus Brutus, at the funeral of their father. From being confined to public funerals, they become common at entertainments and festivals ; and the combatants might be either captives or criminals who were compelled to take part in them; or freeborn citizens, who engaged in them voluntarily. We must not infer that Paul's allusion to these gladiators, whether forced or free, implied his approval of their contests. He rather intimates the contrary by calling his own conflict a “good fight.” Referring to another popular institutionthe Grecian race—he said, “I have finished my course," or more literally, the course, there being nothing in the original to require the pronoun, my. Then regarding himself as a steward, to whom a valuable deposit had been entrusted, he added, “I have kept the faith.” *
Collecting from this figurative phraseology the spiritual meaning of the apostle, we must understand him to declare that his past life had been marked by three things,—by severe conflict, by strenuous exertion, and by strict fidelity. Such should be the life of every real Christian, and especially of every devoted Christian minister. Let us consider our spiritual life in this triple view :
First : It is a severe conflict. We have to enter the lists as antagonists—to fight for our own interests, and to contend for the Divine glory. The Christian religion is preeminently pacific. Its author is “ the Prince of Peace,” and its design is to conciliate an alienated world, and to bring it into allegiance to God. Its tendency is to promote peace
* The Greek of the passage, having the article before each of the nouns, requires a rendering which would be superior both in accuracy and elegance to our common version. Thus: “I have fought the good fight ; I have finished the course : I have kept the faith."
on earth, and when it becomes universally prevalent, there will be “abundance of peace, so long as the moon endureth.” But this pacific religion is stoutly opposed, and consequently it has much to put down. It often comes into collision with “principalities and powers, with the rulers of the darkness of this world, with spiritual wickedness in high places." No man can be either its open advocate, or its earnest votary, without finding himself involved in serious warfare. This is intimated by the frequent recurrence of military language in the new Testament. Even Christ, “who is our peace,” is styled “the Captain of our salvation.” His followers are “soldiers." A complete suit of armour is provided for us, which we are to take to ourselves, and to put on, so that we may resist in the evil day, and having overcome
_“ done all” -“may stand.” This conflict was foretold in what has been considered the first promise of good to fallen man. Enmity was to be put between the seed of the serpent, and the seed of the woman, which would work and show itself by bruising the head of the one, and the heel of the other. Christ as the woman's seed, when made flesh, received the long predicted contusion. His enemies had their “hour” and seemed to prevail against Him; but He triumphed over them, and having overcome, He ascended on high, and sat down with His Father on His throne. His servants, who are left in the world to extend the kingdom which He founded, have to encounter all forms of evil, and to contend with all kinds of foes. Paul had to act the part of a moral gladiator. Even where a great door, and effectual,“ was opened to him," as a preacher, there were many adversaries. At Ephesus, to which place he was about to despatch his present epistle, he had fought with men, whom he likened to “ beasts” in the ensanguined circus—the infuriated rabble, headed by Demetrius, crying up the greatness of their goddess Diana. Other places, such as Antioch, Icopium, and Lystra, were memorable for the persecutions he had endured in them. In every city, bonds and afflictions awaited him. His common experience was that of a warrior ; his whole life was
a striving for the mastery. “Without were fightings, within were fears.”
There is but little resemblance between our outward circumstances, and those of the apostles and primitive Christians. Still, every one has a warfare to wage, and a battle to win. Besides the inner conflict—"the law in our members warring against the law of our minds”.
—we have an evil world to overcome. And the Prince of this world, who found nothing in our glorious Leader which he could successfully assail, finds much in us to give him the advantage over us. Were there no other foe to face or fear, we should surely find it no easy task to watch against his “ wiles,” to avoid his “snares," to defeat his "devices,” to repel his "accusations," and to quench his “fiery darts" !
But this fight, however it may differ in many cases, and however formidable it may prove to all who are engaged in it, is a "good fight"—the only one that is truly good, either in its origin or objects, in the mode of its prosecution, or in its final results.
Secondly : Our spiritual life is one that necessitates strenuous exertion. It is here compared to the ancient stadium, or race-course, which was not to be walked over with slow or sauntering steps, but to be run with all the energy and agility that could be put forth. John, the forerunner of our Lord, had his “course," which he properly “ fulfilled.” And Paul had his course both as a Christian and an apostle, which he desired to "finish with joy." The comparison contained in this clause of the verse is so often repeated in his writings that he evidently considered the Grecian race as the most expressive symbol of the Christian life. We are greatly mistaken as to its nature if we regard it as a calm, quiet, contemplative existence,—a passive, dormant, and indolent, state of being. We must “not sleep as do others, but watch and be sober.” Christ's servants are no sluggards—nor is it ever permitted them to be slothful. They are called to “work in his vineyard,” and are required to “ labor for the meat that endureth unto eternal life.”