Demas the Deserter
2 Timothy 4:9-11
Do your diligence to come shortly to me:…

I was very much affected — as probably you have been affected — by reading the accounts of the punishment of deserters in the army. Nothing in battle is so blood-chilling and horrible. It is so cool, so individual, so premeditated a life-taking. The leading forth of the offender before his whole regiment; the rehearsal of his disgrace to all his comrades; the pinioning of his arms; the bandaging of his eyes that he may not see what comrade takes his life; the open coffin beneath him hungry for its prey; the file of soldiers all aiming at one poor fluttering heart (as if sportsmen should shoot a bird already caged); the ringing volley; the lightning-like death under a dozen wounds — all this is enough to drive the kindred of the deserter to the verge of madness. The mother whose son lies in the sacred mould of Gettysburg or Chattanooga is happy in comparison with her whose hapless boy was blown into eternity from the coffin of a deserter! And why is the deserter's doom made so awful? Simply because the crime is so great and the consequences of the crime so fatal to the interests of an army and of the cause for which an army fights. If desertion will destroy an army, then the army must destroy desertion. His crime is punished so fearfully that other men will be deterred from imitating his bad example. Now history has marked to infamy more than one deserter of his country, or of a sacred cause. Benedict Arnold stands already in American history, bandaged, pinioned, shot through with the volleys of a nation's abhorrence! In Scripture history hangs Judas the arch-deserter. In our text we read of another. Paul has pilloried the unhappy man. Every man who has ever brought disgrace on his Christian profession, or has fallen out of his church-standing had some secret reason for his fall. He deserted under the seduction of some besetting sin. If we could come at the sad roll of all the backsliders or open apostates we might read over the specifications like these: "Deserted from moral cowardice," or "Deserted through neglect of prayer," or "Deserted from love of the wine-bottle," or "Deserted through the enticements of irreligious associates," or "Deserted through unbelief." Demas's name has the Holy Spirit's specification beside his name. He deserted for "love of the world!" "Whoso loveth the world, the love of God is not in him!" This is the last we read of poor Demas. Tradition says that he sank so low as to become a priest in an heathen temple! But if this were so or not we need not discuss. We do know that he forsook his Master's cause in its hour of peril, and preferred the "world" to Christ. Paul encountered the world; went into its thickest, saw its brightest allurements; met its fiercest assaults, and its most attractive lures to his ambition. He never deserted. Why? He never loved it; he so loved Jesus that he could not love the world. Demas loved the world. It would have done him no harm if he had not. It will do you none as long as you keep it out of your heart. But when it works into the soul it eats out the loyalty to Christ and consumes the spirituality of the soul. Do you remember reading in your childhood, in that favourite volume of Oriental stories, about Sinbad's voyage into the Indian Ocean? Do you remember that magnetic rock that rose from the surface, surrounded by a placid and a glassy sea? Silently the ship was attracted towards it; silently the bolts were drawn out of the vessel's sides one by one, by the magnetic rock! And when the fated vessel drew so near that every bolt and clamp was unloosed, the whole structure of bulwarks and masts and spars tumbled into helpless rubbish on the sea, and the sleeping sailors awoke to their drowning agonies! So stands the magnetic rock of worldly enchantments! Its attraction is silent, slow, but powerful to the soul that floats within its range! Under its spell, bolt after bolt of resolution, clamp after clamp of Christian obligation is drawn out. One neglect of duty paves the way for another. One desertion accustoms the man to the path of evil, until he is used to what a Christian never should "get used to" — sinning! A backslider gets so accustomed to neglect of secret devotion that he passes by the bolted closet-door with as little concern as he passes by the doors of his neighbours in the street. He becomes habituated to a deserted Bible, a deserted sanctuary, a deserted Sabbath-school, to a neglected heart, to a deserted Saviour. At length he finds that the Friend he has deserted, deserts him. The God whom he has offended withdraws His presence. This is the penalty of sin! No deserter from Jesus escapes unpunished. And a most invariable penalty which the forsaker of God suffers is — a sense of God's frowns, which sometimes drives the transgressor to recklessness, sometimes to despair. Then does the unfaithful Christian find that "it is an evil thing and a bitter to depart from the living God." His by-path meadow leads to "Doubting Castle" and the dungeons of "Giant Despair."

(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me:

WEB: Be diligent to come to me soon,

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