1 Timothy 1:15. — This is a true saying, and by all means worthy to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of which I am chief.


LL our happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and God makes himself especially known in his word, and the summary pith of all his word is the Gospel, and the very centre of all the Gospel is this one sweet sentence, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. The which our Apostle does here first amplifies, calling it a true saying and a worthy: then apply, of whom I am chief. So that in the whole text three points are principally remarkable.

1. A preface, This is a true saying, and by all means worthy to be received.

2. A proposition, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

3. An assumption, or application, of whom I am chief.

The preface is double, commending unto our consideration and care, first the soundness of this saying, it is true: secondly, the sweetness of this saying, it is worthy to be rescued by all mean, or (as our new translation reads) it is worthy of all acceptation. Nothing is delivered more truly, nothing embraced more comfortably, in itself it is faithful, unto us it is fruitfull, [1] Every true saying is not acceptable, so [Gal. 4:16] S. Paul insinuates unto the Galatians, Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? but these words are not only faithful and true, as [2] S. John avowed of his Apocalypse: but also good words and comfortable words, as [Zech. 1:13] Zechariah speaks of his prophecy: [3] pleasing to the understanding, as being a true saying; and pleasing to the will, as being an acceptable saying.

For the first, it is assuredly true, because Truth itself said it, Mat. 9:13; Mark 2:17. I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. This often was his word, and this always was his work. For as [4] Ambrose pithily, Pro me, & in me doluit, quipro se nihil habuit quod doleret. He cried in the cradle, not for himself, but for us: he wept a great many times in his life, not for himself, but for us: he did endure many bitter words, and more bitter wounds at his death, not for himself, but for us. In a word, all that he did, all that he said, all that he suffered, all his obedience both active and passive, tended only [Luke 19:10] to seek and to to save that which was lost: he was [[980]] wounded for our transgressions, and broken for our iniquities, and by his stripes are we healed Isaiah 53.5. If the sacrifices of the Law be true, if the Sacraments of the Gospel be true, if the predictions of the holy Prophets be true, if the preaching of the blessed Apostles be true, if Christ himself, yea God himself, be true; then undoubtedly this saying is true, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.

As it is a sure saying in itself, so worthy to be rescued of us, and that in respect of it own self as [5] being truth; and in respect. of ourselves, as concerning that which above all other things concerns us most, even the saving of our souls. It is a conclusion of antiquity, that the death of Christ is in it self sufficient to redeem the sins of the whole world, yea of as many worlds as there be men in the world: but it is not efficient unto any, but only to such as by faith apprehend it, He that believe in him (as the [John 3:16] text tells us expressly) shall not perish, he that [Matt. 11:28] comes unto him, in his agony groaning under the burden of his sin, shall be refreshed. It is true that God’s mercy is the salve of our misery, but a medicine neither heals nor helps, until it be well applied. Albeit Jesus be the God of our [Psa. 25:4] salvation, our [Jer. 23:6] righteousness, our sanctification and redemption, 1 Cor. 1.30; yet Jesus is no Jesus unto us, except faiths hand [Rom. 13:14] put on Christ and his [Psa. 45:10] garment of holiness to [Psa. 32:1] coner all your unrighteousness. This saying then ought to be rescued, and that as Paul here, by all means.

Now the means are principally two, namely, the sacred Word, and the blessed Sacraments. For the Scriptures are our evidences, and the Sacraments are the seals of this assurance. [John 5:39] Search the word diligently, for that witness’ of him; and come to his blood frequently, for there we may taste and see what he did for us, and that he died for us. The pouring out of the wine lively representing the shedding of his precious blood, and the breaking of the bread lively representing the renting of his body for our sake, for our sin.

This preface then (as [6] Caluin observes) is like the sounding of a trumpet before the publication of some notable thing, to stir up the better audience, that we may not only here, but heed also what is said. Well, the trumpet has sounded, hearken attentively now to that which is here proclaimed by the Spirit of God: It is a general pardon, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners: and a particular application of this pardon, of whom I am chief.

Concerning the general pardon and proposition, it is a demonstration of God’s unspeakable love towards mankind. So the text, John 3:16; God so loved the world. How much his so was, albeit I could speak with the tongues of men and Angels, I were not able to report. But there be three degrees of love in God’s sending, and in Christ’s coming into the world,

1. It was great love that made him come into the world, great love that made him [Isa. 64:1] break the heavens, and so come from the bosom of his Father into the womb of his mother, great love that made him who thundered in the clouds and had heaven for his throne, to be swaddled in clouts, and to be crowded in a cratch.

2. Greater love that he came into the world not only to see, but also to save, to visit and redeem, as Zechariah sings in his hymn.

3. Greater! and highest love that he came to save, not the righteous, but sinners, ἁμαρτωλός notorious and chief sinners, [7] even such as the Publicans, and the woman taken in adultery. Doubtless one will scarce die for a righteous man: but yet for a good man it may be (says our [Rom. 5:7, 8] Apostle) that one dare die: but God sets out his love towards, seeing that while we were yet sinners and enemies, Christ died for us. He was [Isa. 9:6] born for us, he [Matt. 11:29] lived for us, he [Eph. 5:2] gave himself to death for us, he did [Rom. 4:25] arise from the dead again for us, he did [Eph. 4:8] ascend for us, and now sitting at the right hand of God the Father in the heaven of heavens, he pleads as an [1 John 2:1] Intercessor and Advocate for us. Except Christ forget his name, Jesus, Emmanuel; except he forget his nature, being flesh of our flesh and so consequently [Heb. 4:15] touched with the feeling of our infirmities: except he forget his office, being our anointed King to govern us, our anointed Prophet to teach us, our anointed Priest who did suffer and offer up himself for our sins: except he forget his own self and his own ends for which he came into the world, he cannot but save sinners, even those which acknowledge [[981]] themselves the first and the worst of all sinners. This one point is the consolation of Israel, and the comfort of Jerusalem at the very heart, The material cross, of Christ, in fashion and figure, resembles a key, and the Gospel of Christ’s cross, like the key of David mentioned Isa. 22:22; opens and no man shuts, and again shuts and no man opens, it locks up the mouth of hell from us, and opens heavens everlasting gates umo us. Doubt not of this Doctrine, for it is true: reject it not, for it is worthy to be received.

In S. Paul’s assumption, or particular application of this general pardon, observe two points especially:


Grievousness of his fault,

Greatness of his faith.        

Whereas our Apostle says of himself (quorum ego primus) I [8] read of certain heretics, who fondly conceited that the soul of the first transgressor Adam was in Paul’s body. But this absurd opinion is contrary to the text, affirming plainly that every man has a [Mark 8:36] soul of his own, the which in his dying hour returns to God who gave it, as the body returns to dust, Ecclesiastes 12:7. [9] Expositors therefore by primus, understand not the first in order, but the worst in disorder, primus non temper is ordine, fed iniquit at is magnitadine, the first, that is, the greatest, or as our eradiation expresses it aptly, the chief. This open confession of Paul is very modest, and yet very true. Modest, acknowledging not only that he was a sinner, as the Publican: or a great sinner, as all true penitents are ready to confess:, but yet further the prime sinner of all those which are to be saved. Speaking of his worth, he says elsewhere, that he was the least of all the Apostles, 1 Cor. 15:9. yea the least of all the Saints, Eph. 3:8. but here speaking of his wants, he puts himself among the chief malefactors, as if he should have said, I am among Saints a minume, but among a sinners a monster, primus peccatorum, ultimus Apostolorum.

This example may teach us not to be too conceited of our own merits and excellence, but for as much as we know more, follies of ourselves than of others, we should think worse of ourselves then of others, in giving [Rom. 11:10] honour, going one before another.

And assuredly whosoever is humbled truly for, all his offences committed against God and man, in thought, in word, in deed, shall upon a diligent inquiry find himself the chief sinner of all the creatures in heaven, in earth, in hell. The poor [Luke 18:13] Publican examining his own conscience should not lift up his eyes to heaven; if we will and dare, we shall in the lower heaven or air, see [Psalm 148:8] hail, snow, rain, thunder, lightening wind and storm, fulfilling the word of God, and so consequently that they be far better in their kind than ourselves.

If we look into the starry heaven, it will appear that the Sun rejoices, as a giant to run his course. Psa. 16:5; and that the Moon in God’s faithful witness in heaven, Psa. 89.36. the Sun according to God’s ordinance rules the day, the Moon the night, Gen. 1:16. and the lesser stars as they receive light and as they receive light and virtue the superiors, so they communicate the same to their inferiours. Almighty God made the stars, [Job 9:9] Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, all of them are the works of his fingers, Psa. 8:3; and who can restrain the sweet influences of the Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion, Job 38:31; this heaven [Psalm 19:1] declares the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handy work. For albeit they want understanding and are dumb, yet they trumpet forth his worthy praises in such ample sort, that there is neither speech nor language, but their voice is heard among them. And as they speak for God as scholars, so they fight for God as soldiers, for the stars in their course fought against Sisera, Joshua 5:20; and when Duke [Joshua 10:22] Joshua did encounter the wicked Amorites, he said in the fight of Israel, Sun, stay you stay in Gibeon, and you Moon in the valley of Asalon, and the Sun abode, and the Moon stood still, until the people of God avenged themselves upon their enemies, If the Lord command the Sun, [Job 8:7] it rises not, he closes up the stars as under a signet, he [Amos 5:8] turns the shadow of death into the morning, and he makes the day dark as night. And therefore when we consider the goodly lights of heaven, ever ready to do the will of their Creator, we shall have just occasion as [[982]] [Psa. 8:4] David had to say, What is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you visit him?

If we will ascend yet higher, and contemplate the glorious heaven, termed in holy [1 Kings 8:27] Scripture; the heaven of heavens: we shall understand that the blessed Angels are [Heb. 1:14] ministering Spirits unto God, always attending his presence to perform his pleasure, being instruments of his mercy toward the good, executioners of his judgments upon the bad. And that the holy Saints, as being now so free from sin, as they be free from sorrow, [Apoc. 4:8] cease neither day nor night to sing, [Apoc. 19:10] Halleluiah, salvation, and glory, and honor, and power be to the Lord our God. In this heaven the Martyrs undaunted constancy confounds our weakness and inconstancy, they were not wearied in suffering ill, and yet we [Gal. 6:9] faint in doing good. The Confessions austerity confounds our delicacy, for they did use the world only for this end, that they might the better enjoy God: but we many times have used God, that we might the better enjoy the world. The virgins purity confounds our uncleanness, for they follow the [Apoc 14:4] Lamb where so ever he goes, but we run a [Psa. 106:38] whoring with our own intention, and have committed [Ezek. 16:36] fornication with other lovers. If we look upon the Patriarchs, or Prophets, or Apostles, or upon the rest of the Saints at rest upon God’s holy mountain, we must acknowledge our selves to be chief sinners in comparison of them all. How then is any man able to behold the sacred Trinity, God the Father who created us, having by sin lost his [10] superscription and image: God the Son, who redeemed us , having by sin trampled his precious blood under our feet: God the Holy Ghost, who sanctified us, having by sin resisted often his sweet motions, and so much as hath in us utterly quenched his purifying fire kindled in our hearts. Everything then in heaven is able to confound us, only this one thing comforts us, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, even such as feel their heavy burden, and confess that they be chief sinners. For in our Christian obedience two things are required especially:

To wit,



1. An aspiring to do the will of God in earth, as it is done by the creatures in heaven, an [Matt. 5:6] hungering and a thirsting for righteousness, a sincere soul [Psa. 41:1] longing after God, and unfainedly loving that which is [Rom. 7:19] good.

2. We must have suspiration, a grieving and a groaning in our Spirit, when as we feel in our members another law rebelling against the law of our mind, and leading us captive unto sin. When as we find that our daily practices answer not our daily prayers, it is our duty to sigh, and to say with our Apostle, Rom. 7:34. O wretched man that I am, who shall deliever me from the body of this death? If we have such an aspiring, and such a suspiring, that is, such a [2 Cor. 8:12] willing mind to do good, and to shun evil it is accepted according to that a man has, and not according to that a man has not. [11] Illud pro facto reputat Deus, quod homo quidem vere voluit, fed non valuit adimplere.

We now descend from the things above to the creatures here below. The ground being tilled [Heb. 6:7] brings forth herbs and fruit meet for them by whom it is dressed: but we being the Lord’s enclosed [Isa. 5:7] vineyard and pleasant plant, bring forth instead of sweet grapes wild grapes, he looked for judgment, but behold oppression: for righteousness, but behold a crying. The lifeless [Matt. 27:51] stones at the death of the Lord of life were cloven: asunder, and the vail of the Temple was rent between from the top to the bottom solus autem homo non compatitur, pro quo solo Domimus patitur, only man had no companion, for whom alone Christ endured all his passion. The senseless plants and trees aspire to grow upward, the deeper their root, the higher their branch: but man (as the [12] Philosopher said) being plant a transuersa, that is, a tree turned upside down, though his heart by nature be framed broad above, narrow beneath, open at the top, close below: yet by sin has the greater part of his affections usually groveling downward, seeking earthly things, and the lesser part growing upward [Col. 3:2] set on heavenly things. The witness beasts and birds, and cattle and feathered fowls, yea the fierce dragons and silly worms in their kind praise the Lord.

[[983]] The [Jer. 8:7] Stork in the air knows her appointed season, and the Crane, and the Turtle, and the Swallow observe the times of their coming: but my people knows not the judgment of the Lord. Even the dull [Isa. 1:3] Oxen knows his owner, and the foolish Ass his masters crib, but Israel has not known, my people (says the Lord) has not understood.

As for men, either they be superiors, or equals, or inferiors, and all administer sufficient matter to confound us in our sin. Superiors are the [Rom. 13:4] Ministers of God to take vengeance on those that commit evil. [Isa. 4:4] If they make war, we must arm to fight against their enemies: if they bid kill, we kill: if they lay spare, we spare: if they bid build, we build: if they bid make desolate, we make desolate, breaking down mountains, and walls and towers, We must either suffer the Rulers will, or their power, their will to order us, and their power to punish us. And why then, I Pray, do we not [Matt. 22:21] render unto God the things appertaining to God, as well as glue to, Cæsar the things of Cæsar? Faciemus iubente imperatore, & non faciemus iubente Creatore, says Augustine: shall we do the commands of higher Powers, and disobey the commandments of the highest power, of God himself, which is the Lord of Lords, and a great King over all Gods?

If we consider our equals, how many Peers in blood are superiors in good, equal in title, but excelling in reputation among men and in grace before God? For whereas we may guess at some few follies in them, alas we certainly know many faults in ourselves.

As for inferiors, it is our desire that [Eph. 6:2, 5] children should honour their parents, and that servants should obey their masters in singleness of heart, and that every soul should be [Rom. 13:1] subject unto the higher powers. Are we not then ashamed, when as, our children are dutiful [Col 3:20] in all things, and when if we say, to one servant [Matt. 8:9] go, and he goes: and to another come, and he comes: and to third do this, and he does it: and yet we daily neglect to do the will of our [Matt. 6:9] Father, and [Eph. 6:9] Master in heaven, in so much that he complains of us, [Mal. 1:6] A Son honour his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a Father where is my honour, and if be a master, where is my fear, says the Lord of hosts?

Let us in our meditation look down to hell, and that both inner, and utter, and the way to shun hell after death unto condemnation, is to see hell often in our life by contemplation. Many poor sinners undoubtedly which have not offended God so much as we, carry still about them an inward hell, or hell of conscience.  Franciscus Spira being in a deep despair for renouncing the Gospels doctrine, which he did once sincerely profess, said he would willingly suffer the most exquisite tortures of hell fire for the space of ten thousand years, upon condition he might be assured to be released afterward: he further added in that hellish and horrible pit that his dear children and wife (for whole sake principally, he turned away from the Gospel, and embraced the present world) appeared now to him as hangmen and torturers and in fine, that his abominable fault had deserved non mode damnationem, sed etiam aliquid quanis damnatione acerbius, not one hell only, but that Almighty God should create new hell for his condign punishment. O beloved, had we lived in the days of fiery trial, and bloody persecution, haply we would have sacrificed unto Bel and bowed out knees unto Baal so well, or rather so ill as he, peradventure we should have run from the Lord’s Table to the [1 Cor. 10:11] cup of devils, even from God’s Mesle to the Popes Mass. Unhappy Spira denied his Lord but once, but we through our daily transgressions have not only denied him often, but in some sort defied him also (as one said) like Pilate crucifying our blessed Lord Jesus to give life unto Barabbas a murderer, that is unto sin that slays the soul. [Jer. 2:13] My people (quotes the Lord) have forsaken me which am the fountain of living waters, to dig them pits, even broken pits that can hold no water: that is, what so ever they profess in their words, they have [Tit. 1:15] denied me which am the living God in their works, and have made to themselves a great many base creatures an Idol and a false god. Ambition is their god, Mammon is their god; nay that which is most unworthy, Mammon is their god, as S. Paul in determining terms plainly. Phil. 3.19. Whose god is their belly.

[[984]] Now let us descend with our consideration into the lowest and uttermost hell, even the bottomless pit not only of desperation, but of destruction also, the which is full of damned souls, among whom a great many burn for a few sins, and some for one notorious sin only: think then I pray with yourself in your Closet, these condemned persons were men as well as I, and many of them (as I) Christians, who received the same Sacraments, and heard the same Sermons, and read the same Bible that I still enjoy; how then am I bound to God’s infinite mercies having offended him in the same sin often, and in other kinds of faults without number? If I compare their iniquity with mine, what remains in the judgment of my own conscience but a greater damnation? O how justly had I deserved that death should have attached me in committing my first sin, and that God should have given me no more space nor grace to repent. I may therefore consider seriously that it is no less benefit of the Father of mercy to have preserved me hitherto from the furious flames of that unquenchable lake, than if after I had been descended he had delivered me from them, and for this exceeding kindness, I may well apply that of David, I will thank [Psa. 86:12] thee O Lord my God with all my heart, and I will praise your name for evermore, for great is your goodness toward me, delivering my soul from the nether most hell.

Lastly, let us examine whether in companion of the devil himself we may be said to be chief sinners: His offence for which he was cast out of God’s presence, was (so some think) but one, and that not acted, but only plotted: Ours are many, more than either the Pharisees of our head, or the [13] sand or the Sea, committed actually both in our words and in our works. He sinned before the stipend of sin was known; but we sin after experience, that [Rom. 6:23] the wages of sin is death. He sinned created in innocence; but we sin restored again to grace. His heart is hardened against him who punishes him, ours obdurate many times against him that allures us, and pities us as a [Psa. 103:13] father, and comforts us as a [Isa. 66:13] mother, blessing us with every kind of blessing, and compassing us about with his mercies on all [Psa. 32:11] sides, and at all seasons, often crying and calling, [Ezek. 18:31] why will you perish? how often would I have gathered your children together, as the hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not, Matt. 23:37.

Thus every true penitent, as well as Paul, upon a strict examination of his own conscience finds himself the chief sinner. Or haply S. Paul called himself the first sinner; as being ready with the first humbly to confess his faults, and earnestly to sue for pardon at the throne of grace, primus in ordine consitentium, as Aretius upon the place: so forward as the first in acknowledging his sores, and so forward as the first in applying the salve.

[1] Aquin. In loc.

[2] Apoc. 12:6.

[3] Caist. In loc.

[4] Deside ad Grat. li. 2. ca. 3.

[5] Aretius.

[6] In loc.

[7] Aretius in  loc.

[8] Apud Aquin. & Marlorat in loc.

[9] Lombard. Aquin. Anselm. Aretius. Idem Augustin.   Com. I. de part I. Psalm 70.

[10] See: Ludolphus de vita Christi, part. 2. cap. 35. Ardens. Pontan. Ferus in Euan, Do, 13. post Trin,

[11] Bernard. epist. 77.

[12] Aristotle.

[13] Manasses in his prayer.