Charles Simeon (1759-1836) on 1 Timothy 2:3-4

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in 1 Timothy 2:4-6



1 Tim. ii. 3, 4. God our Savior . . . will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

IT is truly lamentable to see how men, in every age, have strained and wrested the Holy Scriptures, in order to make them speak the language of their own particular creed. Some, averse to the idea that God should express his good-will to all the sinners of mankind, limit the word “all,” and make it signify nothing more than some of all descriptions and characters; whilst others run to a contrary extreme, and deduce from this expression a persuasion that none shall ever perish. It were well, if, instead of contending for human systems, and especially those of Calvin and Arminius, we were content to receive the Scriptures with the simplicity of little children: for, after all that has been said or written in support of those two most prominent systems, it is impossible to reduce the Holy Scriptures either to the one or to the other of them: for, on both hypotheses, there are difficulties which can never be surmounted, and contrarieties which man can never reconcile. It is by attempting to be wise above what is written, that we involve ourselves in all these difficulties. If we would be content to take the Scriptures as they are, and to leave the reconciling of them unto God, by whose inspiration they were written, we should find them all admirably calculated to produce the ends for which they were designed. How delightful is the truth here intimated! and how strange is it, that, instead of enjoying it, and adoring God for it, men will make it only a ground of acrimonious contention! I thank God, that all the Scriptures, whatever be their bearing, are alike acceptable to me; and that, whether they mark the sovereignty or the mercy of God, I am alike ready to prosecute them, in accordance with their plain and obvious meaning. By attending to the original, we shall often find our way clear, when, from a diversity of idiom, a translation scarcely conveys the precise idea. The passage before us, for instance, does not convey in the original any thing like a secret determination in God, but only a willingness, that all should be saved: it is precisely parallel with what is spoken by St. Peter, when he says, “God is long-suffering to us-ward; not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”1 And this is assigned as a reason why God would have us pray for all men. Our intercessions for them are pleasing and acceptable to him, because “he is willing to save all” without exception and without reserve.

In the words before us, then, we see,

I. The disposition of God towards our fallen race–

We are not to understand the text as expressing any decree, either in reference to some favored individuals, or in reference to all mankind. We have said, that it imports only a willingness to save; and that in that sense it has no limit whatever; the whole human race being objects of his tender compassion, and equally accepted of him, when they seek him in his appointed way.2

1. For all, without exception, has God given his only dear Son

[This is affirmed by our Lord himself: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”3 And with this agrees what God spoke to the Messiah by the Prophet Isaiah: “I will give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou may be my salvation to the ends of the earth.”4 With this agrees also what is spoken in immediate connection with my text: “Christ gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time 6.”5]

2. To all has he commanded also his Gospel to he preached–

[“Go into all the world,” says our Lord,” and preach the Gospel to every creature.”6 How amazing is it, that, after such a command, any should call in question the propriety of offering salvation indiscriminately to every child of man! Nor is it the mere tidings of the Gospel that we are to proclaim; but we are to “preach expressly repentance and remission of sins, in the name of Christ, to all the nations upon earth,” and to every individual under heaven.7 Wherever there is a sinner doomed to wrath, there is a person in whose ears the voice of mercy should be made to sound.]

3. Nor is there a human being whom God is not willing to receive

[What can be the meaning of that invitation, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth?”8 or of that, “Ho! every one that thirsts, come ye to the waters; come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price?”9 What can our Lord mean, when he says, “Him that comes unto me I will in no wise cast out.”10 It can import nothing less than what St. Paul has said: “There is no difference be tween the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord is rich unto all that call upon him: for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”11]

4. God has made these things the subject of the strongest possible asseveration–

[To the whole world does God appeal respecting it: “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die, says the Lord, and not that he should return from his ways and live.”12 What answer can any man, who maintains the doctrine of absolute reprobation, return to this? But, to put the matter beyond the possibility of doubt, God makes it also the subject of a solemn oath: “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?13 Verily, if such declarations determine not the point, there is no certainty in language: but if they do, in what an endearing light is God here set forth to us; and with what delight should we contemplate him under the character of “GOD OUR SAVIOR!”]

We must not, however, forget to notice,

II. The means whereby his gracious purposes are to be accomplished–

There is but one way of salvation for fallen man

[“I am the way, the truth, and the life, saith the Lord Jesus: no man comes unto the Father but by me.”14 This is plain and positive: and it is confirmed by many passages of Holy Writ, that are equally plain, and equally express: “Other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”15 And again: “There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ.”16]

And this way of salvation must be known and embraced–

[“By his knowledge,” says God, “shall my righteous servant justify many.”17 An unknown Savior is no Savior at all. There may, it is true, be different degrees of know ledge required, agreeably to the different degrees of information that we have received. The Jews, before the coming of Christ, could not be expected to have such clear views of him as we possess, because he was not then so fully revealed. As to what shall be required of the heathen, we know but little: nor is it for us to determine what God shall do respecting them. But, in relation to ourselves, the matter is clear: we must know the Savior, every one of us for ourselves: for “this is life eternal,” says our Lord, “to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.”18 On the other hand, “to them that know not God, and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, God will come to take vengeance on them” in the great and awful day.19 In confirmation of this truth, St. Peter appeals even to our own consciences:”What shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God.”20 Our text informs us, that we must “come to the knowledge of the truth,” yea, and to the acknowledgment of it also.21 In other words, we must believe in Jesus Christ for the remission of our sins, and must make him all our hope and all our salvation: then shall the blessings of grace and glory be accorded to us, and all God s purposes of love be accomplished in us.]

From hence we may SEE,

1. Whence it is that any are saved–

[To God alone must all the glory be given, if so much as one be ever admitted to the realms of bliss. For what but his love provided a Savior for us? or what but his grace ever enabled us to believe in him? Never had we “come to the knowledge of the truth,” if he had not revealed it in our hearts; nor would it ever have proved effectual for us, if his almighty power had not made use of it for the renovation and salvation of our souls. It was “He, and he alone, who of his good pleasure wrought in us either to will or do “what was acceptable in his sight.”22]

2. Whence it is that any perish–

[To none but ourselves can any blame attach in this matter. Even the most ignorant heathen are “without excuse,” because they walk not according to the light they have.23 And as for us, to whom the Gospel is revealed, our blessed Lord complains, “How often would I have gathered you, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.”24 The fault is altogether in yourselves: “ye will not come unto me, that ye may have life.”25 Yes, brethren, I testify against you this day, that whatever excuses you may now urge, when the Judge of quick and dead shall call you to account, you will be “speechless” (muzzled), even as he was who had not on the wedding-garment:26 and to all eternity will your anguish be inconceivably enhanced by this refection, that, in all you suffer, you reap only the fruit of your own obstinacy and unbelief.]

Charles Simeon, ‘Horæ Homileticæ,” in The Entire Works of the Rev. Charles Simeon (London: Printed by Richard Clay, Bread-Street-Hill, 1833), 18:493-497. [Some spelling modernized; some reformatting; footnote values modernized; footnotes original; italics original; and underlining mine.]

[Note: A simple Google search will show that Simeon is held up as an exemplar Calvinist by many strict Calvinist blogs and web-sites. Especially cited is his dialogue with Charles Wesley (for example see here).  One recent high Calvinist blogger recently described Simeon as an “avowed Calvinist.”  Postscript: For more on Simeon, see Barry Wallace’s timely comments here.]


12 Pet. iii. 9.

2Acts x. 34, 35.

3John iii. 16.

4Isai. xlix. G.

5ver. 6.

6Matt, xxviii. 9. Mark xvi. 15.

7Luke xxiv. 47.

8Isai. xlv. 22.

9Isai. lv. 1.

10John vi. 37.

11Rom. x. 12, 13.

12Ezek. xviii. 23.

13Ezek. xxxiii. 11.

14John xiv. 6.

151 Cor. iii. 11.

16Acts iv. 12.

17Isai. liii. 11.

18John xvii. 3.

192 Thess. i. 8.

201 Pet. iv. 17.


22Phil. ii. 12, 13.

23Rom. i. 20.

24Matt, xxiii. 37.

25John v. 40.

26Matt. xxii. 12. Ephimothe

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